Time to start writing again. I'm in.
|# ¿ Feb 13, 2020 18:22|
|# ¿ Jun 4, 2023 21:27|
The Bower Man
Do you hear the windchimes jingling?
You know it’s on nights like this, when the seas are rough and the wind is rattling the shutters, that the Bower Man comes to town.
You haven’t heard of the Bower Man? I’m not surprised. Your family only just moved to Catbird Island. This is the first real heavy storm we’ve had since you arrived. Perfect weather to catch a glimpse of the Bower Man, if you keep your eyes open. Just make sure he doesn’t see you.
Because if he sees you, he might decide you’re the perfect thing to add to his collection.
Oh, the Bower Man collects all kinds of things. Loose change, lost keys, necklaces, bracelets, baubles, bones…
Just like a bowerbird, you know? Those little birds that build lavish nests—bowers—full of trinkets so they can attract a mate.
Well, the Bower Man has a bower, too.
Years ago, Catbird Island used to be a private estate. Nathan Catbird was a rich tycoon who built a mansion here. Look, you can still see what’s left of it up on the hill. It’s all run down now but it used to be a huge place just like the Rockefeller mansion. Nathan built it as a wedding present for his new bride.
You see, Nathan’s wife loved pretty things. Jewelry, paintings, fancy cars, beautiful clothes, as long as it was expensive, she loved it. And Nathan loved her, so anything she admired, she got. I guess he was scared that if she ever didn’t get what she wanted, she’d leave him for someone who’d get it for her.
At first she didn’t really want to be showered in gifts, but as time went on she came to expect them, ask for them, finally even demand them.
Eventually their house got so full of gifts for her that they ran out of places to put them, and she still demanded more.
Their home got more and more crowded with stuff. Piles and piles of it until you couldn’t move anywhere without knocking over a heap of expensive junk. The staff threatened to quit because they couldn’t do their jobs, but every day more deliveries arrived at the pier.
Around this time, a big nor’easter—a hurricane—blew up and started tearing its way up the coast. Nathan knew the island had to be evacuated and gave instructions to his staff to pack up the essentials. Unfortunately as far as his wife was concerned the “essentials” turned out to be almost everything in the house. When she saw how much of her luggage was left on the pier, she threw a fit and refused to get on the boat. Said she didn’t want to leave all her stuff. He begged her to escape the island with him and get to safety but she put her foot down. When he tried to force her onto the boat she ran.
So he chased after her.
The boat had to leave without them.
Winds a hundred miles an hour tore trees out of the ground. Huge waves washed the pier and the boathouse out to sea. The whole island was trashed! Even the mansion high on the hill couldn’t escape the destruction. Flying branches smashed in the windows and gale force winds scattered the piles of treasure all over the island and out to sea. The whole house was gutted by the storm. Half of it collapsed when the mountain underneath got washed away by the rain.
They never found the bodies of Nathan or his wife, but when the staff returned after the storm to search the wreckage, some of them claimed to see a mysterious, shambling figure that jingled wherever it went. Now, whenever the weather gets stormy, the Bower Man can sometimes be seen wandering the streets, searching for precious things to add to his collection.
Some people say the Bower Man is Nathan Catbird’s restless spirit, forever wandering the island, trying to reassemble the bower he’d built in the hopes it will bring his beloved wife back to him. He goes out in the storm because the noise from the wind and the rain covers up the jingling sound he makes wherever he goes. He’ll snatch up anything precious, including children if he can get his hands on them. Maybe their bones make great decorations. I dunno.
I just remembered something else.
We don’t have a windchime.
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2020 05:52|
A Cautionary Tale
“Look out! The giant, mechanical spider is coming!” yelled the townsfolk as the towering, evil arachnid bore down on them.
The automated abomination’s eight laser eyes each focused independently on a different target, blasting homes and businesses with deadly beams.
“Here comes the Air Force!” someone yelled and pointed as a formation of attack jets streaked overhead.
Unfortunately, the spider was ready for an attack from the air. It launched a huge web net which entangled the jets and brought them hurtling to earth in balls of fire.
“Can’t anyone stop this monster?” pleaded the townsfolk.
Just then, a figure appeared on the hill. He was tall, dark, and handsome and sat astride a beautiful stallion girded with the seal of the president.
“President Obama!” a woman cheered.
“Did somebody order a spider extermination?” Obama smiled and his teeth gleamed in the sunlight.
He reared up his horse and charged down the hill, saber flashing.
“Not so fast, Obama, the worst president in history, many people have said so (grapes),” crackled a loudspeaker at the head of the giant spider.
“That voice!” the townsfolk gasped. “It could only be…”
“Many people don’t know this, but spiders have been treated very unfairly by the media. They bite many babies but are those babies really blameless? I’m here to make spiders great again,” said the loudspeaker.
A hatch opened up at the top of the spider and Donald Trump rose out of it.
The townsfolk all gasped. President Donald Trump!
“Maybe it’s good the giant spider is crushing the town,” said one of the townsfolk.
“It is owning a lot of libs,” said another man.
“Oh no! Without the faith of the American people, I’m fading away.” Obama looked at his hand as it became transparent.
THE ENDING IS UP TO YOU!
|# ¿ Feb 17, 2020 18:58|
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
|# ¿ Feb 18, 2020 14:29|
12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow
Mark pressed his face to the mirror. His hairline was higher than before.
“It’s going to grow back,” Mark told himself. “It’s just like this because work’s been so stressful.”
Work stress. That’s what was causing it. But now that he knew it was stress, it wouldn’t affect him.
Mark went to sleep and thought hairy thoughts. Maybe by fixing the image in his mind of where his hairline should be and concentrating hard, his body would remember the way things were and change back. Tomorrow he would wake up and his hair would be as thick and lush as it had been in his twenties.
It was even worse the next morning than it was the night before.
There wasn’t even hair on his pillow! Where was it going?
He could feel the baldness plucking away at his interpersonal relationships, follicle by follicle.
When he grabbed his morning coffee at the kiosk in the lobby, the pretty barista didn’t smile as brightly as she used to. Before, when she smiled, there was genuine warmth, her eyes lit up to see him. Now it seemed forced and artificial. He couldn’t say for sure what was different, but he caught a flicker of her eyes toward his hairline as he picked up his order and he knew what she was thinking.
He knew what they were all thinking. They were laughing at the bald stooge. He caught the same flicker from a dozen women around the office. He used to flirt with Mary on his way past her cubicle, but lately she’d always been in conversation with Kenneth whenever he walked by.
No coincidence Kenneth had a full head of hair. It was unnatural for a man in a management position to have a head of hair like that. Anybody who actually earned their paycheck would be going bald from stress like Mark was.
Or at least they’d have the decency to be prematurely gray.
It wasn’t just his relationships with the opposite sex that had suffered. Things had changed between him and the other men in the office as well.
He used to be in control. He used to run any meeting he was in even when it wasn’t his meeting.
The balance of power on the seventh floor was shifting. When Kenneth spoke, everyone in the meeting would quiet down and listen to what he had to say. Afterward, Kenneth would look over at Mark and do that lovely little half-smirk.
Mark knew what he was up to. He was waiting, biding his time, letting Mark do all the work so Mark would lose his hair and become a laughingstock. Then Kenneth, who hadn’t felt a day of stress in his life, would swoop in and steal all the glory.
Kenneth. That’s who was causing this. But now that he knew it was Kenneth, Mark had the advantage. He could take control of the situation. Mark went to bed that night feeling at ease, like a great weight had been lifted off his shoulders. Tomorrow he’d unravel the web of conspiracy Kenneth had spun around him and he’d be free and in charge again.
His hairline had retreated even further. This time he didn’t even have to brush it back to see the difference.
How was he losing his hair so quickly? He shouldn’t be losing his hair at all. His maternal grandfather kept a full head of hair right into his old age. There was no natural explanation!
Mark fumed all the way into work.
He skipped his morning coffee and went straight up to the seventh floor. He was going to catch Kenneth off guard by coming in early. The elevator doors slid open and Mark nearly fell backwards.
“Hey, Mark! How’s tricks?” Kenneth sneered, his expression as oily as his lush, dark head of hair.
“Uhhh—” Mark stared blankly at Kenneth for an uncomfortable amount of time.
“Sorry, can’t stay to chat. Big things happening up on eight, but don’t worry, you’ll make it there someday. Right, big guy?” Kenneth eased his way around Mark into the elevator, gently guiding Mark out with a firm pat on the arm.
The sound of the elevator ding brought Mark back around just as the doors slid shut on Kenneth’s sneering face and shiny hair.
Mark couldn’t have imagined it. Kenneth had Mark’s hair! His Hair!
Numbers were starting to add up in Mark’s head. His suddenly receding hairline, the shift in office power, Kenneth’s fabulous hairdo…
Mark didn’t know how, but there could be no doubt: Kenneth was stealing his hair!
Well he wasn’t going to let Kenneth get away with it.
Mark stewed in his office all morning and left work at lunch. He’d spent the day trying to figure out how Kenneth was stealing his hair. Was it drugs? Something in his morning coffee? If that was it then Kenneth was in for some disappointment; he hadn’t had his coffee that morning.
Unless the barista was in cahoots (she would have to be) and warned Kenneth about the change in routine. They were all against him, plotting, conniving to steal his precious hair!
Mark drummed his fingers on the dashboard of his car. He’d been sitting in the parking garage for hours, chasing his thoughts in circles and periodically checking his hairline in the rearview mirror.
A sudden motion in the corner of his vision snapped him out of his reverie.
Kenneth! What was that slimeball up to now? Leaving work early?
The light outside was orange. The sun was going down. Holy poo poo, was it already past five?
Kenneth was getting into his car.
Mark waited for Kenneth to pull out of his space and around the corner before following him.
Keeping a safe distance, Mark followed Kenneth all the way back to his house and peeked in the window.
Kenneth was lighting candles. Getting ready for a romantic evening, Kenneth? With Mary, perhaps? Gonna have a good laugh at old Mark?
Kenneth arranged the candles in a circle and started pouring salt around them. What the hell was he doing? Some kind of voodoo?
“Son of a bitch!” Mark clapped his hands over his mouth. Kenneth had a lock of Mark’s hair. His hair! He was doing some kind of weird black magic spell on it!
This was going to stop right now!
“Open up, Kenneth!” Mark pounded on the door.
“Mark? Buddy, what’re you doing here? Woah!” Kenneth stumbled aside as Mark barged his way into the house.
“What the hell is this?” Mark shoved the lock of hair under Kenneth’s nose. “You think I don’t know what’s going on?”
“Woah, chill out, buddy! You’re gonna go bald if you can’t mellow out a little,” Kenneth smirked.
“I’ll mellow you out you son of a—” Mark dove at him.
Then they were on the ground, rolling across the floor. Candles went flying. The curtains went up in flames. Kenneth grabbed something heavy and caught Mark good in the shoulder with it, but Mark got him back with a punch right to the kisser. Kenneth fell back, right into the flaming drapes. He screamed as the flaming curtains cocooned his body in melting polyester.
Mark stumbled out the front door, choking on rancid smoke as the house went up in flames behind him.
Blue and red lights dazzled him and he dropped to his knees.
“It was the hair, he was stealing my hair!” was all he could think of to say.
After the trial, Mark’s coworkers all talked about him in hushed tones.
“Worked too hard.”
“Must have just snapped.”
“Poor Kenneth, he had a bright future ahead of him.”
One thing they all said though was that during the news coverage of the trial, Mark’s hair looked phenomenal.
|# ¿ Feb 24, 2020 05:18|
|# ¿ Mar 30, 2020 15:46|
You get a special item! New from Voidmart, it's the Etho-Optics emotion-seeking goggles! Find any feeling within a thirty yard diameter.
“Lousy punk kids.” Sasha glared through the peephole at the delinquents loitering in the hallway. He could see them by their flashlight beams. Didn’t they hear the announcement? Couldn’t they read?
Of course they couldn’t read. They were always skateboarding in the halls despite the clearly posted signs.
Sasha took another sip of coffee to steady his nerves and pressed his eye back to the peephole, muttering.
Behind him in the dark, the TV cycled through a color-distorted slideshow set to upbeat muzak. None of the lights or outlets worked, but the TV stayed on. Even unplugged, it stayed on.
“Please remain in your dwelling.” Plain white text printed over the VoidMart logo. The logo had been clumsily stretched to fit the screen’s aspect ratio.
After a few seconds, the text changed. “There is nothing on the roof. Stay clear of the roof.”
Every so often, the screen would flicker and the color distortions grew worse.
By pressing his ear to the door, Sasha could catch the whispers of the delinquents outside.
“Is everyone here?”
“Whatever it is, I think it’s on the roof.”
“We’re gonna get in so much trouble.”
“Not if we don’t get caught.”
“Oh, you’re caught, you little bastards.”
He grabbed his phone off the kitchen counter and lugged it as close to the door as the cord would allow. Cradling the base in one hand, Sasha dialed the number to the head of his neighborhood watch unit.
“You. Are. Caught. Red. Handed.” He punctuated each word with a forceful turn of the rotary dial. Nobody was going to mess around with the tower on Sasha’s watch.
He balanced the handset on his shoulder and craned his neck to bring his eye level with the peephole.
The other end picked up after two rings.
“Jeff, it’s Sasha! Get there guys together, there’s a bunch of—” Sasha stopped.
“—is a recording…” the voice on the other end droned. “There is an emergency in progress. There is nothing on the roof…”
Sasha slammed the receiver down in its cradle and tossed the phone into the alcove by the door where it landed with a plaintive clang.
“Worthless,” Sasha grumbled. He pressed his eye to the peephole again. The flashlights were gone. The hallway was silent.
Behind him, the TV flickered.
Sasha glanced back involuntarily at the movement. His eye caught on a new message he hadn’t seen pop up before.
YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO, SASHA. The card read. The muzak wavered and slowed.
“Wh—” Sasha mumbled. Was the TV talking to him?
THE GOGGLES, SASHA.
Sasha looked over at the stained and beaten coveralls hanging on the bedroom door. A clunky pair of goggles dangled from the same hook.
He plucked the goggles off the door and turned them over in his hand.
VoidMart’s own Etho-Optics Emotion-Seeking Goggles. They looked like a Tom Clancy wet dream, plenty of extra lenses and knobs. Handy for his work catching vermin in the service tunnels.
He looked back at the TV. The usual slideshow had resumed. The muzak was back to normal.
Catching vermin, huh… He didn’t need the other guys from the neighborhood watch to round up a few rats.
Sasha pulled the goggles down over his head. The rubber straps pinched his hair, but his adrenaline was pumping too hard for him to care.
There was an electronic whine as the goggles powered up. The screens inside presented Sasha with a false-color overlay that showed the emotional state of the environment around him.
He saw his own footprints, red and glowing with pent-up frustration.
In the alcove by the door, the phone nursed a dull blue and purple case of bruised pride after its rough treatment earlier. The fading imprints of Sasha’s angry grip glowed dull red like a dying ember.
Sasha hitched up his bathrobe and tied off the cord. It immediately fell undone. With an exasperated sigh, Sasha tied the cord again and held it shut with his left hand.
“Time to hunt some rats.”
Those kids needed to be taught a lesson. They had to learn that when the good folks at VoidMart told you to stay inside, you stayed inside.
Their trail was easy to follow. Even ten minutes cold, the sickly green miasma of their headstrong defiance hung heavy in the air of the hall, with bright patches of radium-green footprints to point the way.
“Cocky little punks,” Sasha grumbled as he shuffled down the corridor.
The fire exit looked like a child’s art-project, smeared with glowing handprints of all colors. Nervousness, defiance, mischief, fear, anger. They’d forced the blast doors and propped them open with a length of pipe so they could access the stairwell.
The floor was so covered in multicolored footprints Sasha could barely make out the carpet underneath. Christ, was he seriously the only resident on his floor that could follow basic directions?
He picked up one of the discarded tools left behind by the delinquents. It was a short prybar with plenty of heft.
“This might come in handy if those little twerps give me any trouble.”
Sasha poked his head into the stairwell. An amplified voice echoed from somewhere high above.
“Reminder to all denizens: movement between floors is strictly forbidden. Please return to your dwellings.” The voice feigned calm, but the goggles revealed the tint of fear and frustration in the soundwaves bouncing off the walls. “Failure to comply will incur severe penalties.”
Sasha heaved a deep breath and cinched up his bathrobe, which had fallen open again.
He paused, his foot hovering over the first step.
One set of footprints stood out from the rest. Most of the tracks were the yellowy green of youthful defiance but one set was bright orange. These were the tracks of someone in control, someone in charge.
“Looks like I just found the ringleader,” Sasha smirked.
He took the steps two at a time.
He’d followed the orange tracks up three flights when he saw that they turned abruptly off at the next landing.
“So, you think you can shake me that easily?” Sasha licked his lips. Did the ringleader know Sasha was tailing him? It didn’t matter, no matter how this guy zigged or zagged, Sasha would be on him like a fly on poo poo. Nobody was going to mess around with the tower on Sasha’s watch.
The orange steps were getting brighter. The ringleader was close. He could see the glow of his quarry’s aura right around the next turn.
Sasha slowed to a tiptoe and peeked around the corner.
The figure of the ringleader was an orange silhouette, crouched down near an open maintenance panel. Sasha could dimly make out the vague shapes of some sinister-looking apparatus in the reflected glow of the ringleader’s aura. A bomb, perhaps?
“This is it,” Sasha thought. He held the prybar ready. In his goggles, he could see the light of his own aura, yellow with fear.
No, he had to be brave, courageous! Attack now, while the ringleader’s back was turned!
“Aaaaargh!” Sasha charged out from behind the corner, prybar raised high over his head.
The ringleader’s aura flashed from orange to yellow as he raised his hands in alarm.
“Eat this, you terrorist punk!” Sasha bellowed. “Eat—”
Unfortunately Sasha never got to tell his quarry what to eat. At that moment, his bathrobe came loose and his legs became tangled in the dangling cord. He fell flat on his face a full two yards short of his target.
The ringleader stood. His aura once again a steady, confident orange. He leveled a pistol at Sasha’s prone body.
“FREEZE! DROP YOUR WEAPON!” he ordered.
Sasha let the prybar clang to the floor beside his head.
The ringleader cocked his head and there was a squawk of radio static.
“Security dispatch this is Unit Four Six I’ve got a jailbreaker down on One Twenty Nine,” the guard drawled. “Bring a mulcher.”
Sasha’s heart skipped a beat. He’d almost attacked a security officer!
“Wait! I’m not a-a jailbreaker,” Sasha protested. “It was these kids! They’re the ones who violated the shelter-in-place!”
“The only one violating the shelter-in-place around here is you,” said the guard.
“No, no! It’s okay, I’m neighborhood watch! Don’t mulch me! Please!” Sasha begged.
“Neighborhood watch, huh?” the guard crouched down.
“Yes! Yes!” Sasha cried. “I just want to help. I’ll do anything!”
“Anything, huh?” mused the guard. “Maybe we do have a place for someone like you.”
“Yes, sir! Thank you, sir!” Sasha tried and failed to keep his voice from cracking.
“Oh, don’t thank me yet…” The guard’s aura darkened to a sardonic purple.
“Lousy punk kids.” Sasha’s disembodied eye narrowed at the rowdy teens skateboarding through the hallway. Somewhere deep in the bowels of the tower, what was left of his brain flipped the appropriate switches and a security team was dispatched to confiscate the delinquents’ boards.
Nobody was going to mess around with the tower on Sasha’s watch.
|# ¿ Apr 6, 2020 04:10|
|# ¿ Jun 30, 2020 11:34|
Hellrule: your story takes place on the surface of a pool ball
Behind the Eight Ball
“I know they do things in a hurry over on Eight-Ball,” said the old man. “But here on Eleven-Ball we take our time.”
“Whatever you say, old man.” Eric scratched impatiently at the stubble on his chin. The “Eight-Ball” comment shook him a little. Was it that obvious where he was from?
With the side of his eye, he glanced at the wanted posters on the bulletin board by the ticket booth.
The old man was still conversing with the ticket seller.
“I haven’t got all day,” Eric chided the old man.
“The Cue won’t be here for a good time yet, young’un.” The old man wagged his finger. “If I’ve got time, you’ve got time.”
Eric glanced up at the skeletal clock tower that had been erected in the center of the canyon. The dial didn’t show the traditional division of seconds, milliseconds and nanoseconds, but rather a countdown from one second to impact.
It was less than a half-second to zero and the ground crew didn’t even have all the pylons up yet. “Took their time” indeed.
A bony, calloused hand clapped Eric on the shoulder.
“Did you get the tickets?” growled Bart.
“Not yet, this old man is taking his sweet drat time,” snapped Eric.
“What old man?” Bart narrowed his eyes.
Eric did a double take. The old man had gone and the spot in front of the ticket counter was vacant.
“Next!” called the ticket man.
Bart shoved Eric toward the booth.
“Quit skylarking and get the tickets,” he hissed, casting a wary eye around the plaza.
Pulling the brim of his hat down low, Bart stalked away across the street.
Eric grumbled and fished into his pockets for change.
The salesman scooped the coins through the slot and stamped three tickets.
“Tower twenty-one,” he said.
Eric stuffed the tickets in his pocket and hurried across the street to Bart and Derek.
“Tower twenty-one,” Eric passed a ticket to each of his associates.
“Took you long enough,” grumbled Bart.
“Ease up on the boy, Bart,” drawled Derek. “We got the tickets and there’s still a time to get off this rock.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” growled Bart. “Your wanted picture isn’t posted up on every wall.”
“Nope,” agreed Derek. He jerked a thumb behind his head. “Just this one.”
Derek leaned forward to reveal he’d been resting against his own wanted poster.
“Tower twenty-one,” Eric read off his ticket. “Which one is that?”
The trio looked around at the bumper pylons that towered like gigantic mushrooms all around the rim of the canyon. Each tower bore a large placard with a number on it.
“Eight, ten, fifteen…” Eric read off the placards.
“Where the hell is twenty-one?” snapped Bart.
“There is no twenty-one!” Eric whined.
“Now hold on,” said Derek. He pointed out a gentleman dressed in the white jumpsuit with a red stripe across his chest.
“See, there’s a transit conductor,” said Derek. “It’s his job to help lost folks like us.”
After a short conversation and some pointing, Eric came back.
“He says it’s not up yet, but that he thinks they’re going to set it up over there.” Eric pointed at an empty spot at the top of the canyon.
“He ‘thinks’?” snapped Bart. “He isn’t sure?”
“Give the boy a break, Bart. I’m sure the man knows what he’s talking about. Let’s head on up there,” said Derek. “There’s still plenty of time.”
Above them, the countdown clock slipped another notch toward zero.
The trio reached the designated spot, only to find a long queue already formed at the gate. Bart grumbled as they took their place at the back.
There was scattered applause as the tower finally went up.
“Now boarding tower twelve!” announced the conductor.
“Twelve?” yelped Bart. “Twelve!”
Down in the canyon, the countdown clock ticked another notch closer to zero. In the sky above, the looming white sphere of Cue Ball was visible, growing perceptibly larger each moment.
At that moment, a transit conductor ambled past and hung a sign on the departure gate.
Bart, eyes bulging, pushed his way through to the front of the line to confront the transit conductor.
“Why didn’t you hang that sign sooner, dammit?” Bart demanded.
“Excuse me?” the transit conductor asked.
Bart grabbed the scrawny man by the lapels.
“Where is tower twenty-one?” he yelled.
“Th-th-th—” the conductor pointed a trembling hand at the opposite edge of the canyon.
Tower twenty-one was just going up. There was already a crowd gathered around the base.
Bart turned back to the conductor to rough him up some more, but Derek and Eric grabbed him.
“Let’s go.” Derek jerked his head in the direction of tower twenty-one.
The trio hurried to the scaffold that would take them back down to the canyon floor.
“Don’t look,” said Derek. “Stickmen.”
Eric couldn’t stop himself from glancing over his shoulder. A trio of chitinous, pale men were talking to the transit conductor. The scrawny man pointed a finger at the trio. Three insectile heads turned.
Derek dug his fingers into Eric’s arm.
“Told you not to look,” he said. “Come on.”
They changed direction away from the canyon edge and into the crowd.
The stickmen followed, hissing like cicadas.
Above, the mass of the Cue Ball filled the sky. The pylons of the opposite transit camp reached down from the upside-down surface.
The wind picked up and the trio soon found themselves fighting a gale as they crawled toward the nearest tower.
Behind them, the stickmen dug their claws into the ground and scuttled under the wind.
With Bart in the lead, the trio shoved their way to the front of the nearest line.
“Tickets?” asked the conductor.
Bart shoved his ticket in the man’s face.
“Sir, this is for twenty-one—”
Bart shoved his six-gun under the conductor’s nose.
“Say twenty-one one more time!” hissed Bart.
The trembling conductor opened the gate to let the men pass.
“Out of my way, you bumpkins!” Bart shoved his way to the top of the stairs.
A conductor stationed partway up blocked Bart with an outstretched hand.
“Sorry, sir,” said the conductor. “That’s the compression zone. If you’re in it when the Cue Ball hits, you’ll be crushed!”
“Ain’t half as bad as what’ll happen to your face if I put a bullet in it!” snapped Bart.
The conductor stepped out of the way and let Bart pass. Eric made to follow, but Derek held him back.
Derek pulled the boy to the side and did their best to melt into the crowd.
A moment later, the stickmen scrabbled past in hot pursuit of Bart.
The colossal springs and pistons in the tower groaned. Outside, the upside-down towers of the Cue-Ball touched down on the ivory surface. Eric’s stomach lurched as the gravity reversed.
“Aiiiieeeee!” a shrill scream echoed up from what was now below, followed by a sickening crunch.
“That takes care of the stickmen,” said Derek, pulling Eric down the stairs toward freedom.
“But poor Bart,” said Eric.
“Yeah it’s a shame,” agreed Derek, hat over his heart. “But that feller always was a little behind the eight ball.”
|# ¿ Jul 6, 2020 05:52|
|# ¿ Aug 17, 2020 20:33|
Sitting Here posted:
Signal to Noise Ratio
Chicxulub was a natural satellite dish, or so Hank had been told. The focal point of the ninety mile wide crater was somewhere in the mid stratosphere, about thirty kilometers up. The scientists working in the bowl sent up weather balloons on long tethers in the hopes of catching a signal, but with the wind at those altitudes it was difficult to keep the balloon inside the point for more than a few minutes at a time.
“There, I just heard something!” Dr. Plankon dug his nails into Hank’s shoulder and leaned in. “Go back!”
“Say what?” Hank grumbled.
“Go back, I distinctly heard a voice,” said Plankon.
“I didn’t hear nuthin’,” said Hank.
“Go back, I heard it!” insisted the scientist.
Hank grumbled and twisted the screwdriver the other way.
The humid atmosphere and constant rainfall of the Yucatan meant that Hank was constantly on call repairing shorted-out equipment and replacing moisture-damaged components.
When it wasn’t raining it was hot as hell and, of course, no matter the temperature or time of day, the mosquitos swarmed like piranhas, their ever-present whine a constant ringing in his ears.
“Just think, Hank, the voices we’re hearing are the echoes of a civilization that was extinguished sixty five million years before humans walked the earth!” Plankon stood up and raised a hand to shield his eyes from the sun as he gazed skyward. “Their last words have been trapped up there in the magnetosphere, circling our planet for eons!”
“Uh huh.” Hank slapped a mosquito on the back of his sunburned neck.
When he’d gotten a job offer fixing radio equipment in the Chicxulub crater, he thought they were talking about the strip joint down on fifth.
Surrounded by pretty girls with no clothes on, that’s where Hank wanted to be. But he was an honorable man and if he signed a contract he stuck to it. Mabel had passed away three years ago and the kids were all grown up and on their own. There was nothing stopping him from upping stakes and disappearing down to Central America for a year or two.
“Never mind,” Dr. Plankon sighed with disappointment as he set the headset back down on the console. “Lost the signal again. I don’t think we’re going to get any more out of it today.”
Hank grumpily tried to untangle himself from the rats’ nest of wires in the cramped space under the console.
“But don’t worry, Hank! Those voices have been circling us in space for millions of years, there’s still plenty of time!” Dr. Plankon slapped Hank on the back and headed off toward the canteen.
Hank had heard the “voices from beyond,” Dr. Plankon and the other longhairs were always going on about and it just sounded like a bunch of hissing static to him.
He’d dismissed the whole idea of talking to ghosts from space as crazy at first, until one night a few weeks ago when he’d been doing some after-hours maintenance work. Somehow he’d bumped the power switch while cleaning up his gear. The usual hash of static hissed out at him from the speaker, but as his fingertips brushed the switch to turn the console off, he heard her.
Calling out to him from beyond the grave.
He couldn’t make out what she was saying, her words were lost in the hiss and whine of the constant background static. No amount of tuning or tweaking seemed to help, but it was unmistakably her voice.
After that he’d returned every night, tuning in just to hear Mabel’s voice speaking to him from the dark. Sometimes he’d catch snippets of words and once or twice he’d be able to make out a whole sentence. She was apparently telling a story about tigers. Maybe their first date at the zoo?
It was simple to rig up a simple transmitter to the console. The camp had enough spare parts to build an entire short-wave radio and Hank was a master electrician. He wired the set up to whatever weird frequency the scientists had been using to listen in on their space ghosts.
“Mabel, can you hear me? It’s Hank!” he stage-whispered into the microphone.
“Hank?” Mabel’s voice resolved out of the white noise.
“Mabel, is that really you?” he asked.
He couldn’t make out what she said, but he heard her laugh. The same warm, loving, silly laugh he remembered, exactly as he remembered it. Just hearing it brought tears to his eyes.
Hank spent hours every night catching Mabel up on the last three years since she’d died.
“Bobby’s all set to graduate college in the spring and Andy has a job at a telecom company,” said Hank.
He reminisced about funny stories just to hear her laugh again, and other times spent hours bawling into the set, telling her how much he missed her while she soothed him with soft tones.
Just knowing she was there, that she could hear him at all should have been enough, but it wasn’t.
A few months ago he would have given anything just to hear a single word from her, but now one word in four and the occasional snippet of her laughter wasn’t enough.
He needed more. He had to break through. He had to see her.
He’d been studying the antenna, poring over the manuals and grilling the scientists for information. He could barely follow their mushmouthed tech talk but he understood enough.
He started making modifications to the antenna, soldering in new components here and there. He told the other technicians they were workarounds for failed components.
“This moisture gets into everything,” he said.
Gradually, a new antenna began to grow inside the old one, taking shape as a butterfly grows within the chrysalis of its old body.
The work was hard, often keeping him up past dawn, barely leaving him time to slink back to the bunkhouse before the scientists returned to the radio shack to begin the day’s work. He was exhausted and cranky, snatching a few minutes’ worth of sleep wherever he could steal it, but even these brief respites were haunted by visions of the new receiver.
Hank just needed to install a few more bits and pieces and pretty soon he’d have the antenna rigged to receive pictures.
The last thing he needed was a TV screen. It was a little tricky to unmount the TV from the ceiling of the canteen without waking anybody up, but somehow he managed it.
As quietly as possible, he wheeled the television set across the uneven terrain to the radio shack, cursing every squeak and squeal of the dolly as it trundled over the brush.
He was surprised to find there was already a light on inside the radio shack. Were the scientists working late?
“What’s that you got there, Hank?” Dr. Plankon laid a hand on Hank’s shoulder. Hank hadn’t heard the scientist creeping up on him.
“Uh uh—” Hank fumbled for an answer. “I-I was just taking the canteen TV to the radio shack to do a little tune-up.”
“Really, I wasn’t aware there was anything wrong with it,” said Dr. Plankon.
“Volume is busted, the audio comes out all garbled,” said Hank. This was partially true, he had to strain to hear anything anyone said on the drat thing.
“Oh, well let’s have a look at it, then.” Dr. Plankon guided Hank toward the radio shack with a gentle pressure on his shoulder.
There were two other scientists already inside, one was sifting through stacks of printed transcripts while the other lay on his back with the console open, tangled wires spilling out of the cabinet like entrails.
“You shouldn’t mess with that!” snapped Hank, stepping forward. “That’s very delicate equipment!”
Hank realized that the sudden flash of anger would appear suspicious, but his emotions had flared too quickly to control.
“We’re aware, that’s why we were surprised to hear from some of the other techs that someone had been performing unauthorized modifications on this expensive and highly delicate equipment,” said Dr. Plankon.
“R-really?” Hank tugged at his collar. “I don’t know anything about it.”
“Did you know that all transmissions received by the antenna are recorded for later analysis?” asked Dr. Plankon.
Hank did know that, which was why he unplugged the recording device before each of his late-night talks with Mabel.
“Uh, yeah, the recorder is in that cabinet.” Hank pointed at a standup reel to reel in the corner of the room.
“There’s also a backup recorder in the lab,” said Dr. Plankon.
Hank swallowed nervously.
“Hank, who is Mabel?” asked the scientist.
“I don’t know any Mabel,” said Hank.
“Really? Because she seems to know you,” said Dr. Plankon.
He had Dr. Merriweather read from the transcripts of Hank’s past conversations.
He’d barely been able to make out a few fragments of Mabel’s words over the past several weeks of their radio correspondence, but the recorder seemed to have captured everything, as Dr. Merriweather was able to read clearly everything she’d said. Tears welled up in Hank’s eyes as his dead wife’s words were related to him from the transcript.
Then Merriweather got to the part where Hank started transmitting. Toward the end, Hank had spoken at length of his plan to modify the antenna to receive pictures, had told Mabel his whole plan in detail.
“Apparently she tried to warn you against it,” said Dr. Plankon. “But I can see you ignored her advice.”
“I-I…” Hank had never even caught the impression Mabel was trying to warn him.
“We’d noticed over the past few weeks that the Maastrichtian spirits were becoming increasingly agitated. It didn’t take us long to find out why,” said Dr. Plankon.
“How long have you known?” asked Hank.
“Only the past few days,” answered Plankon.
“Why did you let me keep working?” asked Hank. “Why did you wait until now to say something?”
“Because once we learned what was going on, we realized who was really behind this,” said Plankon.
“What do you mean?”
“You don’t think you designed a revolutionary new antenna system all by yourself, did you?” scoffed Plankon.
“I’m a master electrician and a qualified electrical engineer,” answered Hank, a touch defensively.
“Hank, what you’ve built here goes far beyond the boundaries of current theoretical science. My boys and I have spent the past few days going over what you’ve built, and we can barely understand half of it. You’ve managed to build what appears to be a quantum waveform collapser capable of forcing the resolution of superimposed states.
“Even if you were a genius savant I would have trouble believing you conceived of such a device all on your own,” Dr. Plankon spoke with a kind of awe as he gazed over at the strange thing Hank had built. “Obviously the Maastrichtian’s have been subconsciously feeding you the designs for this new communication device.”
“S-so what? I’m not in trouble?” asked Hank.
“Far from it. You may have just helped us to enter the next phase of communication with a civilization that predates our own by sixty five million years.” Plankon gave Hank a hearty slap on the back.
“So what now?” asked Hank.
“Now you finish hooking it up,” said Plankon. “Go ahead.”
Trembling, still waiting for the other shoe to drop, Hank went to work hooking up the TV screen to the receiver console.
“Is that it?” asked Plankon.
“That’s it,” answered Hank.
“Brilliant work! Science owes you a great debt.” Plankon slapped Hank on the back again. “We’ll contact the Maastrichtians right away!”
“Before you do, is it alright if I see Mabel, first? I’ve been waiting all this time,” Hank asked.
“Of course.” Plankon gestured for Hank to go ahead.
Hank tuned the receiver up and turned on the TV set.
After some tense adjustments, the blurry picture resolved into the tearful face of Hank’s dear departed wife, Mabel.
“Oh, Hank!” cried Mabel. “You deaf old fool!”
“What? I’m not deaf!” grumbled Hank.
“I tried to warn you not to build that new antenna, now it’s too late!” cried Mabel.
“Too late? Too late for what?” Hank leaned in and turned up the volume on the TV set.
“The Maastrichtians are using your signal to pinpoint the location where the Chicxulub meteor struck! They’ll use it to go back and prevent the destruction of their civilization!”
“Shut it off! Shut it off!” Dr. Plankon shouted.
But it was too late.
Zorgrub switched off the holo-projector.
“There you have it, children.” Zorgrub looked over the class through large, gold-ringed eyes. He padded over to his desk on handlike feet and settled easily into the hammock chair.
“You just heard the last echo of an alternate branch reality where earth suffered a mass extinction event sixty five million years ago,” said Zorgrub, holding up a handful of feed to the tiny, caged compsognathus on his desk.
“But we didn’t suffer a mass extinction event back then!” piped up Veebrogle.
“That’s right. Thanks to the forewarning we received from that branch reality, we were able to direct our then-primitive orbital defenses to intercept the meteor and divert it harmlessly!” said Zorgrub.
“So… what happened to the other reality?” asked Zibstor.
“Well, in a sense they never really existed,” said Zorgrub. “Our realities existed in a state of quantum superposition, until Hank’s antenna collapsed the waveform in our favor.”
“Poor Hank,” said Veebrogle.
“Yes... Poor Hank, but it’s thanks to him that we have our marvelous civilization! We also have the giant receiver dish we built on the Yucatan peninsula that allowed us to learn his story and honor him as our savior. I’m sure that, wherever he is, he hears our thanks and is happy.”
|# ¿ Aug 24, 2020 07:10|
IN. Song please.
|# ¿ Nov 11, 2020 03:23|
More Bounce to the Ounce by Zapp and Roger https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_IPV2zeDIc
The Dark Planet
“Happy New Year.” Lieutenant Colonel Bruin tapped the ship’s chronometer, which had just started counting up the seconds from 00:00. “We just crossed the international date line. Welcome to 1997.”
“In lieu of champagne, maybe we can pop the cork on this experimental faster than light rocket we’re sitting on,” Colonel Logan replied as he reviewed the pre-launch checklist.
“This new rocket fuel has a little more bounce to the ounce than champagne I think,” chuckled Bruin.
“You can say that gain. A drop of this stuff contains a million times more energy than an entire tank of standard fuel,” said Logan. “If we don’t blow ourselves up, mankind may finally crack the lightspeed barrier.”
The two sat elbow to elbow in the cramped cockpit of the spaceship, surrounded by switches, buttons and dials that coated every surface except for the narrow windshield looking out at the blue Earth below.
“What’s the holdup anyway?” asked Bruin. The bulky man craned his neck to look back at the empty seat behind the co-pilot’s chair. “We’re at t-minus ten minutes, where’s our telepath? He should have been on board an hour ago.”
Ever since the disastrous 1988 Martian expedition, a certified telepath was mandatory on every space crew.
“Mission Control this is Rocket X-9, what’s the status of our telepath? Over.”
“She just arrived and will be onboard presently. Over,” the radio buzzed.
“She?” the astronauts repeated in unison. Both of them looked back at the cockpit entrance. The white plastic door slid upwards with a soft “whoosh” to reveal a distinctly feminine silhouette standing in the doorway.
“Please forgive my lateness,” she said. “Major Philippa Duvall. Telepath First Class.”
Logan opened his mouth to introduce himself.
“Captain Travis Logan, pleased to meet you,” said Duvall. She turned to the co-pilot. “And you are Commander Reggie Bruin.”
“Let me guess, you read our minds?” said Bruin.
“No, your nametags.” Duvall sat down to buckle herself into her seat while Logan and Bruin reflexively looked down at their nametags.
“Old telepath trick,” said Duvall, smirking slightly.
“I’ll be honest, I’m surprised a woman tested into the space telepath program,” said Bruin, checking his instruments for final countdown.
“Actually, women on average test higher than men on the Telempathy scale,” countered Duvall. “Female telepaths outnumber males two to one.”
“Sure in the private sector. I’m talking about physical fitness,” said Bruin. “Space travel can be very stressful.”
“I assure you; I passed my fitness evaluation with flying colors. I more than meet the International Space Agency’s physical requirements.” The major arched an eyebrow. “By every measurement.”
Bruin eyed Duvall up and down.
“I bet you do.”
“Don’t mind Reggie,” Colonel Logan cut in. “He’s just old fashioned.”
Bruin grunted and turned back to his console. He withheld voicing his frank opinion that women had no place on a spaceship, but he tried to think it loud enough for Duvall to hear.
If the major picked up on Bruin’s thoughts, she gave no sign.
The ship slid smoothly from the central docking tube of Spacewheel Five. A sleek, white, cigar-shaped craft with narrow, swept-back fins.
“Our course takes us one lap around the solar system,” said Bruin. “Estimated flight time, four hours and seven minutes. Mars Station will check in with us at the two hour mark.”
“Commence countdown to ignition,” said Logan.
The engines blazed brighter than the sun.
Pressed back in their seats by the force of acceleration, the crew of the X-9 could do little but pray that everything had been adjusted properly. The tiniest imbalance in the fuel ratio and they’d be vaporized in a split second.
After a few minutes, the roar of the engines died down and the crew could move again. The pilots checked their instruments.
“We did it!” cried Bruin. “Space velocity indicator reads we are now traveling at a hundred and eighty six thousand and… one miles per second! We’re going faster than the speed of light!”
Colonel Logan had to yell over the cheers of the other two in order to report the success back to Mission Control. They couldn’t hear the reply of course; they were outrunning the radio waves.
After a round of congratulations and celebratory handshakes, the crew returned to their duties. Major Duvall pressed her fingertips to her temples.
“Crew stress levels normal,” reported Duvall. “No signs of space madness.”
“Glad to hear it,” said Colonel Logan.
“Navigation reads we’re on course. Deviation less than point oh two percent,” reported Bruin.
He glanced at the dials again.
“Correction, deviation of point oh four percent…” said Bruin.
The colonel took out his pocket slide rule and began checking the co-pilot’s figures.
Sensing the elevated stress levels, the major pressed her fingers to her temples to emit a calming aura that would help her fellow spacemen focus under pressure.
“Course deviation is increasing,” said Logan. “Up to two percent!”
“Can we correct?” asked Bruin.
“Not without knowing what’s causing it,” said Logan, his eyes darting from panel to panel.
“There’s a dark planet out there,” said Bruin, flipping through the data screens. “Not on any of our charts. It’s the only explanation.”
As the crew worked frantically to calculate the thrust angle they needed to correct their course, a dark shape blotted out the stars ahead, growing larger and larger.
“Emergency course change, prepare to fire thrusters on my mark,” said Logan, flipping the safety caps off the thruster toggles.
Duvall suddenly let out a scream!
“AIEEEEEEEE!” She clutched her head with both hands. The wave of telepathic panic swept over the other two spacemen and they winced as the major’s piercing screams filled the cockpit.
“What the hell is going on?” demanded Logan, turning in his seat to look back at Duvall.
“Is it space madness? Has she got it?” Sweat beaded on Bruin’s forehead. His heart pounded in his chest.
“Telepaths are immune to space madness,” said Logan, unable to keep the panic out of his voice.
“Like hell!” shouted Bruin.
Alarms blared and red lights filled the cockpit as the dark planet loomed closer ahead of them.
“We’ve got to turn!” Logan seized the wheel.
“No!” Duvall abruptly regained her senses. “There’s something down there on the planet. It called to me, telepathically. We have to land.”
“Land! Are you crazy?” cried Bruin.
“Initiating course change,” said Logan, reaching for the thruster switches.
Duvall unbuckled from her seat and flung herself to the front of the cockpit to seize the controls.
“To hell with chivalry.” Bruin threw an elbow, knocking Duvall to the back of the cabin.
“Turn us now!” shouted Bruin.
“It’s too late, we missed the window. If I try to turn now we’ll crash,” said Logan. “We have no choice but to land.”
Bruin glanced furiously back at Duvall. The telepath wiped the blood from her nose and stared back at him, eyes blazing with fury.
“You’d better strap yourself in if you don’t want to become a human pinball,” he told her.
A steady whine built up in the cockpit as the ship descended into the atmosphere of the dark planet. The whine became a roar and the roar became deafening. Their stomachs lurched as the ship pulled up from its dive and pointed level with the horizon.
The landing was rough. The ship dug a smoldering trench a thousand yards long, burying itself nose first in a hillside.
One by one, the astronauts staggered out of the smoking ship.
“Breathable atmosphere,” remarked Logan, glancing around at the strange twilit landscape. None of them had time to don their space helmets before the crash.
The sun, though directly overhead, was barely visible as a pale, dim star.
“Are you happy now? You’ve stranded us!” Bruin shouted at Duvall.
“I didn’t bring us here,” said Duvall.
“Then who did?” shouted Bruin.
“I think maybe he did.” Logan pointed at a tall figure standing a few yards away.
The figure resembled a human, but much taller. Almost a full twelve feet tall. The creature had a bulbous, oversized head covered in throbbing veins. A sapphire set in the center of the creature’s vast forehead glowed with eerie light.
“Who are you?” Bruin demanded.
The creature did not respond, but looked quizzically down at the three small creatures before it.
“Why have you brought us here?” asked Logan.
“It can’t hear you,” said Duvall. “Let me try.”
Duvall pressed her fingers to her temples.
“I am Zartax!” declared the creature. The astronauts “heard” the creature’s voice in their heads, rather than with their ears. All three of them clapped their hands to their ears in a futile attempt to shut out the deafening sound.
“Why have you brought us here?” asked Duvall telepathically.
“Your race has discovered the secret of superluminal travel. Soon it will spread out among the stars and mingle with other races on other worlds,” said Zartax, thinking at a lower volume. “This cannot be allowed.”
“Can’t be allowed? Who’s going to stop us? You?” yelled Bruin.
The creature did not reply.
“Why not?” asked Duvall.
“If allowed out into the universe again, humanity will surely wreak destruction on countless worlds,” answered Zartax.
“Again?” asked Duvall.
“Behold, your sister planet!” Zartax swept a long arm through the air and the haze overhead parted. The astronauts shielded their eyes as a shaft of sunlight illuminated the area.
Blinking in the bright light, the astronauts gasped. They were standing in the ruins of an alien city!
“Thousands of years ago, humanity had two homes: Earth and Gaia. Two great powers locked in a struggle for dominance. You made war on each other. Earth’s civilization was reduced to a primitive level. Life on Gaia was wiped out completely,” explained Zartax. “Now the dark planet is nothing but a monument to humanity’s eternal bloodlust.”
“Humanity has changed! We’re not like that anymore,” said Duvall. “Look what we’ve achieved by working together!”
“Even now your United States and Soviet Union are on the brink of nuclear annihilation,” said the alien. “Humans have learned nothing.”
“That’s not true!” said Logan. “Give us a chance and we’ll prove it.”
“No…” the alien continued, ignoring Logan’s outburst. “No you cannot be allowed. You must die.”
The creature raised a long arm and pointed at Bruin. A ball of electricity crackled at its bony fingertip. Bruin threw up his arms.
“No!” Duvall hurled herself in front of Bruin, shielding him with her body.
There was a flash of blinding light. Duvall screamed.
She blinked. Smoke rose from a charred crater at her feet.
“You would willingly sacrifice your own life to save this man?” asked Zartax.
“Of course I would. He’s my friend,” said Duvall, rising to her feet.
“But I have looked into your minds. He disdains you. He has even harmed you,” said Zartax.
Duvall looked down at the stain of blood on her sleeve.
“I forgive him,” said Duvall.
“Our previous records of humans indicate the people of Gaia and Earth would never be willing to sacrifice themselves in such a manner,” said Zartax. “Perhaps humanity has changed.”
“Then you’ll let us go?” asked Logan.
Duvall relayed the question.
After a period of consideration, Zartax nodded.
“You will be allowed to continue on your journey and return home,” said Zartax. “But we will be watching humanity closely. If you do not make peace among yourselves, you will not be allowed access to the stars.”
Zartax waved his bony hand. As if by magic the X-9 rose up out of its trench and set itself upright on its tailfins.
“Coming, Major?” called Bruin, halfway up the boarding ladder.
Duvall paused at the foot of the ladder for one last look at the ruined city and the warning it represented. Zartax still stood there, staring back at her with cold, bulging eyes.
“Humanity has changed,” she whispered. “We won’t make the same mistakes again.”
“We shall see,” said Zartax.
“No more war,” thought Duvall. “That’s a hell of a New Year’s resolution.”
|# ¿ Nov 16, 2020 03:30|
In. Something I forgot, pls.
|# ¿ Nov 16, 2020 21:21|
|# ¿ Jun 4, 2023 21:27|
You've forgotten how to get home.
What if the Devil was One of Us... Trying to Find His Way Home
Every muscle and bone in his body ached. The air was hot and acrid, and his first breaths upon waking sent him into fits of coughing in the brimstone-choked air.
The Devil opened his eyes, blinked out a crust of burning mucus, and looked around.
“Oof that’s bright,” he held up his hand to shield his eyes from the burning light of the sun. Even the briefest flash felt like knitting needles driven into his eyesockets.
This definitely wasn’t Heaven. There were no hangovers in Heaven. He would never have drunk so much if he imagined he’d ever have to suffer a hangover half as bad as this one.
But where was he?
The place smelled like rotten eggs. It appeared to be some kind of cavern. Slow moving magma flows and occasional jets of flame pierced the darkness around him, but most of the light came from the hole in the ceiling, presumably the hole he’d made when he fell from Heaven.
What the hell happened last night?
His head throbbed and he reeled momentarily as hazy memories trickled back into his horned skull.
The last thing he remembered was the launch party, a blur of smiling faces and pats on the back and then he was telling Gabriel “hold my beer,” and jumping off the edge of a cloud.
Then fading in and out of consciousness as the wind rushed by.
When he finally felt like the sunlight had dimmed enough to go outside without a splitting headache, the Devil crawled out of the hole and found himself on the side of a volcano. Below, a tiny village of humans eked out a meager existence on the surface of the world God had just created. Above: the twilit sky and clouds painted orange and violet by the sunset. He squinted up at the clouds. Not an angel in sight. Were they still sleeping it off up there?
He went down into the village to ask directions to the nearest mountain tall enough to reach Heaven. Unfortunately his liquor breath was so strong and so foul it withered the people’s crops as he approached and he was driven away by an angry mob.
The nearest tall mountain range turned out to be a week’s journey to the south. A long walk for someone with a Biblical hangover. Passing by a spring, the Devil paused to slake his thirst, but the surface of the water retreated every time he leaned down to take a drink.
“Figures,” grumbled the Devil. The mortal water down here would not satisfy him. He had to get home.
The mountain took a further two days to climb. When he stood at the top, surrounded by a damp layer of cold and miserable gray cloud, the Devil concluded this might not be Heaven.
If a mountain wasn’t tall enough to reach Heaven, his next best bet was to build a tower, but he’d be damned if he was going to build it by himself…
It was a miserable march back to the village, and an even more miserable time convincing the humans to work with him on his tower project. His breath still reeked of death so he mostly had to work through agents in the human population who didn’t care about foul smells. It helped if they were drunk themselves.
Humans breed slowly. It took generations before the tiny village built up a large enough population to become a viable workforce. The Devil tried to speed things up by encouraging reckless fornication, but even still it took an inordinately long time. He spent most of these centuries hiding in his cave under the volcano and nursing his throbbing head.
At long last, the tower was nearly finished. The top had already pierced the cloud layer and the Devil was sure Heaven was only a few miles above that at most.
Then the unthinkable happened: the tower collapsed! The Devil didn’t see it happen personally as he was trying to get some sleep in his cavern, but the thundering crash of the falling tower shook the entire mountain so that he rattled around his cave like a bean in a maraca.
The humans were no help in figuring out what happened. Apparently while he’d been sleeping the awful little clay people had invented several new languages and he’d have to learn them all before he could communicate with them again.
With a tower out of the question, the next option was to fly. Okay, easy enough. Just teach the humans metallurgy, internal combustion, aerodynamics… how long could that take?
Nine. Thousand. Years.
It might have gone faster if the humans weren’t so damned intent on living lives of bucolic simplicity. Keeping them dissatisfied with their lives felt like a full time job.
It would also have been easier if he could have just given them the knowledge they needed, but any time he revealed himself he was rebuked, and his agents had an annoying habit of getting burned as witches if their ideas got too smart too quickly.
Sparking an industrial revolution required taking a subtler approach.
He went among the people in disguise, whispering, so as not to exhale too much of his liquor breath on them.
“Have you ever noticed how much nicer your neighbor’s barn is than yours?”
“Oh but Hezekiah has one with real gold leaf…”
“I don’t think it’s fair that the tribe on the other side of the hill has so many sheep…”
Once he invented capitalism things proceeded much faster. The humans were tripping over each other to acquire more than their neighbors and invent new ways of acquiring new things.
Greed meant going faster, going faster meant flying. Wars spurred the humans to develop aircraft and rocketry and finally—finally!—the Devil was in the air. The humans had invented an aircraft capable of reaching the highest reaches of their planet’s atmosphere, and of course the Devil was on the maiden flight.
He soared up up up, above the clouds, above everything.
“Hey Gabriel, did you miss me? Yeah, I just popped out for the past ten millennia, I hope you weren’t worried or anything.” Was what he would say. He’d have a few choice words for God, too, that sassy bitch.
Except there was no Gabriel, no God, no angels, no pearly gates, just a big empty sky and the stars twinkling above.
Back on the ground, the Devil threw his helmet aside and tore off his flight suit in disgust. Thousands and thousands of years wasted. All the lies, trickery, wars and despoilment of nature, all for nothing.
His head throbbed. He needed some Advil and a lie-down.
Where was Heaven?
He tried to think back. Back to before he jumped. God had mentioned something about there being a trick to getting to Heaven from Earth, but he hadn’t been listening at the time because he had no intention of ever coming down to this miserable little ball of mud.
Think, Devil, think!
He looked up. Through the wobbly lens of his tears he could see the stars coming out in the fading light of evening.
The problem was he wasn’t thinking high enough. Of course, Heaven was up in the stars!
The Devil scrambled to his hooves. It was time to go back to the drawing board.
A few decades later the Devil groaned as he climbed into the cockpit of humanity’s latest model space rocket. Hopefully the new helmet designs would protect his aching head from most of the noise of the engines.
The moonshot a few years ago had been a bust, but the Devil had a good feeling about this time. Heaven was up there somewhere. If he kept trying, he’d get there eventually.
|# ¿ Nov 23, 2020 03:13|