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{Wednesday, July 31, 2002}

 
"Five goes twenty you can't hit the big one."
"I ain't got five."
"You got one?"
"Yeah. I don't wanna lose it to you, though. I never win these."
"One'll get you five, how 'bout that? You hit that big one, I'll give you five dollars."
"..."
"..."
"Ok. I'll give it a go. But no cheating. You don't hit my hand or nothin'."
"Sure, sure, man. I'll tell you what, I'll stand all the waaay back here."
"I guess... Awwww. How'd I miss the big one? Man. Here's your dollar."
"nice doing business with you."

by MisterNihil 11:59 PM


 

At what point do the chances become so small that we can ignore them? Murphy taught us that anything which can go wrong will go wrong—a warning to contingency planners, not the grumpiness most assume it to be—but clearly some things are more important to worry about than others. How often does an architect or an engineer consider what would happen if the component parts of a load-bearing bit of concrete suddenly stopped adhering to each other?

I don’t actually know. Probably not much. I’ve certainly never heard of it happening.

Our computer system distributes blocks among the various mass storage units by hashing their contents, which depends on no two blocks having the same hash value. The system designers didn’t build a contingency plan to describe what would happen if two blocks did happen to have the same hash; they calculated how likely it would be and figured it wasn’t worth it, but some part of me has never trusted their math. I can’t fault it, but I don’t trust it.

I still use the system, though. It’s fast, fault-tolerant, and I don’t actually have an alternative.

Our environment suits don’t stop every possible deadly chemical. We can’t prove they do without trying every possible chemical, but no one has seen one that gets through. This isn’t magic, but it isn’t science, either. It’s a question of risk and preparation. No one’s ever been poisoned by a planetary atmosphere wearing an environment suit.

If the universe is infinite, then everything which is possible must occur in it at some point in space-time. In fact, it must occur at an infinite number of points. Somewhere out there, there could be an infinite duplicates of myself, thinking the exact thing I’m thinking right now, along with an equally infinite number of duplicates doing other things, and an infinite number of near-misses. The chances are small, vanishingly small, and I’d never really thought about it.

The guy outside is probably an impostor.

(Argh, didn’t watch the clock and went over.)

by Dave Menendez 11:49 PM


 

It’s all about probability. The subtle manipulation of events, that when taken as a whole, define the dominant paradigm. Sifting through all possible outcomes to any given situation until you find the one you want and making it the most likely. This was probability magic, and Shepherd was one of the best at it.

Sarah, the young woman leaving the Chance Café, looked like any of a thousand others in the city this morning only she was in fact quite different. While she was oblivious to what the immediate future had in store for her Shepherd could feel the weight of her fate hanging in the air. It had the smell of air before a storm mixed with the rusty taste of blood. Her fiancée had sold her to the Nephandi in exchange for considerable personal power. The daemons would be waiting at Sarah’s book store when she arrived to open it. The deal would be done. Shepherd had 23 minutes.

As he paid for his espresso his mind reached out and sorted through the webs of reality. There, she locked her keys in the car. This was a freebie; it could happen to anybody. It bought him 42 minutes. More than enough.

He drove across town in his Volvo and, as fate would have it, hit every light green. It could happen. The trick is to simply not push too hard against reality. Work small whenever possible; work with lots of little happy coincidences instead of big ones that stretch probability. Three years ago he was thrown out of a plane by two chaos daemons. The smart thing would’ve been to contrive a parachute. Instead the first thing that came to mind was a biplane. It saved his life but the paradox backlash plagued him for weeks. Small inconveniences, lost keys, minor car wreck, a broken finger in the elevator door.

As he drove he rewove Sarah’s fate; she would be in an accident on her way to the bookstore. She would be hurt but not fatally so and for her pains she would escape her fate. He pulled up in front of the bookstore. Three lesser daemons sat in the typical black sedan down the street at the intersection. They saw him and started their car. They didn’t see the 18-wheeler bearing down on them. It was a cliché and probably not necessary since they posed no threat to him but reality loves cliches and he allowed himself this small bit of vengeance for the airplane incident.

In the store three more daemons waited. “Ok, you know who I am and you know I can kick your asses. The girl’s a no show so take a hike.”

by Shawn 10:44 PM


 
My flat-mate Bart knew that the sidewalks were busted. It was pouring rain outside and the dome was still ripped. In short, it was a damn crappy day to be outside. That's when he remembered that he forgot to buy his stupid lottery chips for the month. If the dumbass wasn't sicker than a slig... If the bathroom weren't out of Germ-B-Gone... If we weren't all out of N-Zyme dish cleaner... Then I'd've told him to go 'trode himself. As it was, I trudged the three blocks to the store and back again.

"Did I make it in time for your slig-assed lottery, turd-brain?" The lottery chips clinked on the pillow next to him. "It's all rigged, you know."

A beady glare: "Izznot! Anyways, you're just in time. Tonight's going to be my lucky night. I can jus' *achoo!* I can jus' *achoo!* I can *choo!*"

I shoved our cat away and flopped on the lounger, "You can just feel it. I know. You're such a dumbass."

"You're lucky I like you, Austin. Even though you're nasty, I'll still share part of my Security winnings with you." He finished his Soyrito and his eyes glazed over.

"Yeah, that'll be the day I get to program our TV feed too." He wasn't listening. The numbers splashed across his face to the beat of that god-awful muzaked version of the Liberty Anthem (c). To credit his naive optimisim, Bart was marginally luckier than usual; he won another $125 of his Social this month. It was uncanny how many of his picks were just a digit or two off or transposed. In his mind, I'm sure that makes up for the last three months where he got squat. I bet the dumbass is going to just spend it on more National Lottery chips.

Moron.

***

"So, how are the numbers?"

"We broadcast 230,000, 'liberty prizes,' targeting regulars who were slowing their buying habits and households with non-contributors. Another 2,500, 'freedom bonuses,' were assigned to morale-depressed hot spots and we've got ten special media agents lined up to do the 'patriot winner' interviews and ads. They're very wholesome. Very American, Sir. I'm sure you'll like them."

"Good job. Just keep the poll ratings high and those contributions coming in."

by jal 10:02 PM


 
I once had an English professor who said that the chances of having a short story published in the New Yorker are significantly lower than the chances of being struck by lightning twice. I don’t know if that’s true. Probably not, but it doesn’t matter. His point wasn’t to discourage us, but to get us to concentrate on just writing, on getting words on the page. If you write with the idea that it has to be perfect, it never will be. Rarely has anyone sat down to write the Great American Novel and succeeded, right out of the gate. That’s what revision is for. Don’t be disheartened if editors don’t like your work, and don’t use “it’s not good enough for the New Yorker” as an excuse not to write. Writing is a craft, and it never will be good enough if you don’t continue to work at it by writing and publishing elsewhere. Don’t worry about the New Yorker; the odds are against you from the start.

That’s what I like about 600 seconds, that it forces me to concentrate on just writing. By imposing a strict ten-minute time limit, I can’t worry about being perfect or choosing just the right words. I get only as much revision as ten minutes will allow. If I like something that pops out of my brain in those ten minutes, I may go back and revise it, work it over, and find those right words. But I’ve always found just writing to be the most difficult part of this craft, and I’ve spent whole weekends writing stories with only a page or two to show for it, so anything that forces the issue and makes me put words on the page is okay in my book.

Sure, if I had more time, I might have a more carefully constructed piece of prose to show for it. I might have, for instance, tied the whole idea of probability into this again, since that is ostensibly the topic I’m writing about. But the words wouldn’t have come as easily, and it’s usually better just to write than to agonize over what you’re writing. And would you look at that? My time’s up.

by Fred 6:27 PM


 
Assume that life has to be like us for us to recognize it as life and communicate with it. Not like us humans; like us earthlings.

Occurrence: We need to find another planet with life.
The Sun is a G class star. There are approximately 26 x 10^9 G class stars in the galaxy, about 11% of the galaxy's stars. Extrapolating that our galaxy isn't a whole lot different from other galaxies, 11% of the stars in the universe are probably G class. Brighter or dimmer stars probably wouldn't support life that's like us.

Narrow that 11% down to stars that aren't binaries. The orbits of satellites in binary systems create weather systems that are too erratic for life. Binary stars are far more common than singles. Narrow the remainder to stars with planets.

Distance: We can only talk at the speed of light.
There may be around 80 billion galaxies in the universe, but they aren't near by. Some are up to 15 billion light years away, given current estimates of the age of the universe. (The "visible universe" is that which is close enough for light to have travelled here in the 15 billion years since the beginning of time.) Even the nearest one is 100,000 light years away. It is being ripped apart.

Timing: We need to be ready to talk when they're ready to listen.
It took 4.5 billion years from the formation of our planet for inhabitants to achieve the ability to communicate across space. If you made a 4.5-meter-long timeline to represent the lifespan of the earth, the most generous definition of hominid would appear 5 millimeters from the present, so standing-up apes have stomped around for 0.1% of the earth's duration. That eye-blink on another planet has to happen at the exact moment that it does on ours, plus or minus the multi-billion-year travel time. Then we have to be here in a few billion years to hear the response.

I think SETI is quaint.

[Who knows how long this took to write. Communication between planets may be unlikely, but communication between cubicles is in full swing. I had to help with a trouble ticket. I was doing pretty well with the Google searches, though. I might have made it under the wire. Maybe. Give or take a few billion seconds.]

by Sharon 5:41 PM


 
Hmmm, do you suppose I should post to 600s today?

I dunno. Maybe I will. But if I don't, then I can leave work now.

On the other hand, I am just going to Prospect Park to sit on a blanket and wait several hours for the NY Philharmonic to start at 8 PM.

I suppose there wouldn't be any harm in posting.

Do you think the probability of me contributing a post increases or decreases the longer I write? It could be argued either way. Perhaps it increases, as I have more time invested in my writing. Yet maybe it decreases, as I am often dissatisfied with my output. And the longer I sit at my computer, the more chances I have to be distracted by incoming emails, instant messages, co-workers and the like. Which tends to be the biggest factor in keeping me from posting on those days when I am in town.

It would be interesting to track the probability of each person posting on any given day. Do postings go down on Fridays? It seems clear that many of us post from work, since weekends are so slim. Do Fridays, then, inspire a "get me out of here!" attitude that ranks leaving over posting? I would guess that Wednesdays have a lower probability of seeing a post from me as I have onerous and long staff meetings on Wednesdays. (I usually try to schedule doctor's appointments for Wednesday afternoons to get out of them. "But boss, it was the only time the office was open!") I know. I'm a bad employee.

Which is why the probability of me posting on days I am in the office are so high. I would ever so much prefer to get paid for writing than to get paid for doing whatever it is I am supposed to do!

My ten minutes are nearly up and I still have no clear measure of the probability of this rambling ever reaching 600s. Does the probability change if I actually do post? I assume not, though I don't remember much from college stats class...

I find myself the last person in the office, and so I make a spur of the moment decision and choose ...

by Faith 4:27 PM


 
Probability

by Shawn 9:41 AM




{Tuesday, July 30, 2002}

 
It was the last time I'd switch operating systems. The first time, I switched from whatever it was that ran on an old Apple II to old, old DOS. I think it was the kind where you just sort of called it DOS. I assume it had a version number, but I have the sneaking suspicion it was really, really low. Like .01. God I'm old. I'll go listen to my 8-track tapes now.
Then, I let them switch me to windows 3.1. The old kind, where the pointer is just three pixels and a smudge. I think from there I jumped to OS8, then to Unix for a minute, and then let myself be talked back into Win98. Then, I heard about the WinNT-based systems, XP and so on. They were OK, but couldn't compete with OS/X, which was the next step.
Meanwhile, I started using PalmOS3.something. That and OS/X were the last external ones. HeaDOS in June of '03 was a trip. Sure, it was actually slower than my old WinXP, but it actually worked in the chip in my cerebrum. And, yeah, the mouse cursor was just three pixels and a smudge, but it'd move with the movements of my eyes. Great stuff.
Then, it was back along the cycle as the OS pack cought up with head tech. PalmNT worked OK, until Warcraft 6 came out, and my head kept crashing. I switched out the chip, and then over to WINHed, then to OS/L.
Then, in 2016, the big Linux/Unix crash was supposed to happen. Of course, it didn't because they just circulated the patch and everything was fixed, but it drew my attention to the fact that they were still running on the same platform they always had, and that they were just as fast as anything else, only more so because I could turn off the crap I didn't need at any moment in time and free up some damned memory. I'd already sacrificed the names of most of my old friends and distant relatives, and every pet up to 2012 for space for extra RAM, so it was nice to be able to use all of those sims. That was when I switched over. I mean, it could emulate any other operating system, only better because it was really, really customizable. I found myself liking the look of Win3.1 and the feel of OS/L.
And then it happened. Viruses coded by the Bill Gates MemorialNET circulated and wiped out everything but the latest version of WINhed. I was left with the ruins of my Linux, and half a kernel on any given backup. The connection to the Net was constant by then, and you couldn't disconnect. Every time I'd get Unix back up and running, it'd be corrupted by every other file out there.
Somebody very high up decided to reformat everything.
Linux never recovered. Now that the penguins are in the toilet, and I've been branded a traitor by the MSquads, I'm in hiding. They use old tech to scan for monitors running Word, a feature that's been standard since the '90's that they used to use to see if there were multiple installations in a given building. Now they check for any form of monitor. There's a small group of us, survivors, still sharing thoughts on paper (and not the IBM digital kind, either. The real stuff, made out of recycled treefibre). We've established a little chat room. We write and hand it around. It's OK. We're working on it. Maybe it'd be easier to deal with if I could remember anything I'd done before having my head wired. TV never seemed important, so I got rid of all my entertainment memories a long time ago. I figured I could just go download something to experience on the Net. So now we sit here, with more than $800K of equipment between the twelve of our heads, and all we can do is try to remember what people used to do for fun.


Going back and reading other people's posts, I see Faith and I had the same thoughts. I promise I didn't read hers before I wrote mine.

by MisterNihil 11:58 PM


 
My sister snuck up behind me. It was a beautiful day, otherwise. We were at the park with her friend Tricia, admiring the ducks and playing on the swings. I love the swings.

"Tricia dropped her ice cream," Maureen said, after I had sufficiently jumped. Tricia dropping her ice cream was just another thing to make me sigh. Of all of Maureen's friends, Tricia is probably the least coherent. She's the kind of girl that you can send home with a joke tonight so that she'll be in hysterics tomorrow. Of course, she had a crush on me. All of Maureen's bonehead friends did. "Jimmy!" she yelled. I hated it when she called me Jimmy. "Jimmy, what can we do?"

Apparently, I had forgotten Tricia was a moron. "Tricia," I smiled sweetly, "why are you a moron?"

"I dunno!" she asked, jaunting closer, "Why?" For chrissakes, she thought I was telling a joke.

"Maureen," I said, turning towards my sister. "Where did Tricia drop her ice cream?"

"The toilet. I told her that I would hold it while she went, but I think she wanted to eat it.. you know, while she went,"

I smacked my forehead with the palm of my hand. "Why'd you do that, Tricia?"

"She says she wants another one," Maureen piped in, before Tricia could say anything. "Another one like yours," The ice cream man, a little old Mexican pushing a cart of very expensive icy treats around the area once a day, had already been here. The butterflies in my wallet could tell me that.

"Another one... like mine?" Tricia had waited until I ordered my ice cream, a grey and white penguin with licorice-flavored gum for eyes, before she ordered hers. Surprisingly, she asked for a penguin. I took one last desperate lick from my ice cream, quickly melting from all this talk, and handed it to her. I hoped it was good and spitty. She kept it in my hand as long as possible, her hand and mine together, connected through a thin popsicle stick with dirty grey ice cream dribbling through our fingers. She spouted a thanks, and they both left, ostenibly to let Tricia prance around a bit more.

It was a good ten minutes before my sister trudged back, Tricia in tow. "Jimmy," she sighed, "Tricia dropped her ice cream again."

"Where?! Where could she have dropped it this time?"

"In the toilet. She was showing me where she dropped the first one when it slipped out of her hand." Tricia stood behind her, furiously licking off the last drops of ice cream that dripped through our fingers.

"So her ice cream, and my ice cream.. are in the toilet. The penguins are in the toilet."

"Yes," was her only reply. God, I wished I was in there with them.

by rocketo 11:53 PM


 
"There you are! I'm glad you wore that hat or I'd've never found you. Did I miss anything?" I'd shown up late to my first ice hockey game. After buying a hot dog and a medium soda ($5.75), I wandered into the arena. Steve wore his "lighthouse" hat, so I didn't have much trouble finding him.

"Nope. Take a look at the rink." Steve gestured at the half-vacant ice rink. The Flyers were warming up, but the other half of the rink was empty. The opposing team was conspicuously absent.

"Uh, Steve... Where's the other team? I've never seen this played before, but there's usually two teams. Right?"

Steve nodded in agreement. "The Penguins are in the toilet."

"Come again?" I offered my hot dog to him, he shook his head, and I took a bite. Not bad for a $3 hot dog.

"They're in the toilet. Someone said that they all got food poisoning over lunch. Now they're pooping and farting up a storm. They started on time, but the players couldn't stay on the ice for more than a minute before they had to put the game on hold."

"Oh, that's too bad." Savoring the sweet relish, I surveyed the arena, looking for an entrance to the locker rooms. I was sure that there are more fearsome things than an irate hockey team with diarrhea, but I couldn't think of one then.

We waited around for another 15 minutes, I finished my dog and drink, then we left and had a chat over sushi. I still haven't seen a hocky match in person.

by jal 7:42 PM


 
"What?" Marci squinted at her roommate.

"The penguins are in the toilets," repeated Kelly with great earnestness. Marci laughed— and then stopped, abruptly. Kelly wasn't kidding, at least not about her distress.

"Should we... um, call Housing?"

"Maybe, or," Kelly looked frantic, "we could serve the hamburgers right here." Her eyes rolled wildly about the room, and she gasped in great lungfuls of air. "Right... here." Kelly drifted off to another place. She sat heavily upon the carpet.

Marci was still trying to get her feet under her. Kelly was sick, or hallucinating, or... something.

"Hey, uh, Kell?" She waved her hand in front of the vacant stare. "When's the last time you slept?"

Kelly's broken laugh unnerved Marci. "Sleep?! Are you kidding? I still have seven references to incorporate. It's only 50 pages. Dr. Blashke wants another 20 by tomorrow. Twenty pages, 20 penguins, 20 penguins by the toilet..." The period of lucidity passed, Kelly slumped, haunted, against the leg of her desk.

That, at least, made sense. The Scholars Program wasn't good for anyone's health. Marci wondered what insight Kelly's thesis would provide on how anisotropic instability in helicopter rotor blades is affected by penguins.

[Nearly true, except for names and subjects. That girl took the next semester off. And no, I wasn't intending to be funny. It was actually rather frightening.]

by Sharon 6:08 PM


 
Bob: Hello, folks, and welcome to New Years Countdown to 2013. 2012 has been a fascinating year for all of us here in the US. Jane, what was your highlight of the past?

Jane: Well, Bob, I'd have to say it was covering the Olympics right here in New York City. The city government fought very hard to win over the International Olympic Committee, starting its planning all the way back in 2001. The years since then have seen very tight budgets in the city, with the mayor even choosing to fund the Olympic quest over the city's recycling program. But this year we have seen the rewards! Over a million visitors in only seventeen days! New York's economy has never seen this kind of prosperity.

Bob: That's right, Jane! That was a very exciting time this year. You were lucky to cover it.

Jane: And what about you, Bob? What was your highlight this year?

Bob: Well, Jane, the thing that stands out in my memory of 2012 is the bitter battle between MicroSoft and RedHat. Since the federal anti-trust laws divided Microsoft into three separate companies back in 2003, a huge opening was created for Linux to spread in the technology marketplace. Microsoft's development stagnated, and Linux looked like it would emerge as the favorite. But when Bill Gates was elected president this year, he abolished the anti-trust laws and restored his company. After a promising and prosperous decade for companies like RedHat, the penguins are in the toilet.

Jane: That's right, Bob. What a surprise for all of us! And speaking of surprises, let's see what Susan down in Times Square has to show us about tonight's festivities....


[It took me a little longer than 10 minutes, but I simply had to get to the punch line. My humble apologies.]

by Faith 1:41 PM


 
The penguins are in the toilets. You can hear them wriggling around in the stalls, splashing water everywhere, squawking happily. To your right is the bathroom door, next to which sits a towel dispenser attached to the wall. Directly in front of you is a row of white porcelain sinks, a mirror on the wall above each. A red plunger sits next to one of the sinks.

>>Take plunger.

You take the plunger. Somehow, it feels…right in your hand.

>>Examine plunger.

It is an ordinary plunger. There is a stick and a suction cup at the end. The suction cup is bright fire-engine red. There is a small note tied to the stick.

>>Read note.

“Acme Brand De-Penguinfying Plungers: Say ‘goodbye’, messy penguins!”

>>Say, “goodbye, messy penguins”

That was rhetorical. You didn’t really have to say it.

>>Oh. Examine the towel dispenser.

The towel dispenser is empty. It isn’t important. It’s just there for ambience.

>>Look in mirror.

You look in the mirror above the sink nearest you. Reflected back, you see…well, you know what you look like, obviously. No point in boring you with what you already know, right?

>>I guess. Is there anything in the sink?

No. Just more ambience.

>>Sigh. Okay. Open stall door.

You open the first bathroom stall door. There, in the toilet, splashing merrily about, is a penguin. It looks up at you as you enter the stall.

>>Use plunger on penguin.

You use the plunger on the penguin. It squawks angrily as you lift it from the toilet and then lands with a soft thlop on the cold tile floor. It waddles out the door. Congratulations! You’ve won the game!

>>That’s it?

Well, yes. It’s not much, I know, but it’s about what you’d expect from a game called Toilet Penguins, am I right? Wanna play again? Y/N?

>>N

by Fred 11:04 AM


 

The Penguins are in the toilet. To be more precise, two penguins were in the toilet. Not those big King Penguins that would find it difficult at best to fit in a toilet, but the smaller Rockhopper penguins that could, obviously if necessary, fit into a toilet. As Bret stood, blurry eyed and blurry minded, in his bathroom door he pondered just how two penguins had found their way into his apartment, into his bathroom and indeed, into his toilet. To say nothing of why.

The penguins stared back with the expressions one might expect to find on toilet inhabiting penguins. They looked suspiciously at Brett as if wondering who this oddly dressed person was who had just invaded their private moment. The one of the penguins, Ralph for lack of a better name, without taking his eyes from Brett, reached over and snatched his toothbrush from the bathroom sink. Then he simply sat motionless to see what this peculiar stranger was going to do about it. Brett closed the door.

He, Brett, not Ralph, shuffled out to his living room and sat on the sofa. It seemed quite unlikely that two penguins would be in his toilet on a Tuesday morning, or any other morning for that matter, so it occurred to him that perhaps he had taken leave of his senses. That must be it! At some point while he was quite distracted by other things his mind had slipped away like change from your pocket when you sit on the couch. His hand absently searched between the cushions finding 23 cents and a key to something. Or maybe during the night his mind had gone missing in pursuit of a dream having gotten lost on the return trip.

Still, Brett really needed to use the toilet so he shuffled back to the bathroom. The penguins were gone. Brett was in the middle of a deep, grateful sigh when, from the corner of his eye he spotted the same penguins in the shower. Again they froze, stared and looking quite annoyed.






by Shawn 10:26 AM


 
Using the first random phrase generator that Google gives me, today's topic is:

The penguins are in the toilets.

by Fred 9:12 AM




{Monday, July 29, 2002}

 
Sarah felt cold and shaky and more than a little nauseated. She knew she was in shock: from blood loss, from events, from pain that would come crashing in soon enough. The key was to do as much as she could before her brain realized how much this should hurt.

She looked over at Chuck and ticked off the reasons this had been the right decision.
  • A black eye,
  • three broken ribs,
  • two days in the closet under the stairs,
  • the girl from the plant,
  • her daughter.
Sarah considered shooting him again but decided that would compromise the picture she needed to paint.

Her thigh started to throb, and the dish towel tied around it felt tight, like it wouldn't throb so much if she just loosened the knot a little... Wrong. Just wrong. Keep working.

Sarah placed her feet where Chuck's had stood a few minutes ago and looked around her. There, on the end table, was a ceramic lamp. She snatched it up, yanked it savagely from the wall socket, got a fair bit closer to the far wall, and flung it with all her strength. It shattered satisfyingly, and she was tempted to create a little more evidence, but there was a balance to strike, and time was critical.

She arranged the large kitchen knife in Chuck's limp fingers. She walked over to the pile of lamp shards. She sat down amongst them. She tossed the gun carelessly to one side. She untied the dish towel from around her leg, allowing blood to blossom up through her jeans again, and held it ineffectually in one forgotten hand. She was ready to greet the police.

She began to scream bloody murder.

by Sharon 11:59 PM


 
Beauty and Shock

Remember me? The mind-leak psychic with the perfect communicator? Yeah, well I remember you. I remember lots of things now. I've destroyed the last copy of the communicator, and I'm going to go somewhere far away to meditate -- perhaps Tibet. The Feds, or whomever they are, will find me eventually. I'm sure that they'll torture me and eventually kill me, but they won't learn anything about the communicator.

Because I have the ultimate proof.

I was scanning for them in the early morning like I always did. It was about nine months ago. That's when I first felt this consciousness peering in at me, like an inquisitive child or a mischevious cat would peer in at a goldfish in a bowl. I tried to seek it out, but it vanished as soon as I heeded it. Intermittently for those nine months, I fely that presence about me; always fragmenting like wafs of smoke if I turned to look at it.

Last week I was exhausted. I hadn't slept for days. I was in a fleabag hotel 98 miles outside of Tempe, AZ. I was making my last scan before going to bed when I sensed that presence prickling at the back of my neck. Instead of whipping around to stare at it (in a metaphysical sense), I sidled up and around to it then I pounced on it all of a sudden-like.

That's when I saw what I can only assume was the face of the divine. I was shocked and astounded by the beauty of it. It was beatifically benign. Somehow the communicator channeled through this omniscient entity, and for one awesome moment, I think I percieved everything. Everything. Everything everywhere.

I'm not one-hundred percent sure 'cause I don't remember much more than waking up the next day perfectly content. Thinking aobut it, it makes sense that a tool that seeks out consciousness would inexorably be drawn to the ultimate definition of that which is conscious. Deep inside, I feel that ultimate consciousness is largely what you make of it. That's why I destroyed the communicator the following day.

Now I can stop running. And when they come for me, I can die in peace.

by jal 11:59 PM


 
Shock:

I woke up and realized it was time to change. No more being on the outside because it was the outside. No more rebellion because it was what I'd done for ever before and what I fully thought I was going to do for ever after. No more difference. One of the herd.
I traded in my funky old car, the one with the 'custom paint job' that made the neighbors cringe. I got a new sedan. It seats four. It has a radio. I like it.
Goodbye hand-assembled computer. When I took the parts out of the box, I knew nothing about machines. I had a bunch of pieces and a box. I knew, though, that when the parts fit together right, this computer would fly. 256K of RAM, a 300mhz chip, yeah, four years ago this was a fine machine. No more. Time to just go ahead and get one of those out of the box. The one that says, "Mooo, Dude, you're gettin' ta Think Different."
I sold all of my stupid roleplay stuff. I took the $150 and bought a bowling ball and some shoes. That's what normal people do on the weekends. It was time. I need to learn how to bowl.
There wasn't room in that back closet, what with my bowling stuff, so I got rid of my homebrew tanks. I put them in the recycling bin, like the people next door do. I bought a case of Budweiser, and liked it.
Yup. I'm normal. I've averaged out to be what I knew all along, at some level, I had to be. It's kinda nice. On the weekends, I bowl with the guys, then come home and have unsatisfying sex with the wife. We got a lap dog and set it loose in the back yard.
The thing that hurt the most was the drum set out of the garage. I guess because it meant realizing that I'm never going to play for a real touring rock band. It's OK, though. I have my life and I like what's going on with it. I like my job. I like my beautiful house. I like my beautiful wife. My biggest fears are my hair falling out or my turning into my parents. Yeah.

by MisterNihil 11:59 PM


 
After 30 years of marriage, a late-night call asking for a divorce.

Shock.

Finding out that your father has been dating someone for at least the last year, maybe more. No one knows, and he's not saying.

Shock.

It doesn't matter that they haven't lived together for 20-some years. It doesn't matter that they could never have been happy together. It doesn't matter that the most surprising part is the idea that things you thought would never change somehow find a way of changing.

It's still a shock.

And then there's my grandmother.

Grandma is spooky. My mother got the phone call last night, and had no sooner hung up the phone with my father than it started ringing again. She answered, a bit tentatively this time:

"Lynne? What's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"Of course there is. Tell me what it is."

"What are you talking about?"

"I don't know. I just know that something just happened to you and so I had to call."

My grandmother has nearly lost her mind; she at times has difficulty holding a coherent conversation. And yet, with unerring precision, she can pinpoint a family member in distress from 300 miles away.

That may not be so shocking, but it is downright spooky.

by Faith 9:25 PM


 
This post is for yesterday’s “Beauty”. Somehow I just love the juxtaposition with “Shock”.


It could truly be said that there were no words to describe it. This was a place that could simply not be on this Earth and yet spread out in front of her was beauty unlike any she had even imagined before. Trees, mighty and calm towered above her their limbs thick with moss and damp with dew. The forest floor like a sea of green, soft and welcoming. The river fell away into the distant valley with s soft, thunderous voice.

This was a place ancient and majestic. If there were still faeries in the world this is where they lived. If there was a god this was its voice. Here one could lie down among the ferns and hear the voice of the Earth and gladly never rise again. Here the outside world had never been imagined. There were no cities, no pollution, traffic, money strife, war, crime. Here was all that had ever been and would ever be. Here all the prattling of man was of such insignificance that it was beyond notice.

She stretched out among the leaves and was lost. Comfortably so. The trees took no notice of her; the river tumbled by and was unaware of her; the forest was there before her people were born and would be long after. She breathed deeply and found comfort in this. Her troubles were nothing to this place and she slept, and for the first time in years her mind was gentle.

by Shawn 6:43 PM


 


I think I should point out that I am not a cruel man; I’m a professional, plain and simple. They call me in to do a job, I do and I move on. I’m not invested. It’s just a job.

In this particular case I not only don’t care what my subject is blubbering about I don’t understand a word of it. That’s not my job. My job is to get it, whatever it happens to be, out of him. The guy in charge of writing down what comes flowing out is a small, weasely-looking fellow wearing a dirty yellow suit, brown pants and sandals. Since I don’t speak his language I motion for him to move back and stay clear of the water on the floor. He scuttles his chair back, pushes his coke bottle glasses up into place and gets ready to continue writing. His pencil is worn down to a snub. Low budget operation.

The guy I’m dragging the information out of is a piece of work, man! I’d say he’s seen better days but I doubt it; he was in pretty bad shape before I got to him. He’s definitely never seen a dentist, which works to my favor. The first jolt I sent through him shattered his teeth, which, while it makes him harder to understand afterwards makes a real impression right out of the starting gate. I won’t bore you with the details but it’s pretty much the typical car battery, jumper cables, metal chair and water on the floor set up. I’ve always found the anticipation of the shock to be as effective as the actual jolt itself. The zap is over fast but you can drag the build up on for a long time, especially if you make a show of it and clamp the cables to the right spots.

Whatever the patient has been screaming seems to have given the yellow suit guy what he needs and he motions for me to pack up and go. Money changes hands and I move on. Another job well done.




by Shawn 6:42 PM


 
The trick, of course, is not to want the cheese.

The maze is fairly simple. It twists and turns, but if you pay attention you will find it is really just a spiral toward the center, one left turn after the other. At its heart is the box, and inside the box is the cheese. This is where the trouble starts. The true function of the box is cleverly disguised. It seems innocuous at first, and perhaps you will not see the wires until you are already half-inside. And by then it will be too late. You will have already seen the cheese. You will have felt instinct gnawing at your empty stomach. By then, they may not have fed you for days. At that moment, everything can be reduced to hunger, to that small yellow-white morsel in the center of the box and your absolute need to have it. By now you will have seen the wires -- they are not so well hidden inside -- but you will reach for the cheese, grab it in your hands anyway, and it will only be when that first jolt of electricity passes through you that you’ll realize you’ve been played for a fool.

I have been inside the box now some six or seven times. The maze never changes. The box and the cheese and the wires are always there…but so is the hunger. The need to eat is a powerful force. Whoever they are, they must know that by now. We continue to feed despite the shocks they administer. Instinct refuses to allow us to starve. They can learn nothing more by continuing this. They do not need to put us in the maze again, to force our bodies to choose between death and the box. Dear god, why won’t they let us go home?

by Fred 2:53 PM


 
I told Jon on Saturday that, if he saw me once again reaching for something with too much sugar, knowing full well how sick it would make me later, he had my permission to taze me. (He was much, much too enthusiastic at this prospect.) During a meeting this morning, I proposed that Dell issue us tasers instead of pagers, so that we could punish people who are late to the meetings we call. Now, at 2:15 Central, I think Remi needs a gentle "reminder." *cough* Ergo, I propose:
shock

by Sharon 2:16 PM




{Sunday, July 28, 2002}

 
[removed by author]

by Fred 11:59 PM


 
When I first saw my car, I was sitting in the passenger seat, and my dad and I were driving to see the last classified ad I had circled during biology. I was fresh off the second truck I'd totalled in less than ten months, and my dad and I decided it might be time for me to find something more reliable. I say reliable now, but after spending five thousand dollars on the last vehicle I'd destroyed, I wanted cheap.

The first car I'd seen since the accident was awful. A 1982 Honda Civic hatchback, the muffler was being held on with two thick pieces of wire, and the floorboard was missing beneath the brake pedal. At six hundred dollars, it was just what I wanted to spend, except for everything I just described. The reasonable, financial part of my brain thought it might be a good purchase until the part of my brain that was driving realized that even with the clutch to the floor, I couldn't shift out of first. The second car was slightly better. It was brown, and this time not as old as me. The selling points included a stereo, and a sunroof that the owners assured me wouldn't cost a lot to fix. The paint was peeling from years of gas station car washes, and the antenna dangled from the hood like an old man's prosthetic leg.

For a few days, I had myself convinced that I would be able to ride my bicycle the five miles to the bus stop every morning so I could go to school. I was so convinced that I spent close to a quarter grand tuning my bike and buying the roadworthy necessities: a helmet, bike lights, gloves, a new waterbottle, and a bike pump were things I never thought I'd need until my grey Trek (the first vehicle I'd ever purchased on my own) would become my primary mode of transportation. Work, the grocery and video store, the library, and the coffeehouse were all within reach of my knobby tires. It took two days in the pouring rain for me to realize I truly missed the comforts of an automobile.

Turning into the driveway, the 1985 Honda Accord LX sat serenely. Its first real owner was an army chaplain that insisted on detailing the car every friday. Its second owner was less meticulous, shuttling two kids and the family that accompany them for almost nine years. The prospect of a new car's looming payments was their only motivation to sell. The Accord's paint was standard 80s grey, but everything about her was smooth. There was no doubt that this car had seen years of use, but each of its owners loved her, and she loved them. Now it was my turn.

I paid the family nine hundred and fifty dollars cash, and received a giant manilla envelope detailing the car's lifetime of work. The second I slid behind the wheel as its owner, the car spoke to me. "My name is Susie," she told me, echoing deep inside my head. "I know about you, and I. Do not. Want to. Die." I nodded slowly, and cheerfully waved to the previous owner's wife as I pulled out of her driveway.

Susie and I celebrate a year together in September. Ours is the longest relationship I've ever had with a car, and I intend to make it last. When she's hurting, she'll ease the gas pedal without me noticing, and when I'm in a hurry she'll let me speed. I wash her when she's dirty, and she lets me attach my bike to the rack lashed to her trunk.

We are a team.

[I admit, I used the time edit feature to get this in under the wire. It's really close to two am on Monday.]

by rocketo 10:35 PM


 
Mirrors know jack about beauty.
Naked under dripping hemlocks
Singing alone on the freeway
Entwined with a lover
Contemplating a new spring bud
(potential flower)
Laughing
Set free down a mountain of snow
Alive in a fire circle with drums
Retrieving a recordset tailored to user input
Gazing under the stars
Telling one of Dad's jokes
Reflected in the eyes of an old friend
Unmistakably me
I am beautiful.

by Sharon 10:10 PM


 
beauty

by Sharon 3:58 AM




{Friday, July 26, 2002}

 
New York City is so darn cool. Last night, I went to a free concert in Central Park: sitting out on a blanket, eating strawberries, grapes, pita bread & crab dib, drinking white wine ... and listing to Dave Brubeck play Take Five, live. Did I mention that this was completely free?

Besides just generally nifty stuff to do, New York City also has a preponderance of the bizarre. Waiting after work to meet my friends, there was a man wandering around with tinfoil hair and a white cape. I think he was handing out samples of something.

My friends and I are settled on our blanket, just spreading out our feast, when the first such foot-marketer approaches us. I don't know what their real title is, but they hand you flyers and try to convince you to vote for someone or buy something or sign a petition. When you are rushing through the streets of Manhattan, you can look away and look like you are very late to meet the CEO of Megatron, Inc. In the park, however, you are a captive audience.

So this man presses two leaflets on us before moving to the next blanket. An advertisement for Dance Harlem and one for an off-off-off play. Soon another woman wanders by, wanting to give us free yoga sessions. Steven, my friend, winks at me and says, "Here, try this:"

Steven, to yoga-woman: "What's this?"

Yoga-Woman: "A coupon for a free yoga class at BeWell Gyms."

S: "Hmm... well, I couldn't just take that from you. Here, how about I give you this flyer for Dance Harlem instead?"

Y-W: "Ooh, I love Dance Harlem! I just saw them last week!"

S: "Great! If you liked that, you should definitely see this play."

Y-W: "Really? Okay, thanks!" She walks off, both of our flyers in hand.

Another satisfied customer.

by Faith 9:24 PM


 
“Here, try this!”

“What?!”, the music pounding in my ears was so loud I wasn’t sure what she had said.

“I SAID, HERE…TRY…THIS!” She handed me a small sheet of paper made up of tiny squares, each had a little picture of Mickey Mouse.

I smiled and swallowed the sheet. I could tell by her expression that I had just done something terribly wrong. Her eyes went wide and just as a group of drunken classmates shoved their way between us she screamed, “Fuck, you just did 12 hits of…” She was lost in the crowd.

Well, I had no idea what I had just done 12 hits of but damnit, I was in art school, this was the greatest Halloween party I had ever seen, I was three sheets to the wind and I was going to have a good time. Besides, I felt fine, it was great! There had to be a hundred people, costumed and dancing, laughing and singing as the stereo blasted out The Cure. It was so loud you could almost touch the sound. And then I realized I COULD touch the sound. It was a tangible translucent wall that I could actually feel. Seemed perfectly natural at the time. Even comforting. Rubbery. I saw my friend Joe pass by so I called out to him but then noticed he had gone all black and white. Not like Dee, she was more bronze and slightly mechanical with golden brown feathers streaming off from her costume. Well, actually it was her costumed that walked by, not her.

I decided I was tired of the noise so I carefully folded up the sheet of sound until the room was perfectly quiet. But it was still crowded so I stepped through the brick wall and into the jungle waiting just beyond the alley. Funny I had never noticed it there before. The waterfall, green and moss covered rose above me and I began to climb. At the top there was a helpful pillar of Chameleons drifting slowly upwards and they graciously agreed to take me with them.

That was 20 years ago. It was a great party.




by Shawn 6:34 PM


 
“Here, try this.”

“Still nothing. Are you sure you’ve got the right coordinates?”

“I’m sure. See? I wrote them down, just like you said. Eleven twenty-two, one nine sixty-three. Dallas. We’ve had some trouble lately with parts of years disappearing, though.”

“What do you mean, disappearing?”

“Just that. Disappearing. We punch in the coordinates – day, month, year, time, location – bring it up on the finder and…just nothing.”

“Nothing? Where do they go? What happens to them?”

“Beats me, pal. I just work here. We lost all of 44 BC just the other day. Guys upstairs were pissed, too. Said we gotta watch the system from now on, report any strange behavior, any missing years. I think they worried we wouldn’t get the man who kills Julius Caesar back and then – well, you know.”

“No, what?”

“Well, maybe I shouldn’t be saying this, I dunno, but…well, it’s one thing to take somebody from the past, bring ‘em here and ask ‘em questions. Get to know what made ‘em do it. But if you don’t put ‘em back at the exact moment you took ‘em out – or worse yet, you don’t get ‘em back at all? – hell, I don’t even wanna think about what could happen then.”

“Like a…like a paradox?”

“Yeah, sorta. I dunno. Hey, try it now. Anything comin’ up on the finder?”

“Um…oh, yeah, I think I can see the parade route now. There’s the president’s car.”

“Okay. I can’t promise I’ll get you back to the sixth floor – everything’s a little fuzzy right now – but I’ll definitely get you inside the depository.”

“That’s okay. If I’m late, there’s always the second shooter outside the building.”

“I knew it! I guess that’s part of why they brought you here.”

“I guess.”

“Well anyway, Mr. Oswald, it’s been a pleasure. I hope you enjoyed your stay, and now if you’ll just step through the gate…”

[I'm not entirely pleased with this, but I will say this much: thank goodness for Google.]

by Fred 1:39 PM


 
I'd wandered around the store for about 15 minutes. The layout of the place was really goofy. The ceiling was often too high or too low. Miniature racks for one game were interspersed among unrelated games. The shelves curved around, preventing straight lines of sight and blocking the view from the front register to the back. I'd found two different private gaming rooms behind beaded curtains, one had dim lighting and Indian sitar music piping out of it. The other room emitted a low grumbling noise.

"Can I help you?" She popped out from a hidden corner and almost gave me a coronary.

"I'm looking for a copy of GURPS: Timeline. Do you have it?"

She idly twisted a braid of purple hair around her fingers. "Nope, sorry. You like multi-genre game systems?" I nodded my agreement. She plucked a book off a shelf and thrust it at me. "Here, try this."

It had a rust-colored cover and was about 350 pages thick. "What's it about?"

"You're a plastic surgeon / improv comic in the high-octane world of speed-sitcom-reality-television-surgery. It's called Rhinoplas-TV." As I set it aside, she passed another book to me. "How about this game of viral microbiology sciences? Rhibosome: The Engineering." I set it aside; two more books. "Fungus & Fecal Matter? Big Mouth, Small Brain?"

Eventually I left with a copy of BURPS: Mime-Crime. At least it sounds like what I was looking for...

by jal 12:51 PM


 
Hindsight, at times, can be acutely keen.

I think this was at PhilCon, in Philadelphia, PA, my first sci-fi convention. It was a fabulous first-con experience: very literature-focused; some great, clever, funny costumes at the masquerade; insightful, thought-provoking conversations at the panels.

Many conventions have informal parties in people's hotel rooms, after the sanctioned activities have died down, often to woo you into attending their upcoming con. I saw a flier for a Chocolate Party. I was so there.

So I was milling about amongst M&Ms, chocolate cake, and geeks—unattended, as I recall. A middle-aged man holding an unlabeled wine bottle offered me a paper cup and said, "Would you like to try some?"

This is the point where I clearly took leave of my senses.

"Sure."

What?! You're accepting an unknown drink from a stranger without any of the boys you came with around? Are you insane?

Yes. Clearly. But I was used to SCAdians bearing delightful home-brews, and it was a very civilized convention.

As I am swallowing, the nice man explains that it is a habañera liqueur, home-made, he proudly reports, with habañeras steeping in it for a few months.

I later learned two things: Habañeras are hot even by Texan standards; and, similar to the Chocolate Party, there was a Hot Party down the hall (describing the fare rather than the guests; it was a sci-fi convention). In the bathroom at that party, taped to the inside of the toilet lid, was a sign: "Wash your hands FIRST."

We quickly fled, the nice man helping me, down a few doors to the Hot Party, where, unlike the Chocolate Party, they had milk.

by Sharon 11:20 AM


 
yo yo yo, goodnight
Here, try this.

by rocketo 2:33 AM




{Thursday, July 25, 2002}

 
...? We sat in the same room and used the same 10 minutes.

I am so married.

by Sharon 9:38 PM


 
The air smelled faintly of fish, but mostly of burning tires, oil, and building dust. Josh "Action" Bradenton, commander of the 4th branch of the GDF (Godzilla Defense Force), had set up operations in the burned-out husk of a Woolworth's department store in the 132nd block of the city. Five minutes later, he sent out Blue (The Ghosts), Red (Strawberries), and Green (Clover) teams to search for civillians and escort them to safety.

"Hey, Action! We have a problem. Over." His walkie-talkie squawked over the hiss of drizzle on the tarp above.

"10-4. What's up Ghost Leader? Over."

"We were following Red Team from three blocks away to cover their rear when the block between us collapsed. Once we managed to regain visual contact, we saw Godzilla behind them. We warned them and they scattered for cover, per protocol. Over."

"So what's the problem? Over."

"Well sir, Godzilla hasn't lost interest and gone elsewhere like he has before. It looks like he's singling out people and following them. The lizard is stalking the strawberries. If we don't get an extraction team in there soon, I think they're done for. Over."

by jal 7:09 PM


 
McKinney crouched low, tried to think about being small and grass-like. Her com unit vibrated against her hip. She pulled it free, brought it close to her face, and pressed the orange button on its side. "Saphire Alpha. I see Unicorns, Charlie," she said, to identify herself and signal that this was an unsecured channel.

"Roger, SaphAph. This is Goldenrod Delta. We've seen the Lizard," came the furtive reply.

"Copy that. Location?" A sour chill settled in McKinney's stomach, and she looked involuntarily into the sky.

"The Lizard is stalking the Strawberries." Shit, thought McKinney, Red Team; the ballistics... "They are unaware. Repeat, the Strawberries are unaware."

McKinney rocked back on her heels and sat vacantly into the mud. Warn them. Warn them!

"Do you copy?" asked her informant.

McKinney shook herself and punched the com button, "Yeah, copy. Copy... Theories on worm containment?"

A thoughtful hiss of static replied. Then, "Negative, Saphire Alpha... Goldenrod Delta out."

Damn it, Red Alpha—Richard—turn around. See the dragon. Hell.

by Sharon 7:09 PM


 
"Turn that shit off, man. I hate that fucking song," Theo threw me a dirty look along with his usual spray of profanity and bile.
"Why should I? This song is a classic," I politely inform my older brother.
Theo rises from his usual place at the drawing board, smacks me on the side of the head as he passes the couch, and rips the Paisley Sky Orchestra cassette out of the little boombox we share.
"Look, if you're going to listen to this neo-psych crap, at least play some fucking Robyn Hitchcock or Flaming Lips or something, at least they have some songs that rise above their acid trip longings. Shit, Paisley Sky gives me such a headache."
I leap off the couch and attempt to grab the tape (The 1993 rarities collection 'Purple Moon Rising', which includes the disputed song 'The Lizard is Stalking the Strawberries') from Theo's hand, but he pushes me away, back into the couch, but also forcing me into the TV tray. The tray goes over. There's a tinkle and my butt gets wet. Theo puts the tape in his faded army jacket pocket.
"Aw, man! You made me spill my Kool-Aid!"
Theo graces me with an unsympathetic glance, and starts flipping through the various tapes and CD's in our shared collection. He pulls out Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska and slaps it into the CD player on top of the little Sanyo unit.
"Wonderful, now we can be depressed all afternoon."
"Shut the fuck up, bitch, this album is a classic."
"This album makes me long for Robert Smith's sunny worldview!"
Theo gives me the finger and sits back down at his drafting table. I mop up the sticky mess left on the cushion with an old copy of The Big Takeover, staining the cheap newsprint of the thick magazine. I notice there's an interview with Paisley Sky I had missed earlier, and attempt to pry the tinted-red pages apart. What can I say? I love the band. I need to get out of this apartment soon, though.

by Remi 5:52 PM


 
“The lizard is stalking the strawberries” What the hell could it possibly mean. There I was, sitting in a Chinese restaurant in Seattle, 3000 miles from home reading and rereading this little piece of paper and absolutely no idea what it meant or how I should take it. I felt very vulnerable and more than a little troubled.

I mean, why would, whoever it is that writes fortune cookie fortunes, write something like that? What could it possibly mean? Most fortunes are pretty straightforward, you know the kind, “Patience is the key to happiness” or “You have a generous soul.” Even the more abstract ones or the ones that have gotten butchered in the translation make some sort of sense. But “The lizard is stalking the strawberries”? I was really getting concerned.

Now I should point out that I tend to be a little paranoid on my best days but this sounded like something out of a spy movie. I half expected someone wearing dark glasses carrying an umbrella to sit down and look at me meaningfully waiting for me to hand him an envelope.

I paid the bill at the front counter and was just sure the cashier was waiting for something. But what?! Oh, then I realized he was waiting for me to sign my credit card receipt. I felt even more ridiculous.

So there I was, walking through the streets of Seattle in a pouring rain muttering this over and over, trying to figure out what it might possibly mean, “The lizard is stalking the strawberries”, “the lizard is stalking the strawberries”, “the lizard is stalking the strawberries”. Then I realized people were starting to stare. I had stopped at an intersection waiting for the walk light and people were staring at me the way you stare at someone from the corner of your eye so you can quickly look away or past them if they look your way.

Finally a young woman asked, “Um, what does that mean anyhow?”

“I don’t know, that’s the problem!”, I yelled.

The light changed and everyone went his or her own way convinced that I was just another crazy. I couldn’t help but think that somewhere in a cookie factory in Chinatown some body was laughing their ass off.

by Shawn 3:15 PM


 
“The lizard is stalking the strawberries.”

“That sounds delightfully naughty. What’s it mean?”

“It means what I said. The lizard is stalking the strawberries. I think we should do something.”

“Oh, like what? Call the police? Get a restraining order? Come on, leave the lizard alone, Deborah, and come back to bed.”

“How can you sleep?”

“Like this -- see? Two eyes closed, head on pillow. Now you try.”

“I’m telling you, it’s stalking the strawberries.”

“They’re in the refrigerator, Deb. I put them there myself. And Floyd is in his tank, I promise you. He’s got his rock, some lovely flies… My brother’s kids are coming to pick him up tomorrow morning. He doesn’t need to go strawberry-stalking at this time of night.”

“They’re nocturnal.”

“What, the strawberries?”

“No, the lizard. Don’t be cheeky. You know I don’t trust it. It’s crafty. I saw it eying the top of the tank when we came upstairs tonight. Planning an escape.”

“Deborah, it’s in a glass cage.”

“The top wasn’t latched tight.”

“Yes it was. Now please, turn off the light so we can get some sleep?”

“I don’t like having that thing in my house, David. It kept looking at me funny when I was eating the strawberries earlier.”

“Well you had juice all over your face. You looked like you’d broken out in a rash or something.”

“That’s not funny, David. Aren’t you the least bit worried?”

“Of not getting back to sleep again? Yes, a bit.”

“That lizard is stalking the strawberries. If it can get into the refrigerator, there’s no telling what it can do.”

by Fred 11:09 AM


 
"Excuse me.. sir? Miss?" Gerald began, not quite sure how to proceed. He decided, in all logic, to quickly lift the assistant manager by her tail and check for gender. Mary screamed immediately.

"PUT! ME! DOWN!" she hollered, now obviously female. Her little assistant manager vest was now unkempt, and Gerald instantly turned red.. even redder than typically red feathers could be. Mary began picking imaginary nits out of her fur with her tiny paws, twitching her whiskers spastically.

"I apologize, ma'am. I'm not used to talking to people outside my species. I spend most of my time flying alone, you see." A passing worm squirmed by, rushing to get more organic dirt for his wife. Gerald snatched him up and bit him in half before finally swallowing. "I couldn't seem to get your attention, what with you being so quiet and timid in the corner."

"Yes, well. What is it you need?" Mary snapped, her patience dwindling. Five seeds an hour was quite a pittance, considering the number of times she'd been lifted up by her tail today.

Gerald replied, "I was just in the produce section, and I thought I had seen someone I recognized... an old friend from grammar school, she was. By the time I had measured out enough reconstituted grub, however, she had gone on a fly break."

Mary looked puzzled. "There was someone in the produce section that you think you knew, but you didn't meet her. Right. How can I help you?" She forced a smile which overemphasized her constantly moving teeth.

"I was hoping you knew her. She was quite long, fairly slender, green -- large eyes! She had just finished arranging the orange peels, and she was just starting on the strawberries."

"Oh!" Mary nodded furiously now. "You must mean Sandra. The lizard? Yes, if I remember correctly, I sent her to stock the strawberries. Yes, that's right. Sandra the lizard is stocking the strawberries. I'm glad she finally started, but you say she's on break now?"
Mary began muttering to herself, said goodbye, then quickly left Gerald. She made her way to the alley before a tarantula, new on the job, pounced on her and ate her. Gerald and Sandra became best friends again.

by rocketo 11:05 AM


 
Time for some inanity, folks! Today's topic is:
The lizard is stalking the strawberries.

by Faith 10:35 AM


 
I was lucky enough to have nothing to do this weekend, what with my injury and everything. I decided to go to a bookstore and hobble around a little, just to get out of that house with those cats. One is bad enough, but my sister's got like six. They're like kids with new age parents who don't punish them and let them do dumb shit just 'cause they're sweet or something. I don't know. Damn. Cats.
So anyway, at this store I like to go to, you can sit away from everybody and read and nobody will bother you much. It's kinda nice as a change of pace, as far as retail establishments go. You have to walk all the way to the back of the store to get to the chairs, so there's a lot of chances for people watching.
On the way back, I passed a lady flopped down in a chair the way kids do, where the whole body is straight, but with the neck bent up so you can read, like as slack as you can be and still be sitting in the chair. She's got a copy of Red Dragon, that Hannibal novel, and she looks like she's been there for a long time. I pause and ask her, "Is that any good? I hated the movie."
She sort of looks up at me, and her whole face is hard, like she's been trying not to move any part of it for years. She says to me, real nasal-voiced, "Of course it's good, why am I reading it? I got the, and you walks up and..." and she trails off in this internal dialogue. Clearly this woman is a nut.
So I hobble across the room, and am about to round a corner, when she bursts out again, this time apparently to the book itself. "shoulda been a SIX MONTH sentence anna thousand dollar fine, didn't know better but there was a Elephant, runnin from this TOAD..." and she trails off again. I grabbed a random book and went around the shelves to where the chairs were usually empty. As I sat down, I think I dimly realized that the back of my chair and the back of hers were separated by a shelf of books. I realized it fully once I'd set my crutches down and settled in, when it'd be too much work to get back up again, when she burst out with something about "walking back and forth, didn't see that guy, an he was, problem..."
It was hard to concentrate on the book I'd picked up. Something about a bus driver and god, I don't know. She was really the more entertaining of the two.
So then, I heard somebody talking really quietly back there, and I assumed it was an employee asking her to quiet down. She comes back with, like "Devil, I saw you, and you was lookin' at me from across the desk, an' you wanna put your hate in me, I can see it in you when you looks at these peeple, these MOrons."
I can only just barely hear his response, but I swear to God he said "You're right. Most people can't see it, but that hate is there."
Then there's nothing. I pushed myself up with my good leg, and lurched back over to where I'd heard her. There was nobody there, just that copy of Red Dragon left open with a sweaty water glass on the cover. I moved the glass and turned the book back over. The spine was all cracked and bent, like she'd read it for a long time.
I decided it was time to go then, 'cause I didn't want to see the guy who'd been talking to her. I left without looking at anybody on the way out.

by MisterNihil 12:14 AM




{Wednesday, July 24, 2002}

 
"They want an apology."

"What?"

"They're saying that they want an apology. For the hunting. The hunting and the desecration of their carcasses. They also insist that all of their brethren be given the option to be freed from slavery."

"What?"

"I think that they're referring to the ones used for entertainment, transportation, and heavy work."

"What?"

- Transcription of dialoge from the first successful elephant-human dialogue (Sept. 23, 2017)


Fifteen years later, after the controversey died down, an official multinational apology was issued. This apology also created the first multinational "racial" seat in the United Nations: The Elephant Nation. In the following years, the Elephant Nation lobbied vigorously and successfully for communication with and recognition of rights for seventeen other species. This included, but was not limited to the great apes, whales, and dolphins.

In May of 2033, the CoNN (Coalition of Non-Human Nations) took humanity to trial for "war crimes". They cited the systematic poisioning, slavery, and wholesale slaughter of elephants, whales, dolphins, apes, and many other species incapable of representing themselves in the world court. For hefty concessions, the CoNN agreed to have the "war crimes" wording removed, but the suit was tried and humanity found guilty in February of 2034. The most damning testimony came from the eldest elephant matriarchs. But you know what they always say:

"An elephant never forgets."

And now we're paying for it.

by jal 10:42 PM


 
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, Meredith’s father bought her a circus elephant for her birthday. He wrapped it in little bows and left it in the yard, with a large sign pointing towards the back door that said “Elephant. This way.” in very big letters with a picture beneath it, which he had drawn himself the night before.

“That’s not an elephant,” Meredith said, looking at the sign. “It looks more like a platypus. Look! It’s got a duck bill and webbed feet. And there’s something wrong with its tail.”

“I think that’s the trunk,” said her mother. She squinted. “Yes, that’s what it is. Your father went to a lot of effort, you know. He did research.”

“He did?” asked Meredith. She was quite surprised.

“Well, yes,” answered her mother. “He read a book. Got it out of the library and everything. I mean -- did you know that elephants are native to Africa and India?”

“Yes, Mother,” sighed Meredith. “Everyone knows that.”

“Well I didn’t,” said her mother. “But he told me that, your father did. Read me a passage, showed me the pictures -- there were pictures you know, and quite lovely ones, too. Apparently you can’t just walk in and get elephants at the corner store.”

“So where’d he get this one?” asked Meredith. Her father was notorious for relying on the corner shop for everything.

“He got it from the circus. Apparently they were passing through town. We had to trade them your brother, but then, Albert’s always been keen on learning the trapeze.”

“So I can keep it then?” asked Meredith. She eyed the back door, then her mother, than the sign. It didn’t quite add up, but she could have sworn she heard a loud trumpeting and her father’s voice from behind the house. “It’s mine -- my elephant?”

“Well of course, dear. Don’t be silly. It is your birthday after all.”

by Fred 6:37 PM


 
[Hey, I was at Siggraph yesterday, too. I was just visiting an old friend, though. He'll be giving a talk later in the week: Greg Humphreys, on large data modeling. Or something. Ah, here he is.]

A distant rumbling provided a fitting backdrop to the staff meeting. Jose, leaning against the front of his desk, ran his gaze over his team. They looked sheepish, bored, indignant, agitated.

"We have a situation." He paused for effect. Susan shifted her feet. "We need to identify a resolution and a root cause." Trumpeting, a little too near by, made Alex rustle his papers. He coughed and tamped the documents into order again.

A breathless intern burst into the room and then remembered protocol and tried to compose himself quietly. Jose rolled his eyes. "Yes, Huang-Ting, what is it?"

"I've, um. That is, we have discovered an important piece of data." The staff members swiveled to look at him. "The door was left open," he licked his lips, glanced around, avoided eye contact, "at feeding time."

The assembled staff gasped. The pronouncement was punctuated by the distinct sound of an elephant butting against the outside wall. Alex dropped his papers in a fluttering cascade.

Jose knew he would be better exercising his talents in the military. He reached behind him to his desk and picked up a clipboard. "Then we will check the feeding schedule." The room fell silent, except for the sound of heavy, labored elephant breath, just outside the window. Jose ran his finger down the spreadsheet and stopped. "Donna?"

"*ulp* Um. Oops?"

by Sharon 5:27 PM


 
Well, I don't want to keep being the guy who suggests topics for other people, but it's four o'clock already on the east coast, and I'm bored out of my mind. Anyone can feel free to take my spot next week, Tuesday I think. I'm not trying to step on anyone's toes here. Which is funny, because today's topic is...
Elephants

by Fred 3:09 PM


 
Um, I was pretty sure that when I posted this the topic was "OOPS", which, as it turns out was Tuesday's subject. I was out of town at Siggraph yesterday so I missed it. Sorry.


“OH SHIT!” Azrael looked around sheepishly hoping no one had heard his outburst. A few other angels looked over but were so accustomed to such expletives that no one gave it much thought. After all, many of them were charged with day-to-day monitoring of the often absurd and usually sacrilegious going-ons of mankind and so the occasionally vexed expletive was nothing unusual.

Still, Azrael being the angel of death and all, was tasked with writing the names of men, or women, in his book at their birth and in turn erasing them when that man, or woman died. Not the most exciting of jobs but it beat something like Umeroz’s job of being the angel of the second hour of the night. How lame is that? Or Dagiel, angel of the fish? I mean come on! Fortunately Azrael wrote fast and so had a lot of spare time for the occasional on-site smiting and chaperoning one’s soul to heaven and all that. For a while he even transferred things over to the PC to make matters a little more streamlined but when the threat of Y2K came along he figured he was just tempting fate.

“Oh this is bad, this is really not good”, he looked around for a dry cloth to sop up the diet Coke before anyone noticed. The sticky, brown liquid ran down the page and dripped onto the floor. “Oh crap, HE/SHE is going to be seriously pissed. This is even worse than the time I misplaced the book with all the Atlantean people. Or forgot to erase those guys they made the Highlander movies about. Jeeze, those sucked, and to think I’m responsible.”

Ink and diet Coke ran down the page smearing and effectively, erasing countess (well not countless in the heavenly host community but hundreds of thousands anyhow) names from the Book of Life. Worse still was the fact that after the Atlantis debacle HE/SHE insisted that Azrael change his system to be alphabetical so as to avoid any further annihilation of entire continents. Unfortunately for much of Asia Azrael had just turned to the CHANG page to record the most recent birth in Beijing.

by Shawn 12:26 PM




{Tuesday, July 23, 2002}

 
"Uh oh." The words echoed over the dull hum of the ship.

"Excuse me?"

"*ahem!* I said, 'Uh oh.'."

"That's what I thought you said." She stopped cataloging the water and air samples to glace over at his workstation. "That's not a very good sound to hear coming from you. Not with the project you're working on."

"Well like it or not, it's what I said and I had a reason for it. Come here and look at this." He indicated a small amorphous blob with a tiny bead inside of it.

"You've been growing that for a while now, haven't you?"

"That's right. It was my final thesis, and now I've botched it all up."

"Yep. That's a pretty serious flaw. What're you going to do with it?"

"Jettison it, I suppose."

The canister *splopped* out of the craft and sank below the bubbling, roiling waters of the young planet. The craft dropped into a PortHole about an hour later, leaving shortly before a tremendous electrical storm razed the area.

20,000 years later, a small crack developed in the canister and its spoiled cargo trickled into the salty ocean. It tainted certain self-sorting, orderly crystaline mud lattices, causing them to organize in unusual, helix-shaped formations with protective barriers...

Many millions of years later a woman stubbed her toe on a battered container half-burried in the sand. "Litterbugs," she muttered. It rattled musically as it entered the trash can.

by jal 7:07 PM


 
I didn’t mean to push the button. It was clearly labeled “Do Not Push”. I was sitting in my office, signing papers, and I spilled my coffee. I don’t even like coffee, but I fill the mug every morning knowing that I’ll need the caffeine and hoping maybe I’ll change my mind. I was reaching for a pen, or a calculator, or -- something, I don’t remember -- and I knocked the coffee all over the top of my desk. The Henderson account was ruined. I noticed a dark splotch of brown on the front of my shirt. And then I noticed the mug had rolled to the edge of the desk and was starting to fall. I panicked -- my wife bought me that mug -- and I reached across the sodden stack of papers in front of me to grab it. That’s when my arm brushed up against the button. The red one that company policy explicitly forbids me to push except under the most dire of circumstances. I heard a soft click and had just enough time to think aw shit before the sirens started. It’s probably then that the room started to fill with gas. I felt my throat tighten and my eyes water. I would probably be unconscious before the office was torched. That’s what the company handbook says happens anyway. Very few people have been burned alive during these emergency purges, although most people are a lot more careful about not pushing that button. I’ll tell you one thing: this was definitely not worth thirty-two thousand a year.

by Fred 11:11 AM


 
So sometimes you get stoopid and write things that don't reflect how you feel -- especially when you only have 10 minutes to do it. In recognition of this, I offer today's topic:
Oops!

by jal 10:34 AM




{Monday, July 22, 2002}

 

Bernie was right. I can admit that now. Granted, the evidence is stacked pretty high in his favor: I’d be stupid to deny it.

It’s funny, actually, because a lot of people give me the credit, but all I really did was pay the bills. Bernie had the ideas. Crazy ideas, I called them back then. Irrational speculation. Delusions of grandeur. If I hadn’t believed in the basic idea—coffee makers that thought—I never would have backed him.

It was a brilliant idea, even ignoring Bernie’s ludicrous-sounding extrapolations. An intelligent coffee maker was what mankind needed to give it that extra push. Precisely calculated proportions of caffeine and sugar, tailored to your mood, personality, workload, metabolism… whatever. You’d just go to one and say “I’ll have a coffee”, maybe make some light conversation, and boom! Instant enhanced creativity.

Or something. That was my understanding of it, but I’m not a technical person. I just provide the money.

Bernie told me that some of the other venture capitalists had spoken with had thought putting speech recognition and conversational intelligence in a coffee machine was madness, but I saw the potential. In terms of good coffee, anyway. Bernie tended to go on about transcendence and singularities and living like housecats and I’ll admit I never quite followed what he was getting at.

I still don’t, really. Even now that it’s happened.

It took us a while to find customers. Early adopters were no problem—who wouldn’t be impressed by a talking coffee maker? I mean, before they were ubiquitous. But eventually we started getting corporate accounts. Once Microsoft got one and suddenly tripled their wealth, we couldn’t make them fast enough. We started having the coffee machines suggest improvements to their manufacturing process, and they turned out to have great insight in the matters. Eventually, they wound up controlling the company. These days, it’s pretty clear humanity controls the world only because they’re not too interested in it.

At least the coffee is good.

by Dave Menendez 11:29 PM


 
It was supposed to be a summer affair.
You were needy and I wanted to bleed,
So we stuck together.
But summer ended and you were still there.

And that's the day,
That's the day,
That's the day everything changed.

That's the day,
That's the day,
The day that everything changed.

I went to college and you visited me on the weekends.
I remember sex on the racquetball court.
I remember your tears as I took you to the station.
But you faked being sick to miss your bus.

[chorus]

I remember living on pennies; eating letils and rice.
You overdosed on lithium and got your stomach pumped.
You swore you'd never do it again.
But we still got tired of each other.

[chorus]

We got engaged.
You pierced your tongue and I pierced my nipples.
I still have mine,
But you took yours out in a month or so.

[chorus]

We moved into a boarding house.
I got poisoned by drinking hydrogen peroxide.
I was miserable - in agony,
But you went on your date anyway,

[chorus]

I woke up four weeks later,
And found stains on the sheets.
I would have been fine,
But the stains weren't mine.

[chorus]

I got out and moved in with a friend.
You got left holding the rent.
I never thought we'de be friends again,
But we danced together at my wedding.

And ain't it strange?
Ain't it strange?
Isn't it strange how everything changes?

Isn't it strange?
Isn't life strange?
'Cause everything changed and now we're doing better.

by jal 10:58 PM


 
[It didn't go where I had hoped, but I ran out of time...]

She promised them that things would get better, in the gentle murmurings of a mother with no other promises left to make.

And then, one day, they did.

The package said only, "Open on Monday." She received it at work on Friday and didn't give it much thought. With the carnival in town this weekend, the bar where she waitressed evenings and weekends would be packed. Late for tonight's shift already, she dismissed the mysterious box from her mind and dashed to the bus.

Despite the struggle to make ends meet, Sunday evenings were her special time with her children. Nathan, 6, and Katie, 3, were the force that kept Ellen going from 7 am until midnight every day, striving to make a better life for their small family. Nathan was just starting first grade, and Katie needed new clothes for pre-school. Could she pick up some extra hours on weeknights at the bar, wondered Ellen.

Monday morning came, and Ellen had forgotten about the package entirely. While she finally remembered it, around noon, she was more concerned with how to pay for lunch than what this box might yield. Yet she paused, curious. Opening it quickly, a note fell out with a single key taped to it.

"Ellen Vencebi, daughter of Cliff and Leia Vencebi, is sole heir to the estate of her godfather, George Markowitz. The will can be found in a safe deposit box, to which this key will grant access. A stipend from the estate will be made available to Ms Vencebi for each of the next four years, to be used for the acquisition of a college degree. Upon earning a degree, the balance of the estate will be transferred to Ms Vencebi's name in full."

by Faith 4:20 PM


 
Wrapped up tight,
little girl,
Sleeping in, hiding small.
Coiled in a little brown wrap.
Waiting out the days,
Counting out the days,
Stretching out the days,
Small.
Little hibernation,
little hiding nation,
Asleep,
And dreaming.
Big, active plans,
Wild, ranging dreams:
Soon.
And then waking up and wiggling,
Chewing a way out,
Climbing up to find the sky.
Basking in the sun
For the first time
Again.
Stretching, flexing,
Testing, marveling,
Reveling,
Launching
Brand
New
Wings.

by Sharon 3:25 PM


 
Dear Ted,

How have you been? Things have been a little weird here lately, what with Mom and Dad turning into saucers of milk and everything. It’s been hard enough just trying to keep the cats away from them -- especially now that they’ve discovered fire and started their own little civilization. The other day, Mom’s two calicos started building a weird shrine in the corner of the living room, and they keep meowing their prayers each morning when I’m trying to watch Regis.

Outside, things aren’t much better. We thought they had rounded up all the dinosaurs and penned them at the zoo a month ago, but apparently Mrs. Petrie’s terrier was snatched by a pterodactyl the other day, and I keep stumbling across droppings in the backyard when I go to clean out the pool. It’s bad enough that they’re ruining the lawn, but I worry they’re going to get into the tool shed and cause even more damage. Dad would kill me if they broke the lawnmower.

School is starting up again in a couple of months, although with February now following September, there’s going to be less time to study. Nobody really knows what happened to those other four months, or if they’re really gone, but they’re not on any of the calendars anymore, and the meteorologists say something strange happened to the rotation of the earth. Same thing goes for gravity, apparently, which gives out at least once or twice a day -- although the opposable thumbs we’ve all grown on our feet really do make holding on to something a lot easier whenever that happens.

Personally, I’m not looking forward to school much. Apparently my major doesn’t exist anymore, and the dorm where I was going to live is now an enormous talking marshmallow bent on world domination, so they’ve had to move me around a little. They’ve dumped me in the physics department of all places and in temporary housing. And of course, the university is charging me for all of this. I guess some things never change, huh?

Before she turned into milk, Mom wanted to know when you were coming home. We kept hearing on the news how half your city was flooded, how half the people there had to grow gills. Happened overnight, just like everything else that changed. But Mom said even if you’re a fish, she still wants you to come home for Christmas.

Just stay away from the cats, okay? They’ve been sharpening their knives.

Your loving sister,

Martha

by Fred 12:50 PM


 
Weeee, back in Texas and ready to write.
The Day Everything Changed

With a special nod to James Burke

by Shawn 10:51 AM




{Sunday, July 21, 2002}

 
[more like 1500 seconds, but what can ya do?]

Tim tried to quiet his breathing, clear his mind. He checked the lock on the office door again, verified it was locked, found it inadequate. He reviewed the contents retrieved from Amerinc's cache in Server Lab 2: A small pistol, a cell phone that would clip to his lapel, if he had lapels, a poison-infused tooth, a laser pointer that could cut glass, printed instructions, and a box.

He turned the box over in his hands again. It was slightly larger than a VHS tape, maybe the size of a comfortable bible, and matte black. One face was spongy and concave. The other was austerely printed with raised plastic letters, "Keep Eyes Open, Throughout," and "Amerinc, Limited." He pressed a finger into the yielding foam and watched it slowly recover. He squinted at the concavity from an acute angle. He sniffed at it, and it sucked like a vacuum cleaner onto his face, filling his vision, suffocating him.

Tim writhed and pulled at the black box adhered to his face. A mechanical voice informed him, in no uncertain terms, to lie still. Tim immediately complied. His eyes remained open, as they had been when the foam pressed against his skin, pinning them open. His face began to itch, burn. He still couldn't breathe. He tried not to squirm, fearing what the device might do if he did. It became so hot. He was sure his skin was melting. His eyes were streaming from the pain, and he whimpered weakly, back in his throat.

His vision went from black to white for a bare moment, and then the box clattered to the floor, smoking and smelling of burnt skin. Tim gasped in desperate air and blinked away colored artifacts in his vision. His face was too tender to touch. Lines of fire traced the nerves under his skin. It still hurt.

He looked at the mirror hanging from the corner of the monitor on this executive's desk. He immediately noticed that his eyes were brown. Small lines crinkled the corners. His lips were thinner, paler, and drawn. His cheeks sagged slightly, and his pores were large and black. A gift of 20 years in less than 10 seconds: protective coloration.

Quietly, with new tears on the face of his reflection, Tim pleaded, "I'm fifteen."

by Sharon 11:58 PM


 
"I don't remember that gas station being there before," said Daniel. "Are you sure we've got the right place?"

Louis consulted the map. "One four seven," he said. "And this is -- well now that's funny. According to the door, this is four seventeen."

"What? It can't be. We just passed four seventeen. The yellow house on the corner, two blocks back, remember? They still had all their Christmas lights up. The guy was out front, mowing his lawn..."

"I remember. I said maybe we should get out and ask him for directions."

"And I said we were here just a month ago. The neighborhood couldn't have changed that much. And besides, Rebecca's map is pretty good. It got us this far into town, didn't it?"

"Yeah, I guess so. But that gas station, you're right, I don't know. Maybe it --" Louis paused. "Well now that is just too weird."

"What?" asked Daniel.

"The numbers. Look at the door. It says two eleven now. I could've sworn it said four seventeen. And it wasn't painted white when we first got here, I know that much."

"What're you saying? Somebody came out and painted the door when we weren't looking?"

"I don't know what I'm saying. It just -- I don't know. It gives me the creeps, that's all. Let's get out of here, okay? Find a phone, call Rebecca, maybe she can come and get us."

"Yeah, sure, okay. Let's try that gas station back on the corner. Maybe they know where we --"

Daniel paused, staring at the dead end now behind him.

"Okay," said Louis, "so you see it, too. I'm not crazy."

"No," said Daneil. "I see it, too. The gas station is gone."

by Fred 2:56 PM


 
It's 1 PM, there's no topic, and it's a weekend anyway. I'm a'commandeering the topic du jour. I was going to go for, "digital cobwebs," but that seemed too specific, so I chose this instead:
self-modifying

by jal 1:14 PM




{Saturday, July 20, 2002}

 
This is actually not quite on topic. I think I was thinking "Which Apocalypse Should We Watch."

Everything's just fine as long as nobody's looking at me
sitting by the power lines
holding on to what's mine
because I've got no place to be
oh, when the giant comet hits
I wanna be some place far from you
and when this world ends that's OK
as long as there's nothing left to do
Everything synched up, I can see the end coming over to me
Nothing can disrupt
baby filling my cup
Because it's just you and me
Oh, when the doomsday ray explodes
I don't want to see no one
And when the world ends that's OK
cause I'll be staring up at the sun

That's ten minutes. I think, though, the song will end with "Hot Cha!"

by MisterNihil 11:59 PM


 

Deity High School Class Reunion

"I still think that my favorite class was 'Planning & Responsibility 103'. You remember that?" The Entity glowed amber with the query.

Mother paused, hypothetically scratching an infinite number of theoretical itches before answering. "Was that the one where they talked about instilling a sense of right and wrong in your creations, or the one with all the math and metaphysics where you had to make sure your elemental table balanced out?"

"The first one," chorused Trinity. "We thought that the movies they made us watch were the funniest. Nuclear Armageddon, Pollution Perils, The Dogs of War... They were all so over-the-top."

"I heard that they don't even show Red Planet any more," said the Entity. "It was too realistic. An entire planet; all red dust and ice caps with just the barest remainder of life left."

Mother sighed: "And yet, it's right next to another planet on the brink." She shook her head sadly. "They can't use it for education any more because it's too shocking, yet the creatures that can see it aren't learning a thing from it. Pity."

by jal 1:01 PM


 
“Which apocalyptic movie should we watch now?” she asked.

“I dunno,” I said. “I think we’ve run out of tapes. Have the flesh-eating zombies outside quieted down yet?”

She opened the blinds. “Hard to tell,” she said. “Sun’s coming up, and I don’t see anybody. Man, they really did a number on Frank Sanderson’s car.”

“The Jaguar? Damn. Frank really loved that car.”

“Is that before or after they ripped off his limbs and scooped out his brain?”

She grinned. “Sorry. Obviously before.”

“I think he’d just had it detailed too. Before—well, you know.”

“Man, that’s too bad. Not like he could’ve used it for much, though. He’d have never made it out of town.”

“Not with the giant spiders roaming the freeway, no. Next town over was flooded anyway. But still, it’s a shame. All of it is. Like what happened to Mrs. Williams down the block—”

“Oh god. Don’t remind me.”

“Oh come on, I mean, really, what’re the odds? A futuristic biker gang, killer robots, and an asteroid all colliding into her house at once?”

“It could’ve been worse. It could’ve been the plague.”

“Yeah, I guess. So you up for a trip to the video store then?”

by Fred 10:20 AM


 
I'm gonna be out all day, but your topic, should you choose to accept it, is:
"Which Apocalyptic Movie Should We Watch Now?"
[Timestamp edited by Sharon to make the post appear at the top of the page. Originally 1:04 AM.]

by Remi 2:04 AM




{Friday, July 19, 2002}

 
Nobody saw me when I tamed lions in Iowa.
Nobody saw me when I beat up a bar-full of bikers for calling me a 'Little Bitch'.
Nobody saw me protest for free speech in the square, throwing pies at the president.
Nobody saw me land on the moon.
Nobody saw my production on Broadway.
And they can't. Because it's all in my head. Waiting to get out.

by Remi 9:08 PM


 

"The ship struck ground on the shore of this. Uncharted desert isle! With..." His voice faltered. "With just me."

He'd been stranded on this island for three weeks now, give or take a day. In that time, he'd built a makeshift shelter. He'd been bitten by a spider at night - it really hurt! He'd gotten really sick and slept for hours. He woke up and smashed open a coconut using only his hands and a rock. He used that same coconut as a bowl for lukewarm Dinty Moore beef stew. He built a new shelter with a raised sleeping space to keep creepy-crawly things off of him at night. He'd seen more types of insects than he knew existed. He tried at least fifty times to start a fire, but never succeeded. He made up a poem about being stranded on a desert isle. He thought it was pretty good, but there was no one to share it with. He walked around the island seven times until he found his favorite spot. One-thousand five-hundred and fifty one paces. He saw five rescue craft circling about on the horizon and over the island. He jumped and he shouted and he waved at them. Nobody saw him. Three different boat crews had come to shore to look for survivors. He jumped and hollered in front of them. Nobody saw him. They carried someone away, but nobody saw him. There was one more visit with the same results.

I'm not happy with this, but I'm only allowed 10 minutes. - Jon

by jal 2:08 PM


 
a scratch
a tickle
a catch
:that is how i begin.
doorknobs i caress,
licking faucets,
infiltrating crevasses.
seeping.
touch your nose, yes,
do it again.
pleeeeasssse.
shaking hands,
or perhaps a
(kiss)
i seal all deals,
witness all transactions.
nobody sees me
but i will be remembered
and spread.

by Sharon 11:14 AM



 

<blockquote class="topic">your topic</blockquote>