Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rainy Day Prayer

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Prayer Upon Crossing the Highway" in Mirror Shards.

My scene, "Rainy Day Prayer":

Though I sit under the eaves on the porch, I smell the rain drops of evil on the wind, I shall not fear, for You, Lord, are with me. I've felt the golden sunbeams from your cyclops eye warm me on other days when the bristling clouds were otherwhere. Your mighty claws have brought my humans to me and the strong talons bring them back when they stray. Your nemesis, The Cloud, cries acid tears, but I will be strong. Guide my humans to open the maw to your heart.

In thee I pray, hear my purrs.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Birth of Credit

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Source of Capital" in Mirror Shards:

“This is the way it works,” said Mr. Bark. “You louts do whatever I say, and I don’t throw your worthless monkey asses out onto the street.”


“No buts!”

“You can’t-“

“I can. I just did.” Mr. Bark rustled his leaves, a sure sign of growing irritation; he didn’t move if he could help it. He’d never held with this new-fangled locomotion business. “Get moving.”

Fred and Claude trudged outside, shovels over their shoulders.

“This sucks,” said Claude. “I wish I could quit.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Fred. “It’s not like money doesn’t grow on trees.”

My scene, "Birth of Credit":

"That's perfect," said Claude stopping on the branch and absently twirling the rake on his shoulder.

"What's perfect about money growing on trees, that's our whole problem."

"You're right, it is our problem. Today. But it doesn't have to be tomorrow."

Fred jumped from one of Mr. Bark's lower branches and landed in a leafy pile. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Money it's so abstract. Why do some people value Mr. Bark's tens more than Miss Twig's quarters."

"Because 10 is greater than .25," said Fred.

"No, we just assigned those values. It was a whim of people in power. We need a way to divorce value from these leaves of money."


"I don't know. Perhaps a card that is easy to carry. We could call it a credit card, that has a nice ring."

Monday, October 19, 2009


A response to Nathaniel Lee's "One Night Only" in Mirror Shards.

My scene, "Withholding":

Chan blinked at the spotlights. A half-chewed dumpling laid like a stone in his mouth as he peered at the blackness beyond the ring of spotlights. Where was his apartment and the rest of his dumplings?

"Welcome Chan," said his interrogator through a voice-modulator that left an unnatural voice like the rumble of a subway with an overtone squawk of metal on metal. "Don't squirm, you don't want to fall."

Chan's chair balanced on the tip of a pedestal that rose out of the darkness. He swallowed the half-chewed dumpling and asked, "Why am I here?"

"You are withholding information from us. Your soul is at risk." Okay, this had something to do with The Church. "We know about your overt meeting with the splinter group and need to know who you met with."

"What meetings? A splinter group?" Chan was confused, what reality was this?

"Sue gave us your name. We need others."


Juan blinked at the spotlights, sleep still haunting him...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

H1K3 Epidemic

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "A New Plague" in Mirror Shards.

"Not another one," said Tony under his breath as he watched a young man without a surgical mask enter his bar. The man's black suit jacket was obviously tailored at one time but now was wrinkled and had a veneer of dust and dandruff that colored the suit stormcloud gray. A former Wall Street banker come for a drink.

The ex-banker sidled up to the bar and crawled onto a stool with his knees raised in front of his chest and his unpolished dress shoes resting on the stool. Tony asked through his surgical mask, "What'll you have?"

"Vodka martini, straight up, with extra eucalyptus."

The order confirmed it, he was probably a carrier but Tony wouldn't take any chances that this wasn't a health Department mole. "I need to see a doctor's prescription."

The ex-banker riffled through his jacket and pants pockets until he unearthed a stained and wrinkled piece of paper in his back pocket and handed it over to Tony. Another koala flu victim. The ex-banker said, "The doctor says the eucalyptus will be good for me."

Tony mixed the drink and dropped a toxic eucalyptus twig into the glass. "You're welcome to drink here at the bar, or climb the ladder against the wall and sit in the rafters." Above them, a dozen patrons balanced against the cross-beams and nursed their drinks in silence.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Adventures of Normalman

Scene seed from Mick Stevens' comic (see comic 11) in the New Yorker:

A man wearing a cape with a shield that contains the letter and lies facedown in a field. The caption is: "The Adventures of Normalman".

My scene, "The Adventures of Normalman":

It was the car doors slamming that woke John Moses from his slumber. It was 4 a.m. and too late for his neighbors to slam doors. Wiping sleep from his eyes Moses padded across the hardwood floor and wished as he often did that he could afford to buy an Oriental rug.

From the second floor window of his flat in the rowhouse, Moses saw a Ford Focus its doors open like dragonfly wings and three teenagers with silk masks over their faces. "Superheroes, just what the neighborhood needs," muttered Moses. One of the boys held out his hand with a ball of flame in it and Moses turned to race through his flat's door and down the stairwell. Moses envisioned himself as a Parkour star, but he missed the last step and smashed forward into the wall and tasted blood on his lips.

Outside, the Focus flickered with flames as the teenagers laughed. Their laughter became higher pitched, almost hysterical, when they saw Moses run towards them in his thin cotton robe.

"Cut that laughter out. The car could catch these buildings on fire."

"So," said the boy who had lit the car on fire.

"We live here," said Moses. He had little time before the fire ignited the gas tank. One of the boys looked like Raimi's kid. "Hey, don't I know you?"

"You don't know us old man," said fireball boy. "Come on, let's scram." Raimi's son stood with his hands out but didn't turn to follow the other two boys as they ran down the alley.

When the other boys were out of range, Raimi's son said, "I'm sorry."

"Sorry's worth nothing. Help me put this out. I won't turn you in." Blood was still dripping down Moses' face and onto his white robe.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Calamity on the Fifteenth Hole

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Ground Pounder" in Mirror Shards:

Edwin G. Maehen, senior executive vice president for Old Earth
Construction, watched Gonzalez Mitterand, his boss and COO, hit
the golf ball with a slight hook and it flew over the horizon in
the terraformed moon's light gravity. They watched Gonzalez's
ball roll to a stop in a hazard crater on the golf cart's course
monitor. Edwin's tee shot was much better positioned and he
would need to flub his next shot. Gonzalez liked to win and Ed-
win wanted that raise.

As they drove to Gonzalez's ball, Edwin's phone rang. The face
plate blinked priority red. It had never done that before.
"Hello, this is Edwin."

"This is Supervisory Robot A32EE," said a mechanical voice. "A
priority red incident is currently happening. Under regulation
72.435 of the Company Constitution as soon as an incident is
judged to be priority red the supervisor on hand must call the
senior executive vice president."

The robots worked flawlessly, how could there have been any prob-
lems? Edwin chose his words carefully, he couldn't let Gonzalez
realize that he didn't have the Company Constitution memorized.
"Tell me about the incident."

"Earthmover Robot Z900 has veered from its appointed task and is
now dredging a path 137 degrees from the stated plan at a veloci-
ty of 50 km/h faster than regulation and is still accelerating.
Waiting for instructions."

A runaway robot hadn't occurred in Edwin's lifetime. This could
be the end of his career, especially if there was a death and
even the end of Old Earth Construction. "Stop that robot now!"

Gonzalez looked at Edwin with a question in his eyes and Edwin
tried to ignore his boss but felt his raise slipping through his

The robot said, "Your orders are being executed now."

"And get me a human to help coordinate."

"There are none. Your directive, memorandum M.57321."

Edwin looked at his hands and paused before he said, "I'll fly
out there. I'll be there in twenty hours."

"19 hours 37 minutes, assuming the shuttle arrives on schedule,

Monday, October 12, 2009

Arrival at Planet 307

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Elegy for the Nostromo" in Mirror Shards:

Giovanni Fidanza awakens from his birthing creche on the Nostromo Seed Ship. He hides his skin, a pink and blotchy new-born kind of skin, under a midnight blue terry cloth robe and pads barefoot over to the computer terminal. He has distant memories of having performed these same actions hundreds of times and every time -- just like what he finds out this time -- he scans another planet not suitable for life. The others will have awakened too and run the same scans. They will come for him.

They are faster than he remembers, but he is not surprised. There are five of them this time, all wearing sky blue robes. Gould stands at the front of the group, as always, and says, "Your ship has found another dead planet. Where are the worlds you promised us?"

"Earth was a dead end. Her resources gone and only 50 billion people left to squabble over the crumbs." Giovanni has said this before, three hundred times or more, but it always ends the same. They are angry and he is tired.

"But all we do now is live and die and travel between the stars. What kind of life is this?"


Gould spits on the spotless metallic floor and says, "Hope was reasonable for the first dozen worlds. And now, years into our journey what do we have to hope for?"

"We could end this journey," says Giovanni. Something new, something not said in his 307 previous lives.

Gould looks at the three other men and one woman who stand behind him a hint of confusion in his eyes. Gould still believes they will find a habitable planet. Giovanni hopes he's planted a seed. Gould says, "There are more planets, we'll continue on our fool's mission. But first, we must sacrifice you."

As they have 298 times. Giovanni remembers the sacrifices as a single long painful memory. He holds his hands out, long ago learning the pointlessness of fighting. They grab his arms roughly and pull him through the stark corridors to the airlock.

Inside the airlock, Giovanni can see their faces watch him through the window. He whispers goodbye as he hears the air whirr out of the chamber. His last thought is a wish that this time they don't take a cell sample to clone and awaken him on planet 308.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Orthomyxoviridae War

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Cohabitation" in Mirror Shards:

The top half of the pill carrier dissolved in the gut leaving the bottom battle control center intact. General Scott took one last look at his legion of nano troops and wished them luck before he manipulated the Control Center's actuators to capture a cell from their host and transmitted the host's DNA codes to allow his chameleon troops to mimic their host's cells.

"Battalion Alpha," said General Scott, "do you read me?"

"Aye, Aye, General Sir. Ready for action."

"I want you to take the respiratory system. Be careful, don't get expelled out into the room. The cell samples indicate that our host is sixty-seven years old and has a history of smoking."

"Battalions Beta, Delta, and Gamma spread out through the circulatory system."

"Yes sir, General Sir," said the other battalion commanders in unison.

"The Control Center's sensors have not pinpointed the strain of the enemy, keep your eyes open and assume that there may be H1N1 lurking in our host."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Bridge to the Future -- Customs

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Construction Delays" in Mirror Shards:

Neal popped the clutch in to jerk the car forward one last time to the front of the almost mile-long car queue. Neal wondered why they didn't call it a Bridge to the Past over here. Behind him, in the too full back seat, Janet and Beth bickered over fashion.

Neal twisted over his right shoulder to face the backseat and said, "Everyone except Beth fasten your seatbelts now. And Beth, please make it look like you've got a seatbelt on. We're almost there."

Neal shivered as he watched the time winds blow through the thin dress of an elderly woman standing with her husband neither of them wearing coats. Two TTA agents stripped their car and threw the luggage on the ground. Neal guessed they were being punished because they had triggered one of the all-too-common false alerts from the time anomaly sensors.

Of course, the customs agent would probably grill Neal just because they had too many people in the car. The light flashed green and Neal drove forward.

"Can I see your passports," asked the agent. Neal passed their seven passports to the agent. "There sure are a lot of you in that car. What was the purpose of your visit?"

"It's Tony's birthday," said Neal.

"Hmm... anything to declare?"

A trick question, there was laughter in the back seat. A couple of the girls were still high. "No."

"You're free to go." Unbelievable.

Neal drove forward as the time fogs flowed over his car hiding the view of the other side.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Surviving Golf

A response to Nathaniel Lee's "Playing Properly" in Mirror Shards:

"Don't even talk to me about local courses," Raymond sneered. "Manicured lawns and geometrically perfect 'lakes.' Those places are about as real as a pornstar's tits."

"Then where are we going?"

Raymond pointed. Ahead, the woods closed in around them, an old forest-god, grinning snaggletoothed and hairy, with entwining vines and mysterious culverts. Water dripped down unseen pathways. In the distance, something howled, abruptly cut off.

Smiling, Raymond set down his bad. He withdrew a club, one with a spiked handguard on the grip and a jagged razor on the reverse of the head. "We're going to play real golf."

My scene:

Jason sank his last putt -- an easy shot off the side of a steep hill that dipped towards a marsh. Jason breathed a sigh of relief and turned his back on the muddy water that boiled with the sinuous coiling of some unseen beast in the water. He had no more balls left and knew that Raymond would insist that Jason play from inside the water trap.

"That was interesting," said Jason.

"Ready for the back nine?"

Jason's face dropped, "But what about the time?"

"Exactly," the dying afternoon light flickered red in Raymond's eyes, "It's best played after dark."

"Maybe another time." Jason lied, he had no intention of ever coming he could here again. There was something to Raymond -- energy, a sense of urgency and a hint of anger -- that Jason had admired in the boardroom, when Raymond was on his side, but out here it didn't feel right, he felt like the target.

"Suit yourself, I'll play the back nine without you." Jason's heart beat hard, he'd carpooled with Raymond. "By the way, the wolves out here are a little like sharks... they can smell your blood."

Jason looked down, his polo shirt was torn through so you could see his midriff where the claw marks continued to drip blood. He'd fought the wolves off once, he could do it again.

"I'll walk. I'll see you in the office on Monday." Jason felt bitter but there was little he could do about it. Raymond stood there flawless untouched by the hazards of this course.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A long, long time ago...

Response to: Answer Unspoken:

My scene, "A long, long time ago...":

Dun Tolg stood on the cliff's edge looking out over the sea with the whitecaps rolling towards him. He avoided looking at the stone prison that he and the others had built upon this cliff and the chain of calamity that wrapped around the small prison like a bloody bandage over a gut wound.

Dun heard her footsteps come up behind him, but they stopped as if waiting for him to turn and look at her. He didn't turn, his face was now marred with lines from the war and was no longer beautiful. She said, "I've spoken to the Oracle." Dun almost cried at the pain -- a distance -- in her voice.


"They foretell that time and the poisons of lies will break the chain and allow them," she hawked and spat, "to go free." They all refused to say their names, the four Floods, the three Winds, and the final Fire, now that the war was over. A gull struggled to fly out over the waves while the wind punched it back and forth.

"Is there any way to avoid that future?"

"Yes." He turned at the tone in her voice and saw a tear in her eye. "You must stand guard here and always tell the truth."

"I can't...." He fell silent and she hugged him.