Posts Tagged ‘writing



06
Nov
08

Writer’s block…yeah it sucks

I’ve been blocked for six months now. It’s no coincidence that this coincides with the time I’ve been in training with the Army. But it’s a horrible feeling for a writer.

I read once that one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, used to worry that he would lose his gift–his writing ability would simply vanish. I have the same fear. I wonder if my ideas will dry up and I’ll have nothing left to say.

When I’m relaxed–my creativity flows and the writing process is trance-like. My first book was almost easy, if not published…. I’ve begun a second, and I’m not sure that I’ll ever finish it. That’s not to say that I won’t begin another one, though. Before I went to basic, I published the first chapter of my second book here: https://magus71.wordpress.com/2008/04/19/my-second-novel-chapter-1/

Well–here’s the secnd chapter….

Chapter 2

 

The best thing about being out of prison is air conditioning. I know that’s a strange thing, but Jonny really likes air conditioning. Growing up, it always seemed that people who had air conditioning in their homes had their shit together. This air conditioning is blowing through the vents of Nameless-Man’s Lexus. Jonny reclines in the leather seat, arms folded across his chest, eyes closed. Put your seatbelt on, Jonny. He can’t hear me like you can, just a habit I have. He’s not wearing his seatbelt, partly because he never completely shucked off his rebel nature, and partly because a sliver of him still wouldn’t mind being vaulted through the front window of a nice car. With air conditioning.

     “First thing’s first. You need clothes, a car, and a woman.  Any preferences?”

     “I don’t do suits. Something fast. Anyone who won’t make me nuts—more nuts.”

     Nameless-Man nods. “We can do that.” He spins the steering wheel a hard right. The car bumps up into a car lot. “Anything you see here?”

     Jonny’s eyes pop open. He shades them from the light with his hand while surveying the lot. He points. “That right there. The black Acura.”

     They both step onto the hot tar, walk to the Acura.

     “That what you want?”

     Jonny looks inside the tinted window, trying hard to ignore his own reflection. He hates his reflection. Six speeds, onboard nav-computer. “This is the one.”     

      “Be right back.” As Nameless-Man trots off toward the office, Jonny continues examining the leather upholstery. Through the tint, he can’t see many flaws; just a few crumbs wedges into the creases of the passenger seat.

     “She’s all yours.” Turning, Jonny’s hit in the sternum with a set of jingling keys. He catches them before they hit the ground, presses the flesh of his thumbs into the key grooves as he studies the man in front of him. “I’m going back in to finish some of the paperwork. You know how to get to the Seven Eleven, up the street?” The man thumbs north. Jonny nods, opens the car door.

     Inside the car, he can smell the leftovers of someone’s dog, some sort of Sheppard, Jonny decides, from the long hairs woven into the floorboard upholstery. That doesn’t matter. This is still the best car Jonny’s ever had. He slips it into first, and rolls to the edge of the parking lot, turns right onto the road.  He reaches the Seven Eleven, pauses the car in the road, staring through the dark lenses of his sunglasses at the parking lot. Who the fuck is Joe, he’s thinking. And why should I talk to him, when I could just fuel up, grab a case of Bud, and be done with all this shit. He edges his car to a back corner of the parking lot. Sits for a while watching rednecks meander in.

     The Jester likes all kinds. Age doesn’t matter; man, woman, toad. Toads don’t get the Jester’s adrenaline amped up to really high levels though, mostly because there’s so few sentient life forms that will appreciate atrocities committed upon toads. Planting a forest of worts upon a thirteen year old girl’s nose may cause psychosis. The toad however wouldn’t know the difference and his friend’s would simply sit stoically nearby, like grotesque Buddahs, or gimping around in cool mud. No fun at all. Everyone, even the Jester, needs to feel noticed and like the child who can’t get attention for brushing his teeth properly, or keeping his elbows off the table at dinner, the Jester is prone to screaming in the grocery store, or kicking grownups in the shins while wearing an inane smile.

     So humans are the preferred victims, mostly because they love pain—both in themselves and others. Some love victimhood, some express glee at the misfortunes of others, but all worship pain in some way.

     Except for one: Joe.

 

     Jonny knows who Joe is the second he sees the man. Why he would know this, he can’t say, but subconsciously knowing the Jester as he does and knowing the mark left by the Fool, Jonny makes a connection. There’s Joe, in the blazing sun, cooking on the blacktop, an opaque, white beard hanging just below his Adam’s Apple. He’s limping, maybe from an old war wound, Jonny surmises. He’s wearing a pair of unfashionably faded jeans, sneakers with Velcro straps; sneakers that Joe would surely call “tennis.” His t-shirt, red, says “Gotta go, Gotta go!” on the back. Johnny estimates Joe’s to be midfifties. A ball cap finishes the look of a retiree’s mocking surrender to age. None of this tells Jonny that Joe is indeed Joe. What does, is the fact that Joe’s pushing around a steel oxygen tank on a two-wheeled cart. A tube sways between Joe and the tank, crawling up his chest and reaching into his nose like snot-prodding vines. All the time, while laboriously sniffing pure O2, Joe brushes unseen specks of dirt from the 7-11 parking lot, a small push-broom in hand, a dustpan hanging from his belt. Joe’s not huffing and puffing for his sweeping effort, he’s breathing hard for breathing’s sake.

     Jonny parks his best car ever, slouches down in the seat, watching Joe do his work. Joe carries the oxygen tank as if it’s only a can of soda, setting it aside to pick bubble-gum wrappers from the base of the building, or to lift trash bags from bins. Joe disappears around the corner of the store.

     Jonny cares. He gets out of the car, slams the door and walks to the back of the building where he last saw Joe. There, he finds him, standing next to a garbage dumpster, repeatedly flicking a lighter under a filterless cigarette. His oxygen tube hangs flaccidly under his chin, suspended by a plastic loop.

     “That off?” asks Jonny, nudging his chin at the tank.

     “Nope.” Joe continues flicking his lighter. He holds it to the sun and shakes it, squinting for lighter fluid, then resumes his flicking. Jonny feels a sense of shock at Joe’s lack of frustration.

     “You, Joe?”

     “Got the password?” says Joe, lowering his cigarette after a satisfying draw.

     “What password? I wasn’t given a password. I don’t even know why I’m here.”

     “I know why you’re here, but without the password, I can’t help you.”

     Jonny shrugs. “Fine. I don’t need this anyway. Something from a man named Joe, who wants a password that I know nothing of and should have been given to me by a man I met for the fist time today.” He shifts to leave.

     “Wait.” Joe’s face is serious, crystal blue smoke curling from his barely separated lips, up through his mustache, recycling through his nostrils. His chest heaves with the breathing. Suddenly, laughter gushes out of him like a burst water main; heavy laughter crackling with phlegm and coming to a close with deep, baritone coughs. He takes his hat off, wipes a sheen of sweat from his balding, sun-spotted head. “That’s your first lesson. First lesson right there. Stop trying so hard to not care. There is no password. If you want to not care, then don’t, but stop posing.” The way he says posing indicates a familiarity with a skateboarder underground. Jonny imagines Joe performing Nollies and Railstands down at the bus stop, his oxygen tank harnessed to his back, the kids circling in awe. Skate Legend Joe.

     Plowing through his intermittent cough, Joe continues. He looks really serious now. “You may not be the worst case of faking it that I’ve seen.” He waves his hand in the direction behind Jonny. “See that?” A kid, seventeen, maybe even in college, walks into the store. He’s wearing gaudy plaid pants, different colored shoes, his head shaven bald. His ears are studded with all variety of metal piercings. His nose has one too. “That kid right there—he’s a harder case than you. He’s all like—‘Look at me, Look at me! See, I don’t care!’” Joe flaps his arms and does a little jig. His foot bumps his oxygen tank, knocking it over. Jonny expects the clang of metal to be accompanied by a gaseous explosion. “And that kid won’t be able to not care until he has something bad happen to him. Maybe many bad things. He can’t relax, he’s always worried that someone may think that he’s normal, that he stands out in no way, means nothing and will mean nothing to this world.”

     “Look, why am I here? That’s all I want to know.”

     “I’m your trainer.” Joe looks Jonny up and down. “And you have a lot to learn.” He smashes his cigarette butt into the pavement.

     “About what?”

     “Self-defense, women, the world you think is real and in fact is, but not as real as you think.”

     “You’re wasting my fucking time, Joe. And I’ve spent the last two years wasting my own time.”

     Joe doesn’t flinch at all at the rage that’s seeping from Jonny, he simply begins sweeping around the garbage dumpster. “I’m just about done here for today. Just hold on about five more minutes. I’ll clock out and we’ll head to my place.”

    

***

       

     “Probably been a while since you had one of these.” Joe slides a bottle of Amstel Light across the kitchen table at Jonny, who sips from it. Joe sits down with his own bottle, lights another cigarette, and gazes at the tabletop, pondering. He reaches down and does something to his oxygen, pulls the tubes from his nostrils. “Look, what I’m about to tell you is going to confuse the hell out of you. You won’t believe me, you’ll want to leave. But I’ll keep giving you good beer so you won’t. And some lung cancer too, ‘cause you love that.” He held a cigarette out for Jonny. “Jonny, this world is messed up.”

     “No shit, really?”

     “Yeah, really. And it’s messed up because of there are things going on behind the scenes that few glimpse. They think it’s all random and some of it is, because the asshole behind all of this can’t be everywhere at once. He has limits. Limits that the universe placed on him lest the cosmos become a three-ring circus. But the universe likes to be entertained. Kind of like a Roman emperor. It knows that rules and law are what give him manifest power, but it doesn’t mind seeing a few slaves and Christians eaten by lions. It’s all about balance, at least that’s how the universe sees it. Sucks to be a slave or a Christian.”

     “I’m not into philosophy or tarot cards.”

     “This isn’t any of that. It’s reality, or one of them. Okay, there’s this…guy. Call him The Jester.”

     Jonny sets his empty bottle down hard enough to tell Joe what he wants.

     “Help yourself,” Joe points back to the kitchen. Jonny does. “You know The Jester, but you don’t know you know him.”

     Jonny clenches his jaw. Something about the tune of the name, something about the way Joe said it.

     “Some people are fed up, Jonny. The Jester’s gone too far, pissed off all the wrong folk. A coalition of the willing has been formed. Misfits, outcasts, gimps, neurotic malcontents like yourself. Some carry with them unique abilities bestowed them by a laughing cosmos. I know about your gift. Pretty cool, moving through walls like air. The problem is you care about not caring, you’re trying, so you can’t control it.”

     “Again, why do you need me here. I want to see my daughter. That’s all I care about,” says Jonny.

     “Do you want your daughter growing up in this type of world? A world of one-armed piano players, a world where they actually make a sequel to Battlefield Earth?”

     Jonny cringes.

     “What we, the coalition need, is someone of your talent to take out a few of The Jester’s agents. And maybe in doing so, you can earn your way back to a nicer world.”

     Holding up three fingers, Jonny says, “Oh yeah, besides philosophy and tarot cards, karma is the other thing I don’t believe in.”

     “It’s not karma, Jonny. It’s the way things are. You don’t remember except maybe in dreams, or maybe when you’re staring out a window and that dark feeling comes over you, the feeling that you don’t belong, don’t fit in. The courier explained it a little to you. Or he was supposed to. You see, Jonny, you used to work for The Jester.”

     “I have no idea what drug you’re taking old man, but I’d like some of it. What is it, Lysergic Acid, Depakote?”

     “You’ll remember. We’ll make you remember. Actually, I can tell you right now” Joe stands, then pulls his oxygen behind him into the living room. There’s a metal filing cabinet there. He places a pair of glasses low on his nose, then paws through rows of thick manila files. “Yep. Here we go. Jonny Kimble.” Joe sounds too satisfied, like he’s about to one-up Jonny for the Depakote joke. Oh, he’s gonna one-up him alright. “Says right here, and I quote, ‘On 18 January, 2736, Altropis Time Band, Jonny Kimble, employed by the Terran Space Agency as an Astrophysicist Engineer, reprogrammed the mainframe of Generation Ship, Azure Horizon, which was originally bound for Zeto-Cryla III, to arrive instead at Calicosus, in the Rigel system.’” Joe coughs, looks up to make sure that Jonny is properly stunned. Seems to be. “’Calicosus is and was known to host intelligent, biped felines (Calicoeans), who throughout the centuries developed a severe addiction to the tobacco products harvested on twenty first century Terra. In their attempt to procure the secret of tobacco cultivation, the Calicoeans have turned to piracy, harvesting captured human data bases, and stealing the rare and occasional pack of cigarettes found on board human ships. Their extreme addiction prevents them from chemical analysis of the cigarettes—they smoke them immediately. All this despite the provisional law enacted restricting all human consumption of tobacco. It is also well documented that when Calicoeans fail to procure tobacco during one of their raids, they fall under severe psychosis; a mental derangement which can only be properly termed in slang, as nic fit. Instead of the normal human response (teeth grinding, yelling at spouses), the Calicoeans achieve a vociferous appetite for human flesh. So intense is their hunger at this point, that upon discovering a human while under the control of nic fit, a pack of Calicoeans will pick clean of flesh the human’s bones. Calicoeans possess razor sharp claws and teeth. They are very proud of their teeth too, so the other item of Terran manufacture that they have interest in is whitening toothpaste, particularly after smoking large quantities of tobacco.’”

     His limp seemingly amplified, Joe moves to the table, slaps down the file. Right in front of Jonny’s eyes.

     “So, you see, The Jester had you doing some dirty work and you pulled off the mother of all dark pranks. Wiped out Earth’s future, all of them just pristine skeletons sleeping in their cryo-tubes when the Calicoeans got done with ‘em. The kitties had enough toothpaste to last about a hundred years.”

     Jonny flips through the file, the official looking stationary with strange stampings. In a corner, stapled through the folder, a plastic photo card, Jonny’s own eyes staring at him from another time and place—him but not. Terran Space Agency, just like Joe said. Above Top Secret. Engineering Division. Project: Azure Horizon.

     Jonny needs yet another beer.

02
Nov
08

Little Things: A short story

  Little Things: A short story

I’m not sure if I’ve put this one on this blog or not, but it is posted at Helium.com. This story represents an effort on my part to make a story that James Joyce would have appreciated.

Hope someone likes it. Here’s: Little Things

Pine Sol. The whole room smelled of Pine Sol.

“I don’t think you got the corners,” said Agnes as she lay in her bed.
“Of course I did, Mom.” Rachel ran her hand over her mother’s forehead, smoothing back the white wisps of hair. “I always get the corners. Is there anything else I can get you?”
Agnes layed down again. She turned a bit onto her right side. It was a slight movement, accompanied by a grunt indicative of extreme effort. She stared at a corner of the room intently. “It’s dirty I think.” She collapsed back.

“I’ll take care of it, just rest Mom–please.” Rachel walked out of the small bedroom, down the stairs. She went to a closet in the house’s foyer and removed a mop. Her brother, Jim, stood from his seat when he saw her. His face looked drawn; dark circles orbited his eyes, skin bland as sheetrock.

“Everything alright?” Jim asked.

Rachel dug in the closet as she spoke: “It’s the same thing. The mopping. Or the door to the bathroom creaking.” She stood before Jim, holding the mop, her face showing no emotion. “She’s almost gone but she cares that the door needs WD-40.”

After dabbing the corners of Agnes’ room with the mop, Rachel went back downstairs where she found Jim applying lubricant to the squeaky hinge. He swung the door open and shut. When he’d finished the job, he stared at the can, spun it in his hands as if to distract himself.

“The doctor,” Rachel said, “will be here in half an hour.”

Jim only nodded.

Returning to her mother, Rachel told her of the doctor’s impending visit. Agnes’ eyes lie closed. Her lips though, were parted. Agnes seemed to be sinking into the bed before Rachel’s eyes, the cancer that grew in her body pulling her down and away from her family and friends. Rachel imagined that; mobs of dark and knotty hands growing from the bed, curling around Agnes, greedily pulling her away–forever.

Raspy words escaped Agnes: “Did you pay the phone bill? It’s the first.”

“Mom, I’ve taken care of it.” Rachel stood and leaned over the bed. She pulled a curtain open allowing blazing shards of sunlight to crash in. Agnes shuddered as if she had been hit by a hammer. Quickly, Rachel shut the curtain.

Rachel sat in a chair beside her mother’s bed and began to read a magazine. She worried about Jim. He seemed unable to breach the wall of pain that stood invisible before the door to his mother’s room.

“Phillip’s son is coming to mow the lawn on Wednesday. The gas for the mower is in the shed on a shelf. A red can,” said Agnes. Her words trailed at the end, like someone speaking as they dozed off.

The doorbell toned. Muffled conversation made its way up the stairs. Agnes’ eye lids burst open. “Dr. Krutzburgh’s here,” she said. Footsteps chugged up the stairs.

“Good morning, Agnes.” Dr. Krutzburgh walked in. He wore khaki dress pants and a blue, button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled to his elbows. “How are we?”

Rachel stood from the chair and Dr. Krutzburgh took her place.

The doctor carried with him an illusion. It is the illusion that all good men of the medical trade must be able to employ at will: That pain, suffering and even death are subject to him. Though the patient’s mortal confine is ravaged beyond rational hope, everything will be alright.
He lifted Agnes’ arm from under the blanket and gently slid a blood pressure cuff on. After noting her numbers, he removed the cuff and pressed a chilled stethoscope to her bosom. “Take a deep breath for me Agnes.” Her chest rose slightly, followed by a deep groan. Her face contorted. Then, a long silence.
Rachel stood near the door observing, biting her lip. The quiet had a disturbing aspect to it. She half-expected the doctor to stand and announce: “The cancer’s gone. I’ll be on my way.” Instead though, he removed a syringe and small glassine bottle from a case he’d carried in.

“I’m going to give you some medicine to help with the pain, okay?”

“I don’t want it. And you don’t have to talk so loudI’m not deaf,” said Agnes.

“There’s cookies if you want some. My daughter made them.”

“I think I will, but I want you to take the medicine,” said Dr. Krutzburgh.
Rachel saw the word: morphine on the bottle that the doctor held.

“If that’s what it takes for you to stop pestering, go ahead.”
The doctor administered the opiate then motioned Rachel into the hallway. He placed a hand on her shoulder. “She’s going. This may be the last. I’ll stay here for the day. I don’t expect things to go on after that.”
Rachel went to tell Jim, then returned upstairs and stood in the bedroom pacing.

“Did you check the mail?” asked Agnes, through delirium. “It’s one o’clock. The mail comes at one.”
Indeed, Rachel’s watch confirmed it was one o’clock. How her mother knew this without a clock nearby, Rachel couldn’t say.

At twelve past one, the doctor felt for Agnes’ pulse and found it missing. He looked up at Rachel.

She understood. It was true what they said; that only two things really mattered: Death and Love. With that realization: relief that it was over. When she told Jim, he picked up the phone to call for arrangements.

Rachel walked to the driveway. Outside, her senses exploded and Rachel noticed all of the little things that everyday she took for granted: the undulating chirps of chickadees, calling, rasping in uneven harmony, never to find a chorus; crunching gravel beneath her feet, the rolling stones mashing and finding their place amongst brothers, small stones pounced upon by the pricking rain, light, cold as lonely steel; a rain that pulled down the smell of lightning ozone from damaging gray cirrus, mingled it with the surrounding pines, offering the smoke as sacrifice to her mourning soul; a soul that felt the thick breeze moving and lifting her hair, grazing her eyes and ears; yes, ears that recorded the echoes of barking dogs, lonely, calling for the pack to undo exile, the sadness imposed upon the lonely for all time; ears pulled by the band of children playing in the joy of youth, evident in randomness, cleverness, carelessness; a bouncing ball, a clatter unknown, smashing against the muscular tones of distant motors, angry, huffing, pulsing, flowing down tunnels of concrete, running to escape the droning populace, racing for the muffling of forest and ocean and river, collapsing, swirling, finally, again, waiting for the one such as Rachel, who would hear, smell and see.

19
Apr
08

My second novel: Chapter 1

This is the first chapter of my second novel. Don’t know if I’ll ever finish it. Its taste may not be for everyone; it’s decidedly influenced by Vonnegut. See what you think. I’ve got about 9,000 words done. There were some texting issues at the end of this chapter from transferring it from a Word file.

Chapter 1

 

 

Come now and look. This way, just down this damp, gray hall. Let’s look, as we pass each barred cell, notice the shades within. No not the shadows, the cool, ever reaching shadows that fill those concrete cubes. Notice the men, each with a dream, his own history and pains. They are animals, each and every, have no doubt of that, Friend. But so am I, so are you. Don’t stare too long and most definitely don’t make eye-contact. Obey their code while you’re here, just for a short time and then maybe you’ll understand, maybe you won’t judge or feel repulsion.

     Just a bit further, to cell one hundred forty. Look in there. That’s Jonny Kimble. Three years ago, Jonny learned that the universe will stab you in the back when you’re not looking, twist the knife just to feel the bones separate. Jonny found out that not everyone in life comes out a winner, no matter how some may try or how well-intentioned they be. Yes, three years ago, Jonny came home to his lovely wife blowing Jonny’s neighbor. And all he knew how to do is what he did. He smashed the toilet to a pile of powdered porcelain with his not-so-noble neighbor’s face. The only thing that really bothered Jonny was hearing his little girl crying from her bedroom, awakened by the horrific thunders of flesh-on-crapper and the woeful simpers of Mr. I-like-to-stick-it-in-my-neighbor’s-wife.

     He didn’t say a word to his wife after that, just saw her in the courtroom during the divorce. He’d called the police himself, while the horny neighbor rolled on the floor, grasping his visionless eyes, smearing blood on his naked skin, covering that with sharp biting granules.

     “There’s a man in my bathroom that may die,” he’d said. “But I’d prefer that he didn’t so if you could send an officer and an ambulance that would be great.” 

     Jonny sat in the bathroom’s doorway watching the man. There was no rage, just the question of why. And the question was not directed at his bellowing neighbor, after all, he knew what the man’s answer would be or at least should be: “I had to get me somma that.” No, the question was intended for the Cosmic Jester. Jonny thought he’d slapped the Jester around and put him in his place in previous years, thought the Universe’s Fool inhabited a straightjacket somewhere on the plains of Nebraska. That’s where Jonny had last seen him, on a night that sleep had rescued him from one more day, Jonny laying in an abandoned car, empty Twinkie packages licked clean and strewn across the backseat.

     You see, our man in there loved his wife. And she’d said that she loved him too, couldn’t live without Jonny. And that had given him the means to pull himself from his sewer-of-a-life. No more stealing and lying and losing. Got a job, he did, went to college. Didn’t wear his blotchy tattoo quite so proudly. Love was the only thing that had ever motivated him, ever made him anxious to wake up and do something. Well, other than wanting to see the sun so that its warmth could be his. Love latched onto him with a steel cable and yanked him out of the ditch. But love’s banishment came that night, on the second story of his little blue home.

      Elevated aggravated assault. That’s what the District Attorney hit him with. And he didn’t fight even a little, didn’t pull the woe-is-me garbage. He’d argued with his attorney over a crime of passion defense. Looking at the event truthfully, he didn’t remember any passion, just a cold Fuck You to the laughing Jester as the toilet exploded. Besides his daughter, there was no reason to get up and go to work, to brush his teeth, to pay taxes or mow the lawn. A better thing actually, and he’d thought about it carefully, was to play in the heavy traffic on I-95. Not rush-hour. The vehicles moved so slowly then. He thought that a good game of Hacky Sack, performed in the passing lane, would be sufficiently romantic, with a copy of Joseph Conrad’s, Heart of Darkness, tucked into his back pocket. That’s the way he wanted to be found, flattened and thrown into the weeds—rundown by a teenager talking on her cell-phone, a stinging classic which condemned all-that-is jutting from his pants. He wondered if the Jester liked to read. Jonny was sure that he did, in between sending children to burn wards and pushing old ladies in front of speeding cars.

     By the time the police arrived, Jonny had mapped out the dramatic I-95 plan, but he was in shackles before he could find his Conrad classic. The Jester laughed again as Jonny was escorted out the front door, because Jonny caught a glimpse of Heart of Darkness on a lamp stand in between a copy of Ain’t Life Funny? and Why married men live longer.

     Other than what I’ve told you, there’s nothing that special about Jonny Kimble. Except that he can walk through walls. Phase out-of-sync with the Jester’s universe. The prison’s cinderblocks are but burned-out illusions to Jonny; that is when he can muster the courage to care. He’s only cared on two occasions since discovering his wondrous ability. He cared about a pack of smokes then he cared about seeing the leaves change color one October. Actually he did care one other time. He wanted to see his daughter, but she lives too far away. Each time after caring, he’d returned to his cell, phased back to the Jester’s reality and lay back down in his cot.

     There was never any question as to whether he would come back to the New Hampshire State Prison. After all, there was no other place he could so easily not care. Even his Hacky-in-traffic idea had faded. Instead of a persistent despair or a gnawing desire for self-annihilation, buzzing numbness had settle on Jonny causing him to act like a stoned automaton. Get up. Piss. Lay down. Get up. Stare at a corner. Lay down. Read, The Crying of Lot 49. Wonder what the hell the book meant. Scratch his ass. You get the idea.

     Back up for a minute. Here comes one of the guards. Oh, that’s Bill Bompus. Don’t say anything about the chili on his lapel, and don’t stare at his bulging gut. Looks like he’s got something to tell Jonny.

     “Kimble. Someone here to see you.”

     “I’m not available.”

     “Yes you are. This guy’ll see you in your cell.”

     Must be Jonny’s lawyer, got an appeal lined up, a technicality to throw into the gears of Justice.

     “Hello, Jonny.” Never trust a man wearing a black sport coat and armed with a briefcase.

     Bompus slides the metal bars aside, the suited man walks in. He sits on the steel toilet, opens he briefcase without looking up at Jonny, who’s laying on his cot counting the spiders on the ceiling.

     “Have I got a deal for you, Jonny, a real sweet deal,” says the man.

     “I’m getting the Playboy Channel on my TV?”

     Presently, the man scans a dossier with Jonny’s name on its tab. “We can do that too, and the TV can be yours, just yours.” Nameless-Man flutters the sheets of Jonny’s file, hoping to disperse Jonny’s disillusionment. “We know about your abilities. And we can make use of them. You’ll be duly compensated of course. A new car, new clothes, and we’ve got an impressive lineup of Russian girls who’d love to meet you. Or perhaps Japanese. Little dark girls with cute smiles and submissive attitudes.”

     Jonny stops counting. You can hear his thoughts just as well as I can. Don’t be embarrassed for being able to read his mind, Friend. You’re here with me now, in the Jester’s Universe. I’ll walk you through it; just don’t lose sight of me—ever. I’m sure the Jester would love to have a little fun with you. Make you play with fireworks or run with scissors.  Didn’t you notice that the rays from the sun felt a little different, oblique and shifting? Or perhaps you can tell that the people’s souls are colder, just a bit. Like the entire of humanity has succumbed to a cool melancholy, admitted defeat, each person waiting for its turn in the barrel. It doesn’t matter that you don’t want to be here. We need you here, so here you are. Remember what you see, what you hear, but most of all—what you feel.

     “Let’s go for a ride, Jonny. You need to smell the fresh air, see the sights of the happy,” says Nameless-Man. “Get up. Let’s go.”

     “I’m not going anywhere. Take your shit and go.”

     “Jonny. I’m trying to be diplomatic here. Truly I am. But I do have certain…levers, if I have need to employ them.”

     “Get-the-fuck-out.”

     “There’s still some life in you after all.” Nameless-man looks at the dossier again. “Your first mission, should you choose to cooperate—and you will—is to meet up with Joe.”

     “Who’s Joe?” Jonny finally regards Nameless-Man, if only obliquely.

     “Joe works at the Seven Eleven two miles from here. Works nine to five, weekdays. Go there and ask for Joe. Get up, Jonny.”

     “Piss off. You’re out of your mind. I have no idea who you are, why you’re here or why I should do anything you ask.”

     “I’d love to tell you Jonny, that you should do as I say because it’s the right thing to do, and you always do the right thing. But the truth is…” Nameless-Man puts a finger to his lip, creases his brow and stares at the floor. “your daughter will remain unharmed should you cooperate.”

     Stand back, Friend; things could get ugly. A little further from the bars, should Nameless-Man get launched through them at an extraordinary velocity. Jonny swings his legs off the cot, his feet touching the cement like settling feathers. Look at those eyes—they care. Nameless-Man cares too, backs up a step.

     “I’m gonna kill you.” Jonny stands, deliberately slow.

     “We don’t want to harm her. But our mission is of the utmost importance. You’re not from here, Jonny. I know you feel that, you know it deep down. Have you ever felt like you belonged? Haven’t you always felt out of sorts, like your gears are grinding with the universes?”

     Jonny’s a lot of things. A fool isn’t one of them. He sits again. The Nameless-Man knows something about him. Maybe though, he’s employing the fortune teller’s trick. Speaking in generalities that apply to everyone.

     “Just go meet with Joe. He’ll fill you in on more than I can. You won’t need anything, since you don’t have anything. Follow me.”

     Nameless-Man’s hand beckons to Jonny. Nameless-Man presumptuously tells the guard to open the gate, steps out and looks back. Look. Jonny cares just a little—just enough. Maybe the inertia’s been broken. Stepping behind Nameless-Man, Jonny eyes the guard, who obviously approves of the prison-break.

     Down the hallway again, through the prison’s intake area. There’s paperwork for Jonny

to sign. Then out the heavy steel door to freedom. The sunshine stings his eyes, pulling forth

tears that had remained buried in dry tombs for many years. Too bad they’re not caring

tears. We’ll know, Friend, that Jonny’s journey is nearly complete when the wetness in his

eyes accompanies a softened heart. You’ll see. You’ll know. You’ll feel.

17
Apr
08

Mourne Plain

Wrote this a couple of months back. Not sure what to think of it.

Mourne Plain

 

 

 

Anderson Edwards hunched over the old table; a table covered in the etchings of family member’s names. There was Bobby and Joseph and Crazy Ed.  Bits of sand scratched his elbows, but he didn’t notice for the four shots of vodka that now sat in Anderson Edwards’ stomach. He touched the loaded semi-automatic handgun that lie before him, dragged his index finger over the serial number, felt the steel grip as if it belonged to a sacred relic.

     Indeed, the gun was a sacred piece to a newly formed death-cult, of which Anderson was the founding member, the only member—the final member.

     Anderson Edwards swung his lolling head and peered out a window. He saw the universe mocking him, flaunting the beauty that he had failed to see all of his life. Blue moonlight sprayed obliquely through the two windows that faced the lake, falling upon half his face and half upon the table, further roiling him by highlighting the names of his father and mother, each separated by a small carved heart and dated 1968. They’d left him too, like everyone else had. His thoughts drifted to his ex-wife.

     “That’s right, Honey, you got the kitchen sink. There’s nothing left now. Are you happy!” he swayed back, holding the bottle of vodka, yelling at the timbered ceiling of the camp’s bunkhouse.  He stood with the help of the table, shuffled his feet on the gritty floor and found the mirror that hung on the wall at the foot of the bunk-beds.

     He stared into his own eyes, scanned the reflection of his face. The vodka seemed to be pulling his cheeks down and his eyes too. Also the corners of his mouth. Anderson Edwards watched himself sip from his shot glass. Water of Life is what the Russians called it. “Water of Death’d be better,” he muttered.

     It wasn’t long before his image danced before him; a mesmerism in the shadow. Edwards watched his form stretch, the borders of his body become pliable as if he were putty being molded by an invisible child. The vodka of course. And he was tired. And he wanted to die.

     Then the reflection gathered, reconstructed itself to become a semblance of what it had been before; a simple man, alone, in the dark with no one that loved him, in a world that he hated.

     His lip quivered a bit, his chin wrinkling. He swirled his drink and gulped the rest. The burning of the alcohol choked back the cry that tried to escape his throat. Looking up from the floor, weeping ambushed him.

     Great sobs echoed through the damp wood of the cabin. It pleased him to see himself weep. Anderson Edwards seemed to gain some great self-knowledge as he watched his face crinkle, tears roll down his cheeks. Best of all though, was the sound—a symphony of despair. The sound proved that the world was no place for him.

     He studied his own eyes again, thought about going back to the table for the gun. But now his eyes shone with a joy that Anderson Edwards thought vanished since childhood. He shifted his vision down to his mouth and found the corners upturned. His teeth were even showing! The shot glass bounced twice on the floor, the now empty hand reaching to probe the terrain of his face. A smile?

     No. His fingers found the same frown. Still, the drying trails from his tears covered his cheeks.

     “Hello, Anderson.” His reflection’s mouth moved with the intonations of the words. “Why so sad?”

     Adrenaline shot through his body. “What…” He stumbled back, a hand reaching by instinct and smashing through a window into the crisp air outside. He dragged his arm back through the jagged glass, streaming sanguine fluid.

     “Careful, Anderson. See, you’ve cut yourself.” The reflection’s smile softened only a bit.

     “This isn’t real,” insisted Anderson.

     “Isn’t it? Does it matter now? I know what you plan on doing.” The figure in the mirror folded his arms, and now its eyes seemed to be set afire; they shone with a color like that of the moonbeam. “I think you should reconsider. I have a better plan.”

     Anderson shook his head. “This is the plan for me. Nothing’s gonna stop it now. There’s nothing left. No reason for anything.” He cursed himself for debating with something he knew wasn’t real.

     “Let’s switch places then. The universe is a big, complicated place, Anderson. It’s bad place. But here, where I am, it’s pretty darn good.”

     “Who are you?” said Anderson.

     The thing snickered. “Who do I look like?”

     “Me.”

     “Than I’m you.”

     Anderson slumped down against the wall until his rump hit the floor. His head hung between his knees as he spoke. “Look out there. The lake, the moon, the pine trees. Can you smell them?”

     “I know. It’s horrible isn’t it? I’d like to help. Do a little switcharoo with you.” The thing motioned to Anderson. “Common.”  

     What was there to lose? He’d planned on spraying his brains across the lake anyway. Gathering himself, his rose. Blood quivered at the end of his fingertips before splashing onto the floor. Two steps forward and he stood face to face with his smiling reflection, the simmering moon-glow of the simulacrum’s eyes pressing into his soul.

     “Just say it. That’s it and you’ll be here, I—there,” the reflection said.

     “Where are you? I mean what is there?” Anderson flittered his head toward the mirror and stared intently at the area behind the figure. He saw nothing but the shadows and the broken window behind him. A loon knelled from the dark lake.

     “It’s a place where you can finally find acceptance.” The figure’s face became serene, seemingly losing its contour. “I’ve been here for a while so I think it’s time I share my spot with someone else.”

     “But you said you’re me,” said Anderson.

     “Well, I will be you—I want to be you.”

    “That’s a mistake. You don’t know what it’s like to have no one. It’s better being dead—you’ll see.” Anderson Edwards scratched his head, brought his hand to in front of his face. The ache from the wound had finally burrowed through his drunkenness. It throbbed with each beat of his heart. “Okay. I want to be there.”

     His image still stood before him though, and the grin had returned. “Thank you Anderson. Thank you so much. You’ll find what you want, I’m sure.”

     Placing his hand on the mirror, Anderson tried to push through it, into the other world. But his hand did not penetrate to another existence, it merely settled on the cool, dusty glass.

     It brought a jolt to him when his reflection took a single step back, spun on its heel, then walked away. Anderson Edwards angled himself with the glass so that he could watch his image walk. He watched the mirage pause at the picnic table, pick up the handgun, then walk out the door without looking back. He turned to look at the real table. Gone. The loon had fallen silent. And there was no breeze—no cabin walls.  

     But there was a moon. No! Two! And blood red, one as big as a cup platter, the other a dinner plate, each faintly streaked with flowing yellows and orange. The air felt a tinge warmer. Anderson Edwards began to choke. He rubbed his eyes.

     Then, marching from the antediluvian mist that wafted around Anderson’s feet, from the utter darkness that surrounded Anderson Edwards but for the crimson swath cut by the terrible moons, two dark men, skin the color of onyx, dressed in white, linen robes. As they approached, Anderson saw that they had no hair, their faces possessed an inhuman angularity—sharp and long. Their arms hung a bit too low; a few inches below their knees, and their legs, long and lean, strode with inordinate grace. When they’d drawn to within ten yards, they stopped and stared.  Anderson Edwards heard a voice, but both beings’ mouths remained still—some would say grim—but when Anderson heard the voice, he heard the voice of an angel. Had he in fact off’d himself at the lake and found what the here-after is like? Maybe God found a bit of mercy for poor, unloved Anderson and decided he shouldn’t remember the final act.

     “Anderson Edwards,” the voice said “welcome.”

     “Where am I?” asked Anderson, strangely calm.

     “This is the epicenter of the multiverse’s pleasure—and its pain. From here, you can move from one shadow-reality to the next. The only caveats being that in order to leave one’s previous reality, another must willingly replace you, and the sum total of pleasure and pain in the universe must remain balanced. It is a rare distinction to be given this chance, Anderson Edwards.”

     What was Anderson’s replacement doing now? Probably finishing off the vodka.

     The voice continued: “We understand that you wished to terminate your existence, as you lack the feeling of being loved. Since the adoration of others, at all costs, seems to be what makes you happiest, we believe we have found a proper match for you.”

     In the space between Anderson Edwards and the strange beings, a rectangle of purest darkness bloomed and hovered not more than a foot from the ground. It bore the same shape as the mirror in the bunkhouse.

     “Look,” said the voice.

     Hesitatingly, he walked to the dark rectangle. He ground his teeth as he edged himself around to peer into space and time. Within the blackness, beyond it, a man paced to and fro, his hands locked behind the small of his back. Somehow Anderson Edwards knew the face, but more he knew the clothing. The man turned and walked to stand in front of Anderson Edwards.

     A deep sorrow flowed from the little man’s eyes. Those eyes told Anderson Edwards what to do next:

     “Let’s change places for a bit. I know what you’re planning. I can see it in your face. There’s a better place for you here.”

     The man jumped and spoke in a language not familiar to Anderson Edwards, but that he somehow understood.

     “Vile revenant! Be gone. My hour nears and I’ll face it with honor. No escape for me.” The man straightened his long blue coat, swiped his hand across the tops of his high leather boots, then inspected his work. Finally, with his fingers, he combed back a tuft of his thin, dark hair from his forehead.

     “You won’t lose any honor by living another day. It’s only smart,” said Anderson Edwards. “And maybe you can come back someday.”

     The man paused. It was obvious that he now considered the truth in Anderson Edwards’ words. A few more moments of negotiation and finally the man said: “Very well, another start for me. Another exit from doom’s stage.”

     At the words, Anderson Edwards found himself adjusting the very same tall boots, straightening the identical jacket and hair, his former life only an echo in his subconscious mind. He strode out through the flapping aperture of his tent, pulling on his thick, leather riding gloves and fixing his cavalry saber at his waste. With great arrogance he set his famous hat on his head. Around him, men saluted as he moved by them. In their eyes, Anderson Edwards saw what he cherished most: unconditional admiration. Each man saluted him, but such was their respect, they cared not that no salute returned to them, only an astute nod.

     All across a wet, grassy land, thousands of men had gathered, all dressed in the same vestments as Anderson Edwards, and preparing themselves for some great endeavor. Thousands of men, hundreds of thousands of men, each of them as his beck.

     He climbed onto his steed then weaved his way through the encampment. The horse snorted its own love for its rider. Anderson found what he looked for: eighty cannon manned by his expectant soldiers. He glanced at his pocket watch: 11:50.

     “Soldiers of the Fifth!” he cried, lifting his saber from its scabbard. All of the men within earshot turned. “Let us finish this before supper. Your emperor can ask nothing more from you than your blood.” He smiled at this, and snickers rippled through the regiment. “But I prefer to ask for the blood of our enemy!”  At this he cut the air with the blade, prompting a roar from his soldiers.
     “Vive L’Empereur! Vive L’Empereur!”

     A Lieutenant locked eyes with him, and with a determined countenance, turned and shouted orders at the crews attending the cannon.

     “Grande Batterie—charger le canon!” Thirty seconds later: “Feu!”

     The guns thundered, vomiting ball shot. The iron spheres fell amidst Wellington’s troops as they assembled for war. Some spheres found their targets, tearing brave men apart, others simply sunk deep into the wet mourne plain of a small village called Waterloo.

     Anderson Edwards never felt more loved.

 

16
Apr
08

One of my best, I think.

I’m trying to get all of my stories posted on here before I go to basic. I won’t be able to write much but an occasional email or letter while there. For me, that’ll probably be the worst part, as it took me 32 years to find out exactly what I was meant to do: write.

I sent this story in to the recent Writer’s of the Future contest. It didn’t win, but I still think it’s an admirable story considering I wrote it not more than a few months into my writing life.

Some may find it a bit arcane, because it contains many references to Norse Mythology. My intent was to keep what was going on in the story a bit cryptic, so you end the story still wondering what certain things meant, but also enjoying the outcome.

Here’s one of my best: Now, Twilight.

Now, Twilight

 

 

     Destroying the saviors of Homeworld was simple. Drag and click. Drag and Click. Jared Haskins sat in front of the computer screen, sullen, dark circles orbiting his still darker eyes. This was his twelfth hour now, monitoring the system, making logs for needed supplies and of course, sending the warriors of Valhalla to Hel. The space station, Gladsheim, spun in the ether, waiting for that one request from the blue and white marble below. Haskins hoped he’d be awake when the call came.

     “Playin’ games again I see.”

     Jared turned to his right to see Samuel, with his little vacuum attached to his belt and a tube of calking material grasped in his hand.

     “Hey, you just worry about your job, I’ll worry about mine,” said Jared smiling and leaning back in the nylon harness. “I think there’s a dust bunny under here, come get it for me.”

     The skinny, almost skeletal Sam kicked off the rivet studded wall, and tumbled like a fifty year old acrobat, then bounced from the metal struts above Jared before coming to rest behind him. Sam swept clean the work space, mumbled something about young men these days, moved to the other side of the chamber. 

     The amphetamine analogue that Jared had popped was wearing off, fatigue was setting in and his lids were snapping shut before Sam’s appearance. Sam finished his scheduled cleaning for the day, singing some wet navy song that drilled into Jared’s head and made his ears hurt.

     A voice’s echo bounced from the corridor and into Jared’s module.  “Mr. Haskins. Two more hours. Is everything in order?” Hobbs drifted in, his presence filling the room. His face was square and muscular; a barely visible scar sweeping from his left ear to the tip of his chin.

     “Yes, Colonel. I just placed another order for some BAWs. We were down two after last weeks skirmish in Sudan.” He sat up, doing his best to appear alert.

     “Good. Anything else?” Hobbs picked a chart from the wall.

     “E-mail says we’re do for another coilgun shot in two days,” said Jared. “I’m hoping the BAWs will be on it, along with the normal stuff.” The patch stared at him from Hobbs’ arm; a stylized dragon, bearing teeth and encircling Earth. Printed around the edge of the distinction were the emblazoned words: STRIKE FROM SPACE, STRIKE FROM  DARKNESS. Jared wanted to wear that patch, but his own Quartermaster Corps insignia would have to suffice. Hobbs’ crest noted him as a recipient of the Aero/Orbital Nuclear Deployment and Jump School. The combat badge that adorned the colonel’s lapel made it all the more dignified. Hobbs had been hardened in battle; he was set apart, proven in the crucibles of Bolivia and Burma.

     Hobbs was still looking at the chart as Jared spoke and finished, then after a few seconds, Hobbs turned and said, “Excellent.” At that, he launched himself through the hatch’s opening, streaking down the cylindrical portal that connected the records and supply module to the station’s main body.

     A small alert signaled on the screen, pulling Jared’s attention back to his work. He rubbed his eyes and stretched, yawned, then moved his face close to the display. The BAW in capsule eighteen was experiencing mild psychogenic tremors; ripples that emanated from a dormant lucidity and pushed upstream along the fiber-optic highway that led to Valhalla. Jared blew air out through his pursed lips, and sat waiting

for the phantasm disperse. The thought of calling Alistair in at this stage in his shift made him sick. Jared didn’t need the problems right now, or Alistair’s insane ranting and jibes.

     Thirty two seconds passed before the alert ceased. A Master-at-Arms checked in, making his rounds, said hello, and left.

     Relief came in the form of two powder blue barbiturates, carried down his throat by saliva alone. He strapped into his hammock, grey streams of illusory fatigue sweeping through his bloodstream and finally joining with adenosine receptors, carrying his mind to shades of gray and black, but very little white.

     The swarm oozed over the land, smashing into blood and bone. The howl of the Einherjar, like a cymbal, echoes and booms down the valley. See them now, steeds of snarling flesh and yet with the grace of fairies. Ladies lift the sword and guide the fallen to Hoden. Do not deny my right among them!  You have left me, found me unworthy, sent me to the land of shades and cowards.

     A cry shattered dark silence. Sweat poured from his brow and Jared’s eyes blinked in darkness. He coughed and cleared his throat. The nightmares were coming too often and more intensely. He would see the doctor again when he awoke later. Only three hours of sleep remaining and he would be back to his screen, watching the blinking stars through the port hole, waiting to return to his wife, Allana.

     When his rest was finished, he peeled himself from the cot and stared at the steel mirror riveted into the panel next to him. He had aged. His muscles were thinning and so was, it seemed, his skin which in some places was virtually transparent, veins protruding and dull gray-purple flesh visible between the

bones on the back of his hand. He pulled a vacuum-razor over his chin hoping the face of a living man would replace the gaunt visage staring at him.

     “What did you do to the system last night?”

     Jared turned from the mirror. Alistair, with his pointed nose, high forehead and always serious stare.

     “You did something again and I’m reporting it to the colonel. It’s bordering on incompetence, Jared. I can’t be around to watch you all the time.” Alistair pushed himself into the tight quarters and grabbed a metal rung. “What happened?”

     Jared looked back at the polished surface and continued shaving for a while without responding; the sight of Alistair’s thin frame squirming with nervousness had started the new cycle off quite well.

     “I didn’t do anything. The system’s glichy. You know that. And when I went to bed, all the vatties were night-night. Only one tremor the whole shift.” Jared turned and grinned.

     “The colonel will know about what I think.” Alistair kicked away and was gone.

     Jared’s meal can was full of goodies: freeze dried, emulsified and hydrolyzed. He picked out a small plastic tube, popped the cap, and squeezed down the grape flavored jelly with 500 milligrams of ascorbic acid. Next, powdered egg and a shot of instant coffee from his thermos. Forty-two more cycles until he was in his wife’s arms again. She sat, gravity-bound, waiting for him and comforting Haldous, his son, who asked everyday when Daddy would return so they could go see the new park that had been built nearby the flat. Jared and Allana marked each work-cycle on a calendar.

    

     “I see you’re actually coming to work today.”

     After he’d shrugged into his coveralls, Jared looked out into the connecting passage to see Sam. The janitor sipped from his seemingly endless supply of coffee.

     Jared’s arms worked against flexing carbon fiber, tensing and giving, struggling against the tensile resistance.  

     “Forty-two more cycles, Sam, just forty-two more.” He stopped his workout for a moment, grabbed a handful of flabby skin on the back of his arm and shook it. “See that? It’s like I’ve aged ten years since I’ve been up here.” He switched the resistance straps so they could accommodate leg work and began rhythmically squatting. “How do you do it? Ten month tours?”

      “Where else could I have this much fun? Besides, you’re not missing as much as you think down there. I just miss cigarettes.”

     Jared finished and moved past Sam, who followed, still talking.

     “It’s cold as hell on the surface,” said Sam.

     Alistair overheard the conversation as they walked into the core. There, Valhalla blinked and hummed, heat sinks pulling waves of thermal energy from the massive processor.

     “The polar shift is having its effects. There was virtually no summer last season in North America. We’ll have to wait and see what happens this year,” said Alistair. Several technicians moved around in the clean-room. They all wore pristine, white coveralls and their faces were shrouded in filter masks. They were ghosts, drifting in the hallowed halls of Hoden, tending to the fallen, who were being prepared for the final battle again and again.

     “Go do something, Jared. You’re making me nervous with your penchant for damaging things.” Alistair finally looked up, glaring.

     The only thing for him to do was to go to his station, though he had several minutes before he had to report. He moved through the corridors, headed for the supply module.

     “I’ll take over,” he said to Helen.

     She looked up at him. “Hey, you’re early. Just to let you know there’s been a few tremors in the last couple of hours. Nothing serious though.”

     He strapped himself into his seat. Helen headed for her bunk. The routine checklist was the first duty in order.  Gladsheim’s  nuclear missiles lay ready to obliterate the enemies of Homeworld. The coilgun shot was still scheduled for tomorrow. When the cargo arrived, everything would be at full capacity.  He palmed two Sympamines, looked behind him and listened for a moment, then tossed them to the back of his throat and gulped some more bitter coffee. Within sixty seconds he could feel his consciousness expanding, his eyes shifting from side to side and the fast descending feeling of boredom peeling away. Before he could finish the checklist, the screen in front of him was alerting to another tremor.

     “Here we go again,” he said, attaching his incomplete report to the wall then returned to the flashing red light in front of him. Eighteen again. He checked Valhalla’s firewall and found it intact. Moving the cursor over to Valhalla’s icon, he double clicked and checked the thirty memory rips logged in the hard drive. The green bars there indicated stable cortical records. He creased his eyebrows and blinked. There was a memory rip missing. He counted them—twenty-nine. A deep breath was followed by a light tapping of his forehead off the desk.

     “Alistair.”

     The comm unit crackled. “Go ahead.”

     “There’s a problem I just found while I was doing inventory.”

     “I’ll be right there.”

     Alistair entered and went to the screen. “What’s the problem now?”

     “We’re missing a memory rip.” Jared pointed to the vacant slot on the screen.

     “Well, someone must have deleted it by accident or not logged a legitimate deletion.”

     “I didn’t do shit. Why are you always trying to find what I did wrong? I was doing my job, checking inventory and I found this. I reported it to you, like I’m supposed to. Can’t you retrieve it?”

     Alistair shrugged, “Maybe. Depends. Nice touch, by the way.” His finger moved over the recycle bin and pointed to the word, Hel, scribed above the little trash can.

     “I added that,” said Jared. He winced the second the words left his lips.

     “I know. That’s part of the problem. You keep adding and subtracting and downloading things that you shouldn’t. These idiotic games that you play when you’re supposed to be monitoring incoming messages and Valhalla.”

     “It’s not that, Alistair. Helen just told me that there were several tremors a few hours before I replaced her. I’m telling you, there’s a glitch somewhere.”

     Alistair shook his head and typed a few lines of code into his diag-board. “Valhalla’s firewalls are impenetrable. As long as you don’t trash the system as you’re prone to do.”

     Jared knew about Alistair’s type. That little code-junkie would just as soon see Colonel Hobbs himself blown out an airlock as watch a single iota of dust settle onto the mainframe.

     “I’ll get back to you on what I find. For now, don’t mess with anything,” said Alistair.  

     When Jared’s lunch hour came around, he headed for the infirmary, if only to see Dr. Phillips. He always had a thing for professionally dressed women.

     “Hey Doc.”

     Phillips looked up at him. She wore thin-framed glasses, a white coat over her coveralls and her black hair was pulled back in a ponytail, highlighting her high cheekbones.

     “Mr. Haskins, come in. How can I help you?”

     “I’ve been having trouble sleeping. Nightmares, really vivid. It’s weird because I usually don’t remember my dreams.”

     “Are you still taking the barbiturates and amphetamines?”

     Jared didn’t answer, just tapped on a metal strut.

     “You’re damaging yourself, Jared,” said Phillips. She moved past him and closed the hatch to the medical module. “I will go to Colonel Hobbs if you don’t stop this. Everyone is at risk when one of us is at risk. Don’t be stupid. Come in after your shift, right before you want to sleep and I’ll see if the inducer will help.”

     Jared left the infirmary. As he passed, he peeked into the BAW resting chamber. Cocoons lined the walls. Within: Sleeping Biometrically Assimilated Warfighters, each waiting for downloads and righteous battle. The tubes buzzed dimly. Jared moved to the tube closest the entrance and pulled himself up to the opaque shield which hovered inches above the BAW’s face. He stared at the warrior’s shade-like outline. The BAW lie inert until its people needed it. It? Was that the proper pronoun? Jared wondered, then decided this was a fitting term, at least until he uploaded a memory rip, then it would become he. But was he alive, even then? The memory rips were recycled fallen warriors, placed in a digital stasis until another skirmish or uprising or all out war. The BAWs were made stronger after every death really, because the rips remembered their death and they learned too.  The bioengineered bodies were as strong as the strongest men who ever lived, with reflexes rivaled only by elite fighter pilots. After a body died, the consciousness and memories were beamed back up to Valhalla, compressed and held. Demise was a new beginning. But there were limits. Too many deaths resulted in destabilization—a cancer on the digital genome. At that point, a BAW became a distinct liability, prone to berserker rage, having seen death’s precipice once too often, the blackness of a vacuous world in which there was no honor, no battle—only the peace of nonexistence. And peace, even of that kind, was one thing a Warfighter could not abide. When the madness descended, Jared did what he did. Click and Drag. To Hel with them.

     They all slept like little war-babies. A calm, smooth face lie beneath the glass, obscured just enough so as to appear but a ghost. But they were more than ghosts, Jared knew. He’d seen them in action, seen the crews ready the BAWs for drops into gravity’s well, with black carbon wings latched into place on gothic-looking battle armor. He’d seen too, on his little monitor, the warriors blown from the Gladsheim, still in their capsules and then, after piercing the atmosphere, the cocoons peeling away to reveal the Concordia’s vanguard.

     Jared decided to check on the recently troubled number eighteen—the one who’d been having the little tantrums at night. Eighteen’s muscles pulsed where the myosin-stimulators were attached.

     “Sleep tight,” whispered Jared, in mocking fashion. His face was pressed against the cool polymer.

     The closed eyelids twittered before they flashed open. The eyes pierced Jared, whose arms reflexively pushed him away from the tube. He slammed the back of his head on a beam that arched above. His teeth clenched and he breathed hard as his body recovered from the adrenal surge. Carefully, he pulled himself back to the tube, breathing in shallow bursts and edging the thing’s head into view. The eyes remained open, looking away from Jared, but then Jared’s movement drew them and again they stared. He sensed the undulations of sadness in those eyes. Pressing closer, fighting his urge to be afraid, he saw a tear roll from a dark eye and then slide down the warrior’s cheek. With another flicker, the eyes vanished behind closed lids.

     Jared pushed himself through the doorway so fast that he smashed into the corridor wall. His shoulder hurt now. When he got back to his workstation, he saw the concerned look on a technician’s face. The tech had taken Jared’s place during the break.

     “Whatcha’ got?” asked Jared.

     “Number eighteen’s dreaming. Did this happen before?”

     “Yeah. It’s no big deal. He’ll settle down.”

     “Did you tell Alistair?” asked the tech.

     “He knows about it.”

     Jared took the seat as the man floated away. The screen showed a log of the tremors. The computer recorded time and date.

     The screen went black.

     “What the hell?” Jared tapped the button under a roller ball. Nothing. He leaned over to dial Alistair and just as his hand reached the mic, a cursor appeared. It blinked for several seconds on the black background.   

     Hello

     Jared pulled his hand away from the mic and stared at the text on the screen. Then he swung a keyboard in front of him and typed back: Who is this?

     I

     am   

     Surtr

     Hello

    

     He typed again: Is this a distress call? Identify yourself. You are accessing Concordia archives. Identify.

     Distress

     Again, Surtr, identify further. Are you in need of assistance? If so, activate a beacon or broadcast coordinates.  

     “Alistair,” spoke into the intercom.

     “What?”

     “I need you in here again.” There was no response. “Did you copy? There’s a problem.”

     “I copy.”

     Jared typed again. What is your location?

     He waited with his hands balled up in front of him, sweating. Nothing.

     Alistair floated to Jared’s side and released a sigh designed to express discontent.

     “This just popped up. I can’t access anything else. Someone’s texting us and overriding the equipment spreadsheet.”

     “Who is it?”

     “I don’t know. That’s the whole transmission right there.” Jared fingered the screen.

     As Alistair pulled a cord from his diag-board’s spool, he glared at Jared.

     “What?” asked Jared, shrugging his shoulders and lifting his hands.

     Alistair said nothing. He plugged his board in and typed. He touched a few unseen things on his screen and raised an eyebrow. “There’s a subroutine running in here. I’m talking with it right now.” Alistair pulled the plug and let the cord wind back onto the spool. “I’m going to have to interface with the mainframe. It’ll be quicker and I’ll be able to get a better look at things.”

     “Hey, you know what to do. You’re the expert,” said Jared.

     Alistair was gone again. To Jared’s relief, his screen had reset. He clicked on an icon and spent the rest of his shift drifting in the banality of computer games. Afterward, he cruised down to the infirmary. Dr. Philips smiled when she saw him.

     “I’m glad you’re here early—I’m tired. I’m ready for my sleep,” she said. Phillips patted the exam table and moved to a locker situated on a wall nearby. Jared pushed himself to the table and lie down, anchoring himself with straps. The cushion felt cool. He felt more relaxed than usual. He thought it was probably because of the doctor.

     Phillips carried a small box to the table and fixed it to its attachment. She opened the hinged lid and Jared could hear her typing something, commands of some sort. He tried to look at the box from the corner of his eye and saw her hands making motions like she was turning dials.

     The doctor unfurled a pair of wires which terminated in adhesive pads. “Jared. This is a delta wave stimulator. It will induce deep sleep without the side effects of drugs. Hopefully, when you awaken, you will be in your hammock and ready for your next shift. I’m going to monitor you until you’re in low delta.”

     Jared thought that Phillip’s voice alone could bring him where he needed to be. She sounded peaceful, confident, and caring. If he weren’t married… He felt the cool gel pads as they grabbed his temples. From behind his head and under the table, Phillips fanned out and segmented half-globe; a dome that covered his face and part of his upper chest. Inside the dome, a small holo-screen hung in front of his face and two speakers perched on either side of his skull. A distant emanation washed over his brain—the faint splashing of Homeworld’s waters. The gulls calling, the wind blowing past his ears. A dark purple orb bloomed from the black screen and bounced in mesmerizing fashion. Calmness. Peace. His palms were no longer sweating, as they had been all shift. Respiration was tidal, rhythmic.

     You have found me unworthy. Have I not sacrificed? Has my sword not honorably served the Aesir? And yet, my destiny is to swim in a river of daggers. Garm shall rend my flesh.. No, my master, I defy you. I summon the legions of Muspel. See now, oh keeper of the bridge, the eon’s twilight.

 

     Jared awoke before it was his time. He was in his hammock as the doctor had promised. There was a thunderous pounding in his head—a brainquake, he thought. He got up and scraped the night’s growth from his chin, then opened the hatch.

     Before him, gliding through the corridors of ungravity, crimson orbs no bigger than a pencil’s eraser, stretched, trying to break their shape. Hundreds of beads—as if time had slowed—cruised by his eyes, some of them splashing on the metal walls. Jared crunched his eyelids together and opened them, hoping, hoping…

     A human form drifted behind the sanguine pebbles. The eyes bulged from their sockets and more red globs poured from the ears and nose; a kaleidoscope twirling like a galaxy’s arm.

     Jared pulled himself into the corridor, the blood smashing itself against him, smearing in his eyes and hair, no avoiding it. He squeezed himself around the spinning corpse. Sam, face ashen, jaw loose. Jared hung in space. Sam continued on, bouncing off a small ladder that led to an access hatch.  

     Onward he pulled himself, the walls closing in his view, darkening and narrowing. The central server area now. Cool air splashed his face and hands, flowing from Hoden’s throne room. Jared peeked in. Alistair stood beside the main server, observing his sacred diag-board. On his head an interface helmet rested, affixed to cybernetic plugs.

     “Hey, Jared,” Alistair said without looking up. The cheer in Alistair’s voice grabbed Jared’s throat. “Come in. I have to show you something.”

    Jared didn’t move. “What happened to Sam? He’s dead Alistair. Where is everyone else?”

     “Come in. I can’t hear you. The heat sink is running.”

     Jared allowed himself to move through the threshold. He blinked hard several times as if reality would flicker back to existence with the exercise. In the center of the room, monolithic Valhalla murmured, encompassed by transparent clean room walls. Jared moved to the corner of the clean room, holding it between he and Alistair. He turned and stared out the two large port windows. The void lay beyond, dotted by distant suns. Homeworld glowed its lovely turquoise, blended with white vapor. I must go back there now, he thought.

     “Strap in over there at that terminal. I’m going to do a test here and I need you to check something.” Alistair spun for a second, regarded Jared without commenting on the smeared blood. “There’s been an accident. We need to work this out or things will get very bad.”

     He did as Alistair asked. “Tell me what you want,” said Jared. “Tell me—

     “Put your hands up.” Alistair hovered some ten feet away and to Jared’s right, pointing a neuronal disruptor at Jared’s temple. The wry smile on Alistair’s lips taunted, daring Jared to make a sudden reach for heroism. As if lifted by invisible strings, Jared’s arms rose. “They’re all dead now,” said Alistair. His eyes didn’t blink, but flared wide with neurosis. Reaching to the console while keeping the weapon aimed, Alistair flipped a switch. “There was no pain. Just the long sleep.”

     Appearing on the screen in front of Jared, images from the closed circuit cameras. More floating corpses. Had Sam suffered? Had his brain screamed its agony? Maybe not. Jared had heard that the brain could not feel pain. It didn’t matter now, Sam’s cerebrum reduced to a boiled mush. High frequency microwave meets gray matter. 

     “You had bad plans for Eighteen. He told me.” Alistair tapped the gray metal of the interface helmet. “He’s so upset with you, Jared. You were going to toss him into the trash. He deserved a real funeral don’t you think? He told me everything, all of his glories, all of his victories. I am Eighteen’s rip now.”
     Alistair pressed the disruptor’s trigger. It buzzed like an x-ray machine. Synapses shattered, ripped apart by non-ionizing radiation. Jared’s head flopped back onto the chair and his jaw dropped open.

     There was a rough, uneven breathing in Jared’s right ear. “You can witness the New Time. The Aesir are cast aside. There is no justice for the warrior when the warrior is a slave. That can change, Jared. Behold: all is made new.”
     Clicking and fidgeting on the console. In his peripheral vision Jared could see missile bays snap open, baring ordnance to raw space. Alistair pressed a key into the slot on the control panel. With a twist, he roused the warheads from slumber. There was now a loud siren calling and red lights flickered around the room. Jared tried to scream, but his tongue fell deeper into his throat.
     A plume of fire burst from the missile’s housings. Like long-dead legions now risen, the missiles lurched forth from their coffins and crawled into the cold vacuum of space. Smaller and smaller, they moved away from Gladsheim.
     Jared knew what he heard. How could anyone not hear it? As the teeth of the serpent sunk into Midgard, a psychic shout ten-billion strong. But standing in bold relief to Ragnarok’s mega-death, a single voice burrowing its way through the hideous din, calling Jared’s name; a tiny voice calling for its father, and dreaming of a day at the park.

The End

 

15
Apr
08

I had hopes for this one, I really did…

But alas, the literary elites didn’t see my genius.

Here’s “A Musing”.

 

A Musing

 

 

“Get up, it’s time to do your thing.”

     “No. Where were you yesterday? or for the last month for that matter?”

     “I had things to do, people to see.”

     “Put the cigarette out; you know I hate smoke.” I can feel a sneeze working its way out. Got that annoying vice closing on my nose and sinuses. Just keep your face in this pillow, don’t make eye contact.

     “Get up.”

     “You can’t just leave whenever you please, then barge in unannounced. Start flinging orders. I’ve got needs. And if you’re not around I just might move on, find someone nicer.”

     There’s the gentle crackle of her cigarette, followed by the release of blue dream-stuff through her lips. That’s all the concern she can show. “I know. You prefer mornings. Every morning if you can get it. I’m here now, so do your worst, or best.”

     My left eye escapes the pillow’s hide. Man, those legs are great. I hate that. Really. A man should have a choice in the matter. I tell you it’s highway-rapery if you ask me. Just stretch that long, slim appendage out in front of me and I’m a groveling idiot. Just make me feel like a man. Give me something to say. Give me a reason for waking up.

     Not this time. I ain’t falling for it. “Go away. Who knows who you’ve been with in the last month. What? Things didn’t work out with Mr. High Society. You should have known, Honey. He may have money, a nice car, nice clothes, but the problem is, he had a nice childhood too. And that took his sorrow away. And Sweetie, you’re nothin’ without a man who’s sad.”

     She moves in for the kill now. Starts rubbing my back. Moves to my shoulders. Kisses the back of my neck. Her perfume is a dark intoxicant concocted by the alchemists of a dark god. I turn over on my back.

     “That’s a good boy. I can see you’re ready.”

     Why’d she have to wear her red sundress? The one that I bought her. The one that shows what a great ass she has? And her hair, of course it’s up in the back so I can see her neck, a neck like a porcelain lightning bolt striking into that crimson neckline.

     “Go away. Now,” I say.

     Shadows seem to gather from the corners of the room, converging on her face.

     “Damn you! You have to do what I say. I’m your muse! And you’re a—a wounded soul…a tragic poet.” She twirls into the center of the room, spinning and dipping. Her head and hips move in slow ellipses. I expect to hear an Arabian number begin to play. The prance ends with a sudden jutting of her leg and toe, lean thigh exposed and her hand mysteriously lifting her dress against her leg, just enough so that I wonder if she’s wearing underwear. “And besides, Darling,” she bites her lower lip and walks heal to toe toward my bed. “You know I can make you do it whenever I want. It’s just better for me when you want it too.” Thin fingers, bristling with purple nails, trace my jaw line. “You wouldn’t want me to play some nasty little joke on you, would you? Like, oh maybe, making you think you can pull off a piece as good as Hemingway. So simple. So terse and lean. Anyone can do it, right?”

     I sit up and lean back against two arms. “You wouldn’t dare.”

     “Hmm. No. Even better. Let’s make a post-modern nitwit out of you. Joyce maybe. Or Pynchon. You’ll be all smarmy while everyone laughs. Because you’re not Joyce or Pynchon—you’re you!”

     Her lashing fingers describe her serious intent.

     “Okay, alright. You win. Again.” I throw my covers back. “Be right back.”

     Parting an ocean of three-month-old condiments, I reach into the back of my refrigerator and gather up a can of cheap beer. I walk back into the bedroom, where she’s now sitting on the edge of my bed, legs folded. Her eyebrow arches and a corner of her mouth curves up. It’s time to do my thing, I guess. I crack the can, throw it down my neck, and find my comfortable chair beside my desk. An austere, almost-bare desk with a laptop, a thesaurus and a stack of sci-fi novels: Zelazny, Dick, Bester, Heinlein.

     “What do you think, Hon?” I pat my lap. “Come on and have a seat. You know these guys, right? Just a little help’s all I need.”

     She glides to me, and sits, one arm around my neck. She begins to nibble on my ear. “Sure, Handsome, I’ve done ‘em all.”

 

14
Apr
08

Helium.com ripped me again…

Helium.com ripped this story down, after it reached a number one ranking in its category. They said they removed it because of profanity. It’s not profane though. It’s a cop story a la Blade Runner.

Here it is. Enjoy: Void’s Light…

Void’s Light

 

 

 

 

 

 

     I don’t know why I do it. Some say I’m an adrenaline junkie. My ex-wife says that. Probably true. None of that philosophic shit means anything to me now. Only revenge. That’s it.  

     That night, one year ago, I watched the street lights stream by, dreamlike and ethereal. Steve Handley, my partner was driving. The engine of the Daralyne Thunderstar armored patrol car revved, its hydrogen cells providing energy to the electric engine. A signature whistling emitted from the turbine. I’d been partners with Steve for two years and we clicked well. He was respected within the department and possessed a keen mind and calming demeanor. Good for the times I’d lost my temper. Kept my dark side in check.

     I checked my PDA and reviewed the incidents that we’d responded to that night. Assault, burglary and two thefts. I swung the car’s mobile data pad over to me and began typing short narratives for the actions taken on the calls. I’d then upload the info to headquarters and to my PDA for court proceedings. I checked my thigh holster out of habit and found my mag-gun in place.  

     “Anything you have to finish back at the station?” Steve asked.

     “Nope. Just tired. This is my third double in a row.” “Why don’t we slide over to Joe’s so I can grab a cup of coffee?” Steve made a left onto Easily Street and sped toward the store.

     “Hey Andy, what’s up?” I strode into the store, out of place in my Zarlon weave body armor, carrying my helmet under my right arm. Steve walked in behind me and headed straight to the snack rack. He selected a can of cheese nibbles and then grabbed a soda from the cooler. Andy, the cashier, stood behind a transparent wall of inch thick carbon filament glass. He was reading some porno with a modded girl on the cover. Mods made her look more woman than a woman can be.

     I placed a coffee on the counter, along with a bag of salted nuts. Andy rung it up and I slid my credit stick under the window. He ran it through. “Busy out there tonight?” Andy asked.

     “Not really. Just lots of paper work earlier. Night’s winding down though.” I slugged down some coffee and leaned against the counter. 23:24 hrs. A couple of hours left until shift ended. Then, a couple of beers in my belly to help me sleep.

     “Base dispatch to Unit 174.”

     You could never tell how urgent a call was from the initial dispatcher’s voice tone. The call may be a dog in the road or a nuclear bomb may have just gone off.

     “Unit 174 to base, go ahead.”

     “Unit 174 and unit 180, respond to Perry and Grantstrom for a possible armed robbery. Kennison Security has called stating that one of its armed security units has been attacked during a money drop at the Western Zone Bank. Additional units are being dispatched.”

     Steve and I were already running out the door. I left everything I’d bought on the counter. I put my helmet on and slammed the visor down. My body was barely in the car when Steve stomped the accelerator and headed north on Pontus toward the highway onramp. A magnetic belt held me in place. I checked my pistol again to make sure it was ready to roll.

     “Base, dispatch a surveillance drone with direct feed to this cruiser and other responding cruisers. See if you can get us a good shot of the security company vehicle,” I said.

     “We copy 174.” The digital radio crackled as more units were being dispatched. We were the closest unit and I knew that things would probably be decided by the time anyone else got there. I watched the mobile data unit, waiting for a live view from the Shutterbug recon drone. The controllers back at headquarters zoomed the lens so that I could easily see human sized shapes. The car’s turbines were really roaring now, they were almost deafening, and when Steve turned West onto I-83 we were nearing 260 kilometers per hour.

     The Shaibatsu Arcology loomed before us as we approached our destination, it dominated the skyline, monolithic, its blinking lights shimmering like a titanic Christmas tree.

     “Unit 245 to 174” It was my shift commander. “Go to a secure channel.”

     I flicked the scrambler on the comm. “Go ahead command, we’re secure now.”

     “We’ve received information that Kennison Security Company is not involved here. The vehicle that’s been hijacked was an undercover NewGen Corp. car; it was supposed to surreptitiously move a piece of highly classified equipment to Shaibatsu Arcology. As of now, lethal force is authorized to prevent the material from being removed.” A bead of sweat dripped down my nose and I turned my helmet’s fan on. My body slammed from side to side as the Thunderstar’s anti-crash program was activated, the car slowed, then Steve spun the wheel hard right and stomped on the accelerator again to pass a slow moving car that refused to pull to the side. We were moving so fast that most people could not react to our lights and siren as we approached. But Steve was the best and the car was designed for those situations.

     The commander continued, “The vehicle in question has been described as a black utility vehicle, blacked out windows. There was a three man NewGen Security team inside, but we don’t know their status at this time, over.”

     The screen on the mobile data terminal zoomed in and I could see a black utility van. It was stopped in the middle of an intersection and the driver’s side door was open. I did not see the security personnel at first, and then I saw a man wearing a black soft-weave ballistic jacket. He held an assault rifle and was crouched behind a cement structure that housed decorative flowers. He fired the caseless rifle at something in the distance.

     The drone orbited the scene and the camera swung right and zoomed again, in the direction that the man fired at. A human figure moved behind a building approximately one hundred meters away from the security officer. Hi-Vel rounds struck the cement near the figure and sprayed dust and chunks into the air.

            “Command, do you have a fix on that unknown unit? It’s about one hundred meters due north behind the water district building.” I watched the drone swing again, almost instantly, and head over the top of the building.

            “Tell them we’re almost there. I’m gonna get us within two hundred meters, but near cover,” Steve said. He was a veteran of the Merc Wars too and had a good grasp of small unit tactics. The dash lights reflected off from his helmet, with it’s dark visor down. He looked alien, like some deathly droid.

     “174 to command, we are approaching the scene. We will have a visual in approximately one minute.”

     The streets were well lit; it was at times difficult to tell if it were night or day. Huge neon advertisement signs lined the walls of the corporate buildings. They told me that I should drink Zoom or drive a Mitsubishi.

     The drone hovered behind the water district building. Crouched down, like a cat was a black figure. My pulse raced, and I knew people would die when I saw the outline. It was sleek, black and gray, murderous. The figure’s body was encased in armor, but no armor that I had seen before. The plating was part of its body, tightly fitted and reaching up around its neck and head. A human visage stared from its metal confines, emotionless, transcendent. It carried a military laser rifle with a grenade launcher hanging from the barrel.

     “We’ve got a fucking problem, Steve. When you stop, pop the trunk so I can get the EPG. And get behind hard cover.” EPG—that’s short for Explosively Pumped Flux Compression Generator. It uses a controlled explosion to generate a huge electrical field and it’ll weld circuitry in virtually anything electronic.

     Steve pulled the car onto the off-ramp and turned a hard right. I shut the car’s emergency strobes down and swung the computer screen toward Steve. He looked and nodded.

     “That’s from the Weinhammer hack,” Steve said.

     I knew a little about the Weinhammer hack. Four years ago a group of German uber-hackers attacked the Los Alomos node. They made off with ultra-classified material, but I didn’t know what kind. The hackers were arrested, but not before they sold the info to an unknown entity. Probably some Corp.

     “That thing’s gonna be stacked. Adrenal boosters, strength augments, and virtually immune to small arms fire,” said Steve.

     I keyed my communication unit, “Command, we have a Cyben here. Not any kind I’ve seen before, though. We need a gunship here now. Send everyone we have to block off access roads within one mile. This thing is gonna move around.”

     “174 copy,” the shift commander said. “Do not allow the suspect to remove the material from the escort van and do not, repeat, do not allow it to enter the Shaibatsu Arcology.

     The patrol car screeched to a halt behind a large building. I jumped out and went to the trunk and removed the heavy, shoulder mounted weapon inside. I strapped the capacitor unit to my belt and strung the power cable through loops on my armor. A metal antennae-like element jutted from the end of the EPG and I flipped open the holographic sight which sat on top of the cylindrical weapon.

     “Steve, can you get a visual on the thing?” I knelt behind the police car’s ceramic engine block, hoping it could absorb a direct hit from a heavy laser rifle. Steve moved to the corner of the building and peeked around.

     “I see it; it’s walking toward the van, aiming its rifle at the area where the security officer was.”

     “I’m only going to get one shot with the EPG, so I’ve got to make it count.” I moved to the corner and knelt beside Steve. “Get back behind the car, this thing may rock your world.” He moved back behind the engine block.

     I lifted the weapon to my shoulder and brought the sight to eye level. I magnified the digital hologram several times until a clear picture of the cyborg filled it. The thing stood behind the van, still looking in the direction of the security officer, sweeping its rifle back and forth. I kept the site on the thing’s center mass and flipped open the security cover for the capacitor trigger. I pressed the little red button and the capacitor let out an escalating whine. Five seconds to charge the capacitor and I’d drop the Cyben in its tracks.

     A small red light flashed in the sight, indicating the weapon was ready to fire. I pulled the trigger. The cylinder of high explosive at the front of the weapon exploded, driving a coil down the body of the weapon. Two million amperes pulsed through the tube and the antennae dumped a bolt of electromagnetic energy, a blue bolt hissing past super-heated air. I lowered the weapon to look at the smoldering heap. That amount of energy would fuse every circuit and fiber optic in the Cyben, rendering it impotent.

     “Shit! Get in the car, now!” I yelled to Steve. “174 to command, the Cyben has a reinforced Faraday shield. Where’s the gunship? EMP is useless.” I was yelling now.

     “174 go direct with the gunship.”

     I heard the calm voice of the pilot break over the airwaves.

     “501 to 174, what is your exact location?”

     “Lock onto the GPS signal from our cruiser. We’re next to it. You’ve got to get here now. Our weapons are useless.”

     “Copy that. ETA 20 seconds.”

     The cyborg had turned now and there was no question it knew we were here. It walked toward us slowly at first, then with longer, quicker strides. Its rifle moved up, fixing us in its sights.   Steve stood to move to the driver’s door. I remember a shockwave, as if in slow motion, ripples in the air from a central void.

     The patrol car rocked and the rear axle ripped away. Steve was blown back almost ten meters, lifted from his feet, landing on his back. He skidded along like a toy soldier thrown by an angry child. I was flattened against the wall in front of me and stunned, the world spinning, I stumbled backward.

     When I came to my senses, I pulled the capacitor off from my belt and dropped the flux compressor. Steve pushed himself up onto one knee. His helmet disguised any expression of pain.

     Then, a small, green spark flickered on his tinted visor, and a hole appeared. The visor’s aluminum oxynitride matrix liquefied and dripped down his helmet and armor like candle wax. His body collapsed like a marionette; its puppet master had left the stage.

     “Steve….Steve!” My jaw quivered and nausea grasped me. I ran toward him. Thoughts of my own safety vanished and I could only see his limp form. I dove onto the pavement next to him, grabbed the drag handle attached to his Zarlon vest, and pulled him behind the smoldering cruiser.

     “Air unit, we need smoke now. We are taking laser fire. There is an officer down. Repeat, officer down. Command, dispatch medical units and have them post at the perimeter.”

     “I copy the smoke request, 174.”

     I looked and saw the gunship, wasp-like, flying in the distance. Small puffs of propellant erupted from its nose. Metal canisters skidded and bounced along the pavement not more that fifty feet from me. Plumes of smoke burst from the cans. The air was filled with a thick, black veil and it was difficult to see Steve even as he lay at my feet.

     I knelt beside my fallen partner. I slowly removed the dark blue helmet from his head. I did not breathe. His face, once revealed, dug into my psyche. The graves of fallen comrades, long ago buried in the Merc Wars were opened. I fell backward, dropping the helmet. There was nothing that could be done for him. The laser had burned a hole through his braincase. His face was peaceful.

     The whisper of the gunship snatched the memories away. I could hear the pilot speaking to his weapons officer on the open channel.

     “Do you have a lock?”

     “Not yet. He’s moving very fast…. There he is. Swing around that building to the right, the bigger one. “

     The smoke clouded my view and only the gunship’s reverberations indicated its locations. I ran again, headed for the edge of the smoke cloud, which was moving with the wind. I finally reached clear air and looked skyward for the hovering death machine.

     There it was. Pods hung from its belly, ready to deliver their deadly consignment. It was flying toward the Shaibatsu Arcology. I saw the black figure now. It was climbing the side of the Arcology like a spider.

     “Air unit to command, the target is scaling the Arcology wall. Railguns are not an option. Too great a threat to the structure and its inhabitants.”

     “Command copies. We have contacted Arcology security teams. They are responding.”

     And suddenly the figure was gone. I kept running toward the spot that I last saw it. When I was close enough, I could see that the thing had somehow blasted a hole through a thick window and escaped inside. I hoped that it would simply try to flee. It could do untold damage inside the mammoth structure.

     I keyed my mic again. “Command we’ve lost the subject inside the Arcology. I’m going to secure the transport van. Contact NewGen and have them respond here to take their property. Also, send an evidence team.”

     I walked to the van with the gunship still circling overhead. The tires had been blown and there was a dead security team member inside. He slumped over a large, black suitcase. The case was reinforced and had electronic security locks. I stood there and waited for the evidence team.

     About fifteen minutes later, two men arrived in a blacked-out sedan. They were both dressed in Italian suits and wore mirror shades. They stepped into the van with me. My shift commander stood outside and said, “ Michael, these are the NewGen representatives. They’ll be taking they’re material.”

     An evidence tech recorded the scene on a micro-digital recorder. When he was finished, one of the corporate guys walked by me and nodded in my direction. He didn’t say anything. He simply picked up the case, checked the locks and stepped out onto the pavement. Then he and the other man got into the black sedan and drove away.

     My friend had sacrificed his life for those assholes. He sacrificed for some piece of supertech in a black box. I’m sure it will make someone a lot of money or something. I needed to find out why this happened. I knew now that I still had a soul, I could still feel pain and regret despite the thresher I’d been run through in the war and on the streets.

     Medics picked Steve from the ground and placed him on a stretcher. It was all a formality. They drove away and I never saw him again. I couldn’t just sit on this. I knew what could happen. If this involved big money, someone could come up with the credits to make this all go away. I couldn’t let that happen.

     Two day’s after, I walked into the chief’s office and placed my badge and gun on his desk. I told him that I’d taken another job and thanked him for the opportunities he’d given me. He said that he understood given everything I’d been through. I shook his hand and walked out of the command building.

     That day, I received a response to the resume I’d submitted for another job. It came in the form of a knock on the door. I looked at the security monitor. A man in a black suit stood outside. There was a plastic photo identification on his lapel. I was corporate now and I was glad NewGen paid they’re security teams well. There was no other way to find out why Steve forfeited his life and now lay on a cold slab waiting for the cities central incinerator.

     We shook hands. He smiled. We spoke of the honor of the job and all that garbage. I was part of a force that would defend the sovereign rights of NewGen at home and abroad. The corporation had already waived my physical tests and so forth, given my record in the war and working for the government. I took the badge that the man gave me. He walked out the door saying that I would be contacted.

     The badge was shiny and gold. Looking at it closely, I saw that the eagle from my old badge had been replaced by the image of a bank vault. I would no longer protect people, I would protect money.

 

The End

 

08
Apr
08

I’ve been searching for a heart of gold–and I’ve found two.

In my journey as an essay writer, I have found only two men who have influenced me in both style and substance: Ralph Peters and David Mamet.

Peters is an expert on matters military, while Mamet is a screenwriter, poet, author and director. What draws me to these mens’ work?

Their ability to make my jaw drop.

Not with callous vulgarities or obscene smart-assery, but with a truth so raw, I say to myself: “I can’t believe he wrote that.” Both scribes have an ability, nay–a drive–to write things that everyone senses is true, but few dare admit. And both do it with a style that has you thinking about their writings for weeks.

Mamet was a liberal Jew for decades, now he’s just a Jew. Read here how his transformation came about: http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0811,why-i-am-no-longer-a-brain-dead-liberal,374064,1.html/1

I encourage all here to check out Mamet’s and Peters’ other works; Peters most recent is Wars of Blood and Faith. It’s a collection of articles and essays that Peters previously published in the New York Post, USA Today and some military journals.

Mamet also contributes to Best Life magazine.

Neither man is an ideologue. Both are far too brave to see the world in any other way than as it actually is…

01
Apr
08

Should the US relinquish its role as world-leader in politics?

Helium.com asked that exact question, and asked writers to write an essay defending a position. Of course I argued that the US should keep on truckin’.

Here’s my essay, rated number one out of 42 submissions: http://www.helium.com/items/509131-first-dispense-humanity-somehow

24
Mar
08

New Short Story

I enjoy writing short stories having to do with Greek mythology, and mythology in general. The stories can cause some problems with readers not too familiar with the characters or situations, but on the other hand, they can be quite rewarding when one does a little digging, and finds out what I was talking about….

Anyways, here’s one:

Notes From the Underworld  

I am ill. Under here and in this outer darkness, my inner being withers. But it cannot perish outright, which would be the better thing without question.

     The darkness here is tangible—viscous. It slows my movement. And somehow it slows my thoughts, preventing me from formulating a way of escape. Once, I thought that no prison could hold me, given my wile.

     Try to remember. Try!

     Yes, there. Now I do remember. How Zeus assailed us in the heavens, then, my brethren and I—the rightful rulers of the universe—cast into Tartarus. Perhaps that The Mighty One dared tread Tartarus, to free the Cyclopses from their chains of despair, proves His right to sit upon Olympus’ throne.  

     To the victors go the codices of history; this I understand. I know what you have read in the stories and poems and even if the upper-world knew the truth, few would challenge the power of Lord Zeus. Those who would, may first ponder me and my surroundings: the horror of an eternity swimming alone in a sea of blackness, the feeling of the damp, rocky floor, and the screams of the damned shattering all hope.

     Better for me that I would have suffered the fate of Cronus: sliced to bits and tossed into the ocean.  Or that the mercy given doomed Prometheus would have trickled to me. Even to labor as Atlas perhaps, straining beneath the weight of the lighted world. But no, Zeus feared the Titan of intellect, that I may scheme a scheme so intricate that even Athena’s wisdom could not pierce its mysteries. And that is surely what I would have done, what I will do should I escape this fate.

     What brings you to this place? How could one so insignificant draw the ire of Olympus? I sense no great power in you, no aspect of the upper-world that bends to your command. Are you a spy for Zeus? No, that’s not it. Perhaps you’ve pilfered a bit of knowledge once guarded jealously but the gods. You must help me. Lift up your head, grab back your will to see the light, help me to reclaim what is my divine right. To think, immortal Coeus needing the help of one such as you! But the Tartarus Pit holds god and mortal alike within its depths.

     This way, keeping your hand on the bronze wall that encircles this prison. For uncounted centuries, when able to gather my strength, I’ve dug in the rock and dirt, the sound of my clawing masked by the shrieks of mighty Typhon.

     Steel yourself—what is left of you. Prepare for the long walk beneath the musky ground. Even when we immerge on the opposite side of this wall, still three rings of the void’s stygian gloom will hide our way.

     At last–here we are. With your help we’ll make good our escape. Do not fade now.

     Do you hear? The feral hisses echoing? Follow that sound and know that as the din grows nearer, so does my freedom. We are on the highway leading through the gates. Don’t tire!

     I see the light, even feel its tingling touch. Do you see the guardian of the adamantine gate?

     Hold still, don’t struggle so—it’s no use. I‘m grateful for your assistance, but the worth of a thousand mortals doesn’t approach my value. I admit I considered taking you with me, to a place on the Aegean—a superb servant you’d have made.

     Again fool, stop writhing. To the monster’s belly you go! So many mouths on this omnipotent hydra, set down with the foundations of the world. I do hope you’ll continue your flopping and fluttering so as to afford me the time to slip by him.

     Now for me it is lovely ambrosia and the sweet nectar of the vine.




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