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    The Creators' Retreat: Here Be Artsy Nerds
    • The deadline for voting in the April Writing Contest was today, but I'm extending it until Saturday, May 12 at noon EDT because we only got two votes, one each from two people. Please get your votes in ASAP!
      [Short Stories] | [EzloSpirit's Hub] | [Latest ZUCast Episode]
      Gender-neutral pronouns, please!
      | Blue Rupee Patron
      Current Adoptee: Zaynock
      [This space reserved for the April Writing Contest.]
    • Hello lovely writers, artists, and other creative types.

      I'll cut to the chase. I need some help. You see, I have an idea for a show but I'm kind of running into a pitfall.

      Because it's a magical girl type show I'm planning on using the standard Monster of the Week formula. But the problem is that can quickly become boring and repetitive. So I need some advice on how to spruce up the formula and add interesting and different things each episode. THink you guys can help?

      Sig by TruEdge67, Glorious Newbie Overlord
    • Focus on character growth and development, and don’t have a monster each week necessarily. Also maybe make the monsters take more than one episode to learn and tie them in somehow to the overall plot so it doesn’t feel like filler.

      Also don’t have each monster defeated the same way. Have them defeated by cool inginuity based on watching them. Also reference previous monsters, and have them all follow certain rules. Like their heart needs to be destroyed but it’s at different areas of their body and can be potentially be protected by hard plating and obviously the monster is going to seek to protect it.

      :heart: Rinn “Arwyn” Nailo drawn by Liah :heart:
      Rakshael: if I know one thing about Ruki, it's that she'll prove you wrong just for the sake of saying she did it
      Characters | The Time Lost | The Rumors We Believe | Ruki's Reviews
    • A big thing with Monster of the Week shows as well is that they tend to stick in a very status-quo-is-law territory for long stretches of the show's run, which can quickly get stale. Even though it's more difficult, allowing the characters and the situations they are in to change as events occur and shake up "normal" for them as the story progresses really helps with monotony issues.

      To use a random example (maybe not one that fits your intended tone, mind you), if a monster, say, results in destruction that injures or kills a family member of one of the cast or destroys something they love (a library they enjoy, a coffee shop, etc etc), that would cause things to change moving forward, for them and for everybody else involved.

      So yeah, even if the monsters show up pretty frequently, allowing them to change things and alter the status quo (and not having a literal magic reset button, I'M LOOKING AT YOU MIRACULOUS LADYBUG ) should help keep things interesting.
    • ^ Agreed. Like I liked the original Sailor Moon over Crystal for NUMEROUS reasons, but the number one was character growth through motw. HOWEVER the motw is what made it stale and going through all the episodes made it feel like filler (I mean it was) and it was harder to get invested.

      I mean the keeping of status quo for motw in anime typically makes sense because it’s filler, so nothing affecting the plot in any way is allowed to happen, but for shows that have that motw format going IN imo have zero excuse to not make it interesting and engaging.

      :heart: Rinn “Arwyn” Nailo drawn by Liah :heart:
      Rakshael: if I know one thing about Ruki, it's that she'll prove you wrong just for the sake of saying she did it
      Characters | The Time Lost | The Rumors We Believe | Ruki's Reviews
    • I just realized that it kind of helps that this formula is only going to be needed for a couple of episodes (6 or 7 (assuming I'm not forced to include a filler episode or two)) because once they get all the plot coupons (which the monsters convieniently lead them too because the villain is an idiot who sends giant noticeable monsters to find the plot coupons instead of, like, normal sized people) there going to go off into space and start freeing another planet from corruption. (is this too hard to follow? Am I just rambling? I'm just rambling aren't I?)

      Sig by TruEdge67, Glorious Newbie Overlord
    • Trying to avoid using pronouns like him/her while describing a monster in a scene, but I've reached a point where I'm not sure how to avoid it :/

      The paragraph
      It was true. The curse of the Church had been broken with the death of the priest. This girl was no longer bewitched by his magic. It bared its teeth. And now, she belonged to <BLANK>.


      Any advice for filling in <BLANK> without using 'it'? (I just don't like how 'it' sounds)

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Axius27 ().

    • You could use a different word to describe the monster. I like to cut down on pronoun use by substituting other qualifiers for them. In my current story, one of the protagonists is a teenaged boy wandering a desert wasteland, and at different points, I refer to him as "the wanderer," "the nomad," "the boy," etc. I also use his name.
      [Short Stories] | [EzloSpirit's Hub] | [Latest ZUCast Episode]
      Gender-neutral pronouns, please!
      | Blue Rupee Patron
      Current Adoptee: Zaynock
      [This space reserved for the April Writing Contest.]
    • MUSIC ENTHUSIASTS!

      I'm starting to get into songwriting, and to that end I'm in the market for a keyboard or a MIDI controller to have something to work out melodies on (violin is a bit unwieldy for that purpse :( ), and possibly for mixing. Anyone have recommendations? My budget is flexible, and if I get something I want it to be robust. Any guidance is appreciated :)

      EDIT: I think I've actually figured out what I want for starting out. Still interested in knowing what other people use, though!

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Hazel ().

    • Many congratulations to @SacredSturgeon for winning the April Writing Contest! Check out her (amusingly frustrating) entry below! (Please note that it does contain strong language.)

      "Please Hold" by SacredSturgeon
      “Welcome to the OxyCo service line! We at OxyCo are proud to provide our customers with the very best service in the Solar System!”

      Karen glared at her phone. She was not having a good day. She’d stubbed her toe shortly after getting out of bed. Her breakfast muffins had been stale. And also, her house had about five hours worth of oxygen left.

      Sometimes, she regretted buying a house in some isolated empty corner of Mars. Still, it was an improvement over Los Angeles, which was a dump even before the bombs fell[1], and on those occasions where she wasn’t dealing with life-threatening emergencies[3], it was quite a nice place to live.

      “Please listen to all the options before making your choice. If you are not yet a customer of OxyCo, press one. If you wish to recommend OxyCo or any of its services or products to your friends, family, colleagues, or other acquaintances, press two. If you have any questions about our products or services, press three. If you wish to upgrade your OxyCo bundle, press four. If you wish to report an outage, request repairs, make an appointment at your nearest OxyCo Local Branch Office, renew your license to any OxyCo product or service, or order merchandise of Oh-Two, the official OxyCo mascot, press five. If you are-”

      Karen mashed five with slightly more force than necessary.

      “You have selected: two.”

      And slightly less accuracy, it seemed.

      “If it is an OxyCo service you wish to recommend, press one. If it is an OxyCo product you wish to recommend, press two. If you wish to recommend investing in OxyCo, press three. If you wish to do some combination of the aforementioned options, press four. If you wish to recommend a subsidiary of OxyCo or services and/or products provided by an OxyCo su-”

      Karen hung up, and took a deep breath.

      “Chloe!” she yelled. “Remind me that one of these days, I need to head over to New Delhi and burn down the OxyCo Customer Service Department”

      A head peaked out from behind a corner. “I don’t think they’re in Delhi any more. They outsourced it to one of them impoverished low-wage places. I think it was in England?”

      Karen shrugged. “Whatever. Remind me to go wherever they are located and burn them down.”

      “You know you can’t solve all your problems with arson, right?”

      Karen gave Chloe a confused look. “I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying?” she said.

      Chloe sighed, and sat down next to Karen. “So what is the problem with OxyCo this time?”

      Karen gave Chloe a slightly sheepish look. “Hey, remember how I was going to renew our license a few months ago?”

      “You mean the license I repeatedly told you to renew?” Chloe said, in a sugary sweet voice.

      “Yes, that license,” said Karen, who was suddenly avoiding eye contact.

      “What about it?” Chloe asked sweetly.

      “I, uhh, may have procrastinated on that somewhat,” Karen replied. “Only a little, though!”

      “Of course. And, how much longer until we run out of oxygen?” asked Chloe, her voice like sugar.

      “About five hours,” Karen said.

      “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. Could you please repeat yourself?”

      “Five hours,” Karen replied.

      “Nope, still didn’t quite get that. Could you tell me one more time?”

      “We have about five hours of oxygen left,” Karen said.

      For one moment, Chloe was silent. Then, in a syrupy voice, she said: “You know what? I’m not even mad. Anyway, you’re not gonna die by asphyxiation today. Now, purely out of curiosity, is there a plasma cutter in this building?”

      “Look, I’ll get our oxygen supply back up and running, promise,” Karen said. She grabbed the phone, and called OxyCo.

      “Welcome to the OxyCo service line! We at OxyCo are proud to provide our customers with the very best service in the Solar System! This call costs $6.99 per minute!”

      “Wait, what?” Karen said. “You money-sucking bastards.”

      “Please listen to a-”

      This time around, Karen actually managed to dial a five.

      “You have selected: five: report an outage, request repairs, make an appointment at your nearest OxyCo Local Branch Office, renew your license to any OxyCo product or service, or order merchandise of Oh-Two, the official OxyCo mascot. Please listen to all the options before making your choice. If you would like to report an outage, press one. If you would like to request repairs, press two. If you would like to make an appointment at your nearest OxyCo Local Branch Office, press three. If you would like to renew y-”

      Karen dialed a four.

      “You have selected: four: order merchandise of Oh-Two, the off-”

      “What the fuck is this,” Karen said. “What the actual fuck is this. Are you hearing this, Chloe? What the fuck is this?”

      Chloe did not say anything in return, and merely grabbed inside her bag of popcorn, took a piece, and ate it. The bag had not been there when Chloe had entered the room.

      Karen called OxyCo again. This time, she made it past the first two layers of phone menu hell.

      “You have selected: five: renew your license to any OxyCo product or service. Please enter the twelve-digit code of the product or service you wish to renew, then press the hash key.”

      “Twelve… digit…” Karen said. “How the fuck am I supposed to know that?”

      “If you need help finding out what your code is, please return to the main menu.”

      Karen hung up, then redialed.

      “... or order merchandise of Oh-Two, the official OxyCo mascot, press five. If you are an employee of OxyCo, press six, though please note that if you are calling to request a day off, OxyCo will not be able to provide any further days off to any of its employees for the next” “two hundred and seventy-three”“days. If you need help with anything else, press seven.”

      Karen pressed seven.

      “You will now be redirected to one of our operators. We estimate that an operator will be available in approximately” “fifteen” “minutes. Please hold.

      Karen was then forced to endure a piece of music on loop that had very clearly been the result of decades of research into making the single most bland and mind-numbing sound the human mind could conceive of, interspersed at maddeningly irregular intervals with the friendly reassurance that “Your call is important to us. Please hold.”

      “Fifteen minutes” turned out to be a fancy way of saying “fifty-three minutes and twelve point four seconds”. Karen would have fallen asleep during the wait had it not been for Chloe occasionally poking her with a stick.

      “This is the OxyCo help desk,” a far too upbeat voice said. “OxyCo, take a breather™[4]! My name is Philip, how may I help you today?”

      “Hello, this is Karen. I wish to renew my oxygen license.”

      “Of course,” Philip said. “Please tell me your twelve-digit code!”

      Karen sighed. “I don’t know my twelve-digit code.”

      “In that case, please find out your twelve-digit code and call back. We here at OxyCo wish you a good day!”

      And with that, Philip disconnected.

      Karen started screaming. Amidst the incoherent screeching there were mentions of “bloody murder” and “burning alive” and “Philip of the OxyCo help desk”.

      She eventually calmed down, and about an hour after Philip had disconnected her, Karen had once again reached the help desk.

      “This is the OxyCo help desk. OxyCo, take a breather™! My name is Philip, how may I help you today?”

      Karen blinked. Exactly what were the odds that she would end up with the exact same operator?

      “Okay, listen up, Philip. I need you. To tell me. How to figure out. My twelve-digit code. Okay?” Karen said. It took her all of her willpower not to add a few curses and death threats.

      “You appear to be under some distress,” Philip said. “Perhaps you should calm down and call back later?”

      “NO!” Karen said. “I mean, no, I’ll be fine. Please just tell me how to find my twelve-digit code.”

      “Of course,” said Philip. “Is it the code of a product or the code of a service?”

      “Service.”

      “Are you located on Earth, on the moon, on Mars, or elsewhere?”

      “Mars.”

      “If you are located in the Northern Lowlands region, say ‘one’. If you’re located in the Southern Highlands region, say ‘two’. If you’re located in the Tharsis Rise-Olympus Mons region, say ‘three’. If you are located in the Greater Hellas Basin region, say ‘four’. If you are located in any other region, say ‘five’.”

      Karen gave her phone a blank look. “You’re taking the piss, aren’t you?”

      “All OxyCo employees are strictly forbidden from taking any piss during work hours,” Philip said.

      Karen sighed. “Two.”

      “You will now be redirected to one of our other operators,” Philip said. “We estimate that an operator will be available in approximately ten minutes. Please hold.”

      Philip proceeded to hum a tune, occasionally stopping to blurt out, “Your call is important to us. Please hold.”

      Karen’s right eye twitched. “Okay, this is insanity,” she said. “Why can’t you just redirect me to-”

      She was interrupted by Philip. “Your call is importa-”

      “Oh, shut up!” Karen said. “Why can’t you just redirect me to whoever it is you’re supposed to redirect me to?”

      “That person is currently busy,” said Philip.

      “With what?” Karen snapped. “Humming at people while claiming their call is important to him?”

      “There is no need for the kind of attitude,” Philip said. “I assure you that the OxyCo help department has been optimized for maximum efficiency. Your call is important to us. Please hold.”

      After just over an hour of waiting, Philip suddenly went quiet, and a new voice started talking. “This is the OxyCo help desk. OxyCo, take a breather™[4]! My name is Felipe, how may I help you today?” said the voice, which sounded remarkably similar to Philip.

      “I need help finding out what my twelve-digit code is,” Karen said.

      “Okay, for which product or service is this?” Felipe asked.

      Karen scratched the back of her head. “Uhhh…”

      “Basic OxyCo oxygen package, standard rate,” Chloe said. “And for the record, I’m only helping you because I kinda need that oxygen myself.

      “Very well,” Felipe said. “I’m going to need your full name, address, phone number, and day and month on which you signed up for the Basic OxyCo oxygen package, standard rate.”

      Karen took a deep breath. “Karen Emily Moore. 12 Wakefield Road, 28399 RVC Redview[5], Southern Highlands Region, Commonwealth of Greater Mars. 2426 3976 4725. Uhh…”

      Karen gave Chloe a pleading look. Chloe rolled her eyes, and said, “30th of April.”

      “Ah, yes,” Felipe said. “I will look up your details. Please hold. Your call is important to us.”

      Another twenty-five of humming and reassurances about the importance of her call followed.

      “Your code is 0211-5971-5590. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

      Karen quickly scribbled the code down on a scrap of paper. “I wish to renew my license,” she said.

      “Certainly,” Felipe said. “I will now redirect you to one of our other operators. This should take about five minutes. Please hold.”

      An hour, twenty-four minutes, and seventeen seconds of maddening humming and “Your call is important to us. Please hold.” passed. Chloe, in a moment of kindness, had brought her soup. They had watched the house’s oxygen meter go down, until mere minutes were left.

      “This is the OxyCo help desk. OxyCo, take a breather™! My name is Philip, how may I-”

      “I wish to renew my oxygen license, my code is 0211-5971-5590!” she said.

      “And your name is?” Philip said.

      “Karen Emily Moore.”

      “Let me look that up… Yeah, looks like it checks out.”

      Karen could hear typing sounds, and after a few moments, Philip said, “Okay, your Basic OxyCo oxygen package, standard rate, has been successfully renewed!”

      Karen breathed a sigh of relief.

      “We will resume supplying oxygen to your property in 24 hours. We here at OxyCo hope you have a nice day!”

      Philip disconnected.

      Karen was quiet for a moment.

      “... Fuck.”



      [1] America had made a long list of enemies over the years by consistently irritating the international community, culminating in the American invasion of Belgium[2] and subsequent international coalition against the USA. Twenty-three different countries from across the Pacific had dropped bombs on LA (twenty-four, once Hawai’i declared independence and joined the coalition, some nine hours into the war).

      [2] They hadn’t intended to invade Belgium, of course; it’s just that the President of Peru had made some unkind remarks about the President of the USA, and neither the President of the USA nor anyone in his government knew where Peru actually was, so they settled on invading a country that looked sort of like what they imagined a “Peru” might look like.

      [3] And, really, she didn’t have to deal with those that often. Sometimes an entire week could go by without any emergencies at all.

      [4] OxyCo had trademarked the “take a breather” motto a few years earlier and was fiercely protective of it - they had been known to sue people into oblivion simply for using the word “breather” without OxyCo’s written permission. Some people joked that OxyCo’s lawyers were so evil that Satan might as well step down and let them rule Hell. In response, Hell released an official statement saying that while Satan finds the actions of OxyCo deplorable, he has no intention of stepping down.

      [5] Redview was by far the most common place name on Mars, and indeed, in the Solar System, owing entirely to the fact that 1) there is a lot of red to be viewed on Mars, and 2) human beings tend to be remarkably uncreative when naming things.


      Thanks to all who participated in one way or another, and look out for the next contest, coming soon! Oh, and check out the results thread!
      [Short Stories] | [EzloSpirit's Hub] | [Latest ZUCast Episode]
      Gender-neutral pronouns, please!
      | Blue Rupee Patron
      Current Adoptee: Zaynock
      [This space reserved for the April Writing Contest.]
    • EzloSpirit wrote:

      Many congratulations to @SacredSturgeon for winning the April Writing Contest! Check out her (amusingly frustrating) entry below! (Please note that it does contain strong language.)

      "Please Hold" by SacredSturgeon
      “Welcome to the OxyCo service line! We at OxyCo are proud to provide our customers with the very best service in the Solar System!”

      Karen glared at her phone. She was not having a good day. She’d stubbed her toe shortly after getting out of bed. Her breakfast muffins had been stale. And also, her house had about five hours worth of oxygen left.

      Sometimes, she regretted buying a house in some isolated empty corner of Mars. Still, it was an improvement over Los Angeles, which was a dump even before the bombs fell[1], and on those occasions where she wasn’t dealing with life-threatening emergencies[3], it was quite a nice place to live.

      “Please listen to all the options before making your choice. If you are not yet a customer of OxyCo, press one. If you wish to recommend OxyCo or any of its services or products to your friends, family, colleagues, or other acquaintances, press two. If you have any questions about our products or services, press three. If you wish to upgrade your OxyCo bundle, press four. If you wish to report an outage, request repairs, make an appointment at your nearest OxyCo Local Branch Office, renew your license to any OxyCo product or service, or order merchandise of Oh-Two, the official OxyCo mascot, press five. If you are-”

      Karen mashed five with slightly more force than necessary.

      “You have selected: two.”

      And slightly less accuracy, it seemed.

      “If it is an OxyCo service you wish to recommend, press one. If it is an OxyCo product you wish to recommend, press two. If you wish to recommend investing in OxyCo, press three. If you wish to do some combination of the aforementioned options, press four. If you wish to recommend a subsidiary of OxyCo or services and/or products provided by an OxyCo su-”

      Karen hung up, and took a deep breath.

      “Chloe!” she yelled. “Remind me that one of these days, I need to head over to New Delhi and burn down the OxyCo Customer Service Department”

      A head peaked out from behind a corner. “I don’t think they’re in Delhi any more. They outsourced it to one of them impoverished low-wage places. I think it was in England?”

      Karen shrugged. “Whatever. Remind me to go wherever they are located and burn them down.”

      “You know you can’t solve all your problems with arson, right?”

      Karen gave Chloe a confused look. “I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying?” she said.

      Chloe sighed, and sat down next to Karen. “So what is the problem with OxyCo this time?”

      Karen gave Chloe a slightly sheepish look. “Hey, remember how I was going to renew our license a few months ago?”

      “You mean the license I repeatedly told you to renew?” Chloe said, in a sugary sweet voice.

      “Yes, that license,” said Karen, who was suddenly avoiding eye contact.

      “What about it?” Chloe asked sweetly.

      “I, uhh, may have procrastinated on that somewhat,” Karen replied. “Only a little, though!”

      “Of course. And, how much longer until we run out of oxygen?” asked Chloe, her voice like sugar.

      “About five hours,” Karen said.

      “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite catch that. Could you please repeat yourself?”

      “Five hours,” Karen replied.

      “Nope, still didn’t quite get that. Could you tell me one more time?”

      “We have about five hours of oxygen left,” Karen said.

      For one moment, Chloe was silent. Then, in a syrupy voice, she said: “You know what? I’m not even mad. Anyway, you’re not gonna die by asphyxiation today. Now, purely out of curiosity, is there a plasma cutter in this building?”

      “Look, I’ll get our oxygen supply back up and running, promise,” Karen said. She grabbed the phone, and called OxyCo.

      “Welcome to the OxyCo service line! We at OxyCo are proud to provide our customers with the very best service in the Solar System! This call costs $6.99 per minute!”

      “Wait, what?” Karen said. “You money-sucking bastards.”

      “Please listen to a-”

      This time around, Karen actually managed to dial a five.

      “You have selected: five: report an outage, request repairs, make an appointment at your nearest OxyCo Local Branch Office, renew your license to any OxyCo product or service, or order merchandise of Oh-Two, the official OxyCo mascot. Please listen to all the options before making your choice. If you would like to report an outage, press one. If you would like to request repairs, press two. If you would like to make an appointment at your nearest OxyCo Local Branch Office, press three. If you would like to renew y-”

      Karen dialed a four.

      “You have selected: four: order merchandise of Oh-Two, the off-”

      “What the fuck is this,” Karen said. “What the actual fuck is this. Are you hearing this, Chloe? What the fuck is this?”

      Chloe did not say anything in return, and merely grabbed inside her bag of popcorn, took a piece, and ate it. The bag had not been there when Chloe had entered the room.

      Karen called OxyCo again. This time, she made it past the first two layers of phone menu hell.

      “You have selected: five: renew your license to any OxyCo product or service. Please enter the twelve-digit code of the product or service you wish to renew, then press the hash key.”

      “Twelve… digit…” Karen said. “How the fuck am I supposed to know that?”

      “If you need help finding out what your code is, please return to the main menu.”

      Karen hung up, then redialed.

      “... or order merchandise of Oh-Two, the official OxyCo mascot, press five. If you are an employee of OxyCo, press six, though please note that if you are calling to request a day off, OxyCo will not be able to provide any further days off to any of its employees for the next” “two hundred and seventy-three”“days. If you need help with anything else, press seven.”

      Karen pressed seven.

      “You will now be redirected to one of our operators. We estimate that an operator will be available in approximately” “fifteen” “minutes. Please hold.

      Karen was then forced to endure a piece of music on loop that had very clearly been the result of decades of research into making the single most bland and mind-numbing sound the human mind could conceive of, interspersed at maddeningly irregular intervals with the friendly reassurance that “Your call is important to us. Please hold.”

      “Fifteen minutes” turned out to be a fancy way of saying “fifty-three minutes and twelve point four seconds”. Karen would have fallen asleep during the wait had it not been for Chloe occasionally poking her with a stick.

      “This is the OxyCo help desk,” a far too upbeat voice said. “OxyCo, take a breather™[4]! My name is Philip, how may I help you today?”

      “Hello, this is Karen. I wish to renew my oxygen license.”

      “Of course,” Philip said. “Please tell me your twelve-digit code!”

      Karen sighed. “I don’t know my twelve-digit code.”

      “In that case, please find out your twelve-digit code and call back. We here at OxyCo wish you a good day!”

      And with that, Philip disconnected.

      Karen started screaming. Amidst the incoherent screeching there were mentions of “bloody murder” and “burning alive” and “Philip of the OxyCo help desk”.

      She eventually calmed down, and about an hour after Philip had disconnected her, Karen had once again reached the help desk.

      “This is the OxyCo help desk. OxyCo, take a breather™! My name is Philip, how may I help you today?”

      Karen blinked. Exactly what were the odds that she would end up with the exact same operator?

      “Okay, listen up, Philip. I need you. To tell me. How to figure out. My twelve-digit code. Okay?” Karen said. It took her all of her willpower not to add a few curses and death threats.

      “You appear to be under some distress,” Philip said. “Perhaps you should calm down and call back later?”

      “NO!” Karen said. “I mean, no, I’ll be fine. Please just tell me how to find my twelve-digit code.”

      “Of course,” said Philip. “Is it the code of a product or the code of a service?”

      “Service.”

      “Are you located on Earth, on the moon, on Mars, or elsewhere?”

      “Mars.”

      “If you are located in the Northern Lowlands region, say ‘one’. If you’re located in the Southern Highlands region, say ‘two’. If you’re located in the Tharsis Rise-Olympus Mons region, say ‘three’. If you are located in the Greater Hellas Basin region, say ‘four’. If you are located in any other region, say ‘five’.”

      Karen gave her phone a blank look. “You’re taking the piss, aren’t you?”

      “All OxyCo employees are strictly forbidden from taking any piss during work hours,” Philip said.

      Karen sighed. “Two.”

      “You will now be redirected to one of our other operators,” Philip said. “We estimate that an operator will be available in approximately ten minutes. Please hold.”

      Philip proceeded to hum a tune, occasionally stopping to blurt out, “Your call is important to us. Please hold.”

      Karen’s right eye twitched. “Okay, this is insanity,” she said. “Why can’t you just redirect me to-”

      She was interrupted by Philip. “Your call is importa-”

      “Oh, shut up!” Karen said. “Why can’t you just redirect me to whoever it is you’re supposed to redirect me to?”

      “That person is currently busy,” said Philip.

      “With what?” Karen snapped. “Humming at people while claiming their call is important to him?”

      “There is no need for the kind of attitude,” Philip said. “I assure you that the OxyCo help department has been optimized for maximum efficiency. Your call is important to us. Please hold.”

      After just over an hour of waiting, Philip suddenly went quiet, and a new voice started talking. “This is the OxyCo help desk. OxyCo, take a breather™[4]! My name is Felipe, how may I help you today?” said the voice, which sounded remarkably similar to Philip.

      “I need help finding out what my twelve-digit code is,” Karen said.

      “Okay, for which product or service is this?” Felipe asked.

      Karen scratched the back of her head. “Uhhh…”

      “Basic OxyCo oxygen package, standard rate,” Chloe said. “And for the record, I’m only helping you because I kinda need that oxygen myself.

      “Very well,” Felipe said. “I’m going to need your full name, address, phone number, and day and month on which you signed up for the Basic OxyCo oxygen package, standard rate.”

      Karen took a deep breath. “Karen Emily Moore. 12 Wakefield Road, 28399 RVC Redview[5], Southern Highlands Region, Commonwealth of Greater Mars. 2426 3976 4725. Uhh…”

      Karen gave Chloe a pleading look. Chloe rolled her eyes, and said, “30th of April.”

      “Ah, yes,” Felipe said. “I will look up your details. Please hold. Your call is important to us.”

      Another twenty-five of humming and reassurances about the importance of her call followed.

      “Your code is 0211-5971-5590. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

      Karen quickly scribbled the code down on a scrap of paper. “I wish to renew my license,” she said.

      “Certainly,” Felipe said. “I will now redirect you to one of our other operators. This should take about five minutes. Please hold.”

      An hour, twenty-four minutes, and seventeen seconds of maddening humming and “Your call is important to us. Please hold.” passed. Chloe, in a moment of kindness, had brought her soup. They had watched the house’s oxygen meter go down, until mere minutes were left.

      “This is the OxyCo help desk. OxyCo, take a breather™! My name is Philip, how may I-”

      “I wish to renew my oxygen license, my code is 0211-5971-5590!” she said.

      “And your name is?” Philip said.

      “Karen Emily Moore.”

      “Let me look that up… Yeah, looks like it checks out.”

      Karen could hear typing sounds, and after a few moments, Philip said, “Okay, your Basic OxyCo oxygen package, standard rate, has been successfully renewed!”

      Karen breathed a sigh of relief.

      “We will resume supplying oxygen to your property in 24 hours. We here at OxyCo hope you have a nice day!”

      Philip disconnected.

      Karen was quiet for a moment.

      “... Fuck.”



      [1] America had made a long list of enemies over the years by consistently irritating the international community, culminating in the American invasion of Belgium[2] and subsequent international coalition against the USA. Twenty-three different countries from across the Pacific had dropped bombs on LA (twenty-four, once Hawai’i declared independence and joined the coalition, some nine hours into the war).

      [2] They hadn’t intended to invade Belgium, of course; it’s just that the President of Peru had made some unkind remarks about the President of the USA, and neither the President of the USA nor anyone in his government knew where Peru actually was, so they settled on invading a country that looked sort of like what they imagined a “Peru” might look like.

      [3] And, really, she didn’t have to deal with those that often. Sometimes an entire week could go by without any emergencies at all.

      [4] OxyCo had trademarked the “take a breather” motto a few years earlier and was fiercely protective of it - they had been known to sue people into oblivion simply for using the word “breather” without OxyCo’s written permission. Some people joked that OxyCo’s lawyers were so evil that Satan might as well step down and let them rule Hell. In response, Hell released an official statement saying that while Satan finds the actions of OxyCo deplorable, he has no intention of stepping down.

      [5] Redview was by far the most common place name on Mars, and indeed, in the Solar System, owing entirely to the fact that 1) there is a lot of red to be viewed on Mars, and 2) human beings tend to be remarkably uncreative when naming things.


      Thanks to all who participated in one way or another, and look out for the next contest, coming soon! Oh, and check out the results thread!
      Are we entirely sure that this isn’t some excerpt from an unreleased rough draft of the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy? Because this is masterfully written and remonds me of the guide.

      Sig by TruEdge67, Glorious Newbie Overlord
    • So, I've been trying to deal with my manic behaviors in ways that won't come off as too obnoxious.

      Last night, I decided to write creatively. It had been a while, but I basically just picked up and did it like no time had passed, since I often have a lot going through my mind. I've had a thing about going on with writing in kind of an obsessive compulsive way.

      I wrote about 3,000 words in six hours.

      What I wrote basically just farted out of my head, but it came from a dream I had some time ago. There was no worries over how good it was due to the nature of impulse. What I was writing was definitely in the horror genre lol
    • New writing contest starts later today! I'll update this post with the link when it's ready!

      UPDATE: It's ready!
      [Short Stories] | [EzloSpirit's Hub] | [Latest ZUCast Episode]
      Gender-neutral pronouns, please!
      | Blue Rupee Patron
      Current Adoptee: Zaynock
      [This space reserved for the April Writing Contest.]

      The post was edited 1 time, last by EzloSpirit ().

    • Some of you may recall my adventures in wildlife art—it's mentioned in my signature, but of course that's totally broken. Anyway, I've been thinking about maybe getting into wildlife photography, both for its own sake and to get models for drawing. But decent cameras are so expensive! It's really a shame, but I'm not sure I can afford a good camera on how much I make. Oh well.
      "But I don't want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin."
      "In fact," said Mustapha Mond, "you're claiming the right to be unhappy."
      "All right then," said the Savage defiantly, "I'm claiming the right to be unhappy."
      "Not to mention the right to grow old and ugly and impotent; the right to have syphilis and cancer; the right to have too little to eat; the right to be lousy; the right to live in constant apprehension of what may happen to-morrow; the right to catch typhoid; the right to be tortured by unspeakable pains of every kind." There was a long silence.
      "I claim them all," said the Savage at last.
      Mustapha Mond shrugged his shoulders. "You're welcome," he said.

      —Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
    • So now that I'm medicated, and it seems to be working thus far, I think I'll try and solve the issue of writing enough in the span of a couple of nights to encompass a novella, and then sitting around wondering what I was even doing, and feeling completely unmotivated to do anything besides listen to the same music, and watch the same YouTube videos.

      Gotta continue more with that weird horror thing I was writing.
    • Hi fellow artists!

      So recently (okay like, literally this morning) I decided on once again trying to create a whole Pokémon region, including story line, evil team, at least 13 towns (Actually probably exactly that number), gym leaders, basically everything except new Pokémon. (BTW I said 'once again' because this is not close to the first time I've tried to do this)

      So the theme of the region is Dreams and nightmares and all of the towns are either fake utopias or dystopias. So currently I could use some ideas for the gyms. So if anyone has any ideas that they could say that would be wonderful.
    • You know dystopia and fake utopia are the same thing right? A dystopia is a setting that appears utopian and if it’s done right the citizens believe it is utopian. I can’t imagine how a fake utopia would differ from that.
      "The Oathkeeper's Dawn"

      Game In Progress - It has been thirty years since the Dawn of the New Day when without a hero to rescue them champions of the people were forced to rise up and save themselves. Now, on the eve of the 130th Carnival of Time strange rumours circulate the land. Will your wits be enough to discover what has taken hold of the land?

      Any help on this project would be appreciated. I want to make it in Solarus which means a 2D ALttP style. However if you don't want to provide technical help there are a range of pieces to work on. Sprites and artwork, music, level design or if you like simply brainstorming and suggesting alterations to the ideas I have currently compiled would be more than welcome.

      The post was edited 1 time, last by TriforceHolder ().