Saturday, December 9, 2017

Dead Man's Flowers

This is was my entry for Stupefying Stories's Friday Challenge for 11/03/17

Dead Man's Flowers
By Snowdog

Oscar loved to float freely above the city at night.  It was warm in the late evening hours over Manhattan. A thick curtain of humidity hung in the air like an invisible wave from the Atlantic.
It had been exactly one hundred and twenty-seven years since he had been buried in the dark cemetery below. Oscar had visited his grave on every one of those anniversaries. He had always been given to sentiment. It was one of the things that women had found endearing about him and one of the many things that his father had frowned upon.
Tonight, he had planned to enjoy the solitude that only a New York Summer's evening could bestow.
He lit at the foot of his own grave and sat there a while to take in the stillness. There were crickets chirping out the temperature for those with the mathematical skills to interpret. Cars droned their way up and down the west side highway. A garbage truck emptied a dumpster behind a popular restaurant somewhere in the bustling metropolis. To Oscar, it was peace.
And then there was the crackling of feet on fallen twigs.
The gangly oaf that came stumbling from the darkness shattered his solitude as surely as an air raid siren. The young man stopped for a moment and glanced around.
“These’ll do, I guess,” he muttered with obvious discontent.
Unceremoniously, he reached down and snatched up the potted petunia that decorated Oscar’s gravesite! He held it up to his face for a moment and frowned. Then he ripped the flowers from the pot, which he dropped. Without another word, he walked across Oscar’s grave and headed for the exit.
“I’ll be damned,” Oscar growled, ignoring the irony. He took to the sky to follow.
He had to laugh at himself. Even after more than a hundred years as a citizen of the afterworld, he found himself staying back to avoid detection. The living could only perceive the dead in the subtlest of ways. An odd decision, a face in that moment just before drifting off to sleep, a sudden, brief change in temperature, these were the sorts of ways the five human senses could detect his presence.
Still, Oscar stayed a safe distance above his quarry as he walked unsteadily through the streets below and finally, to the door of a small apartment building.

The room fell silent as the teenage boy pondered his next move. His opponent on the other side of the chessboard was good, probably a bit better, but he had an ace up his sleeve that no one, no one at all, knew about.
William knelt beside his chair and whispered a suggestion. The timer ticked. The boy didn’t show any sign of having heard.. Another whisper. He seemed to freeze for a moment, then he shook his head and hastily made his move, as if to force himself to commit before he changed his mind.
“Checkmate” the boy across exclaimed gleefully.
William hung his head and sighed. “This one never listens.”
“You expect that to change?” Oscar asked, stepping through the wall and into the room.
William wasn’t startled. He had sensed his old friend nearby several minutes earlier. He stood to greet Oscar.
“It works… sometimes”
William sighed. “I swear I can beat the statistics once in a while.”
"If it were anyone else, I'd say they were full of it." Oscar’s blue, translucent body flickered for a moment as he remembered why he had come.
“Oh. I need your help. Some bastard stole the flowers my granddaughter left on my grave.”
William frowned. “And you intend to…?”
Oscar only smiled.
"No. That's just wrong!"
"He gave them to his date, Will! He's using my flowers to try to get some--"
"OK!" William interrupted. "Fine. But how do you plan to pull this off?
"We're going to have to go corporeal."
William crossed his arms and stared for a moment. "So… your plan is to reanimate our corpses? In case you've forgotten, they're both buried in wooden boxes on the outskirts of town. If it weren't for that, the city would be crawling with dead people."
"Yes," Oscar's smile turned into an evil grin. "But I know someone on whom your little skill here might work just a bit more readily."

"Hey, one of ya'll hold my beer while I dig!" Billy shouted.
Big Jolly grabbed the can and took a deep sigh. "Billy, why? Why are we diggin' up a grave in the middle of the freakin' night?"
Billy paused for a moment to mull it over. "Ya know, I asked myself that very question." He shook his head and picked up the shovel. "But sometimes you just gotta go with your gut."
Jolly sighed again and shrugged. "I'm gonna have to put down your beer if you want me to help."

It had been quite a show. Oscar had watched while William darted back and forth between the two salt-of-the-Earth rural folk. Whispering hadn't worked. He'd had to get extremely close to each man and shout directly into his ear. But dig, they did, for several hours. During the extraction, Oscar had flown back downtown several times to gauge the progress of the boy's --Oscar had taken to calling him George-- date.
It had turned out that George was quite the romantic with other people's flowers. There was a movie, coffee afterward, and currently a walk in the park in the center of the city. Soon they would be headed back to her place, where, with any luck, George would be invited in for a nightcap.
Presently, Oscar and William stood looking down at the dried out, decades-old remains of their bodies as they lay in the coffins.
Oscar twisted his face a bit. "Not too bad."
William turned and glared at him for several uncomfortable seconds.
Oscar cleared his throat and continued. "We need to get moving."
A person's body is the only thing they truly own in perpetuity, and it's the one thing a ghost can manipulate. Most spirits give up trying to claw their way out of their wooden boxes once they realize they can go literally anywhere in their new form, even past the edge of what mankind refers to as the observable universe. There's an infinity to explore. A few, however, choose to linger on Earth, usually near a fond childhood memory of what they thought of as home.

William was the first to lie down on the dry husk and feel it welcome his essence back. After a long moment of strange vertigo, he set about trying to move his hand. Post-mortem locomotion involves sheer force of will rather than muscles and tendons. For several minutes, William just lay sprawled on the damp ground, but after some taunting from Oscar, he was suddenly able to sit up. Then, with help, he stood uneasily on his desiccated feet.
Billy and Big Jolly screamed and ran for the gate.

Walking was a challenge on long-neglected on bones and joints. The best they could manage at the moment was slow shuffle. Oscar had last spotted the loving couple somewhere near 44th and Vine, strolling northward.
It took some time for their dried-out ears to become aware of the screams and shouts warning of "Walkers!", but once they did, it became quite annoying. It didn't help that decayed vocal chords made it impossible to communicate with anything other than grunts and groans.
There! Oscar spotted the two, less than a block ahead. The girl --Oscar had taken to calling her Georgette--still carried the flowers! He motioned to William and growled. His friend still showed some hesitation, but nodded.
People screamed and cleared a path for them as they picked up speed in pursuit. Well, not really. They were already shuffling along as fast they possibly could. Fortunately, the couple were moving slowly, as if they didn't want the night to end.
A few minutes later, Oscar tapped George on the shoulder. Georgette dropped the flowers and screamed, moving away from them, which allowed William to step to George's other shoulder. The two walking corpses stood on either side of their prey.
Oscar poked him in the eye with a brittle finger and tried to say, "That'll teach you to steal a man's flowers!" But it came out something like, "Thur dulh tsch u to sthhh a mnnns fllrrr!"
George gave a shriek, then doubled over to nurse his eye. William kicked him in the shin and the young man was down for a moment.
"Styyy drrrnnn!!!" William shouted into the man's ear, then kicked him in the side. Then he was on top, landing blow after blow on the terrified young Romeo.
Oscar trusted William to mete out the damage. He took advantage of the moment, and bent to pick up the flowers lying between two parallel-parked cars. Georgette had found a piece of plastic pipe and was wielding it like a bat as he approached.
"Theeeth rrr frrrrr uuuuu!" he said, slowly, hoping she would understand. Instead, she took a swing at his head. The plastic bounced harmlessly off his skull.

After what felt like a thirty minute ground-and-pound from a zombie, "George" began to realize that none of the kicks and punches were doing any real damage. In fact, as the terror receded, he noticed that the…thing… didn't possess much strength at all, or much weight for that matter. When the next blow came along, he grabbed its wrist.

"Nooo… frr uuuu!!" Oscar shouted at the retreating woman. She struck again with the pipe. He felt his head lurch a bit that time. He couldn't understand why she wouldn't just take damned flowers so he could leave.
From behind, he heard a crash. He whirled in time to see George smash a heavy trashcan into William's prone body a second time. With the third strike, his friend began to come apart on the sidewalk.
The angry growl was intentional this time.
Then he felt his head lurch to the right again, much harder this time. Georgette was hitting him from behind. Again. And again. Something gave, and the last thing he saw was concrete rushing up to hit him in the face.

Oscar awoke to find the flickering azure image to William standing over him.
"Told you it was a bad idea," he said.
Oscar floated upward a bit and looked down. The entire street was engulfed in chaos. The police had decided to put in an appearance and were taking statements from the loving couple. There were a lot of doubtful expressions floating around. He heard something about it being much more likely that her date had dug up the bodies.
"Oh, I don't know," Oscar said. "Perhaps not exactly as I hoped it would go, but…"
William gave the ghostly approximation of a sigh. "Well, that's it for our bodies, I think. Unless you want to try pulling them back together."
Oscar shook his head. "I don't much see the point. And besides…" he trailed off for a moment and looked at the handful of visible stars in the night sky.
"Besides," he said again, "I think it's time to grow up. There's an infinity to explore."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Moon In The Morning

"Moon In The Morning"
by snowdog

Finally! I had spent weeks in the hospital bed after the accident with both legs broken, a concussion, and countless bruises and scrapes. I won't even go into the operations. For a moment, I was able to take my mind off of all that as my nurse, Linsey (without a d), rolled a stylish-looking wheelchair into the room.

"And how are we doing today, Mr. Williams?" she asked brightly.

"Marvelous," I grunted, as she pressed the button to raise the head of the bed near-sitting position.

"Good, good, good," she said in that I-am-ignoring-your-sarcasm-young-man tone on which I had given her much practice over the last seventeen days.

She backed the wheelchair against the wall so it faced me.

"Doctor Krishnapuram has given the approval for us to get you out of bed for a few hours today. It'll be good for your muscles and your skin." She smiled. "And it'll make it easier for my orderlies to change your sheets."

"As long as it's--" I groaned in mid-sentence as I grabbed the bed rails and forced myself to sit up, "easy for them." The room dipped and swayed slightly as my head adjusted to a position that it hadn't seen in a while.

"Careful," she said, grabbing my shoulders to give support.

It took some effort to get my cast-wrapped legs over the edge of the bed, but a few minutes later, I fairly flopped into the chilly vinyl of the wheelchair. With her characteristic speed and efficiency, the nurse had my legs strapped securely into the supports and began to carefully maneuver the chair toward the door, taking care not to bump my injured limbs on any of the ugly hospital furniture.

The wide corridors of the third floor appeared busy, but passable. Two orderlies wasted no time diving into their opportunity to change the bedclothes without having to shift my barely cooperative body around.

"There, now," my nurse said cheerily. "You can spend a couple of hours chatting with the other guests. For your own safety, we do ask that you stay on the third floor."

She smiled and took a hard right, back toward the nurses' station. I took a hard left and headed for the more open spaces.

Directly ahead, light spilled in through a large plate glass window which offered a view of the sky over Broad Street. A half-full moon was beginning to fade into the hazy blue of morning. As I approached, I noticed with some disappointment that the ledge was just a bit too high to look down into the street from my seated position. With a cautious glance behind at the now vacant nurses' station, I pressed my weight against the arm rests in an attempt to gain just enough height. My mending legs howled in protest.

The street below was bustling with Wednesday morning traffic and pedestrians. A cabbie blew his horn as a bicyclist zipped between him and the lane to his right. Just another morning in the city. My arms began to shake with exertion and I flopped unceremoniously back into the chair, slightly deeper into the cold vinyl this time.

I backed away from the window and heard someone gasp. A woman glanced nervously at me as she walked past, carrying an armful of flowers and shiny helium-filled balloons.

Not sure what to make of all that, I turned the chair to my left and wheeled down the front side of the building, enjoying a exhilarating sense of freedom just by being out of sight of the nurses' station.

"Good morning," an elderly man greeted as he shuffled past me, an aluminum cane in one hand, pushing his portable IV drip with the other. I smiled happily and nodded back.

The chair still chilled my mildly chapped skin, but it was worth it just to be out of that bed for a while. Two kids ran past me at full speed as their mother trailed behind, juggling a purse and a large bouquet. She shouted at them to stop and motioned back in the other direction. The boys came running by again, glancing back at me and giggling. Insensitive little brats! They disappeared down at the next bend in corridor. Onward, I rolled.

To my left, the elevator doors opened and four suited professionals, three male and one female, brushed past me in a whirlwind, somehow leaving it certain that I was beneath their standards for noticing. A moment later, I heard the woman give a short shrill laugh at something. Probably me.

I made another left hand turn at the end of the corridor. There were less people here and I mostly just watched the fluorescent lights overhead as I wheeled slowly underneath them. My atrophied arms were starting to tire slightly under the unexpected strain and I could feel my lungs laboring a bit. No matter.

At the end of this corridor, I made yet another left, beginning to feel a bit like a race car driver. A set double doors opened automatically as I approached and I could again see the nurses' station ahead, this time occupied by three people, two women and one man, none of them familiar.

They seemed busy shuffling through forms. With just a bit of luck, I might be able to slip through, unmolested by a courteous, efficient health-care professional. I made the left, past the station and started back toward my room to begin my second lap around the floor.

Nurse Linsey appeared from a doorway across the hall from my own room and began walking toward me with a warm smile. As she approached I heard several bursts of laughter from behind. Linsey paused for a moment, a look of confusion spreading across her efficient and courteous face.

"Umm, Linsey?" came a female voice from back at the station, "When you put a patient in one of these new chairs, you need to make sure they're wearing a second gown. If you don't, their backside shows through the gap under the back rest." I could almost feel her pointing.

I felt myself blush slightly as Linsey stepped behind me to observe.

"Well, Mr. Williams," she said dryly. "You've just spent the last twenty minutes mooning the entire third floor."

"So, that's why I'm cold?" I asked.

There was another burst of laughter.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Who is Mendacious Smith?

This is my entry for The Friday Challenge for 1/22/10

"Who is Mendacious Smith?"
by snowdog

Ida Mae Weaver sat down cautiously in the old wooden rocker and motioned me into the hanging bench swing. She picked up a tall, sweaty glass of sweet tea and sipped at it briefly. Then she gazed out over the rolling fields and started to speak in a slow drawl.

"Mendacious Smith." she said. "Now, I haven't heard that name in... lord, in years, Mister Johns. Mendacious wasn't his real name, of course. It was Trevor. Folk started calling him Mendacious when he started telling them tall stories." She paused and shook her head. "I'll never forget that first time. He must have been about seven. I used to keep the Smith children while their father--rest his soul--he used to work down at the sawmill."

I nodded impatiently, this was information I already had.

"Dangerous job," she said, then turned to me. "But anyhow, Mendacious came running through the back door like his britches were on fire! He was shouting 'Miss Ida! Miss Ida! I saw a monster out in the garden!' I said, 'What are you talking about, child?' and he said 'It's a huge monster! Like in that story you read me.'" She laughed, "Children have such imaginations at that age, you know, so I didn't think much of it."

"Indeed," I said, flipping open my notebook. "Did he describe this monster?"

Her brow wrinkled in thought. "No, sir. I can't say that he did. But if it was anything like in that-"

"The book," I interrupted. "Do you still have it?"

"Why, yes. I believe I do." Ida stood, unsteadily at first. "You wait here. Are you sure I can't get you any tea. It's hot as Hades out here."

She wasn't kidding. I could feel the sweat forging a stream down my spine. "No ma'am, I'm fine. Thanks."

The screen door slammed behind her and I took the opportunity lean back in the swing and take in the view. Smith sure picked a warm and peaceful place to grow up. The hot August breeze moved stealthily through acres of farm land, rocking stalks of wheat here and tugging at corn tassels there, but somehow never making an appearance on the front porch. I removed my Fedora and fanned my face with it.

The screen door creaked again.

"There were several I used to read to him, but this one was reserved especially for Halloween. He brought it to me, said he borrowed it from his father. I never quite got around to getting it back to him before-"

I rudely snatched the book from her. There it was, right on the cover. The beast was basically humanoid in form, but its joints were bent at impossible angles creating obscene bulges in its hulking physique. It was covered with reddish hair and sported more than a mouthful of stalactitic teeth. The painting didn't give any indication of scale, but I knew them to be at least ten to twelve feet in height.

"Mister Johns, what's the matter? Are you alright?"

"Mrs. Weaver," I said, showing her the book. "There are, at this moment, at least five of these creatures terrorizing the east side of Manhattan, where he lives now."

The glass of tea hit the concrete with a crash and an ice cube bounced off my shoe.

"So, all those stories..." she said in a low tone. "Mendacious wasn't lying after all."

"No, ma'am. He wasn't lying. He was creating."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

History from the Edge - A 9/11 Remembrance

This is my entry for Bruce Bethke's Friday Challenge for 9/11/09.

"History from the Edge - A 9/11 Remembrance"
by snowdog

Monday, August 27, 2001
Damn, I've come a long way, I thought as I gazed from the window of the 48th floor of 1 Penn Plaza. My first trip into Manhattan had been a horrendous experience. Did you know that there is a Newark Penn Station as well as a New York Penn Station? And that when mumbled over an aging train's PA system, the names sound almost identical? I had spent about an hour and half wedged into the small space between two packed New Jersey Transit rail cars en route to some vital training for my new job. As a born-and-bred Southerner with a mild fear of crowds, I don't need to tell you that I was less than mirthful.

For the moment, though, all was quiet save for the hum of the air conditioning. The other students were still at lunch somewhere in the bustling streets below. To one side of the skyline, there was the Empire State Building. I recognized that, having seen a certain giant stop-motion ape swat at planes from that perch some years ago. There was another building, a more Art Deco style skyscraper. I recognized that as well, but didn't know the name. It turned out to be the Chrysler Building. Then there were two towers that needed no introduction. The World Trade Center dominated the skyline in lower Manhattan. Having moved close to New York City only a month earlier, it would be a surprise to find out that this would be my last and only glimpse of those giants.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001
Two weeks later, I was back in my beige/brown cubicle near Edison (named for its famous former resident), New Jersey. Corey, a young intern from Canada poked his head around the corner and told me to check the news sites. A plane had hit the World Trade Center. It took several tries, but I was finally able to get a response from the Fox News website. At this point, I was operating under the assumption that it had been a small plane, perhaps a single-engine Cessna. The picture showed an awful lot of smoke pouring out of that tower, though.

I tried to return my thoughts to the Perl script I was writing, but then I heard someone shout that another plane had hit the towers. What the hell? On such a clear day? Corey poked his head in again and beckoned me into the cafeteria. Almost everyone in the building was gathered around a large TV tuned to CNN. I saw the footage. There were no small planes. Huge passenger jets were slamming into buildings in Manhattan! We were under attack! At that moment, I didn't know who was responsible, but I correctly guessed their religion and which part of the world they called home.

Back in my cubicle, the panicked news filtered its way to us via websites--which at this point were getting hammered with hits and had crawled to a near stop--, television, and a small radio that one of my colleagues had set up. Some of the reports turned out not to be entirely accurate, but that was understandable given the gravity of the situation. Another plane had hit the Pentagon. Another had gone down in Pennsylvania. How many more were there?

A short time later, an announcement came over the radio that one of the towers had fallen. I had a hard time wrapping my brain around that. Finally, I gave up trying to concentrate and walked to the back of office so I could hear the updates better. I found that Mary-Lou, our Administrative Assistant, was in tears. Her father worked in one of the towers as a security guard and she couldn't contact him because cell phones weren't working. (He survived.) About then, the radio reported that the second tower had come down.

We were all sent home around 3pm where I sat in stunned silence in front of the TV with the rest of the country and waited for the body count.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001 - August 2002
The next several days would bring the revelation that we had a branch office in the WTC and that we had lost one employee to falling debris. Our already crowded building made room for the rest of the displaced workers. My commute became harder for a few weeks because the Holland Tunnel was closed, presumably to make way for wreckage being hauled out of the city. With all the inbound NYC traffic having one less point of entry, the overflow spilled back onto the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway.

The classic rock station I tuned in for my drive was playing songs that they saw as patriotic. They weren't kidding anyone, of course. There just aren't that many pro-America rock songs. Still, "Volunteers" by Jefferson Airplane made me feel a little better for some reason. As that song played, a pickup truck came over the peak of the Raritan bridge, heading in the opposite direction. The driver had mounted a pole in the bed, flying a huge American flag, big enough to cover the entire truck, I suspected. "Counter-revolution, counter-revolution"* sang Grace, Marty and Paul. I couldn't help but smile. It looked like something you might see in the South. It was one of those moments that have really stuck with me.

About a week later, I went back into NYC to visit a friend. While waiting for him to pick me up in Penn Station, I stumbled across the entry-way walls where desperate family and friends had hung pictures of their missing loved ones in hopes that someone had any information. There were hundreds of them. My heart fell into my stomach as I moved from picture to picture, some pasted onto paper decorated by children missing their fathers or mothers. As hope faded, this wall would become a makeshift memorial to the lost.

On another trip in, my friend Joe guided me like a relunctant child into the confusing subway system that connects the station, which was now crawling with police and armed National Guardsmen, to numerous stops throughout the city. As we moved past a group of cops, one of them looked at me and started applauding slowly. In my confusion, it took me a moment to realize that I was wearing a NYFD T-shirt that I had bought to help support the families of the lost firemen. To my horror, it dawned on me that the officer was mistaking me for one of them! I couldn't come up with any words to stop him. After a moment, he seemed to realize his mistake and just said "Great shirt, man."

That December, I purchased a surprisingly inexpensive plane ticket from Newark, where some of the terrorists had boarded, back home to Florida for Christmas. Round trip: $109.00. It took forever to get through security and I finally quit bothering to put my driver's license back in my wallet, but it was actually cheaper than paying for the fuel to drive.

September 2002
For the first time in years, my mother decided to fly up from Florida to see me. We got rooms at the Best Western in Times Square and I took her to see Aida on Broadway, the only show running that I wasn't afraid to take my mother to. Since it was within walking distance, we also went to Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum and hobnobbed at a party of eerily real-looking wax celebrities, built to exact dimensions. An especially scary Woody Allen sat in the corner and gazed thoughtfully at us. I half expected him to launch into some neurotic rant.

The last exhibit on the tour was a tribute to 9/11. It was an exact three dimensional reproduction of the famous photograph of the firemen raising the flag at Ground Zero. All around the statues, slide shows were synced to audio from the police and fire communications of that day. The whole thing was more than a little overwhelming. Feeling my eyes tear up, I had to get out before I cried in front of my mother for the first time since I was a child. Here are a few pictures I snapped with a cheap digital camera.

Since it was Mom's first trip into New York, we went on one of these sight-seeing double-decker bus tours and saw the entire city. About two thirds of the way through we were dropped off in lower Manhattan, near Ground Zero. Although I had experienced much of 9/11 peripherally, I had never visited the site itself. We saw St. Paul's Chapel, the small church which had escaped the calamity unscathed despite being in extreme proximity to the towers.

The nearby park was gearing up for the one year anniversary of the attacks, preparing for a visit from President George W. Bush, among others.

From there we moved along with the other quiet, somber tourists to Ground Zero itself. We stood for a long time behind the chain link and gazed silently into the chasm. By now, the vast majority of the debris had been removed and it was mostly just a large hole with levels and tunnels visible. Construction workers still moved about in their task to clean up the mess in preparation for what was to come next for the site, a matter that is still the subject of some contention as of this writing.

There was little talking amongst the spectators as we shuffled back to catch the next bus and see the rest of the city, and from there to begin the slow process of healing that the years would bring.

...I need your kiss, but love and duty called you
someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs, into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love
--Bruce Springsteen

* After writing this, I found out that I had been misinterpreting the lyrics to "Volunteers" all these years which are actually "Got a revolution, got a revolution", but I decided not to change the essay since that was what I was hearing at the time.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 25,915 of My Incarceration

This is my entry for Bruce Bethke's Friday Challenge for 8/21/09

"Day 25,915 of My Incarceration"
by snowdog

Sept 17th, 2097. Day 25,915 of my incarceration

Damn, I wish the bastards wouldn't take up their fathers' profession. Seems like I had just finished celebrating the retirement of the one guard who once beat the hell out of me in the gym, then he reappears with a younger face and a grudge. Daddy told him to look out for me, I'll bet. Worse are the female guards. Most of them are nice, I must admit, but damn if they don't make me feel like I'm back in elementary school. "Ms. Halderman, may I take a piss?" At least most girls don't follow their mommies' dream of being a corrections officer.

Seventy-one years in this place today and no end in sight. I ran out of room marking the days on the wall long ago. Actually, I got punished for doing that sometime around day one hundred and seventeen and spent some time in cuffs while the walls were painted back to their cheerful bright white. White. Sterile. Cold. Could be worse, I guess.

I try not to let myself think back to that clinical trial that drove me to violent insanity, then took my ability to die. It tends to put me in the familiar depression spiral which I can see coming a mile off, but can't stop. I just needed a few lousy bucks to pay the rent on my fleabag apartment. It seemed like a good offer--free blood pressure meds, payment for my time. In hindsight, maybe I should have told them that I was addicted to heroin before I let them give me the other chemical they were testing. I wonder if the new drug made it to market? Does the label say "May cause immortality?"

You might not believe this, but I felt the pills hit my stomach. It burned like hell itself. I started screaming for the doctor. Everything went dark after that. Next thing I remember I had killed two of the lab workers in the room with various improvised weapons--I'm good like that--and was working on the doctor. I had him on the floor, both hands tightening around his throat. That's when I got hit from behind.

The corporate goon lawyers got a jury to believe that it was impossible for the drug to make a man violent. It had never happened before. It was the heroin they had found in my bloodstream. And, therefore, I was one hundred percent in responsible for killing those two girls. Then they pulled out the police record showing where I had attacked my father as a young man. That was all it took.

When they sentenced me to life in prison, no one knew about the other side effect.

I knew I shouldn't have started thinking about the past. Shit. There goes the son of that asshole guard now, eyes on me as he walks past my cell, just a little slower than the others. And a little smirk on his face as he fingers that stick of his. Punk.

I can't stay here forever. One day, one of the idiots they keep putting in the White House will be the death of this country. Let the Mexicans and the Muslims have it. I only hope I'm on the outside of the bars when the end comes.

On the other hand, I'm not sure I can wait that long. There is a faster way out. I could improvise a weapon to end it all today. Like I said, I'm good like that.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sedna 90377

This is my entry for Bruce Bethke's Second Annual Ultimate Snowdogging Competition. I chose the very first challenge from March 8, 2005 (then called the Gedanke Experimentieren) because it's short and I'm already late submitting. Again.

Sedna 90377

90377 Sedna is an electric terminal attached to a huge gear made of dark matter. It's slowly making its way around the galaxy to meet up with another of its kind, as yet undetected. In 2216, the two contact points will come together, then the universe will stop its expansion for several minutes. There will be an infinitely deafening, but unheard creak as the the gears and pulleys that control reality stop and re-engage. Thus will begin the Big Crunch as the arrow of time starts to run in the opposite direction and the universe will begin the fall in on itti no ni llaf nigeb lliw esrevinu etisoppo eht ni nur ot snigeb emit fo worra eht sa hcnurC giB eht nigeb lliw suhT...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Study In Contrasts

A woman is pulled from near the Center Street dam by construction worker Jason Oglesbee on Tuesday. A man who was with the unidentified woman died in the Des Moines River. A rescue team from the Des Moines Fire Department tried several times to rescue the woman but could not get close enough to her. (Andrea Melendez/The Register)

Ms. Valerie Hudson of believes we could do with a lot less of this sort of man, but let me assure her that the woman in the water is probably quite happy that Mr. Jason Oglesbee isn't some smooth shaven, hair-gel snorting, metrosexual.

The news story can be found here.

Ms. Hudson's opinion can be found here.

I'm just sayin'....