Sunday, April 20, 2008

Good Homekeeping

The door opened without a sound, sliding into the wall seamlessly as the lights flicked on to half-past-twilight.
          “Dinner is ready, Gregory.”
          Greg grunted a reply and peeled his grey suit off, throwing it beside the waste disposal unit. There’d be another in the morning, waiting for him. The unit opened and extruded arms that picked up the uniform and checked it over slowly, then pulled it inside to pulp it. He wondered that it would feel like to have the hands touching him that softly and shuddered.
          “Bourbon. Straight up.”
          “Dinner is ready,” the fridge said again.
          “Mary in processing turned me down again. I need a drink first.”
          “You have needed ‘a drink first’,” it said, mimicing him precisely, “four times in the past two months. Your file has been flagged.”
          “You remind me of my mother,” he said sourly.
          “That is not possible. You were raised by a proper cache system who does not sound like this one at all. Please refrain from such injurious statements in the future. Further remarks about mothers may warrant a visit to a psychbot.”
          “Yeah? On what grounds?” He snapped, trudging into the kitchen.
          “On the grounds that you disturb the fuck out of me,” the fridge said in its ordinary fridge voice.
          “Hah! Yes. Dinner, then,” Greg said cheerfully, opening the fridge and pulling out his Tuesday supper. For the first time in five weeks he didn’t mind steak and potatoes. It was the same steak and potatoes he’d had for over thirty years, but this time it tasted a little better. He’d done it.
          Marcel at work had explained it to him, on their break between moving bits of virtual paper around. They’d taken to taking breaks by loud machines, where the everpresent sensors couldn’t hear them as well. It had been simple to open up the side compartment of the fridge and adjust a few datacrystals here and there.
          The fridge would correct itself, but that could take over two days, and in the meantime he’d be surprised. Not much, because he knew what phrases he’d alter, but the fridge could randomly reply to a few things. He was a little scared at how good this made him feel, but just ate the meal in silence, drank water, and got his bourbon after, downing it in a single deadening gulp.
          He tried calling Mary, but the phone decided he’d had too much to drink and the front door locked itself when he tried to leave. He settled for watching three hours of mindless entertainment and considered calling a prostitute, but the bedroom informed him that his monthly love allotment was used up.
          Greg didn’t try and argue; he had before, but even though the systems were programmed to allow a certain amount of rule-bending, it always came back to get you later; one month he’d get an extra prostitute, and two months later he’d get none at all. Whoever had designed the system had cleared managed to find a steady sexual partner, or at least liked to watch other people suffer.
          He masturbated before sleep, saying Mary’s name while thinking about Joan, hoping Mary’s system would be notified and convinced to arrange a date with him. Sleep, when the lights dimmed, was quick and merciful, a little slice of death he welcomed.

The fridge was entirely normal the next day. It offered up Wednesday breakfast, and supper when he returned home from work. Today and Thursday had oranges for supper, even though Greg hated oranges. He sent his weekly exemption request up the ladder, but since he wasn’t actually allergic he knew nothing would come of it.
          The chair had once had the rooms gravity altered to make sure he finished eating his orange along with the rest of supper. The fridge and scale refused to allow him dessert until he shed another 1.5kilos, so he got out the exercise equipment solely for the massage after. It wasn’t human hands, but it didn’t really matter anymore.
          Mary had taken to avoiding him on breaks. But he’d managed to talk to Marcel, who’d told him a few more tricks. Greg had even given up one love allotment for next month, just for tonight’s trick. He tried not to let it scare him, how much he wanted the tricks, and the smile Marcel gave him that didn’t look like a real one at all.
          Greg knew Marcel was like everyone else, though. The creche-systems raised everyone the same, everyone ate the same food, heard the same music. But somehow the unease Greg was feeling had reached Marcel earlier and he’d learned things, and was willing to pass them on. All Greg knew was what his job required, mostly; he saw no need to educate himself further since he wouldn’t be promoted until his fiftieth year.
          He was willing to bet Marcel came from a faulty batch of some kind, but that wasn’t something you asked anyone. There were people who never got promoted at all, though, no matter what they did. System looked after its own.
          He waited until he was in the bedroom, and forced himself to lie awake through the sleeping song he’d heard ever since he was an embryo. It was easier than it had been Tuesday, and he slipped out of the bed after and to the fridge, adjusting three different panels before going back to bed.
          The problem with lying awake through the cycle was having dreams; they mostly made no sense, and he woke disturbed, wondering if they were really what having voices led to. There was a message on his phone. ‘We take the dreams with the nightmares. M.’
          He wasn’t quite sure what it meant, but had a hearty breakfast and tried to avoid yawning, though his system would log his yawns on the way to work and adjust the sleeping songs accordingly. It had taken him over a month to be able to fight the current one enough for two tricks; he wasn’t sure if he had it in him to do more, though he wished he did.
          Work was mundane, as usual, though Marcel wasn’t around. All he was told was the company had issued some reassignments. Mary ignored him again, so he ignored her in return and spent his break reading more psychbot studies on his batch and their relative failures in finding love, but found nothing about his failures that was unique.
          He applied for more love allotments, citing that, but didn’t expect any reply. He’d never had one before, and didn’t know anyone who had.
          The fridge offered the Thursday dinner, when he returned home and the door informed him technicians had done scheduled maintenance repairs. He said nothing to that, but made sure to put his clothing closer to the waste disposal unit and casually bent down when removing his shoes, noticing that the panels on the fridge were resealed.
          Greg bit back a curse word.
          “Dinner is ready, Gregory.”
          “Thank you,” he said to the fridge, pulling it out.
          There was the usual chicken and rice, but the orange was an apple.
          The orange was an apple.
          Greg stared at it, and felt his vision blur.
          “Is something amiss?” the fridge said.
          “No. No. Everything is fine. ” Greg fought back a wild laugh. “Everything is just -- fine.” He put his dinner on the table, taking care not to break routines, but couldn’t help humming softly as he ate, saving the apple until last.
          The apple tasted just like an orange.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bodies are not letters

Dry as death, cotton-mouthed.
There are no singers, not here.
I swore we'd meet, again, together
In a better world, forgetting
The only real one is here.

The rain is pittering, softly.
Steps patter, slow, move away.
I am dying, my lovely, and dying
I wait for you to come, to join
Like you promised me.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Doomsday, Take One

I never thought I’d finish it. I’m leaving this record behind here, as a warning and promise. That sounds like crap. Sorry. I’ve been drinking. Drinking makes me a pompous prick. Peter the pompous prick - say that a few times fast. Anyway, I am going out to do battle with the forces of the status quo and normalcy. They don’t protect the world, they don’t save it: they just make sure every thing is the same as it always was.
          And they never lose. That’s the part that depresses me. It’s why I started drinking again. Because this is the second attempt, in as many months. I hadn’t finished my death ray, last night. I just had robots, and they recruited some girl named Ferro Faucet - okay, fine Magenta Lass -- All right, all right. for history: Polar Star. She did things with magnets, and ripped every one of them apart.
          I never even got to salvage the pieces, and it was the last straw for Maureen. This time I’d racked the credit cards up to far, this time I’d gone too far, this time this, this time that -- I told her I was doing it for her, and she said she’d have settled for me fixing the toilet or being able to pay a plumber. I told her I needed to concentrate, that she was distracting me, and she said she loved me.
          And I told her that was distracting me.
          She didn’t leave. I don’t know why. She threw the model for a laser rifle for chimps at my head, started screaming, I screamed back. I told her I was 52, and I’d done nothing with my life, and if she couldn’t support me -- and she said she was tired of supporting me doing nothing, and I should go legit, because I was over 30 and the hippie era had died out before I was born. Things like that.
          We can only really hurt the ones we care about, and she slapped me for some comment, and I hit her, and she fell. It was her fault, not having cleaned up the floor. She hit an old weapon and there was blood everywhere, and I had a rolled up design in my hand and a florescent bioluminescent incandescent resonating polarizxing focused tachyon field to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow in a neutrino displacement grid for a electric-powered light-emitting vacuum tube -- or, in layman’s terms, a light bulb went off above my head.
          And I took the plans, and named it after her. The Maureen Mark I. My death ray. A real one, not the sissy laser weapons or the oh, so mighty microwave and radiation foolishness. I went beyond anti-matter and dimensional membranes and gravitational weapons -- but, since I hope to patent it some year, I won’t give details. Suffice to say it involves The endochronic properties of resublimated thiotimoline, and if you don’t get that, you don’t understand mad science.
          It’s not like I plan to destroy the entire world. The ‘mad’ is just a name we use, to distinguish ourselves from the ‘brights’ and normal scientists trapped in three dimensional thinking and string theory and other outdated silliness. We go where the imagination does not dare to, and sometimes we return with true wonders.
          Like the death ray. I will go, and I will destroy the heroes who defeated me with my plastic weapon at my side and a laugh in the air. And I will smile and not show my teeth, because our dental plan is terrible. But everything will change, once I rule the world. Things will be better. Purer. I will find a way to bring Maureen back.
          And I will finally be worthy of her love.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Indulgences: confessions from the row

There are truths so great
that we can only believe them
through lies. It is that, or broken bliss
of enlightened destruction.

And it is hard to look at destruction
especially of beautiful things, of
pregnant women state by state,
country by country, and accept.

I am a criminal, but aren't you?
All of us condemned to death.
We are born broken; they say we heal.
I say the brokenness remains.

To say: I am not a serial killer.
To get: to the bottom of things.
I approach the limits of understanding
to find dictionaries writ by angels.

They said He would be born again this year.
The signs were unseen by most, never
playing on a superbowl half-time show,
but I saw. And more, believed.

And they said, men and not angels, 33 years.
The same pattern, the same story, to live
to die to be the second coming.
And I said: "why wait that long?"

I killed the mothers to stop Him, to save Us.
All of us, from judgement and damnation
Because there is no compassion where
there is judgement, and this is our world we made.

In the end, He is just another chain to trap us,
golden but still a chain for all that, promising
salvation and miracles and that we need never save
ourselves, offering easy payments, instalment plans.

I only prevented a thing worse than Hitler,
another hatred of humanity trying to make us
into angels and not men: I only saved
the world, price cheaper than I thought prices could be.

British Coinage

It seems Britain has new coins now (link via A Softer World). Which led to the following thought:

"We were going to use designs culled from our 'net respondents, but frankly we wanted the news coins to be all-ages."

Friday, April 04, 2008

Why superhero marriages never happen

Priest: "Do you--"
Our Heroine: "Sorry, had to save the world. Back now!"
Priest: "Do you take Jake--"
Our Heroine: "Oh, no! The mythopoeic zoo broke! I need to close it. Sorry, back."
Priest: "Damn it, so you take him to be your --"
Our Heroine: "Hang on, I need to go rescue a kitten from a tree two blocks --"
Priest: "Look, do you want to marry him or not lady?!"

On Exorcisms

A senior priest in Florence is under investigation for fraud after allegedly amassing £3 million by performing fake exorcisms.

Prosecutors said that Father Francesco Saverio Bazzoffi would "stage shows" at the House of the Sainted Archangels, an organisation he founded.

During the events, which regularly attracted crowds of over 400 people, a number of associates would "pretend to be possessed by demons" and Fr Bazzoffi would allegedly exorcise them using ancient and obscure rites

... Fr Bazzoffi denies that he had "ever practised" exorcisms and admitted that he did not have a licence.

I want one of those licences. And to pull it out at the most opportune times. Or, say, for real fun:

"Come now! Your daughter is not having a seizure, she is POSSESSED!" *whips out card* "For 5 easy payments of $99.95, I can cure...."

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

"This is - this is me. Hey."

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I never told you. I'm sorry I'm only telling this to your answering machine. I'm sorry I loved you, lied to you, hated you -- I'm sorry you probably feel the way I do now, stomach churning with dead butterflies, mouth tasting like day old socks as you want for the test results.

"By now you probably know me, or who I used to be, who I really am. I tried so hard, to love you, to be like all the other husbands. To be like all the other men. But I couldn't do it. Biology betrayed me. Sooner or later, we betray or dreams. Or they, us. So I'm sorry. I know it can't make a difference, that my words can't save you, can't mend this. We passed the time for words the first time we stopped using condoms.

"I should have told you something. Dear God, I should have said something. Even a hint, or a word or two in jest. There's at least something I could have said, about me, about you. That's all the stories are. Two people, and what happens after. Three, if they're lucky, and -- sorry, a bad joke. They still slip out of me, like verbal diarrhoea. Even now. Maybe especially now. We we don't laugh, we've lost. Doesn't matter what we're fighting, what demons we face: if we can't laugh, we've lost against anything.

"We're all going to die, my lo - dear. So we can't take it all too seriously. But even so, I'm sorry. Right now, the doctors are likely performing tests on you, using needles and machines and invisible robots in your blood to find out if you'll live or die. Not even they no for sure. I'd offer up something, a prayer maybe, but the words keep getting stuck in my throat.

"You loved me. I loved you. We made love, we had sex, we did all the things people do when they're infatuated, were together long enough that it was more than just that. Seven years, and you found out. Took the test. Never understood why I was horrified, why I left. I guess - I guess you know now.

"I thought, after that long, it would never happen. It was radiation, you see. I figured I had to be infertile. Unless, you know, you knocked someone up on the side. But they must have been like me, too, so I can still be angry with you. We married, after all. There's more to that than love. And we both had secrets. You had your ex you sometimes met for coffee, for a thrill in your life. I used to fly over the city, fight people in silly costumes. Think I was saving the world.

"I guess, then, mine was bigger. If the baby is like me, they can probably figure that out. Tell you if you can survive, if you'll die or not. It's why we don't have kids, why so few come to term. I guess this is goodbye, then. It has to be something.

"I almost wish your machine could record this entire message."