Have you ever just looked at ants? They're amazing little critters.
An ant lives the first third of its life underground, in tunnels, always close to its sisters (all ants in the nest are female), in total darkness. Then one day it crawls out of the ant hill, and there's daylight, and the world is HUGE! Giant stompy feet everywhere! Other insects that want to Om nom nom it for lunch. But that ant doesn't pause for even a moment. It just goes for it.
That's awesome, not in like the "dude way cool" sense, but in an actual, that shit inspires awe way. Every single ant lives out D-day every day, and the ant doesn't even care. When you look down at an ant hill you should think: "Oh wow, a nest filled with straight up bosses, they ain't even in a rush." Which brings me to my point, you, lucky you, are not an ant.
You got to live the first 20 whatever years of your life above ground, you've been trained you're whole life to do various shit, you have a brain. A wonderful delicious BRAIN. Zombies would love to get a nibble at all that thought pudding up in that noggin. Also, note, when you go outside, there are no zombies, there also aren't any GIANTS walking around trying to stomp on you with big spiky boots or fry you with a magnifying glass. So, what are you scared of? Get out into the big crazy world out there, cause it's really not that scary, and you're big, and at least as boss as an ant. Right? Right.
Thursday, January 31, 2013
This was originally supposed to be flash fiction for Chuck Wendig's Blog Terribleminds, but, I got a little carried away. I appreciate any kind of comments or constructive criticism you have, I haven't written many stories and help is big help. without further ado, The Operator
“No no no, you can’t be here. This saloon is for pandas and their guests only.” I look past the waitress. Her face is painted white with black rings around her eyes. Inside are pandas wearing vests and cowboy hats, gnawing on bamboo. I tell her I am a guest of some very important panda visitors and if it pleased her I would rather not mention their names and make a commotion. Her eyes widen and her hand goes over her mouth in a little O. she leans toward me conspiratorially and in a hushed tone asked “It’s true then? Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing will be here?” I tell her to be quiet, no one must know. I am here to inspect the premises and I hoped they weren't always this unfriendly.
That was a bit too much. I hear faint thunder rolling in the distance. There are only two rules to being an operator. Never tell them it’s a dream, and never ever get lost in the storm, or you may never come back. You can never force any one to do anything in their own dream. It makes the storm come closer. Still my threat did the trick, panda girl moves aside. I do my best to walk in officially and make toward the back. That’s where I last saw Emily headed.
It’s Emily’s dream. She doesn’t know it, but if I can’t make it to her, she’ll die. Another operator came here earlier and implanted a psychic dagger, in the real world, she’s in a comma, and there isn’t much more time.
I hop over the bar and go into the kitchen, panda girl follows me in. “sir what are you doing?” She asks. I ask her if she really expected me to let Ling Ling eat here without inspecting the kitchen first. I tell her to wait by the door for them to arrive. She obeys but she nervous. That isn’t good. Nerves make the storm come. In her dream, Emily is everyone. I need to be nicer.
This is already going horribly. Ideally the operator shouldn’t be noticed, he or she should make sure the dream stays dull and forgettable. Try not to interact directly with the ego. Do not operate on close friends and relatives. This is all according to the operator manual. But sometimes shit happens and you just have to deal with it.
I find Emily in a back room of the kitchen playing poker with two pandas and captain Mal Reynolds from Firefly. Emily is raking in a large pile of Doritos and the few odd sticks of bamboo. I ask Emily how she is.
“Okay, how are you?” she asks. I tell her I’m fine as Emily throws down a hand with an ace, a jack, a two a three and a five.
“I’ve got the big card!” she whoops and rakes in more chips. Emily does not know how to play poker. I’m about to ask her for a word in private when panda girl walks back into the room. “They’re here” she tells me. Dang, now we have to figure a way out. I ask Emily if she would like to see Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing. She jumps out of her seat “only like forever!” she yells and runs out of the room. I’m about to follow after her when Mal grabs me by the arm “hey, you don’t really know these panda guys do you?” no, no I don’t. “That’s ok. I got a plan.”
We walk out into the saloon; it seems as if all the pandas are looking at me. It’s raining lightly outside. Panda girl and Hsing hsing are having a conversation in bear talk. Panda girl marches up to me.
“They say they never even heard of you! You faker!” Mal takes over “well you see there’s a very simple explanation and that is…” Mal shoves panda girl out of the way “Run!” I grab Emily in a fireman’s hold and follow after him, I push outside passed the confused panda bears and run after Mal up the ramp of the spaceship Serenity tied to the horse post outside. We make it up the ramp and it closes behind us. Mal yells to Wash to get the ship moving. I’m actually kind of nerding out right now. I love firefly. I’m surprised that all this is in Emily’s dream. I remember mentioning about it to her once, I never actually thought she would go watch it. We lift off into the sky.
Emily is by the stairs to the upper bridge talking to Kaylee and Inara, the mechanic and the “companion” respectively. I ask Emily if we can have a moment in private. I need to get some kind of clue to where the dagger is, or what it is, a dagger can look like all sorts of things. The girls all giggle,
“Sure,” she says “but can I ask you something first?” she’s smiling bigger than ususal. Sure I tell her. “Have you been following me?”
I’m not sure how I should respond in this kind of situation, the operator manual is a little hazy about these things, it just says “be careful”. Yeah I guess so is what I tell her, it comes out more bashful than I intended. The girls giggle as a group again, it’s like being in middle school.
“Ok” she says, “I just have to go do something with Inara first okay?” Is she blushing? I tell her it’s ok. I don’t want to force her to talk this second; I can only imagine what the storm looks like in space. She tells me she’ll see me soon and walks up the stairs. Someone pats me hard on the back. It’s Mal. “You handled yourself well kid” uh thank you? I tell him it was his plan. “Lets take a quick walk” we walk together toward the cockpit.
I don’t like this. Figments shouldn’t be interacting with me on their own like this. And I shouldn’t be talking back, it’s against the manual. This is her dream not mine; and I need to get the dagger out, who knows how she’s doing on the outside. “So I hear you’ve been following Emily huh?” Mal asks. Jesus Christ. I try to explain that its only to ask her some questions. “hey man” Mal cuts in “it’s ok if you like her, treat her nice remember, I saw her first” I’m not about to argue with one of Emily’s figments about this, Luckily I don’t have to. Our conversation is cut short by a loud bang.
“Meteor shower! Every one to their stations” Mal yells
. Oh shit. Shower. Storm. I need to find Emily. I ask Mal if he can steer us clear of this. His face is pale. “How do I know? I’m just an actor.”
I bolt back down the hallway, when I make it around the corner Inara is waiting. She has a sly grin. “You’re just in time, Emily is waiting for you, you can have your little private moment”.
The operator’s manual says that in all possible instances, it is best to go with the flow of the dream. This can sometimes be difficult.
I walk into the room and Emily is waiting for me. I feel my pants tighten. She’s in fish net stockings, a black thong and leather corset with bare breasts hanging over. They seem bigger than usual. “You’ve been a very good boy” she tells me. I never imagined Emily having sexual thoughts at all, not mention ones like this. She’s usually so shy.
“You’ve been such a good boy, I decided to get you a bone.” She holds up a big black veiny dildo, and smacks it in her hand like a police baton. My pants are no longer tight. “But before you can have it, you have to get in your cage.”
I’m not getting in a cage; but she won’t take no for an answer. She slaps me across the face with the big black dildo. I need to change my strategy, for self preservation if nothing else. She’s in a place in her mind where her fantasy has gone way over the top, so I have to go over the top along with her.
No, I say I have a big bone for you! I grab her around the waist and give her a deep kiss on the mouth while I take the dildo out of her hand and throw it as far away as possible. I rip open my shirt.
“I’ve been waiting so long to do this” I tell her.
“Is that true?” she asks. Hell yes I tell her, and I wonder if I actually mean it. “does that mean you’ll want to date me after this?” she looks bashful again, the way I’ve always known her. She’s blushing all the way from her cheeks to her exposed breasts. My pants are re-tighten.
Things feel like they’ve gotten real. Yes, I tell her. I lean in, close my eyes and kiss her. When I open them we’re outside. We’re at a zoo.
The panda habitat is in front of us, and things seem normal, except all the pandas are sitting at tables like before in the saloon. Emily is beaming up at me. She takes me by the hand and we walk along, I’m still no closer to the dagger.
I have to save her. my worry must be on my face. “What are you thinking about?” she asks. I don’t know what to say, I can’t very well tell her the truth. Or maybe I can. She knows about the operators, she may be able to cope, maybe even help.
“Emily,” I tell her, “you need to listen to me carefully.” I hold her by the arms and look into her eyes. “This is a dream.” Thunder cracks loud.
“So, so all this is fake then?” she asks.
“No” I tell her.” I’m real. I’m here to help you. But you have to help me.” It’s raining now. Things are getting wobbly. She looks at me.
“what’s going on?” she asks. I tell her another operator implanted a psychic dagger somewhere in her mind, and that we need to find it and remove it. A panda turns into a fish, then back into a panda flopping on the ground. It’s storming.
“I have an idea she says” and bolts off. I try to tell her to wait, I chase after her, I have to know what she’s doing. The cement rolls up like a carpet underneath my feet. I’m not getting anywhere. I shout for Emily. Her head pokes back over the horizon. It’s only ten feet away.
Something’s wrong. Her face is losing color, she’s out of breath. Then she turns pure black like a night sky and the world starts sucking into her.
It’s like watching water go down a drain. I run in the opposite direction. If I get sucked down, my mind becomes part of emily’s forever, and Emily is dying.
When I run I find I’m no longer in a zoo but running through a suburb. Out running the funnel is easy enough, alone but her brain is working against me. Streetlights are turning into snakes, the ground is trying to jump up and trip me, and the rain is heavy, it’s like water in a sink.
I keep running as fast as I can until I fall flat on my face. I look at what tripped me. It’s a teddy bear. A panda teddy bear. I realize I hear crying. Down a side street is a little girl. It’s Emily.
I grab the bear and jog up to her. She’s holding her hand, it’s bleeding hard.
“Shh Shh” I say “Look what I found.”
She sees the panda in my hand. “you found him!”
“Sure did, and he tells me he’s missed you a whole bunch.” She grabs the panda with her good hand and holds him close.
I try to take her bad hand. “No!” she yells and pulls away. The end of the alley is starting to bend toward the drain. There isn't much time.
“It’s okay. I can help okay sweetie, will you be a good girl and let me help you?” she looks up unsure. Even in the pouring rain it’s clear she’s been sobbing for hours. Maybe days. She shows me her hand.
There’s blood pouring out between her first and middle finger. There’s a bit of glass sticking out. I grab it and tell her I’m going to pull it out on three, but I only make it to two. The shard inside her hand was long, it must have gone at least halfway down her flesh, but now that it was out, it didn’t bleed much.
I found it. Now Emily was safe.
“Come on, lets go.” I cradle her in my arms and we walk off. The rain is already getting lighter, the world isn't sucking away. The little girl is holding close to my jacket. The rain is almost gone. Somehow we get out of the suburb and we’re walking thru a field. I look down. Emily is full grown again, but she doesn’t feel any heavier. She looks up at me, beaming like before. She puts her hand on my face. It’s time to wake up I tell her.
“Already? But this dream is just getting good”. There’s a blanket set out on the grass in front of us. “Please just ten more minutes?” she asks. I think we can manage that I say as I lay her down. She kisses me. The ground is dry. The sun is warm.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Marcus walked alone on a desolate road and looked at all the fucking desolation around him. All around as far as he could see, barren fields, filled with dying grass, nobody ever said limbo would look so much like a North Dakota fall, that is to say, flat barren and freezing, but too dry for actual snow or maybe that was summer he was thinking of. Marcus wondered if there were seasons in limbo. He had originally been under the impression that limbo was neither terrible or particularly good, the holy fathers place to sort out the lukewarm damned, but this, this sucked. Marcus pulled his coat in tighter as he walked along. It took him long enough just to find the road now he had some vestige of civilization. Suddenly over the horizon a town loomed up. It came up to fast, jumping out of the horizon like a big beige jack in the box. Everything in limbo is in shades of beige and gray. It looked like something out of an old west movie set. Old wood buildings with old timey signs and wooden sidewalks over what must have once been a mud street that was long ago paved over by the dull gray asphalt. Where the hell did they find the wood to build all this shit Marcus thought to himself as walked up to the nearest building. A saloon. Ha. Marcus did his best Clint Eastwood walking in. Clicking imaginary spurs as he tossed both doors open, he loved these kind of scenes as a kid, and was disappointed to find no one turning to look as he walked in the door, there was no one at all, hey at least he could imagine he was getting silent glares, it felt that way most of the time anyway down here. Up here? Over here? Where ever in hell or not hell limbo was.
Marcus walked up and hopped over the bar, maybe some old cowpoke left him something to warm the old bones. He rifled through old cabinets tossing the empties on the saloon floor behind him listening to the glass break. It was fun breaking things, he wished he’d done that more during his life. He found a bottle of what tasted passably like whisky and decided to go a walk around this here ghost town. maybe I’ll head down to the local sheriff’s office, he thought, maybe I can take a picture of myself in a cell and send it back home as a post card “Greetings from Limbo having a time. P.S. stay out of the garage until the smoke clears” . Marcus wandered down the wooden walkway with the whiskey in his hand looking in the windows like it was nearly Christmas in Chicago. Donnertown supply, Donnertown clinic, Donnertown barber. What the hell I could use a haircut, Marcus thought to himself as he wandered in. Marcus sat in one of the barber chairs and played around, looking through the drawers. Rusty scissors and dirty looking combs all neatly arranged. Marcus wondered what happened here. Something shiny caught his eye. A polished oak handle and a silvery switch, Marcus pulled and found a straight razor like in a old movie. But this wasn’t like anything else in this town, everything else was old and rusted, this looked brand new. He held it up and turned in his hand, the blade was polished and sharp. And as he turned it there was a reflection of a man in it. Marcus spun around and was on his feet. The razor in one hand the bottle in another. The man was standing toward the back of the shop, in the shadows.
“It’s funny what people do after they die” said the man. he was old, dressed in a brown shirt, gray vest, and dirty jeans like a decrepit howdy doody. “Nobody knows the story of the Donners, the real one. The real one was here.”
“What are you talking about? The cannibals?”
“No not the cannibals, the cannibals lived, they didn’t get all this. Donnertown. Ha. Maybe if they knew they wouldn’t have stooped so low. Shame really.”
Marcus stood silent still brandishing the blade. The stranger abled to the door through all this, and Marcus didn’t want to be trapped, so he edged to the door along with him.
“Come with me.” Said the old man. Marcus had noticed something peeking out from then man’s back before, now he could see them clearly. They were wings, old wings covered in a layer of dust that would have sent Marcus into an asthma attack had he still been breathing. “The Donners most of them, died right around the same time, which is a blessing, because that means they arrived here right around the same time. They went to sleep and opened their eyes, and they were here.”
“Here isn’t much of anywhere” commented Marcus.
“Isn’t it? I thought there was a town here, a town made out of sheer will for there to be a town, on a lovely beach by the sea, that you didn’t even care to notice.”
Marcus was taken aback, he looked and it was there. A whole sea and he didn’t even notice.
“Life is what you make of it Marcus, Limbo even more so. These people were determined to make a place for themselves, now look at what they have. A place. You, you have half a bottle of bad whisky and a straight razor.”
“But where did they all go? There’s no one here.”
“This is limbo. They went on. And so are you.”
Suddenly all was darkness, except for one great light rushing at him like a headlamp on a gigantic motorbike.