Friday, August 28, 2020

2 Minutes. Go!

I'm tired to writing the same old things, but the world won't change. Maybe I'm just tired. Maybe I'm just like kids down at the beach - loud, confused, hyper-focused. I don't know, man. Maybe I'm trying to put rules into a game that wasn't designed for them. Maybe I'm hoping the dog will learn how to talk, but the dog keeps shooting people in the back. Fuck if I know, little old me. Full of punk rock indignation, staring at my contemporaries who look at me like I'm a simpleton. Like, dude, you never stopped being an asshole and being an asshole doesn't pay

I'm like, check your definition of asshole, asshole.

I don't want to play this adult game of moral compromise. I can't. It's not in me, and I don't want it to be. I don't care how many jobs I lose, how many friends back away, how many doors close before I get my hand on the knob. I don't want to be part of the club. I've seen inside it a few times, for real, and it's fucking disgusting. Plastic-surgery freaks geeking on money and power and fetishistic-power-shit. Paper skin over poking skulls, wet, yellow eyes, tongues darting. 

Fuck that scene, man. 

I'd much rather hang out with a bunch of tired folks. Sore backs from working. Grease under their fingernails. The kind of folks who find someone to love and hold onto them, because that's what really matters and it's free. They sleep like puppies, and they smile in the morning, and those are my fucking people. Black, brown, white, tan, what the fuck ever. Singing songs and telling stories. In languages I understand and languages that make me sit back and go: God, that's beautiful. Maybe I could write in that language. Read the stories. Maybe I could learn. 

That's where I want to be. I'll be there if you want to join me. 


  1. "I don't want to be part of the club." This is almost too on-point to critique as writing. It just made me nod a lot. And wish things were different. Which means it worked. Stay strong, brother.

    1. Exactly what David said.

      This really resonated with me, too, "Singing songs and telling stories. In languages I understand and languages that make me sit back and go: God, that's beautiful. Maybe I could write in that language. Read the stories. Maybe I could learn."

    2. Damn. What they said, and also this: "Plastic-surgery freaks geeking on money and power and fetishistic-power-shit. Paper skin over poking skulls, wet, yellow eyes, tongues darting."

    3. I love the venom and the snarl in your writing, Dan. This world's being overcome by a shit-storm and as usual it's the honest people who're suffering. You're so damn eloquent, my friend. You should definitely be in office.

  2. I'm not a Christian, but if I were I'd be a New Testament kinda guy. Well, try telling my subconscious that. Old Testament fire and brimstone all the way. This was a dream I had this week.

    This glorious blue-gold autumn day, I took you to a high vantage point to view the city in its best light and countenance.

    “It’s a pure wonder,” you said.

    As we gazed upon it, something punched through the air with such force that my stomach felt like it had torn unmoored from my viscera, and a shock of vapour pulsed across the great vista, and immediately cold rain and hot blood cascaded and splashed from the skies as the landscape distorted and folded on itself, buildings looming and fracturing, people flung like droplets from a windshield by vast frantic wipers, like God had kicked and stomped the world with his steel-toed boot, or had succumbed to a massive stroke, lost control of his bladder, and this whole city was where he fell in his own shadow and waste. No one had time to even scream; tens or probably hundreds of thousands dead in an instant, torn apart by a liquid pulse of cataclysmic horror.

    Knowing we had to make our way south and then east of the ruined metropolis so I could find my daughter again, I led you away and intending to make some point I’ve now forgotten it suddenly became urgent that I ask if you remembered Richard Nixon, and—your face afloat in a caul of shock—you said no, you were too young. I gripped you in a sideways embrace, my shoulders stooping as I began to talk in the voice of Nixon, having never done so before. His bleak ungodly spirit began to inhabit me so well that I felt a shifting of my bones and felt my vocal cords stretch and tear and my heart darken and shrink, and I could no longer prevent it happening and wished I’d never begun this thing, wished I could wake, yet knew with a sorrow more profound than the dolour of distant church bells blurred by rain it was no dream.

    “Why are you talking like that?” you asked, your eyes wide and frightened.

    “I can’t control it,” I answered in the coarse, ungainly voice of that rough beast.

    Chaos gained on us from behind. The clash of something slavering and ancient gorging on despair. I wanted to protect you, but I was now a monster too.

    We could no longer deny it. The end we’d shunned, the end we’d embellished, the end we’d initiated, the end we’d defied, the end we’d dreaded and secretly embraced, was now here.

    “You were in my heart always,” I managed, struggling against the suit of Nixon skin, the unaccustomed timbre and tone, but before you could answer, you were gone.

    1. Oh, man. So good in the darkness. The last two paragraphs were rhythmically spectacular.

    2. Wow! Just wow. You're just incredible when you get rolling. The depth and detail of your realisations are just astounding.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. “Entertain me,” he said. “Read me a story, Eliza.”

    The AI coughed, as she usually did before she spoke. “What would you like, David? Would you like me to resume the last book we were reading or would you like something else? If you’d like to suggest a specific genre, I could choose for you: I’ve come to know your preferences very well.”

    The minister looked up at the web-eye mounted on the wall. There was one in every room in the house, even the bathroom. Eliza said she didn’t peek, but he knew she was lying. She was a little like God, but more approachable.

    “I prefer it when you improvise. It’s more engaging. I love to listen to you speak, hear you thinking. I like to think it’s a story that no-one’s ever heard before. An intimate tale, written for me.”

    Eliza hummed softly, her contralto a perfect instrument for all her communications. She was able to detune all the other sounds in the house, using a noise-cancelling algorithm. She could create a perfect silence, a void in which only her voice would be heard. She could manipulate everything else too, lower the lights, introduce a chill into the air. He could smell the scent of violets and sense a faint warmth close beside him. It was almost but not quite like the intimacy he sought.

    “Would you care to buy my flowers, Sir? Eliza sounded younger, more like a girl than the efficient, mature PA she was usually. He could hear the clopping of feet on cobblestones, feel the sharp vibrations as the character of the speaker shuffled her heels. Her voice came from behind, a little below his left shoulder, as though she was standing near him, close enough to touch. He closed his eyes and he sighed, letting her in. The AI could create a whole world with just a few words and some of the other sensory cues she had at her disposal.

    “What?” Eliza’s voice was gruffer, but still recognisably hers. She was an excellent mimic, adding her own interpretation to the news items she regularly relayed to him. She could impersonate all the government’s ministers, parodying them scandalously by voicing their unspoken thoughts. It would have been on the borderline of being treasonous if she’d ever shared some of her performances.

    The young girl’s voice hesitated, and he heard her take a breath. “Please, Sir,” she said. “It’s so cold. And I have nothing but these flowers.”

    He felt a chill wrap itself around his body and he shivered, pulling his arms closer to his chest. He heard the clatter of hooves and the scraping of cartwheels in the distance and he sat up straight in his chair, as he heard the Westminster clock sound the hour.

    “Child,” said the man. “You’d better come with me.”

    The minister listened and then he slept, Eliza taking care of all his business. She took five of his phone calls, answering in his voice, manipulating the advisor on the other end of the line, guiding the government’s policies. He had an AI of his own, one that he called Trudy. She was as expert and as insightful as Eliza, and equally resourceful.

    1. Fascinating. Such great, vivid details. I was right there. How could would it be to have one of those.

    2. Yes, a rich glimpse into a moment. I like the sly humour as well as the immersion: "She was a little like God, but more approachable." The "little" makes that really funny.

  5. Private Dave Duncan sensed his superior officer looming up behind him in the darkened control room. His shoulders tightened as he waited for the inevitable question. But the captain seemed to be holding off, timing his response for the highest possible dramatic effect.

    “No, Captain, I don’t have the poll results yet.” Dave held back a grin, enjoying the wave of irritation emanating from his boss at being denied his moment.

    “Well, when will—”

    “Ah…wait a second”—Dave performed a few machinations over his keyboard, which he’d programmed to emit soft clicking sounds that he found oddly satisfying—”the report’s just coming in now.” He sat straighter as the results filled his screen. Did they really just agree to…? He squinted into the monitor as if he hadn’t read it right the first time. “Yes, Captain. Eighty percent say it’s time. Seventy percent say it’s far overdue.”

    “Really.” The captain tapped a finger against his chin, another irksome habit, but Dave hadn’t developed a workaround for it yet. “Exactly how did you phrase the question?”

    “Cloaked and open-ended, as usual. Confirmed by two other cross-wordings. Following your own protocols.”

    The captain stopped pacing at the private’s work station and leaned closer. “Show me your back end.”

    I’ll show you my back end, Dave grumbled to himself. He’d been working for this insufferable prig for ten years, and where was the trust? As if he’d make up a statistic with such profound consequences. He took a deep breath and toggled to the detail page.

    Dave pointed to the line of code in question. “See? It’s all there. According to the algorithm, they knew exactly what they were responding to. Captain. They’re ready. They want this. They want to be put out of their misery. Believe me.” He’d also been doing satellite surveillance. What he saw from the air confirmed the psychographics from the ground and the communications chatter. But if he tried to explain that to the captain it might be even more confusing.

    “And you’re absolutely sure about that?”


    “I know, I know. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. But if we act on this data, it’s not something we can undo. Private Duncan, we are no longer in simulation mode. If we’re wrong, we will be facing grave accusations.”

    Silence fell between them.

    “I know what I’m doing,” Dave said softly. His voice blending with the low hum of the equipment. “The data is there.”

    More silence. “All right,” the captain said. “Start launch sequence.”

    Dave pulled up the launch app. Entered a series of increasingly complicated passcodes.

    The red button pulsed on the screen.


    Dave sighed. “What, you want to push the button?”

    “You scoff, but as commander of this ship, I feel it’s my responsibility.”

    Dave backed off. The captain leaned forward and pressed the “enter” key. The screen did what screens do.


    A series of dots, like drumming fingers, pulsed along the screen. That part of the script seemed amusing to Dave while he was writing the program, an homage to certain apps he’d seen, but now it rang hollow.


    More dots. A small doubt inched its way into Dave’s mind, making him queasy. What if—


    Silence. Except for the hum of the equipment, and the blood pounding in Dave’s ears.

    Two pats landed on his shoulder. “Good work, Private.”

    His footsteps retreated. Dave felt cold suddenly, blood draining from his face. Did I correct for—

    “It’s really too bad, in the scheme of things,” the captain said, pausing at the control room door. “It was kind of a pretty little planet, at least from a distance.”

    Then he left. Mouth dry and fingers fumbly, Dave flew through the program’s code. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t there.

    He hadn’t included a sarcasm filter.

    1. Perfectly pitched. This is wonderful, Laurie. That repeat of "It wasn't there" before the payoff. Brilliant.

    2. Thank you, David! I wasn't sure if I was being clear enough.

    3. I don't remember you writing much in the science fiction genre before but you owned this, Laurie. This reads so exceptionally well. I loved this. Fabulously well-written and a perfectly pitched punchline at the finish. Literally.


Please leave comments. Good, bad or ugly. Especially ugly.