Sunday, August 26, 2012

F3 Cycle 94 "Inside the Sausage Factory"

   F3 Cycle 94 Prompt: Write a 1000 word story about someone who has no self awareness, or, alternatively, someone who has far too much. Include the following words: curve, substitution, relief, sacrifice, strikeout.


   The multiple flashes of hundreds of cameras and the screams of an equal number if shrill reporters  in a scandal-induced feeding frenzy so extreme a Bull shark would flee in abject terror barely penetrated the awareness of Richard Connor as he escorted the young United States senate hopeful to his awaiting limo. With his right arm wrapped tightly around Duncan Allen’s waste and his left ramrod straight Richard used his own inertial and that of his charge as they ran down the steps of the Spartanburg courthouse, easily pushing the reporters out of the way.
    
   At the last second, one of the rear doors to the limo opened allowing Richard to casually, but forcibly, push the young man into the vehicle. Once the object of the reporters’ crazed attention was out of view, they lost all interest allowing Richard to enter the car from the front passenger door. Inside the limo, chaos had already erupted among the other people inside.
    
   “We’ve got to call a press conference!” Emily Smalls, the press secretary yelled. “Those bloody jackals are crucifying Duncan on all the major news channels.”
   
    “There is no way in hell I will allow that,” Thomas Wilson, the chief lawyer for the campaign said. “We have not finalized the settlement with Ms. Tanner’s attorney and that bitch would love for us to slip up so she could stick another knife into the campaign and Duncan.”
   
    “Debra Tanner will not get a goddamned dime of my father’s money! Susan Allen, Duncan’s wife, screamed at the top of her lungs. If she and her lawyer pursue this any further I demand we take them to court. My father has the best private investigators on retainer and can find or manufacture anything on anyone.”
    
   From the extended rear-view mirror mounted on the limo’s ceiling, Richard was able to view the near panic on the faces of those in the back desperate to save Duncan Allen, the man party officials had called the new golden boy of American politics. Blessed with a rugged, handsome face along with being able to shape deals on the floor of the South Carolina state senate high-level party officials saw an unlimited future for the man in national politics. Duncan’s one flaw was his tendency to want illicit little trysts with every woman that caught his eye. The fact that Duncan’s sexual tastes pushed several boundaries only made the times he miscalculated on who to pick for his nighttime encounters even more problematic.
       
   Richard did his best to tune out the bickering even though there were several times he looked up into the mirror to see Susan Allen staring at him. He was new to the security detail protecting Duncan, his wife, and staff and was just happy to have a job. The one bizarre thing in all the activity going in the back of the limo was Duncan Allen. The few seconds between the times Richard had pushed Duncan into the limo and he himself had closed the right front door after getting inside, Duncan had donned a pair of headphones and was listening to some sort of heavy metal music.

   Other times Duncan just seemed to tune out all the proceeding going on around him. Richard realized that Duncan, while coming from middleclass roots, had through a series of lucky breaks married into a rich family, been recognized to have a charismatic personality, and then groomed for political office. Duncan Allen was about as much as a nonentity as a person could be and still be breathing. His chief advantage to his political benefactors was of course, his complete and utter controllability.
    
   “How about a pizza everyone, I hear there is a great place out next the college?” Duncan suddenly blurted out after removing his earphones proving the train of thought going through Richard’s mind. While everyone else groaned in frustration over the idiotic statement, Bob Parker, Duncan’s campaign manager, patted his latest political creation on the knee telling him they had to catch a plane down to Charleston then returned to his Sphinx-like silence.

***
    
  Duncan’s speech to the Charleston Chamber of Businesses that afternoon was a huge success putting him into a party mood. So much Richard was very happy that he was off duty and staying on a different floor of the Meeting Street hotel from the immature candidate. The responsibility for security was going to lay with one of the guys in longtime employment to Bob Parker. Richard had already seen Duncan go upstairs with a very attractive woman he had met at the dinner after his speech. The fact that Mrs. Allen had flown home to Hilton Head and that Duncan’s companion for the night was herself a married woman was something Richard chose again to ignore.
    
   Richard was fully awake after just a few seconds of the emergency ringtone sounding on his cell phone. He checked his watch to see it was a little after two o’clock in the morning as he ran out the room. Being a former army Ranger years of training allowed both his body and mind to accept such punishment but he was still surprised after arriving upstairs to see Duncan wearing nothing but his underwear and handcuffs while being lead away by two uniformed cops.
    
   Being hired security to very important people had its perks in South Carolina and one of them was the ability to navigate police lines and go inside the hotel room to see Bob Parker comforting the naked woman Duncan had taken to his bed that night. She was in tears and had several Charleston police detectives standing close by obviously taking a statement.
    
   Richard said nothing but Bob Parker looked up to see him standing there. Instinctively, he knew what had actually gone on in the room that night and much to his surprise when Bob smiled back at him Richard knew he was right.
    
   “Fuck it,” Richard said after turning and walking out of the room.

***
   
    The bar was several blocks down from the hotel and one of those places that never really closes. Richard sat on the bar stool nursing a beer when Bob walked in obviously looking for him. Richard was not the least bit surprised when Bob took the stool next him and ordered a whisky.
   
   “Why did you sacrifice your own guy Mr. Parker?” Richard asked figuring it was going to be the only topic of conversation between the two.

   “He became far too much a liability for the party but more importantly for me. I will admit he was the worst strikeout I ever had.” Bob said matter-of-factly. “The twit had a great smile and could memorize lines like an Oscar winning actor but he overplayed his hand.”
    
   “So what’s next?” Richard asked.
    
   Bob picked up the small glass, threw it back swallowing the brown liquid, and then smiled at Richard then throw him a huge curve ball. “That’s entirely up to you. In you I see something far more disciplined and even talented than Duncan ever could have been. I can make something of you son.” After that Bob Parker got up and began to walk out but stopped, fished for something in the pocket of his sports coat, and handed it to Richard. “Here,” he said, “Susan Allen told me to give you her private number, give her a call sometime. I have it on good authority she will be a single lady very soon.”

   Richard watched the man walk out and smiled after ordering another beer. He might be nothing but a substitution but there could be far worse things to happen to him in this life.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

August Sucks




For reasons I cannot figure out the month of August has always been the worst time of the year for me. It might have something to do with heavy humid days combined with an intense heat that sucks the life out of most people. Another possibility has to do with the fact when I was a kid August meant summer break was soon to be over with another school year rapidly approaching like an unavoidable hurricane. Meaning my sad mental state right now is nothing but an instinctual relic from the time of homework drudgery, ornery teachers, and disappointing report cards.

Whatever the case my adult years have not seen anything better for this month. If some sort of bad luck came my way it stands a better than average chance of occurring during this month. Occasional good luck exceptions do exist but whenever they pop up I am always weary of the universe throwing an extra clump of high octane monkey poo to even out the cosmic scales. About the only thing nice I can say about this month is that September is usually better, although a nasty after taste of August can last for a week or two. Why even bring this boring crap up? Just finishing up a long and fairly disastrous week. The detail are unimportant, anyone who has read my inane meanderings for any length and time can easily imagine the usual suspects that hound me like a metaphysical Ahab with me being the tortured white whale.The first song sums up longing to be anyplace but where I am right now.



This song makes me feel better because autumn leaves means August is over. Plus Diane Krall is smoking hot in style, talent, and simple sexy beauty.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Truth and Nothing but the Truth




The nurse who just minutes before had drawn several test tubes of my blood, taken my blood pressure, and then handed me a small plastic cup and told me sternly to wipe the sides with a paper towel after I filled it was now asking me a series of rapid fire questions concerning my health and lifestyle. It was all the usual medical-related inquiries asked when someone starts seeing a new group of doctors. The nurse asking the questions was friendly, in a strictly generic way, and because of that, I could tell she was not in any mood for idle banter. That did not bother me in the least because I had worked the night before and it was already nine o’clock in the morning and all I wanted to do was get through paperwork and go home so I could get some sleep.

My reason for being in the doctor’s office was for a preliminary examination to have several annoying moles removed for my chest and neck area. Something I had postponed for months due mainly to the fact the previous medical practice I used was on the other side of town and had become a serious pain in the butt to get a decent appointment. Somehow, none of the scheduling staff understood that I could not wait until the early afternoon to see the irritating and arrogant dickhead that had become my primary physician after the beautiful and compassionate lady doctor I first saw had decided to move back to Texas after getting married.

The nurse now asking me questions as I sat in an uncomfortable chair in a small exam room was a clearly a fanatical fitness type with a very military no-nonsense attitude. In fact she seemed so tough it was easy for me to imagine she could have belonged to one of those top secret special operation teams often whispered about that are forced to be coed because of the demands of their missions in enemy countries. Because of this, not only was I giving short and concise answers I had, at least at first, unconsciously sucked in most of stomach. Not that she noticed but dammit, but I have some small sliver of pride left.

The first twenty-five questions were fairly boring and asked in such a way leaving little in the way of answering beyond a simple “yes” or “no” but after that things got interesting.

“Do you drink alcohol?” She asked without pausing from typing on the computer keyboard. Silly question really but I did not tell her that.

“Do you smoke or use tobacco products in any way?” She continued. The answer is a big no on that one.

“Do you use illegal substances to get high or alter your consciousness?” The answer on that was no although there are times I wish medical marijuana was a possibility here in the middle of stuck up “Just say no” country.

“Are you married, single, or divorced?” She asked with me simply saying married in response.

“Are you sexually active?” The small portion of my brain that is agile was puzzled at the bizarre nature of the question.

“No,” I said instinctively, “I’m married, remember.”

Unexpectedly, that stopped her flat and she began to laugh. So much, she started snorting and had to leave the room. A second or two later after the door closed I heard an eruption of laughter coming from the other side. When the nurse returned she was all smiles and escorted me out of the exam room to the front desk so I could check out. Never the sharpest knife in any drawer it was not until I was driving home that I connected the true nature of her question. Dragonwife might not appreciate my answer, or this post for that matter, but sexually active and marriage just do not mesh in my mind.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fear and Loathing on an Evolutionary Scale




Yes, I am drunk and I hope Hunter Thompson's ghost will forgive me again for stealing part of his famous title.

Few things can rile up good Southern folks anymore like the mention of Darwinian Evolution and how it clearly explains not only the existence of us Homo sapiens but also all life on the abused little planet we call Earth. In a weird way it is funny and sad at the same time, the opposition to evolution can be directly traced to back to such things as the belief that the Earth was the center of the universe and that all the planets, the sun, and stars revolved around us. Thinking tongue and cheek for a moment on that bizarre, self-centered concept, I have to say that if humans ever open relations with some other intelligent life form from another star system we might want to keep that little bit of egotistical stupidity a family secret.

First impressions being critical to good relations in all facets of life we do not want a visiting extraterrestrial learning this and then flying off to tell everyone else in this region of the galaxy. Given that we have been leaking decades worth of Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts, and other assorted old time gospel hour radio and television broadcasts out into space may mean the cat is already out of the bag. In fact, it may go a long way to explaining the Fermi's Paradox with starfaring aliens just too embarrassed for us right now to open communications.     

However, getting back on the subject but fundamental religious types just find something inherently wrong down to their DNA at the concept of being related to a common Chimpanzee. Since these people stick their fingers in their ears and start singing “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” at the first mention of evolution if anyone is ever able to tell them that we humans are not just related to chimps but all earthly lifeforms the resulting rabies-like fit is both funny and terrifying at the same time. Frankly, I find it reassuring on many philosophical and emotional levels that I am related not just to chimps, but lizards, crustaceans, jellyfish, and even bacteria. It ties us all to this planet in way that I find far more divine than some ignorant belief that God literally created us in “his likeness.”

If I am pushed, I can partially see a child-like reason why religious types utterly reject evolution with a few desperately clinging to the silliness call “Intelligent Design.” Evolution is cold and indifferent to the struggles all life faces in an attempt to survive. A species can do everything right, survive and adapt for millions of years like the dinosaurs and have it all end when some very inconvenient space rock slams into what became the Yucatan peninsula.

While I have been a serious science geek for all my life this fact was brought home for me again after I recently finished two excellent science fiction novels. The first was Stephen Baxter’s book entitled “Evolution” and the other was David Brin’s “Existence.”

Stephen Baxter’s book is a series of short stories spanning 565 million years of human evolution from our shrew-like ancestors who had to put up with the worst possible neighbors, the dinosaurs, to a post-human future were Homo sapiens become the ultimate in losers. If there is a theme in Baxter’s book, to me it is the reoccurring fact that any species that abuses it environment too much and does not find a way to work together is almost certainly destined for the ultimate finality of extinction.

In Baxter’s book, humanity is actually condemned to something far worse than extinction in the cosmic game show called Intelligent Life. It climaxed with Homo sapiens engaging in a very nasty global apocalyptic war with a relatively quick loss of sentience soon after and then a slow evolution over millions of years into such things as a tree dwelling primates, tiny mole people, and the worst for me, food pets for mice who evolved into a velociraptor-like creatures. (Talk about your suckass parting gifts, even worse than a year supply of Rice A Roni.) The seriously great Albert Einstein once predicted that after world war three humans would fight the next one with sticks and stones. Never once in all my life had I ever considered Albert’s dark forecast optimistic until I read “Evolution.”

It might be a stretch but Baxter’s book did have one bright spot. In the 2030’s NASA landed a primitive Von Neumann probe on Mars with the idea it could make copies of itself and ultimately build factories and settlements on the Red planet for colonists. Since humans went all suicidal on Earth that left the poor probe with nothing to do but continually manufacture copies of itself. Over the centuries little mistakes crept into the computer programs causing the probe decedents to evolve until they became intelligent creatures in their own right. On the face of it I call something like that a remarkable return on precious taxpayer dollars but since evolution is an anathema to your average whiny, uneducated American it is just another in the way of cosmic level jokes.

In David Brin’s recent book, “Existence” an astronaut finds a crystal floating in Earth orbit, which turns out to be a memory device containing virtual alien emissaries. Think the movie “Tron” meets your stereotypical message in a bottle washing up on some distant shore. Things very quickly become uber-complicated with the aliens being as trustworthy as used car salesmen and with the crazy humans down on earth getting all pissed off because the crystal represents something that confounds and spoils all their precious beliefs and agendas. “Existence “ends far more optimistically but circumstances still force the fictional humans in the book to adapt to the new situations that present themselves.

In a way I was somewhat depressed after reading “Existence.” Because in reality while the human race does not have to worry about galactic chain letters contained in memory crystals or heavily-armed robotic starships hanging out in the asteroid belt we do face huge problems here on Earth that at best are ignored.

Right now, over half the continental United States is suffering from a drought that even scientists hired by rich right-wingers to be climate change skeptics now say is caused by the obsessive burning of hydrocarbons. I guess the corn in the farm belt states will have to start popping off the cob before hardheaded deniers will even begin to reconsider. The rich elites who have a vested interest to muddy the waters on climate change and even pollution in general do not give a damn about how the rest of us folks get along. The crops can burn from heat and the ice caps can melt flooding coastal cities. They have the money to up and flee to a new location in some isolated part of the world. Just do not be a local when they start showing up.

On a recent documentary, I saw a Jewish zealot openly talk about blowing up the Islamic Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem because it very inconveniently occupies the site where they want to rebuild their temple. For that Jewish dude, the resulting Third World War from the destruction of that beautiful Moslem shrine was worth all the trouble because after the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple the promised Messiah would come to Earth. While watching the documentary it quickly became clear to me that the twinkle of utter insanity in that guy’s eye was the real thing. Global destruction and the deaths of hundreds of millions were small potatoes as long as they got their temple, and to think some believe genocidal craziness is strictly reserved for fundamentalist Moslems and Christians.

Just naming two huge problems we face as a species is enough to get me to drinking. Numerous others hover over us like a dinosaur-killing asteroid with the greater mass of humanity striving just to stay alive over everyday matters. I really do not want to sound Pollyannaish because if I was an alien hanging out at some interstellar Las Vegas right now I would not bet on the human race surviving past the twenty-first century. However, when you look at all our problems rationally none of them are automatic show stoppers with Homo sapiens earning a one-way ticket to extinction. The big question is how to proceed, and there lies the awful rub.

I have written many times in my lack of faith in the ability of the American people and its institutions in being ready for the twenty-first century. Truthfully, this situation runs across all countries. In fact, in my ever humble opinion the entire nation-state arrangement is an outdated system since we are dealing with over seven billion people on the planet. With so many people, problems on one side of the world easily have a direct affect on those on the other side.

Referring back to Stephen Baxter’s book “Evolution” one common element of the stories as human evolved was our fear of the outsider. Those outside a small group or tribe were generally thought of as different and dangerous. Cooperation among different groups ultimately developed, even between different human species, but it was never as strong as the hard-wired fears inside our brains. In Dr. Brin’s book, the happier conclusion resulted when curiosity won out over our basic fears. That and a policy of inclusion believing everyone (no matter if they are based on carbon, silicon, or a combination of the two.) mattered and had something good to offer.

So, what is my point in all this crappy rambling? I have noticed that very few are happy with the current state of affairs in both this nation and world. The problem being that no one has any idea how to change things and even if they did the old power structures protecting the Elites somehow find a way to slide back into power. I have no answers myself and even if I did, I am not delusional enough to believe I could affect some basic change. What I know it will take to find these answers is that we are going to have to shed our old ways of thinking. Viewing everything in a Left-wing versus right-wing/rich versus poor/First World versus Third World are all debilitating to any effort of reform and ultimately self defeating. If you think too long on all this depressing stuff like me, you come to the conclusion nothing short of an evolutionary jump in how we view the world and each other will change any of this. Solutions will have to come from the bottom up side stepping those in the way.

Well, that is enough of my navel gazing for one day. Truthfully, we may not be up to the challenge, so I am going to get some more beer, listen to my Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley CD’s, and hope to God in Heaven my decedents do not end up as food pets to some hungry mouse evolved into a furry version of a velociraptor. I would even put up with a few murderous robotic starships to prevent that from happening.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

F3 Cycle 91 "The Empty Neighbor"

F3 Prompt: Tell us a tale about a nosy neighbor, and include the outcome of one of their routine snoop sessions. Let’s make this even more fun and include the following words in your story: Cellar, bottle, blinds, suitcase, and freezer.
Genre: Any your secretive little heart desires.
Author's note: Hope this works, and yes, it has some real life overtones.



Gerald Cooper knew he was gravely ill, probably dying, for several reasons but namely because he saw his long deceased grandmother was sitting in the loveseat positioned in front of the bay windows of the bedroom he and his wife shared. With the electricity out and the curtains drawn, the bedroom was as dark as if it was early evening but Grandma Kelly seemed to be illuminated from within making her as plain as day to him. Grandma Kelly rarely spoke to Gerald as she patiently did her cross-stitching while sitting on the loveseat, it was a habit Grandpa Frank said many times she was as addicted to as a drunk is to moonshine. The usual response from Granny after her husband made the crack was a slap on his arm. It was all meant lovingly in a way only a long married couple could understand.

He did not mine her being preoccupied, in fact while the logical part of his sick brain realized she was just a delusion brought on by the flu sweeping around the world bringing both the rich and powerful down he appreciated the company. He realized from countless emergency radio broadcasts from before the situation went from bad, to worse, to apocalyptic that he was in the final stages of the flu and that he would soon die. It would be a relief really, as the fever increased time lost most meaning for Gerald as he tossed and turned in bed alternating between terrible fevers and massive chills. It all made for a preview of hell that had Gerald, a long time agnostic, silently praying to a God he was not sure existed.

“Don’t worry baby boy,” the delusion shaped like his grandmother said. “I have it on good authority that your fever will break in a few hours. You will be weak but I will have to force you to get up and drink some fancy water in bottles and jugs you bought before the government made everything close down. You have an important task in front of you child. Do you remember what I taught you about empty people?”

Given the pandemic and his condition, it was a strange question but since it was asked by what he was certain was a fever induced delusion a small amused part of his mind went along. “Yes ma’am,” he answered respectfully, “we were in the old Piggly Wiggly down on Highmarket Street.”

***

Gerald was able to relax as his memories took him back to a far simpler time. He was five years old accompanying his grandparents to the grand opening of the new Piggly Wiggly grocery store. For a small southern town in the late 1960’s the excitement was comparable to what a more sophisticated people might feel about a Broadway opening in New York City. Local elected officials gathered around the shiny new sliding doors and made perfunctory speeches after kissing numerous babies and groping attractive housewives. Businessmen stood close to the self-aggrandizing politicians broadly smiling feigning solidarity and even interest in the entire affair just wishing it would soon be over so they could escape to the golf course.   

The young Gerald was with his grandparents standing in the eager crowd waiting patiently for the chance to enter the new store. As with all young children, Gerald was bored until he spotted the odd-looking man standing amongst the VIPs at the entrance. There was nothing visible wrong with the gentleman, his suit and tie matched all the others and was groomed with almost meticulous care. It was the strange man’s eyes that bothered Gerald, they were more empty and lifeless than that of a statue’s.

“Granny,” he said pulling on her hand clearly agitated, “look at that man. There is something wrong with him.”

Gerald knew instinctively his grandmother shared a special connection with him and instead of shooing the boy to be quiet; she looked up and spotted the man. Gerald watched as she focused on the gentleman and immediately stiffened, with their special empathy he knew something was wrong but was surprised at her reaction. “Sugar, she said laughing while bending down and guiding his gaze away from the individual, “don’t you worry a thing about him, he is just a funny man.” Only later back at the house did she truly explain what she really felt.

“Sweetie,” she began after guiding Gerald into his bedroom, “what I am about to tell you might be difficult to understand but what you saw at the grocery store was an empty person.” Gerald being a small child was obviously confused, so much that it pained his grandmother to burden the child with the desperately important information with him so young.
  
“It takes a special person like you and me,” she continued, “to be able to see such people, Grandpa doesn’t have the ability but one of the tricks to our gift is to never, ever let the empty people find out we notice them. They are mean spirited and downright evil. This really might confuse you Gerald, but an adult would say they have no human soul, that something else lives inside their bodies. Their sole purpose is to cause as much harm and chaos they can to as many people as possible. In fact, they might hide for decades acting normal but when the time is right, they will always do their worst.  The thing you have to remember most of all is to ignore them. People like us threaten them and they will come after us and try to hurt us to protect themselves.”

Gerald’s grandmother did not bring the subject up for years, in fact when she did it was to show her teenage grandson a newspaper clipping of a local business man who went mad shooting several of his employees. There was some disappointment in Grandma Kelly’s eyes as she realized her grandson barely remembered the incident years before when he pointed out the inhuman nature of the man.

Gerald did remember the event but had long since decided it was the ramblings of a small child. That is until years later he moved into the neighborhood and saw the man living across the street. The minute he pulled into the driveway behind the real estate agent something seemed very wrong. While his wife and children loved the house and the big backyard something felt wrong and it was when he finally looked up and saw the man sitting on his front porch everything his grandmother warned him about came flooding back.

He seemed normal enough in appearance but his eyes were totally devoid of emotion, so much that if the true opposite of love and compassion is cool indifference he was an inhuman freezer. Gerald tried to look away but the reoccurrence of such a strange event for only the second time in his life transfixed him. The damage was soon done, Gerald stared at the man far too long obviously giving away his ability to perceive the true nature of such people. It was clear that was the case when the empty man’s expression briefly mutated into a combination of rage and surprise only to be quickly swept away with a mask of normalcy returning. As much as Gerald wanted to pack his family up and leave, he made the mistake of letting his wife and kids pick out the house while he managed the details of his of his promotion and getting adjusted to a new town. Papers had already been signed and schedules had to be met, plus how would he explain to his wife about his gift of seeing evil empty people.

Despite the fact Gerald had forbidden his family to have any contact with the man across the street, over the course of several years strange incidents happened in the neighborhood. The minor things involved the fact the others neighbors had little to do with Gerald, they were polite to his family but said next to nothing to him. Major incidents flared up with the empty man involving Gerald’s missing dog and his son riding up on the curb and going into his yard a few feet while learning to ride his bike. The empty man even tried to taunt Gerald into confrontations several times. Luckily better judgment on Gerald’s part and the fact his family just assumed the man across the street was a mean kept things under control.

Then came the flu pandemic, Gerald packed suitcase and sent his wife and kids away to stay with her dad while he stayed home. Mainly he stayed because of the important nature of his job as a paramedic, but mostly because he felt deep in his bones a final confrontation with the empty man was coming.

***

Gerald’s fever did break and when it did, Grandma Kelly forced him to get up and stumble to the kitchen. He could feel her gentle hand on his shoulder slowly guide him through the house but it was not the touch of a living flesh, it felt electric and so light he was sure his grandmother would pass through him if she pressed harder. Opening and drinking the containers of water took all his effort and after he swallowed as much a possible he began to feel halfway human again.

“Now sugar,” his grandmother said, “I know this is going to tire you out but you need to walk outside and show yourself to the empty man.”

Not in any mood to argue with what he was quickly growing to believe was not a delusion Gerald did as he was told and stepped outside in the front yard. After his eyes adjusted to bright sunlight, he could tell the pleasant looking neighborhood of obsessively maintained middleclass homes now looked abandoned with mounds of trash forming trails leading from the front porches to the streets. It was easy to conclude that the origins of the trash trails could be traced in reverse, as the inhabitants got sicker they were less able take the refuse to the street and just dropped it as far away from the house as possible before going back inside.  Closer observation revealed that a few neighbors in fact did not make it inside, but collapsed in their yards to die. It was also clear that the wildlife and feral dogs had made meals out of those unlucky souls.

As Gerald walked to the side of the house facing the empty man’s house he was surprised to see him outside calmly sitting on his porch drinking a pitcher of what looked to be lemonade. It chilled Gerald to his bones to realize the empty man was the only other sign of life visible. Still they stared at each other for several minutes without saying any words. The confrontation ended as quietly as it began when Gerald slowly walked back inside his house.

“You need to be ready,” Grandma Kelly said as Gerald sat in his recliner resting from his walk, “he saw your walk as a challenge to what he feels is his new authority. Grab your grandfather’s old double-barreled shotgun, left the blinds, and wait iby your backdoor. I can feel the empty man is already on his way.”

Retrieving the weapon was easy but it took Gerald several minutes to find the shells. With the old shotgun loaded, Gerald sat in his recliner drifting in and out of consciousness. Grandma Kelly sat on the couch still cross-stitching but jabbering away in an attempt to keep her still sick grandson's attention focused. It was early evening when the empty man came calling.

The sound of steps on the wooden deck alerted Gerald to his arrival and he instantly swung the weapon to bear on where he thought his torso would be. The back door suddenly burst open but where the empty man should be was only a vaguely shaped form.

“I have come for you.” the form said still standing on the deck, “You will not be allowed to interrupt the overall plan. Humans have finally created enough chaos to allow us free reign.”

Somehow, Gerald knew not only not to respond but to keep the weapon aimed. After taking a step into the house, the form coalesced into his neighbor. A strange smile flashed on his face the second before Gerald fired off the first barrel, which held a shell containing a slug. A huge hole appeared in the empty man’s chest but he stood there still smiling. “You will have to do much better than that.” It said beginning to walk closer.

He fired off the second barrel straight at his head which blew the body back outside on the deck. Adrenaline flowed in Gerald and he quickly jumped up to see the now headless body laying on his patio deck. Not only did black oil flow out of the remaining stump but both it and the body seemed to be boiling away.

“Shut the door sugar,” his grandmother said from the couch, “you have done everything as you should. He will trouble neither you nor anyone else anymore.” Ever the good grandson he closed the door and then collapsed to the floor. Before he closed his eyes he saw Grandma Kelly blow him a kiss then disappear.

The morning sun brought not only consciousness for Gerald but National Guardsman looking for survivors. They spoke in quick terms about vaccines and the nation and world beginning the task of recovery. Desperately needing to be convinced the entire episode was a dream Gerald broke away from the team trying to load him on a stretcher and looked out on his patio deck. He was stunned to see a huge stained area on his deck as if a bucket of acid had been spilled there. After being wrestled back on the stretcher, they carried him outside to an awaiting humvee ambulance parked on the street.

He heard shouts from another search team leaving empty man’s house saying no one was home. But Gerald did see the pitcher of lemonade and glass sitting on the small porch table. 


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Stating the Obvious for Me



Sweet Jesus in the bloody morning! Things are getting mega-weird out in the land of narrow minded bigots and sanctimonious Bible thumpers. I don't watch or listen to the news like I once did but I must have been drunk, sleeping under a rock, or a combination of both because I was actually puzzled this afternoon as to why the local Chic-Fli-A was a freaking mad house with a line out of the door and a Los Angeles level traffic jam terminating at the drive thru. A quick review of events brought me up to speed. Hey I'm sorry, I work nights and like I mentioned, I don't watch the a lot of news because shrill screaming gives me a headache.

But yes, I support gay marriage and adoption. Especially the marriage thing, gay and lesbian couples have a God given right to be just as miserable as us hetro couples. Plus, I side with the Muppets in all matters of political, spiritual, legal, scientific, supernatural, philosophical and temporal importance. That about covers all the bases I think.