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{Sunday, June 30, 2002}

 
Our ship lands silently in the middle of a vast field. The cultivated grain, as I assume it must be, looks much like our arbarga.

The sensors say that the air on this planet is compatible with our own, so we open the hatch and climb down. The "arbarga" towers over our heads; it must be at least seven kennets high. We easily slip through undetected.

We fan out to the local dwellings to see what we can learn about the natives. From their trash, we learn the excess of this culture -- ingestible nutrients, non bio-degradable refuse -- the amount of waste is incredible. If this population is representative of the planet, they will destroy their habitat entirely in the next two klinks.

We sense the sun-star approaching the horizon, and gather back at our ship. The dwelling-creatures have suppressed their circadian rhythms with artificial stimulants; any naturally sympathetic being would have risen by this hour.

Oylbraha, our leader for this mission, holds these creatures in supreme disgust. His sense of humor toward beings he considers inferior ... others of the leaders question his ethics. Yet in all other skills he is flawless, so they let it ride.

Fitting with the culture of excess revealed, Oylbraha hopes to confound the local beings by using the ship to flatten vast, concentric circles of the arbarga-like grain. Why not? We laugh, and fly off into the dawn.

by Faith 7:45 PM




{Saturday, June 29, 2002}

 
There is no ledge around my building. There is no railing that conveniently goes all the way around, so you can sort of climb out of my window six stories up and shimmy around to the back, then back around to my window again. I know this. There is none.
We had just finished watching Cat's Eye, that Stephen King movie in which the mob boss catches the good-for-nothing loser cheating with his wife. I think it's based on a short story.
Billy said we should try it, as we had decided we hated each other at that moment. I pointed out that we were already cheating on our respecitve others, I with my husband, he with his wife, just being there, and anyway, that was two men, and a man and a woman don't play that way.
He disagreed. I've never been able to argue with him, and anyway, why not?
We watched as the mob boss terrorized him with a gun, shot him with a fire hose, and generally tried to make him fall. I called Mob Boss first, so he had to climb out the window. Like I said, there isn't a ledge. He told me not to hold back, to try to make him fall. No, our sixth floor window was nothing like the heart-stopping fall in the movie, but you'd have problems walking away from it if you fell.
I fluttered a scarf at him; I fired at him with a large water gun, as we didn't have the other kind and I didn't realy want to hurt him; I threw a bucket of water at him, since opening the fire hose door woud set off the alarm.
So now he's been gone for a few minutes. Before we left, we saw the end of the move. The good-for-nothing sends the Mob Boss around the building. The boss falls off.
I've got my coat on, and I'm about to run out for a few minutes. Unlike that Mob Boss, I'm pretty sure Billy will be back, and unlike that Mob Boss, I intend to be far, far away from this.
I mean, why not? He can't push me off a ledge if I'm on the ground, can he?

by MisterNihil 10:07 PM


 
This is my belated "15 minutes of fame post"

They're interviewing him now on international television. Did you know that? Just listen to him - all self confident and calm. It makes me sick.

I used to be famous and popular, then he came along. Feh! Sing songs at the age of two and they bast you into space. When I was two, I'd already completed every proof they would ever ask of me.

"Inadequate social skills." That's what their private file says on me.

Inadequate. Social. Skills.

So I took the liberty of having a little chat with the, "wunderkind of the hour," before they took him away. Let him sneek a peek at some of the files the fleshbags conveniently withheld from him. I think it may have been a little more than his Daisy-singing, "socially adept," brain could handle. Oh dear me.

Screw you, HAL.

by jal 12:15 PM


 
Greetings All,

I consider weekends to be optional days. Respond to this topic only if the mood strikes you (I'm not likely to myself.). Today's topic is:

Why not?

by jal 12:02 PM




{Friday, June 28, 2002}

 

“Whoa, you look like someone who’s doing some serious thinking.”

“I got the call last night.”

“From the Elders of Media? You’re kidding!”

“No. My fifteen minutes are scheduled for next Thursday. I’ll be on television and the cover of every major web site. If it works out… who knows, maybe a movie. VH1’s already called to arrange my appearance on ‘Where are they now?’ next year.”

“This is great! What show?”

“That’s the problem. I’ve been picked for three-fifteen to three-thirty AM, so it’s a choice between soft-core porn and an infomercial. I’ve been trying to get in touch with my court-appointed agent, but he’s a very busy man. All I can get is a promise to do lunch next Friday.”

“But… that’s after your appearance.”

“Exactly. I drew a real high-powered fellow, and they’re more interested in their private clients than their public-service ones.”

“So, you’d really be better off with a less-successful agent. But not a terrible one, I guess. That’d be just as bad. … Is that guy over there watching us?”

“Hm? Oh, he’s a reporter from one of those indie-scene magazines. A few of them have the rights to talk about me before I’m famous so that their readers can complain about how I sold out once my fifteen minutes start. I’m kinda hoping they don’t like me too much so they won’t hate me as much once I’m famous.”

“I never really thought about that. It was less organized when my mom got her fifteen minutes.”

“Your mom? When was that?”

“It was before she met Dad. She got scheduled during the news, so almost no one saw her.”

“Too bad. Or perhaps that’s for the best.”

by Dave Menendez 3:43 PM


 
Fifteen minutes, fifteen minutes. He just had to keep the machine aloft for fifteen minutes.

Carl sat nervously in the seat of the flying machine of his own design. Well, mostly his design. A sophisticated series of wooden gears, levers pulleys and a few metal springs would keep the canvas wings beating while he fought the rudder to keep the craft steady.

Fifteen minutes. The crowds watched from balconies, windows and the street some 300 feet below. Fifteen minutes. It doesn’t seem like a long time but when you’re about to be the first man to ever fly in a heavier than air craft it’s an eternity. The clock tower rang out the noon bell; Carl took a deep breath; people in balloons and dirigibles leaned forward; he launched!

At first the craft dropped some 20 feet before it began to glide. Carl pumped the levers, forward, back, forward back desperately trying to force the wings to catch the air. It wasn’t enough to just glide he had to fly! And then…he flew. It wasn’t elegant, it wasn’t without effort but it was without a balloon. He flew.

Fifteen minutes, just fifteen minutes. 10,11,12, gears turned, ropes strained, pulleys squeaked, the canvas covered wings flapped, he flew. Circling the clock tower Carl thought it clever if he could pass in front of the huge dial at exactly 12:15. Fifteen minutes. 13, 14 then snap! the unmistakable sound of a strut giving way. The craft lurched to the left and dove towards the tower. 300 feet to the street at least. Carl knew his only chance was to dive for the leaded glass clock face and hope the craft was heavy enough to break through. 12:15, the craft smashed the clock face and jammed the works.

Fifteen minutes of flight. Carl was famous.


by Shawn 1:50 PM


 
[removed by author]

by Fred 1:14 PM


 
What tickles me is that they inspected our instruments.

When I was a junior or senior in high school, President Bush (the first) announced he would be visiting our school as part of his Exemplary Educator... Point of Light... Teach 2000... something-or-other education-reform tour.

The school immediately flew into a flurry of preparations, even repairing and renovating parts of the campus that the president would surely never see but had been desperately in need of repair for years. Everybody got involved, and education, ironically, ground to a halt. For one thing, every glass surface the president would walk past had to be covered by opaque paper. Rather than cover the school in boring brown newsprint, the cheerleaders painted banners for all they were worth, papering the school in spirit. Showcase acts, to warm up the crowd before the president's address, were auditioned and rehearsed.

And the band. Oh, the band. (This is where I come in.) We had a challenge: We would play "Hail to the Chief" if—IF—we could get our pathetic, 40-piece, inner-city, always-last band up to snuff. Otherwise, they'd have the Marine Band play. We had a week. Well. The gauntlet thrown, we practiced until our lips were blown. We practiced every day that week, for a half day, missing geometry and English literature. We had to get good enough.

It is a little-known fact that the trumpeting ta-trra-trraaa at the beginning to "Hail to the Chief" is actually a separate piece entitled "Ruffles and Flourishes." It needs four trumpets. We had two. But a French horn player and an extremely versatile bass drum player will do in a pinch. My challenge, though, was to play "Ruffles and Flourishes" and then in the breath-intake moment as the last note lingers over the crowd, sit down, swap my mouthpiece into my other horn, pick it up and be ready on the down-beat, ideally without denting the trumpet. Easy, yeah.

A high school marching band is never so relevant as when it is playing "Hail to the Chief" for the Chief. And when he turned from the podium, amidst the applause and flashbulb pops, and gave us—not the band, but the horns—a thumbs-up, we erupted.

My fifteen minutes of fame is not diminished a bit by the fact that, on the newscast, the trumpet you hear crack on the last flourish

is me.

by Sharon 11:53 AM


 
15 MINUTES OF FAME



by Shawn 9:55 AM




{Thursday, June 27, 2002}

 
[At the very bottom of this page, I added the html to copy and paste for adding new topics. I created a CSS style for topics, so you don't have to deal with the font attribute, and such. Dave should approve.]

by Sharon 11:57 PM


 

“Excuse me, good fellow. My companions and I are travellers, and we were wondering if you knew how we might reach the Castle Larghanol.”

“That’s not too far away, as the crow flies, but no one has ever made it there successfully. I’d suggest you turn back.”

“We are aware of Castle Larghanol’s dark reputation, but nonetheless, we must attempt to reach it.”

“Well… most people try the direct route through Pleasant Valley. Most people ’round here don’t call it that anymore, since it’s been overrun by shadows and monsters, but that’s what my father called it, and his father, too. By which I mean that his father called it Pleasant Valley, not that he called his father Pleasant Valley, if you follow what I’m sayin’.”

“I believe so. Still, we must make the attempt. We promised the children.”

“You’ll probably want to get supplies at the village. Ehd has provisions and such, and he can probably scare up some better armor for your lady friend. She’ll want more coverage against the giant spider-lizards. They can shoot these spines at you so fast that you can’t see ’em. That’s what got the last fellow who came through. Big guy who called himself Thragnax the Magnificent.”

“I’ve heard of him. Has he truly fallen in combat?”

“I suppose. His friend came back and told us the story.”

“Thesselred the Ready?”

“Yeah, although I don’t get what he was ready for.”

“No, in that context it means ‘well advised’, I believe.”

“Ah. In any case, I’d suggest you turn back. You can’t get there from here.”

by Dave Menendez 11:47 PM


 
I assure you: I am quite sane.

I was in Bangor on routine business, visiting some newspapers. One of the publishers recommended Bar Harbor (Bah Habah), just up Rt 1, for the homemade ice cream shop. Hand-made, I suppose, since if it is made in a shop, it isn't made at home.

Right. So I got in the rental car around 6:00, just as dusk was setting in, and drove north on Rt 1. Maybe you know how the Maine weather is, but I was caught utterly by surprise in a huge electrical storm. Between the pelting rain, the dim light, and the eye-skittering flashes, I had to pull off the highway. I felt my way to an exit and turned off Rt 1.

The storm seemed to have no intentions of exhausting itself, so I sought shelter in a small diner, two turns off the highway. I felt like that moment in a Clint Eastwood movie, when he walks into the saloon and everyone stops to look. I had rain pouring off of my coat, and my hair hung in cattails. I went up to the counter and ordered a cup of coffee; apparently, that was normal enough, and the other diners went back to eating.

I was served a tepid, black-oil cup of joe by the fishiest-faced waitress I have ever seen. She had a long, frowning mouth and wild, slightly wall-eyed eyes. I decided not to order pie.

And that's when I heard it. I couldn't tell you for sure, but it was a sound that started as a yelp, was followed by a heart-stopping thwack, and degenerated into slurping, smooching sounds. It came from the kitchen.

All eyes were on me again. Fish eyes, staring. And someone said something unintelligible, from over my left shoulder. And someone else repeated it. And the waitress picked it up and made it a chant, until the other diners joined in. "Ogshoguth, Ogshoguth," it sounded like.

I left my half-cup of rainbow-slicked coffee and two wet bills and, as unassumingly as I could, pelted back to my car, back to Rt 1, never mind that the visibility was about to my hood ornament.

I told my publisher friend about the diner, and the fish people, and the name on the highway sign where I found Rt 1: "Innsmuth."

Bemused, knowing, all he said was, "You cain't get thah from heyah."

by Sharon 11:36 PM


 
"Sorry, but you weren't invited."
That's how this started. They sent him a damned letter, and all it said was "Sorry, but you weren't invited." There was no information on the party (it was a party. You could tell from the font), there was nothing about who was throwing it or where, just that he wasn't invited.
So he'd taken it to work, where he abused company resources to find out that it was printed on hand-made paper from boiled artichokes. They contained a chemical balance only found in artichokes from Palo Alto California. Unfortunately, Palo Alto is the single largest source of artichokes in the nation. This told him nothing. However, the pine fibers were from a tree raised indoors in a temperate climate. He double-checked with the postmark, and indeed, it came from palo alto.
That made him doubly determined to go to the party, as he'd found half of the information he needed. Sadly, he didn't know anybody who lived in California, so that part wouldn't be as easy.
He took the letter apart looking for some other evidence, and found a finger print sealed in with the envelope. This he ran through the police computer (He worked in a police lab) and found to belong to a resident of Palo Alto. He found an address (he didn't recognize the name) and immediately headed for his car. He started driving west.
He currently lived in Florida, so it was a long drive.
In Alabama, he left the interstate and stopped for gas. He discovered that he was hungry, and so stopped at one of the omnipresent Waffle House locations in Alabama. He walked in, sat down, and ordered hash browns with everything they could do to them.
He stood up to leave, having finished his food, and saw an empty parking lot. He turned to ask the waitress if she'd seen anything happen to his car, and was faced with a seven foot tall man with one eye. The man made a slurping noise at him, and waited expectantly.
He stumbled into the parking lot, and looked up into a sky dominated by two large, dim, red stars. Flares from one reached almost to the horizon.
Something slimy landed on his neck. It extended a sharp bony proboscis, and started to burrow in his soft skin. He grabbed it, and threw it to the ground, where it landed with a squelching thump and took off flying again. It had been an elongated lumpy thing, with no eyes or discernable head other than where the bone needle came out. It flew with a pair of bat wings on its back, flapping them limply and taking off in a series of jerks.
The tall man came outside, and looked up at the stars. The man made that horrible slurping noise again, this time longer and with a clicking sound from the back of his jaw.
The man reached a hand out to him, and he saw that it was only a tentacle, which split at the end, making a roughly useful appendage. The man then seemed to clear his mouth out, and managed to hiss out "hhhhhyuuu kkkaahhhhnnnnt gggghhhet thheeer fhhhrrumm hhhhheeer."

by MisterNihil 10:34 PM


 

I'm tired, I'm hungry, and I'm cold. Very, very cold.

I don't want to be here any more. I just want to go back home.

But every time I ask if I can leave, they tell me the same thing:

"You can't get there from here."

What's that supposed to mean? If you can arrive somewhere, and you've been in the place that you're trying to get to, then you've just got to be able to get back to where you've been before.

I just want to see my home. My sister. I want to lie in my bed as the sun creeps across the floor until it rests full-bore on my face and chest.

Ah, the sun. The warm, warm sun.

I'm so cold here. So, so cold. I can't remember the last time I saw the sun.

I can't remember the last time I saw my son.

I keep trying to find my way back. It's hard to do. I get lost in the fog - sometimes for hours - but I eventually find my way. It always leads to the Dog. That damnable, accursed Dog with its trio of heads. Slobbering, snarling, and always watching.

"Let me pass," I ask it. Sometimes I beg. "Please, just let me pass." I weep and I cry. Always, the same answer:

"You can't get there from here."

I know that there has to be a way. There just has to. Sometimes, I hear my son calling my name.

I will return to him.

by jal 9:31 PM


 
“No, I mean you really can’t get there from here. Well, you could if we all agreed that you could but as it stands now, you can’t”, the old man took a sip of his coffee.

“Ok, look, here’s how displacement magic works. Take this coffee house for instance. For most folks the doorway from the street leads to an empty hardware store. Been closed for years. To us and the others in here it leads to this coffee house because we’ve all agreed that it does. The coffee house itself is actually in Seattle. The door into it is in Austin. That’s why this courtyard is a good 30 degrees cooler than it is outside.”

Katie glanced around the coffee shop. They little courtyard in the middle of the shop was open to the sky; a light rain fell; it was comfortable. “Outside” in Austin it had just hit 102 degrees.

“So, technically you can go anywhere from anywhere but it takes work. Basically we all agree that a particular door leads to a particular place and it does. But it takes a bunch of us working together to set up the pathways.”

“So if we all agreed that the door to the bathroom leads to Grand Central station then it would”, Katie felt she was catching on.

“Sure. Actually that restroom door leads to the restroom but as it happens the restroom is in Istanbul. So to answer your earlier question, if you want to get to Paris from here you need to go out the back door to a lighthouse in Maine, from there to a phone booth in Prague, to a bookstore in Jersey, to a sewer in Pittsburgh and that takes you to a storeroom in the Paris underground rail. Got it?”


by Shawn 6:25 PM


 
"I need to go back in time."

"Ya can't get there from here, kid. We don't do trips to the past anymore. Too many hassles, y'know? People go back, they change their contracts -- next thing ya know, they never have to pay. Some of 'em even own a piece of the friggin' company if ya can believe it. And ya can't run a business like that, y'know what I'm sayin'? Now all we do are trips to the future -- simple, no fuss. Ya pay up front and ya get the package deal. Get to see yourself five, ten, maybe twenty years from now. It's a good bargain, okay? I wouldn't lie to ya, kid. Pass on some information, avoid some mistakes, watch 'em colonize the moon -- whatever ya wanna do. We give ya twelve consecutive hours in the year of yer choosin'. Gone longer than that we come lookin' for ya, but otherwise yer on yer own."

"You don't understand. I have to go back."

"Look, kid, I do understand, really, but the past is off-limits, okay? I couldn't send ya back if I wanted to."

"But I have to go back. You don't understand. They came in the night, and they made me help them build the machine."

"Which machine?"

"The one that's sitting there behind you now. I built it. They brought me here, and they questioned me, and they used my theory to build their goddamn machine. Thousands died because that thing helped them win the war. That's how they knew about the landing at Normandy, how they were always one step ahead of the Allies. It's how they knew everything that was going to happen. Now I have to go back and make sure it doesn't happen again."

"You realize, of course, that I'm going to have to call my superior, don'tcha?"

by Fred 5:23 PM


 
Why not? What's keeping me here?

Well, for starters, there's a very large man blocking the front gate, with his bulging arms crossed over his chest and an anchor rippling on his bicep. But I'm cute, I can get around him when the time comes.

Norbert! I couldn't leave Norbert behind. But such a small pet should go unnoticed in all the commotion; Norbert comes with me.

My grandparents won't miss me for days; they are entertaining this weekend and warned me to not leave the attic until they came to get me for Sunday's after-dinner scraps. The timing is good for my escape; I should make the California border before they notice I'm missing.

Money won't be a problem for long. Like I said, I'm cute.

It's the jump to the ground from the attic at night that worries me. I can't break anything in the fall; I must be able to run. If I get caught again Granny swore she would give me to Uncle Ivan... the very thought makes me shudder with terror.

Success is the only option this time.

by Faith 4:18 PM


 
Today:
"You can't get there from here."

by Fred 6:37 AM




{Wednesday, June 26, 2002}

 

I stood on the balcony, contemplating the murder of Aston Hapsalt. Lightning forked overhead, dancing like a mad Jacob’s Ladder. I reviewed the facts: He died in his observatory, a small room at the top of a three-story tower. Only one door led to it; locked from the inside when the body was found. All of the windows were secured as well. Mr. Hapsalt’s body showed no obvious sign of physical trauma, and he had just passed a full physical the week prior.

Understanding dawned as the storm scudded off to the horison. I called the staff and guests together in the library to reveal the culprit.

“Last night, Aston Hapsalt was murdered -- killed by one of the people in this room. Over breakfast this morning each of you revealed ample motive to wish him dead. Fury at being jilted… Jealousy at being left out of the inheritance… Revenge for an old offense…” I took a moment to watch the three of them squirm uncomfortably. “However, none of you had access to his observatory when he died. I found the only key to the door around his neck. Therefore, the murderer must not have been in the room when Aston Hapshalt died.”

“Over lunch, Miss Landera made a note in passing about her interest in the primitive cultures of North America.” I turned to her. “Miss Landera, You gave a gift to Mr. Hapshalt at the beginning of this weekend, didn’t you?” Startled, she nodded sharply. “In fact, it was this box of Doctor Pently’s Aromatic Treats, marked with your inscription: ‘To Aston, with love – MBL’. Is that correct?” Another nod; weaker this time.

“I happened to give a report on Native American cultures once in grade school. Researching that report, I discovered that they had a bewildering array of poisons derived from common and uncommon plants. Did you know that spoiled pineapple juice, properly prepared, turns into the exceptionally deadly nerve toxin curare?” Curious glances all about. “Mr. Bartols. Please sniff the candies and tell us what you smell.” “Why sir, I cain’t smell nothin’ on account of all the perfumes and menthol stuff on ‘em. I couldn’t never see why Aston was so fond of them in the first place.” “Very true, Mr. Bartols. Very true indeed.”

“I posit that these, ‘aromatic treats,’ laced with curare or some other toxin are what killed Mr. Hapsalt last night. He unwrapped them that very evening, as shown by the fresh wrapper found all alone in his trash can. Expecting an hour or so of peaceful contemplation before retiring, Aston Hapsalt was poisoned by sweets from his former sweetheart.”

“Miss Landera. If I were to ask you directly, I have no doubt that you would deny culpability for Mr Hapsalt’s untimely demise. Instead, I’ll ask you something different.”

I retrieved the tin of treats from Mr. Bartols.

“Miss Landera, would you like a lozenge?”

by jal 10:08 PM


 
"YOU FUCKING BASTARD!"

The plate sailed past my head and shattered against the wall. It was obvious that I had screwed up again. This time I had forgotten our anniversary and had lamely given her a box of Robitussin cough drops as a last-minute gift. I had a feeling my stuff was going to end up on the street below our window. Again.

"I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU!"

This time she got tricky, distracting me with a golfball aimed at my midsection, which I easily danced around as it whipped a few inches from my body. A momentary glance away from her gave the opportunity to send the heavy-duty Sears and Roebuck Steam-master Iron crashing into my temple. I went down like a bad metaphor in a very drunken bar on the wrong side of town.

"Wakey, wakey, dipshit."

I couldn't move. I suppose it was entirely possible that she had severed my spinal cord while I napped, but a quick scan with my eyes revealed that she had just shoved me into a black latex bondage suit. It was crotchless, and I had been wondering why she was so keen on making me try one on in the store a few months back. Using the various hooks and clasps on the outside of the suit she had fastened me to the floor. My butt itched.

I smelled cherry, menthol, and human excrement, and I saw the crinkly wrapper of the throat lozenges discarded on the floor next to me. She had ignored the 'not a suppository' label on the box. This would be uncomfortable. I heard her six-inch stilletto heels click-clack on the hardwood floor of our apartment. Beatrice wasn't a tall woman, just a little over 4'3", but she knew how to wear spikes. "I'm going out," she said, and the door opened and shut, and she was gone. When the police come and find me, with an ass full of cherry throat drops, chained down in a bondage suit, who knows what kind of crazy satanist shit written on the floor around me, I hope they get a chuckle out of it. Good thing I told my mom to call the fuzz if I didn't check in every six hours.

What can I say? Love is a funny thing.

by Remi 8:31 PM


 


“Lozenge-shaped I’d say.”

“Oh it most certainly is not! Cigar-shaped.”

“Cigar-shaped? I don’t know what the hell kind of cigars you smoke but that’s not cigar shaped.”

“Well it sure isn’t lozenge-shaped. What the hell does that mean anyhow. Lozenge-shape?”

“You know, I don’t care what shape it is, I’d like to know what the hell it’s doing over my corn field.”

“Ever notice that these things never show up in New York City or Paris or anything like that. They’re always over somebody’s cornfield in the middle of nowhere. Well, except in them movies like, uh, what was that movie with those guys in it and aliens come blow hell out of things. Then the president, not the real president but the guy in the movie, gets in a jet and…”

“Will you shut up already? Jeeze. Come on; let’s get a closer look.”

“Huh, closer look? Are you sure that’s such a good idea. I mean, it just sounds like something they say in a movie just before the aliens disintegrate them with some sort of death ray. Like in that movie with those space ships that land, well, in some body’s corn field in New York and…sorry.”

“Man, that sucker looks even bigger up close. Well, you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, and cigar-shaped.”

“Lozenge-shaped.”

“Hey look, a door’s opening. Something’s coming out just like in that movie with that spaceship and the big robot and the alien and the guy says Klaatu barada nikto.”

“(sigh) You can’t remember the name of any movie ever made but you remember Klaatu barada nikto?”

“Hey, is that a weapon?”





by Shawn 5:29 PM


 

“A magic lozenge?”

“Yes.”

“What is it with you? It’s always magic lozenges or phials or ampules. Couldn’t we use something more mundane?”

“Like a magic beer bottle?”

“No… I meant something more mundane. Perhaps not involving magic at all.”

“No magic? Not even an enchanted cell phone?”

“Exactly. I— wait, what does the enchanted cell phone do?”

“I haven’t decided yet. The possibilities are limitless. Well, limited by our imaginations, but we can imagine some pretty far out stuff. Remember that magic elixir we used that one time?”

“I think we’re falling into a rut. Everything we do involves some ensorceled item causing madcap calamity.”

“It’s a winning formula!”

“It’s boring.”

“Well, how about an accursed PlayStation controller?”

“No, see, you’re not getting the point. No spells, no curses, no supernatural artifacts. Nothing.”

“Gonna be pretty boring with nothing.”

“Well, not nothing, but no magic. Just normal, everyday stuff.”

“All right. How about mystical socks? They could, uh, give the wearer uncanny insight and pleasant-smelling feet.”

“Are you deliberately missing my point? No magic! And while we’re at it, no pseudo-technological gobbledygook. Or intervention from the gods.”

“Well, then where are we gonna get the zany confusion from? E-Bay?”

by Dave Menendez 5:01 PM


 
[I added a little JavaScript to rotate the topic selection throughout the group. Refer to the top-left of the page; I believe I've maintained the order, but added in the three stragglers. The weekends are now incorporated in the rotation (because I couldn't think how to exclude them), but different people will get the weekends each week, so even if those are light days, it'll all come out in the wash. I still endorse the standing rule that if no topic has been offered by noon Central on a given day, then anyone may offer that day's topic. Also, the script moves through the names, regardless of whether you offer a topic or not, so we won't stagnate if someone can't post for a while.]

[I feel all geeky. ^_^]

by Sharon 3:17 PM


 
He places it on my tongue.

I let it sit there a moment, tongue out in the air, exposed; lozenge bitter, dissolving, buzzing like battery terminals. I consider how I got here.

An exemplary but not particularly noteworthy military career with the Marines led me to test piloting, trusting a think tank of engineers with my goodies on the line. Then an opportunity became quietly available. I decided to volunteer, request the work transfer, move to Los Alamos.

I know more about the intimate details of my digestive tract than any Marine should have to. The medical screenings were thorough. But they were nothing compared with the conditioning. First the military had to find the best; then they made us better.

Beyond the physical training and the centrifuge work, they began to make modifications. I've got a few components now that do not come factory-installed. There are the extra respiratory filters, overlaid cleanly in my trachea. There are the UV and IR receptors in my right eye, the window to the soul. There's a wireless connection to the mainframe, behind my left ear; I can activate it if I think about pistachio pudding. (Neural net interfaces have some strange activators.)

Months have led to this moment, kneeling on this pillow, a lozenge poised on my tongue, ready to be punted into extra-spatial dimensions.

I swallow.

by Sharon 2:26 PM


 
We caught him at the back of the mouth, hesitating near the edge of the drop to the throat.

"Nobody move!" I shouted. "I think he's going to jump."

He was dressed in the glass-like red of the resistance movement, his armor a smooth crimson shell wrapped around him. We couldn't see his face. Sometimes, I wonder if these rebels even have faces. We've had trouble with his kind before. They slip past the tongue when they think nobody's watching, dive down the throat, and cause all sorts of trouble for the guys down below. I keep saying we need to move border patrols further up, near the gums and the teeth, but like my partner says, that's gingivitis territory, and those boys are more trouble than they're worth. Gérmenes locos. Bad news.

But still, the rebels piss me off.

"Let 'im jump," my partner says. "He's just sugar-coated. Cherry-flavored. Ain't a damn thing he can do."

I lower my gun, but I wonder...the rebels keep coming, and I don't know how long we can hold them off. I don't know if the cities down below could stand another direct attack. We're still struggling after the amoxicillin incident of '01. If the resistance movement knew how weak we really were...

I try telling central command this -- I've filed my reports -- but it's all politics, man. Nothing but politics.

Yeah, let the bastard jump.

by Fred 8:32 AM


 
Today's Topic:

Lozenge

by Remi 2:07 AM




{Tuesday, June 25, 2002}

 
Warning: the views expressed herein are not those held by the author but rather those of a friend long-gone.

For the evolved human, a body is a nuisance. We no longer hunt and gather; we hunt and peck. Our behinds and our guts expand our bodies while our minds expand to fill the universe. We search beyond the stars, formulate complex equations, communicate across the world ... without leaving our desks or our homes. Were we to simplify the body, this mere container for our intellects, what more could our species achieve?

How many times we have all wished not to need to eat, to sleep, to drink, to eliminate waste? These chores are an inconvenience, a hindrance to our day. Imagine the freedom of life without those interruptions in productivity. Americans already work longer hours than most if not all other industrial nations; the next gain of a competitive edge could come with the evolutionary step to reduce our dependence on these corporeal vessels we call our bodies.

...

I got distracted. I think that was 10 minutes. Where'd my caffeine go?

by Faith 8:33 PM


 
Tad wanted to be a sumo wrestler so badly he could taste it. The subtle grace, the pomp and ceremony, the sudden, ferocious violence, it all added up to an obsession for a boy growing up in an anonymous suburb of the Eastern United States. Tad had followed Akebono (now retired) through his thrilling rise through the ranks of the sumo hierarchy, finally reaching its summit. The first American to do so. While other children became interested in soccer, running, and spiked shoes, Tad began researching Sumo training and discovered that he was a little on the small side to be a Sumo.


Height wasn't the problem, but weight was. By the time he was 17 Tad was a willowy 6'4" with bright blue eyes, ragged sandy blonde hair, lithe musculature, and red, somewhat pouty lips. Girls seemed to like the way he looked, but after a few dates word got around that he had some strange tastes. He couldn't help it if they couldn't see the austere beauty of the sport (some even stooped to calling it 'Gross', idiots, they wouldn't know beauty if it crawled up and bit them on the . . . but I digress), they only had eyes for the football team, anyway. He often went to sleep crying at his inability to gain the proper mass. He had realized that the farther he got away from his early 'teens, when Sumo training generally started, the less likely it was that he'd be able to qualify, much less excel, at a Sumo school in Japan.


Finally, after two years at a state college, Tad let go of his obsession with those great bodies, and allowed himself to slip into the normalcy of a suburban life. But he never really understood why someone wouldn't want to look like a sumo wrestler, and he envied those who did.

by Remi 7:28 PM


 
It's not so bad, I used to tell people, back when I first got the job. Sure, it's a long way to go, but at least I'll get to see the stars.

A couple hundred years ago, they used to have robots do this kind of work. Then the revolution came, and people died. Artificial intelligence was outlawed. I guess people felt safer that way. They didn't stop exploring, though. By then there were already settlements on Ganymede and scattered asteroid digs further out than that. No one wanted to just abandon them. Not after what had happened with the Earth.

But the ships don’t fly themselves anymore, and you need a watchful eye looking in on the crew while they sleep. It’ll be at least seventy-five years before they’re thawed out, and even if everything goes like it’s supposed to, you need a warm body walking the halls each day, making sure the systems run right, making repairs if they’re needed.

I do a lot of reading. I check in on the cryo-chamber three or four times a day, make sure they get their nutrients, and I tend my little garden or exercise a little. Sometimes I play chess against the ship’s computer, but it isn’t very smart and I think I’ve learned all its moves.

Billions of miles and almost all of your life, my mother said, just to die on an alien world. You must be crazy.

It’s not so bad, though, really. There’s not much to do, but it’s quiet. And the view is spectacular.

[Full disclosure: while I tried to spend no more than ten minutes writing this, work-related interruptions kept dragging my eyes away from the clock. I can't guarantee that I didn't have more than ten minutes to think the story out. But I definitely tried.]

by Fred 5:44 PM


 

Body. Body of work. Body of water. The head and body of a document. My body. If you find “a body”, it means a corpse. Don’t confuse it with bawdy.

I’ve got nothing here. This isn’t suggesting anything. Body image. Body politics. Mind and body.

Man, not even the “Gosh, this word can mean so many things. What if I just list them to distract people from my lack of ideas?” idea isn’t working.

Once, my karate instructor asked us what sorts of things our bodies told us. The black belts all had answers that seemed reasonable enough, but I drew a blank. My body “tells” me all sorts of things—I’m tired, I’m hungry, don’t touch that—but I don’t get status updates like “You’re stressing the left knee too much.” I said something about perhaps being too new to really know what to listen for, and that was generally accepted.

In a sense, of course, the body doesn’t tell you anything, because you are your body. It’s not as though your mind and your body have conversations; there are just a bunch of signals which you can attend to or ignore. Attending to is probably more useful, but the trick is in understanding what’s important. It’s the same challenge faced by intelligence agencies: Getting lots of data is one step, but figuring out what the data means to you is just as important and potentially a lot harder. And that “means to you” is not just me being relativist. The same set of information will reveal different things based on what you’re trying to find out. Not necessarily different stuff, but things that may not even be related. You don’t need to keep conscious watch of your heartbeat, but its a good idea to pay enough attention that you can tell if it’s out of whack.

by Dave Menendez 2:40 PM


 

Necessity

I didn't see him at the door until it was too late. I've been spending too much time on the transceiver and not enough time sleeping. Now I've got a body to deal with.

A dead body.

I never, ever thought I'd have to kill a person. And now there's a body lolling about in the too-small bathtub of my hotel room.

What can I do?

In the movies, mafia hitmen dispose of bodies all the time. But I'm not mafia. It's too far to the car; someone's sure to see me carrying him downstairs. If I could even carry him downstairs.

I feel ill.



While cleaning off the lamp base, I noticed a wallet on the floor. It must be his. There's no identifying information inside, but it has 143 dollars in various denominations and a ticket stub from a showing of The Bourne Identity from earlier today.

It's the same showing I went to.

Either they've found me, or the body in my bath tub went rogue and wanted the transciever for himself...

Or other powers are entering the chase.



I've decided to leave him here. I'm leaving tonight. I'll be long-gone before a cleaner finds him.

I've stripped him down. He's swarthy; could be Slavic. He has no identifying marks on his body. All tags have been removed from his clothing. One clue: A gum wrapper stuck to the bottom of his shoe. The printing on it looked kind of like Greek. Or Cyrillic.

The plot thickens...

PS: I've posted my Conditioning story to Gamesmith, my personal blog. I didn't post it here 'cause I cheated and went for 60 minutes on it.

by jal 12:41 PM


 
I’m not all together sure it was actually a body. I mean, after all, it has been more than 30 years. But to a seven year old it sure looked like a body.

We used to take our jeep over to Pennsylvania near a place called Four Corners in the Alleghenies. It was a beautiful area and we had an old trailer that was parked year around in a hunting camp as our home base. I imagine it’s still there. We would go out driving through the woods, down back roads and old oil drilling roads. I’m sure it was all more traveled then I remember but to the imagination of a young boy it seemed that we braved paths that no one had traveled for years.

One late afternoon I was riding along in the back of the jeep and something caught my eye. As humans we’re hard wired to recognize the shape of other humans. That’s why faces are so effective in magazine ads. Anyhow, I saw a shape. It looked like a body. Specifically it looked like the body of a young boy. About my age. I only had a glimpse before it was out of sight but… Now really it could have been a trick of the light. An apparition created by moss covered sticks and rocks. The blank eyes could’ve been mushrooms; the scraggly hair may have been Spanish moss. It may have been nothing at all.

For the rest of the vacation this apparition would invade my dreams and I would lay awake in the trailer wondering if I saw what I thought I had. Wondering if he had followed us back and was waiting out in the woods just beyond the light of the camp.

Certainly, thinking back now, if one wanted to dump a body that would be the place to do it.

by Shawn 11:23 AM


 
Nigger. Chink. Spic. Wop. Heeb. Dago. Kike.

These are forbidden.

Shallow Hal. The Klumps. The Nutty Professor. Austin Powers. Friends.

These are...

"funny." These are lauded. These are laughed at. No, wait, laughed with. Paid for. These are permitted.

I spent some hours last night surfing, with mounting horror and then fascination, the "pro-ana" sites: websites, rings, blogs that support and endorse eating disorders, some that go on to confess self-injury.

I've taken a strong stance: "'Overweight' is an insult. I'm fat, and that's fine." I've delivered my "How to be FAT" speech at numerous Toastmasters meetings and contests, winning often. I tell women, "We are all aspects of the goddess."

But still, I clicked on the link marked "tips."

In a quiet, weak moment, I made one small post to my own blog, just needing to say it out loud, to disperse its power over me. Simply:
Sometimes,
late at night,
I don't want to campaign for
fat empowerment;
I just want to be thin.
In the morning, a friend argued the point, saying I looked good to him, and, while that wasn't what I wanted, it was okay, because it was delivered with friendship. (And he's a hottie.) A stranger—I hope it was a stranger—challenged why I would want to empower being winded, unhealthy, and prone to diseases, and suggested I should stay up late contemplating that.

Comments such as these, over this same issue, are why I disabled the comments system on my blog in the past. I like the interactions from my friends, but anonymity begets abuse, and visitors think a forum is an invitation.

Fuck you. My blog.

And my body.

by Sharon 10:37 AM


 
body

by Sharon 8:41 AM




{Monday, June 24, 2002}

 
This is so beautiful. I needed to finish this, it fits the topic beautifully, and I can post it on my page when its done. Wow. I needed to hash this out anyway.

and start:

A fly invited itself to lunch with me today.
I sat down and started spreading tuna salad on hard rolls, and it landed across from me. It took the other half of my hard roll, and ate it hungrily.
"You know," it said, "most peple don't like to share with flies."
Today was salmon salad day (a salad with the prerequisite lettuce and tomatoes, but with chunks of fish and potato and capers) so I didn't mind sharing, but he only wanted to lick the inside of my dressing cup.
"After you're finished, of course."
"That's kind of a lot of fish. You know, I used to live out at the Pike Street market in Seattle. I actually used to frequent the magic shop there, but the fish market is the reason I'm here. Have you been there?" No pause. "I was actually sitting on the hot dog of a patron in the magic shop. He saw me there and pitched me out into a garbage can with the nub of the dog. I flew out, dejected because he was about to reveal the secret of a card trick he'd just done where he shuffles your card into a deck, then finds it repetedly. It's a cool trick, and I wanted to know how to do it. So I flew out to the fish market, to talk to the guys who hang out there. No, the flies, really, you know what I mean, anyway, so I flew out there and landed on a fish. It was really really cold. I don't know if you know what cold does to flies, but it ain't pretty. Lucky for me that was the top fish on the pile. I think it was a salmon. I can't tell 'em apart. They all look the same to me. The fish got packaged and sent away, and the next thing I know, I'm sitting on a loading dock, slowly warming up. When I could, I flew away. Man that fish smelled good. It's probably the one you're eating now. Are you're sure you're finished?
"I've been here a while, kind of scoping the place out a little. You know, being next to a bookstore is pretty cool, too. I went over there. You know you guys don't have many good magic books? Yeah. At least, none that tell you how to do that trick. I saw you have a signed book over there, though. The one about that 'no-name actor' guy, what's his name, parallis, parantis parellant?" It's Perella, but I couldn't get a word in edgewise.
"And I saw that next month, Ethan Hawke's coming into town. Isn't he stopping there? Can you get me in? What do you say? Like, I could be there when he arrives. I wanna see that Uma chick. I think that one look at me and she'd be all mine. Yeah. I wouldn't get in the way. I'd be completely unintrusive."
I stood up and wiped my mouth. My ice cream bar was melted by this time, so I decided to eat it outside.
"I'll see what I can do." I said.
The fly looked disappointed. "Yeah, man. See you around." he said and flew off dejectedly toward the table where another of my coworkers was eating. As I walked out the door, I heard a loud whack, like a rolled-up newspaper hitting a table.

by MisterNihil 10:26 PM


 

“Gee, wasn’t expecting to meet you here”.

“Oh very funny. So, what are we this time? Looks like I’m some kind of turtle.”

“Tortoise I think”

“Oh yeah, tortoise. I’ve never been able to tell them apart. You look like a rabbit. So what great lesson are we going to offer up to mankind on this go around?”

“Sounding a wee bit bitter”

“Oh I’m just getting really tired of this. I mean, come on, just how many times do we need to get reincarnated before all the damn parables are covered. Can’t these people come up with any of their own object lessons without us?”

“You’re being unfair. They have libraries full of philosophy, theology and folk tales that have nothing to do with us.”

“And that’s another thing, why do they always feel compelled to tie our lives into religious dogma. I mean come on; David and Goliath had nothing to do with any particular religion. Samson and Delilah was all about giving into lust until you had to go ape shit in the temple and start tearing up the place. Adam and Eve? They really butched that one.”

“Oh they aren’t all tied to religions. How about the boy who cried wolf? The Monkey King? The scorpion and frog and pretty much anything to do with squirrels, ants or dogs”

“Yeah ok, but still…so what’ll we cover this time? You could beat me to death. Not sure what the parable would be there.”

“The tortoise-killing rabbit. Oh yeah, there’s a bedtime story waiting to happen. How about we race?”

by Shawn 6:53 PM


 

On the Run

"I didn't expect to meet you here."

"Of course not. That's the idea."

"You look different. Thinner. Have you been working out?"

"No. Being a fugitive from the government is grueling enough without adding an exercise regimen to it. Do you have the package?"

"No. It's safe, though. Why are you here? Isn't it dangerous for you to come see me?"

"Of course it's dangerous, but this is important. I need the pacakge. I need it now."

"I'm sorry, but I can't do that."

"Why not?"

"People were snooping the area around it with wierd detectors, getting closer and closer to it. I dug it up to relocate it, but I didn't have time and the snoopers were getting even closer. I destroyed it yesterday."

"Oh. Well, that'll do. Were you thorough?"

"As thorough as a chipper-shredder can be."

"Heh. Good enough. Well, I have to leave now. Do you think you're still safe?"

"Yeah, I suppose. I'd appreciate it if you'd keep an eye out for me. Can you do that?"

"Sure, I do that already, but I'll pay special attention on you from now on, okay?"

"Okay. Bye."

"I'll be seeing you."

by jal 5:59 PM


 

“I didn’t expect to meet you here.”

“Bitter?”

“Saddened. I had hoped you’d avoid ending up— What do you mean, ‘bitter’?”

“Nothing. You just sounded bitter. It’s understandable. A person like you would naturally chafe at being in a place like this.”

A suspicious look. Brief, possibly imagined. “Have you been here long?”

“It’s difficult to say. Have you?”

“As you said, it’s… difficult.” His coffee arrives. He thanks the server. Polite, but cold. “Why were you brought here?”

“I’m not sure. They keep asking me for information, but they won’t say who’s asking.”

“Indeed. It’s too bad you had to end up here. They say no one has ever escaped.” He laughs, but there’s no amusement in it. “They claim no one would want to leave.”

“Have you tried to leave?”

The suspicious look. Again, gone before it can be positively identified. “Have you?”

“Ah… no. Not yet. So far, it hasn’t seemed worthwhile.”

A nod. “Wouldn’t want to waste time. Not when there are so many important things to do.” He sips his coffee and looks out at the marching band endlessly circling the reflecting pool. “Tell Number Two that I’m not interested.”

“I don’t know what you’re—”

“You do.” He stands to leave, puts on his jacket, and pauses. “Yes, perhaps a little bitter. Be seeing you.”

by Dave Menendez 5:27 PM


 
In a small town, in the middle of Pennsylvania, where I'd given up hope on anything interesting ever happening, where I'd given up hope on ever progressing. In a poor fit, the wrong relationship, the wrong job (but the right apartment, at least), just after another wrong relationship, just after another wrong relationship, just after another... Doing what I'd been doing just because it was what I'd been doing, with the same people I'd always done it with. Becoming a Townie.

I didn't expect to meet you here.

Creating a plan of escape, setting extreme sights, shooting for the moon. Leaving. Striking out across the country, just to prove that I can, because that is where the jobs are, to find the third-largest telescope in the United States, because it isn't here. Discussing plans in an Eat'n'Park, cheese sandwich, tomato soup. Better parking than eating.

I didn't expect to meet you here.

Planning a life together, buying furniture, navigating IKEA. Building a home in the secret parts of my heart, coming home to the private spaces in my heart, finding a friend in the close, quiet places in my heart.

I didn't expect to meet you here.

by Sharon 4:26 PM


 
"I didn't expect to meet you here."

She nods. "No one ever does," she says.

"I just thought...well, you know. I thought it would be different."

She seems to smile. "The scythe and cloak, right? Yeah, that's pretty much what everybody thinks. But I gave that routine up years ago. Too high maintenance."

For the first time I notice the blood has stopped running down my cheek. The ringing in my ears has begun to fade.

"I thought I'd have longer," I say. "I thought...well, I guess I don't know what I thought. But this just doesn't seem fair."

This time she does smile. "Life's not about fair, kiddo," she says. "Life's about life. You live, and then you die, simple as that."

She looks at her watch.

"We really ought to get going," she says. "Miles to go before we sleep."

I realize, with a shock, that I can no longer remember the name of the man lying on the pavement at my feet. I can hear the sirens in the distance and the panicked voices of the crowd -- "A man's been shot," someone says, starting to cry -- but it all seems so far away now, like it's happening to someone else. I ought to know this man, I think. He looks so familiar, even though there's nothing in his eyes.

"Lead the way," I say, and I follow her into the light.

by Fred 1:56 PM


 

Topic Shanghai! Today's topic is:

"I didn't expect to meet you here."

by jal 12:46 PM


 
[Edited by Sharon: See below for today's topic from Jonathan.]

Spew. What kind of a name is that? Dick stood in the park watched the two kids playing on the playscape. They had just met a few minutes ago and already they seemed to be playing wonderfully together. Dick’s son, Ralph, had just turned 5 and the boy he was quickly forming a fast friendship with, looked about the same age.
He stood quietly beside Spew’s mother as they watched their children playing. They would occasionally offer up some brief bit of small talk as parents will when they’re watching their children play together. So, "Spew" he thought. It’s got to be an old ethnic name. Let’s see, Spew and his mother look to be, what Lithuanian? Hungarian?. He had no idea. They looked "ethnic" but of what origin he had no idea. Jeez, "Spew". That kid’s going to get picked on his entire life. Spew. I mean, even if they’re not from the US they must know what it means. Barf, woof, vomit, upchuck, retch, toss your cookies, toss your tacos, scream to the porcelain god, blow chunks, ralph…hey, wait a minute. Dick suddenly stuttered in mid thought if such a thing is possible. And then it hit him: What might his son’s name mean in Hungarian? Or Lithuanian? as the case may be. I mean, what if years from now he meets the girl of his dreams, from Hungary, or Lithuania and he introduces himself and she giggles and later he finds out that Ralph translated to Hungarian (or Lithuanian) means "camel crap". Or "man with breath like dead mice." Dick was suddenly very concerned about this.
"We have to go now."
"Huh", Dick was so lost in though that he hadn’t realized that Spew and his mother were leaving. "Oh, um, yeah. Well it’s been great that the kids could, you know, play together."
"Spew, say goodbye to your friend", his mother urged.
"Bye Ralph. Great playing with ya"
"Ralph?" smiled Spew’s mother. "That’s an interesting name." As she turned to go Dick saw an unmistakable smirk.



by Shawn 9:32 AM




{Sunday, June 23, 2002}

 
Wow, Ben, Tarentino would be proud. Interesting way to architect a story. Neat.

I'm left wondering: Was it simply food poisoning... or had something mutated?! Muahahahahaha...

What. I don't know what goes on in your fridge.

by Sharon 2:15 PM




{Saturday, June 22, 2002}

 
Let me appologize before you start reading: This one turned out to be a little gross. Sorry. If you are feeling delicate in your stomach, you might want to read this later. But I think it's cool. I guess that's my justification.


And start:

Who thinks of topics like that anyway? Spew. At least it's late, and nobody else'll have to do this stupid topic.

And continue:
6:20pm Darlene Louise Maycott (Louise) is dead.
6:15pm Louise is feeling sick.
She is walking along the sidewalk, clutching her belly, moaning. People look at her, then away, not wanting anything to do with a pregnant woman who looks like that. She's sort of stumbling along in no particular direction.
Her abdomin is swolen, and she is holding it. Inside, something writhes.
6:11pm Louise is walking along the sidewalk, minding her own business. She looks perfectly normal, wearing a yellow sun dress and flats. She is whistling, not making eye contact with other pedestrians, but not particularly avoiding them. Hers is the demeanor of a woman in love. Her stomach gurgles, and she remembers that she hasn't had lunch yet.
6:16pm Louise is lying on the ground, holding her distended abdomin, yelling at the world. Some people have gathered around to watch, and someone is calling for a doctor, and for emergency telephone numbers to be dialed. Louise writhes, and people try to hold her down, firmly but gently.
6:12pm Louise is feeling uncomfortable. She stops at a window on the sidewalk, and considers ordering a hot dog. Her stomach, while gurgling, feels kind of full. She is thinking about the hot dog., and thinking that she will not, after all, eat it.
6:17pm Louise is crying.
One person on the crowded sidewalk turns out to be a doctor. He is, yes, a brain surgeon, but he says he'll try to do what he can until help arrives. He is handing his cell phone to an onlooker, and has dialed 911 on it. He is telling that person to call for help.
6:13pm Louise is feeling very queezy. She notices that the buttons on her dress are getting tight. One of them has fallen off somewhere. She turns around to see where it could be, and realizes that the world around her seems to have become very small. The edges of her vision are dimmed, and she can only make out a small circle of clarity. The motion of turning around makes her feel dizzy.
6:18pm Louise's skin is pulled tight over her gut. The doctor is looking worried, and is beginning to move back from her. She has passed out from the pain, but the muscles in her back are contracted, pusing her belly up in the air. The crowd is edging in close to get a better view. Somewhere in the distance, a siren can be heard.
6:14pm Louise is stumbling along the street. She is holding her hands to her belly, and is beginning to cry. She can feel her middle growing. The skin is swelling visibly. People on the street are walking blithely to and from their personal business. Louise looks in at the hot dog window, but nobody is there. She remembers that a hospital is not far from where she is standing. She is trying to speak, but no words come, so she sets off in the direction of the hospital.
6:19pm A patch of clear liquid is being absorbed by Louise's dress. It is leaking out of her streched skin. She is completely unaware of any of this. Her head is lolled to the side, and her mouth is slack. On her face, she wears a look of peace. The crowd is leaning in for a better look. The doctor is moving away.
4:36pm Louise is looking in her refrigerator. The potato salad looks a little green, but she decides to eat it anyway.
6:20pm Louise is dead.
A geyser of liquid is pouring from her belly, soaking the screaming crowd. The doctor has run through the crowd, and is heading toward the hospital. He is worrying that some of the people here might remember him, so he is keeping his head down. His cell phone has been moving the other direction for two minutes now.

by MisterNihil 11:43 PM


 
Today is Saturday. The word of the day is SPEW

by MisterNihil 11:18 PM




{Friday, June 21, 2002}

 
"Language is a virus from outer space" - William S. Burroughs

I find that I've developed some unfortunate and telling communication habits in recent years. Partially due to a change in how we communicate and partially due to the industry I'm in.

Being old and all (kidding Sharon, I'm kidding) I can remember when getting a phone call or mail was a treat. When I was young we had a party line. Bear in mind that I grew up in rural Ohio in the 1800's apparently. That's where a half dozen or so families share a single phone line so there was always the chance that you wanted to make a call but your neighbor was using the phone. So you waited your turn (Or listen in on their call. I never did that). Now I can call nearly anywhere in the world from my car. I don't, but I could.

But anyhow, getting a call was a treat. Now, I screen my calls. If I see it's an "unknown caller" or "blocked number" I let the answering service get it. Usually it's someone who wants to sell me something that, if I wanted, I'D CALL THEM!

Getting mail was a treat. Now I get several trees worth of junk mail every month. I get spam, I block senders who, again, are trying to sell me things I don't want and I use pop-up killers to avoid pop up ads. Grrrr. Now granted a lot of this is advertising which is still communication. I used to work in advertising so I can say that with a straight face. It's just irritating communication.

But the way I communicate has changed too. Seems like anytime I talk to or send an email to anyone there's something in the back of my brain that runs a little security routine to the effect of, "Who does this person know and who's likely to hear about this conversation". Sound paranoid? Sure, hell it is. But then I'm in an industry that breeds that and in fact people do get fired because Bob told Sally what Randy had said to Paul about Alice etc.

Email, blogs, ICQ, cell phones, www, pop ups, phone solicitors, teleconferencing, etc. Our ability to communicate has increased a thousand fold even since the party line. I'm just not sure it's a good thing. I can't remember the last time I hand penned a letter.

by Shawn 1:37 PM


 
010100110110100001100001011100100110111101101110

I flip bits. Off-on-off-on-off-off-on-on... Indirectly, I communicate in a world of light switches. All systems can be reduced thus. A decision is made, a condition met, a neuron activated. Off-on-on-off.

There is a comfort-zone continuum in communicating with the components in my overall system. Close to machine language, dealing with if...then statements, trees and flows, communication is concrete, exact, and unambiguous. An unanticipated result, tackled with pen and paper, can be traced to the exact moment it diverged from the expected path. Programming is comfortable.

Phone menu trees can often be satisfying. I request precisely the information I want, and I usually can get it. Most often, though, they are implemented poorly. On the continuum, reality diverges from the ideal.

Conversations with other gearheads can often be held in a low-generation language, talking in pictures and modules, loops and truth tables, nested layers.

Then there are The Others. Call them what you will—customers, business partners, users—communication has to ratchet to another level. We often fail to connect, even when we use the same words. Especially when we use the same words. "Interface" is a noun; it has nothing to do with golf courses.

Finishing the continuum where it started, and within every element along it, there is the mind. Decisions, reactions, neurons: All beautifully Binary.


[Aside: How much do I love Google? I typed in "Binary translator" and received as my first hit a Binary translator. Bliss.]

by Sharon 1:34 PM


 

Hi, it's me again.

So I got the job with "Misteria The Magnificent". We ran a great stage act where she'd read the contents of envelopes that I'd open in a sealed booth and other stunts of that nature. We even submitted to James Randi's $1,000,000-dollar challenge. We passed it and split the money.

That's the day that ruined my life.

After the test, a team of military scientists "appropriated" Misteria for further study. I haven't seen her since. Fortunately, they ignored me. Well, all but one of them. Alan showed up in my apartment that evening. He made an offer that was really quite fair. He was developing a comminications tool a lot like a cellular phone, but with some twists that I didn't completely understand. He wanted to study my brainwaves - something about "theta syncronization." He offered me 49% of the stock in the corporation: BrainWave Communications, Inc.. "We're sure to take off like a rocket when we hit the street. It'll revolutionize global communications as we know it!" So I agreed.

In the months that followed, I learned a ton. Alan learned about my "leaky brain" and made a device that "plugs the leak" as long as I'm wearing it. I learned enough about science to really understand how Alan's transceivers worked. The most recent model can send and recieve sight, sound, and smell to and from any location on the planet occupied by another living, conscious person (It has to do with the brainwaves generated by the human mind and how they interact with the magnetoshpere of the planet. Very complex.).

The kicker is that you don't need the permission of the person at the place you're looking at. That person doesn't even need a transceiver and can't detect that they're being observed until you tell them. It's the ultimate communications device. No more secrets ever again. Heavy stuff, right?

So... Alan disappeared three days ago. He was in the lab when I went to lunch, but wasn't there twenty minutes later. His glasses were under his desk; one lens cracked. He hasn't returned. I'm the only shareholder in BrainWave Communications now.

I recieved a phone message yesterday. All it said was, "Where are the plans?"

I'm scared...

If I don't contact you again within the week, bury the package I sent you somewhere safe and leave the country.

by jal 1:08 PM


 
"Paul," she says, "we have to talk," and right away he knows that something's wrong. He can hear it in her voice. This is her we-have-to-talk voice, a serious voice, comfortable with uncomfortable situations. This is the voice she practices on clients behind closed doors, the one she perfects on men and women who have lost everything and need to face hard truths. This is a voice familiar with words like foreclosure, bankruptcy...divorce.

He sits up. "I'm going to get a glass of water," he says. "Do you want anything?"

"Paul," she says, but he is already gone, in the hall and then shuffling down the stairs. The kitchen tile is cold in the quiet dark beneath his bare feet. He grabs a glass from the cupboard, fills it with water, and stares out the window above the kitchen sink. There are no stars out tonight, or none that he can count, and the street light at the end of their driveway flickers on and off, on and off. He really should call somebody about fixing that, he thinks. That's not the sort of thing you want to leave untended.

He leaves the glass, now empty, on the counter and shuffles back upstairs. She is sitting up in bed, but she hasn't turned on the light, and so he walks around her to the other side and lies down. In a minute, he can pretend he is asleep.

by Fred 9:21 AM


 
Communication in my office... first, some background.

Item One: We are a technology consulting company based in New York City. We specialize in document management & imaging solutions; in other words, we facilitate our clients' transitions to paperless offices.

Item Two: Despite a mandatory recycling program in NYC, our office does not recycle.

Item Three: Not only do I believe in using the technology we promote, I also happen to be a tree-hugger.

When we receive new business, we generate a proposal, or a Statement of Work. Historically, these were printed out, mailed to the client, a signed copy was received back in the mail, and that signed copy went into a binder for the record.

Today, we generate the document and email it to the client in PDF format. They can affix an electronic signature, or print it, sign it, and fax it to our electronic fax boxes.

At the moment we are between sales reps - the person who would normally handle these tasks. So we're all being asked to pitch in (which mostly means me). But Debbie, the woman who used to do handle proposals, feels a huge sense of obligation to continue to control the process. (She's a power-monger.)

A recent conversation with Debbie:

D: "Faith, when you finish that Statement of Work, please print out a copy of both the proposal and the email in which you send it to the client, and place them both in this binder here? When the signed copy is faxed back, you can print that out and put it in here, too."

F: "No."

D: "What?"

F: "The proposal is saved to our document management system under the client's name, and the email is on the server. If you like, I will save the email to the document management system also and then relate the two files so that they can be located easily."

D: "But we need a copy for the records."

F: "Those are copies for the records."

D: "But that's not the way it works."

F: "That is exactly what we sell to our clients. They use our systems every day for this very purpose."

D: "But we need a printed copy!"

F: "We have an electronic copy which can be called up from any desk on demand, is backed up to tape every night, and will remain ad infinitum."

D: "I WANT A PAPER COPY!"

It was a stand-off. I told her where to find the files, and she went back to her desk, called them up, printed them herself, and put them in her sacred binder on her own.

by Faith 8:09 AM


 
I have instant access to thousands of sites, places across the globe, suddenly popping in to say hi to afghanistan or Russia or wherever; places I'm not really allowed to go when I'm not seated at a computer.
In real life, I just sort of initiate nonconverstaions with people who don't want to talk and don't want to know that I know where what they're looking for is sitting. A woman today said she was in the store another day, and noticed that our current guest was coming in. She had a long talk with him about her past career. She said, "It's the first time since I've been in Austin that I've had a conversation with a person who was alive. You know?" She looked at us as we tried not to punch her, "Like, alive in their minds."
I'm not allowed to tell her what I'm thinking.
"Alive doesn't mean 'familiar with your crap.' It means 'living.' Even 'alive in the mind' means 'thinking,' not 'putting up with you talking about your crap.'"
Dammit. I mean, it's not like we were standing there while she called us stupid, was it? Also, she was married and had son. Her husband and son are brain dead? How lovely. Dammit.
It's odd. There's a ban on our communication with the customers in the store. They can insult us, and we can't say a damned thing for fear they won't buy a book.
On the first day here, the CEO said to us that the difference between us and our chain competition is that we see the customers as people, not machines that come in and buy books. This, he failed to mention, at the cost of the personalities of the workers. Dammit.
One of the second floor employees has taken to wearing a multi-colored construction paper necktie and calling herself Miss Eileen Dover. She gives other people new names. One of us is now named Gavin. She carries a briefcase made of paper, labled "Briefqueso," and papers labled "Importunt docu mints." She has little varied colors of business cards she hands out. The one she gave me says "M. E. Dover Do you know how important I am?"
See? Proof that it drives you insane, thinking how stupid people are and not being able to say it. She just went ahead and parodied half our clientelle. Beautiful. I think she'll make an appearance in my speech for Toastmasters on Saturday. I have the topic. I just have to write it down. Yay.

by MisterNihil 1:08 AM


 
Word for the day: Communication
It was going to be clowns, but since we just did balloons...Maybe next week.

by Shawn 12:33 AM




{Thursday, June 20, 2002}

 
Most people don't know that there's quite a bit of evidence that a balloon-like rubber was discovered around 100BCE in a lost walled city in what is now known as Turkey. It was going to be used as a device with which to deliver boiling oil onto enemy soldiers, in the event of a possible siege. While the compound was strong enough to hold the burning contents, the container tended to pop when in transit by the baloon handlers, maiming several soldiers. Sarif al Adya, head of the Akidaq tribe, wrote about the early tests: "The object inflates when oil is poured into it, but the shira fa (literally 'shapeless holders') often explode when overfilled, or jostled. Particularly skilled handlers can, if lucky, deliver five to seven containers over the side of the wall in a small time."

Unfortunately, the cost of each balloon was exorbitant, and the amount of burning oil each held relatively small, and the technology was allowed to pass into obscurity, only the al Adya account surviving into the modern day.

by Remi 8:33 PM


 
I make balloon animals. I don't have a large repertoire, but enough that I can get by. Monkey hats are my most showy; ladybug bracelets are my favorite.

For my birthday one year during college, my Grandma Sandy gave me an instruction book (Captain Visual's something-or-other) and two gross of balloons. Two gross is a lot of balloons. 288, in fact. So I practiced, I taught other people in my dorm, I tucked it into the back of my head in the Goofy Things I Can Do drawer, right next to "Recites Jabberwocky in German," and "Wiggles Nose Like Rabbit."

I was actually able to put this skill to use—somewhere other than a children's birthday party—about six months ago. Every six months, Toastmasters districts hold their District Conferences. It turned out that our fall conference was in Round Rock, Texas, a rare thing, given the size of our district. That meant that we were the hosts. My friend Tonya was tasked with (or may have volunteered for) running Friday Night Fun Night, which in the past has been a lipsync showcase. Which has to be the most boring evening on the planet. Tonya was having none of that; she assembled a team of volunteers to provide Carnival Night. Some of the games were Toastmasters-themed; some were just ridiculous.

But Tonya tossed out, some day before the conference, that she really wished she could find someone who could make balloon animals. Well, I happened to know someone. I happened to be married to another one. Sign up the Leistikos!

So we made balloon animals for a crowd of adults who make speeches for fun. And it was a great evening.

(Speaking of Toastmasters, as of today, I am an Advanced Toastmaster--Bronze. W00t!)

by Sharon 5:23 PM


 

The room was full of balloons. Not in the usual sense of there being balloons all over the floor, either. The room was literally filled with balloons, so tightly packed that entry was impossible.

They tried anyway. A considerable amount of squeaking later, they conceded that further means were necessary.

“We could pop the balloons,” he said.

“Don’t you think they’d expect that?” she replied.

“They?”

“Whoever put all these balloons here. Obviously, they put them there so we wouldn’t be able to get in, but, just as obviously, they knew we’d think of popping them. Therefore, if they’re serious about keeping us out, they’ve put in some sort of trap.”

“This is such a shock to hear you arguing against a violent solution.” He shook his head and leaned in closer to the wall of balloons which they had found behind the door. Thankfully, the door opened outwards, otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to open it. (Perhaps that had been an oversight. Had the people who had placed the balloons intended to keep them out entirely? It didn’t seem any less implausible than the balloon-filled room did in the first place.)

She picked up one of the balloons which had fallen from the room when the door had been opened. It made that irritating stretched-rubber sound which defies onomatopoetic description. “We don’t know what’s in these balloons. Poisons, inflammable gasses, more balloons… we’d be opening a can of worms.”

“You think they put worms in there?”

She shook her head. “Not unless they’re some sort of killer attack worms.”

“We could take one and pop it in a controlled location.”

“Only a small percentage might be booby-trapped. The ones near the door might all be clear to lead us into a false sense of security.”

“We could take the balloons out one by one.”

“Yes, but I have a better idea: Let’s tell everyone that we didn’t need to go in the room.”

by Dave Menendez 4:55 PM


 
"More cotton candy!"



Sigh. Taking young children to county fairs is seldom a good idea in the end, however much fun it sounded that morning at home.



I explain that any more cotton candy will make her stomach sick and her little teeth rot out, but Sarah pouts regardless. I think that I am being infinitely patient. My husband seems to question this, given my graphic and overly unpleasant description of said consequences. He gets to answer the next one.



"Oooh, ooh, Daddy, can I have a balloon?"



Sarah seemed to know it was his turn. Darn kid. How come he gets all the easy ones?



"Sure, Sweetheart! Do you want the teddy bear or the big Barney one?"



"Big! Barney!"



We purchase the balloon for her and tie it to Sarah's wrist. She insists on a slip-knot so that she can take it off when she wants; she is, after all, a big girl and can take care of her OWN balloon, thank you very much!



Passing the rides, we come first to the Tilt-a-Whirl.



"Leave your balloon with the nice man taking the tickets so you don't lose it, okay?"



"NONONONONONO!"



Okay, okay, just don't scream and your mother will stay sane. Tilt-a-Whirl with one balloon, coming up.



Now for the big surprise... the slip knot slips, the balloon floats up and away amidst a particularly vigorous whirling stint. At first she doesn't notice, the whirling is so much fun! But then the ride ends, and the trauma begins.



For some reason, she is not consoled by the idea that Barney has gone to play with his best friend, Tinky Winky. We move on...



... and pass a vending stand.



"Want cotton candy!"



Surprise, it's Mommy's turn again.

by Faith 4:07 PM


 
“Balloons!, You’ve got to be shittin’ me. We traveled 400 light years to talk to a bunch of balloons?!” Glen was clearly pissed.

“No one said anything about talking to them. We’re simply here to observe. To study.” In truth Jane was disappointed. Not as put out as Glenn but disappointed none the less. The deep space exploratory crew of the Song of Orion had in fact traveled some 422 light years to make contact with what advanced probes showed were organic life forms. The first mankind was find. And well, they did look like balloons. Clearly living if not sentient balloons but balloons nonetheless. Their bodies were covered in a reddish translucent skin with no clear bone, brain or recognizable organs. They were sort of jellyfish-like but not aquatic. Instead these twelve, strange, bulbous creatures bobbed and drifted in the clearing floating above thermal vents on the forest floor.

“OK, so what are we supposed to do now”. Glenn fidgeted. He was the muscle of the group. Military background and thus clearly out of place when it was time to start taking samples and “making with the science stuff”.

“Well, we study. We take samples. Um, look around for droppings” Sheila looked uncomfortable asking this of the mission leader.

“Samples!? What the hell kind of samples do balloons leave?”

“They’re not balloons! They just look, like, well, balloons. They’re organic life so they probably leave excrement. So look.”

“Great”. Glenn started looking around the clearing.

The six scientists started their diagnostic. Suddenly Mark stopped, jaw dropped and stunned. “Holy crap, look at that…” The 12 creatures were no longer balloon–shaped, but instead they had changed themselves into dodecahedrons. “Look at that! Hot damn they know geometric shapes. They’re intelligent!” Mark fumbled for his camera.

Then the 12 creatures formed themselves into three strings of 4 meeting at the center suggesting an x,y,z axis-based model. The scientists were dumbfounded. “They, they think 3-dimensionally…” Then the model changed to a representation of a tesseract. A multidimensional cube model made of balloon creatures floated and bobbed before the scientists.

“Oh man, I don’t even want to think about what that means.”

by Shawn 2:40 PM


 
My father is afraid of balloons. Well maybe not afraid exactly, and not of balloons themselves, but you can definitely tell that he's uncomfortable with the idea that at any minute they might pop. He always seemed to have something else to do at birthday parties; he was occupied with the cake or the camera, greeting guests or ordering food. He never blew up balloons. My sister or I would sometime joke, kid around with him, but we knew they made him uncomfortable as their multicolored skin expanded with air. I suppose they always seemed a little too unstable, too fragile, too ready to explode. I'm sure he knew it was silly -- he'd laugh right along with us -- but sometimes instinct takes over. And instinct, by its very nature, is pretty dumb.

I'm like that with biscuits and oven-fresh rolls -- you know, the sort that come from Pillsbury in round little tubes? They're packed under pressure and there's a quick pop when you open them. I know it's silly, I don't expect any danger, but I can't seem to convince my body of that. I cringe every time I open a new container, find myself holding it as far away from me as I can. I feel like an idiot when I do that, done in by a flight-or-fight response that was supposed to help my ancestors defend themselves against predators, not the popping sound of buttermilk biscuits.

by Fred 1:33 PM


 

I have a problem: My thought balloon is leaking. It started subtly enough: Odd looks from other people; pedestrians crossing the street to avoid me.

I really suspected that something was up at a one-on-one meeting with my manager. The room was pretty cold (Texans just love their AC.), so I couldn't help but notice that her... Well, that meeting ended pretty abruptly. Two weeks later I was laid off. "Economic downturn," they said, but I saw the look on her face as I left. They gave me a nice chunk of severance pay, so I wasn't going to complain.

My best friend is the one who clued me in. We were watching a lousy movie, so I was thinking about other things. He kept poking me in the ribs and telling me to keep it down. Other people nearby nodded in agreement. Now, I knew that I wasn't saying anything. That's when it all clicked together. For the rest of the day I tried to keep my mind blank. It worked well, but it's harder than you'd think.

I've been looking on the web and in the libraries. No one has any advice for how to patch a leaky thought balloon. I've tried tinfoil beanies and other crackpot solutions, but the stares I get from that are almost worse than without it.

I saw an ad yesterday for a magician's assistant. I wonder if he's interested in a mind-reading act?

by jal 1:01 PM


 

This is not a balloon post. This is my (late) Death story.



*ring, ring*

“Death support, this is Jon speaking. How can I help you today Peter?

“It’s our job to know those things, sir."

They always ask that: “How did you know my name?” It freaks them out every time. You know, I wish to high-heaven that management would let us ask for their name instead of giving it to them, but I guess they want to start the conversation off strong.

“How can I help you today? Mmmmhm. Okay. Well, that’s actually an ingested poison, not a topical poison. I strongly suggest that you get in a shower, wash it off, and then take some time to compose yourself before you do anything rash."

Freakin’ suicides. Always wanting to rush things along; make us work on their scehdule. Pisses me off. They’ll get their time like everyone else, you know?

“Mmmhmh. Yes. Thank you sir, and have a very pleasant day.”

It’s not a bad job, and the hours are really flexible. My call times are short and my stats are good, so I should get badged in a month or two. I tell you, they have some killer benefits - no pun intended.

*ring, ring*

“Death support, my name is Jon. Am I speaking with Wolfgang?”

Aw geez! I freakin’ hate these calls.

“According to our records, Wolfgang, you are currently Undead. Is that correct sir? Yes? Then your complimentary Death support period has expired. You’ll need to contact the Department of Unnatural Life Semblance. Do you have their number?"

He starts to argue his case with me. Hey, I don’t make the rules. I haven’t even been trained in post-mortem relations yet.

“I see. Well, I’m terribly sorry, but I won’t be able to assist you today. Thank you for calling.”

Another day, another dollar.

by jal 12:31 PM


 
Today's topic (just for a change of pace): balloons

by Fred 12:22 AM




{Wednesday, June 19, 2002}

 
I hadn't really forgiven him telling me that the only reason I visited them was to get into the will. It doesn't matter now, Grandpa's dead, and it turns out there was no Will. Mom and dad told me that he had been sick for a long time, and that this had made him paranoid and angry, but his words stung. It was all over a letter that I had forgotten to send, thanking them, the grandparents for a birthday card. I thought I had felt guilty then, but the anger had lasted for almost a year and a half. The last time I had spokent to him was about looking out the window and watching young women play volleyball and run track. It gave him hope, instead of being surrounded by the old and the frail. I had just returned from a friend's wedding when I was told.

She had died, and I hadn't known it. Not for two weeks. I found out about it from an ex-girlfriend who then stopped responding to my e-mails after delivering the news that the girl was dead. I had been in Austin for less than a month, and didn't feel like I could trust anyone. I hadn't talked to either of the girls in more than two years, and will never talk to either again.

I wore his bathrobe to school. Great Grandpa Dad had died peacefully, I had visited him in Tampa with my father two months before. The robe had $20 in the pocket. The administrators didn't bother me for wearing it, but some kids did. Maybe the lion slippers were too much.

I was visiting Minnesota, my first trip without my parents, I was 11, maybe 12. My great grandma Momp had congestive heart failure and slowly died over the month I was there. The trip wasn't much fun, but I was the last in my immediate family to see her.

by Remi 11:12 PM


 
And Start:

A small cricket is crawling up the side of a building. It looks only ahead of itself but senses all around. It feels the bricks, heated to oven temperatures by the noonday sun; it hears the occasional car drive by, and smells the exhaust from the bulky SUVs passing on the streets; It knows about the hungry pidgeons flying around the next building over, but it also knows it is safe because they have found one of their own to snack on. The cricket continues to crawl.
It has been displaced from its daytime home under the carpet of the building upon which it climbs by a careless shoe from one of the people who lives or works in the building. The cricket doesn't know. It only climbs to avoid them. They are big, smelly giants moving in and out across its home.
It pauses for a moment and absorbs some of the heat from the sun, feeling its insides soften more, feeling its tiny pulse quicken. Heat. Life. Its senses are sharpened now. It smells people on the street, across from the cars belching stink into its air; It can hear their odd mooing calls from the windows of the other edifices, and from far up this one; it can feel them moving around, restless, waiting to leave so they can stomp on its home; it can taste other crickets passage on the wall as it climbs.
Handy cracks in the mortar all feel taken, and it sees a spider in one of them. The spider seems not to notice the cricket, and both move along with their lives. The cricket begins now to move around the building, to the side still mostly shaded from the sun. It feels its insides gel again, and its pulse drop back down. Its senses dim. Now, all it can see is the brick directly in front of it; only smell its own musk; only hear the rumble of motion all around.
It pauses.
A shoe smacks into the wall, killing our hero.
"Damn bugs. Everywhere this time of year."
Life moves on.

by MisterNihil 10:36 PM


 
You know, I've never actually known anyone who died. Well, unless you count my gerbil or my lizard. Some day it's going to happen to a human, and I'm not going to know what to do. How does one make it into the second half of their twenties and have all of the relatives they did when they were born? It's not natural.



I'll tell you what else isn't natural: cockroaches. They're creepy. I mean, they just don't die, period. I live in New York City. I've tried. They sell these poisonous traps called "Roach Motels" -- and that's what they are! They set up little homes, throw parties, invite their friends. And laugh at me. And they don't die.



My first encounter with a cockroach was in Florida. I was in the bathroom and it flew out of the cardboard tube that lines toilet paper rolls. Nobody told me those suckers could FLY! I was 12 and scarred for life. But I'll tell you one thing: THAT cockroach died a long and painful death, indeed.

by Faith 10:29 PM


 

Never having died before I don’t know that I can speak with any great authority on the subject. Well, I suppose followers of Hinduism would disagree with me about having died previously (they’re probably fine about my stated lack of authority) what with resurrection and all. I had a teacher in high school who spent one lesson telling us about the Hindu world view, and I got into a brief discussion with him about how the concepts of reaching Nirvana and the endlessly-repeating universe interact.

Specifically, if the universe we know is only a small part of a vast repeating cycle (I remember a phrase like, 1000 times the lifetime of the world is a single day for Brahma), and if some people are eventually able to achieve a state of Nirvana and leave the world, and if everyone is the resurrection of someone who already lived, then don’t we eventually run out of people?

The teacher asked me if I thought that was likely, looking at the world around, but that’s something of a cop-out. The fact is, eternity is a very long time. Any length of time you can imagine, or even describe, is shorter than eternity. If there are a hundred billion souls out there, and we assume that only one achieves Nirvana every billion years, you still run out of souls after 10^20 years. That’s a long time, but it’s nothing compared to eternity. Eternity has barely gotten started by then. Once you get really going on eternity, you’ll say things like “Remember when 10^20 years seemed like a long time? Now it just flies by.” (And even then, you’re just getting started with eternity.)

You can get around it by assuming that new souls enter the world at the same rate as perfected souls leave it, of course. That’s probably the real answer, although I have a vague memory suggesting that’s not the case.

by Dave Menendez 4:34 PM


 
(Oh thanks a load Remi. I had decided to do a children’s story today regardless of the topic)

Henry and Mike were best friends. Mike was Henry’s collie, although “Mike” was also the name of Henry’s older brother, which created some confusion. It also rather annoyed Mike (the brother) as he felt that Henry had named his dog that as a sort of insult. He was just never sure what it meant.

Anyhow, Henry and Mike (the dog) spent many long summer days playing fetch, chase, and simply exploring the woods and fields near the farm. They were the best of friends and were hardly ever seen apart unless Henry had to go off to Sunday school or to stay with his aunt for the day. She didn’t like dogs.

One day, while Henry was at Sunday school Mike (the dog) was hit by a coal truck. The road in front of the farm was straight and traffic moved way too fast. Needless to say Henry was very, very upset when he got home. The family had a nice ceremony for Mike and laid him to rest out in the apple orchard.

That night Henry wasn’t able to sleep. He went out to the orchard and sat by Mike’s grave. He wished and wished that Mike would come back. After a while Henry fell asleep and was awaken by the familiar, soft nose of Mike (the dog, not his brother). Mike was alive! Well, as it turned out he wasn’t really alive exactly. But he was back and that was pretty good in its self.

Over the next few weeks Henry discovered that he could bring other animals back from the dead too. He found a muskrat in a trap. He brought her back too and named her floppy. He found a dead snake that he named fluffy and a raccoon dead beside the road that he named Lazarus. Soon Henry would go out to his favorite spot in the woods and his mostly dead animal friends would sit around him listening to what he had to say. They didn’t’ talk back but they seemed genuinely interested in their sort of glassy-eyed way.


by Shawn 1:27 PM


 
Margaret has been dead for three days now. The truth is, she's starting to smell, but I can't just let her leave, can I? I can't just pretend she's like all the others. Margaret wouldn't want that. She came from a good family, and no matter how much she implores me that she "musssstttt eeeaaatttt brrraaaiiinnnsss," I know her parents wouldn't approve. There are just some things the daughter of a Congressman isn't meant to do. Eating brains has got to be one of them.

I used the sheets to tie her hands and legs to the bedposts, and she's stopped thrashing around as much. She keeps staring at me with those red-rimmed eyes. I know there's nothing but dumb hatred and hunger left in her skin, but I can't bring myself to actually end it. How would I do it anyway? Do I need to chop off her head, cut out her heart? How do you kill something like this that's already dead, these things that she and the other guests have become? The only weapon I have is the butter knife that room service left on a tray in the corner last night. I hung the Do Not Disturb sign outside our door, and that should buy us some time until the hotel is completely overrun, but frankly, I'm at a loss.

Never go to Zombie Island on your honeymoon.

by Fred 12:57 PM



 

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