Archive for August, 2017

Storytime: Garbage.

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Gerry was mostly garbage.
You know. Banana peels; candy bar wrappers; wads of paper and shreds of Styrofoam; old beer bottles; crisp pizza boxes; old pickles jars with the juice still in and used Kleenex.
And that was normal, and that was okay!
Gerry was moved on occasion to clean out his garbage. To ungarbage himself. To put it into big, black plastic and lug it to the small, concrete curb and chuck it into a tall, steely cylinder until who knew took it who where. Out of sight, out of under-the-sink, out of mind, might as well be out of this world.
And that was normal, and a little bit bad!
Gerry walked out his front door on the way to work, and he heard shuffling and he heard shredding and he walked up to his precious garbage can and he opened it up and inside was the biggest-ass raccoon with the biggest ass he’d ever seen on an animal that wasn’t related to him. It was wedged at the bottom of the can.
“Hello,” said the raccoon. “I seem to be stuck. Can you save me, kind stranger and passer-by?”
“You’re in my garbage,” said Gerry. This offended him. He might’ve been throwing it away, but it was HIS.
“Oh, yes. I was hungry. Wasting away. Very kind of you to do this. Would you please save me?”
“I should shut the lid and leave you for the truck,” said Gerry kindly.
“Oh please, please, please save me, kind garbage man,” said the raccoon. “If you do, I’ll grant you three wishes with which to make your wildest, tamest, and lamest dreams come very true!”
“Wow,” said Gerry. “What’s the catch?”
“None, just ordinary, run-of-the-mill wishes. Well, normal. Normal for their type.”
“Which is?”
“These are garbage wishes. You have to wish for something about garbage.”
Gerry thought about that.
“I’ll throw in a fourth,” said the raccoon.
“Sure, why not,” said Gerry. And he turned the can upside down and thumped its bottom with his palm until the raccoon shot out like a cannonball and faceplanted onto his lawn.
“Done and done!” it shouted as it scurried down the street. “Just be careful!”
Gerry was unphased. He knew exactly what needed to be done. Four doses of purest power were right there inside him, fizzing and bubbling and waiting to be unleashed as he saw fit.
Right now he saw a very particular fit. A little, everyday fit. One that merited his attention. One that had foiled his every attempt to solve it through normal, rational, reasonable means.
“I wish,” said Gerry – and the air pressure in his ears went all funny and he had to swallow a couple times before going on – “that my neighbour would stop leaving his trash on my lawn.”
And then he went to work.

Before Gerry’d even pulled out of his driveway his neighbour was breathing his last; felled by a stray bullet from his OTHER neighbour who’d been cleaning his gun while super sure that it was unloaded. By breakfast he was downtown; by lunch he was on the news; by the afternoon Gerry’s neighbour’s sister, who was a police officer, had accidentally dropped him down three flights of stairs; by dinnertime Gerry’s other neighbour’s cousin, who was on city council, had publically demanded her resignation.
Anyways by the same time next week half the city was at bureaucratic war with the other. But Gerry saw that lo, his neighbour’s garbage was nowhere to be seen, on his lawn or off it, and he was mighty pleased with that. Mighty pleased indeed.

Gerry’s good mood lasted him halfway to work. But then, at a stoplight, he watched the big doof in the big doofy truck next to him finish off a cigarette and flick the butt out the window without looking. It landed on Gerry’s windshield, where he was looking.
“I wish,” said Gerry – Pghlem roared through his sinuses and he gulped, queasily – “that nobody’d ever throw litter at my car again.”
The light dinged, the motors revved, and Gerry’s car proceeded into the intersection just ahead of the giant out of control semi that jackknifed through everything and chucked people and vehicles into the air like flipped coins.
The resulting traffic jam shut down one of the city’s busiest streets. The ensuing road rage led to a few more accidents that took out four or five of the rest. Then a small riot broke out and they just had to shut down well, uh. Pretty much everything.
Gerry got home on one of the last operable streets and parked his car. As sirens roared in the distance from immobilized police, he admired its spotless surface. Not so much as a wad of spit.

Gerry had the next day off. For some reason nobody was going anywhere.
So he went for a walk. Gerry liked walks because he so rarely took them; they were a treat that way. If he walked more than once a week he began to resent them.
It was the usual route. Down the street, across the road, up the street, through the way, from here to there and back again, then the donut store, which was being solo-manned by the youngest employee because she was the only one within hiking distance of the place.
“Five donuts and a large round zirconian latte-lattice with extra squid,” said Gerry expertly.
The barista checked under the counter. “Nah,” she said. “We’re out. Didn’t get the resupply today.”
Gerry’s walk was ruined instantly, all his hopes and dreams mangled. He slumped his way out the door and down the road and was almost run over by a garbage truck, the one garbage truck the city had been able to field that day, which was behind on time and schedule and had only been able to make it by driving over at least four smaller cars.
The driver made a gesture out the window, then repeated it twice but slower, to be sure.
Gerry understood it properly. He understood it very properly. And he shouted in a voice at least three octaves higher than normal: “I WISH YOU’D LOSE YOUR DAMNED JOB.”
The garbage truck honked merrily and went around the corner, where all its wheels fell off.
Later in the day a city hall employee trapped in a six-hour meeting-cum-wrestling-match who’d been forced to take the chair next to an overflowing trashcan stuffed with half-empty coffee cups stood up, grabbed a pen, and eviscerated the mayor. Half the council took his side, the other half didn’t. Then the police got involved, which got the attention of the national guard, which annoyed the military, which required the firefighters, which and so on and so forth.

And so as Gerry sat on his porch that evening, smoke rising from the city around him, he tried to take his mind off the gunfire three blocks over by looking for the big dipper, squinting up through the haze and charred fog.
“There!” he said. Then one of the stars blinked and he realized it was a plane.
“There!” he said. Then one of the stars moved and he realized it was a satellite.
“There!” he said. Then he realized it was actually Orion’s Belt.
Gerry swore loudly. But then he remembered: he had one wish left! Oh lucky day! Oh hooray for raccoons!
“I wish all this garbage wasn’t blocking my view,” he said.
And lo! There went the smoke!
And lo! There went the smog!
And lo! There went the obfuscating haze of the atmosphere!
And lo! There went the clouds of dust and debris and rock and plants and animals and broken concrete and mantle and magma and core and Earth and everything!

And my oh my, Gerry had the clearest view of the night sky of anyone who’d never been in low Earth orbit.
Of course, that didn’t exist anymore.
But wasn’t the view pretty?

Storytime: Dig DUG.

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Rosie was a hundred and two feet in the air on DUG’s left side when she dropped a rivet. It was one of the new ones, the big terrifying ones from the Terramac that exploded out of her launcher like hot rocks from a volcano, that ate through metal until they hit air again and became startlingly meek, tame, and as immovable as a mountain range.
“Fuck,” she said, under her mask, under her helmet, under her breath.
Don’t Sweat It, said DUG, who heard her no matter what. They’re Cheap Anyways.
Rosie gave DUG a look from under her bangs under her sweat under her helmet under the glare of the sun, and she knew DUG didn’t care. But she said it anyways.
“Those rivets cost half an hour’s pay. For me, all the others, and our supervisors. Combined.”
Not The Rivet. It’s Fine.
“Well then?”
It’s The Man Whose Helmet It Landed On.

It hadn’t stopped, of course. Not until it hit air again.
If lower-riveter Jenk hadn’t fallen over as it burrowed through his boot, it probably would still be going down there, through thicker and thinner walls of rock and magma until the heat boiled it away. As it was it had formed a perfect seal on the heel of Jenk’s left foot, attaching his boot so firmly to flesh that it had to be left on at the funeral – or so Rosie heard later, since she hadn’t been that close to Jenk. They built things that worked out there in the Terramac. They always did.
Of course, they hadn’t built DUG. Or DUG’s construction site.
DUG was not perturbed by any of this. Men and women had died working on DUG, men and women were dying working on DUG, and there would definitely be men and women dead at the launch of DUG. They were basically the same as the metal shavings peeling off the hull, or the lug charges discarded from the cannons. Prematurely spent.

DUG. Not Dug.
Dynamized Undersea Guardian.
DUG was a quarter mile wide and much longer than DUG was wide
DUG was capable of holding half a town inside DUG’s guts, and needed two-thirds of that to be operated properly.
DUG was armed with cutter-cannons that were backed by boilers bigger than the lungs of a god that could shoot out the surface of the sun in single solid shots or spew out unending boiling torrents or create a seething steamscreen on command with the flick of a tiny switch and the rotation of a house-sized locking catch.
And oh, but oh, DUG was so very, so very, so very very bored.

Rosie would do, mostly. As far as she could tell, that was the sum total of her qualifications. DUG wasn’t shy about sharing DUG’s opinions of the little people putting DUG together. Some DUG liked more than her, some DUG liked less than her, but as far as she knew she was the only one DUG bothered talking to.
DUG hated rivet foreman Immik. DUG liked lower-riveter Telimis. DUG could take or leave the boiler installation crew. DUG adored the work teams that hauled DUG’s jet intakes into place. And DUG complained about the mess crew staff at least once per day.
Rosie nodded a lot during her shifts. Her friend and/or coworker and/or acquaintance and/or who knew, Akro, made a habit of checking every half hour or so to see if she was ‘falling asleep.’
“I’m awake,” Rosie told her.
“Sure,” said Akro. “Sure. Sure.”

DUG was more than gossip. Actually, DUG was more than mostly not gossip. What DUG mostly was was murder.
Every morning when Rosie came in DUG would tell her all about the sights and sounds of the evening. As she ascended DUG’s hull DUG would move on to DUG’s thoughts and feelings on the people working there. And as she plugged in her launcher and wounded it up tight and pressed it to the first plate, DUG would seamlessly shift into talking about what DUG wanted to kill that day.
‘Galms, Of Course, DUG told her. There’s No Doubt They Will Be First.
“The Dynamized Undersea Guardian was constructed to assess and repel the potential coastal spread of the Silence of the Stone,” said Rosie, dutifully speaking the words someone else had carefully given to her in case she felt the need to ever have an opinion.
A Very Good Excuse But Not Much Else. I Can Park Next To That For Ten Minutes And Solve It. What Comes after? ‘Galms. Buckets Of ‘Galms. Heaps. Mounds. Bobbing, Floating Carpets. And They’re What These Cannons Are For, Of Course. Can’t Boil Silence. But You Can Burn Someone’s Ears Out.
Rosie nodded. Akro poked her.
Or Maybe The Terramac. Finally Get Matagan Exclusive Access.
“I’m awake.”
Or Nagezz – Now That’d Be Nice. Turn The Dunes To Glass And Dig Their Treasures Out With A Pebble And A Slingshot.
“Sure! Sure.”

Rosie was increasingly glad she had nobody waiting at home for her. She was getting sick of listening to people.

The crowning tower was the next bit of work. Tricky. It was what sat atop DUG’s giant, invincible brow, peeping above the waves like a curious fish checking for trouble. When it found it, it would tell DUG, and DUG would kill whatever it found, rising up from below to mash and mangle and boil and sear. It was very simple, but it was also a wall of caged steel and angry mechanisms, so it took a little while.
A little while and a lot of rivets. Rosie’s palm murmured deathly things to her every time she reloaded her launcher.
You Missed A Spot.
Rosie hadn’t missed a spot, of course. Akro had. But Rosie fixed it anyways, and kicked her in the leg.
“What?”
“You missed a spot.”
“Oh.” She scratched her nose pointlessly – there were three layers between her face and her gloves – and nodded. “Thanks!”
The whistle for break sounded and Rosie took off her gloves for a second to wipe off the sweat. Just a second. Longer than that and the reflected heat from DUG would start to bake them. In the midsummer noon the upper heights could almost glow with heat.
Aren’t I Pretty?
Rosie nodded and this time Akro didn’t poke her because if you wanted to sleep on break it was your own damned business.
The Prettiest You’ve Ever Seen, I Expect. Look At These Guns. Aren’t They Lovely?
“Maybe,” said Rosie. “Ask me about rivets.”
They’re Seamless.
“Then don’t ask me,” said Rosie, and she fell asleep on purpose this time.

The whistle woke her up, followed closely by Akro’s finger in her back.
“I’m awake.”
“Sure! Sure.”

DUG ate Akro three days later. The crowning tower deck popped open under her feet under the stress of heat expansion and she fell a screaming twenty stories all the way to the bottom of the hull and needed sixty gallons of (very hot) water and rancid, acidic soap to clean her out.
Rosie didn’t ask why.
I Was Bored, explained DUG.

Rosie read the news at home sometimes, when she could afford it after making the necessary purchases of gin, food, and gin.
The Silence of the Stone was spreading faster. Or slower. Or it had stopped.
Gelmorre was posturing, proposing, or possibly prevaricating, perfidiously.
Matagan was utterly invincible and sure to hold fast as long as every citizen did their part and the full force of Matagant ingenuity, resources, time, blood, spit, and semen was poured into their plans.
The best plan in all of Matagan was the DUG, down at the Big End Shipyard out where prying eyes couldn’t goggle too much at it. Someone had taken some very flattering pictures. The cutter-cannons glistened in the sun.
“Aren’t I pretty,” said Rosie, and doubled her gin budget.

Warships Are, Of Course, Male, said DUG.
“Every sailor ever born disagrees with you,” said Rosie. She still hadn’t had a new partner assigned since DUG had eaten Akro, and that meant she needed to expend extreme concentration on making sure she didn’t slip, or run out of rivets, or make a mistake, or die, or break her tools, or get eaten by DUG. Instead she was talking more to DUG.
Ships Can Be Female Because Sailors Want Something To Fuck. I Have Cannons. I Will Do My Fucking For Me.
“Not quite how any of that works,” said Rosie. She counted her rivets again. She had lost two.
You Are Composed Of Organic Materials And Therefore Biased. Only I Can Be Objective About Your Biological Sex Because I Am Neither Biological Nor Capable Of Reproduction.
“Pull the other one,” said Rosie.
I Have No Hands. I Have No Testicles. I Have A Magazine That Fuels My Cannons. My Point Is Reinforced. Just Like My Hull.
You Missed A Spot.
Rosie leaned out over a hundred feet of nothing much, one hand braced on the hull, and looked.
“No I didn’t.”
I Suppose Not.

The next day one of the boilers shook loose in its mount and squashed four people. DUG told Rosie a long story about how many people could die in one of its volleys, if only they all stood still and didn’t move around much. There was a lot of math.

On the day of DUG’s launch they stopped keeping everyone away from the Big End Shipyard and they brought them all in instead. Everyone who was important got good seats, everyone else got makeshift stadium rows rummaged out of old scaffolding.
Rosie got tucked into a corner behind some toilets. She didn’t much care. You could see DUG for miles. You could see DUG from Matagan proper. Some people had stayed home and decided to watch from their houses. Everyone here on the spot was most likely some brand of showboater.
See the boat. See the show.
See the bottle of incredibly expensive alcohol about to shatter against a single knobbly rivet, formed of and embedded within metal that could survive anything at all.
Crash! Bang! Tinkle-tinkle-splash!
Cheers, hoorahs! Woo! Yes! Amazing! Wonderful! The sun was out and everything was shining, from the cannons to the hull to the cannons to the brandy flowing over the rivet.
Aren’t I Pretty? asked DUG.
And then the rivet popped out, still-wet with brandy.
For an imaginary moment Rosie thought she could hear the trickle of expensive liquor seeping inside the hull.
Then the plates jerked apart, the metal roared, and every part in DUG’s bow violently shot away from every other part.

When the earth stopped shaking and everything metal had stopped screaming, DUG was still talking. Of course. She’d expected that. There was no animal harder to kill than a warship, not a bird from the sky or a Wyrm from Afar or a thing from the deep. She knew that because she had been told so.
You Loosened That Rivet On Purpose.
Rosie checked all her limbs. Yep, still there. Even the liver.
This Would Never Have Happened, DUG said to her, If You Had A Penis.
Rosie spat aimlessly at the ground, stained with DUG’s lifebloods, lymphs, cerebral fluids, and intercavitary secretations. Most of them were mostly oil, but none of them was altogether alike.
“Whether I do or don’t,” she said aloud, comfortable doing so in a world where everyone was deaf for at least the next ten minutes, “it doesn’t much matter. What’s more relevant is I’m not a damned dick.”

DUG never did speak to Rosie again, from the dock to the scrapyard beach.

Storytime: Hairy.

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

I’m telling you, he was RIGHT THERE.
Right.
THERE.
Why won’t anyone believe me?!

Yes, okay, my story is a little hard to believe. It was a dark night. It was cloudy out. I was out near the edge of the woods and okay maybe I’d had a few beers but it was JUST a FEW beers and I wasn’t drunk, ignore what Amy says she’s a bullshitter if I ever met one, damnit, won’t you LISTEN?
And look, it’s not like I ever believed in this stuff before. I’m a skeptic. I’ve seen those guys hanging around making funny calls into the trees late at night, searching for scat and spoor and prints and going bananas whenever they find a funny track from a limpy raccoon. And I’ve laughed at them. I mean, who wouldn’t?
I won’t. Not after last night.

I was walking back from Ryan’s and yes it was just two beers damnit, two each, no more, no less. Lite beer. And I was walking down the trail along the edge of the trees, just by that meadow there. And as I walked, I was humming and crooning to myself because I do that to keep myself company when I’m alone. Big and lonely place, the edge of the trees. Bigger and lonelier still after dark.
Then I heard a twig snap. Big deal, right? A squirrel.
And then I hear a bush rustle. So what. A raccoon.
Then I hear a cough. Deer? But it’s too loud, and then I hear a belch and across the road there he was. Big as day and twice as ugly. Scratching and shuffling
I stopped moving. Don’t know why, don’t want to guess. God, it was the freakiest thing. And in the back of my head were all the usual excuses running – it’s a bear standing up, it’s a guy with hair problems, it’s a deer standing at a funny angle, it’s a stroke and my brain’s shutting down – but none of them were holding up.
He was chewing on something. Could hear the lips smack from thirty feet away. The clumsy thud-n-slap of the careless feet. The murmuring gurgles of a body never before captured on film that wasn’t grainier than a sand sandwich.
So I pulled out my phone. I made sure the night-vision was on. I raised it high, turned off the flash, and BEEP BEEP BEEP my text alert goes off because George wants to know where the hell I am.
There’s this call – this weird, grunting, burping noise, I can’t describe it, it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard a person make – and he’s gone. I sprinted after him, but when I got to the road there was nothing but the smell of burning rubber and gas and a little bit of sour-beer piss. He’d gotten in his car and driven away.
And there I was, left alone to wander back home into the woods. The latest sap of a sasquatch with the two-beer story of the time she saw sandlefoot, without so much as a photo to show for it.