Category: Free Blog Fiction

Fiction: The Sixth Extinction

The fluorescent lights sound like bug zappers up and down the hallway. Everything smells of chlorine bleach and lemon-pine cleaner, so strong your eyes sting and your taste buds shut down. The floor shifts underfoot. Your husband tells you, jovially, that the constant sensation of feeling the ocean moving underneath you will eventually go away.

The door of your cabin has a key card reader. Okay, that makes sense. But next to it on the wall is a round door with a lock you can only open with a key. The door’s made out of metal and doesn’t match the wallpaper. At all. Nobody else’s door has a round…thing in the wall like this.

On the inside of the cabin there isn’t anything, no mark, no dent or bulge showing that there’s a locked, round, and hingeless panel in the wall on the other side.

The wall isn’t even that thick.

The matching luggage is unpacked and it’s time for supper, one of those buffets that start out as inviting and end up as a special kind of horror, the kind of thing you have nightmares about in which you can’t stop eating, no matter how uncomfortable you are, no matter how much everyone else is laughing at you. 

Your husband says it’s time to go.

You start to follow him, pretend to remember that you’ve forgotten something, and tell him you’ll catch up with him in a minute. You bat your eyes at him and he laughs.

You retreat to the bathroom in the cabin, a tiny space that resembles an alien testing facility more than anything else. You turn on the fan and wait for five minutes. He knocks on the door and asks you if you’re all right, then laughs when you tell him just one more minute. After another five minutes, he laughs again and leaves. You hear him close the cabin door. 

When you were unpacking you saw the key in the drawer. You palmed it, then shoved it in the minuscule pants pocket in your culottes that nobody ever uses. The last place, you’re sure, that anyone would look.

You step into the cabin, then check the corridor. Empty, except for a man in a crew member’s polo at the far end. The lights flicker.

You put the key in, eyes locked with the distant shape waiting at the end of the corridor.

The ship moves underfoot, your eyes sting, everything wavers.

Then the door opens.

Later, you ask for a refill on your green tea, which looks like swamp water.

“I paid for all this booze,” your husband says. “Aren’t you going to drink any of it?”

You rub your stomach. “Maybe in a day or two,” you say. “On shore.”

The Captain passes your table, pats your shoulder, gives you a smile.

—THE END—

Note:  I just finished The Sixth Extinction:  An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.  I’ve also been working on subtext lately.  Then came Becky Clark’s invitation to write a short story (at 200 words max) based on a photo she posted on her Facebook author page…as you can probably guess, I ran overlong and wrote a story she’s probably gonna hate 😛  What are ya gonna do?

How to EXPLODE Someone Else’s Brains with the POWER OF YOUR MIND

(A story)

Daphne had been kicked out of her friend Nina’s house because Nina got grounded.  It happens, you get grounded.  Ugh!  It was so frustrating!  One minute they were playing video games and the next everyone was in tears.  In.  Tears.

It was so unfair, too.

None of the parents would believe JUST HOW EVIL Mrs. Barkone was.  NONE of them.  And just because Mrs. Barkone called Nina’s house and accused her of stealing that horrible boy’s lunchbox didn’t make it true.  Not at all.  And Daphne had proof, but Nina’s parents didn’t want to listen.  That was the problem.  Nobody wanted to listen.

And so, as Daphne stood at the sidewalk in front of Nina’s house waiting for her dad to come pick her up, she thought, I wish that Daphne’s parents’ brains would explode.  WHAM. WHAM. SPLATTER.  Just like that.  And then she bit her tongue. Literally.  Bit.  Her.  Tongue.  Until she tasted a little bit of blood in her mouth.  She spat it on the sidewalk–peh peh peh–but her mouth still tasted bad.

But wishing for things didn’t make them happen.  Or she would have wished a lot of things into happening.

Like Christmas every day.  Or Halloween.  Or her birthday.  Every day.  Her birthday.  Or summer.  If every day was summer then she could spend every day with her mom, on summer vacation.  Her stepmom wouldn’t let her cook.  Or a lot of things.  Her dad was the greatest, except for her mom, who was also the greatest.  Her stepmom was only just okay.  Her dad would be here any second to pick her up in his pickup truck.  He might be mad.  Not at her. He’d been planning to go shopping without her…maybe for a surprise!  Except really he just hated going shopping with her because she kept saying “I want this! And this! And this!!!”

Okay, really, she didn’t really want Nina’s parents’ brains to explode.  Except if they did maybe Nina would come and live over at her house, and that would be cool, except Mom probably wouldn’t want to have Nina over during the summer.   Mom wasn’t a “friends” kind of person.  But otherwise Mom was the best.

Daphne checked her watch.  Her mom gave it to her for Christmas, except it was also supposed to be for her birthday.   It was gold and kind of weird and grown-up-looking but that was cool.  Nobody weirder than Daphne.  Except for her friend Nina!  Dad still wasn’t here and it was almost lunch time.  And Daphne needed to take her medicine.  Every day at noon.  Or she would get too wound up.  And you didn’t want to see Daphne when she was too wound up!  No, ma’am!  Your head might explode!  Except she couldn’t take it out here.  She needed a glass of water.

What she should do, what she should really really do, was go back into Nina’s house and wait inside for her dad.   And while she was waiting for her dad, she would, on purpose, not take her medicine.  And then she would talk.   She would really really talk.  Everybody thought she was hyper, but they didn’t know what she was like when she didn’t take her medicine.  She would go inside Nina’s house and talk.  Until everyone’s heads exploded.  Except for Nina.  She would make Nina wear headphones so she wouldn’t hear THE FULL POWER OF DAPHNE’S WORDS.   And then Daphne would talk.  She would really really talk.

And let out all the words she was secretly thinking under all the words she normally said.  Yeah.  If she ever let all the real words out, that would do it.

WHAM! WHAM! SPLATTER!

Except nobody, not even Nina’s non-listening parents who listened to Mrs. Barkone instead of their own kid, deserved that.

Her dad’s pickup truck pulled up.  “Nina got grounded,” she said as she climbed up the ladder into the seat.  “Do you have all your stuff?” he said.  She had all her stuff.  And then she told her dad all about what happened.  Except she left out the parts with the exploding brains.

“Uh-huh,” was all her dad said.  “Uh-huh.”

Mom once told her that she was like her dad.  Mom was so funny!  Dad was the best, but she wasn’t like her dad.  Not.  At.  All.

Afterword:  This is a De Kenyon story, in case you’re curious.  This tale comes from Ray and a couple of her friends.  Ugh, grounded!  It happens.

The Man Who Ate Gene Wolfe: A Story

GW-1

When I was a boy I lived in England and considered it the most ordinary place in the world.  It was America that I was fascinated with, if you can imagine that.  I thought that you could find anything in America.  Did you know that the Jolly Green Giant lives in America?  Most of you do not, because you are used to that kind of thing.  Everywhere you go in America, there is something wonderful to see.  Here you have creatures like the Blue Demon Horse, which fell on its creator and killed him.  In England such a thing never would have happened, because nobody would have thought to build a Blue Demon Horse in the first place, and it would have been destroyed if it had killed the hand that made it.  The English take our beliefs very seriously, in a way you Americans do not, and we are the poorer for it.

Being bored and growing up in England as I did, I retreated into my imagination, and because I did not grow up with video games or the Internet, I instead turned to reading books and comic books in my spare time.  Later on, I was also very interested in music, but that is another story.

I read many authors, and, when I found them especially good, I would read everything of theirs that I could, from the first words they had written until their last.  I would beg Mother for pocket money to buy books and comic books, which were a great deal cheaper then.  Sometimes I wonder–but, again, that is a different story.

I could tell you the names of dozens of authors that I read from beginning to end, but today I wish to speak of one particular one.  I think you know of whom I speak.

The first book of his that I read was a book with which I quickly became obsessed.  It is unnecessary to name the book; the fact that you are here, today, tells me that you, too, have had a similar experience, with one book or another of his.  Perhaps it was not even the first book of his you read; his are not books to simply read and  set aside, if you are to discover any particular pleasure in them.   All of us know of someone who had read one of his books through once and taken nothing more from it than a confusion of images, a kind of shimmering, incomprehensible dream.

But to read one of his books a second time–then you have begun to enter into the spirit of the thing.  One of his great gifts has been to show us that everything has meaning.  Perhaps you agree with him on the source and implications of that meaning; perhaps you do not.   Nevertheless, we had never been before given such a gift by a writer–unless it was in Chesterton or Borges, or some obscure French writer of whom no one has heard except the French and other, even more obscure writers.  Everything has meaning.   Think of it.   When someone is born, they are born already imbued with significance; every death has a purpose.   Meaning is not the same thing as destiny; otherwise, there would be only one story, and anyone who has ever written knows that all stories could have just as easily gone in a different direction.

God sees–or, rather, reads–the fall of every sparrow, as well as every sparrow that never fell.   Perhaps Heaven is merely the best of all worlds, and the reason for every suffering we experience is –but that, too, is a different story.

At any rate, although everything has meaning, it does not necessarily follow that any given event only has one meaning.  An event may have many meanings:  it may, for example, juxtapose Through the Looking-Glass and the idea of a technological crutch; it may combine Greek mythology along with South American.  And, while some would argue because of the transient nature of what we read into one of his stories–some of the earlier interpretations now seem dated indeed–I would say that the meaning itself is fixed, and it was never intended for our vision, but the vision of God.

What that word means, I cannot pretend to know.  But I learned to believe in it while reading that first book of his, not for the first time, nor even the tenth, but upon further study, in which I dissected the story, character by character, scene by scene, reference by reference.  The more deeply, the more fully I read, the more I realized that the meanings that I has so assiduously gleaned from his stories before were only flimsy veils before the true meaning of his story.

Did I understand the true meaning of his story–then, or ever?  I did not.  But I glimpsed it.

I have heard his stories called “irreducible,” the implication being that the meaning of the story is the story itself; that any map drawn of one of his stories must necessarily be as long as, if not longer than, the story itself; that, in order to characterize his stories with any accuracy, one must not comment upon them at all.

This is not true.

I mentioned earlier that I would read certain authors from beginning to end, from first word to last.  He has been one of them, and has perhaps been the greatest influence on my work, or at least an increasingly important influence on my work.  I still cannot say that I can understand his stories, but I feel that I can characterize them.

In consuming his words thoroughly and repeatedly, as I have, I feel that I have consumed the man himself.  Not literally, of course.  But I have, within myself, created a kind of icon of him, an eidolon.  A kind of small god, of the genus mentoris, an irreducible belief in the man himself.  My soul, despite not being any larger than it is, contains his, as well as the souls of other writers and mentors I have known.   If I were a topologist it would be an interesting conundrum–how something only so large can contain something, in toto, larger than itself, but, as I am a writer, I am used to containing worlds within my imagination; I am used to the map being as large as the territory, if not larger; I am used to working with infinities on a regular basis.

And so it is with confidence that I can say that his stories are as accurately read by the first-time reader as by the one who reads them for the thousandth:  a kind of shimmering, incomprehensible dream; that is, a direct experience of Mystery itself, which contains itself, and yet is larger than itself.  The more we discover his stories, the more we are lost; the more we consume of him, the more we are consumed.

And that is why I came to America, in the end.  Because of the monsters I expected, and have not failed, to find.

Fiction: Things You Must Not Think When Visiting Mme. Bientot

Bientot-1

Welcome to the Containment Facility of The Criminal Currently Known as Mme. Bientot

  • No pictures, film, or sketches of any kind.  No Exceptions.
  • No metal, glass, or other shiny objects, including pens and eyeglasses.
  • Do not think of your name, any nicknames or aliases; do not think of the names of your parents, children, or other loved ones; do not think of their faces.
  • Do not think of your worst fear, or, in fact, any other fear; Mme. Bientot will subtly guide you in manner that increases your fear into madness and/or hysteria.
  • Do not think about Mme. Bientot’s face; she has been known to use mirrors, windows, the reflections from diamond earrings, and the multifaceted eyes of insects in order to escape.  We believe she may develop the ability to escape via photographs, film, and nightmares soon.
  • You may consider Mme. Bientot’s name, as it is a false one which changes weekly.
  • In articles, you may refer to her as “the criminal currently known as Mme. Bientot” or the italicized female pronoun she or her.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, refer to Mme. Bientot as a “monster” or “freak,” as such claims only give her power in a literal and radioactive fashion.
  • If she hisses, you must immediately look at the floor and back slowly out of the room.  While it may seem as though Mme. Bientot is completely and entirely restrained with no possibility of escape, this is not, and shall never be, the case.
  • Ignore the screams.
  • All persons who pass this sign are required to take a battery of blood and urine tests, including a pregnancy test, upon leaving.   No Exceptions.
  • Any person who is, or suspects they may be, pregnant may not enter.  All fetuses discovered upon leaving the area will be aborted, and the bodies (including the host’s) destroyed.
  • Partial fetuses will also be destroyed.
  • Any person claiming Mme. Bientot is unjustly imprisoned will be destroyed.
  • Nonreflective goggles (provided in the bin below) are strongly recommended, due to the sudden urge to impale pens, pencils, and even crayons in the eyes.
  • It should go without saying that any person feeling urges toward self-harm are strongly recommended to look at the floor and back slowly out of the room; unfortunately, we lose at least one person per month to suicide.  Know the Warning Signs.
  • You must not think upon the following subjects:  women, sex, childbirth, oral sex, homosexual relations (whether involving males or females), current political events especially of a violent or rebellious nature, people of races other than your own (as the case may be), people of genders other than your own, tranvestites, people of different classes other than your own (especially of lower classes), vampires, ghosts, hauntings, demons, angels, rapists, centaurs, psychologists, anal sex, repression, loneliness, depression, suicide, amusing photos of kittens who cannot spell correctly, religion, anti-religion, mermaids, harpies, mythological figures, bodily fluids (e.g., semen, feminine bodily secretions, mucous, vomit), internal organs, external organs (especially those related to reproduction and nutrition/excretion), the importance of laughing at jokes in which a man is horrifically turned into a female, the importance of laughing at jokes in which a white person is turned into a person of another race, the importance of laughing at jokes in which a heterosexual male is forced or tricked into behaving in a feminine or homosexual manner, the importance of sexual dominance, the importance of social dominance in matters religion and race, the importance of molding children to behave in accordance with current moral aspirations regardless of the evil this brings, the importance of repudiating new and/or unusual experiences as being “gay,” the importance of repudiating the existance of moral gray areas, the importance of mocking persons more concerned with ethics than morals, the importance of knowing one’s place in a heirarchy without ever naming this place “slavery,” the importance of possessing the appearance of strength and dominance while simultaneously yielding to one’s superiors, the belief in superiors, the belief in separate but equal treatment or “viva la difference,” the belief that the assignment of specializations (e.g., “jobs”) is the pinnacle of human development, the belief that the world is evil and shall soon be destroyed and replaced with a better world, a kinder world, a cleaner world, or no world at all; the belief that the world is good enough; any belief at all.  Our most successful visitors are often Buddhists, neuro-atypicals, or “shopoholic” coupon clippers/bargain shoppers.
  • While Mme. Bientot’s containment unit may appear empty, it is not.
  • While Mme. Bientot’s containment unit may appear occupied, that does not mean that she has not escaped.
  • While Mme. Bientot’s containment unit may appear to contain yourself or some variation of yourself (e.g., older, younger, of a different race, class, or gender), you must not think that you are in any way inside the containment unit yourself.  In some ways, this is the most important thought not to think of all.

 Thank you, and enjoy your visit.

 

Zombie Love

ZL-1_mini.1

I don’t want to lecture you about your boyfriend.  You already know what I think.  Instead, let me tell you how we met.  It’s either that or you’re grounded.

Okay, Dad.

So I’d gone to the zoo a week ago when the zombie apocalypse started.  Your mom was wearing a leopard-skin wrap with the claws still on and she was climbing through the penguin exhibit to get to a couple of zookeepers who’d locked themselves in off-exhibit cages.  She was enchanting.  Her legs were covered to the knee with dried blood and she had brains in her hair.  I couldn’t help following her.

You were stalking me, you mean.

Oh, I admit it.  I was stalking her.  By then we’d mostly run out of humans and were starting to eat the fresher zombies.

Your father.  He was one of the first to turn.  Tell her, Rich.  Tell her how you became a zombie.

Who’s telling this story, you or me?  I was one of the original volunteers.  They warned me at the clinic.  “Look, this will cure your cancer, but there are going to be side effects.  Extremely negative side effects.”  “Like what,” I asked, ready for about anything.  “Hair loss?  Erectile dysfunction?”  “Zombieism,” they said.  “Sign me up,” I said.   I was always a big fan of zombies.

So I was stalking your mother in the penguin exhibit when a horde of humans burst into the building and sharted shooting.  I mean, it was inevitable.  The survivors were bound to get their act together eventually.  Your mom, of course, didn’t have the least bit of cover whatsoever.  There was no fading into the background for her.  Gorgeous, curvy, red dress, leopard skin…there was no missing her.  The humans went straight for her.

I was terrified.

Were you?  I’ve always wondered.

Distracted by the humans, she fell into the penguin pool and had to duck down under a cement outcropping to keep them from shooting her.

I had to decide, right then and there, what I wanted more.  To eat that delicious zombie woman…or to go after the humans.

People pretty much always taste like people, but I’d acquired a taste for zombie meat.  It’s aged, you know.  It’s an acquired taste, but that’s where the gourmets always gravitate, to the rare, the unwanted, the unappreciated.

Are you saying I’m unappreciated?

Oh, you know I appreciate you, babe.  [Growls.] And as soon as Amber’s out of the house…Imma appreciate you all over the place.

Mmmm.

Instead of trying to eat one of those humans–look, I know how most people your age think.  Eat the fat ones, nibble the cute ones, and injure the kids and leave them out for bait.  But the thing is, sometimes you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be with your soul mate.  That’s what you should go for.  Not some scumbag in a tattooed human-skin jacket.

Oh, Dad.  Andy isn’t a scumbag.  He’s a poet.

Yeah, yeah, so you say now.  Someday you’re going to see that he only love you for your brains.

–Oh, Dad.

But this isn’t really about you and scumbag, I mean, Andy.  This is about me and your mom.  Being one of the original zombies, I’ve always had a better nervous system than most zombies.  I can shoot guns, drive cars…open doors.  Can Andy open doors?

–Just leave it alone, Dad.

All right, all right.  I mowed down those humans with a pair of .45s.  I didn’t even stop to lick ’em.  Except the last one.

Him, I just shot out a knee.  Then I did the first, best act of self-sacrifice that I’ve ever done.  I smashed my skull open, infected Mr. Kneecap with my brains by shoving about half of them down his throat, and with my last, feeble motions, stumbled over to where your mom had fallen into the penguin pool.  It was empty, of course, and full of stripped penguin carcasses.  And she just wasn’t agile enough to climb up the disguised ladder, which was really just a set of grooves cut into the cement of the pool.  I jumped right in with her.

And then she ate me.

–What?

That’s right, missy, you heard me.  Your mother ate me.  And in eating me, she acquired the nervous system that I’ve always had.  Which is why she–and now you–are one of the top predators in the world.  You’re at the top of the foodchain because of your parents.

I won’t say it wasn’t painful.  It was.  As my consciousness infected Mr. Kneecap, I saw myself scream, and suffer, and die.  I did that for your mom, and, later, I did that for you.  When you were a baby, I let you eat my brains on a regular basis.  I’m on my, what?

That’s your twelfth body now, dear.

My twelfth body.  So when you look at Mr. Poetry, Mr. Scumbag the Poet Master, I want you to ask yourself two questions.

One, would you want to eat his brains?

And two, would he die for you?  Could he watch himself get eaten by you, see you at your worst, and still love you?

I got no problem with you toying with him.  Gettin’ a little nookie.  I’d have to be a hypocrite to say otherwise.  I mean, me and your mom get it on all the time, am I right?

[Lisa giggles.]

Oh, Dad.

But when it comes to true love…you gotta think in terms of sharing your brain, and him sharing his brain.  You’re bright.  I’m not worried about you supporting yourself or even supporting that loser for the rest of your lives.  But–hear me out, I’m almost done–I am worried about you spending the rest of your life with someone you wouldn’t really want inside your head.  Really deep inside your head.  Love isn’t about the sex.  It isn’t even about chewing off each others’ limbs.  It’s about brains.  It all comes down to brains.  And who you want to share them with.

Someday you’ll understand.

Okay, Dad.

Now go out and have fun on your date with scumbag.

[She kisses him, laughing.]  I love you too, Dad.  I love you too.

 

 

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