gently caress it, it's been too long and I finally have a bit of free time. Sign me up.
|# ¿ Jul 16, 2014 02:10|
|# ¿ Mar 22, 2019 20:25|
In retrospect I should have done something about drug dealing angels or old cyberpunk men drinking whisky in outer space. Oh well.
Writing the e-mail was the easy part. Two sentences, sent from a freshly registered gmail account.
I know who sent you the e-mail, and I’m not sure if they were serious or not. His name is Greg Brentano.
Hitting send was harder.
Whenever he got angry, which happened a lot, Greg would leap off of his bed and pace around the room like a caged animal. His skin would flush and he’d breathe heavily, as though being angry required physical exertion.
A month before the e-mail I’d been hanging out with Greg in his dorm room, watching him work through his latest set of frustrations.
“It’s so loving stupid,” he said. “We’ve been digging this hole for fifty loving years and her solution? Dig faster.”
“It’s a four page assignment,” I said as I set down my Xbox controller.
“It’s a mandatory class! I’m trying to get into med school and they’re making me jump through hoops for some craggy old stinkyhole from the philosophy department.”
“Yeah, well, it is a bioethics class.”
Greg gave me the kind of look you’d normally reserve for a kid who shits themselves after they’re supposed to be toilet trained.
“That’s the point I’m trying to make. What the hell does some burned out old hippy slut know about ethics?” His breathing was a bit more even now, the flush was leaving his cheeks. Greg loved being angry, but not as much as he loved to hear himself talk. “Do you know what ethics is?”
“Yeah. Doing the right thing.”
“Conduct. Ethics is about conduct. It’s supposed to be about how you behave yourself, you know? It’s about values.”
“And the essence of all that is self control. Restraint. Being able to mold yourself into the kind of person society needs you to be.”
“Yeah,” I said, nodding. He was calming down, at least.
“So do you see how that’s a contradiction? To be advocating abortion on demand in a loving ethics class?”
“It’s a little bit off.”
“It’s hosed is what it is,” he said, flopping back onto his bed. “It’s bad enough living in this worthless country, they want us praise what a good job they’re doing while they surprise sex the corpse of Western civilization.”
“You’re being a bit dramatic here don’t you think?”
“Why do you think China builds all our poo poo now, holds all our debt? You think they hand out condoms in Chinese schools and tell their women to open their legs for every jock rear end in a top hat they can find? The Asians get it man. They reward hard work and discipline. They don’t let their kids gently caress around. And you know what really kills me? That used to be us. Fifty years ago? We’d probably be married already, and to real woman, not skanky whores. Women who could appreciate us and support us while we try to rebuild this shithole country.”
That was the thing about Greg. It might start with the unfairness of life or the downfall of civilization, but it always ended up at sex. Especially the sex everyone around us seemed to be having.
“Like, take that stinkyhole Sarah,” Greg continued. “You’re smart, you’re driven. Five years from now you’ll be pulling six figures. But you don’t look like Brad Pitt, so she strings you along for one date and doesn’t call you back. What do you think happens to a civilization where the best and brightest get continually poo poo on like that?”
I gave him a nod that I hoped was agreeable, and picked my controller back up.
The first time I met Greg my vision was too blurry to properly make out his face. That had been eight years ago, and Matt Lisac, the terror of seventh grade gym class, had just finished making an example of me. Afterwards Greg was the only guy brave or stupid enough to come and help me look for the busted frame of my glasses.
“Looks like he got you pretty good,” Greg said after helped me to my feet.
“He hit me,” I mumbled, still shocked. I’d never exactly been popular, but at my old school you never got punched for saying somebody had bad acne.
“You shouldn’t have provoked him. Especially not when Jessica is around.”
“That blonde who was laughing. They’re all bad but she’s the worst. Matt shows off for her.”
He looked me over. “This is the poo poo you’ll need to know if you don’t wanna get your lights knocked out. I’m Greg, by the way.”
“You like Nintendo, Alex?”
Greg recognized me first. It had been five years since the end of eighth grade and the time had not been kind to him. It was the same voice, though, and the same nervous, twitchy hands.
I’d already been in and out of my dorm room by then. I’d already seen the name Greg Brenanto on the door across from mine. Somehow that connection had escaped me. I hadn’t seen Greg since Eight Grade.
I had promised myself that my arrival at college would be the start of a new era. The moment I saw Greg bounding across the quad to greet me a part of that ambition died.
“Thank God for small mercies,” he said, a few weeks later. We were hunched in front of the plasma screen in his room, discussing the immensity of the coincidence that had thrown us back together, doing our best to ignore the pounding music and drunken shouts emanating from the common room down the hall. “I’d go crazy if you weren’t here.”
“Is this what you thought it’d be like?” I asked him. “College, I mean.”
“You mean the noise, the skanks, the in-your-face feminazi bullshit?” He didn’t wait for my response. “Pretty much, yeah. My high school was the same way. Whole fuckin country is like this now.”
“You can always appeal the grade.”
“Appeal? I should sue the bitch.” Greg was fuming. A week ago he’d been telling me how his bioethics paper was going to make waves. He hadn’t considered what that meant for his GPA.
“That’s a bad idea.”
“I know man, I know. It just gets to me. I spend my whole live slaving away to be a productive member of society. I don’t drink, I don’t chase shanks, I don’t do loving drugs. What’s my reward? A loving woman telling me I’m not good enough because I challenged her world-view.”
“You could take a summer course to pull up your average.” I said.
“No. I’m done being Mr. Nice Guy.”
“I'm going to communicate through the only language someone like her understands. Here, look.” He gestured toward his computer.
I stopped reading halfway through.
“Is this a joke?”
“Liberals don’t know much, but they know how to be afraid. Nothing frightens a hedonist more than death.”
“They’ll expel you.”
“She won’t know who sent it. In fact, she won’t even report it. She’ll give everyone passing grades just like I told her to. She won’t risk finding out if I’m serious.”
“No,” I told him. “If you send this, they’ll find you, and they’ll expel you.”
|# ¿ Jul 21, 2014 01:55|
I'd like to take you up on this very generous offer.
|# ¿ Jul 22, 2014 15:01|
I'll take these two.
Thank you, that's greatly appreciated.
Oh, hey, since I'm the thunderdome loser can I get more detailed crit than "this sucks" and "just bad"? I'd be happy to crit other peoples' stories.
Check your thread.
|# ¿ Jul 22, 2014 20:23|
Are there any more crits coming in for the week before last?
|# ¿ Jul 29, 2014 23:33|
Whoa, so there is! Here you are, sorry about that:
Thank you. This is greatly appreciated and I think I'll follow your advice and post this in the Farm.
|# ¿ Jul 30, 2014 05:46|
THUNDERDOME CII CRITS
I still exist and would appreciate your feedback.
|# ¿ Aug 10, 2014 07:58|
I don't know how I'm going to find the time but I really like this prompt so gently caress it, I'm in.
|# ¿ Sep 30, 2014 14:03|
Something you don't want to hear
When Vincent was fifteen years younger, still courting his wife, Massey Gardens had been lit by natural light, and the breeze rippling the leaves of the trees didn’t come from a vent. Smog was still a problem that politicians talked about solving and the city wasn’t cocooned in a glass and steel arcology.
There was a bench that once overlooked the ocean where they had shared their first kiss and a sheltered patch of grass deeper inside the tree line where they had conceived the child that died alongside her in on a highway overpass not long afterwards.
He didn’t know if he was honouring her memory by coming here now or betraying it. Would she be happy he had moved on, or jealous that it was with a younger woman? He had no choice; there were so few places inside the arcology where you could escape the sightlines of the cameras. Under the foliage of those ancient trees you had more privacy than any other public space. If SERAPIS knew he was seeing his own secretary there would be consequences.
There was a small, open air museum at the park’s southern edge that showed you images of the park before, during and after the arcology’s construction. It was curated by a Mormon splinter group who interwove information on the park’s history with missives on the folly of man and the need for redemption. Otherwise, though, Vincent thought the museum was pretty good.
He was turning away from the museum’s last display – an explanation of the atmospheric hydroxyl collapse that earth’s assembled governments had failed to either anticipate or solve – when he saw her. Casandra stood a few paces away from him, pretending to watch a time-lapse video where the construction of the arcology’s western wall was shown slowly erasing the park’s view of the ocean. She smiled coyly when he glanced at her but did not turn her head.
She followed him at a safe distance as he left the museum, only approaching once they were deep beneath the protective cover of the trees. Then she was in his arms, straining on tip toes to plant a kiss on his lips, her tiny fists gripping the lapels of his jacket before drifting lower. His lingering sense of guilt evaporated before her onslaught.
Afterward they sat with their back to a tree and shared a cigarette – a real one, ration books be damned – and she snuggled into the crook of his arm, so close that he could feel the beat of her heart. That was when she asked him.
Hadn’t he known this was coming? That it was all too good to be true? The onset of their affair had been too sudden, her supposed attraction to him too fierce, to be plausible. Yet for all the clumsiness of her seduction he had let himself play along, and even now, confronted with the truth, he lacked the resolve to resist her.
She wanted something from him more than she wanted him. That much he had known already. It was the nature of her request that surprised him.
There had been a time when Vincent enjoyed working at SERAPIS. In an economy dominated by contract work they hired for life. In a world that seemed to be running out of ideas they were a first rate innovator. And as the mortality rate from smog epidemic began to reach historical proportions their business had never been better. Work at SERAPIS had been Vincent’s dream ticket, a passport into a life of relative affluence and security that the other members of his graduating class could only dream of. Five days after he was hired he had asked his future wife to marry him.
That had been a different time though. A time when you could admit in polite company that you worked for a firm that specialized in ‘Biological Rejuvenation’ for a small and wealthy clientele. Before the smog riots, before the construction of the arcology had thrown up a stark new barrier between the 21st century’s haves and have nots. Most of all, it was before the newscasts had started probing into the details of where the raw biological material for the Rejuvenation process came from.
When the first stories leaked about harvesting death row convicts for organic material began to emerge Vincent had made a few subtle inquiries at HQ. The source of SERAPIS’ ‘surplus organic material’ – SOM in company jargon - was still considered a trade secret but it had been easy enough to confirm the broad details of the newcast stories. But he was already engaged and paying down a mortgage and in a perpetually depressed economy it was hard to sustain his moral outrage. By the time his wife had died whatever feelings he had left on the subject were barely a whisper. By the time he was promoted into a managerial role that directly oversaw the harvesting of convicts he was beyond caring.
“He’s my brother” said Casandra.
“He dead,” Vincent told her.
The arcology’s overhead lights had dimmed, signaling the onset of night. Somewhere nearby a small fleet of pollination drones were attending to a patch of wild flowers. Vincent felt the weight of his age like never before.
“There was a newscast last year,” she said insistently, “some people woke up and almost broke out of their ward.”
Vincent remembered that incident all too well. A computer error had unfrozen dozens of inmates and they’d torn two guards apart limb from limb before they were contained.
“You don’t get it,” he tried to tell her. “They never ‘woke up’. They regained some basic motor functions but their heads were scrambled. That was pure lizard brain stuff that go them up and walking again,” and killing, he might have added.
“I know it’s possible,” she insisted “I’ve done the research.”
“What I’m trying to tell you,” Vincent said, “is that whatever part of your brother is left, you don’t want it to wake up. Being frozen that long does terrible things to a person.”
“He’s all I have left,” she said, and then looked at him. “Him… and you. And I need your help.”
The Farm was a nondescript rectangle of black glass and concrete, built flush against the wall of the arcology. After the ‘incident’ last year Vincent had been told to replace the night shift security guards with enforcer drones. That made their infiltration almost pathetically easy. With his admin status on the company network it only took a few keystrokes to put the entire guard force into hibernation mode.
“Aren’t they going to see that the enforcers are shutting themselves down?” Cassandra asked him.
“Not immediately,” he answered, hoping it was true. They’d figure it out eventually, of course, and that would be the end of his career if not his life. That thought didn’t bother him as much as it probably should have.
The elevator took them to the command level on floor five. With the human workforce gone for the day the facilities atmospheric controls were running at their lowest levels, meaning the air was as still as death, and every breath tasted faintly metallic.
“You’re sure this is what you want?” he asked her as he sat down at the command console.
“I promised him I’d come,” she said. “He knew they’d never give him a fair trial. We couldn’t afford justice.”
“I’m going to unfreeze him as slowly as possible,” Vincent said. “That should limit the damage to his cerebellum, but it could take as long as half an hour. As soon as the machine tells you his pulse is normalized you give him the shot. When he wakes up he’s going to be thirsty, but don’t let him drink too much too quickly or he’ll get sick.”
She nodded. “I understand.”
Do you? he thought.
“I want to be clear,” he said. “Even in the best case, he won’t ever be the same. It could be months before he’s speaking in full sentences again, if he ever does.”
She bit her lip, the way she often did when she was being stubborn. He knew that she didn’t want to believe him.
“One more thing,” he said. “If he starts behaving violently you run. Fast. You understand me? You get out of that room and I’ll close the door again behind you.”
“He won’t” she said. “He’ll know it’s me.”
“Take the elevator to the second floor,” he told her. “Don’t worry, I’ll be with you on the intercom. Once I’ve located him I’ll give you directions. Remember, if this is going to work you need to be at his side when he starts to wake up.”
“I love you Vincent.” She said it in a way that he could almost believe. “I hope you know that.”
“Let’s get this over with,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of time.”
It took the system nearly ten minutes to fully boot up and then to locate Casandra’s brother. Inmates were typically grouped according to age, health level and blood type, not by name. But after a bit of creative searching Vincent found what he was looking for.
Allen Carson, age 26, type O, clean medical history, both parents dead, no other relatives listed.
Vincent frowned as he reread the file. Then he opened a new browser window and called up the file on Carson’s trial. It provided a more detail biography.
“Vincent?” Cassandra’s voice over the intercom system was laced with static. “Vincent are you there? I don’t like it down here. It feels like a graveyard.”
Vincent pressed on the intercom button. “He’s in Ward 9. That’s the fourth door on your right. I’m opening it for you now.”
He watched her on the cameras as she entered the war. The sarcophagus like holding tanks for the individual inmates stretched out in double rows on either side of her. Then Vincent turned back to the trial summary.
Apprehended at the scene by a police drone. One accomplice, male, neutralized at scene. Second accomplice, female, still at large. Carson was uncooperative and refused to identify his partner, leading the tribunal to levy the maximum available penalty. Vincent stopped reading.
He knew he should have felt hurt, betrayed. Or upset at the career he had destroyed for the lie he’d forced himself to believe. But he didn’t feel anything.
He pressed the intercom button. “I’m waking him up.”
On the camera feed he could see her preparing the shot for her “brother”. He called up the controls for Allen Carson’s holding tank and told the computer to wake him immediately.
On the camera he could see the metallic door of the holding cell slide open. A flood of white mist spilled out of it.
“Vincent?” there was a tremble in Casandra’s voice now. “Vincent, I think something is wrong. The cell door is already open.”
Something is definitely wrong, he thought. She should have known better than to lie to him. He might have even helped her anyway.
With a sudden jerk of motion the suddenly awakened thing that had been slumbering in Allen Carson’s cell sat up. He let out a tortured groan as it stumbled to its feet.
“Vincent!” there was raw panic in Cassandra’s voice now. “Vincent what’s happening?”
He told the computer to lock the door to Ward 9. A second later Cassandra was at the door, pounding her tiny fists against the steel frame. The thing that had once been her lover was stumbling towards her now.
“VINCENT!” she sobbed, “Vincent PLEASE!”
He turned off the cameras. There was a gut wrenching scream. He shut off the intercom.
Outside of the Farm the arcology slept, and in a computer database somewhere the details of Vincent’s actions were being duely recorded. He had nothing left.
Slowly he turned back to the control console and typed in a new command. Simultaneously the holding cells of almost 6,000 inmates began to open.
|# ¿ Oct 4, 2014 00:02|
When the judges are posting their crits for last week would it be possible to include the score that you assigned to each story? As somebody right in the middle of the pack I'm interested to know whether all three judges came me middling scores or whether there are some variance (i.e. one judge scoring higher, the other lower, and the results balancing out in the middle).
Also thanks to Hammer Bro. for stepping up and doing extra crits even though he wasn't a judge this week, the additional feedback is always helpful.
|# ¿ Oct 7, 2014 18:18|
|# ¿ Mar 22, 2019 20:25|
In all fairness some of us can't be bothered to read our own stories before submitting them.
|# ¿ Nov 11, 2014 01:30|