Walkies for the Soul

Something clicks as the leash snaps into the collar. Toby is all too happy for walkies but Malcolm has a recurring philosophical conundrum. Use to be that Malcolm was the one on the leash. For ten years, he lived in a box paid for by the state. He would, from time to time, be let out of his box for menial labor or exercise. Malcolm found that any time outside his little box was trouble and possible death. Toby disagrees wholeheartedly with this and if anything he makes the local fauna afraid instead of vice-versa.

It occurred to Malcolm that it might be wrong for him to hold Toby captive. It might be morally safer to let Toby out into this world as in truth Malcolm could not fathom how he had legal dominion over Toby . The social hierarchy apparently goes law abiding citizen> reformed criminal> yellow labrador. Malcolm is pretty sure that they were either equals or maybe Toby is a bit smarter, seeing as though check fraud had never been a thought conceived in Toby’s mind.

In the end, Malcolm’s hand is stayed by momentum. It’s strange that momentum should help Malcolm for once, instead of just leading him back to a store window. Momentum in fact leaves him back home, a 12×12 with it’s own stove and a full bathroom two doors down. He always viewed his little box as the place where he could at least be himself. His roommate is a marked improvement.

The New World at the Event Horizon

First the caravan was stars and then it disappeared all together. The 500 souls on The Manifest Destiny were an island in an ocean beyond measure. They weren’t the first island made in this endeavor and they wouldn’t be the last. There were in fact at least 100 islands scattered across space, although some were uninhabited. Still when humanity at large leaves you, smoke might just get in your eyes.

There is a story about a boy named Icarus who flew to close to the sun. We’ve forgotten why but we know that Icarus died in the end of the story, diving downwards to Earth. Many people believe that the moral of the story has to do with ambition but captains know better. There’s a more practical lesson to be learned; stars are not to be trifled with.

Captain Thomas Yule looked upon his new sun and sighed, desperately wishing he would fall back to Earth. They didn’t have enough fuel to even escape the star, let alone go home. Home would be here, under this light. They had shovels and hoes and a little green place where they could settle down. Then someday, maybe they’d build new ships to find the other islands. Maybe, they’d even find new island, full of new peoples.

Thomas didn’t much care for that last idea, citing humanity’s sad history with new things.

The Man Who Knew Jack Shit

“Have you ever been to the opera?”

The dreadful little knife was being heated slowly by the candle.

“Have you ever thought to just can the bull and just kill me, you dumb sack of shit?”

It wasn’t bravery, Ben had bravery but that was gone in the first hour. Ben was in an angry place and he was probably going to die there. In the basement of a house, on a street where no one cares, the worms had much better odds than the cops.

“Oh, I do believe you can tell me more than that.”

It was a caping knife: pointless, small and very sharp. This was the type of thing you could buy in any sporting goods store. If there was a word for the instrument it would be precision, existing only to relieve an animal of its hard won skin. In the shaking hands of the Mediterranean man, there was no such elegance; it was just a cutting thing. It entered Ben’s arm with no care for veins or muscles. It cut deeply.

The scream Ben had went inwards, down into his own body like a swallowed hiccup. With every ounce of will, he stared into those hazel eyes that were trying to look anywhere else. What pissed Ben off more than anything, was that both knew that the man of olive had screwed up: Ben was no spy.

Sure, he could understand the mentality; trust no one and assume anyone and everyone. Ben (a pasty white flabby creature with the reaction speed of a pigeon) could very well be the last person you’d suspect. However, when found in the megaplex bathroom, he proceeded to piss himself the moment he felt something press against the small of his back. He then proceeded to piss himself twice more as the night went on.

The hard thing that had pressed against Ben was a Luger pistol or at least a clone there of. It was sitting on the table not two feet to the right of Ben. Ben was trying to figure out what the caliber was. Little things were slipping from him and details were so important. As long as he could keep his mind going, he’d stay here and not just drift away. Three feet in front of Ben, the little bearded asshole was desperately trying to think of a question he hadn’t already asked.

Ben had heard of Capistrano but he’d never been called a swallow before. To Ben, the ETA was just the time planes were supposed to arrive. Ben did know why buying two tons of manure might be considered suspicious but so did every 12 year old in the United States. Also, he didn’t buy two tons of manure. In fact, he had never gardened in his life. No, he wasn’t aware that royalty was coming to his fair city. He also disagreed with the word fair.

He was however, suddenly aware that the wooden arm his right hand was strapped to was being held on to the rest of the chair by faith in a higher power. With a couple seconds of wiggling he was loose. Before the bit of furniture hit the ground, Ben had a gun. As the annoying fuzzy torturer turned, the trigger was pulled.

Slowly Ben made his way to where the knife fell. Ever pace was searing pain as his left arm pushed against the rope. He took the terrible swift blade and cut to make himself free. Two paces further, there sat Ben’s former captor.

“Lung”

The man moaned desperately pointing at the pistol. Ben took a small cellphone out of the man’s manbag.

“Uh-huh. Quid Pro Quo. You give me address, I give you death.”

“No, I give me death, I give you address too. Bargain.”

“ Why on Earth would I trust you?”

“There’s a towel in my bag. Grab it, wrap it around your left arm. Don’t die.”

“Unless you shoot me.”

“No guarantees, except death.”

“And taxes.”

“Hmm?”

“I guess not.”

Ben grabbed the gun from the chair and threw it to the spook. With an “oof” the gun was caught.

“952 Grant.”

Ben sat back into the chair, sort of feeling a full circle, or maybe just an ellipse. 9-1-1. For a moment the cellphone chugged but then it recognized the number.

“Operator, I’m at 952 Grant. Cut up pretty bad in the basement. I think the door is locked.”

BLAM

“Oh, no. That was just my friend. Don’t worry, he’s dead now. But I’m still free to talk.”

Paul Revere 2X75

“ The news channels should have already told you that the world has gone mad. Bad food or just bad men, I couldn’t begin to know. People are just running to the country in long walls of psycopathic automatic fire. Hypothetically one could mount a successful defense but I haven’t met one yet. Nah, it’s best just to have a basement and lock that fucking door.

It’s in the wind but you can’t quite feel it yet. It’s the hint of the smoke and a wretched hungry yell that won’t hit your ears until you’re within range of those long rifles they got. When you see them on the horizon, run. You’ll know it’s them because they’re not using roads. They’re just coming over the horizon as fast as they can and killing every damn thing.

You don’t fight the tide and you don’t fight these bastards. You run, you hide and maybe if you get the chance you take’em down when their lonely. You are coward, a cur and every other poetic word for a survivor. Take the path less taken and if you meet a man with a querying horse, you kill the man and take the horse.”

The man took a slow draw on his cigarette.

“ Use to be that there was a thing called a wendigo. They were beasts that were men once but they gave way to hunger and could never come back. All that there was separating man from this awful beast was the taste of human flesh. I have tasted and I can tell you of something worse. They just murder and waste leaving everything, broken and spilling. You kill enough and crows won’t even come. Only reason, I was able to traverse was my trusty gas mask.

Anyways, you said that was $18.75 right?”

As he opened the door out of the gas station he sighed.

“If you want my advice, don’t run. Just find everyone and everything you know to be good and keep them somewhere safe. This’ll be over soon but it’s gonna be ugly. I gotta be off, there’s more towns to visit.”

With about two pounds of food, he left on a horse headed east.

Memento Mori Mr. Roboto

Brian was 7 and Christian was 8. Brian had bruises all over his body that his parents worried about with little chance of relenting. Brian was an active little boy, and active little boys tended to lose their mint condition awful quick. Little boys only last for about 12 years, then they become teenagers. Christian had the same amount of dings but he was made of stronger stuff. More or less, Christian would be forever what he was. His steel was coated and his circuits were shielded and he needed minimal upkeep.

They would play together and they were friends true as any but, there was an undercurrent of sadness in Christian. See robots get input from time to time, but mostly the mind they start with is the mind they keep. There in his mind, Christian knew that 1+1=2 and somewhere deeper he had access to actuarial tables. The discrepancy between Christian and Brian’s life expectancy was 910 years.

For a while Christian wouldn’t even talk to Brian; it was just too weird. Sure it had always been there but he didn’t use to like Brian. Brian use to be that little squirmy thing, unknowable: estimable but not knowable. Then Brian started talking and the little thing started to come up with these bizarre games that Christian was just enamored with. They would play for four hours straight and some how the human had more energy.

In one game, a tree had became a despot and the air was full of enemies to defeat that only they could see. So they kicked and grunted, as men do until they finally met the overlord of darkness itself. It towered over them but neither was afraid and soon it was vanquished, broken apart by Christian’s fist. Christian had thought it rather easy actually. That tree was an Sugar Maple and should of (by most respects) lived for another 200 years. By all respects, it was sturdier than Brian.

Christian was so distraught as to find solace in the company of Esther, a strange robot as old as a Sugar Maple could hope to be. Most robots had their people and once their people were gone a robot tended to wander away from humanity. Esther lived openly among humanity and most robots thought her queer for it. She welcomed the assumption with an odd cackle she had sampled from the elder women she had known. Along with her queer ways, she had developed a reputation as a good listener.

“Ma’am,”

“Esther. Life’s too short for formalities.”

It wasn’t but she was still an elder and therefore to be respected.

“Why do people have to die?”

“Well, they try not to but….”

“But what? Humans are smart. They can’t fix this?”

“Nope and neither can we.”

“Maybe if we get our scientists on this we could fix it?”

“We fix bits of it all the time, trouble is something else breaks.”

“So, there’s nothing I can do?”

“Nothing but enjoy what you got while you got it.”

“Never thought of Brian as a commodity.”

“You ain’t forever either.”

“But I’m going to live for a thousand years.”

“And you think that’s enough?”

She cackled madly as Christian left to process. She was obviously a lunatic. After a couple minutes of walking, he found Brian playing on a slide. He immediately decided to join him. Most of the children waiting behind Christian wished he hadn’t, but he fixed things well enough.

Spotless

Mr. Miles was incapable of speech for a moment. Justin Simian, desk clerk of The Fairbanks Inn, went over the room with a UV light. There was absolutely nothing to see. He turned the switch back on. The florescent served as crickets for the awkward silence.

“Was, was that a pentagram?”

“Just as artistic expression, Mr. Miles. As you can see our maid service is top notch.”

“Why did you need chicken blood?”

“Actually, that was just me multitasking.”

“You needed to kill a chicken?”

“Breakfast don’t grow on trees. Well, except grapefruit, melons… really any fruit.”

“But what about the feces?”

“You know I don’t think bananas grow on trees. No, they do.”

“Again, I ask why did you take a dump in my room?”

“Oh this isn’t your room. Plantains! Plantains don’t grow on trees.”

“That’s comforting but why?”

“To be thorough Mr. Miles.”

Mr Miles sighed deeply.

“If I stay in this room, could I get a 15% discount?”

“Sure.”

Justin Simian left Mr. Miles to his room.

“Score.”

Something had died in Mr. Miles, but it had been replaced with a bargain.

What She Was Fighting For

The guy beside Lydia wasn’t enough, neither was the guy on the other side. She had to have a guy at home too. As long as she had him back home, she could focus on the guys beside her. If she didn’t have Jeremy’s warm body waiting for her at home, she’d just up and die. You don’t have to do much to die here. The convoy came to a halt and Lydia realized this was her stop. She held her M16 closely to her, moving the locket holding Jer’s photo closer still to her heart. He would stay there forever an ever.

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