Tag Archives: horror

Dummies – Nuclear Test Site, Nevada 1953…

Dummies – Nuclear Test Site, Nevada 1953

Good jobs,

Government man say.

Even children paid.

Keep house.

Keep new furniture.

Love children.

Love life.

_____________

Momma go out?

No.

Momma go out?

No.

M –

__________________________________________________

Image by Mark Holloway


The Cathedral of the Immigrants…

the cathedral of the immigrants

The Cathedral of the Immigrants

Dan McKee looked at the sparse array of food on his plate. It was hard enough to be this hungry himself. But the vacant stares of his children were the real reason for his barren spirit.

He could feel Marianne looking at him across the table. She said, “You children finish up now and get off to bed. Your father and I need to talk. Privately.”

When the kids were gone, Marianne said, “Dan, you can’t go there tonight. What if there’s some kind of violence?”

“Violence? Isn’t there already violence?” A vein stood out ropelike on his forehead. “Where are all the jobs, Mare? Since the slugs came – “

“Do not use that word in this house.” Marianne leveled her eyes at her husband. An index finger raised in warning.

“It’s my house too. The slugs – the green slime, the immigrants – whatever you want to call them, they need to go back where they came from. This planet isn’t big enough for all of us.”

“They’re living beings. They have rights, Dan.”

“Don’t we?”

Through the open kitchen window, they heard angry shouts and breaking glass.

Dan got up, put on his jacket and said, “I need to go. The union says we gotta stick together on this. This is for our future, Mare. Can’t you see that?”

“If our future depends on burning that church down, then maybe we shouldn’t have one.”

The door closed and he was gone.

As Dan emerged onto the street, the surging crowd shoved him into the brick façade of his apartment building.

Faces contorted by rage stampeded by him. Children ran by carrying guns and hammers, screaming death to the slugs.

Dan was swept into the current and carried to the church.

He choked on thick smoke and stumbled to the front of the crowd. People were throwing rocks at the church; he saw shattered stained glass on the sidewalk.

Dan found Frank Silverman, a senior steward in the union.

“Frank, what’s the situation?”

Silverman said, “They’ve locked themselves in. They have nowhere to go now.”

Dan looked around. People held signs reading ‘Earth for humans!’ and ‘Kill All Slugs!’. There were guns, axes, baseball bats, and metal pipes.

Suddenly, the street in front of the church was bathed in a deep green luminescence. The crowd’s energy was suspended and Dan heard only a few dying murmurs.

The enormous door to the church opened. Dan saw the immigrant slide out. It was eight or nine feet long, green with black stripes running down either side. It had no arms or legs.

Silence.

The thing rose up, supported by its coiled tail. It surveyed the crowd.

Silence.

Then the creature shook its head violently from side to side and thumped the steps of the church with its thick tail. It breathed in and out with great, loud chuffs. And then it started to shriek. The wailing echoed off the buildings up and down the street. Dan pushed his hands against his ears along with everyone else.

Then it stopped. Silence again.

Frank Silverman came up behind Dan and pushed a Molotov cocktail into his hand. He whispered in Dan’s ear, “Light it and throw it on my signal.”

Dan looked at the immigrant. It was quaking. With hatred or fear, Dan couldn’t say.

The bottle felt cool and heavy in his hand.

________________________________________________________________

For many years now, I have had a recurring dream. I’m on an airplane and we land on a deserted street in a large city. For some reason, it feels like Philadelphia, though why that is I can’t say. At any rate, I’m the only person on the flight. We land on this deserted street and keep rolling. We roll all the way to the ghetto. It’s dark. The plane stops in front of this enormous cathedral. I get off and go up to the steps leading to this ancient carved oaken door. I can see old newspapers blowing in the wind across the stone steps. The door opens and a hooded monk appears holding a lantern. I ask, “What is this place?”. The monk replies, “This is the Cathedral of the Immigrants. ” Then I awaken. I should point out the dream is not frightening to me at all.

Image above by Toshihiro Oimatsu


Lucy on the Floor…

Lucy on the Floor

I’ll never forget that first time. Stay put. I’ll tell you all about it.

Chet – he’s my ex –  he’d been gone for months and I couldn’t stand the thought of spending another Friday night at home staring at the baby monitor. Waiting for something.

So, I’d asked Mrs. Sawicki to watch the baby because I was going out. I was sick of drinking wine from a fucking box. I needed some people around. But not to talk to, you know? And something good and strong to numb the rage. Fucking Chet and his little whore.

My friends of course had been trying to get me to go out with them for weeks. I was not in the mood to hear their cute stories about the dumbass things their husbands did all week. They stopped asking after a while.

So I went down to Lucky Sevens. There’d be no one I knew there. First time in, I felt at home instantly. Low lights. Cigarette smoke. Boozy smell from the carpet. Not much talking. Just men staring down at their glasses. Jukebox tunes. What was that? Vic Damone, I think. Sad.

The bartender. That old fuck with warts all over his face? Willie, that’s it. He tells me he got just the thing for a woman with my…problems.

So he turns some bottles over into a big sixteen-ounce glass. I see tequila. And blackberry brandy. I’m thinking I’m gonna be on my ass after a few tugs of this.

He brings it to me and I take a pull. It’s fruity. A little. After a few more sips, I got this warm glow dancing up and down my thighs and forearms. I feel stupendous. Happy. But more than anything else, I feel powerful. I ain’t scared no more. That drink made me feel like it’s my turn to run things.

Well, I get up on the parquet floor and start dancing. Real sexy dancing. Those drunks take a peek. Willie says there was enough booze in that drink to kill a rhino. But me? I’m out on the floor. Swinging my ass to Tony Bennet. I feel like Xena. A warrior. Not to be fucked with. For once in my life.

That night, right then and there, Willie named that drink the Lucy on the Floor.

Because of the dancing. Not what you were probably thinking, love.

And I killed my first loser that night. Right in this basement.

Don’t strain so hard, baby. You’ll hurt your wrists. Too tight?

Oh, I’ve met lots of losers, just like you, at the Lucky Sevens. And other places too.

Nothing like a little dancing to put some lead in the pencil, right? And absolutely nothing like a Lucy on the Floor to keep you quiet.

I’m gonna go to the kitchen. Get my tools and another drink.

Don’t worry, hon,  I’ll be back down on the floor with you.

We’re gonna fly to the moon.

Well, at least I am.

____________________________________________________________\

This story was submitted to Chuck Wendig’s site, for the terribleminds flash fiction challenge.  So the challenge was to write a story with a cocktail as the title. Limit: 500 words.  I looked around online. I passed up Satan’s Whiskers, and  The Purple Pimp. Finally “Lucy on the Floor” spoke to me and the story you just read (hopefully) was born.  By the way, if you like any of the stories you find here, check out Chuck Wendig’s site. It is not, however, for anyone with, shall we say, delicate sensibilities. Enjoy!

Oh, one last thing: the ingredients for the real Lucy on the Floor:

1 shot After Shock Blue

2 shots Blackberry Brandy

3 shots white tequila

¼ orange juice

¼ cranberry juice

Image above by centralasian.


Blue…

Blue

Getting cold now.

The only noise the constant hum of the CO2 scrubbers. How long they’ll last is anyone’s guess.

Hinchman has killed the rest of the crew I think . Don’t know exactly where he is right now but that man has blown a major fuse.

Could be cabin fever. I don’t know, something that got missed on the pre-mission psych eval. Too late now to do anything about that.

I need to get to the galley, get some food. So hungry now.

Trouble is, these corridors just call out for an ambush. That’ll just make my day to have Hinchman float up behind me with that wild look on his face. I’ve seen his handiwork on the others. No thank you.

Got to think. But so hungry, and breathing getting difficult. Scrubbers getting wasted.

Valerie and the kids are probably putting up Easter decorations. Told them I’d be home.

This will be tough on Jenna, especially. She takes being the eldest so seriously.

Commlinks are all disabled, thank you Major Hinchman. They won’t get a rescue party here in time to make a difference.

Over the subcontinent right now. How I’d love to be able to transport down, and get some good spicy food. A nice cold Kingfisher Ale.

Where is he?

Do I force a confrontation and hope for the best? If I don’t, I’ll just starve here. Maybe pass out.

I step out into the corridor. Just the hum of the scrubbers still.

It’s dark. Emergency LED’s are on but they don’t shed much light on anything.

Shadows everywhere. Hum.

It’s nearly black as space in here.

I feel so alone.

I’m terrified.

I’ll just look out this port for a while.

The Earth is such a beautiful blue.

________________________________________________________

I’ve always been fascinated by the sense of isolation astronauts must feel out in the immensity of space, dwarfed by the earth. And I have a recurring image that pops into my head every now and then of a darkened space station with only two living people (or things) on it. There’s isolation, conflict, and longing for the blueness of home. Family. Just decided to put myself there for a few minutes. “Blue” was the result.

Photo by Bruce Irving


Hearts and Minds…

Hearts and Minds

Personal journal and camera found in vest pocket of deceased male.

Body discovered in Tondo, Manila 13 April 1983.

Preliminary cause of death: Multiple gunshot wounds to the head.

Film evidence developed: one photo as noted above.

My Dear Maribeth,

Manila is beautiful, but so crowded! Getting around here is worse than Hong Kong and Bangkok.

The scams started right at the airport, with people vying for my dollars:

Need ride, Joe?

Change money, Joe?

Want girls, Joe?

It was all a bit of a whirlwind. No one from the mission came to pick me up so I had to cab it into the compound.

The sights and sounds remain imprinted on my brain: the diesel exhaust everywhere, the salty, fishy open markets with a million flies, the endless honking of horns from the Jeepneys.

I made it to the compound- Lord be praised – and immediately sought out Reverend Bailey, who apologized effusively for the oversight in not sending a car for me.

God has his ways, I told him. To let him off the hook.

Of course, now that I am here to assume administrative control of the mission, things like this little mishap will not recur.

I’m sure you’ll agree that my organizational skills at home have been a boon and a blessing to our family life.

At any rate, I must unpack and get settled. There is much work to be done and I feel that the Lord has chosen wisely in sending someone with my skills to this mission which is in total disarray.

______________________________________________________

It has been five days since I last wrote.

Reverend Bailey and I have had some harsh words, I’m afraid.

As you know, despite my superlative efficiency, I have an unfortunate lack of patience in the face of tasks set before me. And, my dear, as you know, I feel it is more important to state one’s opinion clearly without resorting to the obfuscation of diplomacy.

Reverend Bailey has reminded me time and again that it is essential to get to know everyone before attempting to institute any far-reaching changes in how things are done here in the compound.

I fail to see the utility in this.

For instance, the good Reverend allows the street urchins full run of the compound. I am sure they are stealing some of the equipment sent out here by the hardworking and good-hearted people of the parish.

I have taken it upon myself, despite protestations from Bailey, to inform these urchins they are no longer welcome in the compound.

My air of authority, my size, and, yes, my dear, my whiteness should be enough to win them over to my way of thinking.

I believe Reverend Bailey has it all wrong: Get to know them?

When in God’s name would we find time to help them?

________________________________________________________

Ten days later now, my pet.

I have confronted the cretins running wild in the compound and, not only that, I have had their ‘handler’ arrested. A man clearly using these innocents for less than Godly deeds.

Now that these unfortunate boys have seen the light and accepted Jesus as their savior (and me as their taskmaster), I think that the compound will be safer, more efficiently run, and the lives of these former miscreants will have turned a corner onto a new life, lit and warmed by the grace of our Merciful Redeemer.

I am going out right now to meet the boys down in the barrio. They have invited me to the feast of a local saint.  Old Bailey should see me now. All these people need is a firm hand. I am going to bring my camera so you can  see how their faces, once shadowed by the darkness of ignorance, now shine with the love of the one true God.

Yours in Christ,

Devlin S. Periore

First Deacon

United Baptist Church

Enid, Oklahoma


____________________________________________________________

Photo by Eric Molina


Alpha Male…

Alpha Male

My legs are starting to cramp. Shit.

I been under this desk three hours but I don’t dare make a sound. I’m barely breathing.

Meg’s back. She’s outside the study door now. I can tell. My little girl.

The trouble started when that giant rooster come straggling out of the woods yesterday afternoon. From where, I couldn’t tell you. He was huge.

That boy was the cock of the walk and took over the coop. He rousted out a bunch of the hens and just stood in the doorway, head darting back and forth. Just begging somebody to have a go at him.

I ignored him. Had enough to do.

About two hours later, there was a big ruckus in that hen house. I heard screaming and looked over. The entire structure was shaking and buckling.

Then I see Meg come screaming out of there with blood all over her face. She was carrying on something awful. Said the rooster had spiked her when she went into the coop to collect eggs.

Well, that can happen. Nothing out of the ordinary there: roosters can be mean assholes.

All that blood. I got Meg cleaned up and calmed down. Then I went out to the coop to break that thing’s neck.

And I’ll be damned if I don’t see seven or eight dead hens scattered under the laying boxes. Their heads lay ripped off and piled neatly into a little pyramid there in the corner.

That rooster, he was sitting on the edge of a laying box like he was king shit. His head tilted as if wondering how I had the balls to come into his realm, or some such thing.

I got a shiver up my back, just looking at that thing and his little pile of heads.

I decided to leave it alone for a while. I’ll admit I was spooked.

You might want to know how I came to be squatting under this desk, with my legs cramping.

Well, I got nothing better to do right now.

Meg was fine at dinner tonight. I’d patched her up and comforted her. Things her mother used to do before the cancer got her.

That night I hear the rooster crowing and I think to myself, that thing’s going under the ax tomorrow. Spiking Meg is one thing, but crowing in the blackest part of night is another.

I was just starting to doze off when something made me open my eyes and look down to the foot of the bed and I almost shit myself: Meg was standing down there. Eyes all rolled up white in her head. And blood spilling out where her tears are supposed to.

Then those eyes rolled round, looked right at me and off she went. Just left.

‘Course I followed her back to her room and she was lying in bed.

I got to checking. She was awful hot. Sweating and panting.

I called nine-one-one straight away.

I was on the front porch when they pulled in, lights but no siren. I told them Meg was upstairs.  They told me to stay put, and up they went.  I heard that rooster shriek again. I mean, it must’ve been two in the morning at this point. What the hell is he doing?

Then from up in Meg’s room I hear all this screaming and bumps.  Lamps crashing.  I ran up those stairs and I still can’t believe what I saw: the heads of those EMTs piled together in the corner. Meg staring at me. Just like that goddamn rooster.  Blood smeared all over her cheeks.  And dripping down her flexed fingers.

She started to smile a little and that set me off running down the stairs.

I was heading for the front porch, but standing there, proud as you please is that demon rooster, pushing one of his big talons through the screen door.

I heard Meg pounding down the stairs behind me so I crashed into the study, here. Locked the door and climbed under this desk.

Well that brings you up to date.

I heard the cops show up a little while ago. Probably checking on those ambulance boys. Well, either that rooster or Meg -or both- got hold of them. I nearly puked listening to that.

Now, there’s some unnatural sounds coming from right outside the study door. Oh, Meg. What’s he done to you?

Nearly sun up now.

I’m gonna try and rest a little.

Then I’m going out this window, getting my axe, and that fucking rooster is going down.

And Meg?

Well, one of us will be here to greet the next squad car.

_________________________________________________

Casting about for ideas to write about today. The news wasn’t sparking anything so I pulled the OED out and chose two words at random. Believe it or not: “Alpha” and “Male”.  I was staring out my window looking at our chickens walking around and the story just sort of dropped out onto my lap. I am glad we don’t have roosters anymore. BB

Image by Ryan Abel


The Song Collector…

The Song Collector

I don’t know where they come from, Burrell Sykes and that woman he call Deka.

What kinda name that anyhow? Deka.

One day we sittin’ under the huge chinaberry tree up behind Maxwell’s place. Pluckin’ our flat tops and havin’ us a iced tea to keep our throats from gettin too parched in that damn Carolina heat. Maxwell and me. Always together since we was kids.

Maxwell says “That doctor? He don’t know shit. What you survived in your life? Hell, ain’t no congested heart gonna take you down.”

I run a hand ’round the bottom of my neck. Yeah, that sure was something for a boy to survive. “Let’s forget ’bout that.” I say.

So we take a sip and set back. Then we see this man and a woman come walkin’ up the dusty road. I recall thinkin’: where they come from? Ain’t nothin’ but swamp down that other end of the road.

They come abreast and stop. And  of course these two be none other than Mr. Burrell Sykes and his island witch, Deka, which we was about to find out. And they both just standin’ there, glistenin’under that sun. Staring..

I knew she was obeah the minute I seen her. All that long, twistin’ hair falling around her face and shoulders. But it was those white eyes. Lifeless eyes. Like one of them Alaska dogs. But worse, see. And those eyes sittin’ in there amongst the blackest skin.

And she just looked at me, hungry-like, with her big purple tongue lollin’ out and glidin’ over her cracked lips every few seconds. Like she wondering what I taste like.

Burrell, he stood there in this dark suit with a thin black tie. Lookin’ like some half-ass undertaker.

Well, Maxwell breaks the ice and invites them two to sit a spell, on account it’s hot enough to be meltin’ the tar on the side of the road.

“What are the two of you doin’ walkin’ around in all this heat? Come on now and pull up a crate. Have some tea.”

After some introductions, Burrell Sykes, he says to me, “Mind if I strum a while on your guitar?”

I was so uncomfortable with that witch lookin’ at me, that at first I didn’t understand it was me he was talkin’ to.

Maxwell elbows me in the side and nods his head toward our visitors and I snap out of it and hand the man my guitar.

Well, I tell you, that man sent his fingers crawlin’ all up and down that fret board. Not the fastest I’d ever seen, but somehow, the feelingest, if that’s a word.

Listenin’ to Burrell Sykes, I got to thinkin’ that he’d forgot more ‘bout playing than  I’ll ever know. His fingers reached right across eight or nine frets. It was unnatural.

But the music he played liked to break my heart right down the middle. This wasn’t no Piedmont blues, as they call it now. Burrell Sykes, he played a kinda music inside the music. I had the feelin’, no, I knew,  what he was playin’ was old, old, music.

You didn’t hear it with just your ears.

Out the corner of my eye, Deka she twirlin’ and moanin’ to this music. Leapin’ around under that chinaberry like some demon on fire. She go over and pull Maxwell up off his chair and get him to dancin’.

Didn’t last long, though. She pass her hands over Max’s face and down he go, in a trance.

Burrell Sykes he continue playin’ and I know I should go over and see to Maxwell. But this music is inside me, burnin’ in my blood.

Now, here come Miss Deka for me.

She stand over me, all swayin’ and sexy. Swirlin’ them hips. Arms snakin’ round.

Then she open them white eyes and look right down deep into my soul.

I can tell she lookin’ for things. She lookin’ for songs she don’t know yet.

I can’t tell you how I know this but she inside me now.  And she can’t keep no secrets from me.

Here’s somethin’ that come clear: she’s a song collector.  And she been huntin’ the songs of man for a long time. Since those cave people was bangin’ gourds on rocks, I expect. Then all the first folks in Africa, living out their lives and  makin’ beautiful music. I hear it all.

And I hear slave song. And babies taken from mothers. Beatings. Burnings. Lynchings. All of it.

How can this be happenin’?

Then I feel Deka’s long bony fingers pushin’ into my skull and down they go, searching my guts. They find a memory, buried deep. An old injustice. Those fingers come right back to that childhood rope burn ‘round my neck. Seventy years ago.

And she pulls that memory out of me and makes me look at it again. Walks over to Burrell Sykes, whispers something in his face, and before I know it, he singing my song.

And under that chinaberry tree, Deka, that travelin’ song collector, stand me up next to Burrell Sykes and we just sing it out.

We sing it right out loud.

____________________________________________________

This is excerpted from a novella I’m writing. I think it stands on its own as a flash piece, but a case could be made that there’s no reason to name Burrell Sykes and Deka for the purposes of this short piece. Their names have meaning in the longer story. Just a mea culpa…BB


A Drunkard’s Dream…

A Drunkard’s Dream

Pete Tramper fell into bed.  Janet slept with her back to him, her long blond hair turned bone-white by a shaft of moonlight.

Another DUI would mean jail time. This time a hit and run. Jesus.

She’d come out of nowhere. Or that’s what he was telling himself.

He looked up at the ceiling. He’d seen her face when it smashed into the windshield. She’d looked directly at him. Long, light-colored hair, dark, Goth eye makeup. Black lipstick. Her teeth broken, bloody.

Pete shook his head to rid himself of the image. Too tired to get up and undress, he climbed under the covers fully clothed. Slamming into that woman had sobered him up a little, but the room still spun furiously.

Janet reached behind her to pull him into a spoon position.

He held her tightly.

What had he ever done to deserve this woman? He knew she’d stand by him no matter what happened. A drunkard’s dream.

He ran his hand down her side, his face buried in her moon-white hair.

Just on the verge of passing out, he heard the telephone ring.

Fuck, he thought, did someone get his plate? But no, if that were the case, they’d just show up here to arrest him. They wouldn’t be calling him, godammit.

He had to know. He reached across Janet, who slept like the dead, and picked up the phone.

Tentative. “Hello?” Up on one elbow over his wife.

“Peter. It’s Janet. I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m not there -”

“Janet?” Peter mumbled.

A hand caressed his cheek then yanked his head around.

Looking up at him, a pair of Goth eyes, glowing red.  An insane black-lipped sneer.

He screamed as the cracked teeth opened wide then rose to his throat.


Bijou…

Bijou

Bouncie reached across the darkness and lightly touched Eddie’s arm.

“I’m sorry, Eddie. She wasn’t supposed to be home. That’s all I’m gonna say.”

Eddie Forge glared back at him. “You mean to tell me, Bouncie, that I’ve taken you under my wing, put good money into you to train you to do this here job, and for this I get stuck in some broad’s closet?”

The closet in question was in an apartment on the fifteenth floor of the Wexler Building on Central Park West. A closet they’d had to run for when, in the process of removing several expensive bracelets from Mimi Del Sarte’s jewelry box, they heard her coming down the hallway calling, “Bijou? Where are you my big boy?”

Now, they could hear Mimi down the hall, still calling for Bijou. They spoke in whispers.

“Eddie, I swear. I folded a C-note into the doorman’s fist just this morning. He told me she went to the spa every afternoon at two and didn’t come back til four or so. I mean, he let us in for Chrissake.”

“Yeah? Well she’s here now. And it’s not four or so. What did she come back for? And who the hell is Bijou? I promise you, Bouncie, if there’s some big fucking Doberman in this apartment that tries to bite my nuts off, I am going to gouge your eyes out with my thumbs. This is just like high school again, Bouncie.  You remember the time at the packie that never carded you ‘cause you was so big and you saw Judge Tallman and you just had to go over and say hello, you stupid shit?”

Bouncie peered at Eddie through the closet’s gloom. “Sorry Eddie.” Then, “Did you notice some of this stuff? Mimi’s got some nice duds here.”

“That’s ‘cause she’s rich. Her old man had a big life insurance policy and that’s why I put you on to casing this place. I was trying to help you out , see? And now, look at this mess we’re in. What the fuck are you looking at?”

Bouncie eyes were fixed on something just above and behind Eddie’s head.

“Eddie. I think I found Bijou.”  Bouncie began to shake.

“Where-“ Eddie’s head was ripped from his neck. Blood spattered the clothes then dripped to the white Berber carpeting.

Bouncie didn’t know what Bijou was, had never seen anything like it. But it was devouring Eddie with frightening speed and making quite a bit of noise in the process.

Bouncie pushed himself back into a corner and pulled dresses and boxes in front of himself.

The closet door opened and there was Mimi Del Sarte. Bouncie could smell her perfume.

“Bijou, what are you playing with in there? Oh, look at this mess. Bad boy! You come out of there this instant. Oh, my Prada!”

Bijou slithered out of the closet, leaving a wide slick of blood on the floor.

Bouncie peeked out from behind a Hermes Birkin handbag. There was no sign of Mimi or Bijou. Eddie’s head was lying on the floor, eyes wide open, staring up at Bouncie.

Bouncie stifled a cry and  whispered, “She wasn’t supposed to be home, Eddie.”

A shadow. “But I am home,” said Mimi, standing in silhouette in the doorway. “Bijou, take him to the bathroom. I don’t want my Versace ruined.”


Space Plumbers…

Space Plumbers

Dr. Ernest Blovings hissed through perfect, white teeth and jabbed at the call button once again.

“Facilities. What is it?” a voice crackled out of the tiny speaker.

“Yes, this is Dr. Blovings again, on deck twenty-two? I reported, not less than one hour ago, that the gravitron in my lavatory is malfunctioning. There is now an increasing amount of fecal matter floating about the lavatory, and I was promised someone would be right up to deal with this.

“They’re on their way, doc.”

Dr. Blovings was just sitting down when there was a knock at the door. “Now, that’s more like it,” he said under his breath as he strode to the door. The pneumatic door slid open with a whoosh.

Two men in stained jumpsuits and blank expressions stood side by side in the hall: a fat one with his arms folded, a toothpick sticking out of the side of his mouth, and a tall, lanky one with a filth-encrusted tool resting on his shoulder.

“Dr. Blovings, I presume?” This from fatso.

“Yes, yes. Please come in. The head is just over here.”

The lanky one said, “The heads are all in the same place in each cabin, doc. We know where it’s at.”

Blovings stared at them. A rat and an ape, he thought to himself. “Then I’ll leave you to your repairs.”

The plumbers went to the lavatory door and appeared to do nothing but titter and look back over their shoulders at Blovings.

After a few minutes, the fat one turned around and said, “Alright, doc. We got your problem figured out, but we can’t fix it from in here. The venting duct is blocked.  So we’ll need to spacewalk and snake it from the outside.  That’s gonna require divisional clearance. Maybe take a week. We could get you moved to another cabin until then.”

“Blocked? Blocked with what?” The doctor turned red.

“Dunno,” Lanky said, and then looked at his partner, “maybe with some…fecal matter.”  They snorted and chucked each other in the sides with their elbows.

Blovings chose to ignore their sophomoric behavior. He had bigger things to deal with.

“What happens if we just force the door open?” he asked.

Lanky said, “Don’t wanna do that. You’d have a gravitational cross-rip.”

“A what?”

“Think of it this way, doc,”  Lanky said. “The environment in your head is right now normalized to the pressure gradient of space right outside your window here. Outer space. The pressure sensors around the door to the head picked up the difference after the discharge vent got blocked and the gravitron stopped functioning. Just like they’re s’posed to. The sensors then locked this door down to prevent a gravitational cross-rip. If we were to open it or, say, break the glass here in the door, we’d be torn apart. Not to mention the potential damage to the station and probable further loss of life.”

Blovings stood in front of them, slack-jawed, and said, “Gravitational cross-rip.”

The plumbers nodded in unison, looking sympathetic.

Blovings puffed himself up, stood taller. “Gravitational cross-rip? I’ve never heard such nonsense. Gentlemen, I have Doctorates in both Particle Physics and Continuum Mechanics. And there is no such thing as a gravitational cross-rip!”

“Suit yourself, doc. You can try to open the door and take care of your little problem all by yourself then. Just let us get a few decks away from here. Good luck, doc.”

They packed up their tools and left.

Blovings looked through the window into the head. Large globules of shit pulsed and undulated in the zero gravity chamber.  Like a smelly lava lamp, he thought to himself.

Luckily, the idiots hadn’t looked too closely. In all their haste to make fun of him and avoid doing their jobs, they’d overlooked the girl’s hand sticking right out of the venting duct.

He thought he’d get the plumbers to open the vent and then he could kill them too.

But then they came out with all that ‘gravitational cross-rip’ shit. He didn’t believe a word of it. All he had to do was break the window and let the pressure normalize. Then clean everything up.

He grabbed an iron bar and swung it at the glass. Gravitational cross-rip, my ass.

The plumbers were just getting back to facilities when the space station shook violently.

________________________________________________

Okay, I have to admit this is not an original concept. In Damon Knight’s superb book “Creating Short Fiction”, he muses about space plumbers as a concept to build a story around. I mean, given the fact that someday we may all just have to live in space stations, surrounded by galactic oceans of zero-gravity, the guys (and gals!) who ensure our waste goes where it should will be in huge demand. Just as they are now, in our gravity-laden lives.  I had a vision of these two guys, smart-asses, but savvy enough to present their ideas in such a way that it would be impossible to tell if they were serious or just having you on.  The awful truth about Dr. Blovings just popped into existence and took me completely by surprise.


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