Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Martyr of Evolution…

The Martyr of Evolution

 

Joan is close.

I can hear her servos whirring somewhere over by the boiler. Did she unplug herself?

Joan never liked the motherboard at the back of her head. I could see it hurt her when I installed it, but I thought she’d calm down when I severed her cervical neuronic relays. That was a mistake. I can see that now. Because Joan realizes she will feel no physical pain from her jaws down. No matter what I do to her now. That’s what’s given her this boost of self-confidence, godammit.

Does she really think she can win at this?

Whirrrrrr – click – whirrrrr.

A little closer, but still far enough away for me to come up with a plan.

I knew I shouldn’t have painted the cellar windows black. All for security, of course, but now the blackness is total; Joan’s gone and shorted the breakers. Probably whirred over there while I was at the Quickie Mart and slammed a titanium hex-rod right into the board. She’d have the strength.

I left her plugged in clear on the other side of the cellar. So, she’s either found an extension cord – which I find doubtful, given the fact that I removed all of them to avoid this very turn of events – or, she’s unplugged herself and is hoping to get out or at least get her hands on me before her mobile pack runs down.

She was once my lab assistant as well as my wife, so she knows how this all works.

Her next-gen NiCad power source will last three- maybe four- hours, tops. The exoskeleton is heavy. So without the power to move the servos, she’ll be dead in the water. All I need do is stay away from her until her batteries die, and then move in and kill her. It’s not worth the risk of keeping her going now.

I’d make a run for the breaker board, but, knowing Joan, that would be unwise. She’s angry. I guess I can’t totally blame her, but I’ve Borg’d her in a way that no one outside a Universal Studios lot could ever envision. I tried to show her there was an upside to this for her, a way for her to be powerful, as she was always saying she wanted to be. But, as usual, it was all tears and anger. More of Joan being controlled by men. She should be grateful I took her away from that awful father of hers.

When I decided to try the experiment, everything just fell into place. Joan lost her job at Parkside Elementary as a first grade assistant. She came crying to me, even though our divorce was final two years ago. With no friends or family who would ever come looking for her, it was a perfect meeting of motivation and opportunity.

First, it was easy to drop her last month with a moderate Benadryl dose in her chardonnay, which, following her dismissal from Parkside, I was finally able to convince her to try.

Scrrrrape – whirrrrrr – click – click.

She’s down on the floor, I guess, about ten feet in front of me. That noise is unnerving in the dark. The whirring. And the scraping on the concrete floor.

Behind me, I can hear one of the cats hissing at a mouse. I want to throw something at it, but I don’t want to give away my position.

The actual installation of the exoskeleton was easier than I’d imagined. A lot of antiseptic gel, sutures, and cutting. The months of study and practice paid off. Once I got her post-op fever under control, I was able to start the wiring – my real area of expertise.

Of course, the exoskeleton was cumbersome during our, well, intimate moments. But I was able to unplug her cables to freeze her scaffolding in any position I wanted. No more fighting back. No more headaches. No more bashful Joan.

I wanted to prove that I could control her neurological life with just a hard drive, some easily downloadable software, and a few coaxial cables plugged into a motherboard sliced into Joan’s brainstem. The titanium exoskeleton proved to be a superb bio-electric pathway for brain stem impulses to travel uninterrupted to her neocortex and then back to the hard drive in a beautiful feedback loop.

You see, Joan’s ceaseless moaning was freaking me out. So I removed her larynx. But then, a funny thing happened. My hard drive started registering electron-volt spikes that weren’t explained by any potentials that would be in play. I could only assume it was Joan’s emotional reaction to her predicament plowing upriver through the lizard brain to the neocortex and thence down the coaxial cables back to the computer. This was exciting. If the correct software was available, I could’ve taken those e-volt spikes as raw data and plugged them into a linguistic integrative algorithm that just might have transformed that emotional energy into words. Hello Nobel Prize….

But then tonight happened. Joan got loose.

Clang – sic. Whirrrr – click.

She’s close now. This is no longer funny.

Her whirring locates her directly between me and the cellar stairs. Her power should have bottomed out by now. What’s going on?

Whirrrrr – scrrrrrrrrrrape.

I can hear the table with the computer sliding to me know. She’s pulling the entire set up behind her via the coax cables.

The cat behind me suddenly jumps down onto my shoulder and I scream and leap forward. My foot kicks something heavy lying on the floor in front of me: the exoskeleton.

Behind me the cat hisses at something again.

Then whirrrrr.

I reach down and feel the coolness of the titanium rods. The frame is empty.

Where is Joan?

I suddenly realize it is not the cat hissing behind me.

A flashlight snaps on. And there she is: bleeding and angry in the harsh white light.

Her eyes bulge, shot through with a primal madness. Blood and mucus slide her neck from the laryngectomy incision. An unnatural hissing issues from the hole in her throat. In her hand is a scalpel that I recognize only too well.

 As she descends on me, I think of electricity and beauty and wires and flesh.

And then Joan becomes the angel of my vision.

The martyr of evolution.

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Really, really cool image by Webwizzard


On the Road (again)…

Unlike Willie Nelson, I’m not traveling from town to town in a pot-befogged tour bus with my friends. No, I’m sitting in darkness in towns like Scranton, Buffalo, and Ft. Myers. Fly in late, work all day, fly out late the next day. As you can see, if you’re a reader of this blog, since hitting the road a couple of weeks ago, my story production has plummeted – and it’s pissing me off. 

But the mortgage man must be paid.

Before I had a family, I’d fly nearly 130,000 miles a year for work. New York, LA, San Francisco, Honolulu. It was great…for a while. But, now that I’m out on the road (just a couple of days a week for the next couple of months), I miss my wife and kids. Nameless hotels, faceless desk clerks, flight attendants.

I am making the adjustment and I have what I think is a neat, nasty, little story coming up: a tale about a lonely but disturbed engineer and the nameless woman he….transforms.

Stay tuned.

Oh, and don’t forget about “Bijou” on Flashes in the Dark on July 1st.

As always, I’m glad you came back to check for another story. I truly appreciate your support. It is coming – tonight.

Image by no3rdw


“Bijou” to be Published on Flashes in the Dark…

Do you remember the two gangsters in the closet trying to rob Mimi Del Sarte of her precious jewels?  If you recall, they ran into a problem with Mimi’s pet, Bijou.  It was a fun story to write and I like to re-read it every now and then.  Well, the folks over at Flashes in the Dark will be posting “Bijou” on their website on July 1st.  While you’re there, you might check out some of the other great stories they post from other authors.

I’ll be back with a new story tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by.


Sitting In Darkness Update…

I wanted to let you know I haven’t deserted the blog. I am still jotting down stories all the time. However, I’ve been enjoying the short-form stories so damned much that I haven’t been putting any work into longer pieces that I want to send out for publication.  The thought of sitting down to revise a longer story has been no match for the fun of creating these ulta-short snappy dark pieces. But that must change if I’m ever to be a published author. So, please continue to visit. I’m writing another piece for Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge this week. The challenge is to use the name of a raunchy sex move (he provided a link to a hilarious but disturbing site) as the basis for a story. The story need not actually describe nor even include the sex move: it only must be the title of the story. Stay tuned for that one!…

Image by THOR


My Story “Alpha Male” to be Posted on “Flashes In the Dark”

Perhaps readers of this blog will remember the story “Alpha Male“. The image below may jog your memory. Think “demon rooster possesses young girl”. This story has been selected to appear on the website Flashes in the Dark, a website devoted to daily doses of horror flash fiction. The story will be posted this Friday, June 10th.  I have a good friend whose husband was out of town the day I published this story on this blog. Seems there was some type of commotion in the chicken coop in the dark of night, and she had to go out there and…investigate. Sometimes the real world just plays into a writer’s hands.

Horror writers get their jollies in very shallow ways..

A new story tomorrow!

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Once again, the image is by Ryan Abel


The Finger of God…

I had a job once, trying to help people get from situations that bordered on hell – ok they WERE hell – and get them to places where they might try to take a breath and move toward some peace.  It is very difficult to describe how humbling it feels to be in the presence of people who have survived such degradation and emerged with such grace.  From Auschwitz to Tuol Sleng in Cambodia (where I spent one creepy and emotional afternoon), the world seems littered with the remnants of these violent convulsions that appear to have no basis in rationality.  But they were orchestrated by everyday humans. Darfur. Rwanda. Srebrenica. Little Fucking Big Horn.  The recent arrest of Ratko Mladic in Serbia and our recent tornadoes here in Massachusetts are to blame for this story:

 

The Finger of God

I cannot recall how long it has been since these things spilled out of the wind and took our world from us. The terror seems ageless. Memories of laughing children and familial bonds are today nothing more substantial than the faint outlines of a half-remembered fever dream.

We had little warning of the storm. A distant rumble every now and then.

The morning it arrived, my wife Sukarna had been out winnowing rice in the back yard. She screamed and entered the house, pointing West.

I ran to the back door and nearly fainted. I saw an enormous tower of black wind, snaking back and forth across the land. And I could tell – no, I could hear – that inside that tower was endless hate and undoing. There were angry shouts, unintelligible to me, but their meaning clear somehow. Destruction was the only message.

Shouts of warning sounded up and down the village streets. We watched the snaking black wind get closer and closer. Finally, admitting there was no way the storm would pass us by, many of us crowded into the basement of the teachers college, where we peered out the basement windows with growing horror.

As the circle of wind passed over the village, we saw trees pulled completely into the air and then propelled into the faces of neighbors and friends still outside. Little children were ripped from mothers’ arms and sent dashing into concrete walls.

The eye of the storm settled over the teachers college and the storm moved no further. It just continued to churn all around our village. After a while, seeing the storm was unmoving, we climbed out of the basement. A horrible smell pervaded the village. We walked in a daze to the spinning black walls surrounding us.

We were not able to pass through the wind to reach the outside world. We were trapped in the eye of the storm. The smell of dirt was mixed with a coppery stench of rotting blood –there were things longer dead in that wind than just our recent losses. As the wind raged past us, we saw fractured lumber, pig heads and, occasionally, the tortured faces of loved ones. We could only turn away. Move back to the center of the eye and not look anymore into that brown-black swirling.

Looking up through the center of the funnel, we could see only blackness punctuated occasionally with intense flashes of light. Down the funnel came the sounds of rape and torture.

Later that first morning, the things came out of the wind. Black, shapeless things seen only out of the corner of your eye. We kept our eyes lowered in their presence, sensing that to look directly at them was to invite unspeakable pain.

They were black ghosts. They darted and swooshed around our houses and the official buildings. If they ran into you, they knocked you off your feet. But any blows delivered against them found only black mist and shadow. This was the fate of Bao, the butcher. At one point, he charged one of the things, cleaver in hand. His blow sliced the black air only, leaving the cleaver buried in his own right shin. Bao had yelped in pain, but they took him to the teachers college where we heard him scream with more fervor all through that night. Then, all at once, just before dawn, Bao’s awful screaming stopped.

The schoolrooms of the teacher’s college were transformed into torture chambers. People under suspicion (under suspicion of what, we did not know) were taken to these rooms and came out bloodied corpses several days later. What information was gained, and how it was used by the shadow things was a mystery to us.

 

We are now formed into work groups, each with a specific need to fulfill. I am assigned to firewood collection. Unable to get past the swirling tower and fell trees in the surrounding forest, we have started to dismantle houses for the fires.  Of course, we realize we will run out of food soon, being confined to eating only what we can find here in the circle of the storm’s eye. Sukarna, working on a vegetable team, keeps back a small portion for our family to eat a couple of times a week.

The black things seem particularly interested in our children. As the days, weeks, and months inside the storm have passed, it is common for us to wake to find a large group of children sitting before the things, apparently being educated about – or indoctrinated into – a way of being that is so foreign to our traditions we no longer trust our young.

This morning, my youngest son, Preth, is standing in the school compound with one of the black things whispering to him over his shoulder. Now, a small group of children drag Sukarna across the muddy compound. I start to run for her but several teenaged boys wielding machetes block my path.

I’m too far away to hear what is said, but Preth, sounding angry, points at his mother and makes some type of speech. For her part, Sukarna is on her knees, raised palms together. She pleads, but is not heard. Preth withdraws a large wooden club and beats his mother. I scream and struggle against the machete boys, but I am too weak to get through. After Preth throws down the bludgeon, and Sukarna lays motionless before him, I am allowed to run to my dead wife. I pray to our God to deliver us from this nightmare. To descend from the sky, to emerge from the ground, to seep out of the rivers, to stop the twister, and crush the black things. Make them call out in pain for what they have done. I no longer care for my own continued existence. I scream angry words at the black things. I disown Preth and spit at him. I take Sukarna’s broken corpse to the edge of the wind wall, her head rolled away from my chest at the end of her limp neck.

The wind’s roar is deafening. I look back. They are all watching me. Motionless.

I sit down and weep. Sukarna’s corpse splayed at my feet.

At least, sitting out here next to the storm’s wall, I won’t have to listen to the screaming from the teachers college. I do not know why they are allowing me to stay out here.

It does not matter anyway. The old world is over.

This storm can’t stay here forever. Someday it will move on to another village, taking the black things with it.

Then what?

Will forgetting save us?

Or does salvation lie in never forgetting?

Sukarna’s blood leaks into the ground at my feet.

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Image by Mark Rain


Tornadoes in Massachusetts?

That dramatic post title is my way of dodging responsibility for not putting up a story tonight.

I was having great fun writing a piece about an evil prodigal son when the town alarm went off,  signaling we were either being air raided by Canada, or there was severe weather about.  Since we don’t have TV here, we checked out the streaming feed from New England Cable Network and, well, we were surrounded by tornadoes.

My sons commandeered my computer to follow the rare New England weather event, and thus I will finish the story tomorrow (a story that gives me the creeps…).

One of my kids mentioned I should write a story about a family huddled in the basement of their home, trying to stay safe from the tornadoes in the area, when…things…come out of the wind. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, I guess.

See you tomorrow everyone.


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