Posts Tagged ‘weird’

Finding a Bone in a Parking Lot

Posted: October 4, 2014 by writingsprint in Science fiction, Weird
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femurThe bone lay in the middle of the driving lane between rows D and E of the parking lot. Kat and I slowed down. The cheesecake in my stomach turned into a lump. I swallowed to keep it down. It had been really good cheesecake. I wanted to keep my memory of it that way.

I walked up to it. Kat followed me, nice and slow. I hesitated to pick it up. Was there evidence? The bone lay by itself. No body, no trail, no dried pool of coppery-smelling sticky red life surrounding it on the asphalt. “It’s a femur. The largest bone in the human body.”

The October gray darkened. Did another cloud cover the sun? Kat stood next to me. I could see her feet move as she twisted to look around. “We should get out of here,” Kat said.

It didn’t have a fleck of muscle or connective tissue on it. Parts of it looked chipped away, or a gnawed at. The surface didn’t look smooth. I imagined I saw curvature in the chipping. The shape of a mouth.

“How did it get here?” I asked. “Where’s the rest?”

“That’s what bothers me. Come on. Let’s split.”

“Do zombies clean up after themselves?”

“There’s no such thing as zombies. You’re trying to scare me.”

I brushed my hands off as I stood up, even though I hadn’t touched it. I dug under my fingernails. I felt like I had ants crawling over my body and blood under my nails. “So what’s this? Someone dropped a femur while carrying a whole body’s worth of bones by hand over to the Cheesecake Factory?”

Kat thrust her hands deep into her pockets. “Look, I don’t know. They’re both ridiculous. But the one thing that’s more ridiculous is you and me standing here right next to this thing waiting for whoever left it to come back.”

“Don’t you want to know?”

“Know? Sure. Meet them? Why don’t I knock you in the head with that thing and see if it gives you any sense?”

“All right, fine. I’ll call the cops. Someone lost a bone. Maybe a med student.” I took out my phone and punched in the numbers. I stayed turned toward Kat to be polite, but I kept one eye on the bone at the same time. It felt like having a dead body behind me. The blood drained out of my face. I asked Kat, “Can you do me a favor? Dial 911.”

“Why?”

“I’m not getting through.”

Kat took out her phone. “What? No signal?” She dialed. Then she looked at me. We stood there staring each other other, listening to the same busy signal.

This prompt came from the book 642 Things to Write About by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto.

Image credit: “Bones of the thigh and knee (side view)” by the University of Liverpool at Flickr
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A Dollar for a Hug

Posted: June 26, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama, Weird
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

vending machine

Jim saved his files. “Two a.m.? When the hell did it get that late?” Nine hours after when he should have gone home, that was when. But the program review was at noon, and their biggest customer wouldn’t understand if the review wasn’t ready.

Jim rubbed his face. He couldn’t think. He needed to clear his head. He walked down the half-lit hall to the water fountain. They shut off most of the lights after seven. He splashed cold water on his face and rubbed it in his hair.

He needed one more pick-me-up to keep going. Jim sighed. It was becoming a bad habit, but it always worked. He checked his wallet for dollar bills. He had one, only one, and a wrinkled one at that.

Jim walked up to the hug vending machine. Inside, an elderly man wearing a flannel shirt sat reading a newspaper in an easy chair. He looked more comfortable than anyone had a right to be at two o’clock in the morning. The man smiled at Jim as he walked over, smoothing out a dollar bill.

“Hello, Jim. Back again?” the man asked.

“Coming here is worse than buying Doritos from that machine next to you. At least I kicked that habit,” Jim said.

“Doritos don’t provide any nourishment. At least this is good for the soul.”

“Says you. Hugs and money don’t mix.”

The man shrugged. “I can think of worse ways to spend your money.”

So could Jim. Junk food. Cigarettes. Beer. Crap that he just didn’t need. He wanted to be home in his wife’s arms, but she would be asleep by now, and there wouldn’t be time for anything but a quick hug and kiss before they ran off to their jobs in the morning. He couldn’t very well ask his coworkers for hugs, could he?

Jim handed the man the dollar. The man got up and hugged him. He reminded Jim of his father, dead seven years ago. Jim had gone through a quadruple bypass two years ago, and they were working him to death even now. But he needed the job. He had a daughter getting ready to go to college, and she was good enough to make it to the Ivy League.

He felt better. Enough to wrap up the program review and go home.

“Take care, Jim,” the man said as he sat back down.

“What’s your name?” Jim asked.

He shook his head. “I’m not allowed to say.”

“You’ve got one, haven’t you?”

“It’s our business code of ethics. No relationship with the customers. Otherwise, there’s a conflict of interest.”

Jim felt like he’d just put clothes he hated to wear. “Well, we can’t have that.”

“Don’t work too late. I’ll be here if you need me.”

Jim just walked away. Time to break another habit. And get another job.

This post was inspired by the Daily Prompt “Vending Wishes.” I tried to think of the weirdest, most non-toxic vending machine I could think of. This wound up being far more creepy than just buying beer, a pony, or something else that people buy.

Photo credit: “Receive Change Below” by Kenyaboy7 at Flickr
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Breathing with a Bicycle Pump

Posted: May 25, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy, Weird
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bicycle pump

Jared waved the dish at Brigid. “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you…” He coughed, out, but didn’t inhale. Nothing came.

Brigid jumped up. “Jay!”

He shook his head. Jared opened his shirt, stuck a mini bicycle pump in the valve in this chest and began pumping. His lungs filled with disgusting, rusty-tasting air. His eyes widened and he woke up. He could think straight again. He checked the plunger. The rod was completely clean, and he could hear the high-pitched metal on metal scrape as it went into the chamber. He kept pumping. “I need to buy some WD-40,” he said.

Brigid said, “Sorry to get you riled up. I didn’t think you’d run out of air.”

“No worries. It was stupid anyway. Getting mad over a dirty dish.” He laughed, and pumped the air hard. “Laughing takes a lot of wind.”

“Why didn’t they finish your surgery?”

“They did finish my surgery. My health plan couldn’t afford the whole procedure. So instead of fixing my lungs I get a manual pump. It doubles as an exercise plan for my arms.”

Brigid shivered. “How do you sleep?”

“Hooked up to a pump, just like those people with breathing masks for sleep apnea. Only instead of my face, it breathes for me.”

“Can you drive? Don’t you need two hands?”

“I hook myself into the air conditioner. Some cars are better than others.” He grinned. Jared was slowing down on the pumping. He clearly felt better. “My cousin let me drive her Lexus once. Talk about fresh air. I felt like I was walking in the Swiss Alps. And a new car?” He whistled. “There’s something in that new car scent. It’s a serious buzz.” He sat down on the couch next to her. He unhooked the pump. “I can probably go for another hour without needing to give myself a boost.”

“We need to get your lungs fixed.”

“Great idea. All we need is a donor, and a doctor who will do the surgery for free.”

“Come on, Jay. Use your imagination. Let’s hit the morgue and go body shopping. Somebody’s got to have lungs compatible with yours.”

Jared tried not to laugh. He didn’t want to hook himself back up to the pump again. “Bridgie…,” he said. But he didn’t try any harder than that. He loved the idea of having live lungs again. Brigid was crazy enough to help him make it happen.

The origin of the word “inspiration” basically means “to breath into” something. I was tangling with a bit of writers’ block and I started to take on the annoying voice of someone who asks, “Well, why can’t you just do it?” My gut responded that trying to force inspiration is forcing air into your lungs through a bicycle pump, rather than breathing.

I may take this one farther as an exercise in how twisted I can get.

Photo credit: “Pumped” by Allan Foster at Flickr
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A Bottle of Light

Posted: May 15, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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bright heartGloria and Sam watched the sun rise over the Atlantic. Behind them, Virginia Beach still slept. Sam yawned. Gloria took out the vial from inside her coat. It fit in the palm of her hand.

“We can still change our minds,” she said.

“What good would that do?” Sam asked.

“At least them we wouldn’t be responsible. It would get boiled down. Diluted. Marketed for consumer yuks. Who’s the last person who played God with the human race’s fate?”

Sam shook his head. He shrugged.

Gloria opened the vial and spilled the contents into the ocean. “The virus will spread into any living thing. Exponential reproduction… I give it a month to go global.”

“If that. Once it spreads by air, it’ll saturate the planet.”

Gloria sniffed the vial. She’d already been exposed to it, so it made no difference. “It smells like roses.”

“Funny that way.”

She opened the palm of her hand. The vial floated in the air, inches over it. “For thousands of years, we’ve been trying to find our spiritual selves. An atheist and an agnostic found it in a bottle.”

Sam yawned again. “Did you know that the person who found Uranus was a musician?”

“Really?”

“Um-hm. William Herschel. Other astronomers had thought it was a star. Even he thought it was a comet at first. Sometimes all you need is a fresh set of eyes. Pop!” A star came out. “Boom!” Another.

“You’re not making them blow up, are you?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. I can hear them before they appear.”

Gloria rubbed her arms. “I can hear how sad people are. Happy, too. But a lot of them are sad.”

“Do you think this will make them happier?” He offered her his hand.

Gloria smiled. She took it. “It did for us.”

Fire Alarm

Posted: April 20, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama
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running manBEEP BEEP BEEP

Ann almost jumped completely out of bed. The fire alarm strobes in her hotel room weren’t flashing, but the beep sounded like one.

A loudspeaker somewhere in her room said, “Attention. Attention. A security alert has been triggered in your area. Please remain in your room and await further instructions. Do not use the elevators. Do not use the doors.”

“Why, oh why, didn’t I stay at my aunt’s?” Ann asked.

BEEP BEEP BEEP

The message repeated. Ann held her head. There was a convention of Benevolent Order of the something or other in the building. Maybe an old man reliving his early twenties got plastered and pulled the fire alarm.

The message repeated a third time. “I heard you already!” she cried.

Ann double-locked the door for good measure. Just as she did, she heard an elevator bell ring, followed by hard, running footsteps.

An envelope was slipped under the door. Ann jumped back. She didn’t touch it.

The footsteps receded.

Coming the other way, she heard at least two sets of footsteps. Someone talked fast into a walkie-talkie. They sounded angry.

Ann curled up in her night shirt and stared at the envelope. Now what? Open it? Call security?

Ten long minutes later, the beeping went off again.

BEEP BEEP BEEP

The loudspeaker said, “Attention. Attention. Security has investigated and there is no danger. You may resume normal activities.”

“Normal. Right. I’m being held hostage by an envelope,” Ann said


Photo credit: Stuart Anthony at Flickr.com
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Decorating the Yard

Posted: April 1, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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black and yellow argiope

Black and yellow argiope

As soon as the morning sun hit the fairy, it sizzled and curled into a pile of little ashes and bones. Carl could still see its spindly, bug-like wings. For some reason that creeped him out most of all. Mr. Traumer flushed the ashes down his toilet and gave the jar back to Carl.

Now the jar was filled with two dozen spiders, mostly garden orb weavers – the brown tiger guys – and black and yellow argos… argo-something. Carl twitched his shoulders as he put his hand on top of the lid. He hated spiders. One of them was one thing, but this? He felt like they were crawling on him already, little, tiny legs touching his flesh eight legs at a time. He stood near trees in his back yard. He wanted to start with the webs here.

The spiders crawled and slipped on the glass sides of the jar. They clambered over each other to get to the top. They seemed to know it was time to get out.

They were going to climb on him. He knew it.

“If they do, I’m dropping the jar and we’re selling the house. Forget it,” Carl said. He closed his eyes. “All right, man up and do this.”

Carl opened the jar. He held it pointed straight up, then tilted it over slowly. The spiders started making it up the side of the glass.

Two. A third. Two more. The spiders dropped on the ground and ran for the trees.

Carl closed the jar, careful not to crush any. He shuddered again. He checked his shoes for spiders. There weren’t any underfoot, so Carl walked around to the side of the house.

Carl repeated the ritual three more times. As he returned to the back of the house, he though he saw the beginnings of two webs on the dogwood in the back. Spiders didn’t work that fast, but then, there was no such thing as vampire fairies, either.

He called Jen as he watched. Yup. Definitely two webs.

“Baby! How did it go?” she asked.

“Weird. Mr. Traumer knew about the… whatever they are. He gave me some spiders and now I’m decorating the yard with them.”

Jen made a shivering squeak. “Tell me that you didn’t put any inside the house.”

One was already starting to work on back deck. “There are none inside the house.” Yet. “You and Jessie sit tight. Mr. Traumer says I need to stay here tonight and fight it out.”

“Why the hell do you need to do that? Isn’t that what the bugs are for?”

Carl held up the empty jar. He thought he saw a fragment of vampire fairy bone still stuck at the bottom. “Because I took one of them, and they’ll be coming for me tonight.”

“Whiskey, tango, foxtrot,” Jen said.

“Amen, love.”

Weird is Good

Posted: March 17, 2014 by writingsprint in My two cents
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weird is good

A Brave Man in Boxers

Posted: January 6, 2014 by writingsprint in Drama, Weird
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Mikey woke up to the sound of people arguing in the street outside. He rolled over. Two o’clock in the morning. Were they kidding? Mikey gave it a minute, then got up and went to the window. On the street corner, he saw two scruffy-looking guys, about his age, dressed casually. Mikey threw open his window. The stifling heat of mid-summer poured into his room. Mikey leaned out the window and screamed, “Hey, assholes, shut up!”

The two guys looked at each other. The one on the right took out a gun and blew a hole in the wall next to my Mikey’s head. Shock of shocks, Mikey didn’t jump, or run crying like a baby back into his apartment. “Never mind,” he said. He went back inside.

Mikey sat down on the edge of his bed, in boxers, socks and a tank top. The air conditioner from the window unit – next to the one he’d opened – blew cool air onto his body. He started to catch a chill. He tried to process what just happened.

Not only hadn’t he panicked, he hadn’t even reacted. He looked at his hand. Steady as a rock. He pinched himself. “Ouch!” Not dreaming. He’d sworn off alcohol and drugs years ago, after two friends under the influence had died in a car accident. Cold sober.

Someone knocked on his door. Mikey opened it, boxers and all. It was the two guys. Mikey reflected that one of them looked like the lead singer of the Foo Fighters, less about twenty pounds, and the other looked like David Bowie in his younger days, less the glam and with dark hair.

“We wanted to apologize for disturbing your evening.”

Son of a bitch. Mr. Bowie really was British, or he did a fantastic fake accent.

He continued, “Mister…?”

“Kaholic. Albert Kaholic.”

Mr. Skinny Fighter handed Mikey his mail, and along with the door of his mailbox. “Pleased to meet you, Mr. Kaholic. Please let Michael Winters know that his mail wound up in your mailbox.”

“I’ll do that.”

“Aren’t you going to invite us inside?” Mr. Bowie asked.

“I don’t think so. I’m underdressed.”

Both of them laughed. Mr. Fighter said, “I like him.”

Mr. Bowie said, “Cool as a cucumber. I think he’s got potential.”

Mikey yawned. He couldn’t help it. “Look, this has been nice, but I’ve got work in the morning. I’ve got to get some sleep.”

“Very well. Good night, Mr. Kaholic,” Mr. Bowie said.

“Yeah, well. Whatever. Drive safe.”

“See you in the morning,” Mr. Fighter said.

Mikey knew he wasn’t kidding.

Norse CodeNorse Code” by Greg van Eekhout is a story about the end of the world, told in a way you’ve never read before. That is, unless you’ve read a story about the end of the world that puts Norse myth in a modern setting, dots it with moments of bone-chilling horror, weaves it with threads of humor like a conversation with Quentin Tarantino, and gives it to you wrapped up in a ticking time bomb of with a bow on it signed, “From Michael Bay, with love.”

I liked the book.

Kathy Castillo is Mist, an MBA student killed for having the blood of Odinn in her ancestry. She arises as a Valkyrie and becomes pressed into service for the Norse gods in their search for the more recruits to Odinn’s army. Mist decides that she can’t live with what she’s doing anymore at possibly the worst time imaginable. Ragnarok has come, and the warriors are needed. While Mist follows her own quest, Hermod, a Norse god, takes action to try to stop Ragnarok from taking place. In their way stand a pantheon of gods and prophecy that cannot be unwritten.

Norse Code is my favorite kind of novel: reality, twisted. Mist and Hermod feel like people you know, who are caught up in events so far beyond their reckoning that even taking action seems absurd. That feeling of “I don’t care, I’m going in anyway” is what made me cheer for them. People do it every day. We head into the storm because that’s what we do. The action unfolds like a darkening storm, growing worse, until the universe is literally coming apart at the seams. More than once, I asked, “How the hell are they getting out of this one?”

Mist is a spunky, badass warrior, but would rather be someplace else, living her own life. She’s a warrior with a conscience, someone who’s only been dead a few years and hasn’t been changed by it yet. Hermod is perpetually in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s his lot in life, and it seems that as long as he can irritate the people who are making things wrong, he accepts it. He strikes me as someone who would rather be doing something futile for the right reasons than doing nothing at all. For me, Ragnarok itself is the villain; a wide cast of unsavory characters from Norse myth stand against Mist and Hermod, but I saw them all as pieces of a larger puzzle called destruction. There are a few key villains, but by the end of the book there is plenty of blame to go around.

Norse Code isn’t a serious book, unless you take your fun seriously. Then you should read it with the book in one hand, a beer in the other, and an axe across your lap. Wearing a Viking helmet. Failing the helmet or the axe, at least get the beer.