Friday, January 27, 2012


The icons behind Yuri's overlapping text editor windows -- windows containing lines of code so small his boss swore it would drive a sane man blind -- shimmered losing their form of folders and documents to become gravestones still maintaining their grid pattern over a background landscape of the peninsula's oak covered hills. Yuri glanced at the vodka bottle, but it was only a third gone. He blinked. The graves remained.

He shook his head. The old Romany soothsayer had claimed he'd die this week. She was a fake. They had no power and she was just annoyed that Yuri's LAN party had kept her awake all weekend.

Hell, maybe the problem was he hadn't had enough yet. He poured himself a shot, and for good measure poured another one, because you didn't have a problem if you never drank alone. He kicked the cubicle wall to shoot his chair into the aisle. Yuri looked left and right, but no one walked down the aisle next to his cube anymore. It made no sense to him.

Since the QA team couldn't leave until he'd committed his features, he headed towards the QA bullpen. The drop was due today. Sure, some bugs they could check from home, but a half dozen regressions required on-site testing. He couldn't afford this nonsense. But, the bullpen was empty. They had to be here.

He looked at his feet, the same feet that thundered on the wooden floors of the flamenco lounge where his dance instructor tut-tutted him. Dancers were supposed be light on their feet, but he was ex-military. They must've heard him coming. Of course, that made no sense, wouldn't they have wanted a shot.

The lead QA had a parrot whose legs dangled over the edge of the desk and the birds beak was wide open. Yuri shrugged and poured the shot down its throat. The bird was the company's mascot, and he supposed giving it a drink would be good luck for the build. He stalked back to his cubicle.

Even after another drink, he still had gravestones on his screen. He ran a process checker, but it came up clear. He snooped the packets on the network, but nothing there either.

"Hey, when you going to check-in?" the lead QA asked.

Yuri poured a shot, but when he swiveled his chair, there was no one there. He stood and saw the lead QA hurrying away. Yuri rolled his eyes and slammed the shot down. He'd tried.

Only one more change and he'd have everything finished that product had wanted. Yuri supposed he should ignore the graves on the edge of the screen, and he pulled up the code again. Fat fingers dancing over the keyboard, creating line after line of code.

The graves shook and pixelated zombies crawled out from underneath them, and began to push the windows around his screen. His keyboard stopped working. Yuri looked at the vodka bottle and decided to take a swig.

The alarm on his smartphone vibrated. He needed to depart for his flamenco lesson if he was to arrive on time. But, he razzed the others when they checked in code that wasn't tested properly. How could he test his changes when the windows on the screen wouldn't sit still.

"You done yet?" This time the lead QA didn't run away.

"I'm trying." Yuri shrugged. "Look at my display." When Yuri turned back to his desk, the icons were the normal folders and documents. "Stay right there."

With the lead QA over his shoulder, Yuri finished the final callbacks and revised the unit tests. The build ran smoothly and every unit test completed. Yuri slugged the lead QA's shoulder. "Your job now. I'm out of here." He glanced at the time. He'd miss warm-ups, but he could still make the lesson.

"Better be no bugs."

This code would be clean. He ran down the stairs, elevators were for wimps, and slid into the front seat of his Mustang.

The engine roared when he slammed the gas pedal. He was thrust back against the seat. His window blackened and Yuri couldn't see a thing in front of him. And then pixelated gravestones appeared in front of him. Zombies crawled across his windshield until the glass shattered and Yuri was thrown forward to roll across the nose of his car and onto the concrete.

Yuri's blood spilled across the concrete. The sun grew dim. A man with a face of bone stood over him, dressed in a trenchcoat.

Yuri croaked, "Why?"

The teeth in the bones face parted and Yuri supposed it was the closest they could come to a smile. "Thought you'd like the gimmick."

"But, it's not my time. She has no power."

Death shook his head. "They always say that."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Color War

Race riots flow. Race riots fan hatred. Red reaches round. Always violent. No mistake blood bleeds its deep hue.

Navy bears night's promise, knows old Chinese proverb. Her skin as smooth as any geisha's, concealing how deep the wounds touch. Her tongue flows over her enemy in thick flowing saliva.

Orange and peach and lemons may be sunset's pastels, but they pale and fail. We will forget them.

Whites are most prevalent. They claim purity and that the god's favor is twisted into their fibers. But, they fall stained when the spin cycle ends and they are discarded.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Blow the House Down


The blast of Moons' sneeze shook the craftman house's ceiling until the cracks in the corners gave out and the godchild's windy spew whistled over the peeling paint and into the night. The roof settled, creating at least a temporary seal.

"For god's sake, Cassandra, get those windows open." Tybalt ran for the kitchen before Moons sneezed again. On the counter, take-out food containers towered like toy miniatures modeling a three-story housing development. Tybalt shoved them aside. The pills had to be here.

Moons wheezed swallowing an impossible amount of air. Tybalt slammed his hands against the latch on the window, but the pressure from the outside jammed the lock. He grabbed a pot and whacked at the latch, but it didn't work. The house creaked; Cassandra must've failed to open the other windows. With regret he looked at the pot and then at the window and shrugged. Glass tinkled when he threw the pot. Shards of glass shivered themselves into his coat, riding the wind vacuumed by Moons' lungs.

He needed those pills. He pulled the kitchen drawers and dumped them on the floor, watching for the manila yellow bottle.

"Honey, did you check the fridge?"

Tybalt knew the god pills didn't need refrigeration and therefore the refrigerator seemed like an awful bad place to keep them. But, he had looked everywhere else, and the pills had to be in the kitchen, so he opened the door, and there on the shelf right in front stood the pills.

He grabbed the bottle and ran into the other room twisting the childproof lock, but it stuck. It made no sense to use a childproof lock when the god-babies could get at the bills by twisting the bottle in half. Greedy big Pharma companies and their screwups just made his life difficult. It wouldn't be a surprise if Pharma had a personal vendetta against Tybalt.

Moons' wheeze continued, but it grew thin and the boy twitched like he did prior to expelling his sneeze.

"House won't last another sneeze."

"I know," snapped Tybalt. "Lid's jammed."

Cassandra ran to help. He stood, balancing on the cap, as she held the bottle and he tried to twirl, getting his weight and the twisting right. He fell forward and knocked down a lamp, which had amazingly managed to stay upright in the last sneeze.

"You got it." Cassandra grabbed a pill and ran to Moons' side. His mouth gaped open and she threw the pill in. He coughed and the pill ended up on the floor. He backslapped Cassandra and she flew through the air, hitting a bookcase. Books fell across the room.

"Pill itches."

"Moons, baby. You got to take the pill."

The limp FDA had waived the normal trials when big Pharma proved children were born immortal, were born gods, but only for a few moments before the immortality drained away. But their pill, promised to change all that. They argued that everyone should have the chance at godhood. They didn't have time for tests since all those kids would lose their opportunity. Stupid pills left allergic reactions.

"No pill. Liquid." Moons' face twisted as if he understood that he wasn't supposed to sneeze and was trying to keep it back.

"We don't have anymore."

Moons fist was still dappled like a baby's flesh, but it was bigger around then Tybalt's thigh. Moons grabbed him like a rattle and shook him in the air.

Cassandra must have recovered from her flight. She held a glass of water. "Moons, set your Pa down, now."

Tybalt wobbled. Cassandra grabbed the pill and ground it against the side of the glass. Tybalt prayed it would work.

Their godchild gargled. Tybalt relaxed when the nose stopped twitching.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Rave: Michael Grist's Gristly Diamonds

I'll apologize for the groaner of a pun. You guessed it, I'm one of those kids from high school you couldn't take anywhere because I'd find the puns and everyone would groan. I hope that won't turn you off Michael Grist's Bone Diamonds. The story isn't for the squeamish, and I think that's why I like it.

I've rarely seen the horrors of a society so quickly captured as that done in the bone diamonds. It's set in ancient Egypt-like world where Pharaoh's rule and their "Olympic" games involve chopping off the legs of those who've annoyed the Pharaoh, placing them in an arena, and flooding it with water. A single pole stands in the center of the arena where the unlucky athletes struggle to be king of the pole.

This scene along with the others makes it obvious that one doesn't want to cross the Pharaoh. Unfortunately, life in this ancient world isn't easy and the protagonist finds it difficult to thread a life that won't kill him. I like how the crucible of this world pushes him to do things I wouldn't accept as moral, but I understand why he does them.

If this whets your appetite, you can find the story published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.