Monday, September 12, 2011

A PRICKLE OF PUPPIES

The day after the cylinders opened, everyone got their very own parasite from outer space. They looked like puppies in order to minimize the rioting, burning and general awfulness that panicked humans perpetrate in the name of being the animal that prays and wars. After all, every dead human was one less "doghouse"!

Mum and Da did their best to not look terrified as the parasites swarmed over Harry with obvious interest.

Someone, they knew, was going to get a bellyful of space parasite eggs!

One of the "puppies" ran off, and Harry felt the tug of geneered pheromones like a choke-chain wrapped about the root of his very soul.

Perhaps Mum was thinking bad thoughts about fire and hatchets again?

Overfull with writhing larvae, the "puppy" rubbed itself against the ground and gave off an awful cloud of stink. Mum thought deeply of algebra and novel sex positions in an attempt to mask her murderous intent.

But the thing knew. IT KNEW.

Like a furry spring it leapt upon her chest and vomited a mass of space parasite eggs into her mouth.

She struggled in vain, for it wasn't so much many tiny eggs as it was an enormous mucus-lubed sac of them. It all went down in one sudden, awful swallow.

Having fulfilled its cosmos-appointed purpose, the thing rolled over and expired.

Later, Harry found a new parasite had been sent to link with him. He soaked a tennis ball in 9-oxybutylcharybdotoxin and chucked it at the "puppy".

"FOOL INCUBOY," the "puppy" barked in his mind, "THERE ARE NO NEURONS IN THIS NODE. WE WILL LICK YOUR POISON—"

"—AND REGURGITATE THE BONES OF NAUGHTY CHILDREN WE HAVE EATEN JUST THIS VERY MORNING."

Suddenly, Jasper the quisling scooted up on his fly rollerblades.

The thing communed with whatever was growing inside of Jasper. "The Wilsons down the street are pretending to be subsumed," said Jasper, "But they put the better parts of themselves down the garbage disposal."

"WE KNOW," barked the "puppy" silently, "YOU WILL NOW ENGAGE IN STANDARD PROCEDURE 3905."

"Stab, shoot, burn!" chuckled Jasper.

Harry couldn't stand it anymore. "Vomit your eggs into me, you little bastard! Get to it! Or so help me God I will squeeze the life out of you!"

And so he did.

"ASK YOURSELF," the "puppy" barked softly inside Harry's mind, "HOW IS IT WE FIT, OUR TWO SPECIES? WE EVOLVED ON DIFFERENT WORLDS, WINDING ABOUT DIFFERENT STARS, SO MANY LIGHT YEARS APART."

"IT IS CLEARLY THE WILL OF YOUR GOD THAT WE SHOULD CLEAVE INTO YOU. YOU ARE A CONFUSED SPECIES, BLIND TO YOUR COSMIC DESTINY—"

"—BUT WE KNOW. AND WE ARE HERE TO HELP YOU BE WHAT YOU WERE MEANT TO BE."

Harry had to admit, it wasn't so bad once you just let go and accepted it.

With their stubby legs, the things from the stars needed people to push them around in carts...

The chilly limits of the squared-cubed law meant they needed people to keep them warm...

They needed every one of us...

And isn't that what makes life worth living, to be needed?

Every one of us, needed, perhaps even "loved"...

Until we're all used up.

Friday, June 3, 2011

God's Own Editorial Cartoon

From time to time when the wind shifted at the back door I caught the unmistakable whiff of rotting flesh. It was but the faintest hint, like a long-gone lover's perfume, gently nudging a memory to life but not stroking long enough for arousal. I'd get yanked backwards out of the Internet, look up from my laptop and coffee, scrunchy-faced and think, That smells like... must be something under the greenhouse... and then the wind would shift again and it would be gone.

Just as quickly I'd be back to work, some slowly submerging part of my mind figuring it would either get dramatically worse or nature would just kind of sort it all out.

Repeat at odd intervals for weeks, and then dolly-zoom on yesterday:

We're in the backyard grilling and I catch the scent. That submerged memory rises and bursts in my mind like a viscous swamp bubble. Something under the greenhouse. I wander over to the far corner where it meets the fence and the neighbor's wild growth of enormous greenery and get socked in the head by the odor. I bend down to look under the greenhouse and the stench abates. I rise and the volume cranks back up to breakfast-wrestling. Puzzled and nauseated, I cast about, homing in on the epicenter of—

There are moments where you see things so painfully clear, it's like God's Own editorial cartoon, where an enormously fat man in a diaper wrestling with two hookers on a pile of money somehow encapsulates 30 years of socioeconomic history in a few deft strokes of the pen. A maximized fullness of understanding rendered with the absolute minimum of material and effort.

Momentarily stunned, I say aloud, without turning, "I have to clean up something truly horrible." I do my best to convey you don't want to know with word-choice and tone. I don't move, shielding the eyes I know will be summoned to my back by my voice.

My wife hesitates, words and tone doing the trick. "What—is it?"

"You don't want to know." Then, "I'll take care of it." I turn and stride into the house trying to figure the best—and quickest—way to handle it. Garbage bag, no, two, double-bagged, like a giant glove, gonna have to be hands-on, lift slowly, don't pull...

I am suddenly jerked backwards to The Night of the Great Pooting, where the dog was extremely excited about something in the dark but returned almost instantaneously and with a great stink. It billowed and rose through the house, waking all within and making us fear for the amount of de-stinking labor we'd have to suffer before sleep take us again. Luckily, the dog appeared to have been merely grazed, somehow dodging the shot, at the edge of the cone of stink rather than at the center. At the time I thought it a great boon of luck (and not caution or skill on the part of the dog) but now I knew that it was only because the dog was not the target. The thing had pooted at Death itself in a vain attempt to drive the Grim Reaper off.

The possum had been traversing a mildly treacherous section of fence, one where a hand-span gap narrowed to nothing in a long V that terminated, unfortunately, more than one possum-body length above the ground. Here, human enterprise, entropy, physics and a primitive brain all conspired to do the poor beast in. With footing lost, he fell head-first into a puzzle he couldn't solve, at least not before Death would have him. So he hung by the neck at the bottom of that V, scrabbling and pooting, pooting and scrabbling, then menaced by dogs as he pooted every last ounce of poot he could muster.

What was left, weeks later, demanded to be photographed, at least by those at a safe remove; but for me and the requirements of the task at hand taking pictures was the last thing on my mind. I wanted it over with, and now.

It looked, felt, sounded, smelt and tasted exactly like you'd think, only knobbed up beyond 11.

I can still see the cartoon stink lines.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Boobs & Armageddon: A Meditation

Life begins with a sound like a flushing toilet.

I gain consciousness by degrees amid the viscous swirl, my brain lit with cram-download. I become human in moments, a blur-crawl from infancy to full-fledged killer as the gro-gel sluices into the depths. The first sensation is pain as my feet suck to the sharp-edged grid of the vat's drain floor, followed by cold, then weakness and shame as I collapse under my own weight onto all fours, falling onto my side, and finally, gagging, yank the branching umbilicus from my guts, lungs, nose and mouth.

I haven't even taken my first real breath and I vomit a couple liters of snot.

Luckier than most of humanity, I know who I am and why I'm here. I think of my people, dropping from the trees to take on the larger predators, becoming what all life on Earth fears, stamping our bootprint into the backs of all things—even lights in the night sky—and then pulling the trigger on ourselves and pissing a miracle into less than nothing. "Thanks," I rasp with fire in my throat, "you bunch of no-good sons-of-anuses." I'm not sure the idiom is correct, though the visual feels somehow right.

MOTHER gives me three hours, though I'm ready in 20 minutes—cleaned up, girded, strapped and armed. I waste the remainder of the time sitting, ramrod straight, among the broken things. Vast machinery of unknown purpose crowds the cavern into closed spaces, all it it echoing with playback of the countless missions I've failed before. Each loop is a snippet of exclamations, breathy oaths, the chatter of automatic fire, screams that grow with proximity and end with a roar, or the metallic patter of mostly deflected bullets, the whump-crunch of worse, or the flea's-knee klick of lost telemetry.

This time, I'm good to go.

The playback ends. MOTHER dials open the lock. I step inside and take a final lungful of clean air, tap the ammo-count on the .75 and spool up the MASER, all before the iris valve pinches off the last bit of sanity and humanity behind me. I check the cycle time and prime a grenade for a hair just past that, position myself before the outer door, balancing arm extended, grenade fuzing quietly next to my head in the other fist.

A circle of candy-colored light bursts from the center of the outer iris and I'm already halfway through the throwing arc. The grenade vanishes into the bright and rings the metal hull like a bell. Blowback scorches my breastplate.

I stride into the mess and leave my bootprint in the ones still breathing.

•••

This is life for long enough that I would be viking-shaggy (if I could but grow hair) and a-dangle with skulls and flapping hides (were I to collect trophies) and with a name that precedes my arrival (if the things out here could speak). Instead, it just goes on until I'm low on ammo.

••

You'll know her when you see her. A human woman, bound and magnificent, outsized curves straining the boundaries of adolescent fantasy. She is attired as savages might swath the Venus of Willendorf for sacrifice, exposing enough lusciousness to attract the eyes of the Gods while covering those few bits that make Them blush. She stands proud and unbowed atop the stepped pyramid, smeared with handprints, a mane of wild hair obscuring her eyes, shoulders, and most of her back. A sea of admirers laps at her tiny feet. They chant blasphemies.

I give the suit a moment to read the crowd and calculate a trajectory before lighting the thrusters and jumping in, crushing four of them and burning others as I hit and leap away, CBM dispensers spinning wedges of shrapnel off my back as my boots leave the earth, feather-light. With a hop, skip and a jump I'm up the pyramid and arcing back down toward the small stone square carved with caricatures of talking cars and skeletons in business suits. I land in a wash of smoke and flame, sock the high priest in the nugget with a mailed fist, snatch the girl and rocket away.

Arrows fashioned from the bric-a-brac of a dead civilization shatter across my ass and pincushion hers, though she makes no sound, this brave Concubine of Death. She'll make a fine MOTHER of the New Human Race.



Back at the hab I toss her onto the waterbed, as is fitting for this moment in History, the way a pulp hero or misogynist might. The suit releases me, a tripartite zippered maw vomiting a pink and hairless doll.

She lounges on the undulating bed stiffly.

I step to the foot of it and remove my shirt in a double-fisted spray of buttons and begin to fumble at my belt. Some of the foam rubber has come loose from her curved belly and I spy—with rising horror—the metal beneath. As the whole of human history bottlenecks and dolly-zooms on me and the appliance, my horror redoubles and then does so again as I realize I've never seen my own genitalia. I can't, for the life of me, remember whether or not I have a penis.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Once upon a time you realized there was a monster under the rug.

[pic of rug with not inconsiderable bulge in middle]

You got the nail gun out straight away, but understood that if you nailed the bulge you'd only tack the rug to a very angry monster.

[pic of you with nail gun, considering bulge]

So you ingeniously tacked the rug down all around the edges so the monster had nowhere to go.

[pic of rug all nailed down around the edges]

And set to kicking the living crap out of the monster.

[pic of you putting the boots to the bulge]

When suddenly...

[pic of quivering bulge, with word balloon]

BULGE: (mama)

Your heart melted. How could you be so horrible? Surely even the worst monsters are merely misunderstood! You began to pry the nails loose to make amends...

[pic of bulge near an open end of the rug, with a li'l baby doll face peeking out from under with word balloon]

BABY FACE: mama

For surely we will all learn a valuable lesson from your mistake.

[pic of monster rearing up, throwing rug off, a mass of tentacles and folded insect legs, rows of shiny black eyes and scything mouthparts, a child's baby doll held carelessly upside down in a curled, dripping tongue]

TOY DOLL: mama