Day Twenty-Nine – Papercut Moseby’s Left Withered

owr

There is darkness and sound–a repetitive thud and scraping of metal. I feel heat radiating around me, and I feel trapped and claustrophobic.

I cannot move my body more than a few inches in any direction. There are walls surrounding me, lined with soft silk. I feel myself pressed against a cushion to my back–laying down perhaps?

I have two hands; this I can sense. Nails have grown to claws, curling a bit, but not quite brittle. I scratch nervously against my thighs. Two legs are there as well, and I can feel that same nail growth cramping what can only be shoes covering my feet.

I manage to slide a hand up to my chest and notice a dress tie, and–

Gold lapel pin, in the shape of a hypercube.

Green and gold silk tie.

Charcoal suit, wide in the shoulders, a bit long, buttoned midriff, shadowy pinstripe.

Crisp shirt over clean undershirt.

Boxers.

–in a ridiculous gesture, I adjust it nervously.

I get the overwhelming feeling that I am headed to an important meeting, and the heat raging in this box only becomes more unbearable.

I find it difficult to breathe.

There is more noise, and vibrations rattle my heart within my ribcage. I imagine light leaking in from somewhere, but then I realize that the bottom of the box I am trapped inside of has begun to glow.

From outside the box, a roar grows in intensity. I conjure up thoughts of monstrous denizens of the dark lurking just outside. I struggle to breathe, and struggle to find some meaning in the small box I am contained in. The vibrations are becoming more and more violent.

I gaze nervously around for a kitchen. I have a hankering for–

Roasted flesh, alien.

The energy emitted from dying stars.

Ichor of galaxies.

Starblood.

Universal Afterbirth.

–bacon, and wish there was an oven in this box. But, this oven is the box and in reverse, too.

I long for the doorbell, guests filing in, and bacon on mustard yellow ceramic.

“Chih, chih, you look lovely, and God, and Sundee School pretties, and how’s Bill, and isn’t he just so-and-so’s twin, the doll, and I heard her son’s the one that drinks crystal meth from the gutters, and he has a mistress, but I heard him say that he AGREES with the president, that he AGREES, but it was a nice sermon … did you see that they didn’t fill that pew? I heard their son worships–

Brekyirihunuade.

Spandaramet.

Xiuhtecuhtli.

Resheph.

Taranis.

Q’uq’umatz.

–Miley Cyrus, and he’s gay, but is afraid to come out since his mother was in that cult that rewrote the bible in their own twisted vision of the human condition.”

The box explodes and I am expelled from it into light. I fly through fields of fire and dirt until I crash into rock.

My suit is ruined.

Rage fills me–the suit was my favorite.

And there are hundreds of humans around me, staring in disbelief, in shock, in awe.

I look behind me and see the remains of my vessel, the pod that has delivered the tool of extermination to this tiny planet of self-absorbed apes.

I smile, and swallow the first human whole.

Day Twenty-Seven – We Who Are About to Sigh, Salute You

What follows is a list of things no human knows about me. What follows are instances in the great effluvia of creation in which I have found myself directly in control of God’s hand, like a golf instructor reaches around his student as their hips swing in unison. What you are about to read is a swan dive written in crayon on the bathroom stall of a dilapidated truck stop – the color is cerulean. The next several minutes of your life will be wasted reading this filth as reality squeezes the sphincter of the present and miraculously deposits the glorious future into a room temperature ceramic bowl. These are lies:

When I was three years old, I killed a man with my bare hands. He was a stock broker with a nice flat down on 5th and Turnbull. He had a propensity for bullshit and two kids from a broken marriage. His ex paid me in bottlecaps, and I took the man’s soul in a stripclub while a handful of dazed degenerates looked on in a confusing mix of pants-bulging innocence and abject horror. I was shocked by the size of this man’s Adam’s Apple – thyroid issues? No mistaking him for a Filipino trannie – set aside the pink dayglow tie, the putrid aftershave bought in a store with a broken tile floor and rust stains where the VHS shelves used to be. I enjoyed the kill, the taste of his fear mingled with sweaty, desperate ass and dirty money. The filth, the flaming dime, the fall.

In Reno, must have been a dozen years ago, what century is this? Reno. The virus was in the Fifth Stage and playing cricket in my marrow. Nails turned to claws, more stone than chitin or cartilage or dead cells. I had not intended to use them on this particular murder night, but I find it difficult to let stupidity survive. The victim had her five children with her in a rundown Wal-Mart – the old school Wal-Mart before the Super monstrosities where they sell artificial hearts and spaceships and Gummi Bears the size of Machu Picchu. Three of her kids attacked me while I still had my new claws in her. Without warning, the two-year-old, the one I did not suspect, dropped a thermal detonator and lit the place up. I’ll never forgive that little shit for vaporizing my favorite leisure suit. She killed her own siblings to avenge the mother that had just died in front of her. And I see this shit all the time.

I traveled some. Held a man’s head through a ViroSphinc on Titan, poor bastard just ate the methane rain like some pearled-up harlot was dousing him with bottles of century-old Islay peat-stinking scotch. I will never forget that smile – it said, “Death is just another bad song on the jukebox that somehow keeps getting played by accident”. It brings to mind “It’s Raining Men” or “Birdhouse in Your Soul”.

L-I-T-E

On Thursdays – yes, I think, yes Thursdays, most often – I get wicked flashbacks of my first seven years in the womb. This was back when I had to fight to survive in the dark and the slime. My brother had fleeting control over meson fields, a useless weapon inherited from a father that had no understanding of particle physics. He attempted to kill me everyday, but mesons are over faster than a lobster handjob. I eventually ate him. My sisters, on the other hand, may God devour their souls as I did, managed to burrow into my organs. Holly lived in my liver for a while and I fed her with brandy and methanol. Trixie eventually set up residence in my ear, specifically right on my malleus. She knew before the rest of my siblings that I was destined to be born alone, and so she took revenge by creating phantom sounds. For the past thousand years or so, I thought “Mexican Radio” was the ambient sound of the universe. I picked up a bad ear infection from a sexbot off Pollux Station and Trixie took the worst of it. The bacteria strangled her to death.

I still hear that damn song.

In my teen years, I discovered my reproductive organs and put them to good use. The first two of them I put on a train to Sacramento – hell, I didn’t know hippies were uncouth – and a couple of years later I found out I had kids. I still have my other two sex organs – I keep them in a box with a yo-yo, a 12-sided die, and tuft of fur from a Bernese Mountain Dog. I tell them that in Louisiana you’re considered an adult at 50, so they cannot come out. I planned to send them to one of the colonies – maybe Triton. It’s not that I don’t enjoy sex, it’s just tedious to have to explain that my race is retroconversal biologicially – we destroy you and birth your waste into the past of an undeveloped universe. I might as well ask if they swallow. I’ve had some lovers – the whales and dolphins were the most gentle.

After a long hiatus, I decided to get back into the assassin game. You’re welcome.

There was a period of time that grew a horn just over my left eye. It had a righteous Ugandan accent, barked orders in Portugese, and seeped bile like an American planet-hopper leaks quicksilver. We used to spend time together down at Point Lobos, watching the whales trundle by, while he sang David Bowie songs in binary. I miss the bastard. When he fell off, I was in the Hundred Years War healing up from a bad sword gash in the ribs. I suppose I was too distracted by the state of Holly, who had been cleaved in half, along with my liver. I saw him lying in bloody mud as the healers moved me out of the ritual tent on the fly. I roared for them to stop, so I could gather him up in my arms and say goodbye, but the war was ending and tea had been invented. We had no time.

And now, as you read this, I tell you honestly that I am in your mind. You will die by my hand, and the world will be lesser for it. Weep not, fear not – look not to the mirror or the lake for your savior, for I am one and all, singular and the same, death. I am yours.

Day Twenty-Two – All Aboard for Stenotrophomonas maltophilia and Pancakes

toot

“Yes, Chef,” Remi Grismain barks. Chef Garret departs the kitchen to attend to something in the dining room. Remi watches him go, then sighs.

With the last of the tomatoes cored and skinned, the apprentice dumps them unceremoniously into a blender and sets it for purée. He takes a moment, as the tomatoes turn to mush, to look around the kitchen. It is his fifth month in this position, and this particular day marks the culmination of seven years of work.

Unlike Remi, who is not allowed to prepare anything where delicacy and ingenuity are culinary requirements, the rest of Chef Garret’s crew are in deep levels of concentration working in tandem to perfect Garret’s menu for the evening. Remi has been given the inglorious task of making salmorejo.

Absently, he adds two handfuls of garlic into the blender.

What Remi Grismain knows, and what the rest of the planet is completely unaware of, is that this particular day will set into motion events that will change the future of the solar system forever. Remi is but an ant in the works this day. He has a simple task to perform, but the execution of said task, should it not go as planned, could have unpleasant consequences. In Remi’s mind, he can only concentrate on the one or two seconds it will take to achieve success.

Everything must be perfect though. Remi must be in control of the situation. He must be ultimately aware of everything occurring around him at that final millisecond before the event.

Remi slows the speed of the blender and adds vinegar and a handful of seasonings Chef Garret has prepared for him ahead of time. As he reaches for the bread that has been soaking in a bowl, he notices his hand trembling. Quickly, darting his eyes to see if anyone else has noticed, Remi shoves the hand into his pocket. He performs the next few steps of the recipe in this fashion, one-handed.

“Remi!” the bellowing voice of Chef Garret booms over the raucous din of the working kitchen. “Get that hand out of your pocket and immediately sterilize yourself. Use flame if you have to, acid, boiling metal, I don’t care. Do not let me see you contaminating the salmorejo again.”

Chef Garret stands behind Remi as he quickly washes his hands in the basin to the side of the station he’s been assigned to. “Yes, Chef!” Remi barks automatically. He hates Chef Garret more than anyone he has met in the last seven years. Garret’s ridiculously strict standards made it excessively difficult for Remi to even be considered for a position at the flagship restaurant. He had almost been cut several times.

If he had lost this position, it would have been disastrous.

Remi goes back to his work, while Chef Garret watches him for a few moments. Stopping the blender, Remi allows Garret to test the consistency and taste so far.

After sampling a bit of the salmorejo in process, Garret nods his head. “Not half bad. Make sure the final consistency is thick enough to survive a palsied hand holding a plastic spoon.”

“Yes, Chef!”

Garret leaves the kitchen to his crew, and Remi sees that his moment is approaching.

With most of the people in the kitchen focused completely on their individual tasks, Remi has a window in which to perform the most important task of his very brief life on this planet.

Lifting the cover off the blender with slow deliberation, Remi casually bends his head down over its top. He makes as if to sample the mixture, dipping a finger in the soup, and touches it to his tongue. He looks around once more, to ensure no one is watching him.

Remi lets a large globule of saliva drip from his mouth into the blender. The saliva is thick and deep purple with flecks of red that could be blood. The globule hangs there in space for a moment before the liquid tether is broken by gravity. With a plop, the globule falls into the salmorejo.

Smiling slightly, Remi kicks the blender back into purée. The task is done.

Fifteen minutes later, Chef Garret tastes the final product and is impressed. “A simple dish Remi, but easy to fuck up.” He smacks his lips happily, then stops, his brow furrowing.

“Did you add something other than what I instructed?” Chef Garret asks, his stare drilling into his subordinate.

“No, Chef,” Remi lies nervously. He can feel the shaking of his hands increasing. He does not have long left to live – though it has nothing to do with his fear of Chef Garret or what the cantankerous culinary despot might do to him.

“You lie,” Chef Garret accuses. He pauses a moment, letting the silence slap Remi in the face. “Keep it to yourself, Remi. Whatever it is, it really rounds out the flavor. Good job.” With a smirk, Garret departs the kitchen, thinking to himself that he may have just created a worthwhile apprentice after all.

Remi heaves a deep sigh of relief and leaves the kitchen, casting one final glance back at the salmorejo as he goes.

The larvae Remi deposited into the soup should begin multiplying as soon as they hit the stomachs of the humans unlucky enough to eat the salmorejo. They will have it worse than the rest. Those particular humans will be devoured from the inside out.

The rest of humanity will simply die as they inhale the spores released from the second phase of his species life cycle – no pain necessary, just a long, psychedelic daydream followed by the forever nap.

As Remi walks down the alley running behind the trendy restaurant, his left hand falls to the ground, completely decayed.

Remi will sleep the forever nap soon himself.

Reach Five

PREFACE: Reach was one of seven men named as such who existed in seven separate universes as multiversally intertwined souls. It was impossible for them to meet; and though, theoretically, it was possible for Reach to cross over to another universe, the chances of encountering one of the other seven were ridiculously low. This was also complicated by the fact that any one Reach jumping universes was being mirrored by the other Reachs.

The origin of Reach is unknown, because Reach himself has yet to create his origins. Reach exists suddenly, and not due to any epic mingling of chaotic strands of eternity in well-defined intersections of “now”. Reach just was and just is – seven times over. He exists sevenfold in time and space, but lives in a dysphoric misalignment with the rest of the universe each iteration of himself inhabits. Frequently, the outsider’s presumption of Reach’s insanity serves only to further separate the heptaphrenic traveler from the only realities that could actually shed light on the purpose of his multifaceted existence.

To further complicate this already complicated tale, Reach does not know he is connected to seven other beings and that everything he does is either influencing or being influenced by one or more of his other existences.

This is Reach Zero, the beginning you’re allowed to consider as such, but not the one that was.

***

REACH FIVE

As the shield collapses, Reach heaves a breath. The garlic smell permeating his environmental suit bodes as ill for him as the collapsing shield that threatens to vaporize him.

The shield is collapsing in a perfect circle, decreasing in size by the minute. In the last few moments of his life, if Reach lives to see it, the collapsing shield will slowly work its way up his body until it terminates directly on his left pupil.

Reach has planned it this way.

Twenty years earlier, Reach abducted a Guatemalan carpenter and amputated his leg. Hidden within the marrow of the femur was a stasis pod containing coordinates. Reach was at those specific coordinates at the very moment a sheet of paper skipped by in the wind. Reach retrieved the paper and read the words on it. Reach followed the directions on that sheet of paper and jumped from a 23-story building in Tokyo at 4:13 a.m. on April 17th, 1943. Before his imminent collision with the cement, Reach breached an open temporal anomaly and arrived on time for a job interview with Ulysses Interplanetary Logistics. Accepting the first offer, Reach obtained the position he now occupies on the surface of Chediætros VII. His first assignment was to lay down at a specific position in the Chediætrian wastes so that the collapsing environmental shield would pinpoint directly on his eye.

The pain of his feet and hands being vaporized was not as terrible as he had expected. The shield collapsed to its pinpoint directly over Reach’s eye, the last part of his body left.

***

Reach came into existence over a large body of water. The fall broke his body.

Not long after his death, he provided a desperate meal for a starving ocean predator. That predator later attacked a visiting dignitary taking a dip in the shallow waters off Roatan.

The dignitary’s severed leg washed up on a beach in Belize where a wandering drunk discovered a stasis pod in the marrow of the femur. When the drunk opened the stasis pod, a temporal anomaly ripped open his mind and allowed him to conceive of the physical requirements for time travel.

On the following Thursday, the drunk lost his left eye in a bar fight. He had been drinking a Japanese beer forgotten, but retrieved, in the corner of a cooler.

***

Reach spat blood into the ceramic sink provided to him by his captors. He found it difficult to breathe due to the chains wrapped tightly around his chest.

“Have you come to a decision, Mr. Reach?” a balding man in a white suit asks. He pets a small iguana perched on the back of a naked female slave kneeling before him. The iguana’s claws are digging into the woman’s flesh and a black fluid drips from the trauma.

“I have,” Reach says in exasperation. “I need to speak to the iguana.”

Before the assembled guards can stop him, Reach has halved the distance between him and the Guatemalan mobster in the white suit. His guards reach high, expecting Reach to target their master. They find only empty air as Reach dives through the temporal anomaly that has just opened inside the iguana’s eye.

The anomaly closes quickly, just as Reach dives through. It severs his left leg.

***

The woman allowing Reach to make love to her suffers a momentary lapse of judgment and attempts to finger the stasis pod from Reach’s corduroy pants lying next to her on the stained ochre carpet.

Her death is swift, though Reach had hoped her lapse of judgement would have occurred later. He rises naked from her body and takes his pants with him from the floor. Removing a transceiver from the back pocket he says:

“You were fifteen minutes off. She went for it.”

Sorry, Reach, the voice on the other end said. There seems to be some interference in the quantum plotter, maybe if we–

The door bursts open and seventeen starving ocean predators devour Reach, leaving only his left eyeball uneaten. It stares apathetically at his last sexual conquest

***

Reach exits his mother’s vagina at the same moment a temporal anomaly opens between her legs. The attending doctor loses the infant through the paradoxical breach, and gives the patient a confused, stupid look of horror.

Reach lands gently on a leather sofa in the waiting room of Ulysses Underwater Exploration, ruining the furniture as his severed umbilical cord leaks without care.

“Do you have an appointment?” the receptionist asks from behind a giant desk, obviously sandblasted out of granite. “We are closed. Receiving hours are yesterday. Won’t you follow me? I’ll show you to your room. The doctor is out. Would you like some coffee? Here are your results.”

Reach’s first words are: “Something spoken in Japanese” spoken in Tagalog.

An aquarium on the left side of the waiting room is filled with ocean predators that have been overfed.

The receptionist offers the infant Reach her breast, and the meal is filling.

***

On the dais, the hundred assembled scientists crowd together for the ridiculously inappropriate photograph. Reach has already uncorked the champagne bottle and is pouring it over his assistant, a female named Judith.

Behind them, set into the wall, is the first stable jumpgate. Above the jumpgate and the scientists, also on the wall, is bronze lettering declaring it the property of Ulysses Temporal Defense.

The scientists laugh at each other, clapping backs that are not theirs. An Egyptian pharaoh struggles to free himself from the invaders from the future. Angrily, he makes a lunge for the champagne.

In the ensuing chaos, Reach’s left leg is broken. The pharaoh, attacked but not subdued by aggressive Ulysses guards, pluck’s Reach’s left eye from its socket. Popping the eye between his fingers, the pharaoh finds the stasis pod hidden therein.

As the temporal anomaly opens  in the middle of the assembled scientists, the pharaoh tosses the stasis pod into its center.

The assembled scientists collectively lunge for the paradoxical devise in slow motion. As it passes through the threshold–

***

Reach heaves a breath. The garlic smell permeating his environmental suit bodes as ill for him as the collapsing shield that threatens to vaporize him.

The shield is collapsing in a perfect circle, decreasing in size by the minute. In the last few moments of his life, if Reach lives to see it, the collapsing shield will slowly work its way up his body until it terminates directly on his left pupil.

Reach has planned it this way.

Twenty years earlier, Reach abducted a Guatemalan carpenter and amputated his leg. Hidden within the marrow of the femur was a stasis pod containing coordinates. Reach was at those specific coordinates at the very moment a sheet of paper skipped by in the wind. Reach retrieved the paper and read the words on it. Reach followed the directions on that sheet of paper and jumped from a 23-story building in Tokyo at 4:13 a.m. on April 17th, 1943. Before his imminent collision with the cement, Reach breached an open temporal anomaly and arrived on time for a job interview with Ulysses Interplanetary Logistics. Accepting the first offer, Reach obtained the position he now occupies on the surface of Chediætros VII. His first assignment was to lay down at a specific position in the Chediætrian wastes so that the collapsing environmental shield would pinpoint directly on his eye.

The pain of his feet and hands being vapo–

“Wait,” Reach screams in the confines of his helmet. “This happened!”

The shield collapses further.

“No! This happened! It’s the same! It’s the same! My God! I’m the seventh! I can’t be the same! Wait!” he screams.

Day Twenty-One – There Will Be Redundancies

troll

Avery Drew is an excellent patient in his waking life. In fact, if the good Dr. Hines were to be of a mind to pick favorites among the subjects in this particular experiment, Avery Drew, aged nine years, would definitely hold the top spot. Hines is cautious about his fraternization with the patient, and for good reason. Dr. Hines realizes that his interference with the subject, on any level, miniscule or major, could very well ruin the experiment.

“And what did you do with the bird, once you caught it?” Dr. Hines prompts his patient.

“I broke it,” Avery says in the sort of innocently frank voice you would expect from him if he were to tell you the sun shines brightly.

“I see,” Dr. Hines replies, scribbling on his clipboard. “Is this the first time you’ve broken a bird, Avery?”

“No, Dr. Hines,” Avery replies with a smile. “I do it all the time.”

Dr. Hines nods his head. “That’s good, Avery. Would you like to play with birds again?”

“Oh, yes, please,” Avery replied. The excitement was plain on his round face. “I would like that ever so much.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Dr. Hines teased with a polite but plastic grin. “And maybe, if you’re a good patient this week, we can let you have a mouse or a squirrel.”

Avery’s eyes went wide, but he very obviously pulled his excitement back in check before saying, shyly, “Can I break the mouse, too, Dr. Hines?”

“Yes, Avery,” Dr. Hines said, rising from his chair. With focused and deliberate movements, he tightened the straps on little Avery’s straight jacket and lifted the boy from the floor into his bed. “Sleep well, now.”

Avery beamed a smile at Dr. Hines as shiny and pure as the plastic padding that lined the walls of the nine year old’s cell.

“Goodnight,” Dr. Hines said, locking the door behind him as he left.

***

“Is it boys or girls this time, Randal?” Dr. Hines asks.

The sweaty hands writhe over themselves in spasms as Randal Quinn spins a lie in his head.

Hines stares unblinking into Randal’s eyes, reading the creation taking place, interpreting every minute movement of Randal’s face and body as the patient desperately attempts to squirm out of the obvious answer.

“Randal,” Dr. Hines prompts.

“B-both,” Randal spits, turning his head away in shame. “It’s b-b-both. I’ve been taking both, doing it with both, both. And,” Randal licks his lips as he digs fingernails into the skin of his hands. “And, I killed a, uh…”

Dr. Hines sets his pen down on the desk for a moment, regarding Randal with something like pity. Randal is different than most of the subjects in this place. The Board would even suggest Randal’s progression puts him too far gone for the experiment to reveal any meaningful data. The truth of Randal’s actions before coming to the research facilities, a feat in itself that defies explanation given the states’ strict regulations on punishment for murderers of Randal’s caliber, has turned the convicted killer into a wreck. Even within the confines of the Alternate Reality Suite he is given free reign in as part of the experiment, Randal is timid and careless. On many occasions, he does not follow through with the scenarios set up for him. He once turned himself into the virtually intelligent security forces within the simulation, explaining to them that he had been having disturbing thoughts about the girl construct that had been engineered specifically for him to abuse.

“Randal,” Dr. Hines says sympathetically. “Don’t you like it here? Is this not what you want? We are giving you the freedom to act on your fantasies without boundary.”

“I do like it,” Randal replies quickly. “I do. I do want it. I do.”

“Is it that the ARS is not realistic enough for you?” Dr. Hines asks him. It is a complaint rarely vocalized to the administrators of the experiment. With the advanced immersion suits and pro-simulation drug cocktails, the virtual world these murderers, serial killers, and rapists live in is indistinguishable from the real world.

“I want to get caught,” Randal says suddenly. “I want to be shamed for it. I want to be punished, and you won’t do it! You don’t even care! I can’t take it!”

Dr. Hines scribbles something on his clipboard. “We’ll see what we can do.”

***

The entity floating in the void is in a constant state of mutation. Dr. Hines can see a multitude of images within the mutations from the obvious phallus to fractal patterns and even the E8 Lie Group. The creature’s head, or at least the portion of the mass containing the most number of eyes is similar in appearance to Ganesha.

It is not a surprise. Somayaji is a devotee of the Hindu faith. The majority of his sessions in the ARS revolve around that particular pantheon of gods, regardless of the objectives Somayaji has been tasked to complete.

“Does it always come to this?” Dr. Sommers says to Dr. Hines. They are both regarding the monitor showing the visual matrix of the ARS as Somayaji perceives it within the simulation. “I mean, how does this have anything to do with interplanetary and colony logistics management?”

“Just wait,” Dr. Hines replies, his smile unhidden and brazen.

A computer monitor to their right shows activity. Massive amounts of data flash by on the screen in seconds, so quickly that neither of the administrators can read a single line or series of numbers.

“What the hell is that?” Sommers asks, puzzled.

“That is the production and logistics plan for the next seventeen years for the Lunar, Martian, and Jovian colonies,” Dr. Hines answers with a satisfied grin. “And I’ll wager it is beyond peak efficiency, something even the quantum computers have had trouble accomplishing lately.”

“He’s autistic,” Sommers replies incredulously. “He can’t even count or speak.”

“Not in our version of reality.” Dr. Hines switches off the monitors, one by one. “It has potential beyond rehabilitation, and I want you to push that to the Board.”

Sommers shook his head and turned to leave. “It’s not the game, Hines.”

Dr. Hines grabs Sommers’ arm and spins him around. “Do you not see what this means? Think of all those people out there that are unable to function because their brain is tuned to a different frequency, this gives them a chance to do something meaningful, to make a difference. It gives their life a purpose, can’t you see that? Can’t any of you see that?”

Sommers jerks his arm away from Hines, glaring at his subordinate. “Get back to the serial killers, Hines, or get off this project.” Slamming the door behind him, Sommers exits the monitoring room.

For several seconds, Dr. Hines does nothing but stare at Somayaji’s brain monitors – the man is alive like he has never been before, using his brain to its fullest potential.

Sommers bursts back into the room. He barks, “Get him out of this facility. And, if I catch you bringing an unauthorized and unscreened subject into this project again, you’ll be imprisoned for security breach and treason.”

When the door slams the second time–

***

—same thing each time,” a voice says somewhere nearby. “He’s the only one like this.”

Another voice echoes from across the room. “How many sessions has he been in?”

“At least a hundred,” the original voice replies.

Hines opens his eyes and is assaulted by bright, painful light. They still have him strapped down. In his mind, he can still hear the echo of Sommers, a figment of his imagination, slamming the door.

“And he’s never even attempted to go after the bait?”

Hines’ vision begins to clear and he can see his therapist, Dr. Holloway fiddling with a monitor on the wall. She has not spoken yet. He recognizes the other two voices – Remington, a technician, and Dr. Lazslo the administrator in charge of the ARS facility.

It is Lazslo who speaks next: “We’ve given him plenty of opportunity. Basically throwing it at him, but he hasn’t touched a single woman. We know his preferences, his obsessions. Nothing works.”

Dr. Holloway speaks up, saying, “Obviously, this is what he wants. We’ve given him a reality that suits his perception of the world. Our reality doesn’t fit it, and the result is that he’s a serial rapist and murderer. This one fits, and he gets to be what he wants.”

Lazslo and Remington both laugh at this. The sound echoes off the walls and pierces Hines’ ears offensively. The real world asserts its abusive position around him. He wants to kill all of them, gruesomely.

But, deep down, where his real voice lives, Hines struggles to scream at them:

“I want to help people.”

Hines, like Somayaji from his sessions, has never spoken in his life.

Day Nineteen – Andrew Lost His Keys While George is Engulfed in Flames

fot

On the third day, the grand and omnipotent entity known as Va’alamyr walked the grounds of his creation. He reveled in the squeakiness of the wet grass beneath his bare feet. He turned his eyes to the blinding sun he had created two days earlier and saw that it was good. The trees were coming along nicely, and, as the god stood there, several woodland creatures of his design scampered up to sniff his robes.

Va’alamyr was pleased with himself, and he spent the good part of that third day just walking the green fields of his ultimate design. The god swam in the waters of the vasts seas he called into being across a good part of the small planet. He marveled at his own ingenuity as he held a shell in his hands. A beaming smile broke his typically somber face as a flock of birds soared over his head.

Everything was in perfect harmony, a perpetuity of order that would go on forever. Va’alamyr sat upon a rock at the pinnacle of a high mountain and surveyed his handiwork. Only the sound and caress of the wind shared the moment with him in that moment.

And so, the voice behind him scared the shit out of the god.

“Oi,” the voice said. “Bit borin’ innit?”

Va’alamyr struggled to prevent himself from sliding down the side of the mountain as he gaped at the entity who had spoken to him.

“Whatcher self there,” the entity said to him, quickly moving to help the startled god. “Nearly took a nasty spill, dincha?”

“What art thou?” Va’alamyr demanded in his most holy booming voice. “How dost thou come to exist in this place without my knowledge?”

The other entity had two arms and two legs, a head full of jet black hair, and a clever mustache. He was very much almost sort of the spitting image of Va’alamyr himself, only Va’alamyr preferred his flowing white beard to match his flowing white robes. This stranger wore a Tubeway Army t-shirt, dirty jeans, and a pair of poorly crafted Skechers (though Va’alamyr did not know what these articles of clothing were called).

“Oh deary me, but you ‘ave got a way with words, eh?” the stranger replied, clucking his tongue. “All ‘igh an’ mighty, I ‘spect. A right bloody proper god ‘n all, eh? Come off it, ’nuff with the pompous words.”

Va’alamyr blinked his eyes in confusion for a moment, before abruptly attempting to make the stranger vanish by his will.

“Nice try, old bean,” the stranger laughed. “Look, I might as well introduce myself. I’m Evil.” The strange man offered his hand for Va’alamyr to shake, but the white bearded god merely looked at the filthy hand in horror.

“I don’t understand,” Va’alamyr stammered. “I thought–”

“You thought you were the only one,” Evil said with a grin. “Infinite universe, and you, all ‘igh and mighty as you were, figgered it’s all just you and yer lonesome to create and pontificate as it pleases you, eh? Bit pretentious that, innit?”

“Whatcha call this we’re sitting on?” Evil asked, patting the rock of the mountain beneath their feet.

“I had not thought of a word for it,” Va’alamyr said, taken off guard. “Why does it need to be called something?”

“Everyfing needs a name,” Evil said. “Let me help. I fink it should called a mountain. Howzat?”

Va’alamyr straightened up and boomed at the stranger, “I demand to know where you came from, and why you are here in my realm!”

“Bloody hell, mate,” Evil said wiggling a finger in his ear. “Pop an eardrum with all that shoutin’. Whatsit matter why I’m here or where I came from? Let’s just say I’m here to help you out. And, boy, let me tell you plain ‘n proper, you need it, mate.”

Va’alamyr was about to protest when it appeared that his curiosity had suddenly taken over him. “What — what do mean, exactly? Is this not … good?”

Evil beamed at him. “Oh, it is. And that’s the problem.” The mustachioed stranger grabbed Va’alamyr by the arm and began dragging him down the mountain. “For starters, it’s always so bleedin’ bright. Watch this.” As they walked, one being led by the other, huge billowing thunderclouds rushed in from the horizons and filled the sky, blocking out the sun.

Va’alamyr grimaced at the invasion and was about to protest when Evil turned around suddenly and asked, “Look, this’ll take forever. Can’t you just zap us down somewhere else?”

Within the blink of an eye, both entities were standing just outside a small copse of trees. At a wave of Va’alamyr’s hand, the clouds dissipated and the sun returned.

Evil frowned at this, but let it go. “Right, well, take a look at these fings,” Evil said, gesturing at one of the cute and cuddly woodland creatures that had come running up to them. “Whatsit do?”

“It lives,” Va’alamyr explained. “I will it to live, and it does so.”

“What, forever?” Evil queried.

“Well, yes, of course,” Va’alamyr replied, confused that there would even be a question about something as simple as life.

“Well, that’s borin’, innit,” Evil retorted. “Watch this.”

The creature Evil had been pointing to abruptly collapsed in the grass and ceased to breathe.

“What have you done?” Va’alamyr exclaimed. “You have made it cease to live!”

“Yeah, killed it,” Evil said frankly. “Necessary for progress, old chap.”

“Progress?” Va’alamyr replied, his face melting with sorrow for the loss of his creation.

“Oh, get over it, mate,” Evil said, waving the incident away. “Stuff staying the same is borin’. Fings need to change, and to change, fings need a reason to change, like death, ’cause who wants to just exist so they can die?”

Va’alamyr was not paying attention to the invader who had brought death to his realm. Gently, he reached down and cradled the dead creature in his hands. Somberly, the god blew a mouthful of breath at the limp body. After a moment, the creature began to stir, life returning to it. The smile on Va’alamyr’s face suddenly turned to horror as from out of the sky, a hawk swopped down and snatched the reborn creature away.

Furious, Va’alamyr spun on Evil. “How dare you make a mockery of the world I have created!”

“Nice one, eh? Look, mate,” Evil said frankly. “You definitely ain’t the only conjurer in this biz. Like I said, this little universe ain’t the only one there is, and you ain’t the only bloke out in the great wooly void making pretty li’l rocks and furries and shit. I’ve been doin’ this for nigh on eternity. I’m what you might call a consultant to the creators.”

Va’alamyr’s left eyebrow raised slightly.

“It’s not so much that this is all rubbish,” Evil explained. “It’s just that it can be better. And, if you let me help you, we can create the best bit of fluff the multiverse has ever seen. Dig?”

“I’m quite happy with what I’ve done here,” Va’alamyr replied, raising his chin slightly. “I see nothing wrong with it.”

Conspiratorially, Evil put his arm around Va’alamyr and whispered, as if others might hear, “Fact is, mate, the other creators are having a bit of a laugh at you. Here you are, out here all alone and playing with yer bits of fluffy happiness, and the rest of the creators are bustin’ out huge masterpieces of glorious beauty. They’re outdoing you by miles, old chum. You’re a laughing stock.”

Mortified, Va’alamyr tugged anxiously at his beard. He did not even realize there were others like him beyond the void, and now they were making fun of him?

“Relax, old bean,” Evil comforted, patting his shoulder. “Let me help you.”

“Would you?” Va’alamyr asked desperately. “Only, I do not wish to be seen in a poor light compared to the others.”

“Ain’t it the way?” Evil chuckled. “Not to worry, Val. We’ll do this up right.”

Evil led Va’alamyr to an open field where the grass was growing at an alarming rate.

“Let’s start right here,” Evil said, pointing to the the grass. “There’s too much of it. Way too much of this grass shit you’ve got everywhere.”

“I will remove it then,” Va’alamyr replied raising his hands to cause a portion of the grass to vanish.

“Hold on, hold on,” Evil exclaimed, grabbing Va’alamyr’s arms in exasperation. “You don’t have to be waving yer arms about all the time wasting yer powers. Why not let nature take care of it?”

Evil snapped his fingers, and suddenly, a dozen sheep appeared around them. Immediately, the sheep began to eat the grass. Within moments, the small hill they were standing on was sheared down to nearly nothing, and the sheep kept going.

“But they’ll devour it all,” Va’alamyr said in anger. “They eat all of it until there’s nothing left.”

“Wait for it,” Evil replied, raising a hand. “Next, you need predators.”

Snapping his fingers, Evil conjured up a pack of wolves, which then ravenously dashed after the sheep, who were already beginning to multiply.

In horror, Va’alamyr grabbed his head with both hands. “The carnage! They’ll devour them all!”

“See, now we’ve got to be clever, eh?” Evil replied confidently. Holding out a hand, he gestured for Va’alamyr to look at what he held.

“I don’t see anything,” Va’alamyr said, shaking his head.

“Microscopic,” Evil said, grinning evilly. “It’s a virus. A parasite. See, when I toss this into the grass, it’ll multiply a hell of a lot faster than those sheep or those wolves. It won’t hurt the sheep, but it will damn near decimate the predators. The sheep will eat the grass, catch the virus, then pass it on to the wolves when the wolves eat ’em. Then them wolves’ll die, right? Brilliant, eh? It’s all circles in creation these days, next big thing, cycles and shit.”

“I suppose that makes sense,” Va’alamyr replied reluctantly. “But why the violence? Why not just let everything live in harmony, perpetually forever?”

“I told you, mate, it’s borin’,” Evil explained. “Death makes fings interesting. These creations of yours, now that they can die, will do whatever it takes to survive. In doing so, they’ll get smarter, faster, and more resilient. The wolves will develop an immunity to the virus, but the sheep will have flourished so much by then that there will never be enough wolves to cull them all, just enough to keep the balance, you see?”

“I think I do,” Va’alamyr said, nodding his head. “But doesn’t this take me out of the equation? Once this is all set in motion, what place do I have in this world?”

Evil’s smile grew exponentially. “Well, that’s the thing. Even gods need to die.”

With a casual thrust, Evil slipped the black blade he had been hiding into the celestial flesh of the great and omnipotent Va’alamyr. The god died with his eyes wide and full of fear, sputtering his last breaths.

“Hurt a bit, dinnit?” Evil cooed at him. “There, there, old bean. Settle down for a nice eternal nap, eh?”

Evil let the limp body fall to the ground. Using the same blade, Evil cut into the god’s chest and broke off a rib. Casting it to the ground, he began to hum. The vibrations grew tumultuous, shaking the ground for miles around him. Dirt from the ground began to gather around the rib, forming a shape not unlike Evil’s own form.

The human rose from the dirt and looked at its creator.

“Have fun, kiddo,” Evil said to it. He then blinked out of existence, on his way to another universe and another creator.

Day Eighteen – 15 Reasons Why the Person Next to You Will Likely Burst Into Flames

torpor

Judith, again, turning her head over her shoulder just before she disappears around the corner. It is cold, but with a tepid wind in the canyons of the greater metropolis. I can feel the wind knife around that mysterious corner, that exit from stage center, and she has disappeared into it – extant but extorted by the emptiness of the open sidewalk.

I rush to close the difference between us. We have not crossed paths in many days, and the loss of that randomness is too much order in my life for me to take. I am missing these things that open holes in time, these portals to places I have been, and things I have traveled to. Judith is a column of fire and smoke in the desert, a green light across the harbor. I pursue her in an odyssey of intention, without meaning and without purpose, only to find that she will and has never existed in this reality.

I turn the corner, and, to my surprise, am met by a flock of canaries.

On Wednesday, I have an important meeting with dignitaries from a firm my business partners feel I should be jealous of. They have arranged a meeting at a small coffee shop a number of blocks east of the trendy uptown area so many people are mistaken to assume their custom is a sign of status therein. My business partners have done this in a blatant attempt to set a new standard of status – they want to be the sharp-shirted noticeables that those who have the eye for trendsetters automatically gawk at and reach for their smartphones to inform the masses of their passing. I anticipate that within five minutes of our arrival there, the old uptown area has turned from “trendy” to “last year’s mocha jazz poser party”. I mention all of this because upon my arrival, I am floored to discover that Judith herself is the leader of these dignitaries. Her right-hand man has a Tubeway Army sleeve, blown-out lines – what a waste, what a misuse of ink, what a terrible scene he must have felt himself a part of.

“It is nice to meet you,” she says with her canary voice. She shakes my offered hand, and I can feel the dampness of ages in that embrace. It is as if centuries of death in the company of one another still demands the clamminess remain between our bodies, only to be felt at close proximity.

“A pleasure shared, I’m sure,” I reply. But, I am not sure. The deep, rich wood paneling of the coffee shop is disorienting, offset to annoyance by the poorly selected steel accents. They make no sense, and, in a matter of moments, my lucidity awakens my dreaming mind from its poison passion play.

I wake up, and I weep for the loss of that canary voice, again.

I find myself entering doors I have left behind, intending never to cross those thresholds again. But, alas, I am present in those places in repetition over the next several weeks after my dream. I attempt to appear as if I am interested in purchasing pastries and hats, but the charade is lost when I continuously and desperately tear away the curtains from fitting rooms, or kick open toilet stalls, hoping to be attacked by canaries and birdsong.

To be the seeker of things beyond this reality, knowing deep within that the truth of my existence is bound up in the press of alternate universes from either side of my consciousness, is a privilege that I cannot fathom as a reward for my service, though by intense study it must be. It must be. My entry upon the mortal coil, as disastrous and melancholy as was intended given the trends of the era, did not go unnoticed. I have not completed the tasks that have been set out before me. I have wandered, lustfully, into dens of lassitude and liquor. I have pursued the inevitable needles of verisimilitude, wanting them to pierce me with suggestion in absence of substance. I have wanted to believe in the illogical, the mundane, and the idiotic.

It is my intention to find this woman, this caricature of Lovecraftian mystery, and be devoured by the hidden maw of her malevolent subsistence in this tangle of reality and unreality. Surreal though our romance may be, she is the black nail upon the flesh of my pessimistic hatred for myself – pure it is, and pale, when compared to her dark intentions.

The following month finds me wandering through a cemetery in the rain. With optimistic and wild windmilling movements of my arms, I attempt to obtain a rubbing of a gargoyle perched upon a lichen-black crypt. When I pull the rubbing paper away, I am shocked to witness the monstrous face transform into the face of Judith, her dimples wicked in Italian marble.

She says to me: “I don’t believe I’ve shared the pleasure. I am sure of it.”

I descend, without intent, from my own perch upon the crypt, backwards, my windmilling arms now seeking purchase against gravity. The battle lost, I am impaled upon the wrought-iron gate that inappropriately places a boundary around the old corpse shed.

Judith looks down at the violence and clucks her tongue disdainfully.

“Out with the old, in with nudes,” she chuckles.

I wait for canaries – but I am disappointed by ravens.