Flash Fall

speed 3

This a piece of flash fiction that is mostly an excuse to experiment with pacing. Centuries by Fallout Boy came up on Pandora and I got the urge to write something intense. I don’t know if this sliced moment about some near-future competitive sport is even coherent, but why else have a writing blog if you can’t throw stuff like this on?

 

Flash Fall

The stadium lights flash. I take a deep breath, feel the electric sandalwood smoke spark up my lungs, send supercharged electrons through my bloodstream. My fingertips tingle. My skin heats up. The lights flash again. It’s time to go. I’ve prepared for this moment. Run the practice course a billion times, run chemical enhanced visualizations, done VR. But there’s no preparation at all. The platform beneath my feet disintegrates, and I fall.

Air screams in my ears as I plummet downwards. In my frictionless suit I fall faster, faster, faster. 32 more feet per second, per second, per second. The cacophony of the wind screeches its gleeful and permanent abandonment of terminal velocity. Particles in the air smash into my body like cannonballs. I squeeze my body close so I’ll fall faster. Faster than the others. I’m a comet. I’m a bolt of lightning. I’m an angel hurled out of heaven by a furious god. I fall.

A thousand thoughts speed through my head in a few moments. I can’t see them. They shred. Don’t worry about the tiny patch of safety below me. Don’t worry about the acres of spiked death surrounding it. There’s no death, there’s no taxes, there’s no me. There’s just exhilaration, the explosion of color as the world races by me. And the fall.

Blackness consumes the universe. I’m in the tunnel. I made it. I didn’t die. And I didn’t slow down. I know that I’ve curved, that I’m looping and swerving through the labyrinth. I can’t see it. In my frictionless suit I can barely feel it. I loosen my neck muscles for the barest instant, and my head smacks against the wall. I go dizzy. I don’t care. I hope it didn’t slow me down.

Supernova sunlight annihilates my vision. Wind banshee-wails its reintroduction into my world. I’ve emerged. Out of the tunnel, into the open. I fly upwards, higher, higher. Colors bleed into a violent, gory mess of a vision around me as I rocket through the air. I thrust my head backwards, point my eyes up. It’s quick, but delicate. I could snap my neck, but I have to be able to see.

There they are. The bars. Far away, but not for long. They’re superlit, a thousand green spotlights illuminate them like the sun. I’m moving so fast I can’t see shapes, but I see them. Ecto Cooler green, speeding towards me, or I’m speeding towards it. At this velocity it’s all the same. I’m a beam of light hurtling through space. Massless. Infinite.

It’s coming. I stretch out my arms. The timing has to be perfect. I could come too hard and my bones will shatter. My aim could be slightly off and I’ll slide right past. I could just miss. I’m not going to do any of those things. I’m not going to miss.

I’m slowing down. I shot through the tunnel, now I’m flying off. Residual speed from my fall is all I have left, and I’m losing it. Losing too much? Too slow and the others get there first. Too fast and I fly past. None of that is going to happen.

I curve my fingers just so. I careen towards the bars. Here it is. They’re coming. I can make out sounds, now. Louder than the wind, more chaotic, more controlled. Crowd-sourced thunder. It’s the fans. The enormous mass of them. They are screaming their lungs out. I ignore them. I can’t ignore them. I flex my fingers. This is about to happen.

The bars are so close now they’re made of matter in my vision, not just light. That means one more second. Less than a second. It’s happening now. By the time I think it, it’s already done. Too fast for thought. My aim is perfect. My fingers smash into the bars. They’re stiffened, frozen by the cold. Just enough. I feel the metal in my hand, barely. My hands close just, enhanced grip tight enough to crush stone. The rest of my body whips past, still moving so quickly.

Everything wrenches. There’s a sickening crunch. I’ve broken ribs, maybe my pelvis, dislocated both shoulders. I don’t care. The force is intense. It’s angry. It tries to rip me off of the bars. I don’t let it. I hold tight. I swing back down and dangle off of the bars. I’m exhausted, spent, useless, but I have to hold on. Adrenaline, real and artificial, pumps through me. I have no strength, no energy, just willpower. Real and artificial.

The world comes into view. The crowd is all around me. There are so many of them. Did I know that? I can’t think about it. They are screaming, tearing up their lungs, losing their minds. I hear clanks around me, sickening crunches. The other competitors are arriving. The same controlled collisions with the bars, the same massive damage to their insides. Moments after me. Was I the first? I don’t know. I can’t think. I can’t concentrate. I have to hold on.

In a minute the medical staff will run out to recover me. They’ll pump me full of restorative tonics, reparative nanites, they’ll throw instacast wraps over my bones so they can be reset. Then I’ll see the scores. Then I’ll know the results. I think I was first. I think I’ve won. But I can’t concentrate on that now. I have to hang on. Just a few seconds more. That’s all there is. That’s all that matters. I’ve almost done it. It’s been 37 seconds since the second light flashed. At most. My best time. I think I’ve beaten it. Just a few more seconds and I’ll know. Just a few more seconds.

It’s almost over.

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An Apt Aphorism For Magic

Smoking Gun

 

“Move, and I will blow a hole through your motherfucking head. Where is the fucking money?”

When you have the barrel of a gun pressed to your head, I realized as I sat there in this exact situation, it doesn’t really matter if the person holding said gun is bluffing. I didn’t think that this particular gentleman was very likely to blow a hole through my head if I moved.

He presumably wanted an answer to his question about “the money” badly enough to resort to both the threat of gun violence and profanity to get the answer, and separating large parts of my brain from the other parts would be a good way to make sure he didn’t get that answer. But that possibility is academic. Even if there is a 90% chance that the individual holding the pistol is bluffing, the consequences of being incorrect are sufficiently dire that it isn’t worth the risk to explore that avenue of possibility.

It’s an apt aphorism as applies to magic, as well. If you know that someone is an accomplished magus, there is still a good chance that the amulet around his neck won’t actually turn your testicles into tapioca pudding or strike blind everyone of your bloodline if you don’t do what he says. Accomplish maguses bluff all the time, mostly to each other. Because they can get away with it. You only have to pull the tapioca-testicle trick a few times in front of the right people before word gets around and people start to take your amulets pretty seriously.

“Where is the fucking money?” he said again. “I’m not going to ask again!”

I didn’t know whether this specimen in front of me was bluffing. I couldn’t tell by the cold glint in his eyes whether he’d killed before, or if the way he held his gun meant he was an amateur. To tell you the truth I don’t know much about guns, or the people who wield them. But I do know an awful lot about magic. Which means I don’t really have to worry about either one.

“Ice,” I said.

“What? What the fuck you say?”

“I said ice,” I repeated. “It was a sort of word of power. More impressive if they’re in Enochian or Latin or something, but I’ve never had much of a head for languages and I usually get it wrong and end up with mice or something. But it doesn’t really matter. That’s just for show.”

“What the fuck you…” then he froze. Not literally, although I admit the metaphor is apt. He froze because he glanced down at his gun. He saw the whiteness that crept along the metal as the entire gun transformed into a single piece of ice. An ice gun. I nodded in admiration. If that had been a sculpture carved out of actual ice, it would have been quite impression.

He screamed. “What the fuck?”

“Does it hurt?” I asked.

“Mother fuck yeah it hurts! What the fuck did you do?”

“I didn’t do anything, exactly. Not on a fundamental level.”

“Fix it!” he screamed. “Do something!”

I laughed. “You walk into my house, shove a gun in my face, and demand money that isn’t even here, and now you’re asking for my help? You have to admit, that’s pretty ripe.”

He screamed again. I don’t think he appreciated the ripeness.

“It burns!”

“It burns because your hand is frozen to the ice gun,” I said. “It’s like licking a flagpole. Run some water over it and it’ll be fine. You might not even get frostbite if you work quickly. Maybe.”

“Frostbite!”

“Now kindly get out of my house, or I’ll do the same thing to your underwear.”

I watched his eyes widen and his face contort with fear, as he contemplated what “might not even get frostbite” in that scenario. He turned and ran straight for the exit. He knocked his head on the doorframe on the way out. Just like everyone does because it’s built for my height, only this time I didn’t have to feel bad about it.

I turned around and looked at the clock. 3:34 AM. Plenty of time left for sleep before I had to wake up the next morning. The benefits of self-employment. Still, the old nerves were a bit stretched, so I got up and headed towards the kitchen to fetch a mugful of warm milk. I wondered idly who told this degenerate that I had a pile of money in my domicile that he could acquire through through of violence. Someone who wanted to rattle me, no doubt. Something not terribly formidable, since it didn’t really work.

No, as I finished off my milk and settled down for bed, I felt downright chipper. I could have done a lot worse to that chap. He would have had it coming. But he had a wife and kids, no doubt. Or a mother at least. And there was a good chance he might reconsider the whole “gun violence” option as a solution to his financial difficulties in the future. So a little mercy, though not deserved, might go some small way towards making the world a better place. What more can a fellow ask of a midnight encounter than that?

He was just lucky I wasn’t in the mood for tapioca.

Thirty One

adorn

 

 

I haven’t written a story in a long time. I’ve been working on a novel, but I recently got into a high fantasy phase and it’s making it tricksy to work on my very modern and not high fantasy novel. Also I’ve been sedentary and depressed or something. In any case, I wanted to get some of this fantasy mumbo malumbo out of my system. So I started to write and this is what came out.

 

Thirty One

 

 

Thirty One. That’s the only name she has, because she came with no name.

She cracked out of a crystal seed nearly a month ago, and things are still changing. Everything is changing, and no one knows what to do. The others look to me and I have little to give. They look to me. I was always the last one anyone looked to for truth. For real things. For solutions. The poet, the dreamer, the storyteller. Who has need for stories in a world like this? A world where we know and understand and can touch everything?

Not anymore. Krakow has the final say about how to distribute the hot nectar that flows from the broken mountains, or who is chosen to be painted by the juice of the nefilfruit each bloomtime. But Thirty One came, and Krakow is silent. The others are saying that the silver has melted and dripped from his tongue, and he does not wish to open his mouth and let us see.

Amandrius’s word takes hold when the flatlings come forth from the darkened places on the other side of the spiked mountains, or a violent storm births too many lightcaws to be felled by the rains and they fly down to scratch at is. We gather our frozenfire spears and our thunderslings and follow Amandrius’s bellow out to do battle with our enemies. We do not know if Thirty One is an enemy. She is one of us, and yet she is not. We all turned to Amandrius for council. To see if he would blow his horn. He did not. We do not know if he is unsure or if he is afraid.

Lisilia peers into the nexttime to tell us what the clouds would bring, when it would be hot enough to hide in the shades so our skins would not burn. All of us listened when she spoke or sang, even Krakow. Even Amandrius. But Lisilia did not see Thirty One coming. She is something new. There has never been something new.

No one listens to me. They never have. Or, they listen, but it is idle. A fancy. I sing of hidden kingdoms in the clouds. Of a rare blue strain of hot nectar that grants the drinker golden wings that fly a hundred times as fast as our own. Of scaly beasts that slumber beneath the ground atop great piles of impossible objects the likes of which we cannot imagine.

But there are no kingdoms in the clouds. We have flown around and through them many times. There is no blue strain of nectar, and wings are never gold. There are no scaly beasts beneath the ground, or anything else that we have not seen and touched. We have been everywhere. We have seen everything. The imaginings of my fancies are hallucinations of an otherwise useless mind.

Always there have been thirty of us. At the dawn of things the crystal seeds cracked and we emerged. That was thousands of cycles of the world ago. We have been everywhere. We have seen everything. There was nothing new.

Then a new seed began to grow. It was nothing we could understand. Nothing we had ever seen before. It grew and it grew and finally it cracked. And she emerged. A new person. A new person for the first time in the history of forever. The thirty first. She had no name. We all had names, when we emerged. We knew them. Our own and each other’s. But we did not know her name, because she had no name.

No one could name her so they turned to me. I called her Thirty One, and so she is. She is here, now. And everything is different.

Bedtime

Akari Custom para Caro

 

Trigger warning: this is pretty messed up, and I kind of don’t want to post it.

 

So…enjoy?

 

Bedtime

 

Every night, as Samantha closed her eyes to go to sleep, she was paralyzed with the fear that she would never open them again. That her eyelashes would twist into tight, intricate knots. She would struggle to wrench them open, but it would be in vain. The tangles of eyelash would bind together long enough for the skin where her top lids met the bottom to form thousands of tiny, cancerous growths that would weld them shut forever, like soldered metal joining two pieces of stained glass. The harder she fought to open them, the more the tiny muscles would rip and tear and break down, until her eyelids were useless flaps of flesh with no purpose other than to trap her blue eyes in darkness. Forever.

Samantha fought desperately against the thought. She forced herself to think about flowers and rainbows and Mrs. Gill’s seemingly endless supply of new kittens. But the fear was always there. Waiting. Right behind her eyes. She was just a little girl, after all. And it’s hard for a little girl to ignore something her mother told her would happen, every night.

Just before she tucked her in.

Could Be

Alien

 

Relative Jim stood at the corner of 4th and Pine every day except Sunday, wearing his ragged clothes and holding up his hand-made cardboard sign. He had a hat out in front of him, and sometimes the people walking by put money into it. Because he was dirty. Because they felt sorry for him. Because he looked like he needed a break. There were a lot of reasons people might have given money to Relative Jim, but those are best known only to the people themselves. But there’s one thing for certain.

It wasn’t because of what was written on the sign.

You see, Relative Jim didn’t hold his sign up in front of his chest. He didn’t lean it against his legs, right next to a mangy old dog meant to inspire sympathy for those kinds of people who’ll feel sadder about a hungry dog than they will about a hungry fellow. But Relative Jim didn’t have a dog, hungry or otherwise, so he couldn’t very well do that. No, he pointed his sign straight up into the sky, so as you’d have to be a bird or maybe superman to have a look at it.

Most people figured Relative Jim was just a little off, and that was enough of an explanation. You know how those homeless are, they’d say to each other from the other side of their air-conditioned car windows. But sometimes folks would get curious enough to ask to see the sign. And Relative Jim would get a little confused for a second. But he was nice enough people, and so he’d bend his arms in just that right way that makes something that’s pointing upward shift so that it’s now pointing straight ahead. That’s when people would get the second surprise of their brief interactions with that odd old fellow we call Relative Jim.

There was nothing written on the sign.

Most people would move on, then, figuring how Relative Jim looked a bit puzzled at the whole interchange to begin with. Not worth the bother to try to find out more, they’d figure, before moving on about the rest of their business. But every so often, one of those curious passers-by turned out to be a very curious passerby, and would ask why the sign was blank. To which Relative Jim would furrow his brow, give the sign a good long look, then give the fellow what asked about it a good long look, and say that the sign wasn’t blank. If the fellow responded to this downright unusual utterance by asking what, in fact, was written on the sign, Relative Jim would say something to the effect of, “What in tarnation kind of question is that?”

Most individuals, having gotten this far, had a question or two left for ol’ Relative Jim. In for a penny in for a pound, they’d figure, or so a reasonable man might reckon. But those questions didn’t rarely lead to much in the way of useful conclusions to the whole puzzling state of affairs that was a conversation with Relative Jim. He just kept on giving the same kind of answers he done gave to the previous questions. As a matter of fact, I only ever heard one question that got a clear answer, that might shed some light on what passes for Relative Jim’s motivations and line of reasoning. The question was this:

“Who, exactly, is that sign meant for?”

Relative Jim answered that one with none of his usual confused pauses or complex manipulation of his various facial muscles. He answered it right quick.

“Aliens,” he said.

To which the questioner, quite reasonably I think we’d all say, asked him if he thought there were aliens up there looking down on him as he stood there at the corner of 4th and Pine every day, saving of course for Sunday.

“Could be,” Relative Jim replied. “But I’ll tell you for free that I sure as Shinola hope so, and that they’re friendly fellows willing to help a body out. Can’t figure another way I’ll ever figure out what’s written on this blasted sign.”

“Just”

murder of a shadow

“Have you ever killed a man just to watch him die?”

“Man, what kind of question is that?”

“What do you mean? It’s a pretty straightforward question.”

“No, I mean, why would you ask me a question like that?”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“Because I’ll have to answer it!”

“That’s what I want, dammit! So…have you ever killed a man just to watch him die?”

“No, not ‘just.’”

“Then why…?”

“Because he asked the wrong question.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Nah. It’s really my fault. You tried to warn me.”

“I really did.”

“So…nice knowing you, I guess.”

“I guess.”

Sizzle

Bacon Heart

 

Another short respite from the withering man. Flash-fiction horror about the tiny pleasures.

 

 

Sizzle

“Stop! Why are you doing this to me?”

I try to ignore the screams as I throw some bacon into the hot skillet and pour myself a glass of whiskey. There’s so much screaming, these days. I walk over and shut the window, even though that accomplishes exactly dick.

Sometimes it makes me so angry that I’m not bloody desensitized to it all already. Other times I’m just happy to still be rational. To still have some scraps of my humanity. Humanity is hard to cling to, lately.

All I can say is thank the Lord for bacon! The rich, savory scent fills the kitchen. I just sit there and drink it in. I don’t even need to eat it. I can just rest my weary-as-hell ass on my stool and let the aroma wash over me. Of course you can’t get good bacon anymore. Not like you used to. But I’ll take it. Nowadays, you take what you can get.

Bacon has always been there for me. No matter how shitty it got. I remember sitting in a shelter with my brother Elton. Every few seconds there was a loud bang outside, and we wondered. If it would be the last. If next time the walls would finally crumble. The Powers That Be in government thought bombing would solve the problem. Idiots. Even then, we all knew that wouldn’t work.

“Jeffrey,” said Elton as he crawled out from under a table, “I was going to save this, but this might be, you know, the last time we..”

“Yeah,” I said.

“So here we are. What the hell, right?” He reached into his bag, and pulled out a plastic package. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

“Oh you magnificent bastard,” I said. “Have I ever told you I love you?”

“Nah,” he said. “Probably because you’re a dude.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I bet you’re right. Let’s fry that shit up.”

We didn’t care that the portable gas burner gobbled up a good amount of our meager oxygen supply. I don’t reckon either of us expected to make it out of there.

“Jeffrey,” Elton said as we scarfed down the salty goodness. “If I don’t make it, tell my wife I love bacon.”

He didn’t make it. Neither did she. I chuckled whenever I think about it. That’s weird, right? But so many memories are all bad. At least that one has some good in it. The little things matter. Even now, when things have gotten much, much worse, the little things matter.

I remember back when folks used to joke about an upcoming zombie apocalypse. It’s not so funny, now. When it first started a lot of people thought it was a zombie apocalypse. We were conditioned by the media, I guess. Oh man, if only it was that simple. Shoot them in the head, light them on fire, hit them with a cricket bat. Zombies are easy. Zombies make sense. What we got instead…

I bite into the bacon, and close my eyes in ecstasy. The blend between the crisp on the outside and the still-tender fat was marvelous. One of the nice things about making your own bacon is that you can cut it  as thick as you like. I hated growing up on a ranch, but it turned out to be a Godsend. I’m still here, after all.

It’s gone too quickly. It always is. I fight the urge to heat the pan up and fry up another round. But who am I kidding? That’s a fight I never win.  What am I saving it for? I wait for the skillet to grow smoking hot, then toss a few slices in.

“Jeffrey!” it screams as it hits the hot steel, “what are you doing? Why are you doing this?”

I grit my teeth and stare out the window. It’s dumb, I know. Of course the neighbors will hear. The walls aren’t sound proof, and the screams are loud. Hopefully they didn’t hear my name. It would be a damn shame if they moved away.

Eventually the screams die. There’s nothing left but sizzle. I think it happens when it reaches a certain temperature, but that’s just a guess. Nothing bloody stays dead anymore.

I don’t figure I’ll last much longer. Something will get me. And then…who knows? Any number of things could happen. There’s no predicting it. I don’t know if what comes back will still be me. Some of them talk, but the things they say…I sure hope those aren’t still people in there. wouldn’t wish that on no one.

Maybe I’ll sprout wings. I’ve always wanted wings.

It’s going to happen. I’m resigned to that. Some of the other survivors have hope. Hope is for idiots. No, I might not have hope. But at least I have bacon. The little things matter.

Even now, the little things matter.