16 Updates Whadda You Get

The day began with a chime. Juan imagined a sunrise as the orange gels tinted the fluorescent lights. From the cot on the checkered floor, he viewed the magnificent chrome toilet. In the far corner there was a shower. Juan took a hearty whiff of himself and shrugged. Past the sink mirror and toilet, past the door, was his office. There was a desk, a chair a computer, and a hole in the checkered tiles where wires spilled into the computer. Home again, home again.

“We bought 500 liters of Man Mix that can be pumped into this bathroom. So you should be okay until next month.”

Nitrogen, oxygen, argon and marketing all in bright orange tanks that you can refill at gas stations across the galaxy. Man Mix was the “Life support with guaranteed MAXIMUM virility”. Supposedly, it had increased oxygen. However, intermittently, there were recalls where they had declined to distribute oxygen in every tank. They didn’t make 500 liter tanks and deep space doesn’t necessarily get recalls. So Juan had worries.

“Come in”

The EVA had wheels, probably a 10 horsepower engine. Dzheff was a squishy salamander thing piloting a big black ball with a periscope for a head. It’s pronounced Jeff but the russians made first contact with the calamahapa and humanity is not as intellectually curious as it aspires to be. That’s not their actual name either. But Jeff is Jeff or at least close enough.

“Sometimes I wake up and I just kinda hope that this’ll be the day the universe gets lazy with the fx. Just a dude with bumps on his head, thats all I want.”

“Bigotry aside, I’m sorry to disappoint.”

Juan stood up and stared into the mirror above the sink, pouring antiseptic on the hands. There was a little gray that wasn’t there last time.

“You shouldn’t have to put bigotry aside. That’s the job of the bigot. You’ve been as good a host as I could hope for.”

“Employer.”

There was an update waiting. It looked good. The PA started.

“Reminder: you are all inside of me and I’m into it but I feel weird.”

“Okay Jeff, you gotta be straight with me. If I push this update, is it kinkshaming?”

La Muerte en el Indoro

Sometimes you can hear the water. Sometimes its all you can hear, as if you are trapped inside the atmosphere: the single inhabitant of a ceramic planet. It was Gloria and the tardigrades forever in the closest bathroom to C++. Two o’clock was Speech and she could go. And it wouldn’t hurt but she was playing pretend.

Gloria was a software developer, except software developers didn’t go to school. A software developer would have initiative and already know this. They’d have friends and networks and they’d have projects. And they would have done this ten years ago. And they would have been better.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

She cradled herself.

“It’s okay. I don’t need it.”

The voice sounded deep and lyrical. Gloria opened the door. For a moment she couldn’t see anything. Then something, like eyes focusing on rain that was invisible. It wasn’t a rain though, it was a skeleton standing in the front of the only sink. There was a standing skeleton and then there was the chance of being judged for not washing your hands. Gloria stood in line.

“Could you be a dear and turn on the faucet?”

Gloria turned on the faucet. The skeleton managed to push the soap dispenser. As they lathered, their hands became more and more visible. They had long thin fingers and petite palms.

“Am I dead?”

“Well I am anyways.”

“Are you Death?”

“Why would Death have a skeleton? I’m Melissa.”

Gloria felt hair touch her face as Melissa turned to grab a paper towel. They noticed Gloria staring.

“I usually use a 15 second rule. Otherwise staring is definitely rude.”

“Can I get accommodations? I’m only pretty sure I’m not dead.”

“Not ADA applicable. Which is really unfair because I have a lot of accessibility problems. My C++ teacher only barely notices I exists. I’m so behind”

“Do you want to be study partners?”

And this is how you make friends children.

Blood of My Blood, Flesh of My Stool

Plop. Then a slow annoyed hiss. It opened it’s eyes for a second and focused on Michael. The teeth were long white porcelain carpentry nails and it already rearing back preparing to lunge. Michaed slammed the lever. The sloppy stitching between the thumb and the finger on his right flushing hand reminded him to move quickly and efficiently. A mechanical pencil and composition notebook were retrieved from a cabinet under the vanity

“October 21st, 9:15pm the child seemed malevolent and angry. One flush.

9:15pm, 5 minutes drift towards midnight since October 10th. 20 minutes towards noon since August. There was no pattern, no logic. There was just a man shitting angry animals. But Micheal drew the lines connected the dots and saw the shapes. He had to. His documentation and the little charts he made was his bible. If was not normal, he was at the very least regular.

An old black smear sat between the shower and toilet. That was August 2nd and it was painful. Basically, it was a black hand with the mouth in the middle and purple little talons. That boy was fast and angry but there’s a hand sledge between the toilet wand and the plunger. That one had to be placed in the waste basket. Most of them flushed and just in case they weren’t dead the pipe lead to a septic tank. The septic tank was cleaned by well trusted confidantes. The nearest neighbor was an acre away and urban sprawl had Michael was eyeing new real estate. You don’t want someone to hear you scream. You don’t want to be legal precedent. You sure as hell don’t want to be scientific discovery.

Back at his bed he took off the jump boots he wore like slippers. 9:30 would give him 11 hours. 9 to 5. Eat, shit, sleep, repeat. Time enough to wake up, shower and make breakfast, pack lunch. His daughter had managed to cocoon herself on the other side. Nightmares again. Perhaps Kindergarten was taking its toll.

Bless January.

 

Going in the Dark

          I heard a slight scrape that wasn’t a shoe. It wasn’t a shoe because I turned around and I couldn’t see anyone. My hand left my pocket, my heart sank back down, my paranoia went into remission. Magical thinking is better than hypertension. The sun was setting and I was cutting through an alley because some lessons have to be learned over and over again.
           Soon, it would be obvious that I was alone, alone except for all those other things. My towers were gone and the houses were about to disappear. I was leaving every stray window that could possibly give me guidance. Crossing into the industrial park and the only light I had was the one I held.
          Like the rest of Dis, Little Lagos didn’t mean to be here. It inherited factories and mostly ignored them. In the middle was a warehouse and that seemed like as good a place as any to put a club and so they made a banner and Solomon’s was born. Under the banner was a pair of double doors and a bouncer. The bouncer’s name was Usman and he seemed to like my tits. I thought his were a little too sinewy but I was just reading his name tag. I found myself at an almost plastic orange table marked 10, deeply with a knife. As I relaxed into a wicker bottom Mexican restaurant refugee my waiter found me and proceeded to ram itself into my chair’s back legs.
          “Drink?”
          “Robitussin, on the rocks.”
          “No Robitussin. Well drink?”
          In Little Lagos, this bar especially, the wells aren’t fit to drink from.
          “Cough syrup, any?”
          “No cough syrup. Well drink?”
          “Any booze that I recognize at all?”
          “Well drink.”
          “I don’t recognize that as booze.”
          My waiter was silent save for the servos. In front of me was a wall with sound behind it. There was a man sitting in a stool watching a door. A woman passed me and walked to the door, where she traded a cigar for a stamp on her hand. An uncaring computer boomed Unchained Melody as it shuffled through an eclectic haphazard playlist.
          “Well drink?”
          “Sure kid.”
          The little fire hazard dashed off back into employee’s only land looking for a drink that would shame a bootlegger. I wondered how many touches from a soldering iron that little guy had left before he was just gone. How many appliances was he? We’re big on recycling in Little Lagos. That’s why I was planning on eating chips; prepacked unopened grease.
          “Chop?”
          The robot had returned with my… drink. It looked flammable.
          “Chop? Chips.”
          “No potatoes.”
          “Crisps, crisps. Sorry.”
          “What kind?”
          “BBQ.”
          I retrieved a monte cristo from my coat and dropped it on garçon’s head. Seeing as though I come to alcohol for the venom I didn’t mind. I heard a scraping on the ground, it was another chair.
          “Do you mind?”
          “Yes but go ahead.”
          He had a thick mustache, skin like cocoa powder, and a chemical marvel of a pompadour. As he sat across the table he draped his jacket on the seat’s back. He was maybe a little too thin but I wasn’t all that picky.
          “I’m Billy D.”
          You can do that in Dis, I’ve met Tom Cruise twice.
          “How new are you?”
          “Dropped in a few…”
          “Yeah, I don’t know either.” There are clocks and calendars, but where to start was a matter of contention. “What did you do you Billy D?”
          “Don’t you mean what do I do?”
          “You scavenge and you take odd jobs.”
          “I do?”
          “But what did you do?”
          Billy grabbed a few strands of his hair and then moved his hand down to his lip petting his mustache.
          “A model?” I guessed.
          “Heh. A hairdresser. You?”
          “Government.”
          “What, CIA?”
          “Smaller.”
          “So boring.”
          “Yeah.”
          More pause followed and then a lighter appeared. It was followed shortly by a nice box of Newports: yellowed but not ruined. I thought for a moment he had found an intact pack. If he was about to smoke that, I’d have mugged him right there. The flap flew back revealing neat black cigarettes with red seams. They were Dis made, but very nice.
          “You want one?”
          I never had that habit but I was tempted.
          “No.”
          He took a long drag and began coughing profusely.
          “Not tobacco.”
          He quickly crushed it on the table and I could smell one of my habits lifting towards the roof. Shame.
          “So, you’re doing well enough to actually smoke smokes?”
          “Hair still gotta get did don’t it?”
          I was pretty sure there was a leaf in my hair and it had been there for a year, however long ago that was.
          “Sure.”
          “So anyways, is it an off night or what?”
          “No, it’s still hopping back there.”
          “Back where?”
          I pointed towards the door guarded by a stool.
          “Costs Cuba’s finest but you get a stamp and it’s good all night.”
          “Do I want a stamp?”
          “Underneath, above or…” I waved off the science. “There’s a sound you can’t hear. It’s happy, it just turns you on like a switch. It doesn’t carry past the wall.”
          “So why aren’t you in there?”
          “I did something stupid once and I got myself in trouble. Don’t leave before the music stops.”
          “So you’re okay?”
          “Follow your bliss Lando.”
          With that he left and I suddenly didn’t want to chop, I just wanted to leave. Usman almost protested but I walked past. My little light and I walked towards home. Leaves scuttled and plastic bags whistled and one pair of keds patted the ground. I was in the dark and making my way. Then my light caught a knife.
          I saw a svelte man in tight blue jeans with long flowing blond hair holding a fillet knife. He saw a portly small frizzy ginger with a weird gun. Our eyes met but those little sparks never came, neither did the knife.
          But, somewhere the music was still playing. More the shame.

Long After the Plunge

          Words trickle and drip down the sink. Letter, periods, whole damn sentences get stuck in the traps, junction and lord forbid the sewer pipe. Plumbers have been known to become wordsmiths out of sheer immersion in the stuff. It’s not uncommon for a journeyman to be covered head to toe with it: poems on his hand, face smattered with awfully stupid philosophy, and an amateur novel just sprayed all over him. No matter how hard you clean you can still smell the literacy, just a little bit.
          Paul’s been a plumber for 20 years and a literati for 15. He’s got a new novel and he’s shopping it around but nobody’s biting. Roots still creep and drains still clog, so he’s not afraid of going hungry. Marla Oglesby of 212 Rivolli Blv has a problem with her drain. Her problem is she had decided to drop a perfectly good sentence down a s pipe. Careless, but she’s old. Paul tucked it into his bag           He tries to get her to switch to copper and she doesn’t. No one buys copper, it cost too much and isn’t better enough for your average jerk to switchover. The difference is, pvc was never built to hold your soul like copper was. Sure it’ll take your waste and water but those parts of you that are less tangible? Well, they’ll just drip into your crawlspaces and then you’ll end up leaving a part of you that you thought discarded. The next home owners definitely won’t want it.
          He walks out the backdoor. There’s nothing to be done for Ms. Oglesby. She’ll just keep on in her way until she meets the grave. Most people do. Paul secretly hopes he’s not part of that majority. The van starts on the second time and he’s off the clock. Home is where the heart is, which is why he doesn’t feel the need to hide the wire and the pipes. One story, one basement; it’s his cave now and it all works just fine.
          Immediately, he delves into the basement with that sack of dirty language. Heavy wash, regular amount of detergent, it’ll come up clean. There’s a light clamped to an old pipe above an old poker table that’s been overburdened since it’s acquisition. There’s a few sentences in various states of development:

The avowed protestants quietly worshiped their lord and savior Jesus Christ.
The girls were teases, everyone and Michael knew this. His blade was sharp, his mind keen.
I love you.

           More

The Big Zen Garden

Ron, you haven’t checked in for a while so I decided to hobble my ass to the slums. 10 stories and they all smelled like eggs. Phil (who was soused by the way) says hi. Jee…z he gets gropey when drunk.

So what’s the hold up, just stamp ’em, ship ’em.

Crap is that a pen in your hand? Tell me your not.

You don’t name the sand Ron. First thing they taught you. The sand names itself. You make the sand, you grow the sand, you watch the sand but sand names sand. It’s what we call freewill. We don’t give them any vote but we give them say. Say’s free, say keeps them happy and keeps our jobs cush. Without say, we’ve got a bunch of little nothings doing nothing. It’s boring as fuck. So we give them say and we don’t have to make cable tv and hooker allowances.

Why would you want to name one? Oh for, are you making a messiah? Do you have any idea what kind of fail rate Messiah’s have? Newsflash: avatars suck and prophets go offscript. Micromanagement is a no no.

Oh don’t give me that, this is different.

How? I was bored.

Uh uh my friend, I manage you, you have no idea what boring is until you manage you.

No. Breach of protocol, plus you need 200 more years before you’re up for promotion.

Just put… Evinrude back in the pile. Wait, Seriously? Fuck that, file a I527 Naming Intervention. Tina. Or Murphy. Get her an early adoption papers, parents could probably die in a meth lab explosion. Easily.
Okay, Charlie’s got a birthday party. Yeah he’s an asshole but he’s an unfair asshole and if you act all buddy buddy with him that could mean big things for you. I see the coffee pot is empty and dirty. I blame you.

Why?

Bored.

The Thin Blue Lace

        I needed a win. Whatever else I needed, I needed a win. Charm and spite had worn away, and now was the winter of my time in the chair. It had been twenty seven hours and my wrists were raw against the zip ties. They were almost breaking. The room had a nicotine flavor and the dying yellow bulb was just enhancing the hue. Between me and the opposing wall was about enough for a twin size and a wardrobe, maybe a vanity. The bulb was begin to ghost on my vision but I didn’t dare look down for fear I was still dripping red.
        On that other wall, two men stood legs spread wide and arms crossed behind. They wore assorted articles from various uniforms with whatever equipment could be scrounged. They both had a blue shoelace tied just below the left shoulder. Behind them was an old wooden door. Outside that door was a man waiting for me to break. He was acting a bit like a first time cook: checking on the half hour, then half of that, then every other minute. All the while, he was hoping I would suddenly become what he wanted. The old knob turned and he walked in. I was still me but he was getting hungry.
        “Do you want to tell me what you were doing out there?”
        It’s a fair question. I was far from home, about as far as a human can go. It took legs, hooves and a Datsun Sunny but I got there.
        “A little boy dropped into the woods. I had to fetch him.”
    Never let it be known that you are a good person. Definitely never let Aziz know; crusades just seem to find me these days.
        “This boy who you dropped in the woods, how much was he worth? Did he come in bricks or little bags… or maybe a big wooden crate?”
        Some people see a forest beyond civilization and decide its a storage locker, others just die with their possessions.
        “He’s just a little boy.”
        “A little boy who poofed into Hell?”
        “He fell. Like I fell. Like you fell. Like everybody falls.”
        “I didn’t fall.”
        A native, you stop getting some for a while and you forget other people still do.
        “Well some people don’t end up in convenient places.”
        “Some people should stay at their end.”
        I stared at him, then through him. There was no man there, there couldn’t be a man there. It was just something that looked like a man.
        “You sure this boy is who you think he is?”
        Beyond men, they are others, some can look like men. This one was a boy. I had saved a scared little boy. Not that I would hold a lack of manhood against someone, glass houses and all that.
        “You’re. Not. Getting. Him.”
        My backhand sense was tingling. I managed to grin. His hand was cupped around a pistol. Maybe he didn’t have any bullets. Maybe he wanted me around for a little longer. I closed my eyes and thought of better places.
        I heard a jackhammer and then a knock at the door. There were new holes in the drywall. I slowly opened my eyes.
        ;My smile grew three times.
        “What are visiting hours?”
        “Criminals don’t get visiting hours.”
        The knock came again.
        “Sir there are people outside that would like to take Amber home.”
        “That’s me by the way.”
        “We do not give away criminals.”
        “Sir, all due respect, yes we do. At least today we do.”
        “Are you talking back to me son?”
        “Sir come out here.”
        “I’m busy.”
        “Sarge come out here!”
        This time it sounded like a cracking whip. Sarge’s shoulder pretty much exploded. One pig goes to Sarge, one pig to the door. The moment the knob turned another officer fell to the ground seeping from the head. My smile died. The two luckier officers ran to the porch of the police station. Forty five Hippopotamus later my zip ties were cut and I was being helped out the front of a shotgun shack. As my eyes attuned to the sun, I saw green, green metal haphazardly put together with treads and a cannon. A tank, a tank with a giant poking out holding a large rifle, my giant. As I trudge through the mud, Haley disappeared, shoved her gun somewhere and reappeared to assess me.
        “Can you climb?”
        I whimper.
        She accepts that as a yes. We slowly climb in. I’m greeted by a space cramped with groceries and an old lady driving.
        “I found someone going our way. So I opted to ride shotgun.”
        I look a little closer at the ‘shotgun’. It’s had a big fat clip, wood all over and iron sights. As far as I could tell, it couldn’t see through doors. We would talk about that later.
        “So a tank with a girl riding shotgun, but without a gunner.”
        The old lady pipes up.
        “We don’t have room for 4 and since we don’t have room for shells either, I told Phil to stay home.”
        “Well thank you. What’s my job?”
        “Make sure the eggs don’t break.”
    She handed me a basket. I sat down as comfortably as I could manage and attend to my duty. Haley leaned into a pipe, somehow comfortably. She could sleep there, she usually sleeps in worse places. We started moving.
        “Haley, what happened to the kid?”
        “He’s safe. He speaks not Arabic.”
        “Portuguese?”
        “That’s not Spanish.”
        “Farsi?”
        “That’s it.”
        ;“Do we have any frozen vegetables I can borrow?”
        Haley handed me a can of peas, which can’t help swelling. Oh well, I already had a win.

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