|# ¿ Jan 4, 2017 07:41|
|# ¿ Jul 3, 2022 14:47|
Without a Clue
Through the courtyard, Himari’s steps made fossilized imprints in the snow. To death she walked, to life she trod. She was barefoot. She wanted her last moments to be memories of a coldness she had only enjoyed as a child.
Behind her, Aoi, her childhood friend and second, stepped in each footprint she made. Finally, they came to the roofed terrace of the shrine to Amaterasu. The massive eastward gate gaped wide, fastened from chains centuries old, and the roof supported the bell that rang signifying morning. In this pre-dawn hour, the barukumin would soon be able to perform their duties waking the dead, and cleaning the remains.
Himari knelt in front of the gate. Clenched in her hand was the wakizashi of her family’s lineage. No more fitting blade could seal her fate.
“Thus truly, I am sure, I wish to perish,” Himari announced, drawing the blade from its scabbard.
“Tell me your sins,” Aoi pleaded.
“Thus it began as it always begins, in geometry with sensei Jensen.”
Aoi scowled and though Himari could neither see nor hear the expression she felt it deeply.
“We were to perform in groups, and I had originally thought luck to be on my side. I was fortuitously paired with Sasuke.”
“Comparatively, I beseech my god,” Aoi said.
“I am aware, am I not correct?”
The class was about to be called to order, and Himari lingered hoping to catch the eye of Sasuke as he sullenly would approach the room. Instead Kaori Kunagari fell upon Himari outside of the classroom with scant seconds to spare before the tardy bell.
“Please Himari, I have utterly forgotten about the expectations of learning to be performed at home, may I please look upon your work for guidance?”
Himari was hesitant, she did not trust Kaori, as they had been rivals in the past for the affections of similar men.
“Please Himari, I will trade you the bakings of my mother.”
Truly Kaori’s mother was a master of red bean paste and cinnamon from the west, Himari could hardly pass the opportunity up. She traded her homework for two short bread cookies, immediately eating one with the intention of saving another to ply for Sasuke’s favor. As soon as she was done eating the first cookie, her stomach turned. In hindsight she should have never trusted Kaori.
The bell rang before Himari would completely assess the situation. Sensei Jensen, in her toad-like appearance, ushered them all in. When she called order to the first agenda on the children’s lesson, she announced they would be working in pairs. To Himari’s favor, she was paired with the quiet, handsome seriousness of Sasuke.
As the children paired into their teams, from the back of the class, a villain, an outcast, a foul swamp imp, Kaori Kunagari leveled her gaze to the back of Himari’s head.
She sidled up to Himari and Sasuke.
“As you must be aware, I received perfect marks on our last examination,” Kaori declared.
“Choke me on the ladle of life,” Himari said.
Kaori ignored her. “Perhaps you would prefer to look over my expertise on the subject beforehand.”
Kaori placed in front of Sasuke Himari’s homework, except with Himari’s name erased and replaced with Kaori’s herself. Himari’s nose flared in indignation, as she was to about to challenge Kaori, her stomach rumbled again. She immediately recognized the devious and knowing look upon Kaori’s face, she had fallen for a trap that she could not bare to allow Sasuke to know. Himari excused herself from the classroom before her stomach could audibly alert the class to her predicament.
After many long minutes she returned, and Kaori had taken it upon herself to insert herself into the tandem’s efforts, and was presenting Himari’s work to the class at large.
The final straw had broken, Himari snatched Kaori’s own blank homework from the desk and stood on top of a desk. In one hand she gripped the paper, crumpling it to be completely illegible but she pointed nonetheless.
As she stood tall on the chair, a bouncing beam of sunlight sparkled in Himari’s eye. Before she could announce the gross violation of the school’s moral code, a sneeze crept up. In a powerful blast, a strand of mucus freed itself from Himari’s nostril, but its grip on life still secure. The glob hung from the middle of her nose like a stillborn butterfly. And then, from the suddenness of the event, her stomach regained control. She farted.
Aoi was silent.
“All of this regardless,” Himari said.
The sun peaked through the scars in the landscape made by the mountains of the sun, and she wrinkled her nose. A minor sneeze escaped through her nose, she would no longer allow her body to rule her decorum, and she stifled any further noise.
“As it is, it will be,” Aoi finally choked out.
Himari filled deep her lungs of cold fire, they burned with the confined aggression of a life falsely imprisoned. She had chosen the path through the mire of uncertainty and regret and on the other side was her second. Her hands were poised at maximum apex from her abdomen before she even realized what was happening. She sucked in a great gasp as the steel plunged deep into her.
The tears escaped her immediately despite her grim determination. Her breath caught itself in the pitter patter of regret. She tried to protest to her second but her voice maintained her honor. With the last of her freedom she wrenched sideways, revealing herself in a cloud of breath as her stomach exhaled its shame. In the next moment her muscles relaxed and she slumped headless into the snow.
|# ¿ Jan 9, 2017 04:22|
|# ¿ Jun 29, 2017 01:51|
Where You Are Now
The dog lopes unevenly, hindered by swollen pustules enveloping its right shoulder and leg. The tumorous mass had saved the beast from the initial wave of scavengers, but now its protection leads it to a slow death of gnawing starvation. The dog is scrawny and in constant pain. It picks its way through the sun-bleached craters and rubble until it finds a shady place to rest. The dog sleeps dreamless.
Footsteps crunch rocks and pebbles. Every sound is amplified in this empty world. Every sound is amplified in the dog’s empty stomach and it wakes up. There is a man in front of the dog. He is half-crouched, and covered with rags. He extends a hand but keeps the other hidden.
In the man’s hand are kibble pebbles, a dozen or more depending on if a broken half of a kibble pellet is considered whole. He places a kibble in his mouth and chews. The man nods, but his other arm is still hidden.
When the dog turns to completely face the man, the scabrous, infected mass is given full light. The man exhales deep.
“Hey buddy,” he says. The man pulls down his scarf, revealing he is covered in boils and weeping sores. Track lines of swollen veins disappear under the rest of his clothes. “They didn’t want to eat me either.”
The dog approaches and eats the dried nuggets of kibble and remembers the years as they once were. The kibble is not enough but there is no more and the dog is hungry.
“Do you have a name? I’m tired. That’s a joke,” he says.
The man does not give the dog a name, though the dog knows it has one. It does not remember its name but it knows it had one. It follows the man as they walk because it feels familiar. When the light fades they find a boulder atop a dusty hill, surrounded by other rocks. The man clears a spot big enough for them both to rest. The rock at the top of this hill was once half-buried, but now the sun and wind have revealed the stained rings of eons at the base of the boulder. The man does not notice the rings.
The dog dreams of this hill when the hill was covered in soft dirt, fallen leaves and healthy trees.
In the morning, they use the hill as a lookout and can see for miles. They see structures in the distance.
“There used to be people there, but they moved on. Maybe they left something for us,” he says.
Decades old rubble sits untouched as they enter the forgotten city. They pick their way through the destruction and find a massive fallen colossus of a building leaning against another, albeit smaller, colossus. It creates a welcome shadow. Underneath the angular arch of the fallen building are pools of water, protected from the sun.
The water is foul but so are their bodies and after they fill their skins they play and splash in the tertiary puddles. When they sit, the man lounges and uses his rucksack as a pillow. Above him the fallen building looms and he marvels at the decrepit monolith. He does not know, has never known, the name for a building this large but the dog remembers.
They rest under the shadow of the corpse of the building and the dog dreams. The dog dreams of people and rain and cities.
They do not find any more food in the following days and the dog is hungrier and sleeps with no dreams. They move less each day and take longer breaks. During a rest, the man looks at the dog. He reaches out his hand but it is empty. He hides his other hand. The dog remembers a familiar feeling and it moves closer to the man. The man places his hand on the dog’s head and pets it.
“Good dog,” he says. He puts his hand down and closes his eyes. The man sleeps and the dog sleeps next to him. The dog does not dream and it is distressed when it wakes. The dog realizes it will not dream again.
“Are you okay, buddy?” the man says. The man reaches out to pet the dog but the dog can only react.
The dog feasts, ignoring the weak strikes of the man. Each bite strengthens the dog’s resolve to resist the man. It is gorged, but continues eating, and it thinks of nothing else but to consume. The dog drags the remains of the man to the water and sits next to him. It whines softly, but the man does not move. Finally, the dog lies down and sleeps.
The dog dreams again of time long gone.
|# ¿ Jul 2, 2017 20:29|
|# ¿ Jul 19, 2017 02:32|
Gorda was dry and had been for months. Air conditioning and Andy’s parents were the only memories he held onto. His parents were swept away traversing the first landslide that had cut Gorda off from the world. They were rendezvousing with CalTrans rescue robots when the loose scree gave way and Andy watched them plunge into the ocean. The air conditioning went out some years later when the 8th landslide demolished the Pacific Coast Highway, and the diesel generator died from hunger.
“They want to finish what they started,” Andy’s uncle said when the rescue workers never came. “They want us off this land.” Andy’s family did not own any land, they were staying at the hotel when the first landslide happened, and he and his uncle just never left.
Andy knocked on room 8. It was an upstairs room an old man was in. He drove a chocolate brown MGB with a convertible roof. Loved to drive up and down the 1 on the weekend, but when the rainstorm came he was stuck like everyone else. There was no answer.
Andy’s uncle had devised a contraption using a rolling chair and many extension cords. Andy wheeled the old man to as far towards the edge of the cliff as he could and rolled the chair down the particle board path. The chair toppled over and spilled the old man onto the rocks before he made it over the cliff. Andy hauled the chair back with the extension cords and went back to the hotel. It was hot.
In the lobby, Andy’s uncle slumped over the front desk. He was perspiring. Andy hung key 8 back on the pegboard. In three weeks the pegboard would be full again.
Andy hung key 1 and 2 onto the pegboard and loaded his uncle into the chair.
“I miss them,” his uncle said. Andy nodded.
This time the chair traversed the wooden plank path, avoiding the scattered hotel guests, and pitched over the side of the cliff. Andy hauled the empty chair back up over the lip and prepared to reset the chair. He untied the extension cords and sat in the chair at the top of the ramp and something caught his eye.
A neon green speck appeared around the corner of the highway. It grew until finally Andy could see that it was a bicyclist. The bicyclist was loaded for bear with panniers and rucksack. With a wave and a smile the cyclist ambled by with the slow and steady pace of someone unhindered by worry. After few more minutes the cyclist was gone. He stared back at the empty road from which the person had come. Cheap casters on wood and churning ocean breaking against the rocks swelled in his ears until he could hear nothing else.
|# ¿ Jul 23, 2017 18:45|
Prompt 3, wordcount 3.
|# ¿ Jul 24, 2017 04:23|
|# ¿ Aug 3, 2017 05:58|
|# ¿ Aug 8, 2017 04:16|
In with automation.
In a world without greed.
|# ¿ Aug 21, 2017 21:31|
|# ¿ Jul 3, 2022 14:47|
Prompt: In a World Without Animals
Errol stepped gingerly with his long, sinewy limbs across the algal bloom, poking suspicious spots with his improvised snake pole. For the most part, his bogshoes would keep him afloat on the thick, fibrous mass, but he had to be careful. Directly below him lay the ruins of homes, broken rebar and still-sharp-enough timbers that if he stepped poorly he wouldn’t re-surface. He wondered if he had ever casually passed over his grandparent’s home.
The snake pole dipped below the bloom and Errol tossed a bright pink buoy in the area. He crouched and used the last of the hooks hanging from his belt to gather the bloom. When he pulled a thick and heavy fold he secured the hooks but jumped back in shock, nearly sending him plunging below the water. From the break in the algae emerged a fleshy, bloated mass. Its skin sloughed off when Errol touched it, but otherwise it was preserved – brined. He had never seen one of these things, but he knew it to be a Slug. It reminded him of a manatee he had read about in his books. He left a peppering of pink danger buoys attached to the body, and headed back to shore.
“Hey Legs! Still alive! Good, good,” said Davey, his foreman.
Throwing the last of his skimming suit in a heap, Errol waved to the foreman and the crew running to attach the bloom lines to the windmill. Dotting the terraced, stone bolstered makeshift wharfs were the windmills. They were massive structures from the Denson Labs that could be expertly disassembled and moved higher up the island.
“Well, it ain’t diving at least,” Errol said. One of the crew signaled the lines were attached and everyone scrambled. Slowly the mass of thick, green ropes was dragged up and onto the stone embankments. As it settled it appeared to writhe and seethe, angry at being ripped from its home. Sheets after sheets were cut from the mass and separated into workable piles to be dragged, dried and processed.
Errol dug into his bag and fished out his last apple ration for the week. It was pink and shiny, reminding him of the flesh of the Slug reflecting sun for the first time since being swallowed up by the bloom. He could not sleep that night.
At the wharf, there was only the sound of the windmills creaking in the dark of night, and the water trying desperately to slap against the stones through the bloom. Errol glided silently out into the mass. He was tall and slender, even among strider standards, and made good time as he crawled on all fours. He did not know why it felt natural at times to move on that way, but he enjoyed the current lack of suspicious looks from the shorter, stockier shore crew.
In the light of his oil lamp, he found the Slug still floating among the pink buoys. With careful consideration to not destroy the thing, Errol hooked the Slug up to the trawling ropes and headed back to shore.
There were still a few hours before pre-dawn light would break over the island, and Errol pushed a wheel barrow up the dirt road to the Denson Labs facility. Errol had done this trek many times while schlepping bloom loads for processing.
“I want to see Denson,” Errol said. The gate crew looked at the Slug in the wheelbarrow and nodded. They looked worried. Denson the man was someone Errol had only heard of in revered tones, but had never met. He was smaller in person, older, but not as wizened as Errol was expecting. Denson’s skin was tight, and his gray hair and beard were immaculately kept.
“The poor baby,” Denson said, patting the Slug with an ungloved hand. The gate crew winced in visible repulsion. “Thank you…”
“Thank you, Errol.”
“Did this escape?”
“No, no. Taken.”
They stood in silence at the gate.
“Have you shown this to anyone else?” Denson asked. Errol said nothing.
“I understand your hesitancy. Please, give us a chance before passing judgment.”
Denson led Errol past the gate crew, deeper into the facilities. Through twists and turns they passed maintenance workers and people in lab coats before coming to a massive warehouse door.
“You have to be expose yourself to the truth for your work to have any meaning,” Denson said. “If you hide from reality, there can be no moral justification.”
Denson cranked the large chain, slowly lifting the rolling metal gate. Errol could see the rust spots on the chain, and recognized it as a salvage job from his days as a diver.
The smell immediately hit Errol like a wall. The warehouse crew all wore head-to-toe rubber suits with their own ventilators. Denson was unaffected. In front of him were massive banks of cages taller than Errol could have imagined. Wall to wall it stretched, packed with the fleshy mounds of the Slugs. A confusing network of tubes, filled with green paste, weaved their way along the roof of the warehouse, each tendril finding their terminus into the mouth, if it could be called a mouth, of a Slug. Below each layer of cages was a conveyer, slowly transporting the fecal output into bins.
Denson caught Errol’s shoulder as he staggered.
“This is the truth of our existence, Errol. Fertilizer. Decomposers. The entire circle of life that was robbed from us, we have created here.”
Errol became dizzy wanted to throw up and to wretch out every shred of food he had ever eaten. He knew, everyone knew of the Slugs but could they have ever imagined what was in front of him. The Slugs squirmed, but otherwise made little noise. Some of them had no eyes, others had tiny, glossed over beads obviously vestigial. They were deformed, and amorphous, each one without any common or defining features.
“We have cultivated a gut bacteria that can break down this green pestilence. We have turned our asphyxiator into our savior. Fertilizer, oil, plastics, energy, we can extract it all. For a price. It needs a host.”
The room started to spin for Errol. He reached out to brace himself, and his hand fell through the cage bars and he touched a Slug. It was warm and calloused, and he could feel it wriggle in shock to his touch. Errol recoiled and fell onto the ground, putting his face into his hands.
“Come with me Errol,” Denson said, picking him up. They left the cage banks, and into tighter hallways.
“Genetic manipulation is not for the faint of heart, but it is necessary,” Denson continued. “But please believe me, they feel no pain. They have no hopes or dreams. They have been created for only one purpose.”
“How, how do you even make these things?”
“Surrogates,” Denson said. “How else?”
Errol grit his teeth at the tone and a new wave of nausea swept over him.
“Please, Errol. You must understand, to live is to adapt. To survive is to change. You are no different.”
Errol threw his hands around Denson’s neck, his long sinewy fingers interlacing, his thumbs pressing into Denson’s larynx. In that moment, he thought about his friends, his family, Davey and the crew. He thought of the farms, and the windmills, and the apple rations. There were rations, but there was still food.
He let go of Denson’s neck and turned around. He had no idea what he was going to do but he had to leave and escape this menagerie of horror.
The bullet pierced Errol’s shoulder before he even heard the shot. The pain shut down his body and he crumpled through the door as another bullet blasted the wall right next to him. Disoriented and panicked, he took to all fours, forcing his right arm to move. Everything was fire and pain, and his mobility crippled in his right shoulder, but still he made it around the corner of the halls before he was shot again.
He knew he could outrun Denson, but he was sure the facility crew would be swarming before long. Getting out the front door would be impossible.
Sliding out a narrow window, he tumbled down the rocky terraces. If he could make it the bloom, he would be safe. No one would dare chase him through the mass, it would be hopeless – he was made for it. Broken and bloodied, Errol made it to the shore and crawled his way onto the green mats silently floating in the dark. He lay on his back, splayed out, slowly crawling further out into the ocean. He could see the lanterns winding their way towards him, but they would be too late.
Only a strider would find him now. Maybe dead, maybe alive, he wasn’t sure, but his comrades would find him. They would see what had been done to him, and there would be no hiding for Denson when the people came for him.
|# ¿ Aug 27, 2017 20:37|