Monday, 31 October 2011

57) Loser

    Round and round the wheel went and I knew exactly where the ball landed, on that damn green zero. Green for mold and rot and spoiled meat when really it was supposed to be red and fire and raw fresh tuna steak.
    Would it be crazy to tell you I actually place my bets to loose? It’s true. You know that thing where in near death experiences people say they see their lives flash before their eyes? It’s the same thing with me and loosing money. I see all that time and effort evaporate. One grand? Oh, that was a week at my desk job. Ten grand? Oh, that was three years of careful stock picks. One hundred grand? Oh, there goes my marriage and mortgage and Mercedes.
    After spinning dizzily the little white ball bounced and thunked and pinged and slid right in there as the world’s biggest middle finger right in my face. There were groans all around the table of course, but I was quiet and savoring the loss. The croupier used her wooden hook and pulled in the mountains of bets. As they clinked and slid I realized what I’d really lost. I padded my jacket and pants pockets just to be sure. Yup, all gone. No more cash, no more chips. I’d brilliantly cut up my credit card after that last withdrawal.
    I truly had nothing. I was a loser.
    I slinked back out from the crowd and walked through the rest of the casino floor, back to the elevators, and up to my room. If time heals all wounds, and there’s no clocks in a Casino they it’s just a big gaping wound, isn’t it? Just a wounded animal lying still, infested with human filth, and groaning mechanically with clinking tears.
    I let myself into my room and collapsed on the floor sobbing. I was done. I’d advanced my last three thousand dollars from my credit card. I wouldn’t even be able to pay for the room. I wept for my stupidity and avarice and masochism.

    Eventually I must have disrobed and crawled my way to bed, though I can’t remember doing that. I slowly untangled myself from the sheets and checked my watch, 10:30am. Checkout time was a half hour ago. I was screwed. After decades of drunken and disorderly clients casino hotels had every exit covered and security guards up the yin yang, you couldn’t just sleep and dash anymore.
    I decided that it was just best to face the music. I slid back into my crumpled suit and walked to the front desk in shame.
    Suffice it to say the establishment never looks kindly on moochers. There was no leniency for my misery. I was in a holding cell by the end of the hour.
    I wish I could say I woke up a new person there in the smell of drunkenness and the sound of tramps snoring, but I think we’re all relatively the same person even through life changing circumstances.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

56) Ahmed the calculator

    This is a wrong place, I shouldn’t have come here. Not that I have a choice.
    The air is wet and damp and shockingly hot as I get off the airplane. Here in New Dehli we disembark from the plane on a rickety old bamboo ladder.
    My name is Ahmed, and I’m a calculator. Not in the modern sense of the word, an inanimate box. But in the older sense, someone who does calculations by hand on paper.
    Why am I anxious in New Dehli? One word, time. I’m here to stop it from ending. I have heard of a bit of metal, well metal, plastic and ceramics. And that bit of metal is the key to the bomb that supposed to stop time, unless I can crack the key first.

Friday, 28 October 2011

55) Memoirs on a bus

    Even as I slept the play was running through my head. Parts were reversed. The mother was played by a couple of riggers in bad drag, they would alternate lines. I guess that’s how you know you’re committed to a thing, it saturates your entire being.
    A rough shake woke me from sleep and I came to in the bus, the Ticketmaster had a flashlight in on hand and his other in front of my face. I took out my ticket and handed it to him. He punched it and moved on. That’s the last time I go with Spot Turtle to go cross country. He should have recognized me from before. I got on two days ago.
    I tried to get back into the mutant play, but all I got was a tableaux of the Ticketmaster’s scruffy face. First a huge canyon of pink rock and dark tubular outcroppings. We were on a donkey tour winding down thin little trails, a giant cigar belched acrid smoke off on the horizon. I looked over the edge of my mount to the jagged yellow teeth below and a torrential river of a tobacco.
    I’ve heard about lucid dreaming, and I’ve thought it would be a powerful tool, but I was happy enough just remembering them. Though I’ve heard the easiest way to bore a man is to tell you about his dreams I think they can provide real insight. Not as direct symbols, but as literal emotional palettes.
    I woke with the sunrise as it stabbed at us through unshaded windows. I wiped my eyes of crust and looked over to the line at the rear of the bus, the morning bathroom line. I could wait, all I had to do was empty my bags, a tiresome affair, but not one predicated on muscular pain. The plastic tubes just shunted the waste away from my body instead of it accumulating naturally and threatening to explode me from the inside. As inconvenient as it was in someways it was a godsend.
    I reached under the seat in front of me and pulled out my pack. Everything I would need was there. I pulled out my cleaning equipment, a small sponge and a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol. I pulled out my breakfast, a couple of fiber and protein bars and a small orange juice. And I pulled out my sketch book.
    I gulped down my breakfast and placed the cleaning supplies near my hip. I unfolded my sketchbook, took out the pen, and opened it to a random page. I happened upon the set design for an old play, “Sisyphus and Bottom”. I giggled a little. That one was a great flop. Though the whole crew and cast was into it, though I thought it was great there was an essential part missing that we didn’t catch until opening day. It wasn’t very good. It had a mediocre opening and died on the vine. When the Times calls your work, “An unmitigated bore.” then it’s time to seriously recheck some things in your life.
    I turned the page and was delighted by watercolors of Mercy’s Chateaux. She’d felt sorry for me and invited me out for a little sabbatical in Nice. There were cats and cheese and lovely silence. There gets to a be a point living in a city where the ambulance cries and junky fights and screaming neighbors and explosions just get to be so much background noise, you just learn to live with it. That doesn’t mean its appreciated, just accepted. It’s a constant and tactile pressure. Like deep sea fish who and born, live, and die at pressures that would turn a human into dog food.
    When I arrived in Nice the open spaces and silent fragrant air was a shock to my system. I drowned myself in red wine trying to bring back that tension and violence my body was somehow craving. Thankfully Mercy came by on the third day and talked some sense into me.
    Those six months were refreshing on several layers. One, I was able to get back into writing everyday, writing something new, not just editing the old and rehashed anecdotes. I was able to get good food into me, not just leftovers and takeaway.
    In NIce I was able to write “The Marriage of H”, it did much better than Sisyphus though you probably haven’t heard of it either. In some circles it’s very well regarded. I’ve heard it’s even being taught in Finnish drama schools as an example of late 21st Century black humor. I didn’t mean it as black humor, I was just writing about life. That’s all I ever write about.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

54) Magic and Chance

    He was a ghoul roaming the moors, taking what he wanted, feasting on unsuspecting tourists and the odd sheep. He really like the American tourists, they tended to be fatter while still being tender. He didn’t have a name, ghouls never do. He had always been alone so no one had never had to call him. When he thought of himself, which was rare, he used the sounds the humans did if they ever saw him, anything from “oh god” to wordless screams.
    She was a sorceress from over the horizon, from a land filled with deserts and pearlescent castles, of Ifrit and Djins. She had been born into a poor family and sold to a wandering wizard. Against all the odds he had been a good master and taught her the ways under the world in white and grey, her how to divine and how to scry. And in his time he had passed on and left her with the inheritance that had been passed down to him from countless generations before: an iron wood staff, a magical silk cloak, several rings of power and an ancient grimoire. Her name was Hasef The Wanderer.
    They met in a grove of birch trees, a thousand leagues from her birthplace and a hundred miles from his last haunt. She had been folded among the powerful tree’s long shadows for a fortnight, a technique she’d learned on her own to replenish her mana. He had been running away from angry villagers, over the last year he had worn out his welcome by being particularly gluttonous and they’d tracked him back to his cave.
    She’d come out from the in-between world bristling with power, smell, taste, body, and sight all crackled with the life around her. Instantly he caught her sight, the shape of his wound, his silent crying out in pain as he slept edged up against roots in a muddy stream bed. Her feet barely brushed the tops of the green grass as she floated over towards him. Where she passed mushrooms fruited and dandelions bloomed and burst.
    He was dreaming of being chased by the population of every village he had ever terrorized, his bloody limbs scrabbled in the mud and made deep furrows.
    When all of a sudden he woke. Something bright and powerful was watching him, he had nowhere to go, his black heart raced and he pushed himself into the wall of mud trying to get away. His sharp black claws found no purchase, his blood matted fur became covered in dirt and the poor pathetic beast pissed himself. He let out a fearful high keening sound, like the summer insects he loved to munch on.
    She spoke words of healing in her guttural language. At first the poor beast didn’t respond. She continued with the words, adding the slightest touch of her newest mana. The beast calmed and fell unconscious.
    She floated down and picked him up. Clots of dirt and blood rolled off her robe and left it clean. She took him out of the forest and to a nearby bluff she had seen on her way to the grove. She kept him unconscious for several days as she cleaned him and tended to his wounds.
    Her master had always commented on her predilection for careless animals. He told her many times that life and nature would be stronger off without the weak in it. But she continued to follow her heart and reach out to the helpless if they could ask for help or not, if they were predator or prey.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

53) Strange Romance

25 Oct 1968, Middle America
    Autumn wind blows crisp and dry and the colors in the trees burn coldly, Halloween is just around the corner. Something is in the air, something heavy and electric. This is where they first meet, on a street like everywhere else in the suburb, a street like every street in every suburb, on a night like no other.
    But not just yet. Morning comes and goes, kids go to school, adults to work, and this is the simple truth: discipline is the simple act of doing the same thing over and over again. And they’re all perfectly disciplined little consumers, but tonight will be different, it will mark two of them for the rest of their lives.
    Kids come home from school in the afternoon, latchkeys all around. Adults come home in the evening, flick on their televisions and start making dinner. They eat, watch more TV, then brush their teeth and go to bed.
    Then, around 2am, when some of the night owls are still up, clandestinely reading their science fiction magazines or fiddling with their ham radios, it begins. First there’s a thud on someone’s roof, then another just down the street. Then a downpour of heavy sound like thunder or gun fire over every surface in a one block radius around the intersection of Derby Street and Gerald Avenue. For a whole forty five seconds the onslaught continues, deafening and surreal.
    The adventurous children are up and out of their beds first, grabbing flashlights and pulling blankets over their shoulders like super hero capes to keep warm. Most of them are stopped by their parents who are just as awake, but far more frightened. Could this be the Russians, they think, maybe the Chinese? They dare not come out in case it’s a strange attack.
    Two children finally make it outside, a boy and a girl, twelve and thirteen respectively. The two of them stand outside in front of the huge pile of fish in the middle of the street. They stare at the pile for a moment. The boy’s the one with a flashlight. The girl, tall and lanky, walks over to him and deftly takes it from his hands.
    “Hey, what’re you doing? That’s mine!” He protests.
    “Shh,” she says, “I’m taller.”
    “Oh.” he says, conceding to her superior logic.
    She grabs his hand, remembering her father long passed away, and more reassuring herself than him.
    Emboldened by her touch he walks them both forward.
    The pile is iridescent fins and tails and scales gleaming in the light of the flashlight. She says, “Do you think they’re dead?”
    He reaches forward and bravely pokes one of them with his bare foot. Nothing happens.
    “Yeah, dead.” He says.
    “Where the heck did they come from?” She says. “There’s so many. I think they’re all salt water fish, maybe. Like, that one’s a tuna, I’m sure.”
    The boy turns to the girl and says, “Hi, my name’s Mike. You’re Kate, right?”
    “Catherine, but close enough.” She says and smiles. He squeezes her hand and she squeezes back.
    They share that rare moment we all want to have and rarely do. That moment of perfect shared understanding.
    At that point Catherine’s mom comes bolting out of their house in her bathrobe and curlers, yelling for her daughter. The two kids quickly let go of each others hands and the essential magic of the night is broken.
    It’s still a grand mystery, it lives on in newspaper articles and urban legends, and the hearts of two children.
    And those children grow into adults. They move out and move on, making their own way into the world, that moment mostly forgotten.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

52) Fish or Flight

    Chalchiuitl stared into the river. The sun stabbed back into her eyes making them water. Huitzilopochtli the angry sun god would not make her waver in her task. With her father and brother off to battle the Spanish at Tenochtitlan she was now the head of the house. Her mother and grandmother could no longer do anything but weave. She could finally hunt. Though her fingers were still calloused like a woman, mated to the loom, she knew her aim would be true.
    There it was, a slight jade flicker below the sparkling river. Chalchiuitl tensed, aimed, and let her bronze tipped spear fly. It made a tiny splash and slid into the river. She waded forward and pulled back her spear with the twine attached to it. As she pulled back the empty spear the chill in her legs was just a little more than she could stand. She waded out of the river and back to the sunny rocks for a small snack of corn fritters and dried fish.
    Jim Cougan woke in his airplane seat, groggy and unsure of the time, jet lagged from flying back and forth from Mexico City to Rome to Montreal to California, to every Anthropology conference that would pay his modest fee. For several years he had had a wide portfolio of books and lectures ready to go on gender roles in prehistoric Mesoamerica, and that seemed to be the hot ticket this year. And he knew well enough to ride a good wave when it presented its self.
    The vision of an Aztec woman fishing quickly slid out of his mind for several reasons. He’d never heard of a woman fishing, their work was in preparing food and weaving cloth. As thirst clawed at the back of his throat, was he coming down with something, the vision disappeared entirely.
    Jim grabbed his toilet bag and pushed himself out of his isle seat. As he walked in the semi dark of the business class cabin, past other sleeping passengers, he fought his sleeping leg, pins and needles shooting up from his toes to his hip. Left leg, right leg, the pain was electric and cold at the same time. He hoped he didn’t have deep vein thrombosis. He reminded himself to read the inflight magazine about it when he returned to his seat.

Monday, 24 October 2011

51) End Clock

    Do you remember where you were when the count down started? Of course you do, everyone does. It’s more of a conversation starter in these last days than a sincere question. We all just want our story to be heard before the end.
    I had just gotten my permanent wand license and was cavorting around town like a child on my newly enchanted broom. I had just passed this cute girl in a giant scarab, she was on her phone chatting away, when the boom came. You remember that sound like a giant exploding chime? Some people weren’t outside when the boom came and they didn’t get the full effect. I was outside and believe me, it was intense and I nearly soiled myself. It wasn’t just a boom, I guess. There was more to it. Sure, it’s been analyzed to death on the TV and online, but whatever. If you were there you knew what it really felt like. It was like a church organ going off full stop, like a million wind chimes all being dropped at the same time.
    Thankfully all my broom safety training was still in mind and I pulled up without thinking and off to the side of the freeway, along with everyone else. I barely dodged a semi-truck and a dozen wild scarabs until I got to the nearest off ramp. I heard collisions all the way back for miles and kept going, trying to find some place safe. Finally I zoomed into town and landed next to a dry fountain.
    My first thought was to curse my mom who had insisted I didn’t take my cell phone lest I be temped to use it while I flew. Well, now I couldn’t call her to make sure she was okay. Little did I know that none of us were going to be okay.
    I sat there on the fountain for a few moments until noticed that it was a little too quiet. Sure there were screeching tires and the occasional crash, but I guess I had expected screaming and crying and explosions like we were under attack, I don’t know who from, but it felt like what a battle zone should be. I looked around and everyone was frozen, moms with strollers and joggers and business men were all looking up. I followed their gaze and it all became clear. The giant clock face.
    You’ve seen it, I don’t have to describe it. Ten times the size of the sun, semi transparent, no numbers, three hands, and set to midnight. Well, a few minutes to midnight. What I want to know is why the thin hand is minutes, the big hand is hours, and the little hand is days. That’s just weird. Why wasn’t it digital?
    So, yeah, giant clock in the sky going backwards. What a trip, right? Although if you were looking down from space it would be going the right way.
    When I finally got home it was dark. Everyone else was there and we were up all night trying to figure out what was going on. We still are, aren’t we? Trying to figure out what it’s counting down to, where it came from, and if it’s going away. I mean, this is totally better than the time the Wizard Pirate Camille painted her face on the moon, man, that was crazy.
    So, where were you when the count down started?

Sunday, 23 October 2011

50) Waiting for lightning

Dear S,
    I didn’t complain when we buried that rotten apple under the full moon. I said it was never going to get hit by lightning. But you said it would help us live forever. I thought ‘What’s the harm? Maybe she just wants to do something together. It doesn’t really matter what it is.’ You were beautiful and crazy. I guess I was gullible and in love.
    I felt weird when you wanted to do that thing with the sheep, and now they all stay far away from me when ever I’m in the field again. It’s not like it was illegal or anything. At least you told me it wasn’t illegal. You didn’t tell me what you were going to do and I didn’t really pry. You said you grew up on a farm, so you knew what you were doing.
    I’m sorry I helped you up to the roof. I didn’t think you were going to jump off. I certainly didn’t believe that you could actually fly. I wish you would come back, but you said it was then or never, that I wouldn’t get a second chance.
    That apple we buried? There’s a sprout there today. I’m fairly sure it’s going to be a tree. But don’t apple trees need to be grafted to make edible fruit?


Saturday, 22 October 2011

49) He and she

    They met in the occult section, near the tarot cards and the Celtic magic books.
    He was on his break, his year long break between goofing off and not doing anything. He was barefoot and dreadlocked, wearing second hand pants and just recently bathed, he had found a 2 day free pass to the local YMCA.
    She was on the run, a thousand dimensions and a hundred years from her kingdom. She was well camouflaged in that beach town, straight blonde hair, wearing the school colors and a beautiful round face. She smelled like night blooming jasmine, she couldn’t help it.
    Their eyes met and it was chaos magic at first sight. She knew she’d found her kingdom’s savior in ragged clothes like the prophecy said. He knew he’d found a bed for the night, maybe a sorority girl or trust fund grad student, a nubile sugar mamma.
    They got coffee and chatted the night away, he still had $20 on a Starbucks gift certificate from his birthday and bought them both white chocolate raspberry scones and an espresso. As they talked about the state of the world she knew even more this was it, this was the man that would save her.
    She called up her power animal to come to her from a dozen dimensions over.
    He eased his cell phone out without seeming to, just to check the time, it was almost closing time.
    They left together in her white ‘68 Volkswagen beetle. If he had looked closer he would have noticed she didn’t use any keys to start the car nor pressed on the accelerator to get them going.
    As she drove the streets began to melt. He thought he was just having a flashback. Her heart beat faster for she feared her evil Uncle’s forces catch wind of them soon.
    He looked at his hand and recited his favorite little rhyme to tell if he was sober, Lewis Carol’s ‘Jabberwocky’. He made it through the whole thing three times and suddenly shit was not cool anymore.
    They stopped at the edge of the Emerald forest, branching green crystals scraped the sky. He rolled out of the car and puked all over the ground. As he stopped to wipe his mouth a dozen little things squirmed out of the ground and cleaned up his mess. This made him even sicker, but all he could do was gag.
    She got out of the car, fully in her natural form with broad feathery antenna quivering, alert for the smallest scent from her Uncle’s forces. She walked over to her poor prince. He seemed sick, maybe it had been the dimensional travel. She tried to talk to him in his native language, but he ran away and impaled himself through the neck on a nearby crystal branch.
    She held him as life faded out of his body. She cried out in frustration. She closed his eyes and put him on the ground. She took his flesh and made herself a costume. She walked into her ancestral lands hunched over like an old woman.
    She’d been gone so long that this simple disguise was enough to get her past the palace guards and into her Uncle’s presence. She killed the evil bastard easily with a hidden dagger and claimed her rightful place as the queen on the following day.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

48) Star and bolt

    Once upon a time a falling star and a lightning bolt fell in love. This was before human civilization, before the Earth and the Moon were different at all.
    In the small moment that they could see each other they knew they were fated for each other. Now, this was not just any falling star, all the other ones were too snotty or too distracted to pay much attention to a single bolt. And this was not just any bolt of lightning, most of the others were too fickle or too stupid to pay much attention to the sky, let alone a single shooting star. These individuals were special.
     These crossed lovers, after their first brief meeting, promised each to see the other again. But as the Earth cooled, as the continents rose and fell, as the dinosaurs came and went, the two lovers plans came to nothing.
    It wasn’t until the lightning bolt met a curious monkey that he was able to sick around for a while and get used to the new world. For a million years the lightning bolt, reborn as fire, toured around and took in the Earth and fell in love again.
    He held the memory of the star still in the highest regard. He still yearned to be with her. If it had not been for the star he would have come and gone without ever knowing what it was to need and be needed in return. He would have never met this interesting species and helped it along by cooking its food and warming it during the night. This new relationship of protector and helper changed the fire, mellowed its attachment from obsession to something more wistful and tempered. It was love, but the love of a parent for its child, patient.
    When a star has fallen the memories of that star float back to its home out beyond Sol’s bow shock. And that memory of the love struck falling star returned to her cloud and spread her attachment, her obsession and her heart to her sisters in the Oort cloud. As time passes for these things differently than back on Earth the heart and promise of the falling star stayed bright and true as the monkeys continued to change.
    Eventually the apes became human and did wonderful things. They did magic. They built large monuments to the fire and tiny things to hold their fire and even tinier copies of the fire were made to dance in metal and glass. Fire saw this obsession and it resonated something deep inside. It finally recalled the falling star and where she was.
    They needed to go up. So, fire conspired with the humans to reach up to the stars. The humans, being exceedingly clever, took the suggestion and flew with it. The humans, being exceedingly brash and sometimes forgetful, only made it to the moon for the longest time and only a few times. They did a lot of interesting things in their own orbit and in their own atmosphere. But they never did reach out to the home of shooting stars until they changed again.
    In the land where shooting stars are born and where their memories return after they have passed word had finally reached the biggest, maddest one of them all, a carbonaceous mostly iron asteroid named Elle. Elle got it in her mind that she would see this obsession through. She marshaled her energies and set off down to the Earth and find the bolt of lightning.
    By the time Elle could see Earth, just a tiny blue dot, she was afraid she was going a little too fast, afraid that she might hurt someone, but she knew in her heart of hearts that love would take care of them both.
    Eventually the fire and the humans could not tell themselves apart from each other. They spread to the moon, they spread inwards to Venus and out to Mars.
    One morning someone spotted Elle coming out from the darkness. Alerts went off and machines made of solid fire were mobilized.
    With grace and beauty and tenderness these machines greeted Elle and eased her into a stable orbit a fair way behind the Earth in a convenient Lagrangian point. The daughters of fire caressed Elle until she was hollow. And she was soon home to a million tiny pink delicate old style humans in a tasteful nature preserve.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

47) Barry and John

    Barry and John laid prone in the dry midnight grasses out on the edge of the desert. This was supposed to be the highest concentration of UFO sightings this side of the New Rio Grand.
    “Pst, hand me the goggles.” Barry said, poking his partner in the ribs.
    “Ssh, wait your turn.” John shooed Barry away.
    “It is my turn… Ugh. Fine. You can make the damn coffee next time.” Barry said, hurt.
    “Here, if you’re going to be a bitch about it.” John handed him the night vision goggles, their ghostly green internal monitors illuminated his face for a moment.
    “I’m not being a bitch, you’ve had them for the last fifteen minutes. And thank you dear.”
    “You’re welcome… bitch.” John said with a sneer.
    “… You know I love you, right?” Barry pleaded, genuinely hurt.
    “You know I was kidding, right?”
    “I guess, still hurt my feelings.”
    “Oh shit, look over there!”
    “No. Way!”
    “Oh my god, is that it? Is that a ship?”
    In a blink of an eye it was over them, a chaos of lights and darkness. A deep bass thrummed through both of their bodies and rattled the pebbles on the ground. After a moment of fear and shock they got up from the dusty ground and shaded their eyes from the bright lights.
    “Which one is it?” John said.
    “I, I, I don’t know.” Barry who usually prided himself on ship watching stumbled. His brain froze.
    A search light burst from the ship and scanned the ground and found them. Simultaneously they latched on to each other.
    “Should we run, John?”
    “I don’t think there’d be any point.”
    The search light split into a dozen vertical layers like a cake, the colors cycled faster and faster.
    “I love you Barry.”
    “I love you too.”
    They hugged harder. The light stopped its frantic cycling split into two and they were wrenched apart. They tried to scream but the breath was sucked from their mouths and they passed out.

    Barry came to, “Oh man, what a shitty dream.” He rolled over and that shitty feeling continued. Something was drastically wrong. He didn’t remember falling asleep in the desert, that would have explained the scratchy stuff he felt under his hand when he was expecting soft sheets or the couch if they hadn’t gotten that far. “John!” He yelled before he opened his eyes.
    When he did open his eyes he wished he hadn’t. He was in a hut made of mud and straw. His bed was made of straw too, scratchy and dry.
    “John!” He yelled again, louder and more desperate.
    He heard his lover’s cry from far away. He got out of bed and couldn’t help but notice the difference. He was black. He was wearing a loin cloth and a roughly hewn brass key hung from his neck. Though John continued to scream for him he stopped and pulled and rubbed at his skin. Yup, it was real. He wondered idly if John had turned into another black man or maybe he was a small Asian woman. He shook his head and ran out the door of the hut.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

46) Captain Tortoise

    He launched himself gracefully from the roof, executing a double gainer and landing firm on him feet in front of the crook.
    “And where do you think you’re going young man?” He said in his authoritative voice, the voice he used when he said ‘Don’t do drugs kids’ or ‘Remember, kids, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables everyday’.
    The robber didn’t look impressed. His bag of stolen items jangled on his shoulder and the criminal said nothing. He pulled out a stick from his back pocket, it grew and branched and sparked.
    “You really should just give yourself up right now. It’s the right thing to do.”
    “Up yours Turtle man!” The robber said. He swung his bag around and tossed it at Captain Tortoise who deftly dodged it with a forward roll. The robber swung down with his wand and connected.
    The Captain’s body went rigid mid punch and he fell over, there’s no arguing with 50,000 volts. Parts of the wand broke off and stuck to the captain’s suit. Even with his athletic prowes Captain Tortoise found it hard to concentrate. The robber was getting away and he couldn’t move a muscle.
    After a moment the electricity in the device gave out, but by then the thief was long gone and the Captain was quite depressed. He readjusted his spandex suit and iconic armor, pulling out bits of the theif’s device. He limped to the brick wall, still in the shadow, and pulled out his pocket sized police scanner.
    Just then he heard the wailing of a child. That wasn’t reason alone to go check it out. Kids cried all the time in the city, for a variety of reasons. And there’s no reason to do people’s parenting for them. This cry however sounded worse. Not ‘Mommy I want a bike!’, but more ‘Daddy stop beating me!’
    Captain Tortoise shot his grappling gun up the opposite wall and climbed up the brownstone. The kid was still crying so it was easy to tell where it was coming from, the top floor. He flipped down his infrared goggles and peered into the darkened window. The room was awash in heat, one great pool on the floor and a child sized blob to the size. ‘Murder!’ he thought.
    He pulled himself up to the top of the building, rewound his grappling hook and used it to get to the other side. He lowered himself down to the fire escape and opened the window. As it creaked in protest he noticed that the screaming had repeated its self and that it was a bit too loud. But too late, a sharp pain pierced the side of his neck and he was out.
    He finally came to, groggy and confused. He strained at his bonds before he opened his eyes. He heard a light buzzing from the table he was strapped to and doubled his efforts trying to escape. As he tried to thrash around he took in the scene. He was in a warehouse, high ceilings and massive iron buttressing, probably at the docks, so only a good ten fifteen minutes away. That meant it was probably someone local with a grudge.
    “Well well well, so glad to have you up and at ‘em. Eh Captain?” Came a lilting voice from off to the side.
    “I’d know that despicable voice anywhere. It’s the BeeKeeper! I thought you were still in prison.” Captain Tortoise said triumphantly.
    “I was, he he he. Now you die.”
    “Wait, aren’t you going to tell me about your dastardly plans?”
    “I just did.”
    “I’m going to kill you.”
    “That’s it?”
    “Of course that’s it. You’re a pain in the ass and not a very good super hero.”
    “Super? I’m not super. I’m just a hero. And this city needs a hero.”
    “Maybe, but it’s not you.”
    “Now wait a second, what’s your beef with me?”
    The BeeKeeper moved into The Captain’s view in his brilliant white bee keeping jacket and matte black mesh hat. He pointed an accusing finger at the Captain. “My beef with you? Are you an idiot? You’re a hero and I’m a bad guy. This is grade school stuff.”
    “No wait.”
    “No more waiting.” The BeeKeeper clapped his hands together and there was a mechanical clicking sound from somewhere close. The table that the Captain was strapped to began to split down the middle and bees poured out from behind him.
    “No! Not the bees, I’m allergic.” The Captain cried.
    “I know.” The BeeKeeper said smugly. “Goodbye.” And he walked off as angry bees swarmed around the captain and stung him mercilessly.
    The Captain’s last thought as his throat closed in anaphylactic shock was that maybe he should have had a partner or at least a sidekick or at the very least an epinephrine auto-injector.

Monday, 17 October 2011

45) Judge in town

    Deep in the heart of the West drove a stage coach, dust and desert all around. Its one passenger was fast asleep, or at least appeared to be so, jostled and shaken around but still relaxed wedged between steamer trunks. The driver had been going all day without a rest or a word to his passenger, aiming for Laramie.
    When the passenger woke he saw out the window a wavering dark scar of a town, grey and all angles. He put the town at a good hour out and went back into his dream.
    In an hour they stopped, he woke and got out. The sun beamed down like an angry blast furnace.
    “This ain’t Laramie, is it?” He said to the driver.
    “No, sir, don’t rightly know where we are. Town ain’t on the map I have, but sure enough could use the break, if’n you don’t mind.”
    “Not at all. How long we gunna stop here?”
    “Oh, no more than an hour I suppose. I’ll fetch some water for me self and full up the oat for the steeds.”
    “Reckon I got time for a small beer?”
    “Sure ‘nuff.” The driver said and jumped down from his perch. He landed in a plume of dust and went straight to his horses.
    The man lit a cigarillo, started smoking it, and walked down the street for something to eat. The street was wide and the buildings grey, as most were these days. Additionally the street was empty of horses or walkers by, but that was common enough in the high desert in the middle of the day. He did spy a few uncurtained windows with people behind them, so it wasn’t a ghost town proper, just poor and tired.
    Finally he found what he was looking for, a building with the word ‘EAT’ painted simply on it. He walked over there, kicking up dust and feeling the warm piss trickle of sweat roll down the middle of his back.
    As he entered through the doorway the shade of the building was a welcome relief. Without knowing it he had expected a piano or fiddle being playing, but this was a poor town, maybe down on its luck, maybe poor born. He couldn’t see a piano. All the patrons, an old man sleeping in a shadowed corner and a group of men playing poker at a table, were silent and ignored him as he entered. Something was missing, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
    “Howdy-do stranger!” Came a familiar ebullient voice from behind the counter.
    The man only paused a moment to move the cigarillo from one side of his mouth to the other. It was Satan again in one of his many guises. This time it was a middle aged woman, her once full figure dried out and twisted from malnutrition, but her voice and posture were far too strong to be from anything but possession.
    He walked over to the counter and leaned against the rough wood. He said, “Whiskey.”
    “Oho, we haven’t had that spirit here for quite some time.” The Satan Woman said and laughed, deep and long, her voice filled with phlegm.
    The man looked around and now that his eyes were well adjusted to the light he could see that the other patrons had been frozen in place. And he finally noticed what was missing, flies. There wasn’t a single buzzing midge or horsefly.
    “So, Judge, what brings you ‘round to these parts?” She said.
    “Just passing though, looking for something to drink maybe something to eat.”
    She smiled and showed off her rotten brown teeth. She chomped obscenely at him, catching a bit of her bottom lip and biting it off. The blood flowed black then congealed quickly. She said, “I could you eat you, my delicious.” And spit out the bit of her lip. It landed quietly on the dusty counter.
    “But you won’t, will you? You havin’ too much fun?”
    “Oh, you’ve seen this moving picture show already then?”
    “Just abouts. This is the part where you ask if I’m a willin’ to trade my soul for the souls in this town. If I’m ready to lay my life on the line for some poor helpless boy or single mother. I know you. Hell, I’m probably still asleep, aren’t I?”
    “Who knows? Ah ha ha.” Her laugh was dry this time, and short. “Why you gotta take the fun outta things, son?”
    “I ain’t your son, now, yah hear. You disowned me long time ago.”
    “Don’t make no difference.” Satan said, “Blood is blood.”
    “So you say.”

Sunday, 16 October 2011

44) Camp Story

    “So, dear, how was camp?” His mom said. The truck jostled on the rough road as they slowly made their way away from camp Antawabe.
    “It was okay.” He said. The last fourteen days flashed in his head, new friends, new enemies, fire and stars, laughter and tears.
    They sat in silence as the country road turned into a paved one lane highway.
    “Well… what did you do?” She said, easily keeping the frustration out of her voice, an expert at the teeth pulling conversational dance she had to put up with to get him to open up and share anything more than a few grunts these days.
    “Well you know there’s a big orchard, apples, yeah. We put on a play in there. That was cool!” He said, brightening up. The nausea from the rough road had passed and he felt a little better.
    “What was the play?”
    “It was a scary one called ‘The Gold Bug’. Well, it wasn’t that scary. I mean we kinda hammed it up, you know?” The first time he’d read through it he had been scared, even more so by the other stories in that book, ‘The Tale Tell Heart’ and especially ‘The Mask of the Red Death’. Sleep had come thin and weak that night.
    “What part did you play in it?” She remembered the story vaguely from a College creative writing class. Something about treasure and codes, but nothing about it being scary, boring if anything.
    “I played Jupiter, the slave. It was kinda funny. Being the only black, or at least darker skinned kid in the camp I was a shoe-in.”
    “How funny?” She remembered a day in class when a militant black girl had stood up and argued with the professor about rights and colonialism. It had gotten heated.
    “They had me play dumb all the time, like not knowing what was going on or knowing my left from right. But it was fun. I didn’t have a lot of lines to learn and I could leave practice early.”
    The came to a stop sign and waited for traffic to thin out before getting on the interstate.
    “Cool, what about sports? Did you ride horses or learn to make a fire?” The brochure had guaranteed sports, fitness, education, and all in a natural surrounding. Not much different than the camp she and her siblings had been carted off to when they were kids. And now she knew why. The kid-less vacation for three weeks for her and Jim and the exposure to novelty for him, the lifetime of memories, was worth several grand.
    “I got to shoot a bow and arrow. That was cool.” He remembered the strong smell of straw in the afternoon sunlight, the light tang of mold and horse manure.
    “Did you get a bull’s eye?” She giggled a little recalling her own archery experience. Tal, lanky and awkward, but with that bow in her hand something had felt right. And even with the warped arrows and plastic bow she’d done far better than anyone else, hitting the red circle in the middle more than half of the time. For a second or two her fingers itched on the steering wheel to hold that supple bow again. She thought that maybe there must be an archery club in town. Maybe they could go later.
    “Nah, I wasn’t a very good shot. What I really liked was the fire class.”
    “Oh?” She said, a little too enthusiastically, she thought, to cover her momentary disappointment. But she realized he’d never catch it.
    “Yeah, we had a little bit of fluffy wood bark then a stick and a bow, that’s why I thought of it after I told you about the archery. And, and a pointed stick that we’d spin around on this other block of wood. Ha! I was totally the first one to get mine going. It was complicated ‘cause you had to hold down the other block of wood on top of the spindle.”
    He mimed the repetitive motion of moving the bow back and forth. Out of the corner of her eye it looked a little too suggestive to her.
    “Oh, mom, mom, mom, I made you something in shop class.” His voice rose up an octave and her heart skipped a beat. With all the adolescent grim and sulk she’d missed his naive enthusiasm.
    “What’s it?” She said, smiling.
    “Here!” He pulled out something hand sized from his back pack.
    “I’m sorry, I can’t see it right now, gimme a second.” She checked her blind spots and pulled over to the slow lane. An exit quickly came up and she took the turn. They stopped at the stop sign and she turned to her son who was holding up his creation.
    “Oh, dear, it’s gorgeous!” She took the shooting star from his hands. Layered in several bright colors of transparent plastic, some with glittering pieces, it was the most beautiful thing she’d seen in a long time. “Is that for me?”
    “Of course, mom!”
    She leaned over and hugged her little man.
    A semi truck with a sleeping driver launched off the highway, landed on their car and killed them instantly.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

43) Revelation

    After several minutes of crying he swore and lifted his self up. His eye felt like it was burning or bleeding. He could feel tears or blood streaming down his face. He picked up his bike and used it as a crutch as he padded back to the main gate.
    He wished he had a mirror finish on his phone, then it’d be easier to dig whatever was in his eye out. But he’d gone for the security finish and that was just matte black and useless. The gravel crunched beneath his boots and started whining into his sobbing.
    After several painful minutes of walking and shaking his head and trying to open his eyes Francis finally got to the security gate. He propped up his bike against the stucco wall and banged against the security door.
    “Hey, open up!” He yelled and banged some more. A new burst of pain screamed from his eye and he bent over double.
    Eventually he heard someone working the door from the other side. He rolled back on to the wall.
    “What’s all the hubbub bubo?” A elderly voice came from the doorway.
    He sputtered, “Oh god, finally. Hurt. Need help. Eye rinse. Water. Ugh.” Talking moved his jaw which moved his face which moved his eye lids which hurt like hell. Forgetting to hold it in he started sobbing again and pressed his fist into his eye as if pushing it in would help take the thing out.
    “Come on in, you poor thing.” She said. It was an old woman, he recognized. Must be Mary, barely five foot tall and leathery.
    “Thu-thanks.” He said. Mary’s hand was a calm and gentle force that eased him into the cool interior of the security bunker.
    He heard the door close and felt her guide him to a chair. Its leather was warm in weird spots.
    “You wait right here. I’ll be back in a second, okay?”
    He mumbled consent and tried to take out his phone. He had to call Genataxis as soon as possible, it was a big job and he’d hate to look like some flaky asshole. He got the phone back on with shaky finger.
    “Here,” Mary said and plucked the phone from his hand. “This will help.” She took his head in both her hands and leaned it back. He gave in completely to her. She led his clenched fist away from his eye and put in at his side. She tried to pry open his eye and said, “You gotta open up, boy.”  And slapped him on the arm.
    He grunted and grit his teeth. His eye grudgingly obeyed. The weak fluorescent lights from above burned into his skull through that eye. He wanted to close it again, but Mary’s reassuring hand calmed him down. He groaned and grit his teeth.
    She patted his arm, “Good guy there. Just hold it.” There was a crinkling of plastic and the pop of a something opening. Then the sweet sweet relief as cool water washed over his poor abused eye. He gasped in almost orgasmic relief. He heard the water splashing on the floor and wondered idly who was going to clean it up.
    “Ok, looks okay. Whoah, you gotta bee in your eye, son. Good thing you got Mamma Mary here to help you out and good luck. Damn thing’s stinger is still in. Jim wouldna piss on you if you was on fire.” She plucked something from his cheek and tossed it into the grass.
    He blinked slowly as sight came back begrudgingly to his poor eye. The world was half blur and half clear.
    “Take these too.” She said and shoved two pills into his half open mouth and followed with a glass of water.
    By instinct alone he swallowed, but then sputtered, “Wait. What was that?”
    “Just aspirin, I think?”
    “Oh, shit. I’m allergic to aspirin. Let me see the bottle.”
    She gasped and said, “Oh, I so sorry. I didna know! I swear.” She handed him a white and red bottle.
    He took it a peered at it with his good eye. It said, Acetaminophen. He let out the breath he didn’t know he was holding. “You’re fine. I’m fine. It’s okay. Oh god, that was close.”
    “It’s not Aspirin?”
    “No, just Tylenol. You’re fine. Don’t worry about it. Thank you so much.” He got up and towered over Mary. He paused then embraced her fully with both of his bulky arms and crushed her to his belly. She tensed for a second then eased into his hug and replied with gentle patting on his side rolls.
    “No worries, eh?” She said into his belly.
    “Ok, gotta go.” He said and left out through the open door. He grabbed his bike and head back home.
    It wasn’t until he was back up the hill, down the street, up his driveway, and opening his door when he realized that he’d forgotten his cell phone back at the security bunker. He sighed.
    First things first, he said to himself, call Gentaxis. He walked to his room and dialed up Gentaxis’ number from memory on his computer. He didn’t like Voice over IP, but it worked in a pinch.
    Ring ring.
    “Gentaxis. Tomorrow is today. How can I direct your call?” The calm voice on the other line said. He knew it was a real human and that was just classy.
    “Tony Bay in Recruiting please.” He said.
    “I’m connecting you now to Tony Bay in Recruiting. Have a good day.”
    Buzz, then some waiting room music. Then a quick click, then. “Tony here.”
    “Hi Tony, this is Francis Rounds. I’m supposed to have an interview today. Actually in a few minutes, but I’ve had a bit of an accident. Can we reschedule?”
    “Hi Francis. Oof, that’s going to be hard. Sorry, but we were scheduling three different time zones to talk to you.”
    “I know, I know. But a bee flew in my eye and I’m not really at 100% just now.”
    “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”
    “Yeah, fine. Just some water and flushed out.”
    “Didn’t it sting you? Are you allergic? We can fly out paramedics for you.”
    “No, it’s okay. It’s just my lucky day. I can be there whenever. Okay?”
    “Oh, don’t worry about that. We know you’re a good fit for the job. Just let us know where you are and we’ll send our limo, okay?” Francis could hear how straight Tony’s tie was and how crisp his suit was just by the sound of his voice.
    “Yea, sure. That sounds great.” He told Tony his address. “It’s a gated community, so just tell them you’re here for me. Okay? Or, no, wait. I’ll meet you at the front gate. I have to talk to security anyways. Okay?”
    “Perfect. See you soon.” Click.
    Even with a seven figure savings account Francis forgot how hot a commodity he was, in direct proportion to how long he was away from the game.
    He walked back outside, thought better of it, went back inside and changed into a clean shirt.
    When he made it to the front gate the limo was already there. Its shiny insectile black surface unfolded open for him and he slipped inside it’s cool interior thinking nothing of how far away it must have been to get there that quickly.

Friday, 14 October 2011

42) Survive Connect

    The phone rang, woke me up, and suddenly the last two years dissolved. I felt fat again, anxious about going to school, and not looking forward to seeing my roommate sleeping with his girlfriend on the way out the door to my 8am Computer Science class. As it continued to ring that nostalgic illusion dropped away. I scrabbled my skinny butt out of my sleeping bag to answer the phone. I was careful not to twist up the wires connecting it to the generator. I hit the answer button and said, “James here. Over.”
    “Kevin…” There was lots of static on the line and the words popped through hissing and crackles. “…Have contact. …Ver.”
    “That’s great, man. Great! Who is it? When are you coming back? Over.”
    “…hiss… Peat? Over.”
    “I said that’s great! Over.”
    “Ooo… Mean… Still Ghosts… Ver.”
    My mind raced. First I thought he’d made contact with other survivors. But now it sounded like he’d only made contact with more ghosts. And that was nothing to write home about, let alone waste valuable electricity talking over the phones for. I said, “I don’t understand. If they’re just ghosts why are you calling?”
    “…hiss… king Ghosts… Talking Ghost… Over.”
    My jaw dropped, that was something then. It wasn’t what we had wanted to find, more survivors or supplies or a way out, but it was new and new was good. I said, “When are you coming back? Over.”
    “… Ver.”
    “Hello, Kevin, please repeat. Over.”
    “… said, Never. This is… Ok? Over.”
    “No, no. Don’t say that. That’s sick. Come back! No, man, no! Over.”
    I waited for an hour, but there was nothing from Kevin other than silence. Eventually the phone’s battery gave out. I tried to cry, but I was all out of tears.
    Eventually I lit a candle and made my way over to the bicycle generator and started my morning routine while occasionally swearing and telling myself my story so that I wouldn’t forget, so I wouldn’t think it was all a dream and fall into madness hoping for it all to go away.

    My best friend Kevin and I had been shopping for our Superbowl party at the mega store when the incision came. That’s what I called it whenever I talked about it, which was never.
    The first thing we noticed was the darkness. The skylights on the far away roof had gone out like a velvet curtain had been passed over them. Then there was the panic, everyone screaming and running all around us. As consummate beta-males we hid our nervous selves between piles of dog food and kitty litter until everything settled down.
    We spent the time passing my phone back and forth with a game of chess until its battery died. Yes, we tried to call our relatives, but there were zero bars on both of our phones.
    Eventually the commotion died down and we peaked our heads out to an empty store still lit by emergency lights. There had been others in the store who didn’t run right away. Sam, the redneck, with a hot temper and Sally the secretary, a tall leggy blond and brave. Then there was Steve-o the Australian just in for the beer, and Adam the ex marine.
    We made it though the first week without disturbance. We took the time to gather supplies and make plans, useless plans. The world stopped in the middle of the parking lot.    When we tried the portable radios there was nothing on them, not even static. I knew what was up, but Kevin had to explain it to everyone else. He talked about microwave background radiation, the big bang, and interference, the electromagnetic spectrum and shadows. They got it eventually, but I think I was the only other one who really realized how alone we were.
    It was on the eighth day that the ghosts came. Full bodied ghosts, definitely dead, definitely not real, but really there enough to illuminate what was around them with a blueish white glow like a television. I hate to admit it, but I really freaked out and fell on my ass. A piss drunk Steve-o helped me up off the floor as the wispy shade of a woman passed through me. It didn’t feel like anything when they went through you, but it wasn’t pleasant to think about.
    There were ghosts from all cultures and ages. They just floated through and disappeared. Sometimes there were lots of ghosts, sometimes none for hours or days, but they were always silent and never acknowledged us. 
    The day after the ghosts came Adam lead a small team of us out to the parking lot for more supplies. We came back each time with more and more stuff: cell phones, batteries, food, and a child.
    She was dirty and starving. Her name was Melody. She was ten years old. She cried a lot. The next day she disappeared. Really disappeared. We looked for her for days.
    Then months passed. We ran low on batteries and candles. Steve-o sobered up when our supply of booze disappeared. He drank Sterno, but gave that up quick. Sam and Sally hooked up and Adam went quiet. Kevin and I just tried to stay out of the drama.
    On the one year anniversary of the incision Sam and Sally announced that Sally was pregnant. There was lots of yelling and crying. Sally ran away down one of the isles and disappeared.
    We looked for weeks, longer than we had looked for the girl. But we still found nothing.
    A week after the rest of us had given up Sam and Steve-o took off outside, into the dark parking lot. When Sam didn’t come back Adam went after him. Then it was just Kevin and myself for another year.
    Almost two years do the date we found a man hole grate under a parked car. We figured maybe it could lead somewhere else, maybe to more people. We jury-rigged several batteries together for Kevin’s phone and I stayed on the other line. I guess all that time in engineering classes really paid off. I wish I had had a computer to program, I really miss that level of control.

    Then Kevin was gone.
    I continued to live in the mega store for how long I don’t know, I stopped keeping track. Each day was the same, numb and empty. The ghosts continued to drift through the store, softly illuminating my dark world.

    I was asleep when I heard “James? James, wake up.” It was a soft woman’s voice.
    I rolled over to the voice, tired and awake, and sore and miserable. It looked like Sally, but with different clothes, really old clothes, maybe Victorian. Maybe this is who had gotten Kevin, I thought, maybe she’s come for me. But I didn’t care, I just stared. She looked so peaceful and beautiful and healthy.
    The ghost smiled and put out her semi transparent arm. Then she was gone.
    I think one day, if she comes back I’ll take her hand.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

41) Go Boom

    Francis was hopping on one leg, heading towards the door. His shoulder was scrunched up and holding his cell phone to his pudgy pale face. The phone’s tinny voice blathered on… “then select number 5, if you want to talk to an operator then select number 7 or wait on the line…”
    He spun surprisingly fast for a fat man, in only because he was already in motion, and braced himself against a convenient door jamb as he slid on his other boot. For a tiny slice of time his gaze whipped up from the wood floor, crossed the threadbare couch, and alighted on the full wall window to his backyard resplendent in the tropical mid morning. He then powered his vision to his phone, beady little black eyes through powerful lenses.
    The display of the phone was full of dozens of numbers and hashes and stars. He’d been working at the damn system for several hours, probing its decision tree to get himself back into the mood to talk AI. It was fun, but it was also frustrating. He’d picked a particularly obstinate challenge this time. He promised himself a pumpkin milkshake at the Luau Bar tonight if he figured out the tree before the interview.
    The company he was calling was a combination offshore data haven and credit union. They changed up their phone menu every twenty four hours taking into account previous calls in order to make an impossibly complex and convoluted set of pathways.
    He jabbed his pudgy finger at the ‘6’ key. The phone responded with static and then strange long drawn out vowels, then crackling, then the signal dropped, then he swore. He jabbed the power key to put his phone in sleep mode and shoved it in his breast pocket. That was his third run through the tree this morning, mapping out the dead spots. Find a pattern, see where it breaks, draw a map, and compare that map to other maps. That had been his simple motto for so many years it was damn near instinctual. And it had been so successful to afford him a house and plenty of toys. So many toys in fact he often forgot where he left them all. It was purely fun at this point, but he took it personally, he wanted to buy an island next year.
    From first consciousness this morning he’d been at the Bank’s phone tree and swearing up a storm, adrenaline pumping and beleaguered heart racing.
    Finally, with both boots on he jogged out the open front door and slammed it behind himself with his butt. He slid on to his waiting bicycle and pedaled off to the front gate. He passed several other cookie cutter McMansions just like his, eased on his brakes at the gate sensor and timed it just right so that he rolled through the opening gate. He went left and up the three hundred meters to the main street, Haliakoi Ave, past several ditches and the lone finger of a marsh with cattails and palm trees.
    He pedaled harder and harder, his brain buzzing with the previous maps of the phone trees he’d ferreted out before.
    He finally made a match with a map he’d done several months ago. It was spindly and long like a spider made of bundles of straw.
    A bight red hot pain jabbed him in the eye. He swerved and tanked hard onto the asphalt, limbs flailing and crashing into the unforgiving ground.
    He wailed long and hard, sniffling and crying hard into the uncaring sky. Gone were his plans for clever repartee at his interview at Genataxis in twenty minutes. Gone was his processing of the phone map. His body screamed pain and all he wanted was his mommy.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

40) Dick Sigg

    I knew she was trouble the second I saw her shadow cross my frosted screen door. Her profile said fresh water, but the way she swam in the air said only salt water tears. Now, I’m not like some of the working stiffs in this part of town, all attached to antique body forms. Hell, I’d have imported more Viridian or Martian into myself if the grafts weren’t so expensive and I wasn’t so broke.
    She knocked with her tail and I said “Come in, it’s open.”
    She pushed open the door with her tail and did a gracefully twirl to close is back. She was a juvenile yellow Fin Tuna, about six feet long, sleek and graceful, a hint of fake caustics shimmered across her body and hypnotizing scales.
    She was more modified than I had thought and twice as beautiful. She had gone for a full somatic reconstruction. Even her eyes were fishy, inhuman.
    She swam/flew over to me and coughed up a soggy and well mangled copy of my business card on to my desk.
    Her voice was full human though, female and soft and breathy and almost familiar. Her mouth parts didn’t move with the words, they slowly worked the water that was not there. “Mr. Sigg does this card look familiar to you?”
    I tried to read her fishy face, but failed. “It’s got my name on it, doesn’t it?”
    With a quick flip of her tail she zoomed across my desk, dislodged me from my comfy chair, and spilled me on the floor like cheap bourbon. She pushed her full body weight down on my chest. I was more aroused than I thought I should be.
    She said, “Detective Sigg. This is an important matter. I suggest you cooperate. The rest of my employers information gatherers might not be so gentle.”
    I was definitely aroused. “Sure, sure, no problem.” In the last seventy five years working here I had several very different reputations and I hate to be called out on my debts. This had to be Red Leaf. And my piece was far away in my desk drawer. “Just get off me and I’ll see what I can do. Okay?”
    She slid off me and I worked my way back into the chair. I looked closely at the business card. It was fairly dumb paper, two frames of animation, basically like a neon sign. I had them done at the mall. I still had a couple hundred of the damn things. Full color is cheaper these days. As the owner of the paper I could track it, if I still had the attachment. I powered up my terminal.
    “So, lady, who do you work for?”
    She said simply, “Cheldonia.”
    I coughed. Cheldonia was New Earth’s third largest kleptocracy, just below Disneytron and UCSTech.
    “Well, what do you want with a dumb gumshoe like me? I’m sure you have lots more qualified professionals at your disposal. Hell, I’m sure you have a police force or two, right?”
    She just floated there and stared at me with those fishy eyes.
    “Fine,” I said and got to work.
    I flipped on my terminal. I could hear its old hard drives whirring away under the desk. My terminal chimed. I tested the soggy card with a couple of test bends. And I dove into my peripherals drawer, pulling out thin black snakes of cables and rattling plastic housings. I tried to remember which one was the card’s scanner and prayed I didn’t need an adaptor. Eventually I was able to peel out the correct adaptor. I plugged it into my terminal and tried to dry the card with the end of my tie.
    “You do know that if the card is too damaged that I won’t be able to get much off of it.”
    “Just do what you can, Mr. Sigg.”
    I thought for a moment about some pithy replies, but ‘Cheldonia’ kept me quiet. No way I wanted to piss off this lady. If I could just get her out of my office that would be payment enough. My middle name is trouble, not ‘suicidal idiot’. Data started scrolling and I let out breath I didn’t know I was holding.
    “Ok, we’re good. This is the fifty seventh business card I ever gave out, if I handed them out in order, and I think I did. So that’s back in ‘21. The New New York Policeman’s Ball if I remember correctly. I gave out plenty that night, so that doesn’t help too much. Let’s see, what else. Hmm…” My heart stopped at the info. “Looks like this card has been off planet and for a long time too. Wait, that doesn’t make any sense. The scanner says this card is fifteen hundred years old! Is this some kind of sick joke?” Pre-singularity artifacts were rare enough that for someone to forge this kind of practical joke for my expense was about as probably as it having traveled though a worm hole and gone back in time, which was near zero.
    The fish lady sighed and said, “I was afraid of that.”
    “What do you mean?”
    She opened her mouth and a swarm of tiny spindly drone flew out. I covered my face with my arms and pushed back from my desk. It was an empty gesture. Several of them stung my arms and I was out cold.

    I woke with a severe headache. Before I could groan or open my eyes someone with kind hands put a glass of cold water into my hand and a smooth pill in between my lips. I took them and swallowed. It was certainly the placebo effect, but I brightened right up.
    I was on a wooly bed, warm and soft and safe. Something under me rumbled quietly. I opened my eyes all the way as the headache faded away. I was in some kind of small tubular room with clouds out the window. A plane? I was trapped in a plane with a beautiful blond. She half smiled
    I said, “Where the blasted hell am I? Who are you? Where are my pants?!”

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

39) On Light

    A young boy stared up at the single electric light bulb hanging down from the ceiling in the middle of his room. His long division homework was ignored, sitting half finished on the table, what entranced him was the light and the moths fluttering around it, occasionally banging into it as if they had no choice. He remembered magnets and a campfire, something about electricity through the air. He wished so hard he knew more. Light seemed like something solid, but the way it moved through glass told him different.
    He pulled his house key out from under his shirt. He closed one eyes and held the key between his open eye and the light. Light bounced off its contours and he saw something else in there. He slid the shoelace lanyard with the key on it off his neck and dangled the key like a pendulum. It twisted and turned, brightness flashed off its flat surfaces. He looked around the room and took in the way the light was colored like the key in its reflections sliding over the wall.
    An idea flashed through his brain. He slapped down the key on the table and got up so quickly the chair clattered to the floor. He ran over to his closet and dug through layers of dirty clothes and various found precious objects. Eventually he found the objects he was looking for, a funny bit of glass he’d found the weekend before at the beach and his flashlight. The glass curved gracefully on one side and was ridged on the other side, tiny bits of something sparkled inside it. The flashlight was his grandfathers, chrome and simple, scuffed but reliable. On second thought he reached into the dresser by his bed and grabbed some scotch tape.
    With all the objects in hand he started to combine them. The lanyard went around the flashlight. The glass went on the end of the flashlight, secured with tape around the edges. He pushed his chair back and carefully overturned his table. His homework fluttered to the ground.
    He stood directly under the lightbulb and looked up. Only one moth was left and he was a big one, his poor wings rained down tiny specks every time he hit the light bulb.
    The boy pulled up his lanyard and turned on the flashlight, a beam of pure white blasted out, lit his face, momentarily blinding him. He turned it back away and noticed the light spraying out the end of the glass and the way it illuminated his room. The stains and cracks on the ceiling and walls looked more like old skin in that light.
    He twisted the flashlight around and around then let it spin out. He let the lanyard slip down, he took the end and began to swing it around and around his head in a perfect circle. The object whooshed through the air and the moth banged against the light bulb.
    After the thirteenth swing his arms began to get tired. He looked up and the lightbulb seemed strange. It looked dim, redder, and the moth had somehow disappeared. He took that as an encouragement and gave his swinging more effort.
    There was a tone then, a high pitched “Nee…” followed by a sharp report like a gunshot. At that moment, to all outside observers the boy in that room would have disappeared.
    None of his neighbors were around to hear the sound so no one called the police until later when his mother came home and found him missing and his room a complete mess. She did everything in her power to find him, but it was all in vain. He had gone some-when else, far far away.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

38) Kevin Goes

    Kevin Dairy did the dinner dishes, satisfied and pleased with himself. As of noon that day he owned his house outright and that was truly a cause for celebration. Add to that his blind son was well again, after a recent bout with pneumonia and a stay in a hospital. Work was going well too, he’d met all of his quotas and his boss was ignoring him. Kevin put the last of the dishes on the drying rack and went to the living room to join his son relaxing by the fire.    "Hey, son, whatcha reading?" Kevin said to his son Martin.
    Martin cocked his head and paused from sweeping his hands back and forth along the book with apparent blank pages on his lap. "It's uh, a book on flowers, pop."
    "Good good, how was school." His dad said as more of a tired conversational gambit than a real question.
    "Uh," Martin hated the way his dad tried to chit chat when he was in the middle of reading. He had almost finished reciting the spell half under his breath. Now he'd have to start over. "It's okay. I, uh, have a lot of reading to do tonight for biology class." He lied.
    "Ok, son, no worries. I guess I'll do a little reading myself." Kevin stood up from his comfortable recliner and walked over to his meager library. He pulled down a well thumbed copy of a pulpy science fiction novel and failed to notice his son angrily flip back several pages. Kevin took his book, sat back down, and started reading silently.
    A half hour later Martin finished his spell. Nothing happened for a moment then there was a sound, a slight rumbling and then everything in the house shook violently for a second. Both of the men were shaken out of their chairs. A cascade of crashing came from the kitchen as all the dishes flew from their cabinets. The walls creaked and powdery dust fell from large cracks in the ceiling.
    Kevin tried to get up, but his ankle had been sprained from the fall. He crawled over to his son who lay prostrate on the floor. Kevin yelled, "Son, son, are you okay?"
    Martin said, "Up yours dad."
    Kevin was stunned and sputtered incoherently. His son had never addressed him like this. He hadn't thought he’d raised such a vulgar young man. He crawled closer and put his hand on the boy's shoulder. Martin shook it off just as the floor dropped from under their bodies and they slowly floated in in the air.
    Everything in the house that wasn't tied down floated for a good five minutes. To the terrified father it felt like hours. His heart raced and he felt short of breath as he swum around trying to hold on to something solid. The young man could only imagine the look on his father's face at the state of things and he finally felt powerful, like the world was doing what he wanted and not the other way around.
    When the house finally slammed back down the contents of the fireplace whumphed out making a large dark halo of ash.
    "What in the name of god almighty was that? Are you okay Martin? Oh god oh god oh god. Dear Jesus was that an earthquake?" Kevin said and turned to incoherent prayers.
    Martin pushed himself out from under the chair which was sitting on him. He addressed his father, "No god here, dad." And he laughed. First it was a titter then a full bellied cackle.
    "What?" Kevin screamed. "You've gone insane, son. Come over here, we'll pray it out."
    Then there came a knocking from the door, first polite and gentle then forceful and brutal. Then the door blew off its hinges in a shower of splinters. A beast with a human face stood on spindly insect legs. In several voices at once it called out, "Whom so ever has called this house down is truly damned. Let the warlock come forth and receive his justice and damnation."
    Martin got up and walked to the demon.

37) Jake the Fish

    Once upon a time there was a fish named Jake. This poor fish had questions. Too many questions. Fish at his age, just a few months, rarely had any questions at all they just did and went as they were told. But Jake saw the world through different eyes, for whatever reason, for a while.
    So, unsatisfied with the answers he was getting from his fish teachers and parents he did what any alienated youth does, he went out to explore the great wide world. He moved to a stream.
    It wasn’t much of a world, but after his first day there he heard of these creatures called humans, great gangly things like piles of fish walking around together. He heard from a crayfish that the humans tended to walk by a certain area of the river called the bridge. He didn’t know what that was, but he now had a chance at knowing, of finding answers from the humans.
    Jake made it to the bridge the next day at sunrise and spent the whole next day there, feeding off of mayflies and mosquitoes, not great food, but it sustained him. He stayed there for another day at the bridge getting more anxious and doubtful that the crayfish really knew what he was talking about.     Eventually he got so hungry he called up for pizza with his little fishy cell phone. Mmm, anchovies and turtle meat, his favorite. As Jake enjoyed his pizza and carbonated beverage his father’s offer of work in the family business started to seem less of a chore, the humans certainly weren’t any help.
    The next day Jake put on his best fish suit and showed up unannounced at his father’s office, “F.P. Hunifluff Esq. VP of Merchandising ”
    “Jake, what’re you doing here?” His father Frank said.
    “I’m here to sell Snails, if you’ll let me.”
    They swam up to each other and embraced. For weeks Frank had been sad that his son had run away and wouldn’t be helping out in the family business, but this, he’d never expected.
    “Oh, Jake,” his father said, “You’ve made me the happiest fish in the river!”

Friday, 7 October 2011

36) My Island Vacation

    “My Vacation”
    This summer my parents and I went to this little Greek island without a name. My Uncle owns it and it has an old castle on it. Mom was really excited, and a little weird, when the key to the place came in the mail. It looked exactly like those old fashioned keys in horror movies, big and rough.
    We flew to Sicily the next day. They served sushi on the plane. It was really tasty. I didn’t think I would like it, but after I had the egg one I was hooked. Even the seaweed was good.
    When we landed in Sicily Dad had arranged for us to drive to the coast, not in our normal limo, but in a rickety old truck. It smelled like goats, but I was so tired I slept the whole way and didn’t wake up until we were at the pier. It was already dark and Mom gave me this really cool torch, it was small but very bright.
    I guess the owner of the boat didn’t want to take us to the island because it was just Dad and Mom and I that went out the next morning, really early. Mom and Dad argued about it a lot before we actually ended up sleeping in the boat. He said it would be too dangerous to go at night. She didn’t want to sleep there, but Dad said that eveyone was so tired it wouldn’t matter and it was warm anyways. I didn’t care, I thought it was really cool. I went to the side of the boat and used my torch on the water. I thought I saw fish in there.
    When morning came around Mom had been a clumsy one and had a black eye. She had fallen into one of the winches. I got her some ice from the cooler and tried to make her feel better. The sun was just coming up and the sky was all oranges and purple.
    It took about a few hours to get to the island. Everyone was really quiet. Mom wanted to hug me a lot.
    There wasn’t much on the island its self, not even any goats. I played around in the ruins. I don’t understand why there was a key at all, there weren’t any doors. Maybe it was for something else. I don’t know. Mom or Dad wouldn’t tell me what it was for and I didn’t see it again. Maybe it was magic?
    We left after a few hours. Dad was all dirty like he had been rolling around in the mud like a doggie, but he had a really big smile. Mom was just sad. She’s sad a lot these days. I try to cheer her up, but I don’t know what to say.                            

Thursday, 6 October 2011

35) Rob and Helen escape

    Robert continued to fiddle at the combination lock behind his back. Helen had a little of the palsy so she was useless for the fine work. She was, however a great flirt and excellent at distracting the guards.
    The combination lock guarded the janitor’s storage room, the only room with a door to the outside that didn’t have an electronic gate alarm that would go off if they passed through it with their wrist bands on. And the guards were well meaning orderlies, but goddamn it Rob and Helen were getting the hell out of Sunny Homes.
    Robert thanked the dozen odd successful jobs that had afforded him a rebuilt nervous system and enhanced quick twitch muscles in his fingers and forearms. The operation had taken several days and the recovery was murder, but damn if it wasn’t a great investment.
    “Hee hee hee.” Helen’s loud warning giggle came from around the corner. Sweat broke out on Robert’s forehead. He felt for that last click and… Snap! The pin pulled out and Rob jiggled the lock so that it would still look closed, but he’d be able to open it later with a quick flick of the wrist. He tapped his metal cane on the wall twice, the signal for mission accomplished. He had had five minutes to jigger the lock before the next set of orderlies came by this wing for the four o’clock surprise inspection.
    Quickly Rob assumed the position of a lazy old man, hunched over and walked around the corner and back up the hallway to where Helen was flirting with the orderly, Jim or Steve, over a trolley full of romance novels and pulpy science fiction books.
    The orderly said, “Hey Mr. Franklin, howya doing?”
    Rob ignored them both and hobbled on by. He still had work to do.

    Helen kept the orderly busy for a few more minutes, showing plenty of cleavage and startling innuendo just for the shock value. Then she turned around without a word and walked after Robert. She passed the indoor swimming pool where a group of fellow blue hairs were executing synchronized water ballet. She passed the kitchen where she knew that if she were tall enough she could look into the door’s window and see the cooks emptying pre-made meals from large chrome bags into steaming pots to be warmed up. Eventually she walked by Rob’s door. She gave it a quick double tap in their prearranged pattern.
    Rob opened the door with his arms outstretched. She shuffled in and closed the door behind herself.
    They hugged for a good long while.
    Hellen said, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”
    Rob laughed.
    She didn’t care about his past, alienated family or not, jail time or not, this was the man for her. Sure he was the only one with enough marbles left to pull off this escape, but he gave such great hugs. Everytime, somehow, she melted into his embrace and the decades melted away.
    “Are you still sure you want to do this?” He asked.
    “Are you nuts? This place is killing me faster than the plague would.” She said, breathing into his chest.
    “That’s not the only thing that’s out there you know.”
    “Look, we’ll get an net-plant and we’ll be fine. My grandson has a trusted site and we’ll know what’s up.”
    “And we’re just going to walk into a Lucky Dragon and get a couple of packs? They take ID at the register. We’ll be screwed.”
    “I can just ask a couple nice young kids to help us out.”
    She grumbled.
    “Leave it to me, we’ll be fine.” She hummed a little tune in time with the strong beating of his heart.
    “I’m not even sure I can still get work.”
    “Are you trying to back out… Mr. Franklin?”
    “Pssft, not even. I just want you to know it’s going to be hard. No more three squares and a bunk. We’ll have to fight for our lives.”
    “We can farm gold if it comes down to it.”
    “Yea, I guess. But it’ll fry out my arms, and… god I’m so nervous.”
    “Wait a second, didn’t you help out with an assassination.”
    “Yeah, maybe.” She pulled back and looked up at his wrinkly face. He looked like an Italian Santa Claus, big white beard and tan skin, bright green eyes with the weight of the world behind them.
    He smiled and said, “We’ll be fine baby. Everything’s going to be okay.” He leaned forward and gave her a kiss on her forehead.
    She said, “Ok, let’s play the dumb old fogies and wait this out.”
    He nodded. She left his room. And they each kept themselves busy for the next hour. Rob put on his street clothes. Helen finished the fractal jigsaw puzzle her great grandson had had printed for her in the commissary.
    Come five thirty Robert Franklin and Helen Egan both arrived at the janitor’s closet and gave each other a soft high five.
    “Point of no return.” He said.
    She pulled open the lock and opened the door for him.
    He nodded and went through, she followed and closed the door behind him. The room was pitch black until Rob turned on his cane’s glow. They meandered through piles of boxes and ladders and complicated looking cleaning equipment. Eventually they made their way to the back door. It was locked. Without a word Rob pulled out two small pieces of metal from his coat, slipped them into the lock. Twist, click, and the door was open.
    Helen stifled a gasp. The early evening sun shone sideways down the small alley. Rob shooed her through, exited himself, and closed the door behind them.
    They held hands and walked down the alley to their stolen freedom.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

34) Time King

    Once upon a time a king sat alone on his throne. He was tired and hungry, but dared not get anything to eat because if he did he knew he’d have to go to the kitchen and interact with the help there. He’d gotten so used to being alone that he couldn’t really stand other people. As much as he had been the leader of the ingenue in the court, happily watching courtiers and dukes stab each other in the back, he’d grown appreciative and jealously guarded his time alone to his thoughts.
    So he sat, frustrated and watched the court mid party. Jesters stared up at their juggling batons stuck in the air. Revelers were frozen mid laugh with half eat food clearly visible in their open mouths. Wine was a solid and smooth crystalline sculpture being poured into glasses or splashed around.
    The silence was the first thing he noticed and appreciated when he’d activated the magic wand he’d gotten for his birthday from his court magician. That was years ago, or just now, he wasn’t sure.
    He’d flicked the wand on and delighted at how the whole world froze around him. The first thing he’d done was rearrange his revelers’ food and drink and turned people around. When he’d turned time back on after that there was a great uproar. He had laughed for minutes, longer than any jester or social gaffe had tickled him before.
    For the second time he sat frozen in time for days or perhaps weeks, the sun never changed position so he couldn’t tell how long it had been. For the time that seemed to pass he got hungry much slower, but still his stomach growled eventually. And then he’d go off to the kitchen for a second and grab some food. He’d long ago drunken all the wine at the tables and he’d gone quite sober, that was for sure. He no longer felt a part of his court, their ruddy laughing faces and drunken smiles were beyond him. He felt trapped by his station, his castle, and the things he owned he felt truly owned him. He couldn’t be his own man and he couldn’t go back to mindless partying. He was a King, he realized, not just a figure head of state, but the world truly revolved around him. He realized how much he’d been manipulated by his court to be numb to the world around him. Everything he knew was well filtered through their moral handicaps and prejudices. He realized he had never been a man of the world.
    He put down his crown, took off his grand party cape, took off his ornate buckled shoes, and walked out of the court. They wouldn’t miss him when he decided to turn time back on, whenever that was.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

33) Emergency Drop

    Aboard the private jet ‘Banana Flapper’ the senior CFO of Rhenium industries slept soundly and loudly, his snores echoed through the opulent cabin. The sun was shining and the sky was blue, but his body clock was still on Hong Kong time and for him it was three in the morning.
    The jet’s pilot, one Bert Mackelby, was keeping half one eye on the instrument panel and one eye on his latest issue of Pork Weekly when all of a sudden one little warning light went off. He put down the magazine mid article, something about cooking bacon at the base of Mt Everest, and checked the control panel. The warning was a magneto, used for picking up objects that flew along the Earth’s magnetic lines. Usually it was a flock of geese and usually they were well below the plane’s cruising altitude.
    Bert flicked on his communication deck and typed the warning light and his position. The command came back to call Air Support. His closest was hi hub’s air traffic control node in Texas.
    Bert dialed it up and put on his headphones.
    “Texas 1 niner this is Bert Mackelby of the ‘Banana Flapper’, I’ve got a red light on my magneto and she says to call you. Over.”
    The reply came in a beat, “Good Evening ‘Banana Flapper’ this is Texas 1 please state your coordinates.”
    “Texas 1 I’m over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,” he gave them his coordinates, “And it’s morning here.”
    The reply took a little longer this time. “‘Flapper’ we advice you drop altitude immediately.”
    “Why Texas? What am I going to hit?”
    Just then there was a soft ping followed by several more. Bert looked up and saw a yellow black gooey smudge on the windscreen.
    “Bugs, Banana, lots of bugs. Go now, you should be just entering them now. If you get into the thick of them they’ll clog up your turbines and then you’ll really drop some altitude.”
    “Ten Four. Thanks Texas.” Bert said and closed the com. He flipped a few switches and pushed down on the flight stick. Bugs continued to pitter patter on the windscreen. When he looked up momentarily he could see a black fuzzy cloud ahead. He’d never seen so many bugs before, never even imagined there could be so many in the world. He pushed harder on the flight stick and the plane dove.
    Bert heard yelling from behind him and pounding on the door, that damn executive must be up, he thought. He switched his headset from radio to intercom and said, “My apologies sir, but we’ve hit a bit of turbulence, please return to your seat and we’ll be steadying it out soon.” The yelling continued but Bert returned his focus to their dire situation.
    He didn’t think they had been that low, but the ocean was coming up too quick for him. He yanked the stick back and was pushed violently into his seat. He felt bad for the executive in the cabin.
    They’d shed several hundred miles per hour and several thousand feet of altitude. Bert breathed a sigh of relief. They had gotten past the worst of it.
    Then several warning lights snapped on and a high pitched alarm went off. Turns out the damn bugs had already gotten into the engines. Bert watched as the fuel gauge started to fall too. He swore and crossed himself. They were probably toast. He switched on the emergency beacon and spoke into his microphone, “My apologies sir, but we’re going to have to make an emergency landing. Please refer to your emergency instructions in the side pocket and assume the proper positioning. This may be a little rough.”
    Bert pulled back on the stick and tried to get them some altitude. For a moment through the light dusting of clouds he could see a dark green smudge on the water, but he couldn’t tell what it was.
    Quickly the engine gave out and the fuel red lined. He said, “How running into bugs busted my fuel line I’d like to know. Damn-it.”
    The engines gave one last sputter and then the plane began to dive. Bert expertly crashed into the water. It was rough, but decent enough. He made sure the emergency beacon was still going, grabbed his pack, threw on a life jacket and went back into the cabin.
    The whole place was a mess. The stupid executive had obviously not read the information brochure on what to do in an emergency and panicked. His suit jacket was on one side of the room and his pants on another, and he was laying quietly face down in a pool of his own blood and sea water.
    The plane tiled and swayed. Bert quickly kneeled down next to the executive and took his pulse, there was none.
    He buckled up his pack and opened up door and dropped the door down into the water.
    The day was beautiful, warm and sunny, water lapped at the bottom of the open door.