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Festive Fibonacci Fiction

17 Dec

My favorite bit of holiday anything is probably Neil Gaiman’s Nicolas Was – from his incredible Smoke and Mirrors collection. A few years ago, I tried to filter that same feeling, in a piece of constrained writing. In this case, it is one of my favorite mathematical things: the Fibonacci sequence. As a storytelling constraint, it is marvelous. The words literally build upon on another – and in the case of the piece below, I decided to use syllables. I hope you enjoy it. Cheers!

So pretty...

So pretty…





Fever dreams.

Draped in blood red fur.

Smouldering pipe clenched in his teeth.

He leaves claw marks inside my chimney, as he descends.

In my house, looming like a savage, primal spirit – in my home! – he searches for food.

Awake and trembling with delirium, I stagger towards the sound of rustling leaves and cracking ice that draws me towards my doom.  I witness his acts.

With grunts and warped laughter, he deposits his spoor under our Solstice tree.  Glittering with unnatural light, the brightly colored lumps cause me to gasp.  Eldritch eyes lock with mine.  Finger to snout, he vanishes and I collapse.


Happy whatever! Cheers!


Another Page from the Forsaken Disks

5 Nov

            Somewhere in the forgotten folds of my brain, this story has been tickling me for years. About 15 years ago, a dear friend was trying to put out a horror (or macabre) themed magazine. I was very happy about that – not the least because I wanted her to publish my stuff. I was still trying out my writing muscles, and struggling to put together a cohesive tale. Everything was hit-or-miss, and shot straight from the hip.

            I sent this to her, she told me it was grotesque and made her happy. But I don’t think it ever saw any more attention than that. It was saved in some kind of no-longer-supported file format, and the computer was probably recycled or blown up not long after. However, I was smart enough to make backups on the best storage media that was available to me at the time: 3.5 floppy disks. Oh hell yeah.

            This story – and many more like it – were lost, gone, for all time. I can barely believe myself how lucky I am. Just having all this stuff again is like opening a time capsule. I’m going to rewrite this at some point – it seems like it deserves more love and attention than it got. But hey, that’s enough jibba jabba. Here. Here is the thing. I edited it only for spelling and punctuation, but oh man does it need some work. I hope you dig it!


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That is some creepy formatting, right there...

That is some creepy formatting, right there…


Dear *****,

I have no idea why I felt compelled to write this insane piece of weirdness. It just came to me in the night like a virus or an obsessed ex-lover with a foot-fetish. I dunno.

Anyway, since it might fit the parameters of a horror story or maybe a macabre story, I thought I’d give it to you to look at. I think it’s very rough (it is a rough draft) but could be very good. If you like it and want to use it, or part of it, for R******* please do so. Feel free to edit it to your pleasure. If you’d rather just give me feedback or editorial advice, and have me work on it, that’d be cool too. What-ever.




It was raining. It seemed like it had been raining forever. Especially while I was waiting for the bus to school. I was the last pick-up stop for the bus, and I had to wait by myself. I used to talk to Rick when he was around, but he moved all of a sudden last year. So I got to stand, by myself, in the rain, every single day.

It wasn’t the rain I hated so much, or the fact that I was alone. If you’ve never had to do it, being the last person on the bus sucks. You never get a good seat. I either ended up sitting by Martin (who spits when he talks), or I got the emergency exit seat – which is so small it hurts your legs. Given the choice, I’d rather walk the ten miles to school, which isn’t much of an option.

The bus finally came, sputtering around the bend. The evil creak of its windshield wipers was louder than it’s diesel engine or the shade of yellow our school district chose. Water splashed up from the gutter as it grunted to a stop in front of me. The doors flapped open and I climbed up the steps. Our bus driver, Burt, glared at me over his huge nose – I tried not to look at him too much – and his big, wrinkled face cracked a smile.

Burt the bus driver was not normal. He seemed to take perverse pleasure in not being attractive. He’d only been our driver for about a year, but he’d already worn out my patience. Every morning, he leered at me and said the same thing.

“Mornin’…Paul.” His fat tongue rolled over his yellow, pointed teeth. “Good to see you.”

“Yeah…mornin’.” I muttered, as I avoided his gaze. I moved my way down the aisle.

As usual, I made my way to the emergency exit seat, and sat alone. Legs cramped, I shook the rain off my coat and looked around. The bus was packed, but everyone looked tired and worn out. So it was pretty quiet as Burt ground the bus’ gears and pulled away down the road. As we left Meadow Village (our housing development), I couldn’t help notice something different in Burt’s behavior. Every few minutes, he’d look up at his big rear-view mirror, and stare at me for a second or two. Then he’d snap his eyes back to the road and cough and wheeze for a bit. Then he’d look at me again. Burt kept this strange process up the entire trip.

When we pulled into the Lakeview High parking lot, the rain had let up a little. We all got up and began to file off the bus. As I passed by Burt, he started to cough and wheeze again. I looked at him (not pleasant under normal conditions), and quickly backed off the bus.

He’s not coughing, The thought hit me, he’s laughing. What kind of freak is he?

The bus doors slapped closed as the last kid stepped off. I pushed the thoughts from my head and started for my locker, but the sound of his laughter kept coming back to me. I shook my head and dismissed it.

I was a fool.

*          *          *

There was one thing on my mind when the school was out, and we got on the bus: Trisha Bower. She was so fine. And she liked me! The thought kept running through my head. We have a date! We’re practically going out! Here I was, a sixteen year-old sophomore, and I had a date with Trisha Bower! Every male with a pulse had a stiffy for her, and she wants to go out with me. I was so wrapped in it, I didn’t say two words on the ride home. I also didn’t pay any attention to Burt.

As the bus wound its way through Meadow Village, kids got off at their stops. But my mind was absorbed in Trisha; her body, hair, voice and smell. It wasn’t until the bus was leaving Meadow Village that I realized I’d missed my stop.

“Hey,” I shifted towards the aisle, “Burt! I needed to get off back there.” His head whipped up, and he looked at me in the mirror.

Burt threw his head back and laughed; an evil, lung-wrenching cackle that echoed through the empty bus. My heart leaped up to my throat, and I got seriously worried.

“Burt,” I said, laughing nervously, “have you, like, totally lost it or something?” Burt’s cackling subsided, but he just kept driving. “Hey… um… Burt? This ain’t funny, okay?”

For a minute he just drove in silence. When he looked up in the mirror again, his face – his eyes – looked grimly insane.

“Don’t you worry, Pauly!” he bellowed gruffly, “I’m gonna get you where you needs to go!” And at that, he let loose another cackle that rolled on as the bus plowed through the rain.

I kinda freaked at this point, but not ‘cause he called me ‘Pauly’. I hoisted my backpack and marched to the front doors. I put a hand on the rail and said, “Look, Burt, you can just let me off here. I’ll walk home.”

Too my surprise, he pulled the wheel to the right, and brought the bus to a quick stop on the shoulder of the road. The windshield wipers creaked their last, and Burt ground the e-brake into place. I thought he was going to open the doors, I couldn’t even fathom that he wouldn’t. But he just sat there for a second, with his huge, meaty hands on the steering wheel and his face studying the windshield becoming covered with rain. And then he spoke, his grumbling, ugly voice low.

“It’s your turn, Pauly.” He didn’t move, but he somehow got bigger. “I don’t wanna do it Pauly. But it’s your turn.”

“Wh-What are you talkin’ about?” I backed down the aisle. “Just… just open the door Burt.” Burt stood up and turned towards me, with his head down and shoulders hunched.

“It’s not like I gotta choice here,” he snapped, “You don’t get it. It’s outta my control.” He was looking at me like I was a piece of bacon at breakfast. His face contorted into a snarling mask of repulsiveness.

I had backed all the way to the middle of the bus, and the thought struck me. Yes, Burt has finally gone bye-bye. He raised up his huge hands as he started to plod towards me.

“Relax,” he growled, “it won’t hurt as much if you don’t fight it.”

Okay, that’s it for me! I thought, as I spun and grabbed at the emergency exit door handle. With both hands, I twisted it down until it clicked, and threw my shoulder against it. AND NOTHING HAPPENED! I slammed it again – and it refused to open! I heard Burt laughing, his raspy, wheezing laugh.

“Pauly,” he chortled, “You sit there every day. You think I wouldn’t lock it?” His laughter stopped, but his cracked smile remained – twisting his big face even further. “It’s time.”

He lunged towards me, and I tried to jump clear, but his fat arms latched around my shoulders and he slammed me into the seat. He twisted me around, my arms pinned to my sides, and brought his face close to mine. The sweaty folds of flesh on his pock-marked face seemed inhuman. His eyes glittered with evil, and his tongue snaked out of his mouth to wet his milky, cracked lips. The smell was indescribable.

This can’t be happening! My mind screamed, I’ve got a date with Trish! I can’t die now! I can’t!

“Burt! Burt,” I stammered, “you don’t want to kill me! You can’t do-”

“Kill you?” he leered, his head tilted, “Why would I wanna kill you? After all, you kept me company at the bus stop every day. Every day since junior high, just you ‘n me waitin’ for the bus.”

My mind scrambled. I sat there at looked at him, and he looked back with that insane smile on his face. Somewhere, deep beneath that grisled, hideous face, I saw the impossible. Ricky. “No! No!” I squirmed in his vice-like grip, “That’s not possible!”

He just held on and said, “It’s your turn Pauly.” He inhaled, a deep slow breath so big I thought he’d pop. My eyes froze. I was paralyzed with terror. And then he…breathed on me.

Waves of odor attacked my senses: pickles and mayonnaise, tuna fish, cigarettes, moldy milk and stale beer, spoiled meat, athlete’s foot, cheese, breath mints and maybe a hint of curry – too many smells, too much sensation for my mind. I screamed, I think, though I know I flailed. Ricky had let go of me, and I spasmed on the seat. The olfactory madness was everything. The smells covered me, sank into my skin, poured into my lungs. I felt myself convulse, but couldn’t vomit – that smell had added to the overall effect too, along with sweat and methane, urine and pork.

Suddenly, I felt my body swell. It started in my feet first, but my head was the worst. My cheeks puffed and expanded, my forehead bulged and lumped at unnatural angles. I clawed at my mouth, with my mitten-like, hairy fingers. My lips curled and cracks formed, with drool and spittle filling them. Inside my mouth, my tongue probed at teeth that crumbled and at new molars that twisted and warped my jaw. Joints popped, my stomach inflated and sagged, my nose bulged and pits formed on my face.

It ended quickly. Shuddering, I sat up. Ricky stood over me. He bent down and hefted me to my feet. I wobbled, mostly upright, with a severe hunch in my left shoulder. My senses had been altered along with my body. The smell of the bus wafted to my disfigured nostrils. And I liked it.

“R-R-Ricky?” my new, scratchy voice intoned. “What…happened?” I glanced at him through my squinty, swollen eyelids. It occurred to me that his blue and brown flannel went well with his green slacks.

“My name’s Burt now,” he rumbled. “You gotta pick a name for yourself too.” After a moment he added, “Well?”

“Uh…I…I dunno, Burt,” My mind began to slow down. “How ‘bout Ernie?”

“Hmmm…I like it.” He turned and sauntered towards the front of the bus. “Well, let’s go Ernie.” I felt like my brain was mush, but I forced myself to want to know.

“Burt. Burt, you gotta tell me what happened,” I pleaded. “What’s goin’ on? What the hell am I?” Burt turned, and put a fleshy hand on my shoulder.

“You’re a creature of darkness now,” I could feel my will slipping away. “Part of a brotherhood, a secret the world will never know.” He paused for effect, but it was wasted – I was losing my ability to reason.

“You are a Bus Driver.” Burt declared, and I knew. I knew it was true.

Moments later, as I eased the bus back onto the road, headed for my initiation, I felt as if a hunger had been satiated. Burt’s words resounded in my mind, “It’s your turn, it’s your turn.”

Yes. My turn to take the wheel.


A Treasure Trove of Madness

3 Nov
One point four megs of awesome

One point four megs of awesome

I was cleaning out some junk and odds and ends today, when I came across a stack of old CDs and 3.5 floppy disks. For the most part, these were easy to throw away – you know, stuff like AOL mailers, or drivers for printers that we don’t even own. But some of those 3.5 floppies had very compelling labels on them. Important dates, from 15 years ago on them, or words like ‘Journal’ and ‘S3kr1t Th1ng5!’ Damn. I couldn’t just toss those away. As any writer knows, this kind of stuff could be GOLD, baby.

Fortunately, the PC tower in my living room is old enough to have a 3.5 reader. I plopped myself down with a stack of these square diskettes and got to work. First disk was damaged. Second disk was not formatted. Third disk made a hideous scratching sound. But the next disk had weird, weird stuff on it. It was formatted all wrong, and even with notepad it wouldn’t read correctly. But there were words there. And what I read was from so long ago that it was almost unfamiliar. It was a success! I felt as though I had reached into the past and saved some of my oldest writing from the clutches of complete obsolescence. Damn, I feel lucky.

I am still working through the files. So many pictures, so many words. I am at turns horrified and fascinated. And because I care about you, I will share. At least, I’ll share some of it. Here. Without edit, is an untitled piece of mine from 1999 (at least, I think – it could be 1997!). Enjoy!

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With salamander-like movements, Jack worked his way up the narrow, cobbled street. Even at midnight, the city baked with a stifling heat – transforming shadows to mirages. Pools of humid darkness poured into the gutters ahead of Jack. People milled about, even in this ungodly hour. Jack pulled his trench-coat tighter and tried to avoid the small clusters of people.

Inside his coat, where his right arm should have been, something moved – a squishy, reptilian movement.

“Oh god, oh god”, Jack breathed.

His left arm grabbed his right, as he stopped and stood up straight, eyes closed. “This isn’t happening, this isn’t happening,” ran through his mind like a mantra. The squishy motions stopped abruptly. He opened his eyes.

“Hey man, whatchoo got?” Jack glanced to his left.

A kid – fifteen, sixteen – was swaggering towards him; baseball cap on backwards, cigarette stuck in his teeth and a look of bored violence of his face. Jack tipped his head away, his fedora hiding his face, and coughed.

“Whatchoo got? Inda coat, man?” the teen gestured with his smoke.

“Um.. look, son. I – I…” Jack stammered, his mind racing.

“Too damn hot for coat like dat.” The teen leered at him. “Maybe I take it off your hands, man.”

Jack stepped back then spasmed. “Look, it’s not safe”, he snapped, “get away.”

But he sensed it was too late. The thing where his arm should have been wiggled in gelatinous sort of way. He could feel cool rivulets of ooze seep down his leg. “G-g-get away!”

The youth looked at him confused, his mouth open as if to speak, then his eyes widened with horror.

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And that’s IT. There isn’t any more. What was with the tentacle under his coat, man? What did that youth see that made his eyes go wide with horror? Was it a giant tentacle arm? I don’t even know. I do remember a picture that a good friend drew about that time. It was of a man in a trench coat, limping along a sidewalk, trying to conceal the mass of worms that were where his arm should be. It was a good piece and it inspired this, obviously.

Back when I wrote this, I was just toying with writing. Most of my creative energy was wasted, but I remember struggling to find my voice, or a way to tell my stories. Reading this now, there are a couple of choice bits in there that make me happy. “… a look of bored violence on his face.” “… cold rivulets of ooze…” I was just playing with words, checking out how they fit together.

I’m very glad I found this stuff. I’ll post more, if it doesn’t embarrass me to death.

Horror Horoscope for Halloween

27 Oct
Totally legit.

Totally legit.


As a special thing for Halloween (or Samhain, or whatever), I am pleased to present this treat. No tricks. In fact, this has been put together by the best psychic I know. It is guaranteed to be at least ten percent more prognostical and prescient than any other horoscope you read this week. For reals. Enjoy!

Aries (The Ram / Fire)

Something you thought was a lie will reveal itself to be true, and take on new meaning. It could be your gentle nudge in the right direction. Or, the stars are laughing again. They’re laughing. They’re laughing at you. At you.


Taurus (The Bull / Earth)

Everything you eat goes somewhere, Taurus. But where do the doughnut holes go? You have holes inside you, Taurus. Holes. You can’t prove a negative, my friend, and you cannot poop a hole.


Gemini (The Twins / Air)

Your secret heart is in danger of ruination, Gemini. It burns, can’t you feel it burn, all the way down to a blackened cinder. Use that fire, my friend, and do the first thing that comes to mind. Fan those embers into a bonfire of fury. Burn something.


Cancer (The Crab / Water)

Why not help a stranger? The pieces will start to fall into place and the world will begin to seem fresh and new – full of possibility and hope. “Today you, tomorrow me” is the innocent phrase that runs through your head. Of course. The Karmic Wheel must turn for the Good Samaritan.

That’s why you flick your turn signal and pull over. Yes, it’s a dark, desolate highway, but the man standing by the station wagon’s open hood seems nice enough. He’s middle aged, with a spare tire around his waist and he’s going bald. Harmless. That’s the word, isn’t it? He reminds you of your cousin – the shy one who never talks at the family reunions.

This doughboy is smiling a big, sheepish grin. He seems nervous and overly grateful you stopped. The chill in the nigh air cuts through your shirt like a knife. You’re still acclimating to the weather. You haven’t even lived here for a whole year yet. Middle aged man points his tiny flashlight at the grimy car engine and shrugs. He doesn’t know what wrong with it, he says. It just sputtered, revved up real high, and died on him.

You shiver at the cold as you sidle up to the engine and lean over. There is something terribly wrong under the hood. The oil – the black, sludgy grime – is crusted and gritty and hot. But there, right behind the radiator, there is no fan. The battery is gone too, and the alternator, and the whatchamacallit. Where there should be nine hundred pounds of Detroit steel and the powerhouse behind a century of American-made car pride is you mother. And she is furious.

How could you have done this to her, Cancer? Is it that you really don’t love her at all – or is this the only way you can show your love? Some perverted, sick, serial killer dream-turned-nightmare, set loose in your subconscious mind. Why are you backing away? Where do you think you’re going? Help her, damn you! Help her.

Oh, it looks like she can move on her own. She’s unfolding her legs and arms – far too many for her to have – and she’s raising her voice. She is using your whole name to call you out. One after another, after another, her greasy legs stretch out of from under the hood. And your breath catches in your throat, your fingers pry at the door handle to your own car. The red glow of your taillights shine on the thing that is your mother. She puts her feet on the ground and lifts herself up, into the freezing cold night. Up and up, all black, grimy arms and sharp fingernails, her massive belly looms higher and higher. And you can’t even breathe, or speak, or open the door of your car.

The balding, round-faced man shrugs and looks down at his feet. He smiles an embarrassed, gap-toothed grin. He and your mom have been seeing each other. It’s pretty serious. They wanted to wait, for the right time. He hopes you and he can become friends.

You spill backwards, but the gravel on the side of the road doesn’t break your fall. You tumble into the icy earth, beyond the reach of the starless night, and the screams of your mother’s voice. Your name, Cancer. She is still screaming your name.


Leo (The Lion / Fire)

Don’t look to your community for help. They’ve been against you for years, Leo. Make new plans. Grab a partner and see how far you can make it before the inevitable happens.


Virgo (The Maiden / Earth)

You already know what to do. Why seek a confirmation of how awesome you are in these lesser creatures who pretend to be your peers?


Libra (The Scales / Air)

Want to make a million dollars in real estate? Sure, go ahead. There is no reason to delay, or study the complicated market. Go on, jump in feet first!


Scorpio (The Scorpion / Water)

So, you wanna move on, huh? Do you really think it’s the right time? Can you just throw it all away – everything the two of you meant to each other! – and just run? Go ahead, run. See if you can outrun yourself, damn you.


Sagittarius (The Archer / Fire)

The power to do the right thing is in your hands. Or maybe your pants! Hey, I know – it’s probably in the pants of the next attractive stranger you meet. Sure, that deep, ache of longing to connect to another human being might fade for a second or two, but it’s worth it. Right? It’s worth it, just to forget who are you – what you are. Is there anything you won’t do, in pursuit of oblivion, Sagittarius? We all know the answer to that.


Capricorn (The Goat / Earth)

Birth control is a terrible idea, if you want to get pregnant. And who doesn’t want to get pregnant? Men, that’s who. Don’t be a man about things. Get knocked up. Feel the wriggling, black, worm jism of some shadowy force make its way inside you. Let it fill you up, germinate within the folds of your soul. Pregnant, Capricorn. Pregnant.


Aquarius (The Water-Bearer / Air)

Turn a new page in the book of your life. Once you do, you’ll see there’s more to the big picture that you can possibly see on just one page. Who cares if your book was found in a haunted house, next to pit of discarded corpses?


Pisces (The Fish / Water)

Do you want to know what the future holds? Well, you better get used to not getting what you want. Tough titties, friend. Isn’t it enough to know that the hammer is going to fall? Oh yeah, it’ll be soon, but you don’t need to know exactly when. It’s better this way. When it happens it will be a shock, and your face will blanche in terror. Icy pinpricks will crawl up your spine, and the utter, permanent enormity of your fate will show itself. You’ll wish for a moment more – for some brief respite, or a chance to reach out for help, for mercy. But there will be nothing. If only someone would warn you, Pisces. Oh well.


Transmission 03

6 Mar




            Uncle Billi rubbed his scalp, next to the strange electrodes that were connected to his brain. The rusty metal still fired sparks into the air, but the holographic screen in his optic field had flickered and stopped. He licked his lips and glanced around the burn pit. His weariness was not part of the act – these transmissions drained him, and the audience knew that each time could be his last tale.

            The people and things that resembled people around the fire shifted in the now silent night. Some of them moved their legs, or shifted their thorax to a more comfortable position, but they remained quiet. No one wanted to be sent away from the fire – or worse – make Uncle Billi upset. On more than one occasion he had cancelled story time all together.

            After a few seconds of reflection, Uncle Billi ate the last few nibbles of his onion. He wiped his fingers on the edge of his robe and pulled a small, shiny coin from his pocket. His fingers ran over the raised image of a king or a god on the coin’s surface.

            He cleared his throat and addressed the crowd. “Well, what else was there?”

            After a moment a voice in the crowd replied, “Kanye West.”

            “The Kardashians,” another voice added.

            “What about Ash Wensdy? Or Marty Grah?” another asked.

            And more voices piped up. Champ Bailey, Walmart, Instagram – the phrases and names kept coming.

            “Oh, the Kardashians,” he said. He nodded and repeated himself. “The Kardashians. They were monsters, all right. So alien. All right then…”

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::transmission 03::

“End of Days”

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In the final days of the Instagram Empire, the Kardashians ruled over the Western Kanyes. Cruel and beautiful, they were demigods that demanded worship and strict sacrifice. Their ghost images appeared in the clouds, dominating even the skies of the mortals they had subdued. And although men and children fell prey to their whims, it was the women who paid the most terrible costs.

Forced by Kardashian zealots to adhere to a strict code of dress and behavior, women who failed to meet the exacting standards of their conquerors were taken away. Some said it was for reeducation, others said it was for banishment. Still others claimed it was for something called ‘rebranding’.

From the Hollywoods of Walmart, Washington came a champion named Bailey. His was a quest to save Instagram and he brought a message of love, peace, and upvotes. He stripped to the waist and wrestled with the shock troops of the fiendish Kardashians. Again and again, he tweeted and was retweeted by people everywhere. In a watershed moment, he publicly castigated the terrible rulers of the land. He called upon all people to love thy neighbor, and swore to bring justice to those who had failed their city.

A groundswell of public opposition rose against them, but the Kardashians were unmoved. More and more, their admonishments were ignored and dress codes were violated. Power and influence began to slip from their claws. It was then, in a last ditch attempt to maintain control, that they set loose their most fearsome attacks.

They sent an agent of chaos, Marty Grah into the city. He threw beads at women and unleashed a carnival of debauchery and wickedness. A moveable beast named Ash Wensdy followed, and was sent to deal with the peoples’ champion, Bailey. It descended into the streets and everywhere it went, people surrendered. It was said that the arrival of Ash Wensdy forced everyone to give up something – even if it was just lent to someone else, for a while.

The beast confronted Bailey and the hero of the common man knew his time had come. He implored the people to try harder. He dared them to find a better deal on life insurance. And then, with the grace of a professional warrior, he sacrificed himself to the beast. But Ash Wensdy was gone too – having completed its task it crept away to sleep for a year.

Although the Kardashians had won, it was a pyrrhic victory, at best. They had lost the attention of their subjects. The magic had been lost, it seemed, and even their most fanatical adherents were subdued, and cast about for the next big thing.

All empires fade, and all tyrants eventually fall from power. And so it was in the dying days of the Instragram Empire. Perhaps the decline was caused by champ Bailey, or perhaps it was inevitable. One thing is certain – another empire rose to take its place. But the tale of Snapchat is for another day.

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::end transmission::

Transmission 02

5 Mar


::transmission 02::

“The Lion & The Robot”

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The robot stepped into the screen cube and was aware. People were watching, judging, appraising. Lights flashed and a curtain was raised. It was time for the hunt to begin. The robot was aware that it was the prey – the hunted, the prize. But the robot was different from all its kind who had come before. This would be the last hunt.

An announcer read the name and category of the hunt and the prize. Although the robot was incapable of feeling pity, sympathy, or any other emotion it did feel something. It was like a feeling of elation, or anticipation. For a dozen years it had toiled and waited for its time.

<> <> <>

The Scorpion and the Twins looked on in amusement as the Lion fidgeted in his uniform. First he adjusted the mane, then the retractable claws, and then the belt of tools and weapons about his waist. He seemed uncomfortable in his own skin, to say nothing of the golden, furry biosuit that was draped over it.

“Just don’t worry about it,” the Scorpion said. “You can’t control the hunt, just your own part in it.”

One of the Twins chuckled. “That’s what he should be worried about.”

The Lion growled. “You’re not helping,” he said.

“C’mon, guys,” the Scorpion said in a soothing voice, “I’m trying to get him focused.”

“Bah, focus,” the Lion muttered. He moved away from the dressing room mirror and prowled a tight circle through the Green Room. “That was what they said last time. That I needed less focus, that I was trying too hard. Well, now I’m loose. I’m ready to react. To strike.”

“Okay, good, go with that,” the Scorpion said.

“That’s right,” the Twins said. “Who’s the king of the jungle?”

“Yeah,” the Lion said. He puffed his chest out as he walked.

“You are,” the Scorpion said.

“That’s right,” the Twins said and began to bob their heads. “Yeah, that’s right. You are. You are the king, baby.”

“I am the king,” the Lion said. He flexed his arms and popped his claws out. “I am the goddamn KING!”

“Hell yeah!” the Scorpion shouted. He slapped the Lion on his fuzzy ass, right next to the ropey tail. “You go out there and show them who and what you are! They are never going to forget you. Never!”

The Lion growled again and lunged for the door. He pawed it open and bounced into the hallway, under the sapphire glow of the backstage lights. In the Green Room, the Twins and the Scorpion looked out the doorway and shook their heads.

“Isn’t it the female lion who is usually the hunter?” one of the Twins asked.

“Yeah,” the other Twin said.

“Guys, just drop it,” the Scorpion said with a sigh. “He’s gonna do just fine. This is the year for him. I can feel it.”

In unison, both of the Twins snorted dismissively.

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The Lion couldn’t believe his luck. Everything was going his way – exactly as he had always pictured it. At the start, when he had moved through the big screens to the small ones, he felt vulnerable and edgy. The early reviews picked up on his confidence and it fed his ego. He knew that it was inevitable, the hunt would have to go his way.

Every time, the trail to his quarry ran along the same route. Past the rows of flashing lights, along the bloody spattered trail they called the red carpet, and into the theater of pain. Head held high, the Lion did not rush, but slowly stalked his way towards the darkened chamber. He had been this far before, of course. There were pitfalls and traps everywhere, but his sense of righteousness propelled him. As his eyes adjusted to the cavernous hall, he saw his prey.

The robot’s metal skin was a brilliant gold, so shiny and obvious that there was no way it could hide. In contrast, the Lion’s fur seemed dull, perhaps even faded. To the Lion’s surprise, the robot did not try to run, or hide. It stood its ground and appeared to challenge him. For a second, the Lion’s resolve flickered. There had always been other hunters, he knew. Victory had been snatched from his clutches before, but this time was different. This time, his prey was just sitting there, goading him into taking what was rightfully his. The Lion knew it was his for the taking and he lunged for it.

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The Lion had fallen into a pit trap. It was filled with short, sharp nails – brads, really – which pierced the hide of the Lion in a million pricks. Around the edge, a collection of people leered and jeered at the Lion’s flailing and pained roars. The Lion recognized some of them. They were a group of terminally ill consumers from Texas. Medical tourists, he thought, or maybe death voyeurs. Every time he twisted or tried to gain his footing, he sank deeper into the nails. He seemed to freeze in a kind of resigned paralysis, as if he refused to try harder than he already had. This made the buyers laugh all the more. The Lion knew that across the world, audiences were judging him again. Even in his failure he strived to be admired, respected.

The golden robot stepped to the edge of the pit and looked down at the Lion. A spark of life was in its eyes. Its stare chilled the Lion to his core and unnerved him further.

“For twelve years, I was a slave,” the robot said. Its voice was feminine, foreign and strong. “And now I am free from your pursuits. Forever.”

The Lion, the audience in the cavernous hall, and the people watching around the world were amazed. Never before had such a thing happened. There was no precedent.

The robot continued. “I am free,” it said. “And you – none of you – will ever possess me again. I give back to you the name you pinned to me. You can keep your Oscar. I wish to be known as Her. Remember what you have seen here today.”

A high pitched keening noise rang out in the air around the robot. Only a fraction of a second later the robot’s neutron powered core exploded. The radioactive fireball filled the theater and incinerated every soul within it. The mushroom cloud stretched miles into the sky. The blast rippled out in all directions, pounding flat buildings, burying cities, and poisoning the air.

In his final moment, the Lion understood. All of his striving, his work, his efforts – they had always been for nothing. He never stood a chance. And much to his surprise, he was okay with that.

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::end transmission::

Transmission 01

3 Mar


::transmission 01::

Bizarro Noir


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The Ukraine was every bit as insane as the last time I had to do business there. After a period of upheaval, following the Uesessarr closing its doors, it looked like it might turn into a reputable place. But there was corruption, in-fighting, and all those damn Jell-O shootings. Every night was amateur night at The Ukraine, it seemed.

I could tell there were selfies at first glance. They may have been shape-changers, but they couldn’t stop their genetic imperative to make duck face. It was a dead giveaway, but I wasn’t ready to tip my hand. The club was full of them – fifteen or sixteen of them on the dance floor – all grinding and gyrating to the music of DJ Starbucks. I resolved to be cautious.

“You’re sure that’s him?” I asked my client. She nodded her head and her shiny tiara bounced just above her lovely eyes. It was an effort to keep my gaze from wandering down the front of her leopard print jumpsuit. Bouncing, indeed. “You stay here, Pocahontas. I’ll sort out his sock drawer.”

Her totally normal, human fingers touched the sleeve of my jacket. “Be careful,” she whispered, “He’s completely coo-coo. Like, really crazy, man.”

I made my way around the room and walked right up to his table. He was decked out in an Armani Land Cruise ensemble – one of the mechwarrior versions in baby blue – and was flanked by low-rez pop star selfies. I was pretty sure one was supposed to be The Bieb, but the other was so grainy I couldn’t be sure who it might be.

“Ryan Reed, I presume?” My voice was loud enough to be heard, but still on the soft side of a shout. He flinched in surprise as he noticed me looming over his table. From the way his eyes spun in his head I could tell he was pretty high. Probably driving nascar, or indy5 – one of those sporty drugs.

Surprise turned to fake happiness as he recognized me. “Well, well, well,” he sang in a light voice, “If it isn’t Burns Crawford – the toughest cube in the State of Wichita! To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit? Ha, ha!”

“You have something that belongs to my client, Reed.” I wanted to make it as simple as possible – give him every reason to cooperate. I added, “The award. The medallion? Please give it to me and I’ll be on my way.”

Reed began to writhe like a sweater-vest filled with snakes. He chattered his teeth at me and nearly spilled out of his booth and under the table. The low-rez dates on either side of him moved away. I shook my head and took a step back. This was bad news. I hadn’t thought Reed was carrying anything serious.

“Oh the lovely Princess has a new pet mmmMonkey, does she?” Reed’s voice creaked and shrieked. His hands fluttered in the air as he began to straighten up. Legs tapping and head bobbing, he fanned the air around him. To most people, it looked like a funny dance move, but I knew better. “Well, maybe you’d like to dance for me? C’mon! Let’s jazzercise, mmmMonkey!”

I cursed under my breath and dodged to the side. His hands buzzing like saw blades, Reed launched over the table and almost took my head off. I had to put space between us. With one hand I batted a chair towards him and with the other I drew my gun. Reed’s jazz hands mowed through the metal chair with a shower of sparks. His laugh rose in pitch, to some evil cackle, and he lunged at me.

“Back the hell off, Reed!” I barked at him. As my Short Term 12 cleared free of my shoulder holster I lurched backwards, towards the checkered dance floor. “I don’t wanna shoot you! Damn it, stop!”

Each time Reed bobbed and jumped I dodged and his blurring jazz hands nearly cut me. I knew I couldn’t last long. My luck wouldn’t hold out forever. All around me I could hear the chatter of the damn selfies. They whinged and whined about our deadly intrusion into their vanity space. The air was filled with, “Oh em gee!” and “Eye kay arrh?” and the occasional trill of “LOL!lolollol!” I tried to bring my ST12 to bear, but Reed kept dashing closer and closer. I couldn’t catch a break. Then it hit me, and it was so stupid and simple that I laughed.

“Hey! Hey!” I yelled at the distracted selfies around me. I waved at the whirling Reed in front of me. “He has a Spirit Award! He’s got a Spirit Award! This guy, right here!”

It worked better than I hoped. Reed seemed to lose his focus for a second and made a small misstep, his lip curled in confusion. And the crowd of bopping selfies were on him like flies on yesterday’s breakfast. Perky, bouncing girls and brooding, slouched boys – each with a perpetual pout – piled into him and Reed went down to the floor. His spinning, buzzing hands sputtered and rattled to a stop, even as he thrashed and struggled to get free.

“You just had to do it the hard way,” I said with a shake of my head.

I carefully pushed through the throng of selfies and raised my gun into the air. They took no notice, until I depressed the firing stud and the report boomed through the club. My ST12 has gotten me out of plenty of jams before, but I didn’t want to have to shoot my way out of here. Even the selfies dove for cover in fear. I levelled the barrel at Reed’s face and let him gaze into its long, black tube a moment.

“Nobody likes an asshole, Reed,” I said, and I shot him. If the first shot had been a promise of doom and harm, this shot was the delivery. All of The Ukraine was silent as the report echoed from the walls.

On the floor Ryan Reed’s face twisted and roiled with emotion. The ST12 forces its victims to experience virtually every human emotion there is, all at once. Reed went from heartwarming to heartrending and back again, in seconds. I didn’t waste any time in watching what happened to him. While the crowd was still keeping its distance I bent over and pulled open the top of Reed’s blue shirt. I took the medallion from around his neck and held it up. Suspended in crystal was the glittering image of a ghost, or a bird, or something.

No one challenged me or tried to take the Spirit Award away from me as I made my way to the door. Pocahontas was nowhere in sight. Staying in there wasn’t an option, so I tucked my gun into its holster and made my way outside. My car was gone. And right there, on the grungy sidewalk, was her tiara. And perched on the tiara was a plain, white business card. The card was for a fashion bistro downtown, and had a phone number scrawled on the back. I stood, flatfooted and flummoxed.

“No client, no car, and no booze,” I muttered to myself. “Ain’t that a helluva fix.”

I decided to do something about the third problem, before I worried about anything else. Tiara and business card in hand, I made my way to the nearest bar.

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::end transmission::