Friday, July 13, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday - The Laptop Whisperer

A fragment this time, which like so many fragments may or may not stretch out to a full length work.

I like the character of the "laptop whisperer" and we'll perhaps learn about him and see a bit more of him.

The Laptop Whisperer

They called him the laptop whisperer.

Nobody really knew how he did it, but they knew he did. He'd wave his hand over a power brick -- always his left hand, the one with the jagged scar near the little finger - and stare off into space for a moment. Then he'd tell us, without fail and with one hundred percent accuracy, whether or not there was something wrong with it. A loose connection, a fluctuation in the output voltage. He'd get it right. Every time.

If anyone asked how he did it, he'd smile, wave his fingers in complex patterns, and say, "Maybe I'm a wizard".

He was not, of course, a wizard. Just someone willing to take risks, who knew that the human body and brain are flexible and adaptable, that the brain will learn to recognize anything, including a magnetic sensor implanted in your left hand, behind a surgical scar.

It became an obsession with him, this second-sight. He of course added more. He can smell WiFi. taste magnetic fields. Hear variations in background radiation. He outgrew DIY modifications, sought far and wide for those with medical training, and resources, and few ethics.

He began to think himself a wizard.

The brain is flexible, but the brain is not infinite.

It's the last one that did him in -- cosmic background radiation. You see, the universe is never silent. It's always there, a hum in the back of his head that he just can't tune out.

He hasn't slept in weeks. It keeps him awake, the universe. After a time, it learns how to make sense of things.

As he lies awake, with no other sound, he hears it. He's starting to make sense of it. He hasn't yet, but he's starting to.

The universe is talking to him.

What's it saying? Is it telling him the secret meaning of creation? Is it guiding him, teaching him? Is it telling him to commit unspeakable evils?

Until we're willing to reshape our brains as he did, and learn to listen.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday - The Fairy Guardian

Flash Fiction Friday again - with a trip to suburbia and a glance at one of those odious "blue lives matter" flags. Are the people who fly them what we'd expect? 

The Fairy Guardian

Nobody in the suburbs knows anyone else. Oh, I know they see me out every morning to raise the flag with the blue stripe across the middle. From that they probably think they know everything about me. That I'm a steady man. Solid. Reliable. Honorable. Those things are true, if they could see beyond the wooden stockade fence they'd see another side.

They'd see the fairy garden.

It started with Mrs. Gant, who used to live next door. The kind of neighborhood catlady that would have been hanged as a witch in a different century. She always had the most perfect garden, the most vibrant flowers, the fattest tomatoes. I like gardening myself (see, you don't know everything about me) and asked her secret.

I remember to this day, how it felt to come into her yard. Like I was intruding into a feminine space where men don't belong. The smell of lavender and hibiscus, the delicate garden statues, the path of decorative stepping stones leading to a hidden spot beneath the forsythia bush where broken seashells were arranged in an abstract pattern. She waved her arm expansively, inviting me to take in the space, "This is my secret. I do it for them, to make them feel welcome."

"To make who feel welcome?"

She smiled. "The fey folk, of course. Fairies love lavender and hibiscus and spaces decorated with pretty stoneworks and little bits from far-off places. I give them a home and they give me their blessings."

It seemed true. Her yard was brighter than the others, her flowers grew bigger and more vibrant. Even the air had a different feel, a different energy. Even her sky seemed brighter.

Mrs Gant is long gone, but I learned from her, and even gathered some of the things from her fairy garden. A few of the little statues, a handful of seasells. The flowers I grew myself. The fairy-home
grew from a corner to where it is now, filling in the fenced-in backyard, with worn stepping stones cutting paths through fields of cultivated wildflowers.  I think all the fairies from the neighborhood have come to live here by now, which is good. IT means it's time.

How to attract fairies isn't the only thing I've learned.

Yesterday I turned on the garden hose which loops the yard three times. Three is a magic number, and fairies can't cross running water. Those that are here will remain here. They'll remain here as I sprinkle the garden with iron filings, they'll weaken.

They'll die.

And after that this cul-de-sac will be what it always should have been - a human place. Mrs. Gant attracted the infestation, I'm exterminating it.

I'm doing it for the neighbors, for the children. They deserve a human place.

They deserve protectors.

And now you know me.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Flash Fiction Friday - She Remembers

Hello everybody! Let's bring Flash Fiction Friday - and this blog - back. 

I'm commuting thrice a week, so these will all be super-short pieces I can finish on my morning commute from Huntington to Penn Station. 

Most of these will come with a picture, though the picture may or may not have anything directly to do with the story. 

We'll see how many Fridays I can keep this up this time. 

She Remembers

She watches from the sky. It’s all she can do now.

That, and remember.

She remembers travelling, from great cities with terraced hanging gardens, past the life-giving river peopled by her single-headed cousins. Across the sea to the bottomless lake she called home.

Travelers would see her, but rarely and only once. Some whispered that beyond her lake lay the realm of the dead, where men eternally slumber. She cared not for that, only for the cool waters of the lake, the way the bones of its fish crunch when she caught them in one of her mouths. Yes, her time in the lake was the best time of her life, or at least the most peaceful.

She’d have been pleased to know that is how we named her.
Sculpture by Luciano Garbati

That time was long ago.

It ended the way all such things end, with a hero. You know the kind, and you know the story. We tell it again and again.

Greater than any mortal man, clad in valor and glory and the skin of a lion, wielding a blade. They always wield a blade.

They always bring a friend, a sidekick, a spearcarrier. Were the hero alone, who would tell their tale?

You know the story of the fight. IT’s been told enough. What you don’t know, what you perhaps never wondered, is why? Why would she not snap up the spearcarrier, break her in those mighty jaws, extinguish the burning brand in his fist as she extinguished his life? She was not a stupid beast, and she’s known the hero would not prevail. Could not prevail alone. This she knew, but there’s something we don’t know.

The hero – the one wearing the skin of another beast he’d slain – was not the first. She was a proving ground, a test. Her mistress would call to her, she’d rise. And fight. Sometimes she’d flee and the hero could say she’d been vanquished. Sometimes she’d taste flesh and bones that crunch so much harder than those of fishes.

Always she’d leave with another wound, another scar.

She was tired. She was done. So she fought, hard enough to put on a good show, not smart enough to win. Each kiss of the flame seared, burned, ached. And then her last head was struck clean off, and then it was over.



Until her mistress gathered what was left, painted her essence into the vault of stars where she remains now, a dream, an idea, the last of her kind. Would she weep to know that we think of her – if at all – as a mere monster, an obstacle, a footnote in the hero’s story?

Or have her thoughts grown beyond us as she looks down from what is left of the heavens, now littered with younger and tamer dreams?



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Nightmare Fuel Day the Thirty-First - The Door

Welcome to the end of October. This is the "official" 30th prompt, but I added an extra one AND a prologue, so this marks the thirty-second day of daily flash fiction.
We'll end in the woods, at the door. Thanks for reading along with me.
The Door

It was the eighteenth day that that Billy came to see me. That I remember.
I remember everything since the first day. Or, I guess, the last one.
God, I hope it wasn't the last one.
He was never my favorite of Justin's friends, but he was the one who came to my front door on the eighteenth day. None of the others came near. And, I have to give credit, looked me in the eye, as hard as that must have been.
"Mary..." He trailed off. I swallowed my annoyance; back when I was twelve years old I'd never have called a friend's parent by her first name. Especially if that friend had been missing for eighteen days. "Mary... there's something I never told you. About ... about Justin."
I looked down at him. He was pale, his face drawn. Still, his eyes stayed on mine. "It's just... this is crazy, but the last place I saw was at the mystery door." the last bit came rushed, almost in a single breath. Now it was my turn to stare.
"The mystery door? Where's that? And why the hell didn't you tell anyone?"
"It's in the woods. It sounds crazy, but... can I show you?"
I was still numb. You'd know the feeling if your son was gone for eighteen days, but I hope to god you never do.
I didn't get dressed, didn't even lock the door. Just closed it behind me and followed him, still in my housecoat.
We didn't speak as he lead me around the corner to the block. Through the small park, through the hole in the fence behind it, to the woods.
Justin wasn't supposed to play in the woods. Still I said nothing. After a time, he said, "I'm sorry it's so long. I wanted to wait 'til it was just you. You know, Justin was afraid of..." he trailed off again, his ears red. I knew. And, mad as I was, I understood.
I was afraid of him too.
The only sound was the crunch of dry leaves beneath our feet until we came to a clearing. I don't know what I expected when he said "mystery door", but nothing this literal: a simple wooden door with peeling white paint, standing alone in its frame with no visible support or purpose.
He looked up at me. "Justin ran ahead, and.. I heard the door slam. Then I didn't hear nothing. He was gone."
I approached the door. It was battered and weathered, not handing quite true in its frame. I thought along the side I could see some light, brighter than  it should have been. As if the other side of it was a well-lit room and not, as we could see, simply more forest.
This is crazy, but I tried the doorknob, even though behind the door was clearly nothing. You do crazy things after eighteen days. The knob turned with some difficulty, but the door was stuck. I slammed on the wooden panels again and again with my hand, the drumbeat of flesh on wood echoing through the woods until I left bloody palmprints on the door. Still it didnt budge.
At some point I sat on the forest floor, leaned back against the door and wept. At some point Billy touched my shoulder, made what was meant as a comforting noise, and left.
At some point a raven landed atop the doorframe, bringing with it ill omens.
At some point we passed from the eighteenth day to the nineteenth, and beyond.
I'll wait. At some point this damn door will open.

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Thirtieth - The Tree Surgeon

I'm not an ordinary tree surgeon. I'm the kind who knows the forest and all the things which grow in it.
Yes, many of them are just trees. Most, to tell the truth. Just like most people are just people and not vampires or werewolves or something.
Oh, you thought those were just myths? You can go right on believing that. It's fine with me.
Anyway, the one sort of tree every red-blooded man cares about is the dryad tree. Part tree, part magic woman creature. Even more magical than normal women, and more beautiful. Really, it's true. I ain't never seen a dryad that wasn't drop-dead gorgeous, a bit exotic. Skin the color of old teak or mahogany, those leaf-green eyes, a voice like wind through branches. Oh, those dryad girls are special alright. Some think that the fairywoman thing lives in the tree, but a smart guy knows they're really the same. Take care of the tree and you're taking care of the woman.
They're also shy, also tricky. They'll magic you into a deep sleep, set forest creatures on you, get you lost or choked to death by the very living vines. Maybe get to forest to lead you around in circles until you get yourself drowned in a naiad pool. Even someone like me, a guy who really cares about trees and wants them healthy - even a guy like me can be a victim. You gotta earn their trust first.
How? I earn it the old fashioned way, with some iron spikes and a hammer. Oh, not too many. They are fairyfolk, and you know cold iron's bad for 'em. But one spike, deep into the trunk just above the rootline, that's usually enough. You can feel the whole wood tremble sometimes as you drive the spike in, the blunted tip penetrating old, strong wood. Pounding in a single spike is all it takes.
Yeah, the last one screamed at first, but I know she was grateful when I shimmied up the trunk with my climbing belt, a sturdy saw hanging from it. Cold iron blade, of course. I felt her eyes on me as I found the dead branches, one by one. Cut each one off. Cut the one the woodpecker had been worrying at, that would soon die itself. I could see the pain in her eyes, know that she needed me.
I know it hurts her, but it's for the good in the long term. Always for the good.
And yes, the sap does have medicinal properties and yes, I did collect some. You know that's not why I do it.
So I climbed back down, my work done. The girlpart of the dryad was pale and shaken from the ordeal, mute like they always are.
I took my reward, gathered my tools and left the wood, the coldiron spike still in place, binding her to me.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Twenty-Ninth - In the Gallery

I'm calling this one 29 after a diversion yesterday to use a photo taken by my lovely bride Dr Karine Suskin. IT's interesting that even when we see the same things, her pictures show that she seems them a bit differently than I do. There's probably a metaphor there.

The image came late, so the only other response we get today is from the stalwart Samantha Dunaway Bryant who has, to this point, written a response to each and every one of these.

In the Gallery

The changeling's human parents took her to a museum.

Oh, they didn't know that she was a changeling. That would have been common sense a century ago, but we don't live a century ago, now do we? We live today, in a world where everything is neatly boxed and measured, where the gap in a hedgerow leads to the other side of the hedgerow, where inside a wardrobe is naught but clothes. Where a child who suddenly becomes a bit wild is "precocious" or, perhaps diagnosed as something or other. That's the world in which we live.

These are good parents of the modern world, parents who'd tame their wild child and bring her to museums, to concerts, to whatever hidden delights they could find. In days of old a changeling would be beaten with sticks or burned with fire, perhaps it's better to tame them with money and culture.

This changeling - this Child - was a wild thing. She never could explain how the well-manicured lawns made her itch, how seeing the neatly shaped bushes made her feel constrained, as if bound in irons. So moments of despondent silence would punctuate wild running and dancing barefoot through the lawn, ruining the bottom of her skirts with mud grass stains.

THe museum was different.

Quiet, dark rooms seemed, to the child, alive with energy. Awake. If the lawn cried out because it longed to grow ragged, this was a place that was what it meant to be. She felt at peace here, so ran wild, ahead of the parents. Rapid footfalls on marble floors, echoing over the hushed voices of the other grownups.

The parents let her run ahead. They knew that it was best for children to run wild a bit, even if they didn't know what wildness lived within their tiny girl's heart. They also knew that this gallery was a dead-end, that they'd soon corner their little moppet and laugh and buy her an icecream.

She came to a painting of a wild scene, with a stern and giant creature. It saw her through the painting, she saw it.

On the other side of the painting, wildness. Perhaps the hunt someday. Flowers that grew where they will, not where they were forced to. On this side, her parents who always listened and brought her to these places so that she might run wild. The wild creature reached out, through the painting and offered to her a flower, a single glittering yellow thing. It shone bright in the dim exhibit hall, its deep yellow petals haloed in a bright glow as they flaked off into the air.

Scarlet Table, by vv nan
The parents rounded the bend, past that creepy tentacled sculpture. The one that didn't fit any known period ant that the museum was SO wrong for keeping. The next gallery was the deadend, where they'd find their daughter.

They turned the corner.

Did they see their changeling daughter, her eyes upturned as she gazed on a scene of wonder? Or did they find themselves alone, barely noticing the few spilled petals the only sign that anyone was ever here?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Nightmare Fuel, Day the Twenty-Eighth - Manifesto

No image prompt today, so I chose my own. Just a few short rantings of a madman.

Because really, aren't we all a bit mad?


It has been written that the most merciful thing in the world is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. That we live in ignorance a part we play of the awesome grandeur which is  the cosmic cycle. There are times men see beyond the veil, men we call mad, but they see something.

What it is that they see is always just beyond their ken, horrors they could imagine, horrors they couldn't resist. Just horrors.

So we read of the mad scientist creating a man of of elecricity and spare body parts.

Seamonsters, attacking sailing ships should they draw near the edge of the world.

Of the unholy terror drinking blood, resisted only by the holy power of church. Not so close.

Of the thing at sea, larger than the greatest whale, brought down by a great steamship. Closer. The guy who wrote that one really gets it.

Each story is of survival, even if not hope. We always vanquish the monsters. At least the best of us are. Sometimes someone from Africa or Israel or Poland has some kind of ancestral knowledge, but it's always the scientist who vanquishes them. The one who studies. The smart, civilized one with the books.

Civilized I am, and smart. I can make connections. The stories have lasted a long, long time. I've read all of them. About the thin places, about the elder ones from beyond. And one thing I know - they're always stronger than we are, but just barely. Beyond our ken, but not too far.

Today we'll learn more about what lies beyond, and what is beyond our ken today.

On, it doesn't matter where it came from. Say it's an old book, or an inscription on a relic in the museum. You know, one of the ones they keep in the back where the patrons don't get to see. It doesn't matter.

What matters is that I know.

What matters is that I'm tired of being laughed at.

I know things. I know that what's beyond our ken today is far and away beyond what was beyond our ken a decade ago.

Let's see what's on the other side of this veil. Just like some humans are better than others, some monsters are better.

This monster will be the right one to let in.

I can tell because it's white.