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{Saturday, January 31, 2004}

On the horizon.

by jal 5:39 AM

{Friday, January 30, 2004}

paper = a clean surface.
If I have a cookie or a spoon or some other thing that I will later want to put in my mouth but for the time being need to set down, I won't put it on my desk (ew), but I'm comfortable setting it on a piece of paper. Somewhere along the line, I got programmed with the message that paper is sufficiently sterile, or non-porous, to support food.

Whence originates this mania? I don't know. I blame my mother.

by Sharon 11:53 PM

It destroyed modern medicine, when people found it out. Oh, there were still disease and death, but folks stopped going to the doctor. Sales of acrylics went through the roof and a new cosmetic surgery was born and became so screamingly popular as to be funded by federal monies. By the time people realized it was a lie, it was too late.
It started with an ad campaign by CoverGirl with an eye only toward moving product. In typical advertizement shortsightedness the ramifications were completely overlooked. By the time the commercial had shown six times on only a single major network it was a meme. Other cosmetics complanies took the hint and ran with the idea, thinking it was clever. CoverGirl's ad agencies didn't trademark it fast enough and the others snagged it with inhuman speed. Once it was the official slogan for the cosmetics industry, it was implanted irrevocably.
The original ad went like this: A woman walks out of the doctor's office and waved dismissively. This became a symbol later of derision for all medicine. She goes instead to a salon, where she enters and makes an odd demand involving a pedicure. The story they wanted people to envision was that she'd been given some harsh diagnosis and was treating herself. The public took it as alternative therapy. Then, the slogan appeared in simple lettering at the bottom of the screen, for less than six seconds in the original ad.
It was part of collective knowledge inside of two years and accepted as medical fact in five.
Green toenails = clean bill of health.
God help us all.

by MisterNihil 10:37 AM

OK, so for whatever reason, mint flavor = clean mouth and citrus or pine scent = clean kitchen and blue color = clean toilet water. While not the usual kind of topic, please write a myth about a real or made up
_____ = clean _____

by Bryan 4:39 AM

{Thursday, January 29, 2004}

He took another shot and the bird fell;
and, in falling, died;
and, in dying, screeched;
and, in screeching, woke the others in the camp,
who came to see what the man had done,
who came to see the bird that fell,
who came to pluck the feathers from its skin,
to make a trophy of its carcass,
to pull its beak and skin its flesh,
to know the story they would tell their children,
to say the words "the beast has fallen;
shot straight through its blackened heart,
shot straight through with arrow sharpened
by the men who stand here now,
standing over its frozen carcass,
triumphant despite its massive wings.
We are those who slew the demon.
We are those who saved our town.
A final shot and the beast had fallen,
And we are here to tell the tale."

by Fred 4:10 PM

Oh, he won't post. He's probably off getting
another shot

by Sharon 10:48 AM

{Wednesday, January 28, 2004}

They called in a time-bomb.

Actually, they didn't call it that, but the newspapers did, and once the newspapers picked it up, everybody was calling it a time-bomb. They called it an projectile interphasic temporal fusion device, or PITFD for short, but that never caught on and eventually even they found themselves calling it a time-bomb.

The one in question, the only working model they ever managed to build, they called Sally. One of the engineers had had a girlfriend named Sally, and they were still going through some issues at the time -- she said she needed her space, he declared that mathematically unsound -- which led him to spending quite a few lonely nights in the workshop perfecting the bomb.

Its design was fiendishly simple -- or at least it was to the scientists who were apparently very smart where things like this were concerned. They were inevitably at a loss to explain its workings to their government handlers, although they were quite prepared to demonstrate the full extent of its capabilities.

Which were, essentially, to fall down and go boom. The device was, like most bombs, an explosive device intended for destructive purposes. Less powerful than a nuclear warhead or any of the smart bombs their handlers had commissioned previously, it did have one quite staggering potential advantage over them: it fucked up time.

The bomb could, in fact, create very little physical damage -- perhaps the explosive equivalent of a bag of bottle rockets. Its primary target was the localized space-time continuum itself. Giant holes could be rent in the continuum throwing ground zero (and a fifty-mile radius around it) into temporal chaos. Simulations had shown pockets of varied times popping up unexpectedly -- now could suddenly become then, directly across from you could be a whole different century. Everywhere the enemy stumbled could potentially be another when, fluctuating, unstable, utterly destructive.

And the simulations had, of course, proved correct. The time-bomb had been tested on the enemy, and time-space continuum had, just as predicted, got all soft and wonky. The entire city was pock-marked with fluctuating temporal rifts. Different centuries sprouted here and there. Chaos bloomed. Confusion reigned. It looked like the bomb, for all that it had cost the government, had been a success.

Until, that is, the enemy discovered the rift that led them thirty centuries into the future. Until, that is, they came back with an arsenal the likes of which no one had ever seen. Until, that is, they reversed the time-bomb's damage and retaliated.

The scientists who survived were naturally fired.

by Fred 4:00 PM

reiteration retaliation

by Fred 7:57 AM

{Tuesday, January 27, 2004}

You know who you are.

by Fred 9:48 AM

{Monday, January 26, 2004}

Yessir, snowin' tigers and wolves, it was, back durin' the blizzard of ought three. Giant timberwolves, size of steam trains, fallin' from the sky. Ferocious Bengali tigers, one right after the other, for fifty hours, each of 'em large enough to blot out the sun. And back then, we didn't have none of this sissified white stuff you youngins call snow. No sir, back then entire menageries would fall from the sky. Whole cloudburts fulla zebras, bobcats, gibbons. Why, this one time, our entire neighborhood was snowed in by a downpour of African elands. You ever seen an eland, boy? Weird spiral-shape horns. And these ones, these weren't no little fancy-pancy zoo eland. No sir. These were gigantic beasts, big as a house, snarlin', fang-toothed, blood-suckin' freaks of nature fallin' from the sky. Old Man Withers, he was always a little crazy, he caught himself one usin' a trap he fashioned himself outta two twigs, a rock, and some peanut butter. Ya hadda be quick back then. Not like today. Anyhow, Old Man Withers, he gets this giant eland on a wheel in his backyard, like the kind you'd see in hamster cages, 'cept this ain't no sissified hamster. This is pure unadultered, fallen-from-the-sky eland, boy. And this wheel, well it was eighty, ninety feet high if it was a day. And he gets this eland and puts in on the wheel. Now, these're normally passive creatures, gentle as a lamb -- 'cept we had lambs snow down on us in 1917, hadda be the most vicious creatures you ever seen, breathin' fire an' ice both and baa'in' their evil baas. Well, anyway, these wer'n't no gentle elands, no sir. These were evil elands, the nastiest African antelopes you ever seen, big as a house, I say. And Withers gets this one on the wheel, runnin' round and round, and he used that wheel to power the entire town for fifty years up 'til that danged evil animal up and died on 'im.

And y'know, ya try tellin' that to the people of today and they won't believe ya, no sir.

by Fred 4:03 PM

snowing tigers and wolves

by Faith 11:37 AM

snowing tigers and wolves

by Faith 8:47 AM

{Sunday, January 25, 2004}

unbearably painful

by jal 11:37 AM

{Saturday, January 24, 2004}

Saturday's Child is Green & Gold

by MisterNihil 7:55 AM

{Friday, January 23, 2004}

deliberate misunderstanding

by jal 5:00 AM

{Thursday, January 22, 2004}

I don't own a television. Hotels are lonely places. Cable is fair game.

And Whose Line Is It is hysterical.

I confess. I'd never seen the show before tonight. (Get your taunts and laughter out of the way now, thank you.) But I'm hooked.

Oops. Commercial's over. Gotta go.

Right. Yeah. That's why I don't have a TV. Nevermind. Press... the... off... button... aaaaaah!

... forgive the lame post. It's my third city in four nights, and I have to be up in 5 hours to flly to the fourth city...

by Faith 10:38 PM


I had a dream where I visited a Carnival of the Damned. Some of the ride attendants had burlap bags over their heads, and the patrons paid for their rides by tossing fistfuls of squirimg bugs and stinging instects into openings at the top of the head bags. I averted my eyes, held my breath, and pressed my way through the fetid throngs to the fairway. "What games to the damned play?" I wondered.

The first booth had cages in the front containing month-old puppies. Scottish terriers, golden labs, boxers; unbearably cute and in remarkably good health. A dark-stained metal spike framed by a bulls-eye on the splattered booth back told me all I needed to know. The gap-toothed crone staffing the booth smiled at me, "Try your luck, sir?" She licked her lips wetly. I shook my head, sidesteped a steaming pile of feces, and made my way to the next booth, "Thumbscrew Challenge."

by jal 5:40 PM

"How would you like to be Game Warden?" they asked.

"What, you mean like checkers or badmitton or -- "

"No. Like lions and tigers and bears."

"Oh my. Do they play checkers or badmitton or -- "

"Not that we've noticed. Although, one of the lions ate a tennis player recently."

"Was the player any good?"

"The lion seemed to think so. Of course, you're free to try and teach the animals to play games if you like. The monkeys are usually keen to learn."

"What kind of monkeys do you have?"

"Tamarins and baboons mostly, although we've recently acquired a marmoset that speaks fluent Esperanto."

"They really are keen to learn."

"It juggles, too. Although, surprisingly, neither trick is much of a draw."

"Hmm. You know, I've always thought lemurs would be really good at shuffleboard."

"We do have a court."

"And the lemurs?"

"No so much. Sloths and lorises aplenty, though. And they've already proved quite adept at dominoes."

"Okay then, you've talked me into it. I'll take the job."

by Fred 3:51 PM

Person A to Person B:
A:I got a new game!
B:What's it called?
A:Fair Game. I think it's like, a board game and you have little pieces and stuff and you move them around.
B:Uh huh?
A:Yeah. You wanna play?
Person A opens the box and dumps out the contents into Person B's lap.
Person B to Person A:
B:There isn't much in the box, huh?
B:It hasn't got dice, and all the pieces are the same color.
A:Yeah. Sort of medium gray.
B:50% gray, in fact, according to the instructions.
A:There are instructions?
B(reading):Game play is as follows - each player picks a 50% gray piece and places it on the board in the space. Each player takes a turn moving the piece until one player wins.
A:The spaces?
B:No. The space. (unfolds board) Oh. It's just blank with a border on it. It's all one space.
A:How do we know who wins?
B(reading again):Victory conditions - when one player wins, each player wins when one player wins.
A:That doesn't make any sense and this game sucks.
B:Yeah. Let's go throw a pen knife into a tree.

by MisterNihil 2:20 PM

fair game

by Fred 2:07 PM

{Wednesday, January 21, 2004}

You're enjoying a romantic dinner for two in your favorite eatery. The lights are low. Soft music wafts between you and your beloved. The chicken-fried steak is sublime. The mood: Perfect.

And then a screaming child at the next table erupts! The overwrought parents ignore the cacophony--or, worse yet, they add to it with ineffectual threats and admonishments.

All chances of getting lucky evaporate in an instant.

You need suffer through this crushing disappointment no longer, my friends. The solution is within your grasp! The revolutionary Bay-B-Quiet, patent pending, makes caterwauling kiddies a thing of the past.

And the deluxe model, with adjustable air holes, can guarantee years of quiet evenings, as you wait out your sentence.

This triumph of quiescence can be yours for 4 easy payments of $29.95. It's a steal at half that price!

What are you waiting for? Order your own Bay-B-Quiet, and start getting laid again.

[Blame Jon. --Ed.]

by Sharon 6:34 PM

The trouble, Jerry figured, started when Coca-Cola trademarked the letter C. One could say may terrible and libelous things about the soda, the company had told the court -- one could denigrate the brand and the countless hours spent protecting it -- if one had unfettered access to the aforementioned letter. Such attacks could, in fact, be made anonymously, which put the company at an unfair disadvantage among their competitors. Their good name could be sullied, but Coca-Cola could do little to discredit these scurrilous attacks if they didn't even know the names of their attackers. Since the courts had seen fit to deny their earlier petition -- that they be given names and addresses of disgruntled customers or would-be parodists, plus carte blanche to herd them into specially created re-education camps, surely one little letter was a fair enough compromise.

Without it, one could only say "a sertain unnamed beverage" when discussing the liquid in print. A few smaller publications occasionally tried to get by with the use of "Koka-Kola", but the Supreme Court ultimately agreed that this, too, bordered on copyright violation and the company was within its rights to prevent it by any means it saw fit. When other companies followed suit and began registering letters -- Disney the D, Pepsi the P, MkDonald's inexplicably the Q -- print journalism of any kind became almost impossible. By the end of the decade, there wasn't a single letter in half a dozen different languages that wasn't trademarked by someone. Most of the corporations were pretty stingy with what they let the papers print, and news gave way to little more than press releases and ads. It seemed as if presidents and heads of state were always enjoying the refreshing taste of Coca-Cola or that new SUV they'd just bought. Real news, it was argued, might hurt the company. One's interests had to be protected.

So a secret alphabet had been devised, a new way of writing. Jerry didn't much care for it, but he also wasn't much of an ad-man, so he got with the program. It was required if you wanted to write parody or commentary. You certainly weren't going to get much help from the United States "Konstitution".

He just hoped Coca-Cola's goons didn't catch on.

by Fred 4:11 PM

patent pending

by Sharon 1:22 PM

{Tuesday, January 20, 2004}

In the empty room of my mind,
I set the stage, lay the props, call in the players.
When the curtains close, the show begins.

I am on the highway. I'm in the backseat; Dad is driving, Mom's up front. Jon might be with me in the back. A huge bird flies overhead. I'm the only one who sees it. I try to capture how large--black, carrion-eater, cadaverous--this bird is. "It's not that it's as big as Faith's Cessna. It could eat Faith's Cessna."

I'm not sure they believe me.

I worry that my father isn't watching the road adequately, as he cranes and twists to see this bird--raven, owl, all beak--as it circles and crosses above us.

We are walking on the highway--me, Jon, Faith--along with everyone else. At stations along the way, people offer experiences. They are chipper, like Involvement Fair volunteers. One woman offers rock climbing. You can rent the shoes--purple 5-10s with yellow laces--but I'd rather use my own. Mine are back at the bottom of the hill, with Jon's. It was a long trudge up here, along the shoulder of the highway. It would be so far out of our way to go back and get them. But I am exhilarated by the idea of climbing on real granite. All I have to do is climb over the guardrail.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

Things to do with an empty room:
1) Get a grant from the NEA, use it to buy scads and scads of some ordinary, extraordinary, or obscene item, and fill the room with it. Call it art and take it on tour. Tell critics that it represents the decay of American culture.
2) Paint the walls in a trompe l'oeil fashion to create the appearance of being furnished.
3) Rent it out as storage space.
4) Hold a party. Omit chairs. Tell everyone how popular it was by saying it was "standing room only."
5) On a similar vein, continue to omit chairs. Label the room, "Standing Room Only." (Get it?)
6) Paint the walls black. Prohibit all light sources. Use it as a meditation chamber, or for developing your infra-red vision.
7) Use it as a gigantic Jello mold.
8) Put your child in it at birth, returning only to provide food. Let your kid out at 18 years of age and see how well-adjusted s/he is.
9) Write your will with the following stipulation: Your heirs must suspend your corpse in center of room with pulleys, fill the room with Bakelite, cure the Bakelite, and place the resulting cube of near-indestructible plastic in the cemetary as your tomb / monument.
10) Leave it unaltered as a zen tribtue to.

by jal 6:38 PM

what do you do with an empty room?

by Fred 7:18 AM

{Monday, January 19, 2004}

Not too long ago, an idea occurred to me: trading short story collections like they were mix tapes. Every participant would compile a set of their favorite five or ten stories, and then they'd share that collection with the group. I've been putting together a number of mix CD exchanges lately, so the idea had a certain appeal, but I also immediately recognized how impractical it was. Issues of copyright and photocopying costs were just two potential problems. Would I really expect people to collect copies of their favorite stories for mass distribution? It was interesting, but it just wouldn't work.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that all I'd need to do is collect a list of authors and titles. It was something I could probably just post on my blog, asking for comments. (Writing this now, actually, I'm not convinced I didn't, although I don't remember discussing this in anything but the most off-handed way somewhere in the margins.) Except, I couldn't really think of ten stories I'd include. There were maybe three or four all-time favorites that I knew I would have to include, but enough to put together a halfway decent short story collection?

I bring all this up now for a couple of reasons. One, because it's after five, and I'm trying to get something written here before I leave work for the day. And two, because one of the stories I would have included, perhaps my very favorite now that I think about it, is a Ray Bradbury tale called "Boys, Grow Giant Mushrooms In Your Basement". I own a couple of Bradbury collections, and I don't think it's in either of them, but I've read and enjoyed the story many, many times. It -- along with a very vague idea for a poem called "The Ballad of Michael the Mycologist" -- is about as close as I think I'll come to fungi today.

Although, maybe I will eventually post my list of favorite short stories somewhere. I've certainly read some terrific ones, and I'd certainly like to learn about some more.

by Fred 4:10 PM


by Fred 9:16 AM

{Saturday, January 17, 2004}

political roundup

by Sharon 10:03 AM

{Friday, January 16, 2004}

"You don't need a penny just to hang around, but if you got a nickel won't you lay your money down. Over on the corner, there's a happy noise, people come from all around to watch the magic boy." -- Creedence Clearwater Revival

I went in search of that quote hoping it would lead me somewhere. And I think it did, just not anyplace I can adequately describe in ten minutes, much less tie back to today's topic. Which is strange, considering that it was today's topic that sent me off in search of that quote to begin with. Unless I'm imagining things, Ben posted a different topic earlier today, something to the effect of "I didn't even have a nickel." (I don't think I'm imagining things. I'm almost certain I read that phrase, or something like it, here. Blogger assures me, however, that there are "no posts found with those criteria" when I go searching for the word "nickel". Which is odd itself, I think. In a year and a half, we haven't used the word once?)

Anyway, I was thinking "nickels", which led me to think of Creedence. "...if you got a nickel won't you lay your money down" was actually the only part of the lyric of which I was certain. I like the song, but John Fogarty's not the single most intelligible singer; I'm almost not surprised that some people mishear "there's a bad moon on the rise" as "there's a bathroom on the right." Almost. The song is called "Bad Moon Rising" after all. But still, his is a voice that takes a little deciphering, so I turned to Google and looked it up.

Only to find that it wasn't exactly what I remembered. I don't think I'd known about that "magic boy". But it started leading me down another path, into a vague story idea I've had for I don't know how long:

The found him beaten and bloodied, left by the side of the road, and they, who had been given the word of God, gave it in turn to him.

Which is about as far as the quote and the ideas it inspired would take me in words. But I thought, if I just sit down and put one word in front of the other, something's got to happen. Something's got to give. I seem to remember that's the one thing that's worked in the past.

So I came back here. Only to find that Ben had changed the topic. I'm not sure why he changed it, and I can only assume that each of those words means remember in some foreign language. (This time, Google wasn't much help.) But now that I've written this little bit wondering about it, my ten minutes are up.

There's a story in those nickels, though. I'm sure of it.

by Fred 4:08 PM

Remember, ricordare, herinneer zich, recuerde, Erinnern Sie sich an.

by MisterNihil 11:02 AM

{Thursday, January 15, 2004}

"Well," Jack asked. "The runes, whadda they say?"

"I'm working on it," said Glimpséd. He sighed. "I told you, this is a northern tongue. Similar, but not the same. There are subtle differences, nuances. This is going to take patience."

"Hell, a minute ago you said --"

"No," said Ari. "He's right. He translates this wrong, we try the wrong key, and we're toast. Won't matter what those dwarves outside do to us."

"What're you sayin'?" asked Jack. "Booby traps?"

Now Ari sighed. He spat at the ground and eyed the big man. "Didn't you hear nothin' Jeb said?" he finally asked.

"I heard 'im scream a lot, if that's what you mean," said Jack. "They're, whadyacallit, protection spells."

"Meant to keep thieving hands out," said Glimpséd. He pointed at one of the runes. "You see that word? Means interloper, foreigner. Also means death. They're pretty closely linked in these parts."

"Huh," Jack said. "Probably why Jeb was so keen to keep quiet."

"If I speak the wrong spell," the dwarf added, "these doors ain't gonna open. Whole mountain might come crashin' down on us."

"And we don't want that," said Ari.

"Well, hell," said Jack. He returned to his rock and sat down. "That's all ya hadda say." He grinned. "Booby traps."

by Fred 4:02 PM

foreign soil

by Fred 1:10 PM

{Wednesday, January 14, 2004}

hugging the curves

by Bryan 5:43 AM

{Tuesday, January 13, 2004}

I'd never noticed before this year, but folks around here decorate with what I would otherwise consider food.

The grocery store, for example, displays sprawling, spiny evergreens in its landscaping. It looked like a familiar herb. Finally, one day, I stopped, bent down, and ran a branch through my grip. My fingers smelled like rosemary, my favorite spice.

And just this week, it seems, everyone has planted kale! Dark green leafies, tucked amongst pansies and pale blond grasses, flout the notion that lettuce is just for salads. Some have stark white centers; others fade to vein-colored purples.

In January, when the heat has abated and the clouds slake the gardens, Texas is verdant with colors.

And, y'know, pollen, but who's complaining?

by Sharon 2:37 PM


by Fred 1:33 PM

{Monday, January 12, 2004}

where we used to be

by Fred 7:26 AM

{Friday, January 09, 2004}

They were just on the edge of Seeing, the miner's colony that Jeb had told them about, when Glimpséd, their guide, refused to go any further.

"Dangerous," he said to the two men. "They'd just as soon kill as look at me in there."

Up ahead in the distance, they could spot only a few scattered dwellings and, past that, the mountain at whose base they'd been told they would find the entrance to the mine. Jeb had said nothing of danger -- but then, Jeb had wanted to say nothing at all until they'd used a blade to loosen his tongue. Ari peered into the distance now. His eyes were better than Jack's -- there were whispers that elf-blood ran in his veins -- but even he could see no sign of trouble. Or sign of much of anything, really. It was still early, just after first light, and the middle of town appeared deserted.

"You're a dwarf," said Jack. "They won't kill you. Dwarves don't kill their own kind." He spat, then kicked at the dirt. "Tell 'im, Ari."

Ari nodded. "That's what they say," he told Glimpséd. "Though, truth be told, you don't much look like a dwarf." He paused, as if sizing up their guide. "Too tall."

"These are northeners," the dwarf said. "Mostly, they keep to themselves. But my kind, we live and marry among men, and they hate us for it, call us impure. I can't take you in there."

"Aw damn it, kid," said Jack, "we'll be in an' outta that mine 'fore ya know it. Neither of us care if yer granddaddy was a mortal or yer mama spread her legs for a goddamn orc. But there are locks with secret words down there. Jeb said so. And you're the only one here who speaks the language. Understand?"

Glimpséd sighed. "Fine," he said after a moment. "But we go now, and we leave the horses. We only take what we came for. If we're not gone before the miners wake up --"

"Then they'll kill us all," said Ari, lifting his pack on to his shoulder. "And, lord knows, there ain't no fun in that."

by Fred 1:57 PM

glimpsed, just at the edge of seeing

by Sharon 8:50 AM

{Thursday, January 08, 2004}

Staying Home Today

by MisterNihil 1:16 PM

{Wednesday, January 07, 2004}

Jacob did not know what the town was called. There were no signs, and he had given up on the map at the back of his guidebook. Mary had whispered something as they neared the outskirts, another in a string of unfamiliar words, this one sounding vaguely like emotion. Jacob could not find that either in the book. Again, he wished the company had offered to pay for an interpeter. Davis only grunted and pushed the horses on. The sun was beginning to set, and the man likely wanted to be off the trail before dark. Even the guidebook mentioned the bandits that sometimes roamed these trails at night. The border colonies were not the safest of places to visit.

Jacob again felt his stomach rumble. He thought back on the night before, the meal of unfamiliar food he had refused. He felt vaguely sick. The rations he had procured upon arrival on the planet, and which had been meant to last the week, had spoiled along the trail. There was still plenty of water in his canteen and on the cart which Davis and the horses pulled, but he knew he would have to eat before tomorrow. He wondered if the town had any restaurants. They had not seen any more of these navareks, the strange animal that Mary and Davis had eaten the night before. Again, Jacob wondered if they knew where they were leading him. He did not like putting so much trust in such people.

Again, Davis grunted, pointing this time. Mary only nodded. Jacob looked to where the man was pointing. A large building lay ahead. Already, they had passed a small handful of rundown shacks and houses, but they had seen none of the town's residents. Jacob puzzled, staring at the building ahead.

"What?" he asked. "What is it?"

"Emotion," Mary said again (or something like it), as if that explained everything. Davis reined the horses in and pulled the cart to a stop. They sat there in the middle of the road, staring.

"Well that's certainly not the spaceport," said Jacob. "I don't know what it is, but it looks more like a barn or a church or something." He looked around. "Isn't there anyone here we can ask?"

Mary looked at him, sighed. "No," she said. "All dead. Very dangerous. Belak. Emotion." Again, the unfamiliar words, the heavy accent. "They come. Emotion. Kill. We stay, they kill."

"Look," Jacob said, "I really don't know what you're talking about." He held the guidebook out to her. "There's no emotion in this thing. Half the words you're saying aren't in here. Show me -- show me what you want me to see."

Again, Mary sighed. She took the book, flipped through its pages. After a moment, she paused, nodded. She seemed to consult with Davis, who also nodded. Then she held the open book out to Jacob so that he could see the picture at which she now pointed. He recognized the creature in it almost immediately. One could not come to the red planet without being at least dimly aware of them. After all, they had killed so many.

"Oh," he said after a moment. "Not emotion." He forced a smile. "The Martians. How nice."

by Fred 5:02 PM

lost in emotion

by jal 7:07 AM

{Tuesday, January 06, 2004}

She pulled a muscle off the carcass, said, "Here, eat."

Jacob waved a hand in front of him. "No," he said. "But thanks." He tried to smile.

"Have to eat," said Mary. "Many miles. Can't say when we'll hit town. Won't stop neither." She looked at him from across the campfire, hunkered over the body of the animal she and Davis had killed. Navarek, she'd called it. Grass hunter. She had seemed quite pleased. The flesh, even now, fully cooked, was a pale and sickly yellow. Jacob could not find the beast in the index of his guidebook, nor could he find it in himself to try the meat the couple now offered. There was an unmistakable stench to it, and he had be warned to be wary of the locals.

"Have to eat," Mary repeated. She looked over at Davis, who sat against the side of their wagon. "Tell him."

Davis grunted, perhaps nodded. Jacob could not tell without his glasses, which had now been lost almost a day along the trail. He peered into the darkness, but the man was little more than another blurry shape among their provisions. Davis had said little the entire trip. He was not good with Earth languages, Mary had said -- "no tongue for it" -- but even she often seemed at a loss and was not herself much for conversation. Jacob had the distinct impression that they did not like him and would be glad to be free of him when they reached the next town, whether it had the space port he was looking for or not. He was paying them what he thought to be a considerable sum, given the local exchange rate, but still he worried. The guidebook had very little to say about walking the trails, only that one should be extremely careful when hiring a guide.

"No eat then," Mary said. She tossed the muscle back on the coals -- what was it? Jacob wondered. An arm, a leg? -- then turned back to her own meal. "Be at town soon enough. Go hungry, but maybe tomorrow."

Tomorrow, Jacob thought, couldn't come soon enough.

by Fred 4:08 PM

I watched Thomas's bright eye, flashing like a smooth, black candy I wanted to lick. He stopped when he saw me looking at him.

"What?" he croaked around a mouthful of food.

"Nothing, Thomas," I answered. "Just thinking about eyes."

Unnerved, he continued to assess me, looking me up and down. He seemed unaware of his bit of forgotten meat. It dangled, pink and inviting, and quivvered when he finally moved his head to duck back into his food.

"Whatever," he muttered.

I was hungry, but I still wasn't moved to eat. I was fascinated by the depth of color in his black feathers, shining, iridescent, as he darted in to snatch a piece of flesh then threw his head back to gulp it down. I watched him.

He didn't stop, but he fixed me with one black eye. "Eat, Ruby." He tore more meat. "Quit looking at me."

"Sorry, Thomas." I was hungry. I hopped closer to the body. It smelled temptingly rank. With a strike of my sharp, black beak, I pulled a muscle free from its cheek and threw it into my gullet. War makes for good eating.

by Sharon 2:21 PM

Driving over the wheat fields in an old pickup truck, I looked ahead and to the left, alternating between my destination ahead of me and my origin behind. The seat was itchy; the heat made everything itchy, but this seat had seen the worse end of thirty-five hay-bailings and looked it. It wore straw older than me deep in its frayed, tweed upholstery. The brown and white plaid had worn down to a pale and blotchy tan. Styrofoam only seeped slowly from one place, a tribute to the care that had been shown to this simple work truck.
Everything itched. My skin crawled in the growing heat as sweat moved through the odyssey from a morning cup of water to a stain on a shirt at evening. The pricks of water moving through my pores mingled with the prickles of hay and I looked out across the vast expanse of field, and ahead to the barn. There, I was already late for the shoing that started almost half-an-hour ago but early to put out midday hay. The pickup hit a dip in the field and jumped, rattling old steel and glass, followed by the chorus of tiny metallic settling of the lifetime of screws, bolts, nails and assorted crap that this kind of truck can't help but accumulate.
I reached my arm out the window and felt the only slightly cooler air rush over my hand. It would be a hot day today.

by MisterNihil 2:04 PM

pulled a muscle

by Sharon 12:18 PM

{Monday, January 05, 2004}

weights and measures

by Fred 2:14 PM

{Sunday, January 04, 2004}

returns and exchanges

by Fred 10:34 AM

{Friday, January 02, 2004}

Sneaking out of the office early, Paul pondered his romantic plans for the evening. His projects had been working him ragged lately, and Fran complained that she was left with the last 5% of him. "The dregs," she called it, and Paul knew his lover was right. Tonight, work be damned, he was going to make amends.

Just as he swung his car onto the M6, his mobile rang. He fumbled in his briefcase for the phone, then cursed as his boss's number flashed on the display.

"Hello?" Paul slowly cracked his window open a few inches.

Crystal clear, his boss's voice came down the line. "Paul. You are aware, certainly, that the ROI study is due to the client on Friday, and we simply must discuss the findings internally before presenting them to Hutchins."

Paul held the mobile toward the open window and shouted into it. "What's that? I can't quite hear you, Mr. Hurley. I'm on my way to the doctor's office, and the mobile coverage out here is pretty spotty. I'll have a draft of the ROI for Hutch on your desk by one o'clock tomorrow; if you've new information you'd best leave it on my voicemail because I can't make out a word you've said. Sorry? I can't hear you, I'm afraid. I'll just see you in the morning, then. Cheers!"

No further incidents disrupted Paul's reverie on his way to his lover's home. Everything was ready: the wine, the romantic picnic basket he had prepared... and the ring, hidden in the bouquet of roses he'd be carrying when he rang the door.

There was no answer when he rang Fran's doorbell, so he let himself in with the spare key she always kept in the flowerbox. He was pleased at the chance to prepare the scene before she came home from work; he would put the roses in a vase on her nightstand.

Paul opened the door to Fran's room, gasped, and dropped the vase he was carrying. Another man was in Fran's bed, undressing her, barely clothed himself. The sound of shattering glass alerted the duo to Paul's presence. "Hey, who's this bloke?" the nearly-naked man demanded.

Although she thought about it many times in the lonely months that followed, Fran never understood Paul's strange actions as he retreated that day. Leaving behind the expensive wine, the delicate cashmere blanket, and the elaborate picnic, Paul said nothing and took with him only a single rose from the shattered pile on her bedroom floor.

by Faith 6:30 PM

Antibiotics. Benzoyl Peroxide wash. Retinoid cream. The spots are diminishing.

But I have to wonder if this elaborate regimen is going to dog me for the rest of my life. Is my choice acne or The Pill? Whiteheads or headaches? Blemishes or hormonal meddling? What crap.

Aside from the sheer ugliness of pus-riddled skin, the most irritating thing about adult acne is all the advice. Have you tried this product? I swear by this one. Do you wash your face enough? Dude, I have tried them all. The only thing that works is prescription-strength oxide and antibiotics. Duh.

People give a lot of advice, y'know? They intervene. They meddle.

Was there a point to this rant? I don't know. I'm sensitive about it, is all. And my skin is clearing up. But am I going to be beholden to the dermatologist for the rest of my life? What the hell do birth control pills do to you, to make your skin a permanent mess if you stop taking them? Why do we accept this crap?

Ask your doctors uncomfortable questions. And put not your trust in governmental agencies--remember that the FDA says that Toxic Shock Syndrome is your fault. Don't trust 'em.

by Sharon 3:20 PM

spotty coverage

by Faith 1:25 PM

{Thursday, January 01, 2004}

I had a dream last week about a childhood friend. We were catching up. I'd like to know what happened to him. A quick Google search actually turned up a few hits--he's still in Allentown, or was, as of October 2001, and kicking around some old familiars, like writing band reviews for the Morning Call, organizing events for Mayfair, and working in the employment office of Lehigh University. There's even a contact phone number on the Mayfair announcement. Hm...

Anyway, if you're conducting a vanity search: Erik Christ, write to me. I miss you.

The internet is strange. I found Squid again this way.

How do we lose people we love? More to the point, how do we find them again? And even more germane than that, why don't my friends have as much of an internet presence as I do? Sheesh.

I want to find Murad Dervish, too. All the internet has to say about him is that he received a BA from Moravian in 2002. He was my first friend, from the time that we were months old. By the time we were five, we had a plan: When we turned 16, we'd get married and join the circus as a trapeze act.

Where are you guys? What's happened to you? How do I find you?

Here's hoping that absent friends might find me, and write to me at sherbie at invisible-city.com.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

Thinking fond thoughts of
Absent Friends.

by MisterNihil 3:23 PM


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