Monday, May 25, 2009

Next Quote

The Chemical Workers Song

And its go boys go
They'll time your every breath
And every day in this place your two days nearer death
But you go

Well a process man am I and I'm tellin' you no lie
I work and breathe among the fumes that tread across the sky
There's thunder all around me and there's poison in the air
There's a lousy smell that smacks of hell and dust all in me hair

-Great Big Sea

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Harvest Festival Story

"...And so the demon Mastema stood over the fallen hero whose lifeblood even then was spilling to the Earth."

"And then he died!" Pierre interrupted from the other side of the roaring fire - the other children present laughed.

Reaching across the fire with his gnarled old stick D'Ambigeois rapped the boy once smartly over the head. "Do not, young boy, presume to tell me the end of my own story!" Looking around at the faces cast in firelight. "I am not dead yet, so don't try writing me into my own grave before I'm ready!" He complained grumpily.

"So how did you beat Mastema then?" Pierre asked, and it seemed an earnest question.

"I didn't."

"Then what happened to the Tarnhelm? And what happened with Princess Genevieve and the mysterious knight?"

"Are you telling the story or am I?" D'Ambigeois asked, shaking his cane again warningly. Then dropping the stick he settled back down. "I suppose you are simply young and curious - but understand, the tale of the Tarnhelm is a tale of chivalry and honour! Not tragedy."

"Siegfried and Brunhilda both died." Pierre said. D'Ambigeois looked at the boy carefully - for an eight year old he had an uncanny knowledge of Norse mythology.

"Indeed they did - but I am not the Sigund of legend and Princess Genevieve is not Brynhild. But we digress dear boy, and I am sure the others would wish to hear the story properly."

"Where is Princess Genevieve now?" There was a brief pause.

"Why my boy, she is the Queen Mother!" D'Ambigeois replied with a laugh.

"Then what happened to the promise you made by the Lake of Crystal Waters?" There was an awkward silence. D'Ambigeois' eyes narrowed on the young Pierre - somehow he had the impression that this eight year old was of a mind to mock him.

"Stories don't all end in happily ever after, but they don't always end in tragedy either." There was no need to strain in order to percieve the regret in his voice. The fire crackled noisily as burning embers rose like fireflies into the night air. Sieur D'Ambigeois took a moment to recompose himself and resume the story - only to be interrupted by the young Pierre again.

"Sounds like tragedy to me." Pierre said. There was something about the boy's voice that set D'Ambigeois off. He regarded the young Pierre carefully, looking for some resemblance and finding nothing he looked at some of the adults around the firelight and drifting in and out of the firelight among the other festivities.

Nothing; no old enemies, old friends...still this child was toying with him. "Well like I said, maybe things didn't turn out happily ever after," D'Ambigeois forced his most charming smile. "But you haven't hear the rest of the story yet."

This time it was boy smiled as everyone else looked on, by this point they were both the center of attention. "That's because the story is not yet ended..." Only this time the boy's voice had changed to something different. Something inhuman; accompanied by inhuman laughter.

"MASTEMA!" The old knight lept to his feet, his walking stick - the only thing within reach even resembling a weapon - instantly in his hand.

Mastema cast off his boyish guise and assumed his true form, seeming to rise out of the flames which flared wildly into the night sky. In his true form he stood nearly twelve feet and there was no mistaking him for a creature born of the tortures of hell. "It has been a long time old friend."

People were running in all directions now; screams pierced the night air. Meanwhile the demon with his terrible blazing sword and the aging Sieur D'Ambigeois with his gnarled walking stick lept at one another through the flames.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Waiting for Death

The old man sat in the old, worn rocking chair. His weathered hands gripped the faded picture. A single tear slid down his cheek as he gazed at the smiling faces of his wife and sons. It often surprised him that he still had tears to spill for them, after all this time.

"I will find you . . ."

The words whispered in the darkness to him, a promise that he had longed to believe in. Although he could feel the hope fluttering within him whenever he heard the words, after all this time, he knew better. Not even Death could free him from his prison.

He felt the tears beginning to fall, and quickly moved the photograph. He had no idea what he would do once the photo was gone, damaged beyond repair by time and tears. It was his last link to his life; the last link to the outside world. By all rights he should have been dead, a rotted skeleton by his measure, the bones picked clean. But nothing could reach him here. He was truly alone.

He could still remember clearly the day that everything changed. The day that his life was literally ripped from him. There was a storm. There had been a car accident. And then the stranger. He was the first one on the scene. And he looked hungry. There was a lot of blood. He'd never forget the never-ending stream. Like a river.

He screamed while it was happening, pleading with it to stop, to take him instead. But the stranger just laughed. And when the man was the only one left alive, the stranger spoke.

"Although I hunger still, I will leave you here," he said, drifting closer. "But you cannot have this."

And the stranger ripped his heart out of his chest.

The pain eventually subsided enough for the man to get away from the wrecked vehicles. Luckily, he and his family had been heading home from their camp, which was only a few miles up the road. He managed to stumble his way back to camp where he passed out.

When he finally woke, after at least a few days of being asleep, he was surprised to find a shadow standing over him.

"I know you are here," the shadow said. "Though it is faint, I can feel your pulse. I will find you, and take you home."

"Wha . . . ?" the man asked, stumbling backwards out of the bed, away from the shadow as it reached a bleach white, bony hand towards him. "What are you? Are you Death?"

He never did find out exactly what the shadow was, for at that moment it looked up, then disappeared. It came back often, always whispering that it would find him, but it never did.
Between its visits, the man fell into despair. For although he did not eat, he was no longer hungry, and although he no longer drank, he did not thirst. His body continued living, no matter how he neglected it. And no matter how often the shadow came for him, it never managed
to find him. And so he sits, in the crumbling ruins of what was once his camp. Waiting for a Death that eludes him still.

Cheese Grater

I eat the souls of mortal men
So what, I’d do it all again
I’ve peered into the depths of Hell
But I came back to maim and kill
I steal from rich and give to poor
And I will canvass door to door
I play poker, but tend to fold
I try to win; that is my goal

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Alice's Wonderland - Alice

"He seems to be rather more alive than I'd requested." There was no anger in the voice, only a faint bemusement.

"Yes well, I found him in the brambles just outside - about 60 miles from where he jumped from a moving train; it hardly seemed a fitting end to the story my Queen."

Reginald had already opened his eyes to the room, suffering from an overabundance of I-just-jumped-from-a-moving-train headache and general weariness; bound to play havoc with the nerves really.

The cat was there, smiling. And so was Alice. And so were a whole host of other…things. Reginald supposed they might have more proper names but he hadn’t the foggiest what they might have been so ‘things’ did quite well enough in his own mind; the same sort he’d been seeing for the past few days.

“Reginald, dearest – you're here! I must admit, I believed you were simply not going to come.” Alice chimed pleasantly. Reginald was still feeling a little dazed but thought he could make out a voice quietly muttering ‘… or survive.’

“The cat…” Reginald pointed an accusatory finger at the offending feline as he rose to his feet. Looking, and feeling, somewhat the worse for his recent train ride. “… it tried to kill me?”

The cat grinned.

“A cat try to kill you? Madness!” Alice declared. The crowd howled with laughter. It was at this point that Reginald noticed the dress Alice was wearing, which hardly seemed real. It was a deep green silk crinoline affair with a cathedral train that must have trailed nearly ten feet behind her. She was also wearing a jewel encrusted silver crown.

“You tried to have me killed…” The words came only with difficulty.

“Yes, well you must expect a marriage to have its ups and downs. The important thing is you’re not dead. Leapt from a train I understand. Impressive.”

Once again Reginald found himself at a loss of words and instead opted to change subject. “Um… so yes. I um, came to ask you…”

Alice cocked her head in such a way as to wordless say ‘Oh, do go on.’ Really, he had never seen plain and sensible Alice looking so… really Reginald could not make up his mind whether crazy or beautiful was the more apt adjective. Scary might have been the word too – there was something deliberately about the way she walked and watched him that made him feel like a mouse about to be eaten.

The cat continued to grin.

“…what’s going on?” Well, there was more he would have liked to ask, and he probably could have phrased it better but that seemed like a good start. Really it was an important question.

“Ah, my dear Reginald, of course you would be perfectly innocent of ‘what is going on’.” Alice replied. “Where to begin, where to begin? Well I went mad – but you knew that already – and then I killed the Queen… ”

Reginald gasped.

“… no not that Queen. Well two Queens really…” Reginald was thoroughly confused now but Alice seemed to register this. “It’s complicated. Anyway, the important thing is, now I’m Queen of Wonderland." She looked at him with something that seemed like mock disapproval. "And I was looking forward to entertaining any number of charming, handsome young suitors but then you had to go and not die and, well, here we are.” She smiled pleasantly.

Reginald did not find himself any more enlightened. All he understood was that she had sent her cat to kill him and she was Queen of the crazy people.

Alice seemed to read his mind. “Isn’t this far more interesting than all your dull and dreary office work? You have no idea what sorts of things we can do here!”

“You tried to kill me!”

“And you lived! Jumped off a moving train in fact – far more exciting than some weekend with the Prescotts. And this,” She said giving a brief wave to the marbled hall and the admittedly pretty but ridiculously expensive dress she was wearing, “is far better than sitting around at home inventing work for the help.”

Reginald was open mouthed. “You’re… this is…”

“Mad?” Alice suggested, putting the word into his mouth – really it was the one he’d been searching for all along. “Listen Reginald, we’re through the rabbit hole here...”

“Alice, come back with me. Please.”

“No thank you Reginald, I like it here. And oh, I have plans for my kingdom! I see my writing led you here, that's good, that's very good. You can help you know.” Her tone grew darker. “Or you can insist on being your old stick in the mud self and you and my Cheshire Cat can go on another trip.”

And then Alice smiled the sweetest, most radiant smile Reginald had ever seen in his life. “Either way, soon everyone will have read ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

It's some sort of f***ing joke

Its night time here and it’s raining, but the garish neon signs stop it from being dark. Not that the light matters, its not the dark that hides me but the damnedable masses. No one can see the real leaves; the fake forest is in the way.

The isolation is almost bearable now. Not that I’m alone, far from it. Hardly a minute goes by that I’m not jostled this way and that by the press of bodies, the crush of their hollow gazes nearly killing me. No one thinks anymore. No one tries.
Ok, so not quite no one.

The stairwell leads up from the crowded alley to a barren concrete stairwell. Up I go, 45 stories in all. Winded by the end but not tired. The brave new world does do one thing for you. It keeps you trim. Hesitating the barest moment before opening the door to the roof I remember; fear is pointless, I’m already dead, and it is just a matter of time.

The change came not so long ago, “perfect immortality” they called it, branded it PI. Catchy ads, circles and slices, “get your piece of PI”. Fucking corporate bull, you could smell the stink of the boardroom on it. You could see the desk jockey chuckling himself to sleep with visions of his presentation profit share charts mirroring ad campaigns. It was sinfully indulgent and wholesome at the same time. The perfect god damn sales pitch. Not that they needed it. A drug that makes you ageless and nearly impervious to harm? A drunken shit slinging chimp could have sold the stuff, not nearly as fast though. The first few flawless years after its shamefully fast tracked release only a few of us still thought it was too good to be true. We were right, not that anyone gives a fuck anymore.

Setting up on the roof top with tri-pod, rifle and scope I scan the crowded street from the near total darkness, more exposed here because who among them would be on a roof, breaking the mould and doing something new. Muttering aloud I muse as to the nature of our perfect immortal world, “Side effects may include the loss of all initiative and will, glazed stares, the inability to form personal connection or change in any significant way. If you experience these symptoms this product may not be for you but it is too late. You. Are. Fucked.”

There are perhaps a few hundred of us left and dwindling. The Unchanged, Mortals, The Free. Each person among us finds a name for it, a way to come to grips that we are not part of the world anymore, or that we are all that is left. Each one of us paranoid as all hell and running scared. Something is killing us, it started killing once nearly everyone has changed and now the fear is in all of us that are left. Somewhere out there one of the few humans left with free will has decided the rest of us need to die.

So after scanning the street for a face I don’t recognise, a stranger or anomaly, I continue my patrol though the dozen square miles of city I’ve claimed as my own. Eventually assured nothing new is here today I head to my favourite diner like I do most days sit and wait for Harv to come by.
“Hello Mr. A what can I get for you today.”
It seems I’m feeling unusually bitter, rather them my usual miming of an order I ask him “Harv, you ever get the feeling we’ve done this before?” I’m not sure if his name is Harv, I’m not sure if I care, he responds the same as always.
“You want fries with that Mr. A?”
I feel the old anger rising up, useless but refreshing, “I want you to go to hell Harv so I can get a different order for once.”
“Sure thing Mr. A, extra gravy and a coleslaw, we don’t have Coke though, just Pepsi. Is that still ok?” he smiles and I know he doesn’t see me.
“I’m sleeping with your mom, your wife and your two daughters Harv, usually all at the same time.”
“That’s great Mr. A I’ll get that for ya toot sweet.” And he amicably ambles off to the kitchen like he does every morning leaving me alone again.
I shake my head, not for the first time. I have no idea who Mr. A is, or why he ordered steak with fries coleslaw and gravy at 5 in the morning often enough to engrain it in Harv but he never shows and it’s a shame to let it go to waste. Besides that I hate disappointing Harv, he does a mean steak.

As if a killer in our midst wasn’t enough every year a few more give in, take the drugs and just stop being. I ran into one a few years back pistol in hand and determination on his brow. Back when I scouted out of my home turf, I don’t do that anymore. It’s too fucking creepy. I spooked for a moment till I saw the look, the glaze in the eyes that isn’t seeing. I followed him on his route for a while, figured out how to hide in a different part of town if I had to. Then I put the poor bastard out of his misery. The changed are hard to hurt and harder to kill, but it’s not impossible, tossed him into a garbage truck compactor and it’s probably all over, I hope.

The morning after I torment Harv I find what I’ve been looking for. A man is sitting in my spot at the diner eating steak. Seamlessly I draw a knife, I have no idea how he heard me but he fell to the ground and rolled up, something I didn’t recognise in his hand. My first knife finds his arm and I see pain in his eyes, real new pain, not a distant memory of pain. I thought I had been scared before, I was wrong, I’m terrified now. The interloper went for something on his ankle and my second knife found his throat. He died before he hit the ground. The blood spreading out over the diners’ floor and his eyes glazing over in a familiar way. Harv will clean the floor soon, like he does every morning and I wonder for a brief moment just how bat shit insane I have gone. I wonder if this was Mr. A.
I should have asked his name.

So here I dance around the streets watching and hoping and fearing to see something new, someone that can change, someone that doesn’t fit the ritual dance of my fiefdom. Sleeping in a string of different empty beds by day and patrolling crowded streets relentlessly by night. I’m the only one here who can change and I’m too scared to do so. I’m sure there’s a joke in there. Whatever it is I’m not damn well laughing.