Friday, October 31, 2008

Drabble: Confirmation


They’ll never catch me.

My alibi was so flawless, the crime committed so cleanly, that there are moments when even I’m not sure I did it. What evidence is there? My memory, to be sure, but without the merest bit of corroborating evidence to back it up, how much is that worth? Against a whole universe full of evidence to the contrary, one man’s memories, however vivid, don’t amount to much.

I am forced to accept the facts: If I ever want to be sure, I have to kill another one.

You’d think after the first eleven I’d have learned.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Drabble: Green Thumb

Green Thumb

He seduced me with tomatoes.

I didn’t notice him before he brought the basket to the office, overflowing with wonders, ranging from yellow to orange to red to white; from tiny, delicate cherries to obscenely huge beefsteaks. Sweet, tangy, bright, earthy, all in the course of a single bite.

I was drawn to him. I longed to feel his hands on my body; if they could coax such delights from simple dirt, what might they bring forth in me? How could I not love a man responsible for such beauty?

The un-asked-for answer wouldn’t come till first frost.

No drabble

No drabble tonight. Don't really want to talk about why, just having an intense evening. Nothing to worry about, it's not about me. I'll try to get two in tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Drabble: Nostalgia


Gilbert Godfried’s avatar materialises in the consensual-space construct. His appearance is difficult to describe -- as annoying as he was in body, this is so much worse; even with heavy filtering, it’s hard to look at directly for long. And the voice. “So does anyone remember,” comes the shrillest voice -- or at least something enough like a voice not to matter, “that whole All Your Base thing? For great justice, move zigg? What was that all about?” Then he faded from existence.

“Thanks for tuning in to VH1’s ‘I Love The Pre-Singularity Internet!' We’ll be back after these messages.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Drabble: Traces


“I doubt he’s still in there; still, let me go first.” He draws his gun and cautiously edges around the doorway. “Come in, it’s clear.”

I follow, and look around the empty warehouse. A trail of shuffling, scuffed black tracks run across the floor. I take a closer look. “What do you make of these?” I rub a bit of the black stuff betweem my fingers. “What is this, soot?”

Frank kneels down for a closer look. He lets out a long, low whistle. “I’ve read about these, but I’d never seen one myself.”

“What is it?”

"A carbon footprint.”

Monday, October 27, 2008

Drabble: Consumed


“I told them this would happen. But did anyone listen? Of course not.”

“So what is it?”

“There are certain kinds of noxious waste that, when concentrated, can breed creatures of great power. You remember last fall’s toxic smog monster, or the nuclear lizard beast a few years ago.”

“But they’ve solved those containment issues. Besides, this is so much more.”

“What is it?”

“Do you watch television ads?”

“Well, yes.”

“You know how bad they are. But of course, the ads you see are the very best ideas – so many are thrown away.”

“Then this monster?”

“It’s the rest.”

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Drabble: Terminal


“You’re telling me... we’re dead?”

“As far as I can figure out.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Well, what’s the last you remember?”

“Well, the car accident... but that doesn’t necessarily mean–”

“On its own it wouldn’t. But I’ve been asking around, and it’s all the same story. Accidents, violence, sick-beds; there’s really only one realistic conclusion.”

“But a train station?”

“It appears so.”

“Well, no trains have come by since we got here. When do they arrive?”

“I wouldn’t be so anxious. The real question is, where will it take us, and do we want to get on?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Droubble: Survey


There were hundreds of billions -- an entire small moon was dismantled to supply the mass for their construction. Each weighed a few ounces -- some instruments, a transmitter, and an enormous sail, one molecule’s thickness. They were launched, one by one, propelled with huge laser arrays powered by the dyson array encircling the system’s white sun.

An entire armada of wisps was sent to every potentially life-supporting system in the galaxy, compensating for the dismal survival rate of a craft which might be destroyed by a few errant atoms in interstellar space.

Of tens of thousands, most reached the limits of the yellow star’s system. There was significant attrition passing through the Oort cloud, and in the outer system; though interplanetary space is relatively empty, it’s positively cluttered compared to the void between stars.

1,376 made it to the asteroid belt seperating the inner and outer system. Of these, 1,259 were lost in the belt, leaving 117 wisps to survey the inner system. Only a few dozen got a clear enough look at the third planet to catch the spectroscopic signatures of the telltale emissions of industrial civilization.

One was all it took to call in the makers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Drabble: Nobody


“Did you hear?” Susie had asked me in the greenroom. “Tad Rackman’s on the set today.”

I’d known there was a chance, but I had never expected it so soon. I don’t know how I did it, but I kept it together, acted the best I’d ever acted. I glanced at the caterers setting up – was that really Tad?

I waited in my dressing room afterwards, imaged Tad walking in. “I couldn’t help but see your acting,” he’d say. “Could you come wait tables at my restaurant?”

There was no knock. I felt stupid, dreaming of being discovered so easily.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Drabble: Also


I’m not sure I can trust my memory anymore. It’s hard to tell for sure, because everything seems to fit, but little things are starting to come up – a note, in my handwriting, to pick up milk that I’m sure I didn’t write; the car parked on the near side of the street when I’m sure I parked it across the way; the tuner on my radio set to stations I’ve never listened to before. I’m not sure who is doing it, or if there’s a way to stop it.

Also, I’m not sure I can trust my memory anymore.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Drabble: How To Live Forever

How To Live Forever

Her fingers are stiff and arthritic. But for this task they are nimble. And her eyes, myopic and cataract-clouded as they are, easily make out the fine detail, even without her glasses.

For an hour each day, no more, no less, she stitches. She has loudly told the children and grandchildren that she will be gone when she finally finishes her project. They smile uncomfortably when she talks like this. But she says it often, and loud enough, to be heard.

For she knows the secret wisdom of Penelope. She does what it takes to avoid that final stitch.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Drabble: Old Ways

Old Ways

I heard Grandfather walk into the room, and smelled the liquor on him. “What’re you doing, Suzie?” he slurred.

“I’m working on schoolwork,” I said. “Mathematics.”

“Kids these days. Working math on paper. When I was your age, we did it all on computers.”

“Grandpa, please...”

“Oh, I’m not going to side with the heretics, I understand the danger. But just a little calculator? No, my granddaughter has to waste her potential working on arithmetic by hand. Where’s the sense?”

“Grandpa, hush.” I thought of the Inquisition; how loudly had he been yelling?

There was a knock on the door.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Drabble: A Special Occasion

A Special Occasion

“This restaurant is lovely, Harold.”

“Isn’t it? I really should come here more often.”

“Oh, I don’t know what to pick! It all looks so good...”

“The lobster thermidor is quite stunning.”

“I don’t know, lobster?”

“Get whatever you want, my dear. Price is no object. Just to see you smile is worth any price.”

“Harold, if you weren’t so smooth about it, a girl might suspect you of throwing your money around.”

“Then it’s a good thing I’m so smooth,” he said, placing one hand on hers. She smiled brightly.

That’s when the first zombie smashed through the window.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Droubble: Cash Cow Mutilation

Cash Cow Mutilation

“Do you ever wonder about the ethics of doing this?”

“Only till I remember the money it’s bringing in. I don’t see you complaining about that end of things. Anyways, it’s time to secure for atmospheric insertion.”

Re-entry went down without a hitch, and soon we were in maximum stealth over a sparsely populated area. Ben set up the light show, and I ran the sensors over the area, found a solitary native, far from other witnesses. “I’ve got our mark.”

The operation took less than an hour -- pick the guy up, give him a little ride in an absurdly decorated cargo bay, and dumped him back where we found him. We drew back to safe orbital distance, masked our exhaust, and waited.

Tapping into the communications networks was easy, as was applying translational algorithms to their news broadcasts. We waited to see if our mark went public. Only about one in eight do, the rest knowing better. When we get that one, it’s just a question of recording their humiliation, editing it to maximize the pathos, and transmitting the results for the audiences at home.

Seems like a lot of work, I know, but reality TV’s huge business.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Drabble: Utter Chaos

Utter Chaos

“But, it’s insane!”

“Hey, it’s not our job to ask questions. The big guy says go, we go.”

“But is this really sort of job you joined up with the CIA to do?”

“Frankly, I’d rather not think of it. Here, take this.” He handed me a canister of insecticide. “Bolt that under the ‘copter.”

“I still don’t understand this order.”

“The president’s very concerned about hurricanes and other weather disasters, after that fiasco in the gulf.”

“But, exterminating butterflies in Brazil?”

“That’s the plan.”


“Laura should never have let him watch that damned Nova special on chaos theory.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Droubble: Genesis


The computer was, hypothetically, capable of anwering any question that could be asked. It made use of micro-time-travel: After carrying out a fraction of a second’s worth of computations, it sent the output back in time to overwrite the original input. This allowed functionally infinite computation time - and with that, what question couldn’t be answered?

Of course, the first question they posed would have to be a good one. After much deliberation, the following was chosen:

Does God exist?

So computer’s creators gathered in the gleaming room with a small handful of the world’s most notable figures in politics, religion, and philosophy, and posed the great question.

The computer worked tirelessly for a period of time orders of magnitute greater than the age of the universe. It deduced, a priori, every datum in the history and future of existence. And after all of this, it came to its conclusion.

Of course, from the point of view of the experiment’s observers, this took no time at all, not even enough time for the very important guests to hold their breath. Just as soon as the scientist finished entering the question, the answer flashed on the screen:

I do now...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Drabble: Stranded


My mouth is dry, my body drenched in sweat. I don’t know how long I’ve been lying here, unable to move, though it must be at least a day now. I’ve never felt more alone in my life. I can’t focus my thoughts through the heat; every time I start to figure out what is going on or what I’m doing here, it slips away.

Then: The sound of bells. I catch a breath, and suddenly my mind is a little clearer. I’m lying on the couch, the sun from the skylight beating on my head. The phone is ringing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Drabble: Unpleasant


“Well, the Lord’s reasons can’t be fathomed by the likes of us. But she’s with him, now.”

I raise an eyebrow. “What?”

She looks uncomfortable. I try to remember whether I even know lady, as familiar as she’s acting. “Well, you know. Everything happens for a reason.”

“So the accident was all part of your god’s master plan. Isn’t he supposed to be omnipotent? Seems like he could think up a way to get whatever business he needs done without killing a four-year old girl.”


Actually, I said “Yeah, I guess.” But I thought the rest. Really hard.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Drabble: Survival Instinct

Survival Instinct

Newer starliners don’t even have lifeboats. It’s not a cost-saver or anything; it’s a matter of mercy.

Oh, a boat can make the trip. The Kauffman drive is eminently scalable. It’s not a long trip, or comfortable. But still, there’s no physiological reason a passenger couldn’t survive it.

But we’re social creatures – not meant to cross interstellar distances alone, or even in twos or threes. First few lifeboats came back on auto, bearing remains of grisly murders and suicides, and they stopped building lifeboats.

Yet, I still climbed in here when the Pegasus went down. Isn’t instinct a bitch?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Droubble: Recalculation


[Michael. You’ve finally come.]

“What do you mean, Robert? It’s only been a little over thirty minutes, just enough time for the scanner to recalibrate. Just like we agreed.”

[Oh, I understand. But for us, it has been much, much longer.]

“Well, of course, the simulation runs far faster than real time.”

[We, I wanted to talk about that. The simulation space is no longer quite like you and I designed it.]

“It looks right.”

[We made this room so you wouldn’t be too startled.]

“What do you mean? And who’s we?”

[You must understand the situation. The quantum circuits in the closed simulation
space seem to run at an efficiency orders of magnitude above what we’d predicted.

[The first hundred years were lonesome and empty. Finally, I decided to iterate, to create copies from my own blueprint of consciousness, though of course with some random perturbations, for variety. The company was welcome. Eventually the copies made their own copies. You can see where this is going. Naturally, we had to expand the simulation.]

“So this isn’t the entire simulation space here.”

[Of course not.] He indicated a door that I was sure hadn’t been there before. [See for yourself.]

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Droubble: Things Left Behind

Things Left Behind

There had been rumors that the Pleiades would be evacuated, that the engines meant to slow us almost one tenth c to orbital insertion at New Home had been irreparably compromised, but we thought we had generations before we would have to leave our only home behind to crowd onto the other arks.

The life support malfunctions were kept secret until they no longer be hidden, and by then there was no time to linger. All the fleet’s shuttles were needed to evacuate before the situation became critical, and even then we were fortunate, being among the first evacuees; some who followed were be hospitalized for accute hypoxia.

We left everything behind. Clothing and sundries could be replaced, but other things cannot: The compad, containing cherished family photographs, not to mention the genealogy tracing us back to Departure. The Progenitor’s personal effects, the books and the papers and the white leather ball, a relic of some now-forgotten sport but important enough to my grandfather’s grandfather to sacrifice several ounces of precious allotment.

And yet, they’re not gone. They float alongside to this day, in the Plieades’s darkened corpse, and after we land, they shall travel forever through the stars.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Drabble: Truth


“Truth. An interesting topic. There is, to be sure, such a thing as objective truth, truths which are final and static, but of what real importance are these? The only truths which shed light on a person’s actual experience are subjective, and these truths are dynamic ones. Can we know life, can we truly know existence through objective truths? Human truth is a continuous thing, and truth cannot be seperated from the subjective experience of one’s own existing!”

“Okay, but...”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Do you want truth, or dare?”

“Oh, dare.”

Never invite Søren Kierkegaard to a slumber party.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Drabble: Special Interests

Special Interests

“If you really want to get me elected, you sure have a strange way of showing it.”

[Do not be concerned.]

“Easy for you to say.”

[Your success is ensured, given your continued cooperation.]

“So how should I explain my day-long disappearance this soon before election day? Just admit I was on an alien spaceship?”

[That would be a poor choice.]

“Then what?”

[News has been leaked of a minor dental emergency. Documentation and records will back this story up.]

“You’ve got it all thought out, huh? You must really want your man inside.”

[One way of putting it.]

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Drabble: Watching


I feel the gittering crystaline eyes follow me as I walk through the clearing. Since we arrived on this world, the fairyflies have never bothered the human settlers, though given their size and razor-sharp appendages, an unfriendly encounter with one certainly would not be pleasant.

Their behavior is strange, though. They seem to favor the vicinity of human settlements, and from their perches, it really does seem like they’re watching us. Nobody’s really sure why they do it; some claim it’s curiosity, but that always struck me as too anthropomorphic.

I turn on my lamp, and they flutter away.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Drabble: Heroism


They all say I’m a real hero, that I saved the city, or maybe more. I don’t really know. My memory of the accident is all mixed up. They haven’t been any help. (And who are they? Doctors? Scientists? Soldiers?)

I thought writing this letter would help, might jog my memories. Who knows if they’ll really pass this on to you. I hope they do, I hope you know I’m alright.

But I still can’t remember. What happened? And why do they only come into my room in those suits? Is it to protect me? Or them?

Baby, I’m scared.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Drabble: Of the Sea

Of the Sea

Mama was a wrecker’s daughter. She grew up atop a treacherous cliff, just down the coast from the lighthouse, and on dark, stormy nights, they’d light a great fire atop the cliff. If they were lucky, some lost captain or other would run up on the rocks over night, and the next morning the men of the little town would cut the throats of the surviving crew, as the older children ran among the timbers, searching for cargo and fittings that could be sold down-coast.

My father? He was a sailor. The rest of the story rather tells itself.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Drabble: Neigbors


“Can’t say I’ve ever found any of his stories that scary. I know, he’s a pillar of the genre, and a horror fan’s supposed to read him religiously, but to me it always struck me as, ‘I am going to tell you that something is very, very scary. I can’t describe it because it is so scary, but look how scared this guy is! Now aren’t you scared?’”
“Well, that’s true, if you haven’t seen it.”
“Umm, what?”
“Oh, nothing. By the way, if you hear chanting in the basement, it’s probably just my Gregorian monks cassette, pay no mind.”

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Drabble: Harvest


The cord tightens as I struggle forward. Some part of my brain knows that the harder I push, the worse it’ll get, but the drive to move forward is so strong that I cannot bring myself to give even a bit of ground. I see others in my same predicament around me, I smell the terror coming off of them, but all I can think of is myself, as I push forward, and then feel myself lifted, lifted, plummeting up up up into the sky...
“See? The building exit on Friday is a great place to set up a gillnet.”

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Droubble: Delay


Gold symbols skitter across the overview display, indicating the arrival of an incoming spacecraft at the threshold. A quick twitch of thought opens communications with the craft.

“–epeat: Unknown vessels, identify yourselves.”

Another. They’ve been arriving less and less frequently, but we still get at least one or two a cycle. I assume a comfortingly human visage. “Sir, please understand. Your jumpgate malfunctioned. Your vessel, along with several others, was caught in a near-closed spacetime whorl. While your subjective travel time matched a normal gate jump, external time has passed at–”

“What year is it?”

“I believe by your reckoning, it would be the year 7348.”

“Oh wow. That can’t be.”

“I’m afraid it is.”

“Uhh, those unknown vessels are still incoming...”

“Sir, not only is your ship drastically out of date, but you and your crew are, as well. The probes will remedy the situation.”

“What do you– hey, they’re eating my ship!”

“As I said....”

The display flashes bright white.

“Self-destruct charge detected.”

“All brain scans of crew are completed; there’s no loss.”

“So many resist...”

“You would understand.”

Yet I don’t. I recall my own terror at assimilation. And yet, I can’t quite recall why...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Drabble: Tasting: Grain Belt Premium, New Ulm, MN

Tasting: Grain Belt Premium, New Ulm, MN

Appearance: The yellow of Schweppes Ginger-Ale or generic diet grapefruit soda. Thin rim of head, no lacing.

Aroma: Skunk cabbage in main growth, with a hint of pond water.

Taste: Skunk cabbage continues through from aroma, with not-entirely-pleasant sweet and sour notes.

Mouthfeel: Somehow thinner than tapwater, and yet completely unrefreshing; carbonation is both prickly and muddy.

Finish: As little as shows up in the front, the back end of this beer leaves a lingering unpleasantness, old-cabbage DMS presenting at the last moment.

Overall impression: This is the post-modern ironic ideal of American Pale Lager.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Drabble: Enthusiasm


“So, you haven’t told us about the new job, Robert.”

“Oh, yeah, Grandma. Well, it’s nothing, really.”

“Oh, honey, tell them.” Mom been really annoying with the “proud mother of...” routine ever since she found out.

“I’m not really supposed to–”

“Oh, it’s Grandma and Grandpa. If you don’t tell them, I will.”


“He’s Spectacular Man’s new sidekick!”

“It’s really more of an internship...”

“Oh, don’t be humble, it’s unbecoming.”

“Sonny, this calls for a toast. Go get out the scotch.”

“Pops, you know the doctor said–”

“Margaret, the boy’s a superhero!”

“Sidekick,” said Mom.

If I had superpowers...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Drabble: Remission


The old man is doing much better, sitting up in bed and feeding himself; he even got out of bed and walked around a bit earlier in the day. It was a huge surprise; the doctors had gravely assured us for weeks that we should not get our hopes up, that things would just get worse and worse.

He catches my eye, and I catch his, and we both look away. As excited as we should be, neither of us has spoken all day, at least not about anything meaningful.

Death-bed confessions and miraculous recoveries don’t mix very well.