Thursday, May 26, 2005
lights in the sky
by Fred 1:25 PM
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
by Fred 3:18 PM
Monday, May 23, 2005
Love is not enough.
by Christy 11:53 AM
Friday, May 20, 2005
What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?
by Fred 2:18 PM
Thursday, May 19, 2005
long ago and far away
by Fred 2:45 PM
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
what makes you laugh?
by Fred 12:17 PM
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Who called the cops?
by Fred 12:40 PM
Monday, May 16, 2005
It began like a dream
With a blood-curdling scream
The ways that these things sometimes will
He fell madly in love
As if 'twas ordanined up above
But she was only there for the kill
She lopped off his head
One fell swoop, he was dead
She was known for her well-sharpened blade
An execution so quick
Might have made lesser romeos sick
Might have dampened their love, made it fade
But for a love strong and pure
Even beheading's no cure
To be with her was his own chosen fate
His heart, it was racked
Beat in spirit, if not fact
"Do you think that maybe we could out on a date?"
She eyed his corpse with a sigh
"Don't you men ever die?
Do you have to keep at it though you've met your ends?
Even when slain
It's always sex on the brain
Give it up. Let it rest. Can't we just be friends?"
by Fred 11:59 PM
Suddenly, I heard a scream.
by Sharon 8:52 AM
Saturday, May 14, 2005
I almost got away with everything.
by Christy 10:22 AM
Friday, May 13, 2005
It was only dumb luck that Danny Anderson saved the world from total destruction that afternoon. He was calling his mother, who lived in Dubuque, to ask after a sick cat, and he must have misdialed, because the next thing he knew he was talking to a lieutenant colonel in a bunker somewhere in the Nevada desert, who apparently understood "So how's Mister Whiskers?" to be the code phrase to stand down and return the missiles to their silo.
Much would be made in later weeks, first by the milirary and their advisors and then by the press, to whom the story was inevitably leaked, of the freakish randomness of this event, the purely mathematical implausibility of Danny having misdialed not one digit, or even two or three, but a staggering total of all ten -- since Mrs. Anderson's phone number and the lieutenant's direct line to the president had no two digits in common.
Danny himself was more than a little surprised, and when he found out by reading the Times that his Jack Russell terrier's name, Buster, had until only recently been the code phrase that almost launched the missiles to begin with, he didn't know what to think.
by Fred 5:45 PM
by Fred 3:04 PM
Thursday, May 12, 2005
What's your name?
by Fred 2:34 PM
Wednesday, May 11, 2005
it's a living
by Fred 1:38 PM
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Part the First | Part the Second | Part the Third | Part the Fourth | Part the Fifth | Part the Sixth | Part the Seventh | Part the Eighth | Part the Ninth | Part the Tenth | Part the Eleventh | Part the Twelfth | Part the Thirteenth | Part the Fourteenth | Part the Fifteenth | Part the Sixteenth | Part the Seventeenth | Part the Eighteenth | Part the Nineteenth | Part the Twentieth | Part the Twenty-first | Part the Twenty-second | Part the Twenty-third | Part the Twenty-fourth | Part the Twenty-fifth | Part the Twenty-sixth | Part the Twenty-seventh
Alan knows the blade should be useless. He would know this even if everything about the beast didn't work to underline the fact, even if standing there he wasn't so wholly consumed by revulsion and fear. He knows the blade should be useless because his employers have told him this, and he has never yet known them to lie to him.
That the blade is sharp, he has no doubt. He has run a finger along its length and felt its weight, and he knows that if it was a man standing in front of him, that man would now surely be dead.
But it is not a man standing in front of him. This is a creature without name, of which, if Alan is to believe the stories, even the gods are afraid, and in its presence the blade looks small and dull and pathetic. Even now, with his arm embedded almost to the elbow in the dark mass of the beast, Alan knows that the blade has caused the thing no pain and spilled no blood. It is only with a little surprise, in fact, that Alan realizes it is he who is in some pain, that the knife is, for all intents and purposes, stuck, and, along with it, so too is his arm.
"Did you think that would hurt me?" the beast asks. Its voice, still very much that of Alan's father betrays no small amount of amusement. What might be eyes continue to watch Alan closely, and the oily black wound that surrounds the knife constricts, tightening around Alan's now useless arm.
"Did you think this was flesh?" the thing asks. "Is that it? Did the ones who sent you here to die tell you that you could gut me like a fish, just lay me open with a kitchen knife? Did they tell you so little about what I am that you thought a little prick could hurt me?"
Alan says nothing. The truth is, he can think of nothing to say. While not severe, the pain in his arm is persistent, and there is such a feeling of wrongness in this close proximity to the beast that he finds it difficult to think. But he does not speak, mainly, because of the one thought that does crawl through his brain, a memory of something his employers have told him: that he need only keep the beast talking for a few minutes more, because it will not be long before the things within the blade begin to do their work.
"This is not flesh," the beast says. "What I am is older than that, other than that. They know that. You are just meat, and you think like meat, but they know better. Cut it open, carve it out, gouge my heart with a sharpened spear. They really should know better than that."
From deep within the creature, there is a sound that might be laughter, and then that which is not flesh, the dark mass that is this thing, begins to spasm and shift, and the shape of the thing begins to change around the axis of Alan's arm. It pulsates and ripples and rolls itself around impossibly, as if only to demonstrate that it can. It is not bound to the rules that apply to flesh. It can assume whatever form the beast desires. Its only form is one of death and pain and fear.
"I am not flesh, meat-thing," says the beast. "I am the nightmare that wakes flesh in the dark of night. I am the darkness. I am the fear that keeps you meat things huddled together for warmth in the light. Those who sent you here know this. They know what I am. A knife cannot hurt me."
"Which is why," Alan struggles to say, with the twisting weight on the creature tugging at his arm, "you never saw it coming."
There is a new sound, then, like the buzzing of insects or a faint electrical hum, from the spot where Alan's arm intersects with the beast. There, the skin that is not skin has begun to pulsate with its own strange rhythm, and from beneath it there is now the suggestion of movement independent from the whole, separate from the beast.
The sound begins to increase in volume, and Alan can feel a tingling in his fingertips -- wholly unpleasant, true, but also wholly unique from the awfulness of the creature's touch -- and he knows that what he has been sent here to do has actually worked.
"You," says the beast. "What have you -- what have you done to me?"
Alan allows himself a small smile as he feels the thing's grip on him loosen and his arm slips free. The knife does not come with it.
"You're right," Alan says. "A knife couldn't hurt you. I'll wager a thousand knives couldn't hurt you. And if that was all I'd brought with me, I'm sure I'd be dead."
He flexes his fingers and watches as the hole through which he stabbed the blade begins to widen and the darkness around it turns first a pale gray and then a ashen white. Alan can no longer see the knife, and the creature itself has begun to stagger.
"But obviously," Alan says, "that's not all I brought with me. I've got a few other tricks. The knife, for instance, was hollow."
The ashen color of the wound has begun to spread like a stain across the oily black of the beast, and the hum has only grown louder, more shrill. The creature lets out a snarl and tries to lunge at Alan, but he steps easily out of its path and it collapses to the ground.
"Hollow," Alan says, "but not empty. You weren't wrong: my employers have sent a lot of people here to die. Each of them came, each of them you killed, and each of them eventually found their way inside that blade."
The entire surface of the beast has gone a sickly white, and it looks to Alan remarkably small and weak and frail.
"You," it says again. "You can't --"
"No," says Alan, "but apparently they can. Need a ghost to fight a ghost, a nightmare to fight a nightmare. The flesh might be weak, but the flesh is definitely willing. So if you've ever wondered what it's like to have a hundred dead souls crowding around inside you, chewing you apart...well, then today's your lucky day."
He pauses and stares at the convulsing thing on the floor at his feet.
"Otherwise," he adds as the convulsions cease, "today's just the day that you die."
Alan kneels over the creature, now quite still and no more than a misshapen, discolored lump, and once again he sticks his arm deep inside, at the same spot into which he plunged the knife. This time there is no resistance, no feeling of wrongness, or fear of losing his arm or becoming stuck. Now, there is nothing. From where it has sunk within the wound, Alan pulls the half-shattered blade. Its tip is broken, revealing the hollow and now empty center, but he knows this does not matter. The knife is still worth salvaging. It has carried these angry spirits to this place, and, despite the damage done, they are still bound to it. Alan speaks aloud the words that will remind them of this fact and return them to the blade, and then he wraps it carefully in the cloth at the bottom of his satchel and stands to leave.
He thinks his employers will be pleased. He can only guess at how many years they have had this plan in motion, or how many died before him to make it possible. One hundred now seems like a conservative guess. He does not know what end result of their plans will be or how far ultimately they extend, but Alan does know this much: he is no longer afraid. There is nothing in this room to be scared of.
And so, pulling the satchel to his shoulder, he turns and walks out the door.
by Fred 8:09 PM
What are you afraid of?
by Fred 8:55 AM
Monday, May 09, 2005
morning routine/evening routine
by Fred 2:18 PM
Friday, May 06, 2005
In the farthest reaches of our Great Lady's queendom, beyond the forbidding southern territories and the harsh desert lands that surround them, beyond the abandoned river towns, the mining settlements, where legend has it men once went wild and reverted to savage ways, beyond even the great frost-bitten cape, whose shores mark the northern edge of the continent and from whose crumbling guard towers one can spy the snow-peaked mountains that lie across the nameless sea -- beyond all this, beyond everything that is thought to be known of this and our neighboring countries, there are whispered rumors still of lost and ancient cities, impossibly old, founded in the early days of the last republic and before our first queen's rule as outposts in some forgotten war, garrisons against an unknown enemy -- or perhaps built for reasons we can no longer understand; and it has been said that in one of these cities, where few in Her Majesty's employ have ever chanced to stand -- and whose very existence they are by royal decree obliged to deny, the darkness that came upon us in recent years, that terrible and once nameless thing that haunted our village streets and that I feared we would not be rid of within my lifetime -- that thing was born, and it is only luck or the whim of whatever gods protect us that any of us have survived.
I do not know if this is true. We have been fed such varied explanations these last few months that I do not think we will ever know the whole of it. The findings of the official inquest have been sealed and the few remaining bodies cremated, and our Great Lady has ordered that no one shall speak publicly of these terrible and most tragic events. The story, as far as the royal court is concerned, is ended.
And yet every story must also begin somewhere. I have heard little in recent weeks to dispute the claim that this story, for all its complexity and unknowable particulars, began in one of those forgotten cities -- that it began, quite simply, with a friendly wager.
by Fred 12:50 PM
nothing but beginnings
by Fred 12:21 PM
Thursday, May 05, 2005
If nothing else, the Martian people were very small.
Maybe that's why we never saw it coming. Or maybe it's that, after all those years of hearing that Mars was a dead planet -- in the end nothing more than a big red ball of dust in the sky -- the arrival of actual people from Mars couldn't help but take us by surprise.
Maybe it was a lot of things. I don't know. I wasn't there when they landed, and the few sure things I do know about their arrival I learned like most everyone else after the fact. They appeared to the president of our country, first in a dream using what the scientific community would only later accept as as a primitive long-range form of telepathy, and then later -- many years later, in fact -- in the flesh. That the flesh in question wasn't Martian green was, I think, something of a disappointment. They were a pale bronze, but no more so than anyone with a half-decent tan, and there wasn't a whole lot to distinguish them as alien or other or specifically Martian. In fact, it was only their height that set them apart.
When the president announced to the country that the Martians had landed, had taken up residence in the White House, and were, as near as his cursory examination of them could determine, no taller than six inches each, I suspect that most everyone thought he was crazy. The years of claiming to have heard telepathic signals from the Martians cosmic fleet hadn't helped, but I know that I, for one, had always just taken that to typical Republican bluster. Of course, it was soon revealed that the Martinas were here, that they had landed, and that, if anything, they were probably closer to five foot apiece.
Which meant that nobody saw the invasion coming. It's hard to feel threatened by a person shorter than the length of your arm, even if they do have space craft and ray guns and can speak telepathically across the unfathomable void of the cosmos. They were shorter than midgets, impossibly short, and no one was worried about why they were here or what hidden motives they might have. The president even went so far as to call them "good people."
Except, of course, they weren't people. Without a trace of humanity, they rounded us up, killed or enslaved us -- much like I think we'd have expected them to, if they hadn't been so short. Their height, or lack of it, was so disarming that we didn't pay attention to the warning signs. I guess we figured they couldn't do much if they couldn't even reach up to our knees.
by Fred 9:13 PM
I remember coming home and knowing something was wrong the instant I walked through the doorway. Was the light on the living room ceiling a little dimmer? Did I miss the smell of Calire de Lune? Perhaps the mantle clock's echo rang just a little hollower... Whatever it was, I knew something was different. Did I stop to think about it? Did I investigate? No, I was stupid. I was 15 and I was tired. All I wanted to do was sit down, drink a half-gallon of orange juice and zone out to Thundercats for a half hour. That's exactly what I did.
Later, I looked up my chore for the day on the weekly chart: Mopping. I made sure to under-dilute the slightly acrid Pine-Sol knockoff so it'd smell extra-clean when I was done, gave the scarred linoleum a quick once-over, and was done in 20 minutes. Tromping in the hallway told me my sister was home.
"Jon, where"s Mom?"
"Not home yet," I said. Holly sighed the kind of long-suffering sigh that only a prepubescent girl can muster and slouched off to her room. I shrugged and went to my room to work on a program I was writing on my Commodore 64. The sound of sobbing in the hallway broke me out of my programmer's fugue - I'd zoned out and the sun had set. "Geez, what is it?"
Holly was sprawled out half-in, half-out of my Mom's bedroom, bawling - utterly incoherent. I'd've ignored her, but for her sputtering: "Mom's gone."
I looked in the bedroom. The bed was there, as was the dresser, but the jewelry boxes were gone. The gaps on the bookshelves seemed large enough to swallow my arms. The closets were open and bare, the smell of freshly-disturbed mothballs assaulted my nose.
No warning. No trace of where she'd gone to. That's how my Mom left us when I was fifteen.
by jal 8:32 PM
Without A Trace
by Christy 12:28 AM
Tuesday, May 03, 2005
How do you deal with that kind of cognitive dissonance? When the six things you have to do are diametrically opposed to the six things you want to do? The simple answer is that you don't deal with it. You can't deal with it. You can't even think about it. If you did, if you even tried, your head would explode just like a water balloon dropped from the top of the Empire State Building. Only quite a bit messier. And much more difficult to explain. What you do instead is just live your life one second (or millisecond) at a time. You live as if this tiny fraction of time is all you have. You do the one thing that is absolutely necessary for your continued survival right now.
People might say that by breaking life down into such tiny fragments, you miss the big picture. Well, so what? Quite often, the big picture is just a random, incongruent mess of things that have no apparent relation to each other. The big picture, to me, has often been a disappointment. You can only see the connective threads that are holding everything together when you use a magnifying glass. And those thin, fragile threads are the very things that hold my world together.
by Christy 11:50 PM
Being pulled in twelve different directions at once
by Generik 11:20 PM
- Check in for today's topic, or offer one on your appointed day.
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Copyright 2005 Sharon Cichelli, Mary Ann Borer, Martha Cichelli, Blythe Christopher, Fred Coppersmith, Faith Drewry, Dan Gabbett, Ben Gibbs, Jonathan Leistiko, Josh Martinez, David Menendez, Christy Roy, Shawn Sharp, Bryan Storti, Remi Treuer, Margaret Whaley, Glen Williams, John Williams, Erik Wilson