S.A.G.

I hop the train before texting, sure of the outcome already. Kevin will see the text, will debate himself, will lose, and we'll have a fun night in. It's that simple. I know the exact train, so this is a photo finish as I'm the last one aboard.

In the train, I find a seat behind a yuppie couple. They are heading back from their "First Time in the Big City", it's written on their faces. They smile those idiot grins, but only for the first couple of days, then they pick up the "local look", and pandhandlers know to avoid them.

I set the sting on them, leave it running in my backpack. On my phone I watch their internet traffic and wonder who these two are.

Continue reading

Memory Fail, 4

Sarah's SUV speeds through forests and along lakes, eventually bringing her and the driver to the Olympia Veterans Affairs offices. The building doubles as a live-in facility as well. They park the car in the sparse but expansive lot, this one next to a sprawling corn field so large they are unable to see any other edges, and enter the administrative building.

Captain Wilcox is there to meet them. He is the ranking officer of the staff and will be helping with today's drill and session.

VA was told this was a new form of exercise-based therapy, they went along and supplied volunteers, soldiers who were willing to try just about anything. These were typically soldiers suffering from severe cases of PTSD, the trauma from their time in the military ruining any chance at a new life.

Continue reading

Voice

Author’s note: this is a work in progress.

"I don't normally do unpacking videos," I speak from behind the camera, "but this is like something out of sci-fi, so let's do it!

"OK, the box is out. Not too big, see. Not exactly what I was expecting, but no matter. Here's the collar, charging brick, cable. Hmm. And a cute little informational pamphlet. Let's forget about that for now.

"Thor, come here buddy! Yeah, who's a good girl? You are! Gosh, you just know when the camera's rolling, don't you? Of course you do! You're gonna be a star soon, gonna need to get you an agent..."

Continue reading

Commute

The red-and-green highly visible headphones are my protective shield as I walk past barely-shuffling heroin user and the teenage runaways. The song changes to "Lady in Black" and there's a spring in my step. I descend the marble stairs - instead of taking the escalator with its "everyone knows you're high" stickers and the luggage-lugging tourists - and sing along under my breath, a 21st century chorus to an immortalized 1971 version of Uriah Heep.

A short walk on this connecting platform, also marble, and a swipe of the fare card sounds a familiar beep, an announcement to the whole station that I've paid my way, nothing to see here folks. I fly down the stairs, the soles of my shoes barely making contact with the steps. After two or three of these, my feet lift off and I'm leaping, descending past a dozen hard hard marble outcroppings. A voice screams inside my skull, a few beats too late.

I'm falling, the ground is coming up awfully fast, there's a gasp from above but I can't look up, can't look away from the nondescript spot on the floor where I anticipate to make my painful landing.

But I don't fall. The ground isn't flying up to smack me in the face. It was, but then rethought, changed its mind, and receded from me instead.

Continue reading

In a Flash

Author's note: this story is a result of following along a lecture by Mary Robinette Kowal.

Pan, the world-famous rocket-jockey and world-class asshole, was going to die like a real captain: stuck on top of the open-air deck of his high-speed hover coast-runner (coaster, in the parlance of our times), holding onto a handrail for dear life, screaming into the merciless tropical storm that was about to make landfall. He couldn't get back inside the cockpit, and the storm was about to cut his trip short.

Continue reading

Block

On a cloudy weekend afternoon Martin drove his pickup a few hours away, to a town farther up the coast, one that is marginally larger than his own village, and found a store that is somewhere between an antique shop and a battered-goods store. They had chairs and a table for a few bucks, pretty vases at a steep discount. He spent forty bucks and loaded up his purchases in the truck, small bits in the passenger seat, larger items in the bed, then headed back. During the drive he glanced at the mostly-ceramic haul next to him and started telling himself stories about each piece.

World's Okayest Dad mug ended up at the store after the father fled, in the middle of the night and with a battered suitcase. The mother was relieved to take his belongings, box after box, to the used-goods shop.

The picture frame with the twin sisters at graduation was left behind during one of the many moves. The landlord's wife took the forgotten junk over last week, having tired of the lost-and-found box that no one ever asked about. The sisters were now running a coffee shop, on the other side of the country, and didn't even realize they were missing this picture. One of dozens they had always around.

Some stories, Martin told himself, needed to be happy ones.

He drove and thought and plotted and cursed his brain. Behind the wheel, twisting through picturesque landscapes, Martin was free to come up with detailed stories, his brain in overdrive as it supplied oodles of tiny bits of trivia that rendered a fictional reality. But as soon as he made it home, had walked into his living room and plopped down in front of his typewriter, his brain seized up in mental constipation.

Continue reading

Genie

[Editor's note: work in progress, not sure where - if anywhere - it's going.]

"A 'genie' genie?" I asked. Air-quotes accompanied my question and confused look.

"Quite right. Three wishes, no more, no less. And no malarkey!"

"Only if that's a two-way street, genie. How about this, I won't ask for infinite wishes - or infinite lamps! - and you don't twist my wishes around."

The genie was visible concerned: his hands were rubbing each other, like he was nervously washing up but forgot the soap.

I looked down at the old barnacle-covered vessel that I'd just moments ago pulled from the ocean. The hook was embedded deep in some crevasse, the line looped around a few times and caught on itself. I raised the lamp, rocked it from side to side. Water dribbled out of a dozen random spots.

Continue reading