Friday, December 16, 2022

2 Minutes. Go!

They were always coming for you, ember eyes burning. You can feel their breathing in your chest, just as strong as your own. Maybe stronger. The sound of tooth on tooth is paralyzing. Your teeth begin to chatter, but there is no chattering from them. They sound like someone stropping one knife against another. They smell of terror, hot and rancid. No one else can see them, but you know they are there, waiting. 

They have always been there. 

When you were younger, the adults said you had an active imagination. They bought nightlights and expected them to be sentries. They left the door open. The hall light on. Finally, they left the overhead light on, but you still didn't sleep. Not until exhaustion forced your eyes shut. The few hours of rest would be enough to keep going, but they were not enough.

As you got older, the adults stopped bragging on your active imagination. They started to worry. They sent you to therapists and complained about the bills. They started to call you crazy. Not to your face, but behind your back, quietly, thinking you would not hear. 

The therapists looked concerned; they used bigger words that hurt less than 'crazy' - words that didn't point a finger. Not as much, at least. There was some distance. 

But they didn't believe. 

It was always headed toward death. There was no other way out. You or them. Or them. It had to be somebody. So, you decided to rob them of their sport. You hoarded pills until you had enough. Then, you turned the nightlight out on yourself. 

And on them. 


  1. Now that's some hard-hitting shit. I always love your use of second-person, but wedded to this story, it lands even harder. Really good stuff.

  2. In a fallow field is a woman walking away from us, her slaughterhouse hips ticktocking, her heels struggling in the soft dirt, her forties hairstyle corvid-black and swaying. We cannot see her face, although she tantalizingly turns to the right for a few seconds and we glimpse a profile: handsome nose, a strong chin, full lips. We yearn to see more, but she faces forward again and continues to make her way toward the edge of a wood. What did she see? Should we follow? Yes, we should, we decide.

    Something tasting of regret already hints at itself in our mouth.

    “Wait for us.”

    The last days are coming. Until now we don’t know if we’ve ever absorbed the horror of negation, what a loss to the world each of us is, each thing is, each iota. Accumulated love, awkward dreams, remurmured words, a single twilight cough outside a bar, the iridescent wing of some undreamed-of butterfly shining in a psilocybin trance.

    “Sit with us.”

    See this brasslike glow of morningtide daub the low hills, an artist playing with her paints. With hoar and rime. The dirt still grasped by nighttime’s ice, shocked alive into stasis.

    Is she a painter, this woman? Does her palette hold emotions instead of paint? Will her brush be filled with the gluey tone of our burgeoning fear? The slyest tincture of our dread?

    “Remake us.”

    We follow her into the wood. Each pulsing cell sings its own disquiet.

    If we were dogs, would we smell her sickness?

    We can’t ever know how things will end. Could be the earth’s clenched jaw beneath the hushed and gentle forests grinds its teeth and lets loose its stockpiled ire. The end of things a backdrop or the main event. Grasp our arm, help us lead you to some other place, a skip and a stumble from this now land, this here site. If we’re fortunate, your slow and solemn gaze won’t so much recall our history as our dignity.

    If not, then our ample debasement.

    “And then dream of us.”

  3. Writing as Mark A Morris:

    “This used to be a meadow. Poppies, teazel, grasses rising as high as your waist. There’s nothing here now that was alive there then. Humanity was irrelevant.” She turned and she saw it again, teeming with abundance everywhere, nature in charge of its own business with nothing else present to influence it.

    I saw the broken bunkers we’d left behind us, the broken poured concrete. Nothing remained of the megacities we’d built.

    “It’ll all come back, of course,” she continued. “The planet will continue. It’s resilient and has its own inertia. Time and potential can work miracles.”

    I walked behind her, seeing rather than hearing her move. The thick, leather-like hide of her exosuit would creak as she walked, the articulations at her knees and her hips commenting as they flexed. I wouldn’t hear the rasp of her suit’s air conditioning mechanisms as they purged the atmosphere of its pollutants, scrubbing and leaching them away until its gasses would support life.

    We’d outstayed our welcome here, and the planet had rejected us.

    Although, it wasn’t as though we’d not offended her before she’d turned on us. We’d raped her and desecrated everything she’d built, destroying everything we could reach. We’d become ever more efficient, building machines that could reproduce themselves, thinking nothing of the resources they’d need. We’d begun as their masters, etching our instructions into the sand in their heads, forgetting that they’d never tire or question the audacity of our decisions. We stood back and let them continue, watching them develop themselves, proud of how we'd taught them to learn and evolve.

    Who would have thought that that would have ended badly for Mankind?

    Ellie bent and dug in the dust, levering out a fragment of a broken mechanoid, the manipulator arm she found stilled and insensate. There would be other pieces nearby – a torso, a head, maybe other limbs, some of them unidentifiably specialised for the purposes they’d been built to perform. All that mattered was that they were now lifeless and dead, unable to undo the destruction that had ended their rise to power. The whole of the earth had become a battlefield, the fight for resources a bitter one, the victor losing everything even though they’d won.

    “I could use this as a spade,” she said, miming digging motions. “That be an ironic use for this guy. And then we could use its power source to thaw out the soil. Plant seeds in the hole I’ve made by bringing him out, showing Mother Earth we can still learn from our mistakes.”

    I shrugged, grimacing when the rasp of the Mechanoids’ jamming equipment blotted her out, locking onto her frequency. We would have company soon, one of the few remaining pockets of resistance seeking to prolong their defeat. We would win this battle and then the next, but we would never find a home that would sustain us here again. We were like bugs fighting each other to survive in a blazing bin: we could overcome all our opponents and still fail in the end.

  4. I'm a little dark this week.


    After a while, you don’t mind the pain. You even sort of welcome it as a distraction from the great blank void of everyday. The pain becomes your friend. Your touchstone. Your reminder that life still pulses in your body. Your reminder that you can still feel something. Then every sensation wants to be pain, as if they’re jealous. The bright lights register as an ache between your eyes. Loud noises also. The buzz of fluorescent lights is a particularly excruciating sensation. You will run from those if you can’t turn them off, feel that blessed absence again when you escape. Then the pain floods in again, and you thank it, you bless it, you are grateful for it. At least it’s a feeling you can understand.


    The diner’s coffee is good, and hot, in a ceramic cup that warms his hand, and the servers don’t happy-talk when you just want silence. You work together by gestures – a look, a nod to your cup, a hand over it when it’s been enough, and you always leave a big tip. You’ve served the public before and you know how soul crushing it can be. You hunker over your third cup to avoid going home, to avoid the hours between now and then. You ponder the idea of killing time. You don’t just want to kill it—you want to slaughter the bastard. You have images of smashing watches, shredding calendars, shaking your fist at the sky, at God, for not making the Earth turn faster. You know it won’t help but it would give you something to do, and for a moment makes you smile. The server asks if you’d like anything else, because she’s too polite to say she needs the table. Just the check, you say, then ask what she would do if she had a couple of hours to kill, dreaming up a story about your car in the garage for repairs, but she looks aghast, her pretty blue eyes rounding, and wonders why anyone who had precious time on their hands would want to kill it. It’s not so precious to you, it stands between you and then, but you don’t want to bring her down. You pay the check and leave, trolling up and down the street, haunting bookstores and pawnshops and finally head home. The bed is empty and cold but it requires nothing of you. You do the mental exercises your therapist suggested, but after a while these make you feel worse instead of better. You think about the server, her pretty blue eyes and cute little smile, how fucking young she is, and how pathetic you must have come off. That’s the last thing you want anyone to think about you. Make a plan, the therapist had also said. And this is what you do. You break the bed’s gravitational field, put on shoes, go out to the pawn shop. You ponder the row of guns—it would be quick and easy—but can’t bring yourself to buy one. Instead you are drawn to an old-time pocket watch. “Still works,” the owner beamed. “Was thinking of buying it myself.” But you make the purchase, and bring it home, and stare at it, and stare, and stare. If you have to endure time, then at least you can admire the device that commemorates its passing.


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