Saturday, May 31, 2008

Droubble: Buyer's Remorse

Buyer’s Remorse

It stood in the middle of a pile of self-unwrapping packaging. It wasn’t anything like the picture. The ad had shown a sleek, shiny humanoid robot, just like on TV. This thing was stubby and awkward. The upper unit almost suggested a human head; from there down it gave up the pretense. The body was a fat moulded plastic cylinder, sitting low to the ground on knobby rubber rollers.


"My name’s Davey."

"Davey." The robot shuddered, and one of its manipulators fell off. It picked up the part and rolled to a corner to reattach it.

My heart sank. For six to eight weeks, I’d imagined how happy Mom would be. She’d been so tired since Dad left, what with pulling double shifts at the plant, and taking care of me. I thought maybe a household robot would make her life a little easier.

Not this dud. This would just get me chewed out for wasting money ordering junk from the backs of comic books. By now tears were rolling down my cheeks.

"Tissue?" The robot had fixed its arm, and held out a kleenex.

"Thanks," I said.

The arm fell off again as I took the tissue.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Drabble: Excerpt from "Notes on the Behavior of Minor Waterways in the Lost Settlements"

Excerpt from "Notes on the Behavior of Minor Waterways in the Lost Settlements"

The creek ran through the middle of town, but according to the old man in the tavern, it had not always.

"So the water changed its course?"

"No, nothing of that sort."

"Oh, then the center of the town shifted as it grew?"

"No," he assured me. "It just wasn’t, and then it was."

"I don’t understand."

At that point the innkeeper kicked the old man out, and none of the other patrons I asked about the phenomenon had anything to say. Merely the ramblings of a drunkard, I suppose, though I am somehow compelled to believe the tramp’s tale.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Drabble: Throb


The bright throbbing invades into what I ridiculously imagine to be normal consciousness. How truly could one call it consciousness, when so impaired? Knives of fire press into the back of eyeballs, and erase all certainty. It becomes impossible to imagine existence as it was mere hours ago, existence without the pain. Had it been real, or was it just a phantom memory? Because the feeling has filled reality to its brim, to overflowing. The pain is so pure, so unflagging, that it goes far beyond the mere "real." This is how gods are made, I imagine, as I sink.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Drabble: Scum


The martian scum’ll pay. Nobody’s clear what they’re paying for, but it must be something pretty awful if we’re heading so far to get them.

Williams, that’s the guy in the corner with the thick glasses and his nose in a book, says it’s socioeconomic something or other, that the martians couldn’t really be an actual threat to Earth, but that our culture demands a national enemy. Sounds kinda unamerican to me.

Though I do kinda wonder how we’re gonna fight a war against a few half-froze soil microbes.

Ain’t our job to think about those kinds of things.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Drabble: Looks Like Rain

Looks Like Rain

A drop falls from the sky onto my arm. It’s warm and red, just for an instant, before I blink and it’s just a cool, clear raindrop. I try to ignore the nausea. I don’t know what makes me want to puke more, the disgust and horror at the blood that’s been falling from the sky at intervals all day, or the sinking realization that I must be insane – for how else to explain the switch, the first raindrop of each squall falling as blood, but also not blood, also just plain rain.

I’m getting soaked, so I go in.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Drabble: Number 32

Number 32

Hell No. 32: The Hell of Myriad Tiny Annoyances. This selection is espescially good for souls whose transgressions were individually minor but which, in aggregate, caused significant ill. Punishments include ripped hangnails, paper-cuts (vinegar massage available for an extra fee), toothache, canker sores, and numerous others, tailored to the distastes of the individual soul (full menu available by request). Overall intensity and number of afflictions increases continually, with carefully formulated semirandom intensity variation to insure that every affliction gets its share of attention. Though it might seem minor, this is considered a high-level torment, and is surprisingly effective.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Drabble: Are We There Yet

Are We There Yet?

"Are we there yet?"

"For the last time, no!"

But just a little further on: "Are we there yet?"

"I’ll tell you when we’re there, okay? Until then, I don’t want to hear anything else out of you."

"I’ll bet he doesn’t even know the way."

"Yeah, I think you’re right. We’re lost, aren’t we?"

"We are not lost. We’re on our way."

"Then how much longer will it be?"

"We’ll get there when we get there!"

"I told you so."

"Yeah, he doesn’t even know."

"That is it!" shouted Moses. "Don’t think I won’t turn this exodus right around!"

Drabble: Unlikely Dilemma

Unlikely Dilemma

"Would you rather create brilliant art, only to have it burnt before your eyes each day, or art you know is awful, but is highly regarded by your peers, the critics, and the masses?"

"Ahh, that old chestnut. They’re both better than where I’m at now. I suppose I wouldn’t be a real artist if I didn’t want to create brilliant art, but on the other hand, if everyone else thinks it’s great, who am I to say that it’s awful? I guess it’s a question of–"

"Too late," says the Unlikely Dilemma Fairy, as she vanishes in thin air.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Drabble: Errand Interrupted

Errand Interrupted

"You have to listen to me. Your life is in grave danger."

"Sure, stranger, whose isn’t?"

"Please explain."

"Anybody walking down this street could be hit by a car, or have a previously unknown allergic reaction, or a piano dropped from a window on his or her head, at any moment."

"I, I guess you’re right." I walked on, pondering what the man had told me. Maybe he had a point. I should change my life. Even if I felt like I was forgetting something.

Somewhere behind me there sounded the thwup of a silenced rifle, and several bystanders screamed.

Drabble: Occupational Hazzard

Occupational Hazard

"There’s been an accident."

Four dismissive little words, but I knew it had to be really, seriously bad for them to come in person. Otherwise they’d just have called.

"Will you be taking custody?"

"Y, yes."

He showed me the box, a row of holes along its top edge.

"The process is irreversible?"

"Sadly, yes. The de-shrinkage process works fine on bulk cargo, but wreaks havoc on cellular membranes. Your wife would be dead on arrival. But she can still live a mostly normal life, though, as long as feed her, change her water, and clean the cage regularly."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Drabble: Step One

Step One

You stand in the middle of a desert – no, not a desert. It strikes the eye as one, at first. No, what you took for a desert is less than that, it’s emptiness, blank sky over blank land. Is this some kind of metaphor? Are you expected to create your own reality, from the nothingness of this waste? That’s certainly a popular bit of symbolism, but does it really reflect anything meaningful? Because, new-age philosophy aside, your thoughts create nothing but thoughts, and this world is still empty. Nothing’s actually happened. So why the "blank-page" universe? Sloppy writing?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Drabble: Lazybones


He lives at the bottom of the ocean. Or, if not at the very bottom, at least close. His undersea world has no roof: no worries down there about the sun or rain. No walls: his only neigbors are a colony of tube worms, and they’re not the types to judge, or to do anything much but lazily feed on the by-products of chemosynthetic bacteria living within their bodies. He dozes away the days. Unlike his brothers and sisters, who each left one by one to terrorize some city or another, he’s never felt the draw of the spotlight.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Drabble: The Conference

The Conference

It promises to be one of humanity’s great moments.

Or, we all hope so.

The theory goes thusly: The problems of the world can be, and in fact have been solved. Just, the solutions never stick, because self-important, privelleged college kids have no way to implement them.

But there were those who could. So all of the major world leaders come together tonight, in a locked den with overstuffed couches, dim light, and a bottomless supply of espresso, cheap booze, clove cigarettes, and pot. The door will not be unlocked till dawn.

All we can do now is hope.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

No prompt. Instead, DD's first-ever droubble!

I'm no longer going to be using prompts from SWOTD. I'm going to look for another way to come up with prompts; for now, rather than the usual Double Drabble Sunday, I present my first droubble – exactly 200 words long, instead of 100. This probably won't be a regular occurrance, but I might do it time to time to break up the monotony. Now, without further ado,

Company’s Coming

"I know, you don’t have to say it: ‘Pretty young girl like you shouldn’t hitchhike, liable to be picked up by some creep.’"

"I wasn’t going to say that. Does that make me ‘some creep?’ "

She laughs. "Maybe so. I’m Susie."

"Roy," I say. "Pleased to meet you."

"Where are you headed tonight, Roy?"

"Aren’t I supposed to ask that?"

"Guess so. It’s just, I’m heading home to visit my mother, and she’s been on my case about not bringing home any boyfriends. You look respectable; I was wondering if you’re up for a bit of acting? There’s free dinner in it for you." Her goes down low. "And maybe some dessert."

I’m human, and she is pretty, if a bit goth-looking. So I agree. We make up a backstory – where and how we met, what I do, enough to stand up under dinner table cross-examination. I follow directions to a simple suburban home.

We walk in the front door. "Hey, Mom! Someone I want you to meet!"

A striking middle aged woman sizes me up. "He’s barely a meal."

"Mom," she whines.

"Fine, he’ll do. Knock him out, dear?"

There’s a thud, and everything fades to black.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Prompt: (sigh) Limp Bizkit

Less and less happy with the SWOTD. Might have to come up with a new way to get prompts. For now, here's my best shot.

Disaster Strikes at Leroy’s Road-Side Chicken Shack

Leroy took a bite. "Something’s not quite right about this batch."

"What do you mean? I tried one myself, and frowned. He was right; the flavor was fine, and the inside was moist and flaky, but the crust had absolutely no crunch. The biscuit barely held its shape, nearly collapsing under its own weight.

"This is bad."

"You’re telling me! This whole batch is a total waste. They’re completely limp! Nobody’ll want to sop up their gravy with these!"

"Not to mention, they have absolutely no musical talent."

"What the hell are you talking about, boy?"

"I’m, I’m not sure."

Prompt: Me


You want to hear more about me?

There ain’t much; it’s not like the comics, these things don’t necessarily happen to people with interesting backstories. I’m just your average slightly overweight, unhappy single 30-something. I work, I come home, I watch some TV, I drink. Just so happens I can hurt people with my mind.

You’ve got me over a barrel. If it’s not true, I’m crazy and should be locked up. If it is, I’m dangerous – a murderer too – and should be locked up. So whatever you want me to do, fine. Just let me out of here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Prompt: Whisper

The Bearded Idol

The name was spoken only in whispers, and even then it was usually followed by a hastily mumbled ward, to fend off whatever dark powers the name might hold. Nobody was quite sure if he (it?) was a man, a god, or something else – this knowledge belonged to an age long since in ruins. A few souls were dark enough to curry its favor. Their worship consisted a repeated litany of facts. These facts were often contradictory, and always unbelievable.

And yet, none doubted the kernel of truth: Whatever he or it was, The Norris was one tough motherf*cker.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Prompt: Computer


"We used to do this with computers."
"Mark!" whispered Sandy. "Do you want to get yourself excommunicated?""I’m just saying..."
"You know not to talk about the anathema. Get back to your filing."
"I just don’t get it. Sure, I’m as horrified by the Construct as any of us. If it hadn’t been stopped in the lab... I shudder to think. But it’s a long way from a simple database program to a fully self-aware AI."
"The serpent told Eve she could take one little bite of the apple."
"Please don’t denounce me."
"You don’t give me much choice."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Prompt: Wonder


"You read the full job description."

"Yeah, what did you mean by ‘intact sense of wonder?’"

"However you interperet it. Would you say you meet that standard? Your other qualifications are more than adequate."

Jaded as I am, I figured I could still fake it. "Sure."

The last year’s been... strange. See, Gonzales is a traveller, of sorts. Being his "assistant" had less to do with writing letters than with huddling for warmpth under the odd-colored suns of worlds unknown to man.

I grow into jobs. Maybe one day I’ll grow a sense of wonder. For now it’s rough.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Prompt: Soda

John Doe

The other shelf held a nearly empty pack of menthol cigarettes, two year-old back issues of a chess enthusiast magazine, and a can of generic grapefruit soda, all covered in a thick layer of dust.

"I think I might have something over here." Jose was holding a pair of dirty jeans in a gloved hand. "Wallet in the pocket."

"Here’s the ID– huh."

"What is it?"

"Who would carry a wallet with the fake dummy license still in it?"

"This guy, whoever he was."

"It’s well worn, too."

"Wait, here we are. Joe Lincoln, wallet photo model. Makes sense."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Double Drabble Sunday! Prompt: Jump

An Opening at 6B

"You must be the new guy. Welcome to Gate 6B."

"Thanks, mister...?"

"Call me Freddy."

"Thanks, Freddy."

"6B handles inbound traffic. You sit at the console, and check the jump schedule. When a ship’s due, hit this button. Hit it again when they’re clear. A monkey could do it. Watch the schedule and don’t fall asleep, you’ll be fine."

"Why isn’t it automated?"

"The gate induces Haverford fluctuations, which’ll mess up even shielded electronics. Everything shuts down while it’s open.

"What happens if we miss one?"

"Just major loss of life, property damage in the billions. Don’t sweat it."



A crowd had gathered around, held at bay by the police. The girl had been on the fifteenth story window ledge for about an hour now. The crowd were ready for something to happen.

"You don’t have to do this," said the officer on the bullhorn. The girl ventured one foot over the void. Her sandal slipped off, and the crowd gasped as it tumbled end over end to the ground.

And she jumped, falling a bit before spreading her arms and soaring over the crowd. They cheered. She’d succeeded where so many had failed, and now we were saved.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Prompt: File

Escape From Building C

"Where’s the Richardson file?"

"On your desk."

"I just looked, it’s not there."

"Sir, I’m sure–"

"No more excuses! These things don’t just grow legs and walk away!"

* * *

Getting downstairs is going to be tough. I’m too short to reach the elevator button, but the stairs are each about as tall as I, and if I stumble my papers are all over the floor. I’m formulating a plan to hide on the custodian’s cart when I’m lifted into the air

"Who stuffed a file behind this potted plant? Hey, wait a minute... what are these things sticking out the bottom?"

Prompt: Wikipedia


That building up there on the hill? That’s where the monks live.

They like to work on their document. I think it was just getting its start before you got yerself frozen, can’t remember what they called it back then. They say it used to be all sorts of people would work on it, though you can’t be sure with monks.

Well, used to be folks were adding facts; now there aren’t so many, the world’s simpler. Now they spend their lives cutting out irrelevant or incomprehensible facts, making new connections.

It’s strange, but it keeps the weirdo types busy.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Prompt: Soap


I fight the urge to scratch. My water ration ran out before I finished rinsing off this morning, and the dried-on soap itches like hell.

I don’t dare complain; even admitting I’d used my full ration, let alone that I would’ve liked another gallon or two, would get me labelled "unGreen," a damning stigma socially and professionally. I remember the treatment Mike in accounting got after he was overheard double-flushing. Rumor has it he went without a raise or a date for three years.

That won’t be me. I just have to remember to use less soap tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Prompt: Scream

Today's offering isn't strictly a drabble, as defined as a 100 word work of prose. Don't expect this regular-like; I'm certainly no poet.


I scream you scream
 the cleanwhitetruck is coming

I scream you scream
 and scream and scream and scream and we can’t stop

You scream I scream
 then we stop to catch our breaths

I scream you scream
 I scream a little louder
 and you slink off sheepishly

I scream you scream
 ‘cause the truck is almost here
  where is my pig-bank?

I scream you scream
 it always ends in screaming

I scream you scream
 someone make the screaming stop
  it’s not stopping
   I said STOP

I scream you scream
 but the cleanwhitetruck is past
  jangling jangling in the distance

Prompt: Cheese


"Say cheese!"


"I think I blinked."

"It looks fine on the little screen."

"You can never tell. Take another."

"Okay, here we go!"

"Wait!" Aaaah-choo! "Man, it’s all over my hands. One second, I’m gonna go get a tissue."

"Just stay. Okay, let’s do this! Three, two–"

A cellular phone jangles.

So this is hell. Seems somehow... lacking. Effective torment, but I always thought this sort of thing was supposed to run towards poetic justice. My sins weren’t camera-related, nor did group photography figure prominently in my life.

I guess He has no monopoly on "mysterious ways."

Monday, May 5, 2008

No Prompt

Today's swotd is some bit of programming jargon, and thus greek to me, so today I'm running blind. It's my ballgame, so I get to change the rules whenever I want.


"I’m no Armstrong, but I’ll give this a shot...

"As I stare out on this truly unearthly landscape, I am filled with near-spiritual awe. Man has made the next step out into the universe.

"But sending explorers... it’s only a step. To make it a foothold, we need civillians – we need settlers! We put Mars within reach; now it’s up to you to follow!"

The ray-gun barrel pressing into my ribs is withdrawn. "Very good," says Mk’thk’ll.

"You won’t eat me?"

"Wouldn’t think of it. You just guaranteed several years’ food supply!

"Though I am a mite peckish..."

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Double Drabble Sunday! Prompt: Raunchy

The Trash Merchant

"It’s totally over the top. The violence, the sex – at some point, you’re just pandering."

"And what’s wrong with pandering if it sells? If you think we’re in this to make great art, you’d do well to disabuse yourself of that notion. If you want to elevate people’s souls, there’s a church down the way that might be a better fit. If you want to make money in this biz, stick with me."

"I understand, but don’t you worry about how future generations–"

"What do I care? I’ll be long gone. Now, let’s get back to it."

"Yes, Mr. Shakespeare."


"I guess it was a little irritating. No, not just a little irritating – in fact, it was annoying as hell. I don’t know why we even had those meetings. The boss spent the whole time trading raunchy jokes with the boys, while Connie sat there making goo-goo eyes. I’ll tell you, it came as no surprise when he fired me and gave her my job. Oh, I’m not saying anything was going on, but one does wonder.

"But the worst was, nobody ever listened in that office."

"That’s tough, Mr. Powell. Hey, you ordering or not? It’s last call...."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Prompt: Door


I’m the last one in the office, so I turn the lights off, lock the door so it will latch behind me, and hit the alarm button. It beeps to let me know I have thirty seconds.

Then I freeze, halfway out the door. I check that I’m not forgetting my keys, my wallet, my lunch sack, anything else then I start back at the top with my keys. The beeping gets faster, indicating ten seconds left. I break out in cold sweat. I hurriedly punch the code into the alarm to cancel activation and steel myself to try again.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Prompt: Handshake


"So where do I sign?"

"Well, sir, with all due respect, these things are generally done by handshake."

"Is that so? You claim to be fully licensed and bonded, and at your rates, you should be able to afford the taxes and fees."

"Sir, you misunderstand. If the agreement is on paper before the spell is cast, the effects are... unpredictable. I strongly recommend you reconsider."

"So you can screw me? I’ll take the risk."

"A, as you wish, sir."

I’ve learned two things: First, listen to magicians’ warnings. Second, flies can be delicious with a little butter and garlic.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Prompt: Funk

The Funk

"What is that?"

"What is wh– oh. Oh . Oh god." The smell was utterly overpowering. I looked upwind; nothing in sight. The smell was so strong I couldn’t even tell what it was. Not quite fecal, or rotting, or BO, or chemicals, and yet a little bit of all of those, and more.

In the distance I hear the sound of cars crashing, sirens, screams.

The scientists had no idea what had caused it, only that it was global and seemed to be hear to stay.

The press had less trouble, simply dubbing it, "The Day the World Cut One."