May 092012
 

Chapter 1

Miss Amanda Lynn Virtuoso climbed out of the limousine (a stretch Smart car) and tugged her jacket closed at the neck amid the wind and drizzle. Home at last. She handed Chauffrey, the chauffeur, her usual inadequate tip of $2 and wished him a good night. She had trouble tipping people with ridiculous names. For reasons of her being attractive, he didn’t seem to mind the meager bonuses.

There were glimpses of her gown’s sparkle as she ascended the staircase to her sizable-but-not-quite-a-mansion home with the deteriorating facade. Her wealth had diminished somewhat in recent years, but the building’s state of upkeep wasn’t for financial lack. She simply felt it best to present an ambiguous picture to the world in every way she could. She felt it gave her some sort of advantage, and in her relationship with Chauffrey, it certainly did. Not that there was anything romantic going on between them, despite Chauffrey’s unspoken desires. She simply kept him off-balance. Fascinated, he was always wondering what she’d do next, and this fascination is why he often did favors for her off the clock. “Chauffrey, I need a bird of prey to adorn me this evening. Please procure one before my event this evening… if you’re bored.” Or, “You with the stupid name, consider transporting this bag of antique baublery to the orphanage and bringing some cheer to whatever animals they’re keeping in that zoo these days. If that’s how you roll.” Not that her name was that great, either. Maybe that’s why she picked on other people with unfortunate names. In any case, it was always an odd request, and the time was never paid for, but he enjoyed being occupied by her. He made enough from his other clients, and she didn’t really overwhelm him with the requests. It was just the right amount of spice to keep the humdrum away. Good entertainment was hard to come by.

He sighed wistfully as the entrance swallowed her.

Inside now, appreciating the cozy warmth, Amanda hung her jacket in the closet and trotted to the nearest full-length mirror to get one last look at her spectacular evening costume. The designer was French (What’s the French word for cliché?), but despite his stereotypical fashion origins, she really liked his work. He excelled in his use of translucent materials, and this particular dress had a lot of life and depth, even for him. Every movement was a dance of light and texture. The gorgeousness of the dress made her giggle all the more as she patted her hugely protruding belly.

“Chauffrey,” she’d said a month prior, “a month hence I will be requiring a fake pregnancy. I’ve been avoiding my professional and social circles for several months already, as you know, and I want my return to be gloriously scandalous. I implore you to search high and low for an appropriate middle for me. Find me a big belly, and, in a sense, you’ll be the non-existent child’s father. It would be fun if I went around telling everyone, ‘My chauffeur did this to me,’ no?”

Of course he set about completing the task in earnest. The work paid off. She looked knocked up in the worst way.

The results were in. Amanda couldn’t stop laughing as she started going through her texts, emails, and voice messages. Ivan, a business associate, congratulated her with the text, “Finally Chauffrey seems to have gotten a good tip. ;) ” Eclair, her delicious partner in crime for many of her adventures, voiced, “I was beginning to fear you’d checked yourself in at a nunnery to have your lovechild in secret, but I’m glad you were merely waiting until you were ripe enough to drop jaws. My god, did you see Marigold’s tiny pregnant belly that she got from sleeping with the love of her life, her husband? It’s like she didn’t want any attention at all! You never disappoint, Manzy.” Chumbawamba, a Nigerian prince she conversed with online, asked her in an email to invest in the child’s future by supplying him with her personal details so he could set up a trust for the baby. She probably wouldn’t be doing that. Hmm… she’d told everyone at the party she was going to have a water birth in her bathtub, and after that email, she was thinking “tubthumper” would be such a cute nickname for the baby… if only she were really pregnant.

Tomorrow she would have to ring Eclair and do lunch, sans baby globe. She looked forward to the reaction, whatever it would be. For now, it was time to sleep.

 Posted by at 11:35 am
Nov 022010
 

I’m probably only going to post this, my first day’s effort, since I’m sure anything that follows will be even less coherent:

————————————————————————————

Neaton clapped his hands, eyes twinkling, and said, “Halle-boo-yah!”

Those around him glared. His own face remained locked in a smile, undistorted by everyone else’s reaction.

He was standing on a downtown sidewalk, peering up at the face of the building in which he lived. The graffiti surrounding his apartment window seven floors up was being painted over. Hmm… Neaton would miss the image of the drooping green breasts, but the rest of the montage failed to speak to him. And whew, now his apartment wouldn’t stand out like a drooping green thumb, wilting plants in his window notwithstanding. He’d have to remember to water them.

Kirst was sitting at the dining room table reading a piece of periodical literature when he opened the door. Not looking up, she acknowledged him with a lazy salute. “Dinner’s in the microwave,” she informed him. “The time’s already keyed in, so just hit ‘Start.’”

Kirst was often waiting for him with food (nearly) prepared, but she didn’t live with him. She simply had a key and an odd desire to see him taken care of in certain basic ways. She didn’t have any children or pets, and didn’t seem to want them, yet she seemed to need some sort out outlet for… whatever you want to call it. Neaton didn’t mind—they were close friends—but it did put him at a disadvantage, always feeling like he owed her. He did treat her to nights out on the town when he could, so at least there was that.

“Thanks, Kirst,” he said as he removed his shoes and boogied to the microwave to hit the button. “You may actually make my Christmas list this year. At least the re-gift list. I’m still trying to figure out what to do with that Jesus door poster you gave me last year. You could get lucky!”

She finally looked up at him. “Hey, if I can’t give someone Christ on Christmas, what’s the point?” she argued before quietly snickering into her sleeve, pleased with herself.

“You’re a goof. Hey, did you see they were painting over the mysterious graffiti?”

“Uhh, yes, Neaton. It’s going on right outside the window I’m sitting by. Why do you think I’m sitting here in the first place? Painter Dude was putting on a show for me before you ruined it by coming home.”

He looked out at Painter Dude. “Paint me skeptical,” he said.

“I still have no idea what graffiti artist is scaling buildings,” she wondered. “I guess he has to do something to stand out. When I think about it that way, it’s kind of sad his work is being buried under a layer of non-expression. But then I remember those green breasts and I’m over it.”

Neaton was now eating his stir fry—she made stir fry—and he swallowed so he could counter her disapproval. “Hey, alien babies need nourishment, too. Don’t hate on green breasts. Maybe out comes Shamrock Shake. Would you really deny alien babies naturally produced Shamrock Shakes? Don’t be so unfeeling.”

But she was done with that conversation. “In any case, I’m headed to the skate park to heckle the helmeted daredevils. Travers should be there, and maybe I’ll talk to a couple of the more goon-looking hooligans to see if I can get a lead on climbing graffiti artists. I simply must get to the bottom of this. I can’t have the person whose home I intrude on being targeted. That just wouldn’t do.”

“I like where this is going,” Neaton told her, letting his thumb grow upward into a show of approval.

* * * * *

The lights at the skate park turned on as Kirst approached the huddle Travers was part of, dusk being what it was. “Hey, Traversty!” she barked. “Travs! Revolve your face a bit so I can talk to it.”

Travers, a little embarrassed in front of his friends, turned around, resignation slumping his shoulders. “Hey, Aunt Kirst. What’s up?”

She surveyed the concrete landscape with squinted eyes, making it seem like the thing she wanted to discuss was going to be important, and not necessarily for everyone’s ears. Indeed, when she finally spoke, it was with, “Let’s walk over to the other side of Yonder Half-pipe.” The half-pipe was, in fact, yonder, but she wasn’t just calling it that to be a goof. It was actually named that. There was a sign and everything. Okay, there was only a sign, but the everything was implied.

Fifty paces later, she revealed her purpose. Travers listened with only semi-apparent boredom as she outlined what she wanted from him, which was to casually uncover who might be behind the graffiti of curious elevation.

“Didn’t you see the news?” he asked her. “They’ve discovered two more similar tags, one in Eastside and the other in… the Safflower district.” It was news to her. “Yeah, the cops are looking for a link, but they don’t know anything yet. I haven’t heard much from my friends except that it’s cool, and they hope the guy covers a lot more area before he’s done. I guess the one on the building in Safflower is a barcode, and if you check on what product the barcode is for, it’s the color of paint they just used to cover the one at Neaton’s place.”

“And the cops didn’t think that was a link? I guess I didn’t need you after all. I should have just watched the news. Anyway, let me know if your friends find anything out. I needed a new interest, and this should pass some time for me.” She sighed. “Not having to work can make for a boring life.”

Travers kicked up his skateboard, caught it, and pointed it toward her. “You could always take up skateboarding, Nancy Drew.”

“I’ll leave that to you and the Hardly Boys,” she said, indicating the mid-life crisis crew who were destroying themselves as they tried to grind on various edges.

“Ugh,” Travers said, which said it all.

* * * * *

“Smoke my sausage,” Neaton said to Kirst when she entered. “They’re talking about it on the news.”

“So I heard. Eastside and Safflower?”

“And apparently South Brill.”

“I heard about the barcode one. What are the other two images?”

Neaton paused to hear the reporter finish her sentence before answering. “Well, the one in Eastside was of a bunny rabbit drinking a soda pop. Those are the reporter’s words, not mine. The one in South Brill was panoramic, depicting the skate park you were just at.”

“Okay, that’s kind of creepy. I don’t know what the rabbit with the soda has to do with anything, but the others are way too tied to us, specifically. What kind of soda was it?”

“King Kong Root Beer.”

“Ooh, I could really go for one of those right now. Oh, damn it, see, it’s even creepier now. How did the artist know I would want a King Kong Root Beer?”

“The power of suggestion. I think it’s flattering we have a fan. Of course, we may have inadvertently enraged him by allowing the apartment manager to Wite-Out some of his work.”

Kirst pointed out the window. “Umm, speaking of fans, Painter Dude left a while ago, but there’s a face out there looking in.”

She wasn’t wrong. A prominently mustached gentleman who seemed to be floating peered in at them, and he even raised his hand to stroke his mustache.

“Hey, he stroked his mustache,” Kirst pointed out.

“I saw that. If it was a window I could open, I’d stroke it, too. And then I’d knock him out with my fists.”

The suspended gentleman rapped his knuckles on the glass.

“If it was a window I could open,” Neaton said to Kirst, “I don’t think I would at this point.”

Kirst was placing a 911 call. “Yes, this creepy guy is here right now, staring in at us. He has a mustache, and the mustache has been stroked. No, this is not a prank. Please get your helicopter here as soon as possible.”

The information became outdated as she hung up. A whoosh happened, and the face was gone.

“Goddammit,” she said, rushing to the window to try to see where he went. She found no sign of him, even with her important-looking squint.

Neaton stayed back, a little more put off by the experience than she was. “Kirst, can I crash at your place tonight?” She was already nodding and gave him a reassuring hug, but he continued on. “I know your place has never been our rally point, but I think you may have been right about me being targeted. Even if you’re in the same boat, at least your place is on the ground, with windows that we can open. That face wouldn’t fare so well at your place.”

“Grab your gear. Let’s go.”

* * * * *

Harvey Habilis tapped his cane against the building’s brick wall to shake loose some debris it had accumulated. He wasn’t used to the filth in this part of town. It was his first visit to Eastside.

He would have preferred his first visit to be during daylight, with a friend, but he didn’t have a lot of time. The locals were eyeing him. He could tell they knew he was out of place. He tried to walk with a little more authority, like he knew what he was doing, but it was hard to pull off given the circumstances and with the cane as a factor.

Harvey turned on Grayson Street and could see the building up ahead. Ammutory-Straub. He could faintly see the markings. He needed to take a sample of whatever was used to draw the barcode. If it confirmed his suspicions, the world wouldn’t be happy, but at least his name would mean something again. The scientific community would have to take him seriously once more, and maybe they would even pick up his tab at The Jackass Whisperer, his oft-visited watering hole. One could dream.

They knew he was coming at the front desk. The attractive brunette pointed to the elevators down the hall and told him what floor, and that there would be a gentleman named Archer to meet him. He leaned against the wall of the elevator and gave his cane some relief. Maybe he would relieve his other cane on the attractive brunette. It was in the realm of possibility if this played out like he hoped it would.

The elevator door opened, and a man with a goatee stood in front of him, looking in.

“Archer, I presume?” he asked the man. Was the man’s skin tinted green ever-so-slightly, or was it just his imagination?

It wasn’t the confirmation of his theory he had hoped for, and Archer didn’t live up to his name as he brought his impressively whirring, glowing firearm to bear on Habilis’s chest, but realization flooded Harvey as his torso vaporized and his extremities scattered. Yes, aliens were finally among us.

 Posted by at 1:55 am
Nov 022008
 

I wasn’t going to attempt it, but someone from the Axiom board told me I’d better, since he was going to. I’m already behind on my word count, but I didn’t have a lot of time today. Here’s hoping I get a serious case of diarrhea of the fingers over the course of the month. I’m only at 369 words when the average should be 1,667 per day. It’s titled The Material of Myths, and here’s my beginning:

Cash blew like leaves across the courtyard, signifying not the Fall between Summer and Winter, but the fall of Dremel Fiefdom, who had been clutching the briefcase that had contained the money until only a few moments before. Dizzy scribbles of energy spiraled off his head as he scanned the perimeter of the courtyard, hoping to catch sight of his unseen attacker. He felt the back of his head and discovered red syrup. He ventured a taste, and he realized it was blood. The blow to his head had apparently cursed his brain with unfortunate sluggishness. He needed to gather his wits if he was to face the mystery lurker.

He tried to stand, but he found he couldn’t quite raise himself yet. He involuntarily whimpered, and his backside percussed into the well-tended grass.

The money was still being swept away by the wind, though instead of haphazard scatter, as one would expect, the wind kept all of the bills together, as if they were a group of schoolchildren being led on a short excursion off school grounds. Even in his incapacitated state, Dremel realized that the money was proceeding too tidily in a specific direction. He wondered what teacher was in charge of this field trip. Who could have known he’d be transporting this payment, and why would they risk damaging his much more valuable mind? He was obviously dealing with an amateur.

One of the pieces fell into place as his brain picked up speed. He’d been set up from the start. He’d suggested banding the money into neat wads, but Glimmer had swatted the suggestion down, saying that the recipient wasn’t going to care to count the money at the exchange, that leaving it all loose inside the case was fine. It seemed obvious now that Glimmer was just making it easy for the controller of the wind to spirit the payment away. His new mental momentum had to reconsider his previous decision that he was dealing with an amateur. Controlling wind was no small feat, though it was an overcomplicated way to go about relieving him of his package. Not exactly an amateur, but certainly not a mastermind. He was facing a brilliant dumbass.

Jul 062008
 

“I feel like I gargled liquid rape,” Proponence Coolidge said to her friend, Ashel Bagtaster.

“What makes you think you didn’t?” Ashel replied coolidgely.

“Hey, don’t mimic my voice. No, I’m just sick. I bet I got it from tasting bags.”

Ashel screamed suddenly, “Hey, don’t mock my name!” Then he reined it in and continued, “I had an amateur writer who specializes in character name creation come up with it.”

“I don’t want to hear it. You’re always going on about your new identity lately.” Proponence shifted in her bean bag and flipped to the next page in her ghost spy novel. Books about ghost spies weren’t really her normal reading, but there were no more vampire lawyer books in her queue, and her friend, Keely, really wanted her to read this one.

Ashel studied his sick bookworm friend for a moment, then shook his head and said, “Well, I’m off to work. I take it I won’t see you there later?”

“No, you won’t, unless you count my likeness, which is prominently featured on the Employees Who Rule wall. You know, the picture of me where I’m pretending to meditate against the fake hurricane backdrop. I can’t believe they let us choose our own pictures for that wall, and I can’t believe Sears had a hurricane backdrop.” Proponence sighed. “I love the ravages of nature.”

Ashel shook his head again. “Uh-huh, so I won’t see you there. Bye.” He left.

Proponence was about to flip a page again when she coughed what looked like forced sex out of her throat and into her hand.

“Ewwww, godawful grossness!”

She ran to the bathroom pretending to be insane with disgust, belting out a few shrieks for the benefit of her neighbors who already thought she was crazy. She flicked the light on with her dry hand, then motion-activated the faucet and stabbed her sick-slicked appendage into the waterfall.

“Down the drain, foul disease,” she said in the lowest voice she could manage, cocking her head side to side as she squirted some soap into her palm and made the washing more effective. Suds!

She enjoyed talking when no one was around except possibly people on the other side of the thin wall. It made her feel like she was putting on a show. Either God or her neighbors could be in the audience. Frankly, both parties seemed like they could use a laugh.

After the Dyson Airblade was done drying her hands and placing itself conspicuously into the story, Proponence danced to the phone and pushed a series of numbers.

“Melora’s Bakery and Tanning Salon, may I help you?” Kristess asked from the other end of the line.

“Kristess! Just the person I was looking to give bad news to. Guess what.”

“Proponence? You’re pregnant?”

“Hee hee, no. Unless I’m pregnant in my throat and giving birth to ungodly sums of mucus. And no jokes about how I’m snotty, so it only makes sense I’d have a snotty baby.”

“My mind wasn’t quite there yet. So you’re calling in sick?”

“And how! I never saw such nastiness emerge from such a pure creature before. You should see the crud I just washed down the sink. It’s like there was a demon for every snake on Medusa’s head, and they all circle-jerked into the snakes’ mouths, and then Medusa threw it all up into Tobey Maguire’s butt, and he went into a walk-in microwave and let it sizzle off of him into a cup, and by cup I mean protective gear for a male’s maleness. That’s pretty much the consistency of what came out of me.”

“Oooh, then save me some. I have an ex who’s been asking for something like that. Anyway, I’d better get on the horn and see who I can get to replace you.”

“No one, but I love you for trying,” Proponence said cutely.

“We need to stop being so cute,” Kristess said, also cutely.

“You need to stop lumping us together! I feel like we’re two breasts in a single-cup bra.”

“Aren’t we?”

“Ah! You’re right. That’s the definition of our relationship. Good luck on the hunt.”

“Yeah, like it’s not going to be Bertrand working for you. I’ll tell him you’re really sorry, that you’re under the weather to the point that you feel you’re under six feet of earth.”

“All right, then. Thanks, Kristess. I’m going to go cough up more of my baby now. See you tomorrow, hopefully.”

“Screw that. I’ll stop by your place after my shift and check on you. Want anything from the store?”

“Yeah, go across the street to Melville’s and take a picture of yourself slapping Ashel. That will make me feel better.”

“Will do. Rest like the dead.”

“CHEESES, stop making references to me being dead! Under all of this mucus I have some good years left in me.”

“Click,” said Kristess.

Click, said Proponence’s phone.

Proponence ran and jumped, twisting so she landed on her back in her bean bag. The beans accepted her form with minimal complaint. It didn’t take long. Proponence tried to continue reading, but her body wanted to rest in the form of sleep. Even though the ghost spy was about to get his man, or at least try, with his limited influence on the real world, she couldn’t stay awake.

Proponence dreamed.

Not a good dream!

There were three brothers wrestling on the ground, but the ground was made of their three sisters who had been burned at the stake in a past witch hunt. Some of the ground was somehow still recognizably human, and as one of the boys rolled over an elbow, potentially once belonging to a sister named Bettany, he croaked in pain. His side was punctured, and robotic spiders started escaping from the wound. The spiders had really bad AI and were soon all collected in a writhing pile in the corner of the sandbox/family burial site. The other two brothers started licking the open wound after the spiders had finished pouring out, and it sealed up from their French medicine.

Finally, Proponence was in her own dream, and she was barking in Dogese at them, telling them to go lick their rooms. They pretended not to understand her and instead all turned their backs on her and bent over. The trinity of adolescent asses did not improve her demeanor.

Gathering power from her surroundings with an inhale, Proponence launched a cyclonic energy blast that saw the asses dispersing like so much dust. The ass-less boys fell to their faces, one whimpering, another weeping, and the last simply paralyzed.

Then the landscape tilted, and all of the stupid robot spiders that had piled in one corner of the sandbox slid over the boys and functioned like erasers, stealing their existence.

Proponence woke up. It was dark out now. In three seconds flat, she was angry.

“Rip-off! I think I had that dream before, only with more attractive people,” she spat in English to her empty apartment. “If being sick means I get knock-off dreams, I’ll blah blah blah…” and she trailed off.

There was a knock at her door, even though she knew she had a doorbell.

“Be right there!” she yelled. She forced herself up out of her bean bag with some effort and ran for the door. She liked to run around her apartment as much as she liked to talk aloud with no one around. “Open, magic portal,” she said, then twisted the knob and pulled it open to see a figure she would normally be unafraid of wearing a balaclava. When the doppelgänger failed to greet her, she prompted, “Please use your voice so I may stop soiling myself.”

“Oh, fine. Hello, Apropos.”

Apropos was Bertrand’s nickname for her, the only one anyone had given her. She didn’t know if it quite worked, but she had to forgive him for he had a damaged brain. At least, that’s what she would always tell him since she liked feeling superior to someone, and why not a coworker?

“Kristess said you were sick today, and she said I should bring this by for you.” He held out a framed picture of himself slapping Ashel Bagtaster. He pulled off the balaclava as she accepted the picture.

“Rock on!” said Proponence. “Where’s hers?”

“Oh, she’s coming. She actually has everyone who was on shift today bringing one over. She thought it would be great if you had a wall of shots of Ashel getting slapped, sort of an Employees Who Rule wall for home, only this way we’re ALL pretending that we rule. No elitist crap. No favoritism.”

“How exceedingly presumptuous of her. I take great care in choosing what goes on my walls,” she boasted, nodding to the bare vertical surfaces around her home. Bertrand humored her and followed her nods. “I know it doesn’t look like much right now, but I swear, if you flip off the lights and turn a black light on them, you’ll see a masterpiece in germs. I just hope my current illness didn’t fudge any of the details.”

As if mentioning her sickness awoke the beast, Proponence suddenly went into a coughing fit. As she coughed, she ran to the bathroom to wash off whatever vileness erupted.

“Yuck,” Bertrand pointed out.

“I know!” Proponence exclaimed from the bathroom.

Knock-knock-knock-knock at the door, even though Proponence was still certain there was a doorbell out there for the pressing.

“Be a deer who isn’t caught in the headlights and get that, would you?” she asked Bertrand, still from the bathroom.

“I already am,” he answered back, and the parade began.

Coworker after coworker spilled into the self-proclaimed germ artist’s apartment, all bearing pictures of mock abuse in varying sizes.

“Kristess here!” Kristess announced herself. “I brought medicine!” she said, her eyes sparkling.

Proponence came out of the bathroom looking like she’d coughed up Satan, which perhaps she had.

Everyone smiled, especially the ones who were uncomfortable being at a sick person’s house yet who were dragged along anyway.

“See? See?” Kristess proudly showed Proponence the throng filling her apartment. “I even called in the people who weren’t working. Look, there’s Radcliffe!” she said, indicating a young gentleman of compromised composure. “He NEVER shows up for work!” Everyone except Radcliffe laughed. He sat and took it since it was true. “And finally…” Kristess hyped with incredible mouth-trumpet, “the man himself, Ashel Bagtaster!”

Ashel walked in holding a poster-sized image of himself. In the picture, he was slapping himself Home Alone-style.

“I don’t know what to say,” Proponence said, starting to cry. “I feel a little like George Bailey. I mean, I know I’m awesome, but I never expected such a display, not while I’m alive. People are only supposed to appreciate you after the final skedaddle.”

As if mentioning her own death was enough to wake the beast, death swooped in and claimed her. Retaining her vitality even in sickness, her coworkers were unprepared to see her fall into a pile of horrifying inertness.

Pictures were dropped, and all rushed to her aid, but it was too late.

As it turns out, overdosing on medication that’s only symbolic can still be deadly.

 Posted by at 10:21 pm
Apr 132008
 
The demon Fartswallow sashayed reverently into the presence of the moonlit monolith to deliver the Blow of Toll, an ancient choreography given supernatural powers on this unholiest of nights. The nearby village of Kibble would soon be blown to bits.
MORE TO COME.

 

 Posted by at 1:02 am
Dec 242007
 

Part I 

“They’re coming,” Sylvia whispered, her voice dipped in cold dread.

“They who?” Grandt had to ask. It was hard to keep track of all of the comings and goings.

“The relatives.” The cold dread wasn’t thawing.

“Holy goddamn alive with a cherry on top,” Grandt swore, distaste warping his expression despite the cherry being on top.

Relatives coming over always caused anxiety in the Faltersteppe household, but this year it was especially pronounced. You see, their relatives had mutated into demonic zombie alien hosts with explosives strapped to their bodies. Perhaps now you’re more understanding of the temperature of Sylvia’s fear.

“We haven’t much time,” Sylvia urged, putting her cell phone away. “They’re in Cassidy’s car, and you know how effective her GPS is.”

“At least they phoned to warn us, huh?” Grandt was certainly squinting to find a bright side.

Their predicament was already dire enough without the impending arrival of their loved-ones-turned-insane-grotesque-monsters. Not only was their roof leaking, but their dog, Alfonso, was on fire, and their genius toddler, Alfonso II, had decided to move out on his own without warning the previous night, only to get kidnapped out of his rented moving van by a rogue government agent who was threatening to sell him to “Asian diplomats” if they didn’t cough up $300,000, or whatever the going ransom rate was.

This was Christmas?

“First things first,” Grandt said, and he dumped the nearest bucket of roof water on Alfonso, extinguishing the flames on his hot dog. Now the smell of wet dog mixed with that of burning hair, and it was enough to make both Grandt and Sylvia vomit a little on each other, but at least Alfonso’s demeanor seemed to improve a little.

The doorbell rang. The couple decided not to worry about cleaning themselves up and just opened the door.

“Hi, it’s me, Benzene,” the man at the front door said. “I’m here to collect my prize for stealing your son. I think we agreed on $300,000?” That’s when he noticed with his eyeballs and his nose the state of the household. “Ewww, sick,” he had to say.

“Spare us the commentary,” Sylvia said, crossing her arms. “It’s the holidays. We’re a little overwhelmed.”

“And we didn’t agree on a sum,” Grandt butted in. “I haven’t had time to research how much my son’s ransom is worth. The team of Feds who were supposed to help us told us they had to focus on Operation: Christmas Dinner, and we were told they could resume work on our situation when that was concluded.”

“That’s actually pretty rough,” Benzene admitted. “And I thought I was being mean by stealing your kid.”

“No, you’ve been a real treat,” Sylvia spat sarcastically.

“What branch of the government are you roguing from, anyway?” Grandt probed.

“Naturally, it’s one of the secret agencies. You’ve heard of all of the ones with three letter abbreviations? Well, this one would have sixteen, so a lot of us just call it the Sweet 16, though one idiot calls it Pure Cane. Everyone was hoping he’d be the one to go rogue, but we drew straws, and it became my turn.”

“What’s the point of all of that? Why not just keep the team completely intact at all times?” Grandt further probed. His curiosity was fully erect at this point.

“Well, a lot of our job requires extended periods of isolation from the protective arms of our home base, anyway, so these rogue retreats were set up as a sort of practice to keep us flexible. We alternate between real field work and practice to–Hey, I’m a crack shot when it comes to shooting the breeze, but let’s get on with this. As you said, this is the holidays, and I’m sure we both have better things to do.”

“Grrr,” Grandt said, his curiosity still showing. “Fine, but like I said, I can’t agree to anything until I get the expert advice of the FBI agents who are stuffing their faces as we speak, so you’ll have to try again later in the week.”

“Okay, but I’m stealing your dog, too,” and that’s when the rogue agent bapped them both unconscious with a stick they hadn’t even seen him carrying.

“Alfonso, I’m dog whispering you to come with me,” he said.

Alfonso, under his spell, obeyed.

“Now I have both Alfonsos from the Faltersteppe Collection,” Benzene bragged to the cold, rain-filled air, and in ten seconds there was no trace of him or the dog.

Part II

Grandt was the first to reacquaint himself with consciousness, and he could feel the bap to his head linger in the form of a rhythmic throb.

He tried to move, but his hands and feet were bound with what felt like… hair? He raised himself suddenly to find the house swimming with relatives.

“Oh, god, no,” he whispered to himself.

He nudged Sylvia with his head. She was bound, too, but otherwise looked fine. She started to reanimate, and as she started to moan, he quietly shushed her. She became fully alert when he tried nudging her again, and she looked around, her face joining his in a look of desperation.

“We’re too late, huh?” she breathed at him.

“Maybe not, if we can free ourselves.”

Grandt looked around. The relatives had arranged themselves in a semi-circle that conveniently faced away from them, and they were engaging in some sort of competition.

Prrrrrrrrrrt!

Oh, a farting competition. Bouts of raucous laughter shook the walls in between each family member’s submission.

It was the strange thing about this evil mutation. These people they knew were now definitely disfigured creatures of tragedy, what with their flickering demonic shadows, their hunger for human brains, and the bulging alien parasite adorning each of their bodies in different configurations. It was like a fashion show of abomination. With explosives. Why the explosives were strapped to their bodies, no one knew. All of the other stuff was weird enough, but explosives? It seemed so mundane next to what else was going on, but explosives were explosives, and you had to give them respect, no matter if there was a lack of explanation. Several theories existed on why these “mutations” started occurring, but the most popular was that a ghost and a cloned sheep had their way with Tobey Maguire on February 29th of the last leap year, and this magically contagious travesty was the result. Never mind why, these people that Sylvia and Grandt Faltersteppe would like to call things were congregated in their kitchen celebrating Christmas like they always did. The Faltersteppe Christmas Farting Contest lived on, and it really wasn’t enhancing the existing odor.

After vomiting a little more on his wife, Grandt started to formulate a plan. The smell of burned hair was still strong, even with several scented candles going nearby. That was it! Grandt worked his body up, and he carefully positioned the hairy manacles restraining his hands near the flame of one of the scented candles. Before long, Grandt’s hands were free, and he was able to coax the other restraints off his ankles.

Sylvia beamed, proud of her husband, but this is when the relatives noticed the escape-in-progress and screamed like a choir of alien banshees. The whole family started running toward them, and it really wasn’t a great distance to cover.

Grandt flashed Sylvia a look of apology and bolted, getting to the back door just as the swarm of loved ones reached his wife.

“I’m sorry!” he further apologized just before slamming the door behind himself.

Everything happened so fast that Sylvia didn’t really know what to feel, but a lot had just taken place, and she couldn’t help but start crying through the confusion.

The sound of her crying didn’t jive with the sickass chorus of her family members, so they dogpiled her into silence.

* * * * *

“Bloody boobies, bloody boobies,” cursed a frantic Grandt Faltersteppe. “My wife is trapped in there with her loved ones! What am I going to do?!”

While he wasn’t screaming at someone in particular, someone in particular responded.

It was his son, Alfonso II.

“Dad, shut up. I have a plan.”

“Wait, how did you get away from that Benzene nut?”

“Turns out he wasn’t a genius,” was all Alfonso II would intimate. “Now the task at hand is getting your wife–my mother–to safety. I mean, the whole world is one giant booby trap designed to rain disaster on us, but that’s beside the point–”

“I was just mentioning boobies,” Grandt interrupted.

“Dad, focus. Relative safety is what we’re talking about, and in this case, that means killing all of our relatives. I got a text from Cassidy that they would be coming over, so I’ve been working on a solution. Now what I have here in my tiny hands is a device I cobbled together on the way over here. It was pretty MacGyver of me, only I have better hair. Anyway, this device absorbs oppressed souls and catapults them into Heaven. By oppressed souls, I mean the souls of people whose bodies have been FUBARed by dark forces. We certainly can’t reverse the damage to their bodies, so flinging their souls hardcore against the pearly gates is the next best thing. Right? Right.”

Grandt just nodded, as you have to trust geniuses.

“I’m too small and feeble to pull off what needs to come next. You see how this is shaped like a bat? Basically, you need to go in there and bap every relative in the face. This will escort their souls to the 8-to-1 preferred afterlife, and once that’s done, all you need to do is kill their bodies and disengage their explosives. I didn’t have time to make another device for that.”

Grandt didn’t just nod, even though you have to trust geniuses.

“You mean I have to run in like a madman and bap them all before they dogpile me, somehow get Sylvia out of harm’s way, and destroy all thirteen relatives… using what, my hands? You’re right, though, I would need a ‘device’ other than this one for the second task, as this looks more harmless than Nerf wishes. And what do I know about defusing bombs?”

“Less than me, but I also happen to know you’re The Chosen One, as foretold by my ass. Now get in there and kill everyone we know. Except Mom. By the way, I’m dog whispering you.”

Grandt, under his son’s spell, obeyed.

Alfonso II counted the baps as he waited on the porch steps. He also heard the accompanying sound of souls rocketing toward eternal bliss.

Bap! Swoosh! Bap! Swoosh! Bap! Swoosh! Bang! “Ow!” Bap! Swoosh! Bap! Swoosh! Bap-bap! Swoosh-swoosh! Bap-bap-bap! Swoosh-swoosh-swoosh! Bap! Swoosh! Bap! Swoosh!

Then there was an obligatory pause as dramatic tension elevated.

Ultimate bap! Swoosh finale! “Woo-hoo!”

Then, “Frothing menstruation, no!”

That didn’t sound good. Alfonso II peeked in the front door to see his father and mother being surrounded by the relatives, only now they were completely unrecognizable as loved ones. The warmth in their eyes was voided, and as they lumbered toward Grandt and Sylvia, Grandt slipped on some soul residue, and since he was gripping Sylvia’s hand pretty tightly, she fell, too. Grandt moaned from his sprawl, as he’d hit his head pretty hard. Sylvia wasn’t looking so hot, either. She looked fairly dog-eared from the dogpile. They certainly weren’t getting up in time to escape the thirteen point pinch that was headed their way.

Alfonso II crapped his pants. Thankfully, he hadn’t grown out of diapers.

Then his father did the dumbest, sweetest thing he could have done. As Uncle Petrol lunged for him, Grandt grabbed for Petrol’s torso to come away with a pin.

“Uh-oh. I don’t think this pin disengages the explosives,” he said.

“I likewise do not think so,” Sylvia concurred.

Alfonso II was already running away, as fast as his toddler legs would allow, which, thanks to the rule of happy endings for Christmas stories, was fast enough.

Orville Redenbacher!

The thirteen distinct booms in the massive explosion made him think of popcorn, which his toddler friends would have mispronounced as “cop porn.” He had to laugh.

Then he stopped laughing. He didn’t really know what to feel at this point. Being a toddler, he didn’t have a full appreciation for what it means to lose loved ones, and being a genius didn’t help, either. Not really knowing how to react, he decided to cry through his confusion.

Even as he cried, he felt the need to get moving, as this giant booby trap of a world wasn’t going to coddle him just because he was a toddler with dead parents. Before he had disposed of Benzene, the man had told him of something called Operation: Christmas Dinner. This sounded promising. As the rain joined the tears on his face, he made his way toward the house of the FBI agent in charge of his rescue.

Maybe, just maybe, he could finagle some new parents for Christmas.

Dec 022007
 

Reiter Barlowe uppercutted the beach from below the surface of the water. The land jutted up in an explosion of ocean spray, birthing a baby cliff. This new formation launched a surprised Swizza Pertungent skyward, where she impacted with a low-flying robot waterfowl, or rather, it impacted with her.

As her squishy abdomen wrapped itself around the bird’s metallic beak, she regarded her life.

What a life! she exclaimed into her own skull. I mean, wow, I’ve done a hell of a lot of good in this world. I deserve better than this. Then she imagined herself in a horsehair wig, sitting with impeccable posture in a chair of authority at some kind of parliament. She was presiding over the matter of her own ultimate destiny, maybe even with the power of dual gavels, and after stroking her chin for a while, to keep up the appearance of serious thought, she declared that not only should she be allowed into Heaven, she should get special privileges there, including access to God’s private bathroom.

She couldn’t help laughing. At first she laughed at the idea of God needing to take bathroom breaks, but that concept took a backseat to the image of herself in a wig. She couldn’t shake off the shaking of her gut with that image of horsehair riding her ponytail down her back.

But then the pain hit her. The shock wore off as the robo-bird disappeared entirely inside her, and as she started returning to Earth, her once-hilarious mid-air vision took an ominous turn. The assemblage of officials she was presiding over exploded one at a time, their wigs turning into spaghetti-length confetti. Their faces twisted painfully, taking on darker forms, hard to make out in the sudden gloom. Their bodies began to quiver, and a bass-heavy hum ran down their spines, denoting the transformation in process. The strangely exhilarating symphony of disfigurement played itself out, and from the fresh silence emerged terrible beasts of an equine variety. They stamped their hooves, in unison, into the floor of the massive hall, and she felt the reverberations deep into her ladycrux.

“What do you want with me?!” she cried into her nightmare.

They didn’t respond, instead choosing to concentrate on the beating of their hooves. A layer of powder began to appear on the marble floor.

“I’m going to Heaven!” she told them. “I’m serious! I’m taking the golden escalator now, assholes!”

She dashed for the gleaming escalator that appeared out of nowhere, but she found it to be escalating itself away from her at a matched pace.

One of the monsters pushed her, and she found herself tumbling down a creaking stairwell, cobwebs collecting on her once stately attire as she descended into what could best be described as a murky inferno. She didn’t know how, but the blasts of heat were black, and they buffeted her until she was a pile of welts gasping for air, for relief, for some measure of dignity. Done tumbling, she found herself on her hands and knees, blood dripping from her mouth. Swizza looked up to see…

… beach in her face. A lot of sandy beach. Some of it was in her mouth, which she decided to reject. P-tooey! Yak! Glifflespreks! Her vision darkened, and she looked up to find a powerful man towering over her, blocking out the sun.

“Hi,” he said. “My name’s Reiter. I didn’t mean for my little exercise in landscaping to interrupt your walk on the beach. Are you going to be all right?”

Swizza was still trying to catch her breath, only now it was because of a growing warmth in her ladycrux.

“Miss?”

“Take me to a hospital,” she suggested, as the robot bird was still inside her. “That can be our first date.”

Reiter was married, but he decided not to tell her right away, so as not to upset her and exacerbate her condition.

She fainted anyway.

 Posted by at 1:22 am
Oct 202007
 

“That’s quite the letter opener you’ve got there,” said Brandish Wieldy.

He was talking to Feign Pretense, his nearest mortal enemy. Feign was holding the most exaggerated piece of steel he’d ever seen, which is why he thought it would be cool to talk down to it, as if it was only meant to open junk mail.

“And you’re quite the pincushion, Brandish,” replied Feign. “Maybe I’ll open you up and read the contents of your soul.” He thought he was being cool, too, until he realized he’d abandoned his own metaphor for Brandish’s with that last sentence. “I mean, shut up. I’m going to slap insufficient postage on you so hard that when I address you to Heaven, they’ll send you to Hell out of spite.” He smiled. There, he’d recovered. Oh, wait, no he hadn’t. Smile gone.

Brandish didn’t want to have this conversation right now. The mention of insufficient postage got his hackles in a wad, as he’d just had an important letter returned to him because he’d forgotten that rates had gone up. Brandish raised his own modestly-sized weapon and began to circle Feign. The dance of death had begun, and he had every intention of leading.

“Now we’re getting somewhere,” Feign nodded, needlessly continuing the conversation. “Oh, yes, this is definitely a direction we’re headed. In fact, I think my compass just exploded from the amount of direction you just jump-started.” Feign really did like the talking more than the fighting, so he was holding on to that part for dear life.

However, Brandish wasn’t interested in Feign’s foreplay. In fact, he wasn’t interested in this battle at all, but this was the mortal enemy he was stuck with at the moment. He really wanted to be fighting Bajillions N. Networth, but he’d lost his address book, leaving him clueless as to where to find ANY of his antagonists. The only reason he was fighting Feign right now was because Feign was a stalker who hunted HIM down.

Still, it could be fun, if the guy would ever shut up. I mean, the guy’s sword was pretty awesome. It was half as big as one you’d see in a Final Fantasy game, that’s how big we’re talking, and Feign himself was riddled with wicked scars. It’s like the guy wanted himself covered in body art, only he was less than enthused with normal two-dimensional tattoos (like the tattoo of cats and dogs decorating Brandish’s left arm) and instead had the pain of the world scribed illegibly across his flesh by a blind calligrapher mid-sneeze. The lines and junctures looked like tectonic plates frozen in orgasm.

So yeah, maybe Brandish could get some enjoyment out of this one.

That’s when he realized Feign had shut up and was swinging his ridiculous blade. At his head, even.

Brandish dropped like a bag of potatoes and rolled forward like a melon to come up swinging his own blade at Feign’s banana and coconuts (sorry to produce puns this bad). Feign rather liked his fruit of the loomables and used his suddenly not being in the same spot as protection. Speaking of underwear, Feign was feeling friction down there, and despite his best efforts, he was beginning to get aroused. This seemed to happen to him when locked in mortal combat, and it was one of the reasons he liked the talking way more. There was definitely a side-benefit to it, however, as it made him want to kill everyone around that much more. If I’m going to die, he prayed silently, please don’t let me die hard.

He remembered the first time, on the playground. “Is that what I think it is?” his tormentor asked him. “Check this out, dudes,” he called to his support. “Feigncy Schmeigncy has a rocket in his pocket, and it looks like he wants to dock it.” The jeers still rang in his ears.

Only, now one of his ears was on the ground. Dammit, flashbacks really sucked in the middle of a fight.

“Ha ha ha,” Brandish taunted. “Ha HA ha ha.”

“I see your ha has, and I raise you a choo-choo,” Feign said, and at that moment he TRAINed Brandish on what a dismemberment should consist of.

It rained a left arm.

It was Brandish’s favorite left arm.

The two took a moment to study each other’s loss, then the piss hit the urinal cake and they charged at each other with half a mind to kill each other, half a mind to find a hospital… like pronto.

This is definitely the part that would be slow-motion in a movie, but since this is writing, read slower. Trust me, the effect is worth it.

If there was one word to describe Brandish’s charge, it was “ferocious.” If there were two words to describe Feign’s charge, they would be “also ferocious.” One maelstrom of bloodlust crashing into its mirror image, their glistening arcs culminated in a fireworks display that you wouldn’t necessarily pay to see. Still, though, sparks.

The sparks ceased as abruptly as they’d appeared, and their weapons rode into oblivion with them. Suddenly grasping nothing but air, they stared at each other, jaws agape.

“Was that a real fight we just had?” they both asked simultaneously.

“I mean, shut up,” said Feign. “I think it was real. I can’t hear you as well, and I feel a lot of pain.”

“I’m with you on the pain. I’m trying to scratch my loomables with my left arm right now. It’s not working out,” Brandish commiserated.

Feign saw an opportunity to kill. “At least you have the right to find relief.”

It took a couple of seconds, but Brandish finally got the joke and busted up.

The earth also chose this moment to bust up, and Feign and Brandish were swallowed up.

Men fight each other. The universe wins. It’s another one of those stories.

 Posted by at 9:08 pm
Jul 212007
 

Clevert Eldrehem gave the signal, and the zeppelin rained ninjas onto the building’s utmost surface. In two snaps, they became living, moving shadow rivulets streaming via multiple tethers down the sides. From his vantage point, the infiltration seemed to be going smoothly, but inside the high-tech structure, his plan had already activated a stiff, unforeseeable resistance.

 Posted by at 9:50 pm