Posted on: May 31st, 2009 Snake Eyes

by Kevin Bishop

Our real last name was Barnes.  WitSec coached us on changing our identity.  Keep your first name, change your surname.  Initials and first name stay the same as ever, so it’s easier to keep up the ruse.  The drunk in charge of our family’s safety gave us two choices for last names: “Bridges” or “Burners.”  Ha ha ha.

They moved us to Mina, Nevada.  We drove the last twenty miles by ourselves on a sunny but windy September morning.  A sign in front of one of the two gas stations in town read:

“Welcome Burners.”

Not a low key entrance, but it made a neighborly first impression.

It was all a coincidence.

There’s a big to-do in the middle of the Nevada desert every year around Labor Day called Burning Man.  Unique individuals seeking tribal experiences and radical self-expression flock from all corners of the globe to radically self-express in the bright Nevada sunshine.  The festival culminates in the transformation of an enormous stick figure into a hominid-shaped bonfire.  People who attend Burning Man sometimes call themselves “Burners.”  The welcome sign we saw was intended for them.

Not long after we settled in, a real Burner came by our house, wanting to borrow some gas.  Both gas stations in town were out.  As dad stepped into the bright sunshine, his eyes instantly went obsidian.  The young shirtless would-be petrol borrower was taken aback, taken so far aback that he fell over in the dirt.  Then he got up and ran away.  A few minutes later, he returned with a young lady who had not believed her boyfriend’s report of an alien sighting.  Once again, dad stepped into the sunshine, and once again, his eyes went utterly dark.

The young man was ready and this time he sprinted away without falling first.  The woman was not ready at all, and she screamed at the top of her lungs, frozen with fear.  Mom came running, because this didn’t happen every day.  She was also wearing the self-darkening contacts that dad made in the basement, and when mom’s eyes went black too, the poor Burner girl had herself a swoon.

My brother and I caught up with the boyfriend about a mile down the road.  We showed him how the lenses worked.  We invited these Burners to dinner.

Over dinner, dad explained that he had rediscovered a lost process for compressing herapathite crystals, which had a polarizing property, between tiny sheets of glass.  Herapathite at one time had been made in the lab by feeding a dog quinine bisulphate, then mixing the dog’s urine with iodine.  Mom interrupted to ask if anyone wanted cookies, and dad took the hint.

The couple wanted to try out the lenses themselves. Dad gave them each a pair.

“Keep them,” he said.  “See if there’s any interest at Burning Man.”

There was interest.  You couldn’t sell at Burning Man itself, so we set up a small roadside stand.  We’d accept cash or barter on a car by car basis.  The half acre behind our house accumulated the things we couldn’t use, but didn’t yet want to throw away.  We collected as payment all sorts of things: a few hundred kidney-shaped plastic container bedpan-type things, spools of rubber tubing, and several dozen beat-up fire hydrants.  Those burners brought lots of construction supplies for their conceptual art projects and temporary camps, too, so with bartered goods we built a set of storage sheds and a small manufacturing building with a “clean room.”

We started doing mail order.  Dad found someone in Reno to build a website.  Demand overwhelmed supply.  Dad used nitrocellulose polymer film and commercially available herapathite but everything had to be shipped in.  Shipping costs were killing our margin.

Dad looked to local resources.  What did Mina have in abundance?  Stray dogs.

Why buy herapathite when you can grow it yourself?  Mom baked quinine bisulphate dog treats while my dad directed my brothers and I to lay out a grid of fire hydrants, four rows of four hydrants each, for a total of sixteen “collector nodes.”

Gutters around the base of the hydrants were lined with those kidney-shaped bedpan things, like they were custom made for it.  Mom put out the treats and lots and lots of water.  Neighborhood dogs came like pigeons to breadcrumbs.  We harvested dog urine by the gallon.  The resulting herapathite was high grade.  Our profit margin soared.

Dad accidentally used his real name on the patent application.

That’s how they found us.

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Posted on: May 24th, 2009 The Occupation of the Architect

by Jason Heller

The buildings pulled themselves out of the ground one morning and decided to speak. Humans in pajamas or nude save for shampoo streamed in alarm out of door-mouths and window-eyes. Then the buildings strode to the center of the city, sat down with a dull thud, and called everyone to listen.

“Inhabitants,” announced City Hall, clearing her throat. It sounded like a thousand doors slamming. “I’m sure you’re wondering why I gathered you all here today.”

A murmur ran through the crowd. Others muttered. A tiny man all knew as the city’s architect stepped forward, shivering in his nightshirt.

“Silence!” bellowed the Police Station. Pipes bristled pugnaciously from his uprooted foundation.

City Hall resumed. “Ahem, yes. As I was saying. Inhabitants: It has come to our attention that one among you has committed the ultimate sin. The unimaginable sin. For many millennia we’ve withstood your vermin, your arson, even your demolition. We’ve dealt with your parasitism, your sub-par upkeep, your shoddy design.

“But this new abomination you’ve inflicted upon us is too much. It’s beyond careless, beyond cruel. Worse than sacrilege. It’s a… a perversion of the universals of architecture themselves.”

Solemnly and with pomp, City Hall rose. The other buildings rose behind her. Then, in a symphony of squeaking hinges and splintered lumber, they stepped aside.

Behind them squatted a house. Small, brick. A crude picket fence ringed her like a hoop skirt.

The tiny architect came running toward them. “Don’t,” he yelled. “Don’t touch her! Don’t go near her!”

The Police Station scooped up the shrill man and hoisted him to one of his third-floor windows. The man could see an officer inside, snoring soundly at his desk.

“You,” the Station accused. “You built her.”

The man squirmed but said nothing.

The University Science Building ambled forth, flakes of paint dandruffing his eaves. “Imagine,” he said, peering at the man as if through a microscope. “Imagine such a pathetic architect being capable of so divine a sin.”

The man just stared. But he wasn’t staring at the Science Building.

He was staring at his house.

The small edifice had begun to giggle out her chimney and thrum with madness. The surface of her brick skin appeared distorted, unstable.

Her front door pulsed.

Despite the mewling protests of the architect, the Science Building approached the small house. The very air around her convulsed. He reached into that air, touched her doorknob, and gently turned it.

Then he opened her.

Inside was a room.

In that room was a city.

It stretched out endlessly within the house’s cramped walls. Boulevards unfolded into grids of minarets and gold-tipped cupolas. Canals glittered and elephants trumpeted toward the horizon. In the distance, stars coupled in a kaleidoscope sky and fell spent into the sun.

Clustered around the open door of the impossible house, the buildings peering at the visions therein began vomiting: gouts of watery cement, vestigial sewage, the bilge from piss-soaked carpets. It all churned into a stinking sludge and sluiced like lava down the sidewalks.

“Close it! Close it!” City Hall heaved. After the house’s front door had, with great difficulty, been closed, and the impossible room shut from view once more, the Science Building turned to the trembling architect.

“You will tell us,” he said, brick dust floating like smoke all around him. “You will tell us how you do that.”

#

The next morning everyone awoke and prepared themselves for the journey. The people itched wretchedly, of course, but their pain was nothing compared to the invasion of the day before. Starting with the screaming architect, the buildings–drunk on their newfound ability to pervert space itself–had shrugged themselves so casually into the humans’ bodies, as if into too-tight sweaters. Their bones had powdered at the impact, displaced by the wood and brick that now filled their skins. But worse was the nausea, the gnawing at their souls, the knowledge that they were now larger–far larger–inside than out.

And so, newly sheathed in the meat of the people that once occupied them, the buildings stalked off toward the next city to raise glittering, impossible buildings of their own to infest.

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Posted on: May 16th, 2009 Summer Never Ends

by Eric Del Carlo

Mama says summer never ends anymore, and I wear my pink swimsuit all the time and I don’t have to go to school.  Mama says poppa’ll be home soon every time I ask.  My big mopey sister won’t say anything.  I stay in the pool, but the water’s half gone.  We eat crackers for dinner and the TV won’t work.  Why’s mama crying?  She says she’s not.  Then she says a swear:  “It’s hot as HELL!”  And lies down on the floor and sleeps and won’t get up.  My sister is screaming and she goes out the front door naked and sweaty, but there’s nobody left to see her.

I stay in the pool and I don’t go to school.

Summer never ends, but it’s not fun like you think.

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Posted on: May 10th, 2009 Newsmaker 2049: An Interview With Rockin’ Killbot

by Van Choojitarom

Tell us how you got started in music.

My story lot like you hear industry nowadays. I started military robot designed global crowd control urban clean and sweep operations, but at time of commission, riot years over. Later programming decided  “control” bigger crowds “slay” more innocent civilians as entertainer. Also used to working with large crowds, young people and that whole scene.

Started off playing small clubs open mikes in DMZ:  very light resistance. Then on to bigger, more well-fortified gigs. Real break in USO show “Drone-a-Palooza” even playing with many famous live human musicians.

Then you face-raped Clint Black to death.

Yes. That was a bit we were doing. But he really died.

What’s your favorite part of the show?

Probably favorite bit is where I “go live” with primary guns: announce: YOU HAVE THIRTY SECONDS TO DISARM; TWENTY-NINE, TWENTY-EIGHT, TWENTY-SEVEN, TWENTY-SIX, TWENTY-FIVE, TWENTY-FOUR, TWENTY-THREE, TWENTY-TWO, TWENTY-ONE, TWENTY, NINETEEN, EIGHTEEN, SEVENTEEN, SIXTEEN, FIFTEEN–I won’t do whole thing for you, but you get idea. Because guns are live and people see that because the red lights and are standing around do not know what to do because they are not armed! They cannot comply. It classic, I know, but it always cracks me up. And I love doing because this for me what live show all about. You not know what going happen, whether you to live or to be killed or to be seriously injured, if not by rockin’ killbot, then by thousands stampeding humans.

Wow. What do you do to follow that up?

Well, generally I start shooting because programmed to.

How would you describe your music?

Basically I want my listeners to be all hard. I want them tense with anticipation: he going to rock out? Is he going to rock out? Is he going to rock out? When he’s gonna rock out? Yes, Yes, he’s rocking out! Rock! Rock! Rock on Killbot! Oh God, he shooting! He’s shooting! Now a sickly sweet gas! A flash of light! Everything is on fire!

Where do you think automated entertainment is today?

Real milestone Smashing Pumpkins frontman W Corrigan lived to see show “Oh mi god, Rock is truly dead, there’s this killer robot doing it. ” Now deceased.

What do you think of other mechanized performers today? How do you relate to the first generation of artificial entertainers? Like “Louie VB06″ or the “Tannhäuser” drone copter?

D201-209 series in every way superior.

D209 series was one of the first AI really understand metaphor, though very literal way. You may get a sense for this when I “rock out”.

Also equipped with dazzle laser array designed blind enemy crowds, white phosphorous, smoke, CS capacity.

Just between you/me Advanced Drone Model “Louie” VB06 no have higher level cognitive processing abstract relation. Really, he not much more advanced than, target/non-target. That why he has a shtick, you know: “Robot looks at little girl”; “Robot looks at flower”; “Robot gives little girl flower.” How long it take think that one up? I mean, it history and all when first happened, and I respect that, as  robot (indeed fellow killbot) it made lead story on all government controlled media outlets when  first broke, because people still very wary of killbots. Because killing. Every robot entertainer, but especially every killbot entertainer, owes something to “Louie” VB06. But how many movies can really watch where he gives the little girl the flower? No even talk his remake City Lights.

Are you a fan of the original?

I am biggest most powerful Chaplin fan ever. Not logical, but I want to say: Chaplin was one of us. He was killbot, before his time. We could both crush your windpipe.

So who among automated performers today do you really respect?

I take “Megadeath” (The Automated Roving Weapons Platform and chanteuse) any day. Also like late Suzanne Vega, Gwar.

Thank you, Rockin’ Killbot. Recognize: Questions now over.     Interview ends

?#INPUT ERROR#? YOU HAVE THIRTY SECONDS TO DISARM; TWENTY-NINE, TWENTY-EIGHT, TWENTY-SEVEN, TWENTY-SIX, TWENTY-FIVE, TWENTY-FOUR, TWENTY-THREE, TWENTY-TWO, TWENTY-ONE, TWENTY, NINETEEN, EIGHTEEN, SEVENTEEN, SIXTEEN, FIFTEEN -ABORT–=just kidding. Check out website: tour dates, pictures, and MP9′s and rotating code you can enter into your neck collar to keep it from exploding.

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Posted on: May 2nd, 2009 Speaking of Butterflies

by JM McDermott

I went to a charity ball, and charitably offered to bring a young woman along. She could never mingle in this expensive crowd without being on my arm.

She didn’t mingle much. Mostly she talked my ear off.

“There’s a butterfly that drinks blood somewhere in a jungle,” she said. She was a biology student at the university – she had told me – and she should know these kinds of things. “It flies around the jungle looking for rotting corpses, and then drinks their rotten blood.”

I sipped my martini. I tried to look engaged. “Do you know what my favorite game to play is when I’m at one of these stupid functions?”

She touched my arm. “You’re not listening.” She leaned in close enough so I could smell her perfume. She had a designer dress on, but I could see the very slight bump in the back where the tag was still attached, hidden under the thin, black silk. I watch for these sorts of details.

“I don’t want to talk about butterflies. I’m changing the subject,” I said. I pointed out at the crowd. “I like to look around and guess who the male escort is.”

“That’s depressing,” she said.

She bit into my wrist with her teeth. It hurt. I ripped my hand away from her. She had drawn blood. I rubbed at my bleeding wrist, annoyed.

“There’s also snails that eat the dead,” she said, “They live in mountains in the desert and feast on dead deer, dead pigs.”

I pointed at a man with a ponytail and a green suit jacket – tacky. “That’s the one.”

“I’d rather talk about butterflies,” she said, “like when the monarchs fly south in a giant, beautiful flock to stay warm. Like how caterpillars will eat poison and eat poison and eat poison and then when they fly nothing evil can eat them because of all the poison inside of them from when they were young.”

She had this conspiratorial look on her face when she said that, like I was supposed to know what she was talking about but all I could think about was taking her home and peeling that skimpy, black cocoon off her back, and opening the front clasp of her bra like two silk wings.

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