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Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
In.

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Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
The Act of Disappearing
Words: 1200

Captain Max Pruss surveyed the unconscious, maybe dead, crew strewn about the antechamber leading to the engine room. Sweat filled his glove creating a terrible sensation, but his grip about the saber’s hilt was sure.

The blade was considered ceremonial, and Pruss knew of many of his cohorts who had never plucked the steel from its scabbard, but Pruss was a German. Silent as the night, the steel slid from the scabbard and gleamed, reflecting what little light there was in the inner workings of the zeppelin.

Pruss threw open the door to the engine room ready for combat, but his face dropped.

“Houdini,” Pruss hissed. A hunched figure in front of him, shirtless and covered in graying hair, slowly stood. Even with the stranger’s back to him, Pruss knew the man’s proportions intimately. The figure turned, and his tell-tale part couldn’t be hidden by the number of ancient lines or wild facial hair.

“Ah, Miksa, so you have finally pulled back the curtain.”

“You’re supposed to be dead.”

Houdini scoffed. He opened his arms wide to reveal a more barrel-chested, sinewy self than Pruss had remembered. The curling gray chest hairs reminded Pruss of his father, or perhaps an aging circus strong-man, not the agile escape artist he had seen as a boy. Pruss raised the saber to his eye and leveled at Houdini.

Houdini’s smile faded and he assumed a boxer’s stance. Pruss expected a feint, Houdini was at a disadvantage in range and would try to trick Pruss into closing the distance. Pruss poked quickly with the saber, before raising it over his head and bringing it down in a diagonal slash. The first thrust brought Houdini side stepping in, but the grizzled old man deftly dodged the next chop with a grace Pruss had expected him to have lost in such old age.

Recovering from the slash, Pruss bent his knees, and sprang forward, his saber stabbing only air. Houdini had him by the wrist like a vice. In one deft motion Houdini wrenched Pruss’s wrist, and chopped a tendon in his forearm. Before the saber could fall to the ground useless, Houdini buried an elbow into Pruss’s sternum.

The wind climbed out of his lungs violently, stealing all the strength in his legs. As Pruss slumped forward, Houdini whirled him around, placing him in a full-nelson. Houdini yanked the man up.

“What do you see, Miksa? What do you see?”

Pruss scanned the engine room. There was a machine, with a control panel, tapping directly into the engine room power supply. He didn’t understand, there was a pylon and an orb, with seemingly no functional use. And then he sucked in a breath.

“Tesla.”

Houdini hummed in satisfaction.

“The Reds ignored him, and the Statesmen ignored him, who do you think he would go to next, hmm? Of course, you were supposed to have no idea such a thing would happen. Your friend Lehmann though, he does not trust you. And so I had to correct him,” Houdini said. He pointed to a slumped figure on the other side of the engine room.

Houdini righted the zeppelin captain before driving him back down into the metal gratings. Houdini dropped his knees onto the man’s chest, and leaned backwards.

“When, how?”

“Awfully coincidental, a storm appearing from nowhere, Miksa? Your little spin around Boston was plenty of time. With the delay, porting would be so busy no would notice the unmarked boxes that would be stowed. We would be in Germany and the Van de Graaff’s would be safely in Nazi hands, where they could be mass produced before anyone would be the wiser.”

Pruss ground his teeth. Tesla would bring about the complete destruction of the human race, with that pawn fool Hitler riding the white horse.

“But why?”

“You ask how, and you ask why, but these are irrelevant. What does it matter why?” Houdini leaned in on his knee, Pruss could feel his ribs ready to crack. “The sign of an intelligent man is one who knows he knows nothing, Miksa.”

“I don’t understand.”

“No, and most don’t. Tesla, he is a lunatic, that is certain. But he is a lunatic who knows much, much more than I. In these waning years, my friend, I achieved great things. Great things! But I am not capable of achieving more, but I want to. I want to see how great I can become, in a world that is filled with nothing but death, and flame, and sorrow. How will I escape? Only the great Houdini knows! Ha ha ha!”

Pruss wrenched the scabbard at this side, swinging it upward. The thick wooden, platinum capped end hit home in Houdini’s abdomen. Houdini breathed venom and fire as he recoiled, Pruss’s attack perfectly placed. Pruss leapt to his feet and drove a knee into Houdini’s chest before running to the Van de Graaff’s control panels.

Houdini had tampered with them, and he wasn’t sure in what way. There was no telling how to divert the power from the Van de Graaff safely; Pruss panicked and hesitated. None of the controls made sense to him and he stepped back for a moment. Above his head he raised the scabbard and brought it down over and over again. Cogs and springs and handles and buttons cracked and flew away in splinters of broken metal and glass. Sharp sparks of blue electricity crackled across the control panel and Pruss halted his attack.

“Arrgh!” Houdini screamed behind him. Pruss’s instinctively dove to the side without looking, the brutish frame of Houdini brushing past him ever slightly. Houdini plunged the saber into the control panel, his eyes wide with horror and surprise. In that long instant, arcs of electricity reached out like squid tendrils, feeling for purchase in the cramped engine room. The arcs found home as they embraced Houdini in warmth; singing his flesh and hair.

And then it exploded, sending Houdini’s charred and smoking body across the room. Pruss could only watch in horror as the flames spread throughout the room. Pruss shook himself off and formulated emergency plans in his head, grabbing the nearest crew member and dragging them as far as he felt was safe. Before long the engine room was completely enveloped in flame, Houdini the only one still left in there.

***

Pruss sat in his hospital bed, bandages wrapped around his burnt and scarred face. He would never be the same man again.

“And Lehmann?” Pruss asked the ensign holding a clipboard.

“He didn’t make it, sir.”

“He’s in a better place, where he is loved. And you are sure, man? Everyone and crew accounted for?”

“All of the bodies have been verified and accounted for, sir. We have accurate counts.”

“You are positive?”

The ensign looked around the room, wondering if he was being put on. Pruss sighed, and waved the man out of the room. Out of the hospital room window was a field. A field with no trees, no shadows, just sun and grass, and the idea of a snake lying in wait.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
In.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
Profane Love
Words: 1375
Opening of the 5th Seal

The Doctor had asked permission to murder my brother, and I said yes. He had breathed a sigh of relief when I finally agreed.

“You’ve made the right decision,” he had said. “This will be for the best of your brother.” James was in another room at the time. Our mother was watching him, she couldn’t bear to be part of the discussion, and I hoped he wasn’t giving her a hard time. He used to be such a good kid.

“So what is it that you are going to do to him, exactly?”

The Doctor perked up, and opened his mouth but closed it and held up a finger. He stood from his brown leather chair that glinted red in the sun and went to a shelf. When he returned he was holding a plastic replica of a skull, segmented in puzzle pieces and leering at me with vacant eyes.

“We are going to go in through here, on the side of the skull,” the Doctor had explained.

The first time I went to visit my brother, they sat me next to a stranger. I had brought from home my brother’s favorite keepsake.

“He can’t have that in here,” an orderly said. In James’ lap was a glass terrarium with a single twig, attached to the stick was a cocoon.

“James loves to grow butterflies,” I said. “Why can’t he have this?”

“It’s not on the approved safety list, he can’t have it.” The orderly pulled the terrarium from James. “You can check it out from the warrant clerk on your way out.”

“It’s okay, buddy. I’ll take good care of it, and when it hatches I’ll bring it for you. I promise. How’s that sound?”

My brother stared straight ahead, his arms slowly pulling back from the direction the orderly took his butterfly. I wrapped my arms around him, tears in my eyes. “You’ll be better soon, they promised.”

The second time I visited my brother, he sat catatonic as always in his thin sheet of a robe.

“Your butterfly is doing really good, getting bigger all the time. It has these horns, and it spirals like this, like a shell at the beach. Do you remember that time we found the conch at White Horse? And then you tried to climb that rock full of barnacles,” I said.

James said nothing.

“And you cut your knees up real bad? You remember now, right? And then you got to have popsicles for the entire vacation. Man, you had the right idea, a little scrapped knee and all the creamsicles and fudgesicles you could ask for. You remember that right?”

I put my hand on James’ shoulder, and he winced, and drew back from me. I rolled up the sleeve of his gown, and large purple bruises run down his upper arms and shoulders.

“Where did my brother get these bruises?” I shouted at the first nurse I found. When she stammered in my face I saw red.

“I said where the gently caress did my brother get these loving bruises!”

I slapped the clipboard out of her hand, and had my finger in her face, accusing her, ready for her to tell me that she did it, and I would strangle her with one hand. She instead said nothing, her face gaped in horror, and she stepped away from me, calling for help.

The third time I went to the asylum they turned me away at the door. I barked at the Doctor as he stood behind a wall of muscle in scrubs. They would barely acknowledge me, never looking me in the eye as they looked at their clipboards.

I couldn’t sleep, I could only think of my brother in the manor on the hill. Storm agitates them, they said, and they wouldn’t let us in. I looked out the window as the lightning rolled along the sky, and I shuddered. They hadn’t let us in because they couldn’t hide what they had done to my brother. They couldn’t hide the bruises and the cuts and the breaking of the last shell of my brother. They wouldn’t let me see him. The thunder cracked, and I heard the sound of papers shuffling.

The horned cocoon twitched. It shook, pulsated, and shuddered every time the thunder clapped. When the lightning came through the rain-streaked windows I saw the skeleton of the creature inside, its black outline painted on the membranous crust. I fought every instinct to tear the mesh top from the glass, and to pick the folds away by hand, my thumbs pierced by the horns, my blood nourishing the babe. A shock of lighting cracked the sky, and I saw the creature writhe, and the cocoon split on the thunder.

First came the wings, splitting the mausoleum, unfurling with quietude and grace. Unspeakable curvature outlined the appendages, with eyes dotting the chitin. Seven, seven eyes peering at me, to frighten me, to scare me away, but I could only stare back at them. Only when its bulbous body pulled itself from the cocoon did I see the hair and fur and embryonic ooze that it was truly made of. And its head emerged, slick from birth, and I truly understood where my brother had gone. James’ face stared at me, fresh as a re-Christening, unblemished and furrowed. His maw opened wide and produced a deafening cry. No matter how hard I pressed my hands to my ears, the sound pierced my skull, reverberating with immenseness and malice. When I thought I could take no more, I looked at him to plead silently for mercy.

And I awoke. Thunder rolling quietly across the sky, the rain had only began to fall. My bed was soaked in sweat and my sheets a-tangle. I looked at the terrarium, and the cocoon had indeed split, but without affair or disturbance. On the ground, under the branch, was a tiny moth, still wrapped in itself, looking as still-born an insect of this kind could. And I knew there was only one thing left to do.

By the time I rammed my Buick through the gates of the asylum the rain had turned torrential. I had kicked the windscreen free an hour ago, and I had not considered what would happen when I destroyed the gates, and only fate kept me from being skewered by wrought iron. I weaved through mud, the tail of my Special sliding dangerously on every turn. Only the steps of the sanitarium stopped my ascent, when the axles finally gave out.

Spilling into the mud, I clambered up the steps, not expecting the doors to be opening. An orderly I recognized, he must have seen the headlamps coming, came to meet me with a club. I shot him dead without hesitation.

When the second staffer fell before me I heard the chorus of wails and torment. When cacophony reached my ears I knew in my heart of hearts that I was vindicated and righteous. I found a set of keys on the corpse of the fourth nurse, or orderly, or was it a doctor? They were all wearing masks of skin, their eyes and mouths covered in pink flat flesh.

“James! James!” I shouted. The only response was howls and thrashing of metal bars against locks. No one stood in my way now, it was only a matter of finding the right gate to unlock. I finally found them all. Every single resident, nay inmate, had been packed into the maximum ‘disturbed’ quadrant, behind the security gates. They were gathered there, shaking the foundations as the thunder shook the firmament. They screamed at me, their spit flicking and spraying, their white gowns covered in urine and feces and blood. I unlocked gate, after gate, after gate, after gate, and finally I was face to face with them and they were silent.

I unlocked the gate. The howling struck up again as they flooded past me, my eyes searching the mass. I saw my brother stumbling, agitated, and wary. I embraced my brother as he came to me, and I fell to my knees sobbing, clutching his white gown by his thighs. He shook free, and left me there on the asylum floor, alone.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch

God Over Djinn posted:

If I remember correctly, crabrock got an HM that one time by writing a story about his own penis. So there's precedent, is what I guess I'm trying to say

that's not fair. i wrote a story about my penis and people just thought it was weird.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
In.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
Familiar Patterns
Words: 1220

Niclaus had been sober a whole year. He reclined on his bed, hands behind his head, confident being able to say that Meredith was visiting her mother’s and not because he had a made a scene. That was how a beautiful morning had started. By mid-afternoon Dulahan’s Raiders had breached the forest surrounding the village, and would be upon his tower soon.

He stood on the parapets, in one hand a spellbook, the other performing minute movements, weaving the fabric of reality into a tapestry of horror. Niclaus’s brow was drenched in sweat, and while his hand was mechanical in its precision, the rest of his body shook all over. The familiar upwelling of strength and energy left him staggered as it left his outstretched hand, and forced him several moments to right himself and peer over the parapet.

The meadow surrounding his tower became a field of treacherous, slimy and wriggling worms. They poked their tiny heads from the dirt, creating a slick expanse the marauders continued to charge through, albeit slightly more gingerly. Niclaus hanged his head in defeat. So far he had managed to summon a storm of lice, which he guessed they probably already had, and a mist of what looked and smelled like lemon juice. And now he had managed to wrench from the earth,

“loving worms,” he said.

Descending from the roof, he moved down past the solarium and into his library. Several books lay scattered and strewn about the floor; a stark reversal of activity compared to the dust that had been collecting on some of the other shelves. He scanned the shelves, searching for inspiration amid the taunting repertoire of ancient lore that he barely remembered from his college days, much less wield in his current state.

Behind him another arsenal loomed. He cursed his obstinacy when Meredith had suggested maybe he didn’t keep his liquor in the same place he studied.

“I just want to be able to relax when I’m doing my research, am I not allowed to relax from time to time?” He had shouted at her.

Niclaus liked to believe that being the village wizard was taxing, that he had to be on high alert at all times, but the reality of it was mundane fix-it tasks and vermin fighting. Physically exhausting due to volume, but mentally dulling and ultimately disenfranchising.

Only when he ‘relaxed’ did he have episodes of reverie, jotting furious notes that would never finish, jumping from idea to idea. And only when confronted by Meredith that his studies were barely more than flights of fancy would he then fume and stomp and produce arcane wonder. The invisible ley-lines of protection that encircled the village was one of his favorite to remind Meredith about.

“Without my protection, this village would have crumbled years ago, not something Archfield Jones can say,” Niclaus said.

Archfield had been a college acquaintance and secret rival of Niclaus ever since he learned of Meredith’s prior relationship. Archfield was no adept, but certainly far from bottom of the class. It was only misfortune that he encountered Dulahan’s Raiders so relatively soon after his college graduation. The last Niclaus had heard was he had given up magic and posed as a gardener for fear anyone would take revenge on abandoning his village.

“I don’t think you’ll ever be able to see past your triumphs to see all the flaws,” Meredith said. Niclaus couldn’t exactly recall what he had said back to her, but it caused a week stay at her mother’s and another promise-to-be-broken to coax her back.

Now standing in front of the armoire, he could see the radiant, invisible purple chains that wrapped around the alcohol. Inside was a bottle of oaky, peaty whisky from the distillers up in Dunham, who swore they had used no magic in its creation, but Niclaus refused to believe something that good could come from mere mortals. He had promised the mayor, Dogspot, some long time ago that they would split the bottle the day Dogspot had decided to retire.

But he had it magically alarmed during an argument with Meredith a year ago. He had been drunk at the time.

“Doesn’t look trapped to me,” Dogspot had said to him earlier that afternoon.

“Wizard eyes.”

“Oh.” Dogspot did not sound convinced. Meredith hadn’t been either. “Why can’t you just congur up some.”

Niclaus stuck out his tongue, revealing a small sigil branded on it.

“Couldn’t drink it anyway,” he said. “I thought if I doubled down on she’d believe me. She didn’t.”

“Can’t just open it with your wizard powers?”

“I don’t even know how I did it, I gave up trying after the first month.”

Dogspot looked disappointed.

“Well what about weed?”

“No Dogspot, damnit. That will just make me want to drink even more.”

Niclaus shook his head and turned back to his disheveled book cases. Panic sweat pooled in his woolen armpits and he was itchy all over. He thought about the villagers in the basement and wondered if being a gardener wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all. They had gathered here in this time of danger, in accordance with the decree Niclaus had made near the end of his welcoming banquet.

He still remembered the party, standing with a foot on the table, his arm around a smiling, happy Meredith. He remembered the way the mead smelled, and how Meredith wore lilacs around her hair, how sensual the music was as they danced into the night. It was a new harvest, a plentiful one, and Niclaus had arrived on assignment from the College. This was a village he could see himself getting old in, he remembered.

Dogspot had just become mayor, and they were shaking hands, and they were both talking at the same time that he couldn’t understand the man, the words were muffled over the music, and the clapping and the singing. He couldn’t hear the mayor even when he was a foot in front of his face.

“You have to do something,” Dogspot pleaded. Dogspot had Niclaus by the shoulders and was shaking him violently. The smell of smoke hit Niclaus’s nose and shouts of panic snapped him back into place.

“I am doing something!”

Sparks crackled from Niclaus’s hand and Dogspot fled the library, the door slamming behind him.

He unlatched the liquor cabinet effortlessly. A small alarm went off in his head, and he knew Meredith could hear it too. His hand trembled. He was afraid of everything and excited all the same. The cabinet was open, it was too late. There was no point in going back now. Niclaus knew Meredith would understand today, this instant, at this very moment in time, why he was about to do what he was doing. He was worried about how he was going to explain tomorrow, and the day after.

An image of Dulahans shattering the outer door with a battering ram appeared in his mind. He picked something with a little fire in it and drained the bottle. Then he took the bottle of Dunham whisky and tucked it into his robe. Then he took it back out and took a swig from an expensive one, he was going to need all the courage he could get.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
In. Flash me a perfume, I'm lazy.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
Inheritance
Words: 1210

Oscar was a man who had flavor in his blood. The new chef-linens he wore irritated the scars that covered his body and he was unaccustomed to wearing underwear. He stood in a spotless, unfamiliar kitchen, wondering what kind of mess he had gotten himself into.

He had been pulled into this pissing contest by a chef named Garaban. The whispers had started when Oscar had received his first Michelin star. The whispers grew into riotous discord when he received his third.

“A cook-off?” Oscar said.

“Ugh, please don’t call it that,” Veronica said. “That’s something Americans say.”

Veronica was a food critic. A well respected one, which is why Oscar had been so surprised by her pitch.

“The paper is crazy about it. They’re raffling tickets to be on the judging panel, and it’s making a fortune,” she said.

In two weeks the event took place at a small restaurant down a cobblestone alley. There had been a slight misting and Oscar could smell the canal and the horses on the streets. Orange streetlamps made the olive and brown cobblestones look black when wet and he had trouble seeing the curb. He was wet and cold, and it reminded him of when he would take the garbage out when he worked in his grandfather’s kitchen as a boy.

The venue restaurant was actually two restaurants that the owner, a very talented chef in his own right, had purchased in separate pieces. It took over 5 years before he could buy the building in the middle and tear down the walls to make a much larger restaurant. But the kitchens were still separate, and frequent regulars had their preference of crew.

In the main dining room Oscar stood opposite the red-faced Garaban. Five judges had been selected from other food writers and raffle winners. A brief declaration of the challenge was issued by the editor-in-chief, wherein the chefs would abide by previously agreed upon set of rules, with each kitchen having an appointed referee to make sure these unspoken rules were followed. Everyone nodded save for the three glassy-eyed contestant winners who had yet to cease their horrendous smiling.

“No blood, no cum,” Garaban sneered at him. Oscar pursed his lips but shook the sweaty man’s hand firmly.

“Should we spit on it?”

Garaban pulled his slick hand from the agreement and stomped to his kitchen.

The empty kitchen reminded him of the first time he went to work with his grandfather, Dieda. Oscar wondered what nooks, crannies and secrets this small kitchen hid. His first job was to wash dishes for his grandfather. Hot jets of steam would scald his face, and yet his grandfather would bark at him to move faster. His grandfather would show him the scars he had acquired over his long life as a chef and then would reach into the dishwasher, holding his arm in there, before slowly removing a scalding hot plate.

Long ago had he learned futility in crying, but he still forgot that silence was always a better choice. Only when he graduated to preparatory cook did he know the true meaning of his grandfather’s abuse.

“Your food is disgusting, you little bug,” Dieda said. “You are as lazy and worthless as your sister.”

“Papa, I did as you said,” Oscar said.

“You will call me Chef, and I will call you insect until you can make food for something better than a maggot.”

Everyday Dieda would spit Oscar’s food onto the ground and tell him to make it again in between waiters calling out frantic orders. His head spinning from trying to keep up with a Friday night service, he remade a shrimp and polenta, and as he sliced the scallions as garnish he nicked his finger, spilling bright red blood into the polenta mix.

“Where is that polenta worm, I want to taste it!”

Oscar froze and held his finger behind his back. He could hear the drops of blood splattering against the filthy concrete floor of the kitchen. When Oscar did not hand his grandfather the sauce pan, Dieda turned like an angry bear. He snatched the pan from the prep counter and dragged his pinky through the polenta mix. He inspected the consistency on the end of his finger before jamming it into his mouth. Dieda loosened his grip on the pan and he nearly dropped it. He was frozen in that moment, his eyes staring beyond the kitchen wall. For Oscar there was no sound from the waiters, no acrid taste of fear, no pain in his hand; there was only nothing. Finally, Dieda put the pan on the hot pass.

He took Oscar’s finger in his gnarled hands. Deida almost wrenched Oscar’s shoulder out of socket when he pulled the bleeding finger and stuck it into his mouth. An epiphany passed over Deida and he let go of Oscar’s hand, the finger leaving his mouth. A thin, pink strand of saliva and blood stretched as far as it could, and then sagged under its own weight, dribbling slightly down Deida’s chin.

“You are just like me, Oscar,” Deida whispered in his ear.

And from that moment, Oscar was.

Drops of sweat ran down Oscar’s brow as he beat the heavy cream into stiff, vanilla peaks. His arm cramped but he continued; he did not stop the sweat from falling into the cream as he worked. Veronica watched him silently. He could not stop the horrific ticking of his internal clock. His arms itched.

“Do you think they liked my earlier plates?” He said. His voice peaked and wavered as he asked Veronica the question.

“I don’t know,” she said. Oscar let out a short wail like a wounded animal and he beat faster, the whisk scraping the metal bowl in frantic revolutions. He threw the bowl across the prep counter and looked at the clock. He could smell the shortcakes in the oven, they would be done in thirty seconds. His feet ached and his scars burned.

Veronica looked at a bowl of macerated strawberries and currants. She looked back at Oscar.

“I’m- I’m going to go make sure the judges are ready.”

Oscar paced on the rubber mats, each turn a squeak of impending doom.

“Oscar, I said,” she raised her voice. “I’m going to go. And see if the judges are ready. Do you understand?”

Oscar stood dumbfounded for a moment and then nodded. Veronica stepped backwards through the swinging kitchen door, never breaking eye contact. The moment she left, Oscar grabbed a paring knife from his bag. He placed a leg on the prep table and rolled his pant. The metal cooled his skin and he felt relief as he dug the knife down his calf. The blood oozed out, big fat drops trailing down like notes on sheet music, down, down into the bass clef of strawberries.

Oscar sat on the curb smoking a cigarette. For a moment all he could taste was nothing. The cartoonish check he held under his arm bit into his skin like a laundry bucket. He wondered if shame would eventually find him. He then wondered what he was going to put on tomorrow night’s special

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
Would I be able to get a crit from 2 weeks ago, the smelly week?

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
in.

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
Just Checking In
Words: 1209

Since the passing of his grandmother a year prior, Jim’s accomplishments left him wanting. His app, GranGrams, had been met with resounding fanfare and presence. Built from his own personal experiences, GranGrams became the human interest piece of the year. The concept simple: periodic pre-recorded, superbly acted inspirational messages from a bevy of grandmothers based on preferences chosen by the user.

“I don’t know of a single person who wouldn’t want to always be able to hear words of encouragement from their grandmother,” Jim had said to a HuffPo reporter some months ago. And while he wasn’t lying, he was only thinking of himself at the time. He had even considered putting choice phrases and finding a lookalike for his own late grandmother but felt it obscene.

The GranGrams office was unusually quiet, but unsurprisingly in the week leading up to Thanksgiving holiday.

“Hey man, I just wanted to say, I know you are going to be on your own this year, but if you feel up to it, Teresa would love to have you over for Thanksgiving,” Mark, his friend and partner, said.

“Oh thanks man, but you know me, I’ll probably just keep tweaking the ads algorithms.”

“Click-thru rate can wait, come over on Thursday.”

“No promises, but I’ll see what I can get done tomorrow, yeah?”

“At least get some sleep for once, all right?”

Jim smiled and nodded. He waved on his way out and soon the office was completely empty. Jim sat back, turning his phone over in his hand. They were making money, but if he could boost the conversion rate organically then they wouldn’t have to compromise and put more ads; the idea was to be inspired, not marketed to. The office was too empty; he wasn’t going to get anything done tonight.

His phone buzzed, a Gram. “We’re all cheering for you,” it said. He smiled, Janine in marketing had written that one. He remembered visiting a senior living community to record the lines from a lady who had acted in the 60s. The memory was so fresh he didn’t even bother to check the video.


He was startled when the phone buzzed sometime in the early morning hours, but not entirely surprised. Probably IT calling about something.

It was a Gram. “I haven’t heard from you in a while.”

Jim was confused and groggy. That’s an odd message, he thought. Maybe marketing thought it would inspire action. He would take care of things after the holidays.

An hour later, still before 4am, the phone buzzed again. “You didn’t do enough.”

Jim shot up in bed. He had never fired an intern, but secretly he had always wanted to. He flicked the phone to bring up the recorded video message and he froze. A woman, emaciated and in hospital whites; his grandmother.

He threw the phone and rushed into his bathroom. Desperate to not throw up, he cranked the cold water on. With both hands he doused his flushed face with icy water, and he felt his skin cool. He had to collect himself, this was crazy.

He went back and rooted for his phone. He checked the phone, but now there was no message, no video, nothing. There was nothing in the history since the office. He wanted to cry from stress and relief. The nightmares had never been this vivid or awful before. He slipped back under the covers.

His phone buzzed again right as he began to fall asleep. “Why did you leave me?”

Jim tore through the database. He could hear his phone buzzing in his desk drawer; the Grams had been coming in more and more frequently. His despair had turned to rage. He was going to find out who was loving with him, and he hadn’t figured out what he was going to do when he found out, but he was going to do something.

Mike crashed through the office.

“Jim what the hell is going on, I’ve been trying to call you.”

“Something’s hosed up, I gotta fix it,” he said.

“But you can’t just shut down the database, we’re getting error messages all over the place!”

“I didn’t shut off the database, I just blocked all the incoming connections,” Jim said.

“If nothing’s going out, that means ads aren’t going out. If ads aren’t going out that means money isn’t coming in, loving fix it,” Mike shouted. “I know you don’t give a poo poo about revenues, but you got a lot of other people who are counting on you to loving give a poo poo about it!”
Jim shook out of his tunnel vision. “Yeah, yeah, you’re right, I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’ll fix it.”

Mike left after confirming the app was functioning again. Jim waited patiently as he mirrored the database and the code on a portable drive so he could figure out what happened. Something stuck out in his mind though, how was Mike here so fast, he wondered.

Jim had skipped Thanksgiving dinner with Mike and his wife, he had been looking for the outgoing connections to his phone from the database. He had stopped coming into the office. Nothing made sense. He had sequestered his phone long ago; the messages from his dead grandmother hadn’t stopped, they had gotten mean.

“You abandoned me.”

“You only care about yourself.”

“I’m so alone in this place.”

Jim knew who was sending these, but he couldn’t prove it. Mike was trying to undermine his sanity, get him to break. If Mike could get a controlling share of the company, he could change the revenue model, and poison the entire product. Mike would pervert every message in the name of capitalism, and Jim had to stop him.

Jim had given up on figuring out how Mike was doing this, with an actor, or a new database, he had to figure out how to stop him. The messages became brutal and he was losing his ability to ignore them. Each buzz and he would flinch, he desperately wanted to know what was there, but each one would cut as the guilt continued to burn inside him.

His phone buzzed again in his desk drawer. He fought the urge to flagellate himself but froze when he heard the video on the app start to play. The familiar sound of a ventilator echoed in his ears as though it wasn’t in the drawer. He wrenched it open and stared at the simulacrum as it wheezed.

“You know what to do.”

Jim knew what happened next. He had been there in that room with his grandmother. He started to giggle which turned into a deep laugh. His grandmother was right, he did know what he had to do. He got into the car and drove to Mike’s house, tears clouding his eyes.

He ran up the steps of the townhouse and banged on the door. His nose dripping with snot and tears.

Mike opened the door wide. “Jesus Christ, Jim, what’s going on?”

Jim grabbed Mike’s sweater and buried his face into his chest.

“I want out, just let me go out, anything,” Jim said. Mike patted Jim on the back and led him inside.

“It’s okay, it’s okay. Let’s just talk about your options.”

Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
In.

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Noah
May 31, 2011

Come at me baby bitch
Out.

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