Monthly Archives: May 2015

The Beast, Pt. 56 (Chapter 17b)

We step into the airlock, undress, and pile back into the limo. The ride is quieter than before, everyone a little tired or embarrassed or simply lost in their own thoughts. The limo driver occasionally casts glance back at us, irritated at me perhaps for the way I ran off. I raise the divider and give it no further thought.

Halfway back to the Libretto, the redhead’s Conncomm goes off. She glances down, reads the screen, frowns. I watch through half-lidded eyes, listen disinterestedly as she announces to the limo that the blonde has left the villa and is heading back to the girls’ hotel room. There’s the usual chorus of, “What? Why?” and “Is everything okay?” and “Is there anything we can do?” and “Is that asshole sleeping?” but in the end, there’s nothing to be done but drop the girls off and make our way back to the Libretto. As the limo driver lets us out at a private driveway I hesitate a moment. I should tip him, of course. Everything in the Meadows runs on tips. But I have no idea how much is an appropriate amount. I stare at him blankly for a few moments before finally setting on a hundred creds. It’s a drop in the bucket relative to what we have in the Libretto’s vault, and it’s enough to buy him a nice dinner somewhere. Not the greatest dinner of his life, but a nice one. Or maybe a more modest dinner for him and a loved one. Or maybe just enough to make him think we weren’t cheapskates.

We take the elevator up to the villa, idly wondering what Papa Chub has been up to in our absence. “You think he and that girl banged?”

“Yeah, probably.”

“No way. Why would she leave if they had?”

“I guess we can at least rest easy knowing he didn’t murder her with a hatchet.”

“She might have murdered him with a hatchet.”

“She’s probably not so dumb as to leave such an obvious trail if she did, though.”

“You don’t know that.”

“She’d have to be pretty fucking dumb, man.”

“She might be.”

“Papa Chub would have kicked her ass out if she were. You know he can’t abide bad conversationalists.”

“So they weren’t talking. Problem solved.”

The elevator opens with a pleasant little chime, and there we are. Standing before the door to our villa. We walk in and there he is, sitting in boxer briefs in front of the television, watching classical animation and eating a bowl of cereal. He looks surprised to see us, but not especially so. “Oh. Hey, guys. Welcome back.” He sets the bowl down on the floor, looks around for something to cover himself, shrugs, gives up. “Did you have a good space walk?”

“It was fun!”

“It was alright.”

“I got to see the Earth rise.”

“So, where’s the girl?” Erb asks, and Papa Chub’s face falls. He doesn’t look depressed or saddened. More embarrassed, perhaps.

“Gone. She’s gone. She left, like, thirty minutes ago. Forty minutes ago.”

“Everything alright?”

“Yeah. Fine. She just said she had some stuff to take care of, so she bounced.”

“Scared her off, didn’t you?” I say with a smirk, and Papa Chub turns to glare at me.

“I didn’t scare her off. I’ll have you know that her and I had a lovely time together.”

Mike holds up his hands forms a circle with his left thumb and index finger and slides his right index finger in and out through the loop. Papa Chub smiles, nods, frowns.

“Hey. Good job.” I paw at the air in front of me. “Air five.”

He paws back. “Yeah. Thanks. Mission accomplished, right?”

He is smiling, but his heart’s not in it. It’s plain to all of us, even Googe and Monk. We are all of us silent, the four of us standing and Papa Chub sitting and not seeing. Something needs to be said, but if any of us know what, we are content to hold our peace.


The Beast, Pt. 55 (Chapter 17a)

By the time I make it back to the others, the novelty of the space walk has worn off. Monk seems pleased to have spent some time floating around, the manic grin worn while firing heavy artillery replaced by a smile more serene (and it certainly doesn’t seem to be hurting that the brunette is with him, the two of them having a conversation about who knows what on a private channel.) The redhead looks bored, and Googe in turn anxious to provide her with some new diversion. Erb looks at me curiously, either waiting to see what I suggest next or waiting to see if I cop to some kind of emotional instability.

I will, of course, be doing no such thing. “So. What’re folks up for next?”

Before anyone can respond, the redhead says, “I think we should get back and check on Becky. I don’t like splitting up the group like we did.”

Safe behind the tinted visor of the space suit’s helmet, I roll my eyes. I understand completely the desire to protect one’s friends, to limit the time spent in the company of strangers (amazing though they may be,) but still. What an unfortunate response. I don’t give voice to any of these thoughts, though. Instead I ask, “Who the fuck is Becky?”

“Becky. Our friend Becky.” I shrug and the redhead puts her hands on her hips. “The one who stayed back at the hotel?”

“Oh, the blonde?”

Even through the suit, the redhead’s irritation is readily apparent. It’s a testament to the strength of her body language, really. I wonder if she has any training as an actress, or if just comes naturally to her. “Yes. ‘The blonde.’ God, did you even learn our names?”

I smile. A smirk, really. It would be so easy to get in the limo and drive away. Her friends wouldn’t like it, but they could be left behind too. The walk back would be longer than the one my friends and I had been subjected to, but the girls were a few years younger than us and largely in better shape. And not bogged down by luggage. They’d almost certainly be fine. Like, a seventy-five percent probability, at least. Thankfully I’m not a vindictive person.

But I am a petty one, and I will gamble to embarrass someone that’s tried to embarrass me. “I can’t believe you would even ask me that, Desiree. Seriously. I’m wounded.”

The redhead goes silent. It’s a good thing. She points at the brunette. “What’s her name?”

I put up my hands and shake my head. “Uh-uh. No way. I’m not playing this game. Let’s just all get back to the hotel and check on your friend, yeah? That’s got to be more productive than having a pissing contest over this.”

“What about hers?”

“Uh, do you even know my name, Desiree?”

“Of course I do! You’re the Googe.”

Googe’s head snaps towards her. “What. The. Fuck.” Monk and Erb burst into laughter, and the redhead shrinks somehow within her suit.

“Yeah, sorry,” I say pointing at Googe. “You’ve got the wrong guy.”

There’s a burst of static in my ear, the sound of a private channel activating, and I hear Monk stifling laughter so he can talk. “Bravo, Sir. Bravo.”

“Better lucky than good, huh?”

“Better funny than right.”

“What, I can’t be both?”

“Well, that’s just too many things. Then you’d be lucky, good, funny, and right. Why do you have to be greedy? Save some for the rest of us, why don’t you?”

“Sorry. I’ll work on that.”

“See that you do.”

“Hey, out of curiosity, what’s the name of the chick you’ve been hanging out with?”

Monk chuckles at that. “Do you really care?”

I pause, consider his words for a moment. But only a moment. “Nah, not really.”

He chuckles again. “Didn’t think so.”


The Beast, Pt. 54 (Chapter 16f)

I’m throwing on the suit over my clothes while the others are listening to instructions and asking questions of the limo driver. Yes, he’ll be joining us. Yes, he’s done countless spacewalks and is very experienced. No, he’s not here to babysit us. No, we can’t bring the alcohol. I stop listening once it becomes clear that there’s basically no way we can die. The suits are impossible to remove without help, magnets and programmed fail safes will keep us from floating away into space, and robots can be dispatched within seconds to retrieve us and bring us back to safety. Everything else is just legal jargon and semantics.

I’ve been standing in the airlock for minutes by the time everyone else is finally suited up and ready to go. I would have opened the damn thing and set out myself if I’d known how. The heavy helmet, shaded against the sun’s light and radiation, is doing more to hide my displeasure than I myself am.

“Man, you guys are slow!”

The redhead turns to Googe and laughs. “Your friend isn’t being cool.”

“You just have to be patient with him. He’s learning.”

I roll my eyes. The limo driver-slash-spacewalker is opening the airlock door, and I’d rather be first one out the gate than stand and trade jabs with Googe and his crimson companion. There’s mechanical clicking and the sound of air escaping and then relative silence. I can hear the fans and the motors in my suit, I can hear my own breathing, and I can hear the others over our short range comms, but it still feels like silence somehow. No music being piped in. No endless thrum of humanity. No beeping of vehicles and Conncomms.

“Where’s the Earth? I want to see the Earth.”

“It’s on the far side of the Meadows at the moment,” the driver says, and I switch off my microphone so no one will hear the stream of profanities that issues from my mouth. But something the driver says pierces through my anger and I turn it back on.

“I’m sorry, what was that?”

“I said, ‘It should be coming up in about twenty or thirty minutes. The Meadows are so big that there are parts that face away from the planet. But it also spins so fast that from the outside, you can see the Earth rise without having to wait very long.”

“Which direction?”

He points away from the airlock and is starting to say something else, but I’m already ignoring him, already ignoring the others, already moving. Let them do flips and float at a safe distance before the suits drag them back down. I have something grander in mind.

“Hey! Sir! You can’t do that!”

“Unless you tackle him, he’s probably going to.”

“Your friend is, like, such a drama queen.”

“Aw, he’s alright.”

“Yeah, he does this kind of thing all the time. He’ll be fine.”

“I think it’s kind of cool. He looks very determined. Or something.”

“Hey!” Notlil cries out. “Hey, wait up!”

I stop. I turn to look over my shoulder and see her stomping towards me. The grace that she’d had back at the Libretto, the confidence, is lost within the folds of the bulky spacesuit. I imagine her face under the helmet, hair carefully arranged, make-up applied exactly so, and I chuckle at the absurdity of it all. But then I remember that the Earth is waiting for me, and the desire to move fills my heart and my feet once more. Sure, the Earth will still be there even if I do nothing. Hell, I’m floating and spinning in space. It’ll come to me, even. But I can summon it even faster by walking away from the airlock, the Meadows, my friends. How long has it been since a man stood before the limitless edge of the horizon and knew that only good things awaited him on the other side? Centuries, maybe.

“Hurry.”

I stand still, waiting for her to catch up to me. “You really want to see that Earthrise, huh?” she says, panting a little, unused to running in these conditions.

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

I shrug, the gesture lost somewhat in my suit’s bulky shoulders. “I don’t know. Haven’t you ever heard something and thought, ‘Oh, that sounds great,’ and in an instant it becomes important to you? Some new food you want to try. A song you want to hear. A story or a movie or whatever. An idea that grabs you, like you’ll be a richer and more complete person for having experienced it.”

“Yeah, I guess. But–”

“Well, this is mine. Now, come on. I don’t want to wait.”

We march along in silence for a little while when it happens. A crescent glowing white, becoming more defined. Cerulean next. The viridian of forests and jungle. The gold of the desert.

My breath catches in my throat. My heart is pounding in my chest. I feel so very insignificant right now.

Be cool. Don’t cry. Jesus, don’t cry.

“Hey, are you okay?”

“Yeah,” I croak. “Fine.” I raise my hand, point. “I can see my house from here.”

Notlil groans in disgust at the joke, turns away. “Come on. Let’s head back.” She takes off without waiting, and alone at last, I linger. I always do. I stare like it’s mine to own. I can see a halo around it, and if it’s the sun or my imagination causing it, I surely don’t know. Blue. Green. Blonde. So very far away.


The Beast, Pt. 53 (Chapter 16e)

Alright. Time to finish this monstrosity. Might take a month, might take the time between now and November, but I’m sick of staring at this thing like it’s my Everest and then not climbing it.

The story picks up exactly where it left off back in February.

Notlil laughs. It sounds genuine. She’s amused, at the very least. “Ooh. Does that make me special?”

“Either that or else I just randomly felt like putting in the effort. Maybe I would have done it with anyone. You could be a potted plant and I’d be trying to charm you.”

“What, are you so starved for affection that you’d chat up anyone who acknowledged you?”

“Hardly.”

“Then are you some kind of machine that you can’t control when you’re a decent person and when you’re a dick?”

I smirk. “No, I can control it.”

She sips her champagne, smiles behind the glass. “You’re good at control, then?”

I close my eyes, give an exaggerated good-natured shrug. “Being in control without being controlling. It’s a skill. Some people I appreciate.” I really am enjoying myself. There’s a feeling inside me, like I’ve missed this banter. I don’t know why. I banter and bullshit with my buddies all the time.

She sets down her champagne flute and leans in close, so close she fills my vision, so close she’s my world. Her eyes lock onto mine and she stares me down, her eyes alternately blue and green in the dim light of the limousine. I can smell her perfume, even though I can’t put a name to the scent. I can see down her shirt. I can almost the champagne on her breath.

I am scared. I am hard. I am utterly detached, outside of myself, watching, waiting to see what I do next. Maybe I’ll kiss her lips. Maybe she’ll run her tongue down my cheek. Maybe she’ll spit in my face. The possibilities are endless, each as interesting as the last.

I feel her hair brush against my cheek. Her breath, warm and wet is on my ear. I could count the freckles on the nape of her neck, were I so inclined. Her voice is a whisper but it hits me like a sledgehammer, like some kind of ancient word of power, like she’s just spoken my true name and now I am powerless.

“Just because you pretend you don’t care doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.”

I jump back in my seat, eyes wide with terror, breath stuck in my throat. “What?” I croak. “What did you say?” I’m trying to pull away from her, but she’s already back in her seat, like she was never leaning over at all. The look on her face is confusion and disbelief and concern, and damnit, how did she get all the way back over there so fast? What kind of game is she playing at, whispering cryptic things in my ear and using dark magic to teleport back across the limousine and turning her eyes from blue or green to a dark brown? I don’t appreciate when my perception of reality is messed with by external forces. It’s downright rude is what it is.

The anger must be showing on my face because her expression finally settles on concern. “Hey, are you okay? You look a little out of it, or something.”

“Yeah. I’m fine. I’m fine.”

Googe takes a deep breath and exhales, an athlete pumping himself up for the performance of his life. “Don’t worry, guys. I’ve got this.” He sits up and moves over to me, leaving his redheaded companion blinking in surprise, and he takes another deep breath and puts a hand on my shoulder. He smiles, his face warm and reassuring. “Hey, buddy. Hey. Buddy. Buddy, hey.”

“Jesus Christ, what?”

“Hey, it’s okay. It’s okay. Buddy, listen. Listen, buddy.”

“Oh, my God, what?”

He brings a finger to his lips, purses them, taps the finger against them. “Buddy. You listening?”

I roll my eyes. Nod.

“Good. Great. Listen, buddy.” Another deep breath. The other hand on my other shoulder. He stares deep into my eyes and smiles. “Do not fuck this up for us.”

The limousine erupts into laughter. The girls are all laughing, but Erb and Monk are falling out of their seats, rapidly progressing from deep belly laughs to choked giggles to their chests rising and falling near silently from exertion. I can feel my face blushing, and more than anything, I’m irritated that I’m showing that Googe got to me. “Fuck you, Judas!”

More laughter still. “Bro. Buddy. Buddybro. Be cool. Comparing me to Judas Iscariot is not being cool.”

My mouth opens to compare Googe to other hated historical figures, but the limousine comes to a sudden stop before an undoubtedly blistering insult can come out. Better to just roll my eyes, laugh it off, and move on. Be the bigger man. So I do just that. “Yeah, alright. You got me. I’ll be cool.” I pantomime dusting myself off, turn away from the others, and step out of the limousine. The driver is standing there, one hand on the door, and a surprised look on his face.

Surprise! I’m new money. I open my own doors. I’m temporary money. How I should and shouldn’t conduct myself never enters into the equation. I’m no money, plaything of fate and luck, and I want to see the world. Literally. From a thousand miles away.


Creativity Will Save the World, Pt. 16

A few days passed. I never slept. When I was finally ready to give up on ever sleeping again, finally brave enough to risk turning on something electronic, I sat in front of my computer. The banal nonsense I would have normally occupied my mind with couldn’t be summoned.

Instead I thought of Lisa. Of my other coworkers. Of Dr. Shiny.

Shiny. There were traces of the man here and there, references to him on blogs and in other ephemeral places. Blogs and accounts that went silent no more than a few weeks after the first mention of Shiny.

Searching for Wyatt Shine somehow turned up even less information. The man didn’t even have a website. There were just references to him appearing at conferences, hosting seminars, giving presentations. The trend held true here as well; the businesses the man spoke at soon folded, or were absorbed, or simply seemed to vanish from the face of the earth.

I thought about Lisa’s mad words, of locks and doors and Shiny opening everything and how he was going to save the world. I tried to imagine the ways in which a murderer would think the world would need saving, and what that saving would look like. It made me sick.

But it galvanized me, too. I could see a world in lockstep with Shiny’s insane faith, a world of fanatics all screaming and praising each other and following their own perverse moral and ethical and artistic codes. If those thoughts even occurred to them. If they were not just organic machines acting blindly. A building full of people all carrying out Shiny’s programming.

Be creative. Save the world. Open the door.

But why open the door? Well, it doesn’t take any great imagination to know that you open doors so that you can let something in.

A few days had passed. I knew from the start what I would have to do, but it took me time to find the strength to do it.

I have a clean record, so passing the background check was no problem. All I had to do was endure the waiting period, but that gave me time to watch the office and to plan. I sat in a car parked across the street, watching as delivery men and custodians and part-time employees entered the building, but no one ever left.

The plan was so simple, it was almost elegant. I visualized the building in my head, tried to appraise it with a tactician’s eye. Choke points. Kill zones. Ambush spots. They would be poorly armed and disorganized, but I’d be grossly outnumbered. A small mistake on my part would be lethal, I was certain. But I planned and I planned, sketching plans of attack, studying human anatomy, practicing my aim, thinking of the lies I would use to allay the suspicions of my coworkers until it was too late for them.

As I walked up to my office door, gravel crunching underfoot, the weight of steel and copper and brass heavy on my chest, I smiled to myself. I thought of everything I’d done, the research, the drawing, the practiced movements, the acting.

It was almost creative.

And, fin. Unfortunately, I have a slew of personal obligations the rest of the week, so there likely won’t be another post until after Memorial Day. As always, thank you for reading!


Creativity Will Save the World, Pt. 15

My stomach heaved. If there were anything left within me, it would have been on the floor. I looked up at Lisa and found her staring back down at me, a smile on her face, her eyes shining like stars in the dim light of the room. “Do you like it? I worked so hard on it?”

“Jesus, Lisa. Jesus.”

Her smile grew wider, split her face like a wound. “I know, right? I didn’t think I’d be able to pull this off. It only came to me a few days ago, but I just knew it was right. I just knew I had to make it happen. Bemastis was counting on me. Dr. Shiny was counting on me. Everyone was counting on me. I had to open the door.”

I glanced around the room, slowly backing up, never taking my eyes very far from Lisa’s face, from her hands. She had to have a knife on her somewhere. A box cutter. Something. She hadn’t done all of this with her bare hands. I swallowed, chose my words carefully. “It’s wonderful, Lisa. Really something. You did a great job opening the door.”

Her eyes went wide. Her nostrils flared. Her hands balled up at her sides. “You Philistine! That’s what you said about the dream board! That’s all you’ve ever said! You don’t see! You don’t see! Dr. Shiny said you wouldn’t see, but I told him you would, but you just don’t get it!

“This isn’t the door! This is just a lock! There’s locks everywhere, but he’s finding ways to open them, and he’s going to save the world!” She stepped away from the wall quick as a cat, and I surprised myself with how fast I turned and ran. I could hear her screaming from behind me, feel her clawing at my back. Even as I slammed the basement door behind me, even as I ran up the stairs, pushed my way past the people in my office, stumbled out of the lobby and into sunlight, I heard her screams. On the drive home, the nervous walk to my apartment door spent looking over my shoulders, the drawing of blinds and the deliberate choice to leave off the lights, I heard her voice in my head. She cursed me. She pleaded with me. She laughed. She cried. She whispered secrets from my past and promises of things to come and I knew no sleep

But then, maybe it wasn’t really happening

I’ve always been imaginative like that.


Creativity Will Save the World, Pt. 14

My stomach lurched, bile welling at the back of my throat. My mouth opened and shut like a fish gasping for air, but before I could utter a single word, something slammed into me from behind. Lisa was pushing past me, shoving me forward. I fell forward, landing with a crack on my knees, sliding down onto my hands, my face scraping along concrete. The floor was wet, and the substance it was wet with ran into my mouth, cold and metallic.

Blood, I thought. It’s blood. Blood, and with it disease and sickness and it’s so much blood, where could it all have come from, how much blood is in a human body, in five, in a dozen?

I did vomit, then, my stomach divesting itself of my breakfast and my lunch onto the ground, onto my face, onto my hair.

Giggling filled the air, high and melodic as breaking glass. “Look,” she said. “Look and see.”

I looked up, pushed myself away from the effluvia beneath me as much as I was able. The room was bigger than I had expected. No mere storage closet, but a chamber big enough to store boxes, racks of cleaning supplies, a massive heater that must have kept the building warm in the winter. It was poorly lit, with most of the lights either smashed or removed, but I saw well enough. My mind raced back to when I’d been trapped in the kitchen with Richard and Meagan, how the only weapon I had was a pitiful little fork, and now I didn’t even have that.

Lisa was standing on the far side of the room, a side of beef hanging from the wall, tethered to others like it by some kind of rope. That’s crazy, I thought. Where did she get so much meat?

I don’t know what muscle I recognized first. The pectorals, maybe. The quadriceps. I’d only seen them in high school biology text books, but then, there was an anatomy lesson on display before me. The human form on a dissection tray, bodies spread out and bound to each other by yard upon yard of intestine, like yarn connecting dreams.


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