Tuesday, February 27, 2007

R. Anon

“My first time was with a cat,” Craig said into the circle of cheap folding chairs, cigarette smoke hissing out to the last word. “I had to work my way up to people. It’s easier, to start with animals. Simpler.
     “Cats, though. Cats are hard. I had trouble finding the right moment, at first.” He took another drag, looking up to steady the florescent lights on the ceiling above their heads. “I didn’t even start with a pet of my own, just some cat almost as good as roadkill. But it still worked, still happened. After that, there was no turning back.”
     “Well said, “Bob said. “Everyone, give Craig a hand.”
     A few half-hearted golf claps filled the stagnant air.
     “We have a a new member here today,” Bob added, as if the filling of the last chair hadn’t been obvious. “Everyone, this is Cheryl.”
     “HI Cheryl,” everyone said.
     “Before we begin on today’s progress reports, perhaps you can tell us the first time you raised the dead?” Bob said.
     Cheryl was a too-thin quiet girl, all goth without makeup, her face pale with dark hair hanging down to her waist. “I just find it hard to believe,” she said in a voice made rough by years of drinking.”
     Craig laughed sharply. “Sorry, not at you. I get it, most of us do. It’s not often you find anonymous AA style things for raising the dead. It’s a horrible habit, though: where do you stop, once you start?”
     “Who dies that doesn’t deserve to live?” Bob said smoothly into the silence. “That is the question that haunts our waking hours, and most of our sleeping ones. But first, who brought the cookies?”

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Making Art

Mendril Caroway had been voted the High Protector the city by the computers under the earth, old and strange and unfathomable in their ways. He’d never been important - never wanted to be, truth be told - but they had given him the post, and technology to go along with it: with the gloves, he could create anything, change anything into anything else. It was a terrible burden, and his family has drifted away from him, as they had predicated.
      A servant of the great city, they felt, should have nothing limiting him in his duties. No ties, no commitments. Only the people, and the computers. He didn’t know what he thought about that, tried as often as he could not to, but then some tourist had ended up leaving the quarantined zone and was, currently, in the cells.
      “Report,” he said crisply to the two guards who smelled of stale sweat. The third, his security chief, smiled at him with eyes that were far too bright in her face.
      Mendril stopped and looked over. “Omalu?”
      “The - ah - it claims to come from there.”
      “And this is?” he snapped. It had been a long day, and he was looking forward to some nice relaxing drugs and not having to order any more deaths or other things tgo keep the computer’s peace.. Something in her smile told him it wasn’t going to happen.
      “The subjects name is Ililiiqi. Ki, for short. As near as I can tell, it is from Omalu,” she said.
      “It again?”
      “Neuter, sir. Probably some punishment, really, among some barbarian freakworld thing,” the one guard opined.
      Desiree ignored it, smiling at Mendril for a few moments longer. “Carl is right: the creature is neuter, and a ghost.”
      “A ghost.”
      “Currently it is in the cell because we brought in a simple matter creator set to make dishes,” she said dryly. “Otherwise it’d be wandering through people’s homes and confusing many more.”
      Mendril sighed, following her down the hallway and entering the cell she’d chosen, wondering what kind of joke he was the butt of this time.

The creature in the room looked human, at first glance. Thin and tall, with pale hair and bright eyes, it looked up curiously; if not for the fact that the High Protector could see right through it, he’d have thought it was a person. Hands were pulling things out, phase shifting them from the inside of the device to the floor beside it where it sat cross-legged, grinning from ear to ear.
      Mendril moved around slowly, studying the creature. It had an extra set of thumbs, and was as androgynous as most dolls, disturbingly so. He coughed lightly, finally, and it looked up.
      “Hello,” the voice said, though its mouth hadn’t moved.
      Mendril froze, throwing up protections in his mind. “Hello.”
      “I fixed the dishes,” the voice said proudly, as loud as before even though the meditative protections around his own thoughts.
      “It gets the dishes sparkling clean now.”
      Behind him, he heard Desiree struggle to suppress a laugh.
      “On your vids, this is what you want yes?” The creature looked up anxiously. “Bright and clean and sparkly?”
      “Ah. Yes. Your voice?” he prodded.
      “Oh! We just talk,” it said earnestly. “We don’t listen. To thoughts? It is rude.”
      It nodded. Mendril took a deep breath. “May I ask why you are here?”
      “The Emperor is getting passage,” it said, looking back down at absently putting the matter creator back together. “So I was told to keep busy and not bother people. Have I bothered you?”
      “A little,” he said. “But it’s okay. Ah. How does it work, now?”
      It pulled a hand out of the matter creator, a tool in its hand vanishing into - nothing, it seemed. “Better.”
      Mendril counted to ten. “What does better mean?”
      The creature blinked a few times. “I don’t understand?” it sent, finally.
      The guards were snickering openly now; Mendril ignored them as well. “How is it better?”
      “Oh!” It reached out a hand and pushed.
      The transmitter hummed, than began glowing a soft cherry red.
      Desiree drew a slugthrower, alarmed, just as the glow faded and was replaced by the smell of melting plastic. A single dish was ejected, and he heard her drop her weapon, breath hissing out between clenched teeth.
      It was diamond, thin as ancient china dishes Mendril had only heard of in reference to some dictator who liked tea. It was art, on this world, in this age. Made from a lowly matter creator.
      He took a deep breath, staring into a worried face he could see the wall behind. “It’s - very pretty,” he managed, mentally connecting to the computers for advice. But there was silence. Silence in his head, where there had been only noise.
      His voice was hollow when it came out, as if someone else spoke in his stead: “What did you use to power that?”
      “You had sources below. I spliced,” the creature said.
      “You drained the Computers,” he managed.
      “Upgraded, too,” it said proudly. “Your systems were full of -” it hesitated, then sent: “confusion. Not nice patterns? Repaired. It should come back soon. I don’t know why is hasn’t yet?”
      The guards stopped snickering. The silence behind him stretched, filled with things he tried not to think about
      “I see,” he managed.
      “I could fix more?” it offered. “Your computers are so old they reboot,” in disbelief.
      “No.” Mendril drew a smile up from somewhere, knowing it couldn’t be reading his mind with that earnest innocence on its face. “It’s okay now. You can go.”
      The creature wandered out through a wall, and Mendril had a moment to wonder if the Computers would return. He didn’t other saying it was only a job, that he had tried his best for the world; it wouldn’t have mattered. There was a shot, he didn’t know who, a flash of pain - mercifully brief - and nothing.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Back Cover Poem #1

Driven by personal demons
Made by experience;
Sparrows of insomnia picking
     at the inside of his skull.
Harsh obstacles -- and with each other
Hosting a children's party
To stand the test of time;
Pilgrim in search of herself
Trying to shield children in their arms --
An ever-changing world.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Life of a superhero

"My name? I thought everyone.... skidderMan. Gimme another beer? Thanks See, I used to be StopperMan. I could stop spam, worked as a crossing guard. Then there was the black ice day, the terrible day when they skidded instead. Three of the little tykes died, but they did stop the bastard from hitting me. Still got fired."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Crescent Moon

Not making faces, hanging
in the sky, half-burnt
blackened by the sun
she is half to screaming,
weeping -- soft -- so that
he never hears.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Because it amused me...

12PM Why There Are So Many Therapists

Child in stall: Mommy, where does that hole go?
Mother: It's not a hole, it's a pipe, and it goes to where the child-catcher lives. Now hurry up!

601 West Peace Street
Raleigh, North Carolina

via Overheard in the Office, Feb 2, 2007

Friday, February 02, 2007

Feng Shui For Mosques

(Feb. 2007)

If a thing were not forbidden, it tended to become compulsory. That was the only explanation Hafiz had for Fred deciding they should redo the mosque in Feng Shui.

"It's Shway," he said, "like sway," moving his hips as though he were a woman.

Hafiz didn't like the other man, though he'd never said. It wasn't that there was something precisely wrong with a Muslim named Fred, it was only that he smiled. All the time. This queer little smile as if there was a joke, and only he got it.

"It is just architecture," Fred said. And then: "The door is going is going to face Mecca anyway, dude."

"I am not a dude," Hafiz said.

"Woah. Chill, man."

Hafiz said: "I am chill."

Fred said: "I meant, calm down. It's just some fun. I know someone who knows someone, and they offered, and it's free. You can't argue with free, can you?"

Hafiz wanted to say: "I can. I must, because free things are seldom worth their cost. They're too expensive, Fred who smiles too much," but he said nothing, and Fred was the sort of man who took silence as assent.

The basement was large, so they loaned it to the friend, who began to have ceremonies down there, with incense, and chanting. Mostly women, a few men, all not of the faith. The woman found reasons to stop by, to ask about the Feng Shui, to move things.

Fewer people came to the mosque, save at night, and to the basement. They did not think Hafiz noticed. There was talk, of rights and empowerment, by those who did not understand that power conferred only responsibilities. Hafiz tried to explain, but no one listened. They asked: Why don't you have a Western name?

Hafiz said: "I already have a name," and was called old fashioned. He became silent, but still watched. They invoked names, in the basement; idols in a place of Allah. When he told them not to, they called him a terrorist, flinging the word about as if it were 'infidel' or 'heretic'.

He took down the feng shui, but no one noticed. Finally he went downstairs, into the darkness, and brought light.

"What are you doing?" Fred screamed, when the friend of a friend died. The knife was, after all, very sharp, and the door locked: Hafiz was a practical man.

"I have decided to convert," Hafiz said, smiling a Fred-smile of his own. "But not to your god, devoid of sacrifice, of duty, of obligations. A faith that does not demand things of you is not a faith, Fred."

"Have mercy, please!" Fred begged, as infidels had throughout the long history of war.

"I am not evil," Hafiz responded, and brought down the blade, cutting precisely (for he had read a book on this, to prepare) and removed her heart, holding it up. It was not still beating, a fact that he regretted, but Fed was here as well.

Fred threw up, gasping, drenched in fear and urine, too terrified to fight.

"I give this sacrifice to Quetzalcoatl," Hafiz said, his voice filling the room.

He walked over to Fred, who cowered into the wall. "Conversion is not done by silence," Hafiz said, his voice terrible gentle. "Only by blood. Only by pain. Only by loss. We grow from loss," he added, bringing the knife down.

He had time to show Fred the heart before Fred died, then put the knife down on their alter and thanked the corpses for allowing the sun to rise, went upstairs, faced Mecca, and waited patiently for the sun.