Thursday, December 31, 2009

48 The Poem of the Year

Places. People. Plots.

City. Country.

A knock at the door and an unexpected trip.

Daily life told Exactly As It Is so that you can hear the capital letters.

Trees are close to the most unconsidered natural objects.

Breathing. Standing. Sitting. Sleeping.

When to go on and when to stop.

How to be evil and how to be good.

Boredom and Surprise.

How to outlast yourself.

What, Who, When, How, Why and in that order.

It all passed this way once.

4 years of writing stories to yerself is a little bit of madness

8 drafts did I write of number 48..

The flow has moved on. I go with it.

The way I publish, the end becomes my introduction.

Curtains on this tiresome decade.

Happy new year, 2010.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

49 The Love Goddess

"It's this weather, it's got teeth," said Meathook, whose real name was Eugene.
"teeth and claws," said Saline, whose real name was Selma. She had tried her best but had never really gotten the hang of nicknames. Nick was a synonym for small cut. Not everyone knew that.

The pair of teenagers stared through the bent fog behind the window pane made of something well nigh indestructible and definitely not glass and wondered when the domes would open again. Venus was not the planet for singing in the rain. Any kind of atmospheric precipitation, depending on where it came from, could refresh skin or remove it.

"Do you think it's going to be much longer?" Asked Saline.
"Nah, there a new scrubber online now, the peak should be clear in another hour."
"I hope so, think they'll let us out when it clears?"
"Nope, the wind could shift, you'd be liquefied."

Saline shivered, there wasn't a kid among them that didn't have nightmares of dissolving in agony in the acid rain of Venus. It was a miracle to Saline how they kept their colony mostly free of it. Some of the older kids had begun to understand what the precipitators were doing, and why there were subterranean hectolitres of hydrogen peroxide. Meathook pretended to understand because he wanted to show off to Saline, but he didn't. Not really.

He'd dreamt they were kissing, just as the rain blew in, washed them away like kitchen grease, the last part of them touching were their lips. Fused together. Not even beginning to scream.

Monday, August 10, 2009

50 The accidental fire of Agnes Ford

Agnes Ford, former stripper, graduate of medicine at Sanford, sharpshooter and the American voice of a popular brand of GPS navigation software, woke up in sweat soaked sheets and cursed. The A/C had gone off, but when she checked the control knobs, she discovered to her concern that the unit in her hotel room wasn’t broken, it had been turned off by housecleaning. The room had still been cool when she returned after dinner and she had ignored the card she now held in her hands and gone straight to the shower and then to bed. The card read ‘please consider the environment and turn off your air conditioning when you leave the room.’ She felt a rising fury but didn’t want a repeat of last year’s soap incident. She now kept her own soap in a ziplock and brought her own cooler. She could have just put up a do not disturb sign but that would mean no ready made beds at the end of the day.

She made a decision, she left a note saying ‘please do not touch the countrols’ on the A/C unit, then, using a paperclip and a stripped electrical cable from her bag, she proceeded to wire the unit to the power socket in such a way that touching the unit would not generate a shock. Turning it off, however, would.

As an added warning she added the always-mysterious-to-the-uninitiated universal clue: Danger 110 Volts. There, let’s see them turn it off now. Agnes went back to sleep under the cool hiss of conditioned air.

Later the following day on her way back to the hotel, she heard the trucks well before she saw the fire. Agnes had a tendency to paranoia and it was largely directed at herself. To wit: She had the overwhelming feeling that she was following herself around with malicious intent. It was how she half-jokingly described the feeling to her nervous friends. On the practical end, it meant she took precautions to protect herself against her own tendencies.

Having anticipated a fire risk to her lilttle electrical jiggling, she had packed her bags in her car in the morning. The Police would likely be looking for the occupant of her room but without much luck, surmised Agnes.

Whose other names included Lucille, Michele and once upon a time in New Orleans, Antoine.

After so many years of independent wealth and a private practice, For Agnes, (Maybelline Barnsworth) random terror was the new black. She drove on.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

51 The time-slipped lemon peel

It's a little known fact that fruit and certain root vegetables travel backwards in time. This is not a recent discovery but the information is known only to a few. Once, it was known to a multitude but like the lost art of acoustics and the library of Alexandria, there is a wealth of facts in the world which are not only undiscovered, like the mysteries of the quantum, but once lost only forgotten almost as quickly. they are miracles but for the fact that they have no visible impact.

Lemons, once picked, shipped and stacked in supermarkets and green grocer's across the planet occasionally have there number increased by a lemon or two from antiquity, rarely, they arrive from 1946, but these latter lemons are especially sour. Cabbages are known to have travelled to the present from as long ago as Carthage and as far away as China. None has made an effort to communicate, so far as the few who've stumbled on this natural phenomenon, have surmised.

To get right down to it, they may be trying to tell humanity something but if so, they are employing strange and cunning means. A strawberry had only just arrived the other week from 2238, it was a highly evolved specimen, it remained in the present for less than a day before vanishing.

It's a good question how anyone ever noticed it happening in the first place, who's to recognize the difference between a contemporary domesticated eggplant and it's ancient cousin? It turns out there are visible differences but they are apparent only to the trained eyes of chronobotanists, the current term for a clutch of researchers, grad students and professors in a scant handful of academic institutions and universities scattered across the globe like droplets of mist in a desert hurricane. The future fruit is more readily identified by the engineered barcode which can be found growing on their skins. Within the discipline there are subdivisions based on variety and chronology.

While a secret science, the tempests within its community are tremendous, likely because the teapot stakes are so incredibly small. After all, what can be learnt from a time travelling pumpkin?

A surprising amount, it would appear, and patents for new technologies and resurrected varieties are quietly filling copyrights, naturally it is a big legal flossing to patent organisms but it happens more often than people realize. What keeps the community from achieving it's full potential is, quite understandably, the apparent ridiculousness of the claim, and the corresponding incredulity with which it is often greeted: that time travelling fruit and vegetables not only exist and that someone you know is researching them at this precise moment.

Recently there has been a breakthrough, a man-sized time travelling lemon is being grown in an underground lab in Uppsala Sweden, The research facility is so secret it doesn't even have a number. The community euphemistically refers to it, regardless of locale and without any claim of ownership as 'my place.'

"Where's your next stop, Jackson?"
"Francine is coming to my place to check out the garden, she's got a few ideas on how to break the yield threshold on my lemon." said Jackson, chronobotanist, polyglot (ancient and modern, able to derive vocabulary from context and syntax from vocabulary reflexively), historian, avid fly fisher and collector of collectible soda cans.

Conversations within the community often sound coincidentally dirty, its a consequence of acquired vagueness. Everyone involved has had experiences early on in their research where, unheedful of the kind warnings of colleagues with time in, they had made an effort to explain to friends and family what it was they were going on about. Invariably, negative social attention and subsequent 'clamming up' had been the result. Even to each other, vagueness and doublespeak were the norm.

The recent development, alluded to by researcher Jack Jackson was a man-sized time travelling lemon that within which they hoped to insert someone, likely Jackson, once it reached maturity. This was a difficult procedure because the tree itself had been designed to deliver one, enormous fruit and it was a fragile balance that had been struck between science and nature, the tree was inordinately large, was fed directly with nutrients. These nutrients were integrated with it's natural day light cycle. In a sense it was some kind of hybrid between machine, mammal and fruit. A Fruitiborg? It wasn't a catchy name, everyone defaulted to giant lemon. The environment constructed for acted as a womb and Jack was to be the tree's strange grandchild. (note: Jack Jackson was named after his maternal grandmother, because it was his grandmother's dying wish to his mom that she name her first son Jack, she hadn't met his dad when she made the promise, she secretly hoped for a daughter, never revealed the hope to her husband, Jack's dad. Maynard Jackson, who, like his son, was an easy-going type, relented without much struggle and Jack had used his last name since childhood. The one exception was his wife who called him J.J. but only she got to call him that, no exceptions.

In short and without any further allusions to the technical challenges. Jackson was indeed selected to be the first non-fruit, non-vegetable, chrononaut.

The prospect filled him with equal parts exhilaration and terror.

The lemon left with Jackson in it an hour ago.

Jackson watched it go, he had returned 58 minutes before his own departure, in the back-up lemon. Protocols had been established for every conceivable eventuality and this was one of them. His fellow researchers did not speak to him, they came with a heavily armed escort, There were tears in his eyes from the lemon juice and his skin itched but he understood the reason for the precautions. One scenario had included disaster plans for the thermonuclear nightmare which had been theorized if somehow, the lemon re-entry displacement genetically programmed into the outward bound lemon had failed and he had materialized superimposed on himself. In te past he had arrived sans lemon in tow, upon his return the backup lemon had contained him, where was the original lemon? It remains a mystery.

The protocols did allow him to watch his own outward progress behind heavily shielded two-way mirrors. This was a negotiated sop to the chrononaut, left in on the argument that the probability of it happening was balanced against the risk of paradox.

Jackson watched himself get inserted into the lemon like so much hypodermically injected humanity. Despite the eye rinse solution and a kindly offered towel, there were still tears.

He had reason for them. Jackson had gone to the last place he'd ever expected to go, of course no one would believe him, he hoped he would have time to check before his debriefing.

The lemon vanished. The guards stood down; another day, another narrowly avoided paradox, thought his colleagues. Jackson requested permission to return to quarters, military discipline had been adopted universally by everyone during these critical months. The watch scientist nodded his assent.

"2 hours, don't bother asking for more." said the watch scientist without looking up from his work. Jackson didn't need to voice his assent, the watch scientist on duty was God, King and Country. Besides, he thought to himself, it would be long enough to check.

Once alone in his quarters, he launched his bible reader, selected the King James Version and began reading, he found what he was looking for soon enough in Matthew 3:18, ...Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw three brethren, Simon called Peter, Andrew his brother, and Jacob called Jackson, their cousin, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And Jackson being warned of God in a dream of this day, warned Jesus that he must not go to Jerusalem during the Passover, Jackson begged him to heed Gods warning. And Jesus said I am where I am, I go where I go, for I am already there. And they straightway left nets, and followed him.

Jackson blinked back his tears. It would be a long time coming but he had to hang on, his friend had promised him only yesterday, they would meet again.

He switched off the lights, popped a sleeping aid and tried to get unconscious. True sleep was too much to ask for.

"I had to try, I had to try." he whispered hoarsely to no one in the darkness. His mind went blank when the hypnotics reached his nervous system, he abandoned himself to their synthetic oblivion with gratitude, there would be a lifetime to put the pieces of Jack Jackson back together, but in a few hours, there would be work to do.

He would find the strength, Jackson, if nothing else, kept the faith.

He had left a string of broken promises throughout his life, like any normal person only now the word had changed its definition in light of recent examples. The sentence 'Promises are made to be kept' did not sound foreign to his ears anymore. English tasted bland, Aramaic and Greek and Ancient Hebrew were more familiar now after so many months away.

With relief, he felt the paradoxes in his mind easing, two versions of the bible in his mind, neither at once but both together, like the picture of a vase which also looked like two faces in profile. Perhaps when he debriefed the variation would have settled.

He fell asleep with that hope in his heart, that, and a new hope, one best left unspoken.

Friday, July 31, 2009

52 chew birch bark and sip tea for now is the time to do it

Once upon a time in the middle of a lake of fire, Satan was lying on his back and grumbling, the morning hadn't gone well, he'd had a party and his boss had fired him and a third of this entire staff. Satan didn't blame him, Satan was the source of blame, it would be redundant for him to give and receive it himself, it would be like swinging a hard right hook into his own face, if he had a face, no one ever gets the details right:

He was a messenger, he was of average height, weight and build, he had only two things which might be thought odd, well, maybe three, he had a terribly generic face, he had no reproductive organs (no 'package' as would be said a few eons later) and two birthmarks on his forehead which from certain angles looked like tiny cartoon horns.

He had a sword of fire. It came from his mind, many eons later he would demonstrate and sell functioning Lightsabres to star wars fans at a convention. Naturally they only worked in his hands. That was a nice scam, thought Satan to himself.

There were other odd things too, for example while he had been working for his boss (and really, who was he to know if he still wasn't? the boss could be sneaky that way) he had known the eternal present of the higher realms but now, in it's place, he had the memories of his entire past present and future happening all at once, and it was constantly changing, were it not for the structure of his mind, he had been a pretty high up messenger, Satan felt certain he would have become a bit grumpy over the sheer chaos of it all.

Satan shrugged, he supposed he ought to round up the rest of the party-goers and figure out something to pass the time, he was just about to get out of the flames (they had done wonders for his back, as he also now experienced some new sensations, like aches and pains, it was kind of his former boss to throw him to the perfect place where he could recover a bit of his head after last night's gate crasher) when he heard his boss, not like before when His Master's Voice had been in his head, capitalization and all, it was like he was hiding behind a column of stone, or yelling from a very long distance.

"Hey, I got a project for you, I can hire you back as a consultant, you and your whole team," It was exactly like a great shout from an even greater distance so it reached Satan like a whisper.
"So why'd you kick us out in the first place?" Satan yelled back, the walls of the cave ringing to his cry.
"Would you believe I set you up? I needed consultants for this, not employees, they're too close to the issues."
"What do you mean?" Although he knew what his ex-boss meant, he also knew that this was a ritual communication, it had to be spoken.
"Remember that project I got started a few divergent axis-y spaces ago?"
"which one? the one a few days [our jargon, divergent axis-y spaces gets a bit tedious to write up in the documentation, especially when the font we have to use is made of fire and each letter is the height of a 20 story building] ago was a disaster, vile as all hell, and you fired my whole team of de-vilers."
"That was so I could hire you as consultants, It changes the rules slightly, it's against my own company policy to allow any project to undergo destruction testing when it's in it's final phase but this one, I don't have to tell you buddy, this one is different. I'm going against my own policy, I want, I need you to do this for me."

Satan understood. He would still be a de-viler, just not officially. But he would also have free reign to do his best with some of the unapproved projects he'd submitted over the years to command and control division, fear and guilt to name two.

"So can you do it?"
"I have a few conditions."
"No problem, but can you do it?"

Satan, formerly messenger in the de-viler section of eternity, smiled. Nodded his assent

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

53 Eating soggy marshmallows beside a roast suckling pig who's also your best friend

Once, in a squalid apartment whose previous owner had been imprisoned on charges of keeping exotic animals (Monkeys, nobody knew what kind, turned out they were his kids), a bespectacled undergraduate student with milky eyes and a visible limp opened his refrigerator and discovered that he had nothing to eat but soggy marshmallows and the remains of a roast suckling pig which he'd brought home from his parent's last Christmas.

He couldn't bear to leave the pig with his parents, he and the pig had bonded over Christmas dinner, two confirmed losers, its sad burnt eyes staring sightless beneath crisped eyelids as the undergraduate student endured the dinner from his place of honour as the first member of his family to have entered University before making a million dollars in real estate speculation (the family hobby, his 9 year old sister had already topped the family leader board, which wouldn't have stung so much if he had ever gotten up there himself but he hadn't).

His parents considered him a lazy clod but they were so polite he didn't know what he hated more, their contempt or their courtesy. They couldn't disguise their consistent avoidance of any topic that might drift to stating their judgement out loud: there were never questions about when he'd graduate and return to the family business, he'd already been an undergraduate for 9 years.

In his overheated and simultaneously drafty flat, staring at all that was left of the pig, he couldn't bear to eat it, he had caught himself talking to it sometimes, in his dreams especially, where it would appear as an Adams (Douglas) pig, the genetically engineered articulate pig that wanted to be eaten, whose sole purpose, built into it by design, was to persuade reluctant meat eaters who had previously been vegetarians on ethical grounds, to consume it. Like a Shmoo, only the pig died. Happily, of course, it was an Adams pig.

He saw that finally there was no option left but to eat it. He did not even consider leaving his shoebox flat, it was January and the city had recently been depopulated by a pandemic, he didn't know what sort exactly, for an undergraduate he was ignorant beyond the norm of what happened in the world outside his specialization, which was entomology, for the moment at least.

Ultimately he carted the remains of the pig, a fleshy skull, a strand of vertebrae like giant's teeth, to the University where, with the help of a colleague, he had the dangling remains stripped from the bones by flesh eating beetles.

He handed the skull to a luthier and within weeks he had an odd shaped guitar with a pig's skull for a resonator.

He played it every day, it spoke to him, it became his best friend, always grinning, singing on command, never complaining.

Many years later, when he came home to find all his things in a broken pile outside his flat he shrugged, picked his pig, fortuitously undamaged, out of the wreckage of his eviction, and walked away. He could have paid the rent but it had begun to feel too high so he hadn't bothered to do anything but cease payments.

He went in search of the flat's previous owner, surely out of jail by now, it wasn't much of a goal but it gave him something to do.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

54 The Libertarian Open Source Hardware Manifesto of 2010.

Total freedom equals total liability equals total responsibility.

Taxes are criminal not because they are collected but because when authority and responsibility are divorced as is the case with Governments which spend but do not earn, there is no incentive at the individual level of the elected official or unelected bureaucratic mandarin to spend wisely except in the context of being re-elected or remaining employed.

Despite this fact, to pay taxes gladly, however outrageous the cost, is to signify to yourself the powerful affirmation that you are able to generate income whenever you like.

A case for minimal Government is untenable because the tyranny of the majority decides and if the majority is happy to be infantilized or worse, never achieve adult status in the first place, there is little a minority voice can do to change its mind.

The majority will always tyrannize the minority. There has never been a government of the intelligentsia. There never will be; the intelligentsia are at the end of a very long tail.

We've got the brains, they've got the numbers, brains, guns and plunder.

Populations always get the Government they deserve.

For the individual, the choice is both simple and difficult. If an individual wants the benefits of modern society, for example:
  1. Roads and rails, acceptably functioning however badly built and maintained.
  2. Economies of scale and correspondingly advantageous retail prices made possible by urban conglomeration and mass manufacturing, however mediocre.
  3. Access to entertainment, however banal.
Then the individual must bend to the exigencies of a society which, however flawed, provides these services. It's a given that these services will be the minimum acceptable standard.

Nonetheless, occasionally something slips through the net and the individual can experience wonder, hope, the touch of destiny. Even a broken clock tells the correct time twice a day.

The other alternative is to renounce one society in favour of another or for no society at all: the wilderness. If an individual generates no income, then they cannot be taxed. Barter, trade, build your own stereo on which to play your own music, write your own books, use the means of production now available to anyone with the will and the knowledge to do so, knowledge is the only bottleneck, all of the above can be part of a hardware open-source guerrilla's arsenal.

Huxley hinted at a middle road, a withdrawal from participation in an inadequate society without necessitating an outright exodus.

The slaves escaped the Pharaohs but we have brought our Pharaohs with us on our backs. The service mentality has crippled humanity. Serve each other out of abundance, not out of humility, humility is an eyelash away from shamefulness.

Specialization is for insects, says Heinlein, what would he think of us now? When heart surgeons are so specialized they are not competent to perform even the most insignificant surgeries on any other organ? Do they feel humility about their over-specialization?

The anti-globalists are fools of the highest order, marking time, revolution as fashion. The people who grow their own food and make their own furniture may participate in demonstrations but it can't be often, they are too engaged in building their future with their own hands to worry about the cries of angry children who didn't get their lollipops.

Revolution is history. Creation is the future.

What are you waiting for? Go forth and build something. Leave the squabbling to the babies.

Remember: they're the experts.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

55 Shards of chandeliers on champagne hourglasses

Letting the last one drop to the parking lot many stories below, Claude, a migrant worker and transcendentalist, listened for the telltale pop of shattering vacuum sealed glass. Twenty times he had done this. Twenty times he had heard the sound. This last time, there was nothing, neither a peep nor a pop.

He sighed, it was what passed for speech in his apartment block. Sighs could mean anything in context: frustration, satisfaction, anything in between. Claude was an old pro; to hear him sigh was to hear the soundtrack to the ultimate theatre. Some claimed even the overhead lighting, never unsympathetic to those under its gaze, dimmed still further when Claude sighed.

This last time, there had been no sound. Claude was reminded of a joke:

A man woke up in the hospital after an accident and noticed immediately that something was wrong. "Doctor!" he cried, "I can't feel my legs!"

"That's because we amputated your arms," replied the doctor.

Claude felt a great companionship with this joke. He felt it pointed to a transcendent truth.

His intuition was great that if he threw another light bulb off the roof it too would not make a sound, as he had run out of light bulbs. This decided his next course of action: he would investigate.

Many years later he reached the ground floor and excited at being at ground level, the horrible sight which awaited him was especially devastating.

His final light bulb had caught in the maw of a man in the midst of a yawn. He must have stretched his arms and leaned his neck all the way back for the light bulb to have passed his teeth completely. The velocity was so great (his yawn must have been terribly expressive) that it quite plainly had shattered deep in his throat, muffling any sound.

Claude was in anguish, suddenly, his idle pastime had ended with horrible consequences. The unfortunate man was gurgling in agony, blood bubbling and flecks of glass shining in the light of the foyer.

Claude knew what he should do.

But then something equally horrible happened inside him. He just didn't feel like it.

"Oh my god!" A woman was rushing up to the man on the ground, dialling a number on her phone as she reached him in short fast steps on account of her totally impractical skirt and flat shoes, an odd combination, thought Claude.

When she put down the phone and placed the man in a recovery position, Claude realized she had things well under control and started to walk away, he felt a pang of hunger and thought he might get a snack since he'd come down.

He thought she'd say something but if she did, Claude was too far away to hear.

While chewing on his frozen submarine, Claude promised he'd help out next time.

He had to admit, it had been quite a shot.

Friday, July 17, 2009

56 Wet Dog Itch and the Nostrils of Fire

There will be no serious competition with reality here. Nobody will read this so I can afford to be honest.

Because reading, along with the ancient science of acoustics, is permanently lost. I myself am not long for this world. Why remain? None of the children of my Arcology know how to read. They imagine they do, as they .pict each other and .txt each other but the link between reality and meaning, meaning and language, is just another academic pipe dream. I myself am not immune to the charms of what passes for modern communication, it has been impossible to sustain a complete idea long enough to follow its train of thought in more years than I care to count. Everything happens in bursts. Semantic content? Zero.

All my friends are dead. They died before I was born. It's no wonder I'm looking forward to my own exit. The company is better.

As for pipes, no one under the age of 80 has even seen a pipe outside of a museum and Opium is now slang for dull or boring.

My portable Church, the world's museums, were closed half a century ago. My local planetarium, one of the largest in the world, was not large enough for a Mall so it was demolished.

Museum has the same root as Muse. As if anyone remembers who they were. No one remembers that a Mall was once a tree lined pedestrian avenue, either.

Although the museums were closed. They escaped the same fate as the planetariums because some developers guessed correctly that they would make excellent mid-density luxury condominiums.

Our machines have been designed by machines which were designed by machines so complex no human mind can encompass their complexity.

Knowledge is a barrier to consumption. Intelligence even more so. Wisdom is unofficially outlawed.

I am surrounded by middle aged infants. When I feel it's my time. I'm going to disappear into the wilderness, dig my own grave and lie in it. Let the animals and the clouds be my pallbearers.

The last thing I hope to feel is the itch of wet dog hair burning my nostrils. To borrow and mix the metaphors of this unselfconsciously gleeful generation, I am a discontinued product withdrawn from circulation due to low demand.

I must say I agree with my unintentional critics. This once great conversation will go on so long as I have breath to draw but I have no illusions that this sun will rise again.

Yet hope still burns although for what exactly, I haven't any idea.

Friday, July 03, 2009

57 Hrapa Nguyen Wallace

The time was the distant future, everything was mixed up and nobody remembered anything anymore. Hrapa could not remember what time it was nor where he was and the long lonely hours he spent at his desk made of energy fields were without significant affect. Hrapa had inherited the job from his womb parent and one day he would serve as half the material for a womb parent in his turn.

Gender was history, all genes recombined, the gender of the donor was irrelevant.

Hrapa was bred to be effective, what marked him out from his brood sisters and brothers was a simple thing. Sadness, Hrapa was the only person he knew capable of it. He had not even had the capacity to verbalize the feeling until, by accident, he had read about it in a very old book left to his family long ago by a mad ancestor who had hoarded fiction books despite there being nothing useful in them.

Hrapa was embarassed by what was considered, in his society, as a dangerous mental deviation. He wouldn't let his sadness show unless he was by himself, in the comfort and relative safety of his living quarters. Not every evening of course, what would be the point of that? But when he felt the urge to indulge, he would sigh sadly as he set the table for his solitary evening meal, he would exhale wistfully upon biting into his vat grown steak, he would even let a tear escape.

On delicious nights he would bawl unashamedly into his pillow.

End of part 8

Monday, June 08, 2009

58 Time Fly

There was a time when all he could see was cabbages, fields of cabbages. Now it was mostly low density residential communities. Some of the last farm buildings would likely be demolished in another summer or two. There was one across the street, plucked out of time like an insect in amber, The fence was high and in any case, it would've been trespassing, he walked past those farm buildings almost every day, rocks in the river, the time within their walls as obvious as the sun in the sky.

He didn't think to remember overcast days, when the sun in the sky is taken on faith. He forgot somehow that you never went out the same door you came in, he had lost track of how many times he'd done the trick in the past, so much easier after the first time, It was like breathing, it happened all by itself. When he dropped the disguises and witnessed, when the life of inanimate objects flooded forward, when the doors could be seen, when he stepped through.

He knew intuitively which doors to use, which gates, he used the terms indiscriminately, some were as large as a city, they needed no special goggles to recognize, some were as subtle as going around the left or the right of certain trees. That farm out of time across the road tempted him endlessly, from the perspective of eternity it was saturated; drunk with time.

However tempting, he knew to leave it alone, some gates took him to better worlds, some took him to other worlds, most times, he knew the difference, they smelled different.

That farm, he knew if he crossed there he would never find his way back.

So he never went. The farm was demolished on schedule, He made no plans to visit.

The rock had remained but he was far downriver, with no plans to swim against the flow.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

59 Running from the Guru Monsters

Sister Mary Janice Magdalena Missouri clucked at the article she was reading about Australia. At the moment, the article was relating the wonders of Ayer's Rock 'which the Aborigines call Uluru.' This irritated Sister Mary, she knew that Uluru, the largest rock in the world, had been there long before either Aborigines or Colonials had 'named' it.

Sister Mary was one of those rare people, when she spoke you heard the quotations.

She pencilled out the offending passages and rewrote them in the margins to emphasize Uluru.

She realized it was like being called Janice for your whole life and then suddenly being called Sister Mary.

It happened.

The coffee was hot, the day was hot, Sister Mary felt the weight of her habit suddenly burdensome. Many years later, she would refer to what had just happened as the experience, never 'my experience' or 'an experience' but only the experience, no quotes required.

Doctors would call it a whiteout.

A blackout can happen after too much to drink, a person wakes up the next day and has to be told by her friends what she did last night. A whiteout is the opposite, an awareness so sharp that you can experience it but it cannot be pressed into words; a person may as well press butterflies into a book with about as much success.

Mystics would not call it anything.

It happened.

Sister Mary eventually left the order for a flesh and blood husband and together they carried on quite naturally.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

60 First among thieves

Freddy Arbuckle was a thief, a good thief, he only stole from those richer than himself, this included almost everyone because when you got right down to it, Freddy was a bad thief.

One day, Freddy found himself stuck in a difficult situation involving stolen children's toys, Freddy wasn't above it, and as the snow fell on the roof of his van full of toys he felt a sudden twinge of guilt at what he'd done.

Christmas was around the corner and here he was, Freddy (Fatty to his friends) was sitting on top of a mountain of toys which he'd duly stolen and duly planned to fence.

A sudden explosive detonation happened inside him: This once, because of the season and because they were toys, Freddy decided to give his haul away. It would take all his breaking and entering skills (of which he had few, thus almost all toys ended up at the front door and not under the tree; except for one family whose door had been left unlocked) but he would find a way...

Shortly after Christmas that year, the parents of 73 children were arrested and charged with theft when the RFID tags of their children's toys set off the alarms as they entered shopping malls across the city.

Ho ho ho.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

61 Where's my medicine?

Once upon a midnight dreary
As I pondered, weak and weary
There came a rapping a not quite tapping
Upon my chamber door

Stumbling from my broken slumber
Quaffing down a wooden tumbler
I made a grabbing, a not quite stabbing
under my chamber door

Left alone that endless tapping
Would've wrecked my evening napping
Now there's murder soup galore
To feast upon beyond my snores

Crows shouldn't tap at poor men's chamber doors.

62 The only way is my highway way

Running through the jungle ahead of the gun-running colonials, one local noticed his thoughts taking a decided left turn: what was this whole sad business about? He realized that running had become tiresome, he gave in to the nonsense, he lay down to sleep and despite the danger of imminent death, found he was successful. He slept, buried by the underbrush, as the colonials ran past, no one who noticed him decided to put a bullet in his eye for good measure because given his rag doll appearance, there was little chance he wasn't already dead.

Certain colonials noticed he was alive but spared him regardless.
A strange compassion happens.

When the chase was well beyond him, the local woke from his deep sleep and gave himself a new name, to remember the day.

"Oko-Jumu" which means the dreamer.

Later in life he became an infrastructure developer and private contractor and helped create some of the prettiest roads in the world.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

63 My Generation

Last night, she waited quietly in the bar, surrounded by laughing people and happy music, colour and substance, neon and noise. She waited, patiently for the musician to arrive.

Can you imagine? her husband had died in a motorcycle accident two days before, leaving her alone with a young son.

She asked the musician to play at his funeral. All of this happened quietly, the air of unreality around this woman blurred her edges, at the time, I admired how she could pull herself together, her stoicism impressed me, later I told myself it must be shock, no one can imagine what's worse, to lose a father or a son, a husband or a brother. Regardless of gender, loss is loss and the world moves on. Quickly or quietly, it moves,

When she left, I did not see her go, I thought of her husband, a man I had never met nor would ever meet, dead in circumstances most vaguely defined. Regardless, I felt certain he'd died having lived.

Having lived his life as he had conceived it, death in the process of living his ideal was far better than the alternatives.

The courageous man dies once, the coward dies a thousand times a day.

Having no choice about the timing yet having choice in so much else, he lived according to himself until the end.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

64 Rhythm Monkeys of the End of Night

The moon eats us, hmm?

Those were the last words my long legged friend Cindy Canvas spoke before she drove off in Agnes Sherman's car. A dusty wreck which even Agnes didn't want. I never heard from her again, she did that thing, a cat's goodbye, and I got on my bus and headed back across the country. On the way I watched the mountains appear in reverse and kept my hand on the seat until it was numb and in those young days full of nothing but hope and cinnamon buns I never bothered to ask myself the question: was I good at this?

Writing. Righting. Making what is wrong, right in the act of fiction, lies that speak the truth, famous for buffoonery, the best comedians have a dark tract of inscrutable philosophy under their beds of a degree of seriousness so profound and disturbing they haven't let anyone, even their thesis advisor, see it.

It doesn't matter since everyone retires and the moment is long lost, the final product of the page is not the ink blasted into its fibres. A book is a blunt instrument, the mind is where the final product blooms and if that's so, the final product is nowhere for nowhere can the mind 'be' which is. It needs the space of formlessness to make it's mark. How can a thing be bounded by nothing? That is the way of the mind.

So I understood why Cindy drove off without a single backward glance. It had all been for the journey, the destination had been a pretext, Cindy, Agnes and the whole sad affair in the hills had left me with a single idea:

Happiness for no reason at all was best, Cindy had suffered for the conditions she'd placed on happiness, Agnes had come out of it the best, because she had avoided conditions entirely. As for myself. I came out in the middle, sometimes I forget that it is never me who suffers, I can watch my mind suffer, I can watch my body suffer, I cannot suffer except when I forget and my attachment becomes inappropriate.

To tell the story of how these realizations leapt out of the night and into our lives would take a great deal more time and space than a single night's experimental fiction.

The novel is not the product, it is simply the occurrence, from time to time, of a creature which exists in many places at once, the author is a part of it but not the whole of it.

Tired and sleepy, I watched the rain fall horizontally across the window of the fast moving bus. Gunship metal clouds attracted lightning and I was afraid to sleep. People had been killed that way on the bus. The chattering in my mind faded as I imagined every thought being left behind, a psychic trail of breadcrumbs, for Cindy to find me someday along the edge of the future. There was a battered old structure there, built of dead memories, windows of distortion, lit by vortex, where insects made meals of men.

Wherever my bus went tomorrow, I knew that was where I was headed in the end.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

65 Crack the drums and beat the splintered desk

Stone beds. There are cultures where the traditional bed is a clay or stone platform with a woven rug on top. Sleep on such beds is deep and restful, they can be warmed from beneath in the winter and remain cool in the summer. How much technology must be created for the West to enjoy such simple comforts on their individually-pocketed-coil orthopaedic beds? An incoherent flood of words mixing fragments of theology, science, history and culture is better with a little pesto. Troublesome fictions all.  Music has better sense, much can be made, as much to fill a lifetime, without necessarily any material waste. A guitar has a lifetime of music in it the moment it's made, a library necessarily reflects its passage through time. Sense is tiresome however, sometimes, the rut out of rhythm is the solution without a problem, a taste of a psychoactive thought can be more devastating than any drug; One's night of fire and revelation is another's pink laser is another's burning bush is another's mild stroke is another's benign tumour.

All interpretations to explain an experience, what if, just for a moment, focus were to return to the experience? If insight is worthwhile, would there be any in such experience?

For the sake of argument, we will say no, it is only a distraction from production, from creation in this world, from the building. Building what? who knows? Only we will not desist, our companion may not come but there is satisfaction in keeping the appointment.

Many years ago, I kept an appointment with someone I knew for certain would never come, I sipped my espresso alone and ate my almond and chocolate pastry alone and knew for certain the person for whom I was waiting would not come, it was a delicious experience, a promise made and kept after so many years.

Year later I am overjoyed that I kept that appointment, the one for whom I waited had become a cowardly, shabby echo of the person I had kept the appointment for. A nasty disappointment, had I to do it again I would not, we were none of us ourselves. That old bargain had been flushed down the toilet of time.

Now, I crack the drums and beat the splintered desk, my pen draws meat in flecks and bone is showing.

Rambles land on pebbled shores.

I cannot cross the border but it's well worth the journey to the edge.

Sunlight makes the flowers bloom.

Nightly though, I'm eaten by the moon.

Half hearted shocks.

How any man leaves effort tenderless.

Collapse is a construction too.

Bent but not broken, borrowed but not blue.

A character in search of six authors.

The creases become grooves, the grooves become roads.

Charting the hits. Taking stock of nothing.

Full of idiots, tellers of fury, signifying sounds.

Playful apocalypse.

It's all here.

What gymnastics must be done, to secure a long hour's sleep?

In my pocket.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

66 Entropy

A riddle:

What is bigger on the inside than the outside,
includes the outside on the inside,
can easily be in two places at once,
can only be here now with effort,
is rarely at home, yet the lights are on?

Musical numbers dredged up from a parallel universe did the nervous thing they do down the hall and into the reading room.

The reading room was a fictitious place at my university where people went to listen to records, nobody had read a book in there since Sir Wilfred Laurier was the Prime Minister of Canada, bookings were made in advance and you had the privacy of its plush leather couches and oak panelled walls and vintage audiophile sound system all to the privacy of yourself or your small circle of friends. multiple booking were forbidden, you would not be disturbed.


Naturally it-was-and-it-wasn't free, its maintenance was paid for by university fees, naturally, I wonder if I was the only person who ever booked it just to hear a good vinyl album on a beyond-my-means-hence-out-of-this-world sound system.

Most people didn't even bother to put on a record.

It's different now, I hear there have been changes, I avoid learning more, I don't want my history interrupted by rude facts. For example, it was called the record room, not the reading room. It doesn't matter, I would go there to listen and read, so for me it was the reading room, clearly, from the fixtures to the furnishing, in some legendary past before records had been invented it was a reading room.

In my mind, the shape of time is already slouching towards legend, past becoming prelude, the story of what we were and where we were and why we were there and what we were doing there is losing, if not its vitality, at least its authentic reality.

The audience has left, the curtains are drawn, still we play.

Sometimes naked, sometimes mad, now the scholar, now the fool, but are we free? Are we men?

I wrote a novel as a teenager, about an assassin and story collector who wants to hear a story before killing her greatest target, a sort of 'Arabian Nights' in reverse, she asked her victim to tell her a story, so it didn't die with him, to tell her of his cities, of all dimensions; he did, and because I lacked the skill at the time to lead the plot organically towards their role reversal, I made it a serial adventure. I can not say I finished it, I did, however, abandon it, not a wise move, the abandoned worlds are those which grow most in the imagination. Finishing a story is like giving it a border, a barrier, here and no further, without this wall, the stories just grow and grow.

My punishment was to become a character in my own fiction.

Now the Piper has come for his wages while in secret he schemes with the rats.

Abreption means never having to say its done.

It's just done with you.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

67 Waiting for the Hesitants

Maxine Recluse, a girl born of an idiot, signifying nothing, emerged with a frightening intelligence hence her parents abandoned her almost immediately. Raised by the state, she escaped again and again only to be captured by the electronic bars that marked her meals and residences wherever she went.

In plain English, Maxine lived in a networked world and a cashless society from which she could not escape so long as she was a minor. Her choices were suffer until she legally became an adult or find a way to live without leaving a trace of herself in State databases.

She made her choice.

For two years, Maxine became a model inmate of the state. studied industriously, allowed state education to happen to her organically, meanwhile spending all possible free time researching her own projects. Naturally her sponsors were anxious at her choice of reading materials but they were limited in their discretion by the standard operating procedures of the state. They could worry but since she wasn't learning how to make improvised explosives they could do nothing.

Maxine confined her research to biology, chemistry and physics, in its pure forms, with applied studies restricted to gardening and landscaping, she knew the extent of her prison, she stayed within its bounds and they had no pretext to circumscribe her.

In any case, Maxine wasn't interested in bombs, the state in its paranoia had blinded itself to other means, peaceful, however illegal means:

Means of escape.

They watched her carefully, they watched her build a model garden behind the state home, grow herbs, even erect a small garden shed. Her garden occupied her to the point of singularity, or so it seemed, as if by accident, her radishes and carrots sprouted together, her sponsors. They did not hear her muttering under her breath to her newly sprouted root vegetables. If any of them had, they might have heard:

"Do not despair, one of the thieves was saved, do not presume, one of the thieves was damned."

Had they heard, it may not have come as a surprise that in her over-abundance of intellect, Maxine had chafed at her bounds so long she'd rubbed her soul raw, she clutched at hope where she found it; moonlight sparkles on worn black pebbles.

She didn't go so far as to call her radishes 'Luke' and her carrots 'Augustine' but the idea was there.

Her sponsors watched her miniature world unfold with increasing fascination, between meals, sleep and school, Maxine spent all her time in her little garden. Radishes and carrots gave way to tomatoes and peppers, they watched her measure nitrogen levels, pH levels, organize her planting schedule and over two growing seasons she occasionally provided her sponsors tables with delicious produce. Maxine had found a calling, said her sponsors, she had become adjusted, said her sponsors, her journey towards full membership as a law-abiding and productive citizen of society was nearly complete, said her sponsors.

Maxine considered herself an iconoclast, not in the old sense of image-breaker or destroyer of sacred images but in the modern sense as one who creates original images without references. Not satisfied with received fashions, she carved her own.

There would be no one to stop her this time.

Her second garden, in the woods near school had yielded two harvests of prepared food. Stacked neatly in jars in the basket of a hand rebuilt motorized tricycle. Straddling the bike with the motor running she exhaled a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding inside and remained where she was, engine idling.

She shut off the motor and dismounted the bike, walked on to school, went home to her sponsors, stepped mechanically through her role. No one had guessed the extent of her ingenuity, she could have left, she told herself, she really could have done it.

In bed, pretending to be asleep, Maxine shook with rage, rage at the world, rage at herself, she could leave! She could! Why wasn't she leaving? Exhaustion eventually drove her to unconsciousness. In her dreams she was in prison but there were no bars at the gates, only rows of planted carrots and radishes and tomatoes and peppers. She couldn't pass through the gates without stepping all over the plants, destroying them. Maxine couldn't do it. beyond the gates she saw enormous fields of crops. She knew, with the strange logic of dreams, that those crops were but a small part of her highly industrialized, scientific and productive agricultural enterprise, she need only destroy the little plants in her way to claim her future immediately.

She couldn't do it. Not a step. What her sponsors had failed to do, Maxine had accomplished by accident.

Unconquerable, she had conquered herself.

In bed, Maxine sighed in acceptance, in her dreams, she nursed the plants that barred her way.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

68 Wedging in a life between obligation and responsibility

Welcome to Chaos Bar. The owners' table can only be reached by cartwheeling over the heads of the regular patrons and somersaulting into a seat next to the proprietess, she rules the owners' table and by extension much of the world. Murders are not common and even suspicious deaths are rare however last night, a patron was having himself serviced just as a glass jar of scalding hot prepared mushrooms in oil was placed nearby on one of the many marble windowsills by a member of the kitchen staff and the cold marble and the hot jar contrived to shatter the jar and send hot oil and glass shards in every direction, the patron, a British tourist, was badly burned at the point of ecstasy and his service, down on one knee, got up so quickly she accidentally kneed him in his most private area which sent him through plate glass windows into Dining area 3 and that's the best anyone can do to describe it. The paramedics assured us the ultimate cause of death was myocardial infarction, heart attack, they went on to explain the shock had probably killed him long before he went through the glass, every male winced at the thought. It happens.

I come here from time to time and tonight, I'm here with company, it's not much company though, they float from one table to the next, one distraction to the next, when it's time for me to exit stage right, my company appears to want to enter stage left. It happens. Perhaps I'm not much company either, seated at the axis while the whirl revolves around me. 

By contrast, I've seen floor shows at Chaos Bar that make me feel decidedly insignificant. They have truly amazing performers. Schoolyard scenes with angels and demons. All done with lighting gels and leather jackets. Sometimes, in my nightmares, these theatrical cruelties become exaggerated to the frequency of a pure and natural horror and it feels as I might spend the rest of my life trapped inside the Chaos Bar.

In the end, I somehow manage to succeed in my escape, although I always forget my jacket at the coat check and have to go back for it. High tension! However shortly afterwards in my recurring dream, Chaos Bar has once again assumed it's real world aspect, the bouncers and barmen know me again, I take my jacket without incident time after time.

Early morning sunshine finds me on the cobblestones. Fresh air and spilt beer in my nose.

I leave Chaos Bar and my company behind. If they want to stay, let them stay. Chaos Bar is haunted and I'm the last in the circle still alive.

I'll probably be back tonight.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

69 Looking for the lost bagel

I remember bagels from a long time ago, I remember fresh bagels made by obsessed individuals, the bagels were large, not like the ones you find sometimes, they had a unique texture, firm yet yielding, golden, whisper thin surface punctured easily to rich depths, I remember how these bagels toasted, absorbing humble butter and lofty lox with equal ease, these memories come to me most frequently in the lands without bagels, there are such places, and I confess I imagine the people who live there are less happy because they have not known their own bagels, only the lucky adventures of risk takers and madmen on vacation have bagel experiences to share. I know the yeasty aroma of a good bagel, It's sometimes a long wait and sometimes extreme measures need to be made but when there's a rumour of a good bagel place in town, I invariably find myself there on the flimsiest of pretenses. I remember the great bagel drought of 2004, a local place had finally started serving bagels, uninspired affairs yet undeniably bagels, I had sunk so low as to import frozen bagels in individually packaged bags, they were not the same yet suggested their referents enough that I could use my imagination and my memories to take me closer. Imagine my joy when I found a local place that served bagels! Regrettably, it was not to last and after only a few weeks, the deliveries of bagels had stopped, the supplier had disappeared. After several inquiries and longer and more elaborate explanations by the proprietors I was finally told they honestly had no idea when they would next get a bagel delivery. 

I was crushed. So as the year dragged out and the one after that, I gave up on bagels entirely for a time, life took on a grim aspect. Everything became serious. I began to worry that I might have tasted my last bagel. Nothing so tragic as the death of hope, I kept myself from that final frontier by an immense effort of concentration and no small measure of luck. However, the sun had set on my bagel life, it seemed; my kingdom for a bagel! No one took up my offer. I surrendered to circumstance and strove to find drops of happiness in club sandwiches and crostini but they could not compare to the flood of the prime source, the ne plus ultra, the sui generis, the bagel, zen icon and gourmand's satisfaction indivisible, yet you could eat it!

Last week everything changed, the sunrise came charging back into my life. Yes! Bagels had returned to my city, the politics keeping them out had lost! I sit before  you now satisfied by the second bagel in a week available locally! Yes! I have found it! The thing itself! The philosopher's Stone!

It's a bagel!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

70 Last Exit to New Los Angels

When importing this screenplay, the standard formatting was lost, it exists elsewhere. Time considerations won't allow me to correct it here. Perhaps the next import will be more successful. However ugly, enjoy!

Tommy Two-Thumbs is tied and hanging upside down from a meat hook. Sam Marlo, a private detective, isn't asking him any questions.
Tiles need a cleaning, wonder if Marbles got it like this, lasted longer than him at least. Screw it.
Ah, Alright, what you wanna know?
Sam Marlo changes position and says nothing.
What, is it about Susan? I had nothing to do with that, it was Marbles, he's the one you want. What, you got nothing to say? What? Ask me something and I'll tell! Dammit ask me! Ask me! Ask me! Argh!
Sam Marlo changes position and says nothing.
Is it Frankie? You wanna know who? Whadya want? I got names! Yeah! It's Jones you wanna ask, isn't it? Ah come on man I been upside down forever! Ah come on! if I could still feel my hands they'd be freezing! Mar, Marlo, look into your heart...
Sam Marlo changes position and says nothing.
Gah, alright, Johnny and Alex, Frankie was their hit, it's about Frankie, right? Ah man, I had nothing to do with it, you're gonna ice me? You so fucking smart? I, I.
Tommy is unconscious, Sam slaps him awake and slips a pen knife into his frozen hands and a memory stick recording of Tommy's confession where he can see it. Marlo exits the meat locker to the sounds of Tommy sawing away at his restraints. Closes the door, leaving Tommy to struggle in darkness.
Sam Marlo reaches into his jacket and takes a phone out of a shoulder holster where a pistol should be.
Dial Mom. (silent ring, dialling indicates on the phone), who's this? Yeah I'd hold, Jack, Sam, Tommy Two thumbs is at my location in a meat locker with evidence but not for long. I know, wasn't here. Dinner at Pinkie's tomorrow is good. Until that day, huh? Yeah, bye.
Sam Marlo walks to a bicycle and cycles for an hour or so to his car, folding up the bike and throwing it into the trunk. Changes quickly, drops the used clothes in a Salvation Army drop box. Drives home.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Stills from the film: Welcome to New Los Angels

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71 Sign of the New Los Angels Times

Land use in the New Los Angels Basin had changed dramatically over the last century, scrubland and desert had been irrigated by fresh water pumped from as far away as Colorado and the desert had bloomed, in the middle of nowhere in particular, Sam Marlo leaned on the hood of his converted replica Shelby (zero emission engine) and considered ignoring the muffled noise coming from the cramped trunk of his car.

He shouldn't have picked the Shelby for this, but Marbles Malloy was a small man, Marlo popped another H-Mary into his mouth, the desert flipped upside down and donut icicles made of pressed flower happiness drifted gently upwards for 15 seconds. Hail Mary or H-Mary, a strange contraction because it wasnt' any shorter to say, was a popular high-class hallucinagen, instant onset, 45 second half-life, For those times when harassed executives and bored housewives wanted a minor vacation from everyday but not a full weekend's worth of incapacitance.

After 30 seconds, Marlo grabbed a small gas canister and fed it's plastic tube through one of the inconspicuous holes he'd drilled in the trunk many years ago, tiny, only a psychological ventilation, still hot enough in there without the A/C running to hurt a man, but that wasn't Marlo's line, he kept the A/C on.

Environmentally conscious however, Marlo kept it at its minimum setting. He snaked the tube a little into the trunk, turned on the nitrous oxide and timed the dosage.

After 20 seconds he kept low and to the side and popped the trunk.

Marbles was laughing a little, dazed, blinded by the sun, sweat and oil soaked his suit, the throwaway piece (too small these days to find them all, some no larger than a thimble) had fallen from his hands, Marlo picked up the contraption, like a wire outline of a pistol made of coat hanger, aimed it at a patch of flowers and touched his finger to the piece of wire indicating a trigger.

The flowers burst into flame and then blew away in a cloud of ash.

"My my, a miniturized vapourizer, Marbles, the company you keep," mutter Marlo under his breath.

Marlo grabbed Marbles roughly and tossed him, hog tied, out of the trunk, knocked the wind out of him. nearby was a suitable location, a half dead tree, struck by lightning, one side blooming, the other dead.

Marlo tied Marbles to the tree and then drove the Shelby closer, parking with the headlights facing Marbles, who was regaining some of his senses in the freshening late afternoon air.

It still got cold at night in desert.

"I'm not talking." said Marbles
"And, I haven't asked you to," said Marlo, as he cut off Marbles' suit with a scalpel and a pair of surgical scissors.

And Marlo wouldn't, by dawn, with the headlights on, the cold, the fatigue and above all, the mosquitos, Marbles would tell him everything.

Marlo wouldn't have to ask a thing.

He never had before, why start?

That's what it meant to be a New Los Angles Detective, you didn't get paid for questions, you got paid for answers.

Marlo got back in his car and turned up the radio and the heat. Settled in for the wait, Marbles didn't seem like much, the wire gun was a nuisance, how'd he get his hands on one? He'd know in the morning. Ignoring Marbles' screams, Marlo drifted off to sleep. A Sleep filled with icicle donuts and 10 storey high mosquitoes and in the distance, Marbles Malloy having his blood pumped out by a giant aquatic Brazilian leech.

The long night, a New Los Angels trademark, stretched onwards.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

72 Better than the bet

Kiki Mallory was a gambler, that much was obvious, from the way she curled her dice to the way the dice hit that back board, She was a gambler, and it all came falling apart that hot and lonely winter's night in Las Vegas Nevada, population: one less than a moment ago.

There was blood, on the tiles, on the mirror, on the deep shag carpet, it was a nice scene, full of disaster and heartache, and Kiki was in the middle of it. She didn't want to be there, who would? It's just that Kiki had experienced the misfortune of being the call girl slash fiance slash card shark to a salaryman who just wanted one last thrill before tasting the big easy. It wasn't her fault, she was just the right girl in the wrong place at the right time.

As for the salaryman, his name was Tetsuo, she never learned if he was just on hiatus from his job at some nameless electronic corporation or if he was just another burned out refugee from the corporate meat grinder of Akibahara, it didn't matter, the colour of his money was good, only she didn't have to be there when he iced himself.

Gurgling, with blood in his windpipes, he pressed a note into her hands at the end, a note with only a name and an address, what could she do? She took his money and she took the note.

how could she know the extent of his injuries, the degrees of his perversions?

By the time she had been through the nightmare he'd left behind, four people had been murdered, and she'd deposited over 15 million euros in foreign numbered accounts to her name.

What are the wages of sin? somehow, she was spared.

In this life, but what of the next?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

73 Enter the moist red waffle iron

A wet heart stank on the cold tile floor of the morgue, it wasn't mine, I played floor hockey with it, a collegue asked me to stop fooling around and I picked up the heart and put it back on the dissecting table. The subject had been brought to us because of certain services we had performed in the past. Services we didn't like to talk about, even over coffee in the staff lounge. The service in question was this, while we couldn't make the dead speak,we had a talent with their organs. Augury was its most recent name, the divination of the future by the entrails of the sacrifices, we as forensic pathologists and followers of the ancient tradition of the path of underbrush and thorns were best versed to assist the police in their more unusual inquiries.

It was simple, they would bring us a body and by the ancient arts of dissection and divination we would supply a name and a number. Sometimes it was the name and phone number of a witness, other times it was the name of a street and the address of a suspect.

Our body tonight hadn't been brought in by the police, he'd walked in himself, looked me in the eyes and said 'auger this' and promptly blown his brains out with a .38 special revolver, a model selected no doubt for it's concealability and availability.

He didn't look like a suicide, he was well dressed, his face and body showed no signs of sleep deprivation or drug use, in all respects he seemed a well adjusted person right down to the predicted number of credit cards in his wallet.

What could we do? we augered him.

We didn't believe the results. According to our augery, tonight was the end of the world.

So I kicked his heart across the floor of the morgue but this time, I didn't care to pick it up when the others complained. A ridiculous augery of a suicidal mad man.

Then another well dressed stranger surprised us with the same last words and his brains along the tiles.

Then again, and again.

Nobody told us to close, so we just kept piling them up, along the walls, in the corridors.

Augurists must be special, or else nuts, we've already made a pact not to give in to it ourselves, not until we auger the whole city.

One of us has decorated every streetlamp for ten city blocks with human entrails, another has used a helium canister to inflate a thousand human stomachs and lift a red banner up high above the morgue, it reads 'give us your sick, your fallen, your downtrodden' and we hope it's clear that this is the place things are still happening. That if you're gonna go, you'll come to us first.

It's been a great success, people are dying to get in here and die.

We'll auger every single one. These citizens of the red night need us.

Personally? What have I done?

I've built a temple out of human hearts.

Let it bleed.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Logomania 008

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Three Hundred and One Sleepwriters

After many years of practice and work,it happened, one night, Frank Provalone, copywriter for a mysterious agency, fell asleep while working late at night on his pet project, a big thinkers book to rival and justify the work he sold to make his living during the day, like all copywriters his ambitions had been cut down to scale by the exigencies of the profession and the advertiser's rule number one shackled him to sell the client's product to the best of his ability and nothing else so when it came time for him to relax he would sit up late and transgress in his fiction, a private pleasure safe from having to get to a point or deliver a call to action or simply from telling the customers what to do. It was all so easy to fall into the mistake of believing there was no other kind of literature left in the world but the 72pt headline copy (and the 14 point body so as many people as possible could read a newspaper or magazine in one hand while driving with one knee to the wheel and slurping a soggy bowl of cornflakes from the cereal bowl sized coffee mug in the other.

Act now with no obligation and start enjoying the benefits today!

In theory, what happened was impossible however having fallen asleep in front of his computer, Frank awoke to find the document he had been working on as he drifted off into sleep was much longer that he remembered, in short, Frank discovered, in addition to his other more traditional somnambulatory tendencies that he had suddenly and quite literally overnight become a sleepwriter.

 (no pun more intended)

There was a limit to this after all, Frank knew that he ought to knock it off but even when he went to bed with the firm resolve to stay in it and sleep, he increasingly frequently found himself awake and sore in front of his computer.

There seemed no end to it.

The question remained, was it worth anything?

Frank shelved his doubts, it was a stupid human trick if ever he'd heard of one so if not fortune and posterity, at least he might appear on Letterman.

Monday, April 20, 2009

74 Exercise and waking up at night

Milton worked at the tool and die warehouse in shipping. One week out of 8 his shift would swing him into the loneliest hours of the night, whisper silent everywhere in the city except for the warehouses and the newspapers. The next shift around, Milton invariably woke up in the middle of the night clutching at his heart with his right hand while his left scrambled for the alarm which hadn't gone off because, naturally, it hadn't been set, Milton's graveyard swing shift was over and he was now on the most social working hours of the next two months.

It was frustrating because by the time the second swing was on, he'd stopped having the attacks, but already, on the second shift he was an hour later to start and an hour later to finish. This meant that traffic changed, his seat at the bar after work changed, his hairdresser changed. It didn't register with most people, thought Milton, just how much their experience was as much a slave to their schedules as their vehemently raised denials to the contrary.

Milton had owned a DVR but it just made things worse, he lost the sense of contact, the feeling that all over the city, people were watching all kinds of shows but some of them at least had to be watching what he was watching and that number had to be pretty big. Milton had been able to draw some comfort from that idea and with the DVR it was alright, it just wasn't the same experience; he sold it and didn't have any pressing desires within his budget so he socked it away in a corner of his flat in an old sock because Milton, above all other considerations, was a literal type who retained Puckish pride in his acquired obstreperousness.

It's not that he was a bad guy, it's just Milton occasionally did things out of light-hearted malice, it's not the ideal collision to describe his process but easy-going mischief-making only consumes more lines without adding sense.

The universal sarcasm  in the situation was that worrying about attacks that woke him up in the middle of the night kept him up until the middle of the night.

Milton had tried a number of carved idols, dream catchers and other occult paraphernalia to stop the attacks however even the best results meant he spilled wax on his leg when his ornamental hood (a bed sheet) brushed against his mail-order thrice-blessed candelabra.

So, despite all occult, chemical and logical efforts, Milton continued to suffer one shift out of 8. Whenever he thought of the situation it was all he could do not to shrug his shoulders, raise his hands up one last time to the heavens in appeal and give everything away before travelling to the most inaccessible and ugly mountain in the world to just sit there the world ended or he learned to sleep.

People are strange.

75 The run for the first poet of the month to die in steaming pots of shit

It was one of those weekends where everything that could possibly happen, happened; thugs breaking doors left unlocked found everything of value had already been stolen and lights left too long in the night would be found upon waking to have earned a coating of frost without any explanation.

Children woke with the terrors claiming that a tree trunk of things had hidden under their beds and only waited for all the lights to die and the cold room to be silent for the things under the bed to reach out and grab them by the ankles and yank them down into the dear darkness where they lived, livid with anger, rushing to the next morsel of imperial hyacinth chocolate hot drink (now with even more chocolate) and gnawing on an immature human's thighbone.

The fetid river water sank lower each year on the outskirts of City Eight, (a nice place to live work and shop) and the once blue sky was now grey and overcast so often that the word for blue was used interchangably with luck.

Golden rains were the best, an accident of hazardous industrial waste which came with hallucinatory warnings since the chemical soup in the sky took itself a little too seriously these days and besides, retirement funds had worked proberly (portmanteau: properly and soberly) and shakes and shivers since childhood left one with little imagination to realize that living to fight another day would be preferable to defeat tonight, especially, having left a love poem to the nun who tended the church garden.

It was clear that time was on somebody else's side today, the nun found the envelope and handed it over to her superiors, I met the Mother superior on the same day I found out the kids call her Mother Insatiable, for her fondness for hard candy.

Perhaps one could/may/would, ask a question, to relieve this experimental ennui, typing asleep again, instead of just standing there, tongue in hand and staring. (you, the tongue or both?)

Positively celestial, with such work before me, my only request is to be able to see them, my family, because these long winter submarine cruises may have addled me.

Regardless, the effects of short term memory loss on a built up box are well known, also, there appears to be a place to clean some parts of the car right off, the bad kept themselves as toddlers, it's better than beer and coffee.

The Fin.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

76 Shopping List for Two Cities

There are streets of the imagination it's better not to cross, alleys that break off at odd angles and avenues lit by sodium lamps of a generation ago. Collapsing places, places of rot and ecological disaster. Lit by nightmares, dreams of fears, failures, wrecks, calamities, arrogant babies with gutted sides, floating dangerously under the sewage water.

These are the streets I call my home. It's an architecture where it's easier to see opportunities to fail, my special trick is knowledge: I know these are just opportunities to succeed in a sinister aspect.

My imagined city intrudes on daily life, it's possible to view its rot, its red, in the faces of sleepwalking children driving to work.

On an ordinary day, walking to school, it's possible to notice, which is the real and which is the imagined, I watch the faces of drivers most because they are least concerned about hiding their unselfconscious faces, it's clear as they rush their bodies to work that their minds are already there, impotent to make changes and impatient to begin, without the presence of a conscious mind yet powerfully influenced, the bodies twist, the faces grimace, animals and vegetables but not humans.

It happens.

Sadly, I realize that once these out-of-mind/out-of-body travellers arrive at work, much of their loosely tied minds will drift and loll, often returning to troubles at home where they will sit, seething and impotent until their bodies catch up with them.

Consciousness is the one force that naturally travels faster than the speed of light.

Be here now because here and now is where action is possible, throwing your mind around without cause or concern is reckless. Spend too little time in your body and you know what happens?

You get old fast and die young, that's what can happen. You join my city of the red night too quickly, why be so eager for it? It's already here. Division is meaningless, an artifact of language, it's not real.

I have come to the riverside docks to buy meat for a party, the cobblestones are rich with blood and moss under my boots, tanneries and slaughterhouses line these docks, Seersee Meat is my destination, a rampart of stone leads to the ice, the hooks, the merchandise and the vendor.

I purchase a lifetime supply of flesh and carry it on my back to my flat. Now, 8 hours ahead of me, it is supper time in Orleans.

Happily, wisely, impatiently or otherwise: my guests will have to wait.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

77 Crimson Calamity Unplugged

Festivals and autograph signing had begun to pale on Crimson Calamity, a Brazilian head-job with highly experimental wetROMs and a compulsive liar, Crimson could remember the first upgrade, having dumped her core memory (she read later it was impossible to re-install with original file structure intact, oops) she had boosted her colour sensitivity, strictly a wetware upgrade, nothing much to it, colours seemed primary, rich, extravagant, with a squeeze of a finger she could see in ways her parents had never imagined were possible, let alone have allowed if they had found out.

By 24, Crimson was as patched as an old tire, a ceaseless stream of home cooked sense implants, she could taste colours with her fingers and see music with her tongue, There was no end to the many combinations she could explore, it had to come crashing down eventually.

One morning, it did, she awoke in total darkness, her Eyesoft(TM) had fatally crashed, causing her to stumble for the panic button on her dresser, it had failed many times only this time, the hard reset commanded by the panic button refused to activate and she was left stumbling and bumping into furniture until she made it to the doorway and knocked at her neighbour's.

With a little help (luckily, it was Sunday and he was home) she discovered the problem, her WetWare processor had permanently failed and since the warranty had long since expired she was left with no option but to disconnect it from the visual cortex entirely. Her neighbour used his 8-pin hardline to connect her to his diagnostic program and suddenly, for the first time in over a decade, Crimson Calamity saw without enhancement, and it was fascinating.

She had forgotten the fine texture of shadows on wood floors, the grain of igneous stone on the windowsill, the frosting of dust on unwashed windows, the myriad of greys and browns on a single patch of wall. Her Eyesoft(TM) lost these subtleties in exchange for colour not possible in the ordinary world, for how long had she felt it was the ordinary world which suffered as a result?

"What?" she said.
"I don't know if I've ever seen you breathe like that"

She noticed her breathing, deep and even, touch was touch, sight was sight, a forgotten feeling; was it relief?

"Yeah, well, it's been awhile."
"I can connect you with a new chip, your old one's toast" holding up the diagnostic printout.
"Alright, thanks."

It took time, so much detail in the world was overwhelming, the ultimate resolution.

She lost the contact info on the way home to bed; to slip into scalding cold sheets and shiver in the rush of old new sensations.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

78 Medea Rez (William Gibson Homage)

The lone child of aging mega-rock star Rez (frontman for Lo/Rez) and Rei Toei, an Idoru (synthetic personality), Medea Rez grew up unlike any child the world had yet conceived. She was capable of mathematical computation which exceeded her designers yet she felt awkward in crowds and smiled shyly for reporters; she dreamt in cyberspace without a hardline or a NetCloud yet became easily confused when giving class presentations in primary school; she experienced fits of adolescent rage and misery like everyone yet recorded full sense/net copies which quickly became sim/stim hits that garnered accolades from critics and fans alike.She was an enfant terrible, a cause celebre, a brat and a buddha, a singularity and a multiplicity.

She wonderered if her mother, cloned around the world and the power behind the family fortune, had not secretly generated her as a youthful copy of herself. Her father, Rez, inescapably aging, would soon go full-synth; she'd heard that was supposed to change people. Until then, she decided she could count on him to offer an alternative perspective on herself. Above all, she was deeply selfish and self-interested, this was not her fault. Since she was unique (for now) her designers (parents) had programmed certain complexes that would leverage maximum data from her life experience for future models; With effectively infinite recursive-thought neural networks and the capacity to model up to 26 different personalities at once, she still couldn't always manage to get through a social engagement without wounding individuals with her razor edged insight although she felt sorry afterwards and did apologize.

Her cyberspace handle/nick was MeaCulpa.

Her parents looked forward to her dating years like Europe looked forward to the great plague of 2012.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

79 The end of the week

It wasn't going to be an ordinary dreary day deadly doomed and dastardly. the Spring full frontal had driven even the crows indoors with their recent treasures and clumsy bickerings. Full-on felicitously, Buck Milligan drew his unscabbarded mettle cross the back and the forty so thus cleared the bushes of their nights' tenancy.

When Buck was again awake, he rose calmly and concentrated on a simple order of daily morning rituals, the morning news, light exercise then a coffee, shower and shave, a little work on his kitchen table. Dreams and their gaudiness were enjoyable, so long as they remained below the covers, it didn't do to have his pleasure at a rich dark hot cup of morning coffee penetrated by monkey chatter from an alien ocean; the coffee was instant and Buck was not a coffinista; it didn't trouble him, everyone has a snobbery, Buck was no exception, only coffee wasn't it; when it came to coffee, Buck was a grand egalitarian, refusing neither instant nor espresso, 1, 3, 7 or 13 millibars were not important, Bialleti and Mr. Bunn were both his friends. Coffee sweet, black or creamy, fit every mood, suited every occassion.

It didn't do to have it interrupted.

My name is Buck, my nickname is Buck. It's now the weekend and I'm sitting in a quiet corner at the back of the darkest, smallest coffee place in the city. I'm sitting with new friends, the conversation turns to family and history. Moe works the desk across from mine, he's just told me he was named after his Grandfather.

My parents called me Buck after my Grandfather too. He was old a long time before he died. I was told I knew my great-grandfather when I was a baby. I've forgotten him now. I haven't forgotten my Grandfather. He owned two WW I era motorcycles, bought new, sold before I was old enough to ride them. One day he had a minor accident with a car and put them up for sale the very next day.

Moe feels a drink coming on, I agree, we excuse ourselves from the rest, I wish Susan and Janice a good night, wave to Mickey and Frank and Betty at the bar and Moe and I go gently into that good night.

Years later, I would remember the hanging icicles by the broken air conditioner working madly to cool the already cold night air, bothering to tell someone seemed a waste of time, the stars winked naughty love poetry and Moe was drinking smoke and breathing single malt by the time we hid behind the dumpsters while the beat officers did their rounds.

Tumbling down the stairs to our maddest basement Jazz bar, The Angry Diamond, where an unaccompanied Pianst was hammering the keys to ecstasy beyond pain and his tip jar was spilling and the stink of girls and spunk and sawdust ate the walls and Moe and I lost sight of each other and while the music rapped our minds we paid no notice to anything else. The lights dimmed further and the pianist made it so furious the music ate the colour and shape of the world and I felt it assume total command, the magic in the music was the music in me; only there was no me.

A totality.

Waking up. where was I? Afraid to open my eyes yet, under my breath, I shaped the words again in my mind and on my lips; where was I? It didn't feel like my bed, there was somebody beside me, I felt certain. My body ached, hangovers always began with the body, eyelids were allowed to open, a ceiling fan which certainly wasn't mine spun lazy circles on the ceiling, I looked beside me, expecting Moe.

It wasn't Moe, it was the Pianist from last night, someone had shot a neat hole straight through his forehead then turned his lifeless eyes to face me on the bed.

I shuddered, no point looking for the pistol with my fingerprints left, no doubt, under the bed.

Had my cell phone been taken? Yes of course it had, I realized I would have to get out of bed, climbing over the foot of the bed and hopping as far as I could away from it, taking the least likely path the crooks could have taken hoping some uncontaminated evidence remained. No telephones had been left in what was now obviously some mungy hotel room. I draped the door handle with toilet paper (thankfully there was some) and having checked the peephole, I eased it open and stood with only my head around the frame and hollered. "Police, hey, somebody call the cops."

A cleaner heard me and I convinced him to call the Police before he heard my story. Now it was a matter of standing in the doorway and having my P.I. investigator number ready. Since the crooks had taken my wallet, I'd have to rely on memory for the 9 digit code.

I sighed. What a weekend.