“Joker and the Thief”

[Estimated reading time: 2 minutes]

[This is a work in progress.]

The world smoulders and burns.
The cracked pavement belches gases from deep below.
The abandoned cars have already burned, but even their old carcases still smoke under the blazing heat.

I spend half an hour in the hills that overlook LA, watching the former metropolis as it crumbles to dust.
Prince looks up at me and meows, for the hundredth time, and I finally give in.
I dribble a few ounces from my canteen and take a swig as well, both of us happy to be hydrating.
Then we set off through the mostly-expressways route that I scoped out.

I put away Prince's bowl, then stoop down and let the little guy jump up onto my shoulder, and we set out.
We stay away from downtown and make our way through Burbank and onward, northwest, to the promise land.

It's quiet, the rumors were true, LA is a dead zone.
The cement jungle offers no reprieve from the end of the world, so no one spends much time here.
My own path leads north, out of the city and into the San Joaquin Valley.

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[Estimated reading time: 3 minutes]

I finish out my day, do a final count at my station, get the supervisor's signature, and head out.
As soon as I walk through the turnstile, the glasses are on, the headphones are up and running, I tap the familiar app on my phone, and I am happy!

The world feels my happiness and is happy with me.
Her twinkling smile is everywhere, the slight crinkles around the eyes are alluring, not yet crows feet.
I'm walking on air as I run a few last-minute errands before heading home.

We exchange pleasantries as she prepares the rolls of spicy tuna.
Her smile invigorates me.

At the makeup counter her eyes meet mine and she knows instantly what I need, and helps put up my hair into a low-price version of the season's fashion.

She smiles the perfect smiles as she sells me the two bottles of Pinko House Cider.

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Joe Vs

[Estimated reading time: 8 minutes]

[Author's note: this story is part of the on-going Space Surfers storyline.]

It's another boring and empty Tuesday at the office.
Everyone except for Joe is working from home, and has been for the past three years, even before COVID offered the opportunity.
Joe walks back into the cement two story building, a brutalist structure from the 70s when it was poured and lovingly dedicated to a dead mayor.
The office building shares a parking lot with a small strip mall, the only other building around here, and Joe is carrying a white paper bag with a logo of the burger joint next door.

The whole complex sits on Route 240, an east-west route that connects far-off places no one goes to in the midwest.
On the north side of the route is a corn field, green and ten feel tall at this point in the season.
The office building and the strip mall are on the south side of the road, in a small concrete patch that is carved out of an empty field.
A lone green Civic sits in the parking lot in front of the office building, Joe's old beat-up car.
From inside the office, Joe pushes the Lock button on his remote key fob and the car beeps once.

Just a regular day.

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Joe vs God

[Estimated reading time: 4 minutes]

[This is a work in progress.]

Scene 1 - Office, visitor, research

It's another Tuesday in the Phoenix Audit Office.
Everyone except Joe is working from home, has been for the past three years, even before COVID offered the opportunity.
He saunters back into the cement two story building, a throwback to the 70s when it was poured and lovingly dedicated to a dead mayor.
The auditor's office is next to a strip mall, the only other building around, and Joe is carrying a white bag with a logo of a burger joint just doors down.

The office sits on Route 9, an east-west road that connects far off places you've never heard of in the mid-west.
On the north side of the route is a corn field, green and ten feet tall at this point in the season.
There is an empty field on the south side, where the Audit Office stands.
A lone green Civic sits in the parking lot, Joe's rental.

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“Sounds caress my ear”

[Estimated reading time: 6 minutes]

[Note: this is a work in progress.]

The End

Samantha watches with eyes full of tears and rage as her killer looks through her handbag.
The bastard tosses aside the cell phone, the pack of pads, the little make-up mirror that Samantha's grandmother bought her first week in America, way back in the 19th century.
The flippant disregard of precious heirlooms is what really angers Samantha, even more than the theft and murder, somehow.

The cicadas are loud in the grove and their song makes for a strangely peaceful background sound.
Give me a babbling brook, and I can almost fall asleep, a thought flits through Samantha's mind, and then she is brought out of her reverie by the curses of her killer.

"Where is it?", the murderer mutters as he empties most of the bag.
The red hood of his sweatshirt is down and his bald head gleams in the afternoon sun.
His movements stop after a second and he slowly pulls a tiny wire contraption out of the lining of the bag.
"Wouldn't want anyone getting suspicious, would we, luv?
No, 'course not," he slips into what must be his native English accent, "wouldn't want anyone thinking this was anything but a muggin'."
He gets a handful of bills out of the wallet, then drops the wallet next to a large tree, onto a slowly accumulating pile of Samantha's belongings.

Samantha's lying on her side, following his movements with her eyes.
Her blood-covered right arm is stretched out, as if reaching for the murdering bastard, but she can't move it, can't move her body at all.
Her brown leather jacket is a stark contrast to the green grass and the red blood.
Some still-human part of Samantha regards this scene as beautiful, if only for a moment.

The murderer walks up and kicks Samantha in her stomach, forcing her to roll away from him, onto her back.
The handful of knife wounds in her back scream out in agony, and she joins in for a crescendo of pain.

This is how I die, she thinks, listens to the song of the cicadas, and dies.

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“Left me barely holding on”

[Estimated reading time: 2 minutes]

[Note: this is a work in progress.]

Act 1

Samantha sits in the diner booth and watches the orange-and-purple sunset through the dusty window.
Her contact is late, but she doesn't mind, this view is worth the wait.
She sips her coffee and skewers the last bite of apple pie onto a fork, then gobbles down the whole thing.
The last bite.
She saves the best for last, and finishing this mouth-watering apple pie in tune to a great oldies song blaring through the ancient speakers and the sunset outside is just about the best.
Sam's happy.

A car, a red sports number, pulls into the diner's driveway and blocks Samantha's view of the sunset.
It's her contact.

A bleary-eyed San Francisco hacky sack stereotype steps out on the wings of a plume of smoke and strides into the diner.
People start coughing.
He slides into Samantha's booth and quickly picks up a menu.

"What's good?"
He's not looking at her, he's focused, intently, on the plastic menu.

"You're laaaAate," Sam drawls out and tries to catch his eyes.

Ran into five-oh."

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“Before me”

[Estimated reading time: 5 minutes]

[Note: this is a work in progress.]

I ring the doorbell of the biggest and oldest house on the block, and Doc answers after a quick second, all excitement and joy at seeing me.

"Come in, come in, my boy!"
Doc's hand are long and expressive, waving this way and that, welcoming me into his mansion.
"Perfect timing, I was just getting us all setup."

The first floor of the building is columns and glass doors, and Doc leads us past all of them to his "seating room".
The room is behind a dark-brown door with a faded copper grid over its surface.
Doc slips in a large, ornamental key into an ancient lock, twists and turns it, and ushers me into a well-lit library.
The door locks behind us and I look around.

It's a two-story library, exposed dark wood covers the ceiling, an ornate carpet is on the floor, books cover most of the walls.
Ahead of us is a dark red velvet curtain, it hangs across a doorway.
Chairs and couches adorn the first floor, and a winding metal ladder leads up to the metal ramp that circumnavigates the second floor.
There are a number of fans mounted on the ceiling, and they're all spinning at different speeds.
There's also curtained window on my right, and it is only letting through a mild glow of the afternoon's sun.

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“Brothers in arms”

[Estimated reading time: 16 minutes]

[Author's note 1: this is a work in progress.]

[Author's note 2:
I'm experimenting with "chapter" headings/descriptions.
They're the strange large text, like the one right after this notice.
The individual chunks of writing are clearly too short to be called chapters, but I also don't have a better term for them.
And the separation into "chapters" is helping me with plotting, so I'm going to keep this experiment going for a while.]

Darkness and discovery

Tar imagines an ancient human at night in an unspecified desert setting.
The human stands by a roaring fire and looks out into the dark void all around him.
Something glitters in the dark bushes and the human advances, a burning stick his herald.

Tar fires up the long-range radar and imagines the human holding out the bright torch, bringing a faint bit of light to a dark and empty desert.

"Faint radio signature, possibly from a damaged freight drone," the remote sensors deliver a digested bit of news.
Tar looks deeper and compares the raw data, comes to a similar conclusion.

Tar tells the engines to rotate minutely, digs deep into the firmament, and the space ship Targeted Kindness jaunts toward the target.

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[Estimated reading time: 13 minutes]

City lights, memories, time

The not-quite-old man stands at a cliff and overlooks the small gold rush town.
He has the city mapped out in his mind, of course, so this is just a perusing glance to figure out what has changed.
There's construction on 4th, slight change, but otherwise the small town is much the same.

He stands there and tries to imagine the high-rises that will go up in the coming decades, the housing that will eat further into the valley.
The hover car taxis will bring in visitors in droves.
The weather will be controlled.

He looks on and ponders the mysteries of time and space from this overlook.
He pops the top on a glass bottle of Coke, sits on the hood and stares down into the growing town.
He pictures the future, the past, all the paths that lead off into an uncertain future.

The kid is out there, somewhere, somewhen.
He hasn't returned, so maybe he succeeded in his mission, maybe he did go back to the future.
The man tries to put those thoughts out of his head, but he is finding that hard to do.

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The Bastard Dreams

[Estimated reading time: 45 minutes]

Author's note:
Spider Jerusalem does not give his permission to be featured in this work of fiction. He is, in fact, currently suing the author of this drivel and any readers of said drivel. Spider will see you covered in pig shit before the week is through!

Curious happenstance, hanging out on the docks, fliers and such

The truth is, there's something terribly wrong with this world, isn't there? Daily, people are jumping into the Acid Pit, or are diving off skyscrapers and as they fall they shoot any MedAssist drone that comes near, or they go for a swim in the Thames. They all die, and they are happy as they are doing so.

What the hell is going on? Where is everyone going?!

My investigation begins in my own backyard, the City. I go for a walk, pound the pavement, kick a wailing Nazi down to the wild applause of my adoring public, enjoy running from a mob of terribly-transformed Hitler clones (how else do I get cardio in?!), and eventually find myself on the bank of the inter-city canal. What occupies the canal would fascinate any scientists still left in the City, seeing as how it's neither liquid nor solid, moves at a constant rate and keeps muttering boy-band lyrics.

"The City doesn't call out to the curious nerd, it calls out to the unwashed masses who spend 23.75 hours in front of the mediatron, a cylinder of constantly-moving HealthyGoo squirming down a tube from the InstaMaker3000 straight into their mouths." Yeah, that sounds good.

I sit at the edge of the canal, my feet dangle two hundred feet over the glow-in-the-night migrating surface, and I type up the research for my next column. Half a mile across the canal, a procession of red-clad singers (or is it sinners?) are shuffling slowly toward the great precipice. My glasses zoom in on the smiling faces of the congregants, I take a picture of every one of them. The line is orderly, there's little wait, and three purple-hatted priests are greeting and saying the last rights quickly enough that the whole process takes about thirty seconds per congregant, who in turn transform into some sort of red bird as they make their final plunge into the canal. Smoke marks their resting place for a few breaths (as each suicide is digested by the canal, I breathe in the cancer-filled air and pretend that their smokey presence is entering my lungs) but by and large the City politely ignores these Christians. They come and go, and all that the City does is to collect a toll.

I call down a drone and use it to hop across the canal. The Christians see me approaching and high-tail it out of there. They've got bright orange-and-blue jet units under those red robes!

Lunch is a dolphin blow-hole with fried lizard tails. The suicides at the canal made me all nostalgic and I was hankering for some home cooking, so of course I stop off at the Frying Dutchman. (Ad money please!)

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