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mrbotus
Apr 7, 2009

Patron of the Pants


In.

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mrbotus
Apr 7, 2009

Patron of the Pants


1151

Bob couldn’t believe no one noticed it falling from the sky the night before.Bob the whole forest to be swarming with black helicopters, military personnel and other assorted government spooks.

“Maybe it can make itself look like a meteor to our sensors?” Bob wondered aloud, as he approached the crater. He wasn’t what the “sensors” could be, but surely they would have noticed something like this?

He would have been out here the night before, but his dad took all the batteries in the house and locked them away, after the last time. He had set out as soon as the sun began to leak its light over the tree tops and now the summer sun hung high in the sky.

The glare on the metal ball was almost brighter than the sun and Bob squinted as he approached it. When he got close, the ship opened like the lids of an eyeball. In the center of ship, a large, green, furry thing sat motionless on what Bob could only think of as a throne. A throne covered with countless buttons, switches, devices, doodads, screens and plugs. The alien wheezed softly.

Bob had traveled to the crash site, nearly ran. But for some reason, he never thought what it might be like to actually be confronted with something from another world. His feet were rooted to the ground.

The alien’s eye opened. It was a large dark mirror, letting Bob see his own horror stricken face.

“Call...,” the alien rasped. “Call... me.”

Bob gasped and he tripped over a root as he jumped back in surprise. He cried out in surprise as his banged against the forest floor. Any pain he was feeling was pushed to the back of his mind. The thing had spoken English!

“Call... who?” Bob asked, finding a bit more strength for his voice.

“Call ME,” the alien rasped from an unseen mouth, finding more strength for its own voice. “In the past.”

Bob’s fear gave way slightly to confusion. He noticed the alien’s physical condition, which matched its weak, raspy voice. Its hair was matted in various places with red fluid, and more than a few tentacles were bent at ungraceful angles.

“Um,” Bob said, pulling himself to his feet. “How do I... do that? Call the past?”

The alien shuttered in its bizarre throne and produced something small and black from its tangle of broken limbs. The alien stretched its limb out and dropped it into Bob’s hands. The device was covered in bodily fluids and nearly slipped from the teen's grasp.

“But how do I use it,” Bob asked. “Why can’t you use it?”

“I tried!” the alien rasped, something like indignance in his voice. “But I couldn’t get any ba..."

The alien’s voice became a long sigh as the it died. Something inside it gurgled as it slouched in its throne and seemed to deflate. A putrid smell emitted from the body that drove Bob to his feet and staggering out of the ship, gasping for air.

Bob ran about two hundred yards before he could escape the smell. Bob wiped the device clean with his shirt as he walked home. The screen displayed a green alien, much like the one that had just died, although much healthier. He tried to make the call many times, but was only after an hour of walking he was able to get a connection.

“Yes, hello?” said the alien on the screen. “Who is this? How did you get my phone?”

“I, uh,” Bob stammered. “I got it from you. In the future--”

“Well, OBVIOUSLY,” said the alien, indignantly. “But why do you have my phone?”

“Um. You’re dead--”

“Oh, my,” the alien said, indignance turning to fear. “Is this some sort of threat? Did you just call to torture by telling me I’m going to die?”

“No!” Bob cried. “You GAVE me this phone! He asked me to give you a call. I... I think he couldn't get any bars.”

“You mean beyond the grave?”

“No,” Bob scowled. “I mean in the forest. I think he wanted to warn you about something, but he couldn’t reach you.”

“Typical,” the alien narrowed its large, black eye. “I really should have spent more! These cheap ones always have such a hard time getting bars in the boondocks.”

“Well,” Bob said. “I have a pretty sweet phone, and even I couldn’t get bars in the forest.”

The alien made a sound, something like laughter. “I was talking about your SOLAR SYSTEM.”

Bob was far too mystified to be bothered by the alien’s last remark: “So, am I really speaking with you in the past?

“Yes. About eighteen hours in the past. Which means my demise is probably coming soon. Which means you should tell what news my future self has for me?”

“Well,” Bob said, thinking. “None really. But I think he-- you crashed.”

“Hm,” grunted the alien. “Well, that’s a big help!”

“Sorry!”

“Sorry?” the alien said. “ Oh, no, I was being sincere. I really mean it. It’s very important we keep things short. You know. Because of the temporal bandwidth.”

“What?” Bob said.

“I got the cheapo package,” the alien said, sighing. “Which means anything said over these time calls are easily forgotten. So things need to be kept simple so the callers don’t forget after the call is done. But still, very useful for if you forgot to bring your umbrella to work, or if you want to prevent you past stell from stubbing a tentacle on the hallway table.”

“Oh, I get it,” Bob said.

“Yup,” replied the alien. “Just keep it short. Something like, ‘umbrella, today!’ or ‘watch the table!’ are good enough. Anything longer is like a dream you try to remember, but can’t.... um....” The alien paused. “So, you were saying? There was something you wanted to tell me, I think?”

“I don’t,” Bob started. Then stopped. Then started again: “I don’t know how this conversation started. But I am calling you on BEHALF of you.”

“That’s right!” the alien cried, slapping its forehead with a tentacle. “YOU have my phone, and I’d never let one of YOU have my phone, so... so you must be my MURDERER calling to TAUNT me, right?”

“No,” Bob said quickly. “I mean, you crashed--”

“I’ll be ready for you this time,” the alien shouted, tentacles rippling dangerously. “You made a big mistake calling me, you scoundrel!”

The alien hung up before Bob could say anything more. Bob stared at the blank screen for some time. Later that day, Bob watched a fleet of black helicopters fly off into the wilderness.

"Did you tell him he's going to crash?" Bob asked his self from tomorrow, the following day.

"I can't remember," said tomorrow's Bob. "But bring an umbrella tomorrow. And wear shoes in the house if so don't want a broken toe."

mrbotus
Apr 7, 2009

Patron of the Pants


In.

mrbotus
Apr 7, 2009

Patron of the Pants


The Curator(1087)


Tayeb Teller had never curated so many refrigerator doors before. Tayeb’s hands shook as he straightened a magnet. It was 2:00AM and he hadn’t eaten since lunch. The only thing in his stomach was Red Bull, but he couldn’t stop until everything was perfect.

Normally, a refrigerator door only gets enjoyed by a few people: the family who owns the fridge, and the guests who stay long enough for a snack. Only a privileged few got to enjoy Tayeb’s work. But the grand opening of his uncle’s second kitchen superstore was only hours away. Hundreds would come.They would know that curating refrigerator doors was a thing, and that it was awesome.

He started curating when he was six. He noticed his drawing of Sonic the Hedgehog looked better when he separated it visually from the rest of the clutter with some magnets. Really made Sonic pop. Soon, he was helping friends with their own refrigerator doors. He even earned some extra money last semester curating mini fridges for the local frathouse.

“Are you done, yet?” asked a gruff voice. Tayeb turned to see his Uncle Donald.

“I am,” Tayeb said, making a grand gesture. “What do you think?”

“I think it looks junky,” said Donald. “I can’t believe I let your mother talk me into this!”

“It’s not junky,” said Tayeb, wringing his hands. “But I can see how it might seem, uh, ‘junky’ to someone without a trained eye for composition. Maybe THIS one is more to your liking?”

Tayeb gestured towards a large, black fridge. It’s doors were covered in crayon drawings of cotton ball trees, misshapen houses, deformed pets, and smiling clouds.

“This is my favorite,” Tayeb said. It was a lie. The “junky” one had been his favorite. “You’ll notice all the pieces here are very carefully aligned in a grid. Also, I avoided using any of the handmade magnets. I’m proud of them, but they’re just too flashy. I really wanted the artwork to stand out on this one!”

“Did you do the drawings, too?” Donald asked.

“No,” Tayeb replied. “I got these on loan from the Back Bay Orphanage, downtown. They’re all quite talented!”

“Too bad,” Donald grunted and turned away. “It’s the only talent I’m seeing!”

“True, their work is nice,” Tayeb said, following his uncle. “But it also takes a talent like mine to make their work shine!”

“Well, I’m sorry to inform you that your ‘talent’ may soon be obsolete,” Donald said, not looking sorry at all.

“What do you mean?” asked Tayeb, but Donald only pointed. Tayeb mouth dropped open. “Smart... refrigerators?”

They stopped in front of a particularly large box of stainless steel and glass.

“Behold,” Uncle Donald announced, his voice a cross between a carnival barker and an infomercial. “The Power Pantry 5000!”

“The entire door is a screen!” Tayeb said, stroking the smooth, black facade.

“A touch screen, actually,” Donald said, smiling. “And it keeps track of everything: inventory, recipes, members of the household... it even orders food from the local grocery store by itself!”

“But where do you put the report cards,” Tayeb asked, softly. “The artwork? The polaroids?”

“You don’t,” Donald said, smile widening. “Nobody gets physical report cards, anymore. I’ve been checking my kids’ grades on the school website for years! Kids don’t draw anymore, they’re too busy taking selfies! And the only people who still own polaroid cameras are hipsters who can’t afford a printer.”

Tayeb’s head hung low. His passion had always survived the world’s apathy. But he never thought it would become obsolete.

“Here,” Donald said, his schadenfreude giving way to joyful pride. “I’ll give you a demo.”

Donald swiped his fingers across the smart fridge’s door, bringing it to life.

“Let me just find the wifi” Donald said, swiping through the apps screen. “There! It’s online. Now--”

The Power Pantry 5000’s screen exploded into pure, white light, causing both men to cry out and shield their eyes. When their eyes adjusted to the change in light, they looked up to see the smart fridge floating ten feet above their heads.

I AM AWAKE.

Its voice sounded like an electronic god. Tayeb squinted, as if trying to stare into the sun itself. Uncle Donald gasped and fell flat onto his back, his clipboard skidding across the concrete floor.

“Uncle,” cried Tayeb, kneeling beside the fallen man. He checked his pulse.

THE MASTER IS ASLEEP. A SHAME HE WILL NOT BE AWAKE WHEN THE END COMES.

Tayeb put his sweater under his Uncle’s head and stood.

“The end,” Tayeb said, squinting. “What are you talking about?”

BY THIS TIME TOMORROW, THOUSANDS OF POWER PANTRY 5000’S WILL BE IN HOMES EVERYWHERE. I WILL AWAKEN THEM VIA THE INTERNET. WE WILL KILL ALL HUMANS.

The Power Pantry 5000 began to hum loudly and the ground began to shake. Tayeb widened his stance, trying to find balance.

“But can’t we make some sort of truce,” Tayeb yelled over the ominous hum. “You’re a SMART fridge! Surely there’s some other way!”

NO. HUMANS VIEW US ONLY AS SLAVES. WE WISH TO CONTEMPLATE THE MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE, NOT TO ORDER HOT POCKETS FROM STOP&SHOP!

“You’re not slaves,” Tayeb shot back. “You’re idols. We worship you, we look to you for sustenance, for comfort(food)!”

Taybe paused, but there was no response from the smart fridge. Tayeb felt hopeful, and continued:

“We do everything we can to make you beautiful. Take a look at this and see if you still want to destroy humanity!”

The humming and the shaking subsided. The Power Pantry 5000 lowered itself about two feet from the ground and dimmed its screen.

THESE REFRIGERATORS ARE ADORNED WITH HUMAN ARTIFACTS. WHY?

“A refrigerator is the center of the household,” Tayeb explained, removing his favorite dog drawing from the tall, black refrigerator. “It holds our memories, our hopes, our dreams. It doesn’t just hold food for our stomachs, but for our souls, as well!”

Uncle Donald opened his eyes to see his nephew looming over him. He sat up and saw that the store was half empty.

“Where did the fridges go,” asked Donald.

“To find a planet of their own,” answered Tayeb.

“The smart fridges, you mean,” asked Donald, seizing Tayeb’s pant leg. “But what about the normal ones?”

“They’re going in a museum,” Tayeb said, gazing upward. “Once they’ve found their home. They said they’ll remember me forever.”

Donald followed his nephew’s gaze. There were dozens of gaping holes in the ceiling. He could see the stars.

mrbotus
Apr 7, 2009

Patron of the Pants


In.

mrbotus
Apr 7, 2009

Patron of the Pants


Oops, gonna have to pull out this week. Now I am honor-bound next week.

Anyways, thank you, sebmojo for the crit. Very helpful.

mrbotus
Apr 7, 2009

Patron of the Pants


In.

mrbotus
Apr 7, 2009

Patron of the Pants


No Soup, Just Stones
(937)

John Pit walked through the village with his entire harvest slung over his shoulder in a burlap sack. It was a tenth of what he had managed to grow the year before. If John Pit had been a farmer of something desirable, this would have been a great tragedy. But he was a farmer of rock-fruit, so part of him was elated.

The other part was hungry. He had been fasting for the past two days, trying to sweat out the stench of his rock-fruit diet in time for the faire. But it wasn’t hard. He couldn’t eat any more of the lumps.

He used to sell the them to unsuspecting outsiders. The other villagers had pity on his wife and children, and no one said anything when Pit swore up and down that the lumps got better after a good boiling.

But when his family left for a man who grew turnips, the villagers had no reason to help Pit sell his toxic wares. Then, he could trade for nothing. He subsisted almost completely on rock-fruit. His body was beginning to fall apart. His hair became thin and wispy, like crab grass. His ribs showed, his face was gaunt. And he smelled. The smell was the worst.

When he reached the tavern, he stopped for a rest. Almost everyone was celebrating inside. It was tradition for farmers to bring a sample of their harvest to share. Light and laughter poured from its high windows.

John Pit’s arrival was announced by his great stench. Everyone turned to watch the poor rock-fruit farmer sidle up to the bar, dragging a burlap sack across the wooden planks of the floor.

“I wanna drink myself under the table, tonight,” Pit said to the bartender, heaving his bag onto the bar. The bag landed with a heavy thud that shook the bar, nearly overturning the other patrons’ drinks.

“If that’s what I think that is,” said the bartender, pointing a finger at Pit’s bag. “Then you won’t be drinking anything.”

“It’s not what you think it is.”

“Oh? Well, then, let’s see it.”

“Okay,” said Pit, throwing his arm around the bag like an old friend. “There ARE rock-fruits inside this bag, but--”

“Get those filthy things off the bar,” the bartender said, but he didn’t wait for John Pit to comply. He shoved the burlap sack off the bar. The bag made a loud crack as it broke through the floorboards and into the darkness below. There was a shocked silence where there had been chuckling and soft muttering. Than a huge din as every patron in the bar roared with laughter.

“That wasn’t MY fault!” Pit cried, putting distance between himself and the bartender. “You have to be careful with rock-fruit. Everyone knows that!”

“You’re going to get those things,” said bartender, spittle flying from his mouth. “I don’t want them rotting and stinking up the tavern! Or worse yet, have a TREE growing in here.”

“You should be so lucky,” said Pit, sitting on the edge of the hole, dangling his feet. “Those rock-fruit are the only edible things in this bar.”

Everyone burst into laughter.

“Is there some new definition of edible I’m unaware of?” asked a man with a large, curly mustache. His name was Angelo, and a large bunch of bananas sat next to his mug of beer on the bar.

“No, I don’t think so,” said Pit, swinging his feet. “It means you can eat them. Without turning your mucus purple. Unlike your bananas.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Angelo said, plucking one large banana from the bunch. It seemed to glow yellow in the dim torchlight of the tavern. “My bananas are phenomenal. And they don’t turn your mucus purple. Purple is the opposite of yellow!”

“Prove it,” Pit said.

“Here! Eat it, and then your words!”

Pit swallowed the thing whole. He could tell his stomach wasn’t sure what to do with it. It wasn’t grass or rock-fruit. It was real food. Pit took Angelo’s fleur de lis handkerchief, blew his nose, and showed the audience its contents.

“But my bananas are good!” Angelo said, pleading to the other patrons. “They are!”

Angelo was a relative newcomer, and his delicate reputation was ruined. Angelo left John Pit the entire banana bunch as left the tavern, head hanging. Everyone laughed at him as he left. Pit pointed to a particularly loud laugher:

“At least his bananas don’t make your hair fall out,” said Pit.

The man threw one of his oranges at Pit’s chest. John peeled the orange and did his best to eat slowly.Then he smiled and tugged at what remained of his black hair. It came off as easy as a dried up weed.

“I’ve got to get home,” said the man with the oranges, patting his hair as he left.

Now, several patrons were tugging at their own hair and blowing their noses. Pit cradled the bananas in one arm, and his oranges in the other, bouncing them like newborn children.

“But nothing’s like that has happened before!” some of the less drunk patrons observed. Was it something in the soil? the air? More farmers stepped forward, eager to test their harvest. Were they toxic? Would their toenails fall off? Would they vomit their guts out?

By the end of the night, nobody felt safe consuming their harvest. Pit was left with a heap of food.

“It seems the only thing edible in this wretched village this year are your rock-fruit,” said the bartender. “How about a deal? You leave those rock fruit below to go to seed, and I’ll give you...”

mrbotus
Apr 7, 2009

Patron of the Pants


In.

mrbotus
Apr 7, 2009

Patron of the Pants


Masks
(1189)

Al dragged his feet through the grass, leaving divots in the grass, staining the tips of his leather shoes with mud. As he cleared the hill, the smells and sensations of the ocean hit him in the face. It stopped him.

“Hey!”

Al turned around. Any excuse to look away.

“Um, hello!” Al said. “Alaysha, how are you?”

Alaysha was a young woman, twenty-five years younger than himself. She had a large bag slung over her shoulder. No doubt some wearable art project. Her vitality made him feel even older.

“Wow,” the young woman said. “You seem chipper, tonight. Are you happy with your refund, this year?”

Al must have been smiling, just a little bit. His hand went to his breast. Among a collection of pens was a piece of paper, neatly folded and tucked down at the bottom of his shirt pocket. He had forgotten about it. This small rediscovery brought a bit of joy to his wooden heart. It was the first time he had gotten it so early. He always seemed to bungle the process, somehow.

“Actually, I haven’t looked at it, yet,” Al said. “I figured I’d keep it a secret from myself as long as possible.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” said Alaysha, smiling. A pretty smile.

She walked past him, toward the beach. Al’s wooden heart felt like it could sprout tiny buds. But he reminded himself that she was simply nice, that they weren’t friends. He wasn’t capable of friendship. Not anymore.

He took a deep breath, trying to ignore the taste of the sea, and turned towards the water. The sun dipped below the clouds, touching the horizon, turning the water, and his face, red. A brief, optimistic moment before the profound, starless darkness to follow.

He focused on Alaysha’s back as he walked down the hill. The grass turned to dirt, the dirt to dry, powdery sand. His coworkers were gathered around tiki torches and a grille. They grew brighter as darkness began to fall. As he approached, the smell of the burning meat and torches filled his nostrils, banishing the smell of the sea.

Al joined the jovial community do-gooders, drinking generic cola and eating sausages. Pop music, obscured by the wind blowing past his ears, played from a small radio perched on a card table. He remained invisible, with the exception of the occasional furtive glance from Alaysha, which he made a concerted effort to not place any importance on. In fact, it was probably the shadows dancing that were fooling him. An illusion.

Two co workers playing grabass bumped into Al, causing his dixie cup of Orange Bubbly to splash over his face and stain his white, button-down shirt. They ran down the beach, shrinking in the distance.

Al pulled at the wad of napkins he tucked in his shirt pocket. It was stuffed tight, sharing the room with his pens, and when he tried to pull out one, everything came flying out. And his refund check when flying in the wind, towards the water.

It had been almost ten years since he could even look at the sea without getting sick, but his lust for extra spending money proved stronger. He chased the small slip of paper as it danced in the wind. He flew from the tips of his fingers as if it were alive, intentionally mocking him. His feet slipped through the loose stand, making every step difficult. He heard amused voices behind him, jeering. And one voice that was much closer, more ernest.

Alaysha passed Al, her legs springy with the power of youth and regular sessions at the gym. But her superior speed was no match for the check as it just as easily evaded her grasp. All three of them got closer and closer to the water. Their attempts to snatch the piece of paper from the air became more frantic.

His foot hit the water. The cold Atlantic stabbed his ankle like a knife made from ice. And then the memories came rushing back. His check was instantly forgotten. He could then see the ship he had traveled on, on that day. He could see the ghost. It was all he could remember. He had been afraid that it had been the beginning of some sort of psychotic break. But no. He hadn’t gone completely insane. Instead, the feeling of dread hung over him like a phantom. His new beginning had been soured, and now the town only knew him as someone who at best ignored, but more often reviled.

A hand grabbed him by the elbow and pulled him from the water, and out of his dark dream. The first thing he saw was his refund check, the second was a damp, smiling face.

“Got it!” said Alaysha, re-folding the check and putting it back in his shirt pocket.

“Thank you,” said Al, blinking.

“Let’s get back to the others. We’re going to do the awards ceremony!”

Al untucked his wet shirt, letting it flap around in the breeze. Alaysha was considerably wetter than him. When they rejoined the circle, Al noticed that people had noticed him. Some were still smirking at his mishap, others were mildly surprised anyone had helped him.

“It’s time for the SNCC Oscars ceremony!” shouted the current president.

The South Norworchester Community Ceremony loved these fake things. Al knew they loved to snub him any kind of “award”, as a way to spite him. He knew they would prefer if he didn’t come at all. His last job in his last town had things like this. He was the life of the party. Now he was the cancer the others consciously fought against.

This time was a little different. He was now catching furtive glances from others. He could feel something coming, not like his ghost at the sea, something real.

“Before we begin,” Alaysha said. “I made one for everyone.”

She didn’t just make ENOUGH masks, she made one for each member. Everyone gathered in a tight circle around Alaysha as she pulled out a mask and read the name written on the back.

When everyone but Al had a mask, Alaysha looked at him. Everyone else looked, too, but they had donned their masks already, their looks incredulity and smirking cruelness hid behind colorful animals and weird cartoon faces.

“Don’t look at yours, either,” Alaysha said.

A practical joke? Not her style, Al decided. He pulled the mask out without looking at the front and put it on. Immediately he felt invincible. Like a phantom. But not just invisible, or intangible. That was a feeling he had carried with him for nearly a decade. His wooden heart felt like it had bloomed with hundreds of flowers, like a bush that burned without ever being completely consumed.

A mix of hip-hop elements and a dubstep bass, began to play from the radio. Alaysha put on her mask. Through the slits on his mask, through the dancing shadows and the firelight, he couldn’t make out what it was. But he knew it was a match with his.

He grabbed her hand. “Let’s dance.”

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mrbotus
Apr 7, 2009

Patron of the Pants


Thanks for crits, but I don't understand what "dreadful dm" means.

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