Saturday, October 31, 2009


As promised, this is the Halloween story you voted for:



David saw half a peanut in front of him. It sat next to the metal foot of a chair where it was screwed to the floor. The peanut rolled back and forth slowly. His head was pounding. His cheek was pressed against a plastic strip of dim, flickering lights. He couldn't move. He was temporarily afflicted with catalepsy, but he thought it might of been paralysis since he was not aware of what catalepsy was and had never encountered the sensation before. He started to panic, trying to move his body.

Just as he thought he would be spending the rest of his life in an electric wheelchair, letting a computer voice with an Oxford accent speak his wishes, he regained voluntary use of his nervous system, scrambled to his feet like a just birthed giraffe and hit his head on the luggage compartment. He let out a girlish scream and collapsed into a seat.

When that pain melted into the background pain of his existing headache, David began to wonder why he just woke up on the floor. The last thing he could remember was downing his fourth glass of free wine. He looked around. There was no one in the row next to him, or in the rows on the other side of the aisle. He wondered why he was in coach when his seat was in first class.

David stood up carefully, not wanting to repeat his confrontation with the luggage compartment. He looked around. He couldn't see anyone else. All of the window shades were pulled down. He walked up and down the aisle looking in each row. He went all the way to the back of the plane and up again to first class. He checked the crew areas and all of the bathrooms. There was no one else. The door to the cockpit was locked, but he pulled on it nonetheless. He kicked and slammed his body into the door. He screamed for help, hoping there was at least a pilot inside. His lungs were contracting and expanding as rapidly as his heart. His face and fingers started to tingle and feel numb. He began to worry that the plane was on autopilot. Where has everyone gone? he thought.

He ripped up a shade. He couldn't see anything. It was pitch black. He ran back to the middle of plane, and opened several shades. It was enough light to show the wing and engines in dark gray. The plane was flying, there was no ground below. David went back to the cockpit door. He wondered how to open it; cockpit doors were reinforced and bulletproof to prevent terrorist attacks.

He went to his seat in first class and opened the luggage compartment. His bag was still there. He pulled it down and opened it. The dress suit he was going to wear to the awards ceremony in Stockholm was on a metal hanger. He pulled out the hanger and shoved the suit aside. He went back to the door and tried shoving the crook end of the hanger into the crack between the door and the frame, but the wire was too thick to wedge in. David slumped to the floor and started panicking again.

The interior lights started to flicker. The plane hit some light turbulence. Abandoned glasses bounced on extended tray tables. David tried to quiet his breathe and reassess the situation. The plane started to list to the right. There was more turbulence. The seats vibrated in a different direction than the ceiling and cabin walls. David crawled back to his seat and buckled himself in.

The turbulence got more violent. David opened the window shade next to him. He still couldn't see anything. The plane bounced so hard that the David hit the side of his head on the window and he blacked out for a minute or two. When he woke up the cabin lights had completely failed, only the safety strips on the floor were still on. Yellow oxygen masks had descended. All the luggage compartments had emptied their contents, but the turbulence was over. The plane was completely still.

Have we landed? thought David. He looked out the window. Still nothing. He felt oddly disoriented. He reached out for his oxygen mask, and put it on, pulling the elastic strap tight, as he learned to do on countless flights in the past from incredibly bored flight attendants. There was no air flowing through the mask, but it felt slightly comforting so he kept it on.

He noticed that the cockpit door was open. "Hello?!" he yelled. There was no response. He took the mask off and got up. He stepped tentatively towards the door. He yelled out again, no response. When David got to the door he couldn't see much. He fished in his pants pocket for his keys. The security screeners never seemed to pay attention to anything on a keychain, so he was armed with a tiny swiss army knife and a tiny pen light with fresh batteries. He turned on the light and shone it around the cockpit.

There was no one there. He put his hand on the each of the pilot seats. They were cold. No one had been there, at least not in the last several minutes. David suddenly noticed that he could no longer hear the engines. He scrambled into the co-pilot seat, tried to get as close to the window as possible, and pointed the light outside. Nothing, just black all around.

Just as he was about to get out of the seat, something glinted in the weak beam. It looked like a large wet snowflake. This must be Sweden, he thought, there must just be a power failure.

The snowflake followed a random path sideways and out of view of the cockpit windows. David got up and went into the cabin, hoping to follow the snowflake, though he didn't quite know why. He opened the nearest window shades, but he couldn't see anything. He sat down in his seat again and stared at the locked cabin door at the end of the row ahead of him. He wondered if he should try opening it. If he was on the ground it seemed like the obvious course of action. He had to be on the ground since the engines were off and the plane wasn't plummeting, but his sense of disorientation overwhelmed his commonsense.

Suddenly a bright red light shone through all the open windows. It went dark a second later and all David could see was retina green. While his eyesight was returning, he could hear rumbling coming from outside. It sounded almost like the low keening songs of humpback whales. After a minute the sounds stopped. David peered out the window again. There were more of the snowflake things floating by in a gentle breeze.

One of the flakes brushed up close to the window and must have gotten stuck to glass somehow. David examined it closely. It looked less like snow and more like some sort of pollen or seed. There was a central yellow nucleus surrounded by feathery tendrils. The flake or seed or whatever it was shivered and dislodged itself back to the breeze. It left a little gluey-looking smudge on the window.

A second intense light, this time white, shone just through his window. It moved to the row behind him, then came back to his row. It slowly widened to encompass the entire side of the cabin, then it spread to the cockpit and the other side of the plane. David closed his eyes tightly and tucked his head between his knees. His heart was racing. He could still see the light behind his eyelids. He suddenly felt light, and the seat cushion fell away. He instinctively grabbed the headrest of the seat ahead of him. He twisted up and his legs touched the luggage compartment. He was weightless.

The light stopped. David opened his eyes. He turned to looked down the aisle. Bags and suitcases were floating midair throughout the cabin. The plane rapidly rolled yaw-wise. David was thrown against the far cabin wall and all the breathe was knocked out of him. Several bags landed on him for an extra measure of injury. The plane finally settled upside down, and David slid to the ceiling.

He got up slowly, finally realizing he was somewhere far stranger than Sweden. At least gravity is back, he thought. He started to get angry.

"Is that all you've got?!" he screamed. He didn't know what the "you" in that was, but he was convinced something intelligent was involved. He picked his way through the luggage back to the cockpit. He had to crouch down in the cockpit to look out the windows with his little light. The flaky seeds had increased to a blizzard. It was beautiful. David began to feel a bit calm.

Then the rumblings started again. Some of the sounds were so low he felt rather than heard them. The sounds were coming from different directions. One source was directly ahead and getting closer, more intense. There were several pulses followed by a pause, then repeated. Echolocation, he thought.

The cloud of seeds in front swirled and parted revealing the pitch black. They filled in again, then swirled and parted again. David pressed up against the glass. It was vibrating. It must have been from a pitch of sound so high that he couldn't hear it. The cloud completel parted. Darkness surrounded the cockpit. David eased backward. He felt like he was near a source of electricity. The hairs on his arms and neck were standing up.

A shape came out of the darkness and slammed against the window. David fell backwards and coughed violently on his own saliva. He shone the light at the windows. The form wrapped all around the cockpit. It didn't look like anything in particular, but it looked, pink and fleshy. there were parallel ridges that undulated. It was gripping the plane.

It moved and twisted, and a hard chitinous part came into view. David thought it looked like an octopus beak, only this one was four feet across, and had three moving parts instead of two. When it opened up the maw inside was lined with inch-wide villi. David was frozen in place, fascinated by the anatomy of the thing outside. The beak scratched and felt around for purchase. It finally found the metal ridge between the two front windows. It grabbed and squeezed. The windows cracked. The thing tore off the metal then shoved it's beak between the windows, pushing inward.

David scramble back and out of the cockpit. He looked back as the beak and a fleshy, muscular appendage came through the opening. He got up and tried to stumblerun over the luggage. The appendage followed, searching, flinging suitcases to the side. When David got to the divide between first class and coach, the appendage stopped then retreated. He thought maybe it was too big to get through. He started moving slowly backward in case it tried with some other, perhaps longer limb.

Instead two appendages forced their way into the cockpit and started to pull the plane apart. Metal moaned and screeched as it tore apart. When the thing had opened the plane up to a twenty degree angle it stopped. Then it rumbled a deep, angry wail. David felt a blast of hot acrid air. He continued to pick his way to the back of the plane, hoping the thing didn't find an alternate point of ingress along the way.

It shoved in more limbs, but David stopped looking back. He crawled into a bathroom and closed and locked the accordion door. The tiny "occupied" lock was little solace. Blue fluid was dripping down from the inverted toilet. He crouched down and shone his light at the mirror. His face was ashen, and blood was on his temple. There was half of a small pretzel in his hair. His eyes were wide and his breathing was ragged. The thing outside continued to grumble and tear. David hoped the bathroom would hold together for a little while longer. He continued to look at his reflection, realizing that he would be the last person he saw.

The thing finally succeeded in ripping the plane in two, and David was tossed in the bathroom as that side of the plane fell so that the door was "up". David leaned back and pressed his legs against the door. Suddenly there was a strong pressure at his feet. It was trying to get in. David put the light in his mouth and braced his arms against the sides of the bathroom.

It pushed and pounded and screamed. The lock snapped but the door held. David figured the thing didn't have any leverage. The pounding stopped, but David knew it was still out there. He felt light again, but as if the plane was being thrown. It landed and skidded against something else. He felt sharp pains in his knees, but the door held. The room was now righted.

David felt hot breathe coming through the cracks in the doors. Is it smelling me? he thought. The beak started scraping at the door. "Gow waway!" he screamed awkwardly, the pen light still in his mouth. The scraping stopped. Did that actually work?

The room rolled over again so that the door was on the upside. There was a heavy pressure on the door. In the dim light, he could see a black liquid oozing through the door cracks. It seeped down in mucousy tendrils and began to pool near his head. It smelled a bit metallic, but it wasn't as foul has he would suspect a black liquid coming from an unidentified monstrous creature would be.

The liquid got nearer and neared to his fingers. David wished he was the other way around, with his hands at the door and his feet in the liquid. It started gushing, squirting through the cracks. It spattered on the walls and his legs. Some of it got into his mouth. David spat out. It tasted like blood and had a gritty texture. He wanted to wipe his mouth with his hands, but he couldn't.

It continued to gush. How much more of this stuff does this thing have? he thought. He also thought about his family for the first time since he woke up on the floor. He remembered the first time he kissed his wife, in the lab, next to the tuberculosis slides. He remembered the day his twin daughters were born, and how surprisingly hard it was to cut the cords. He hoped they would get the award money, if there was anything left of the world, back there. Had this happened everywhere? Was it just this plane? Why me?

The liquid was now touching the top of his hair. He pulled his head up out of it. Some of the liquid dripped into his left eye, stinging and painful. David winced, trying to cry to wash it out, but he had too much adrenaline in his system. His arms were shaking, ready to give out. The liquid was up to his forehead. His arms and legs burned. He had to relax his neck -- the liquid came to his eyes, it was searingly painful. He screamed, dropping the light. The liquid continued to rise and got into his nose; tried to shake it out, but more and more of it kept coming into the room. It got to his mouth and he held his breathe. He held out for thirty seconds before his lungs cried and he sucked in a great gulp of the black stuff. He coughed and choked, and finally relaxed his arms and legs. He lay crumpled in the pool, unable to lift his head above it. He had no more energy left.

He didn't lose consciousness immediately. He wondered why he had not yet found himself intimate with the creature's peristalsis. He began to feel prickly and numb all over. The mass clogging his throat itched. Slowly the black invaded his mind. His thoughts narrowed to a thin thread. All he knew was that he still existed. After a few minutes, even that faded away. It was the last thought of the old world, before it was transformed anew.


Kanaloa is a Hawaiian god symbolized as an octopus and who dwelt in the underworld. He was conveniently satanized by missionaries even though he is not specifically malevolent (he seems to be somewhat associated with technology, and also with creation/destruction myth). I didn't start writing this with Kanaloa in mind, but as I was doing some research on octopuses (I need to stop saying octopi, even though it's more whimsical) I found the desctruction myth stuff involving him and thought it would make an interesting ending. There might also be some layers of Chthulu, and the old 19th century kraken-battling-ships stuff as well.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Notebook Nuggets: Laura

This was written from a prompt given to me by my friend Leslee. The original prompt was:

What Giovanni liked the most about being a professional photographer was working with male models -- especially on portfolio shoots og men in bathing suits, sporting killer abs.

Leslee and I have very different tastes in writing, so I pretty much ignored the theme of the prompt, and wrote this:


Of course, Laura wasn't a professional photographer. Laura wasn't anything at all. Laura was in a coma, suckling nourishment from a plastic bag -- but she was having the time of her life in her head.

Until one day, the electricity failed. There were no more nurses. Her family failed to visit her beside and hold her hand. There was no one to feed her, no one to clen her, no one to check her vital signs.

Laura was alone. For days she laid in her bed, as dust gently fell and settled around her, as day turned to night and did it again. Her breath became labored.

One night, a camera formed from her hand. It could not be described as an organic process, in fact it formed of no known process. It extruded from her palm and fingers, a fully functioning camera.


Yes sorry, there's where it ends. I think it's an interesting scene, but I don't think the story has anywhere to go (and it reminds me too much of 28 Days Later).

Thursday, October 22, 2009


This is another notebook find, just a snippet. I remember having a very vivid idea of the scene come into my head all at once, and I just had to write it down. I have expanded on the snippet. The original stops where the main character first presses the blue button, but I couldn't leave you hanging there now could I ;-)


What is truth? The question popped into Patrick's head as he watched pedestrians in the crosswalk. The sign, lit from within, showed a green figure, animated, walking deliberately in place, knees raised high but the figure's feet stayed connected to the bottom of the sign, like the toes of his socks were stuck to the ground.

Patrick didn't know how he had come to be in this place or what he had done before. He knew his name and he could think in thoughts of language -- but still his place, in this place, felt wrong.

It was a busy street. Tall trucks painted red and blue and green, intensely chromatic in the sun, improbably yellow taxis, looking awkwardly fat and engorged, contrasted with monochromatic gray shadows like the color had seeped away by osmosis to the sunlit sections, rays of photon sponges splayed between the lees of towering office buildings that seemed bigger at the top than at the bottom -- something that Patrick thought to be not quite right.

The sign paused in its march. It went blank. It was replaced with an orange figure -- a face in a scream, rubbing its hands up and down the sides of its head, nodding slowly side to side, its mouth as wide as a bottom-feeding fish, a big black oval void punctuated above with an umlaut of black oval eyes.

"A scream," said Patrick. "Why is that familiar?"

A woman with a small child failed to clear the crosswalk before the face came on the sign. Both were hit by a large red truck. The red monstrosity skidded to a stop in the intersection, carrying the bodies forward with it on the chrome grill. The bodies looked deflated, limp, and bloodless, almost gluey in how they adhered to the truck.

Patrick stood transfixed. He felt a pressure inside his chest. Around him, the other people looked agape, eyes wide, mouths open like feeding fish, hands balled in fists, rubbing their ears, crouching up and down, nodding side to side. They let out little yelps, a not so primate sound, a chorus belonging in a forest canopy when a predator circles below, not on a busy, civilized, city street. Not quite right. Not quite right at all, thought Patrick.

The driver climbed down from his cab. He was doing the same yelping, crouching pantomime scream as the others. The driver looked at the bodies stuck to the grill and pointed -- his yelps suddenly more urgent. Patrick moved to help but was instantly surrounded by people looking at him with dewy eyes. He got the sense they thought it was too dangerous to move into the road. Patrick stood still -- he didn't want to push through the people barring his way -- he didn't want to touch them.

The driver climbed back into his cab, started the truck, and drove on. There was no trace of the accident, no blood on the pavement. The sign changed back to the green sock-footed marcher. The people stopped their 'screaming', dissipated, and crossed. Patrick stood there. It was as if nothing at all unusual had happened. Then his cellphone rang. He instinctively reached into his coat pocket.

"Hello?" No sound. "Hello?" Patrick wondered if he had pressed the right button. He looked at the phone. It was larger than he thought it ought to be. It rang again. It was gray and had an antenna. There was a large green button and a large red button, and three smaller blue buttons below it. The earpiece was surrounded with a clear rubber ring, the mouthpiece was covered in gray velvet. The green button was glowing with each ring. These were features that seemed not to match his memory of it, but he couldn't quite remember how it was supposed to be.

He pressed the green button and brought the earpiece to his ear.


"Where the hell are you?" It was a crackly, muffled voice.


"Stop dawdling! What are you waiting for?"

"Who is this?"

"Oh for --" the voice cut off, replaced by a dull tone. Patrick looked at the phone again.

"How do you make a call?" he thought aloud. The middle blue button started to glow. The glow pulsated, three fast beats followed by a slow beat. It repeated. Temptation overcame him and he pressed the blue button.

The tops of the office buildings zoomed up into the sky, the people in the street melted and dissolved into the pavement, the sun-drenched areas expanded in his vision, became more intense, bled to a white heat, then faded away. As the negative of the whiteness unbleached itself from his retinas, he found himself in a small room looking at himself. He realized he was looking at his reflection in a pair of stainless steel doors. A sense of familiarity washed over him. This was the elevator in his building.

The car rose to it's destination. There was a chime. The doors opened to his floor. Berber carpeting spread out before him as lavishly as it could, welcoming him back to familiarity. A woman in a skirt passed him.

"Good morning Patrick," she said. Patrick couldn't quite make out her features, and couldn't remember who she was. As she walked away, she looked slightly blurred as if she wasn't quite there. He walked automatically to his desk in a gray cubicle near the elevator. There was a picture of a family member, an out-of-date computer, and an artless splay of papers, pens, coffee stains, paperclips and other desk ephemera. His cellphone, his real cellphone with letters and numbers lay in the middle of his desk. He looked at it, and thought about the weight in his pocket. He thought about reaching into the pocket, but fear overcame him. He stood behind his chair, trying to let the memory of the strange street slink into oblivion. He sat down and the chair squeaked in familiarity. The air conditioning turned on and a cool breeze flowed from the vent in the ceiling above his desk. He began to feel lulled and sleepy.

His phone rang. He looked at the phone on the desk. It was not ringing. He reached reluctantly into his pocket, and brought out the odd phone. The green button was pulsing. He pressed it.

"For God's sake man, what's taking you so long?" It was the same voice as before.

"Who are you? Why are you calling me?"

"Listen to me carefully now. Have you recently lost your memory?"

"What? How did you know?"

"Nevermind that. Open your desk drawer. Take the box, and meet me in the meeting place. Do not forget to bring the box."


"Just do it." With that the line when dead. Patrick felt red in the cheeks. He looked down at the desk drawer. Even with the air conditioner on, the atmosphere in the office felt increasingly hot, humid, and oppressive.

Patrick reached down and pulled at the drawer handle. It would not budge. He got out of his chair and knelt on the ground, pulling with both hands. The drawer door moved a little -- it felt like a very strong magnet was tugging back. He pulled again but it wouldn't open more than an inch. He sat back, put a foot on the desk, and pulled back with all the weight of his upper body. The drawer suddenly came loose and fell out entirely as he hit his back and head on the wall of his cubicle.

He looked into the drawer. In a nest of loose papers sat a black cube. Patrick reached in and touched it. It was very cold. He took it out. It was quite light, and covered in a dull material. There appeared to be no seams in the box, and no apparent way to open it. He shook the box, but no sound or sensation responded.

Patrick looked at the odd phone again. The leftmost blue button was pulsing. One, two, three, five beats, in sequence, repeating. He pushed the button. Nothing happened except the button stopped glowing. He walked out of the cubicle. Perhaps it only works in the elevator he thought, then he wondered why he thought that. As he reached the elevator, he noticed faint blurs around him. The blurs were swirls of colors that looked like faint impressions of people moving about. The carpet, walls, and furniture began to fade to transparency. He could see below the floor -- floor upon floor all with moving blurs of their own all dissolved away. His feet tingled with the sense that he was about to fall so he looked up and there was the sun, as intense as ever during the day. He looked down again, saw solid pavement beneath his feet and found himself in an ally, back in the city. At either end of the ally, primary-colored vehicles whizzed by.

"Pssst." Patrick turned to look for the sound. There was a door in the wall of the building next to him, and it was cracked open a few inches. A wrinkled face peered out. "Come on. Bring it here."

"Who are you?"

"Just come inside. I've been waiting eons for you. Quick now."

"Did you call me on that phone?"

"Yes, yes. Inside now. Please. I'll explain everything. Just get inside." Patrick moved towards the door. He felt queasy doing it, but he didn't feel that going out into street would be useful. The room inside was large, dank, and poorly lit. There was some large electrical apparatus in a corner that was buzzing faintly. One wall was lined floor to ceiling with shelves of drawers, each labeled with a yellowed piece of card and faded brown ink. He was too far away to read what they said. A table sat in the middle of the room with three folding chairs. A wave of nausea welled up from Patrick's stomach.

"Please, sit." The old man gestured absently towards a chair. "I'm glad you made it safely, considering your condition. Being out there too long does fuzzy things to the memory. Which I suppose in the long run, is a good thing."

"I feel sick," said Patrick. His tongue suddenly felt thick in his mouth.

"Oh, that would be the magnetic field." He glanced at the electrical apparatus. "It's extremely strong. It keeps that," he pointed towards the door, "from coming in. Keeps this little corner of the universe, uh, stable. Just take some deep breaths and sit down. And put the box on the table."

Patrick did as he was instructed. The man sat down opposite him, and observed him with rapidly darting, clear blue eyes. "Yes, yes, better now?"

"Not really."

"Not worse?"

"No, not worse."

"Fine." The old man turned his attention to the box on the table. "Lovely. I'm glad we finally have this. Let's open it shall we?"

"What is it?"

"Ah, it's nothing more than the truth. What we've been looking for, for so long. I couldn't remember it."


The old man sighed and slumped back his chair. "This isn't the way things are supposed to be. This, hopefully, will fix things."

"Can I go back to, uh--"

"To your real life? The life you think you've led?"

"Yes." Patrick felt another wave of nausea and suppressed the urge to retch.

"What is real?" The old man stared at him, leaning forward on the table. After a few moments, Patrick realized the question wasn't rhetorical.

"Uh, I don't know. I think I must be dreaming."

"You are most definitely not dreaming." The old man sat back in his chair and smiled. "Reality is relative. How you perceive it, or how you fit into it depends on your frame of reference. Change your frame, change your reality."


"My, you do have few words. We'll get you fixed right soon. I'm sorry to have put you through all this, but the greater good requires it. It's our fault all this," he gestured vaguely about the room, "came unhinged. We must lock it up again. Or rather I." He paused, and looked reflective. "Alright, time to open the box."

"But it can't be opened. There's no way into it."

"Apparently you forgot the story about the Gordian knot. Luckily I remember it. It only looks like it can't be opened." The old man drew a pocket knife from his pocket. He opened the knife and stabbed the tiny blade into the top of the box, sawed across, then down one side, flipped the box, and cut across a third side. He put the knife aside an pulled apart the box. A folded piece of white paper fell out.

"Oh," said Patrick. The old man grinned broadly and winked at Patrick. He unfolded the paper, read, and knitted his brow.

"What does it say?" asked Patrick.

"Here." The old man passed the paper to Patrick. He looked at it. There was a small brown spot at the bottom edge. In the center was a blob of symbols he didn't recognize.

"It looks like, an equation. Is that right?"

"Yes it is."

"What is it? I can't read it."

"Hmmm. If you were right in your head right now you would understand it. You wrote it."

"I did?"

"It was in your desk, wasn't it?"

"Well, what does it mean?"

"There are only two things in existence, information and energy. Everything is some combination of either. This equation describes the relationship of information to energy and vice versa. When all this started, we were working--sorry--I was working, on a way to translate thought into action, to put it simply. I wanted to find a way to imagine something, and just have it become real, without any physical labor. Of course this meant that one could also create something entirely novel in the universe, something that couldn't exist based any normal rules of physics. There would have been a massive cultural shift. We could explore every dream, and since objective mother science has her dark side as well, our every nightmare. But the benefits would outweigh the problems, or so I thought. The original experiment was to be confined to just a room, this very room in fact. Hmmm. Anyway, the experiment, though successful, went awry. Going into it, we did not realize that the scope of the experiment could not be contained. It was naturally infinite. We tried to contain it using magnetic fields, but those act over a finite distance. It was not enough. Everyone's thoughts became real, and everyone went into their own unique frame of reference. I still have a hunch that even inanimate matter has influence over what became reality."

"Um, okay." Patrick's brain was whirring.

"Yes. It's a bit much to take in, isn't it."

"I have a question."


"If every person has a different frame of reference, why are you so real to me? Everyone else I've seen today, isn't quite real. Why would that be?"

"Oh, well that's easy."

"Is it?"

"Yes of course. Really, I'm surprised you haven't figured it out, I know I would have haha!" The old man began to laugh hard.

"That's a bit insulting, when I don't quite know what's going on around here," said Patrick. The old man was tearing up with laughter.

"Oh I'm so sorry. It's funny because I am you and you are me."


"Yes. When I put you right you will know."

"Are you saying I'm a time traveler? Am I a younger version of you? Isn't there some sort of timeline conflict going on?"

"No, nothing that sordid. There's no messing with timelines, or one event erasing a future event or any of that nonsense -- though I suppose there could be if you imagined it out there, but please don't. There's no point in making this mess even more complex. You've watched far too much television. Horrid derivative claptrap."

"But I am a younger version of you. How does that work?"

"Well, in a sense I guess you are. But there are more dimensions than just those that describe space and time, so time is just one variable. It's not a particularly important one, in this context anyway. Some of the other dimensions, were, uh, freed from their moorings, in the experiment, and they flutter and flail with any thought they encounter. Time can be manipulated but it's still, thankfully, quite stable on it's own. I'm sure that doesn't make any sense."

Patrick felt defeated. It really was too much, and he was wondering when or if he would wake up.

"Look," said the old man, "take another look at the equation." He nudged the paper back towards Patrick. Patrick the younger looked down. It seemed familiar, but still had no meaning.

"I still can't read it, and I don't know what it means."

"It doesn't matter that you can't interpret it, but I know you will remember it."

"Why, how do you know that?"

"Because I remember sitting where you are. I remember seeing the equation for the first time, right from that chair. We've come a long way since then. Ironic isn't it? That the equation only exists because it exists here? Haha. Yes." The old man looked down fondly at it. "When you get back, you will remember it, and you will write it down."

"But if I write it down, won't that cause all this problem?"

"Well, yes, but it's also the solution. I can now stabilize everything using this. Unfortunately everyone will still have their own frame to play around it, whether they realize it or not, but it will stop the, uh, expansion."

"Why didn't you do it before? Why wait?"

"I put it in the box so I could forget it. I was embarrassed to tell the truth. I could not admit to myself that I made a mistake. It was arrogant of me to even think it was a good idea in the first place. I'm still not sure if it's the right thing to fix it. Frankly, I just can't bear to go out there." He pointed to the door again. "Have you seen those brainless creatures out there that are standing in as people? I thought of that and now I can't unthink them. I've never really like people. I never thought that my internal opinion of the unwashed masses would be rendered into reality. It was never what I intended." The old man sighed and looked downtrodden.

"If I don't write it, then it won't happen," said Patrick.

"You don't understand. Write the equation, don't write the equation. It doesn't matter. Anything that can happen does. In an universe that is really a multiverse of infinite parallel universes, every possibility is automatically explored. Whatever path you may choose, you have also chosen the other path, but that one is not in your frame of reference. It's in the other you's frame of reference, and on and one. Like a hall of mirrors. No, that's not quite the correct analogy." The old man lost himself in thought. Patrick looked at the old man--looked at himself. He did bear a striking resemblance to himself.

"You said you could, put me right. Can you?" asked Patrick.

"Yes of course. This will be unpleasant. I am not a medical doctor, so the solution I came up with was just the first thing to come to mind. Obviously. I should have thought about it a bit more, or given it some more thought, but I have to go out there to render a new idea, and I don't like going out there." The old man got up and crossed to the wall of drawers. He opened one, glanced back at Patrick, then drew out an enormous hypodermic needle, a vial of amber liquid, and a small black object. Patrick stood immediately up at the sight of the needle.

"You're not using that on me!"

"I'm afraid I have to. It's really not so bad, just unpleasant." The old man inserted the needle into the vial and drew up the entire contents. He put the vial back in the drawer and turned back towards Patrick.

"It takes effect extremely quickly," said the old man, "it will be over in no time." Patrick picked up his chair and pointed the legs at the old man like a lion tamer.

"Get away from me."

"Oh, you're always so difficult." He pointed the black object at Patrick. Two prongs shot out on wires and bit into Patrick's skin, giving him a paralyzing shock. All of his muscles instantly stiffened and he fell to the floor. The pain was excruciating. The old man knelt over him, turned him on his back, shoved the needle up his nose, into his brain, and pushed down on the plunger.

The room shimmered and swayed. The old man turned to smoke and evaporated. The pain went away instantly. Gravity righted itself and Patrick found himself sitting upright at his office desk. He slid his hand into his pocket. The odd phone was no longer there. He felt relief. Everything felt and looked solid. Everything sounded right, everything smelled right, and the ambient temperature was as it usually was. He had a definite sense that he had been dreaming.

Suddenly the equation came to mind, and he finally knew what it meant. It made total sense. It was the discovery of his career, and to think that he dreamed of it! He took a blank piece of paper from a half-used ream, and found a suitable pen. He put the paper in front of him, and was poised to write when a drop of amber fluid fell to the bottom edge of the paper. He wiped his nose, and stared at the droplet as it seeped into the pulp fibers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Notebook Nuggets: Guilt

I think it would be easier to not exist because there are too many things to keep track of. For example, there are the lids. There are lids to everything. There jars and bottles and cans and containers, all with lids. Everything, almost, has a lid. The existence of lids is over whelming.


I've been toying a lot with the idea of writing a character with OCD (first person perspective), primarily because I have it (and probably mild Aspergers, based on the way I relate (or rather don't) to other people). I live in humid Hawaii yet my hands are chapped from frequent washing (usually once an hour). It was worse when I was kid. I absolutely had to wash my hands with cold water only, and soap. I'd stand outside the door whenever my dad or brother went in the bathroom, and I'd interrogate them when they came out if I didn't hear the faucet running. I always felt secure that my mom washed her hands. I'm sure I was irritating, but at least I've rarely gotten the flu. I also have difficulty wearing socks or sleeves. I can't stand the feel of fabric on those parts of my body. I can't wear jewelry for the same reason because all I can think about is how annoying it feels. I couldn't wear dresses when I was little because whenever the hem touched my legs it was like an electric shock. I don't generally like to be touched by other people unless I know they are clean, and usually only then when I am sad. However, I have no problem touching pets and animals, which are usually far more dirty than people. The exception are marsupials, which have very coarse, odd hair.

I can sometimes get obsessed by numbers and math. I actually have an addiction like problem with prime numbers. I can get thinking about them for several hours straight, and fill pages and pages with calculations and graphs. My concentration will be so intense that I won't eat or sleep when I should, and it takes a lot of effort to stop.

I'm not sure most people get it how you can be suddenly obsessive with small things -- they just sort of stick in your brain until you can 'set them right'. Of course, the OCD afflicted character has been rendered elsewhere, most recently, the title character of the show Monk.

I'm not sure this particular notebook fragment is going anywhere. It seems a little silly to me. I'm also not sure why I called it guilt, or why the character feels guilt (I presume that's what I meant).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Horror Ideas

Okay peeps, I found a list of story ideas in one of my old notebooks (they are written just as they are in the notebook, so they are not necessarily complete sentences). Pick your favorite, post a comment, and I'll write a story for Halloween using the idea that gets the most love. Granted, none of these are very Halloweeny, but I think they could all be suitably horrifying. There was an additional idea in the list that became my story "Factory Day" which I should probably post here at some point. That idea nub was "A factory--where monstrous creatures are assembled -- where bizarre death machinary is assembled". Lovely!


  1. Waking up on an empty plane flying autopilot in pitch blackness
  2. Loss of gravity while waiting at the DMV
  3. Hunting a serial killer (who is actually hunting himself)
  4. A soldier in Baghdad--hunting "insurgents" for sport on her offtime, but otherwise having contrastingly high morals
  5. Something set during the dustbowl -- as dust and grasshoppers swirl in the heat, a savage predator stalks escaping families. A gaunt man dressed in a dour black suit from the bank who actually feeds on the people he is collecting from
  6. "Plowhorse Soup" Ma is making a soup from the last of the bones of the plow horse. Told from the perspective of a child in the house who survives and witnesses the massacre [I'm not sure if this was supposed to be part of 5 above, but it could be a separate story]