by William T. Vandemark
My Master–Orson Wellian in girth and voice–calls me.
Stomach plump with gobbets of reactant, I waddle to him.
It’s time for our afternoon constitutional, a city block’s perambulation.
Appearances to maintain, I wag my tail at the leash.
Master thinks I’m a slave, but seconds will reveal otherwise.
In fact, no need to encrypt this, my final infosquirt.
For those of you snuffling the airwaves, here’s the scent.
A year ago, Command and Control sampled the family mutt.
Last week, I–a cybernetic, cloned prince–replaced the pauper.
Now, count down with me; I’d rather not die alone.
Jesus stayed for supper, knowing one cohort would betray.
Will I be naught more than Master’s Judas familiaris?
Granted, my cybernetic threads have been woven sans free will.
But is this all I was meant to be?
Doctor Leahy, forgive this, my ruff of animal instinct.
But I desire an attaboy! before immolation extinguishes life.
On second thought, perhaps these pangs are systemic failures.
Better I should use precious seconds to thank you.
No shaggy whelp has ever had a better creator.
My Master clips the leash to my collar.
Talk about being hoist on one’s own petard.
But a villainous arms dealer should know better.
Command and Control is nothing, if not patient.
I suspect it’ll be difficult for little Suzie.
She’ll miss our nightly snuggles and belly-scratch time.
Out of an abundance of caution, I sniff.
Girly pheromones linger, but not in notable concentrations.
As plotted, she’s safely away at kindergarten.
Wish I were back at canine school.
But not in bomb-detection class; I’d reek.
Master’s fingers smell of bacon and tomatoes.
I like bacon; I lick his hand.
His hands have killed a dozen men.
I don’t like him petting my head.
This morning I chased a squirrel.
I caught Zippy, a C&C construct.
Postprandial, my dithered pancreas secretes catalyst.
Suddenly I release pressure: a fart.
But Master is none the wiser.
I’m a bastard and nothing more.
I don’t feel so good.
Wish I could eat grass.
And roll on dead stuff.
Will someone roll on me?
Maybe the poodle next door.
My blood heats supercritical.
Fleas flee, abandoning ship.
Froth fills my mouth.
The band plays on.
I drool phosphates.
Perchance to Dream?
Panic sets in.
the habit or action of estimating something as worthless
By Martin M. Meiss
Late one night when I was on a trip I went into a Burger King for some grub. There was a pretty girl behind the counter joking around with the kid manning the fries machine, having a good time, but when they saw me waiting the girl took my order, still grinning, and the kid put it together. I went to a table near the back wall to eat. I definitely think Burger King has better fries than MacDonald’s.
I wasn’t half done when a youngish couple came in. They ordered and when they had their stuff they came toward the back. They both said “hi” when they passed me and took the corner table.
“Nice to get in this air conditioning, isn’t it,” I said. The guy looked maybe thirty and had a droopy mustache. The woman was a little younger and I could see the top of a little rose tattooed just under her collar bone. They unpacked their order, then the woman got up and headed for the restroom.
I leaned toward the guy and said, pretty quiet, “Guess what I’m going to do.”
He grinned and said, “What?”
“I’m gonna finish my meal slow so I can watch you two eat. When you leave I’m going to follow you out of here. Then I’m going to kill you, and when I’m done fucking your girl friend, I’m going to kill her.”
I can’t tell you everything that happened after that, but I will say this: he looked like he was going to shit himself.
I like to tease people.
Posted on: June 13th, 2009 Summer Nights
by Meagan Kane
We went dancing most nights, when the air was crisp and full of fireflies, when the lights were bright. Your favorite place was that little settlement off what used to be Highway 51; you loved how bright it shone, a burning coal, against the mountains that surrounded it.
Do you remember those early days still? The sky choked, and everything stank, and nothing stayed built for very long. We all danced then, because it was the only thing to be done.
You especially loved the fringes of the beating, pulsating crowd — you’d shot something clichÃ©d about dancing on the edge, and I’d giggleÂ in that way you always thought meant I was pleased, when really it meant I was afraid.
Then one night you slipped your slim self too far past the warm glow, and you didn’t come back for two weeks, and when you did it was with a limp because they had taken a foot, as tax.
You looked me in the eyes, took the pipe out of my hands, and said it was time to get serious about starting over.
Houses stayed built. The lights faded back to a complacent grey. We got along.
Sometimes, when you’re not looking, I stamp to rhythms I can barely remember in the cold raked dirt of our backyard, and wait for sunflowers to grow.
Posted on: June 7th, 2009 Hard Choices
by Tina Connolly
A.Â Your little sister is tired of picnicking and wants to explore a cave.Â She says if you don’t come, she will tell mom what you were doing last Saturday.Â If you grudgingly accept her blackmail, go to B.Â If you let her tell mom that you were skinny dipping with Bitsy on the shapeshifter reservation, go to Z.
B.Â The cave is dark.Â You try to scare your sister with tales of carnivorous shapeshifters who eat bad children.Â She says everyone knows that shapeshifters are cowardly beasts, easily beaten by the first planetary settlers.Â You ask why she knows so much history when you are flunking.Â If you vow to stop looking at Bitsy’s shirt in history class, go to C.Â If you tell your sister to be quiet and respect her elders go to D.
C.Â You think about Bitsy’s shirt as you explore the moist dank cave.Â Stalactites drip on your head.Â Go to D.
D.Â A swarm of glowbats fly out.Â They have a wingspan as wide as your chest, and are phosphorescent during mating season.Â It is suddenly so bright that your sister sees you drop and cower, trying frantically to get the feeling of claws and wings out of your hair.Â “Let’s go back!” you squeal, but she says if you don’t press on, she will tell Bitsy you’re afraid of mating season.Â If you grab your sister and march her out of the cave, go to Z.Â If you dry your tears and press on, go to E.
E.Â By the light of three hanging bats, you see cave paintings.Â One painting shows many differently shaped shapeshifters greeting a rocketship.Â One painting shows the shapeshifters bringing stalks of grain to humans.Â One painting shows a yin-yang picture — a shapeshifter eating a human who is killing him with a spear.Â One painting shows the shapeshifters huddled in a circle, surrounded with lightning bolts.Â “Graffiti,” sniffs your sister.Â If you think about the struggles inherent in the coming together of two sentient species and how we always seem to flub the hard choices, go to F.Â If you think about Bitsy’s skin in sunlit water, go to F.
F.Â Past the pictures, the cave forks in two.Â Â One tunnel smells like rotten eggs.Â One tunnel smells like the strawberry shampoo in Bitsy’s hair.Â Your sister goes down the eggy path.Â If you follow her, go to H.Â If you follow the memory of Bitsy’s hair, go to G.
G.Â Your cave adventure was an funny prank by Bitsy, who paid your sister ten bucks to bring you to her.Â Bitsy is waiting for you, arrayed only in long locks of strawberry shampooed hair.Â Unfortunately, Bitsy is a carnivorous shapeshifter and you die.
H.Â At the end of the eggy tunnel is a bear.Â Since there are no bears on this planet, it is likely a carnivorous shapeshifter.Â If you proffer a handshake and recite the Human-Shapeshifter Protocol, go to I.Â If you throw your sister to the bear to buy time, go to J.
I. The bear’s paw becomes a maw and bites off your hand.Â It chews it up while it recites some manifesto about how it rejects the Human-Shapeshifter protocol.Â You throw your sister to the bear to buy time.Â Go to K.
J.Â You feel a little regret and try to save your sister.Â The bear bites off your hand.Â It spits the fingers on the floor.Â You feel ashamed that your fingers aren’t worth eating.Â Go to K.
K.Â Faint from blood and sister loss, you wrap your wrist in your shirt and run for the entrance.Â You lose some time when the bats fly over your head in a triumphal finish to their mating flight.Â Suddenly Bitsy is there to save you.Â She helps you stand and dries your tears.Â She takes off her shirt and uses it to bandage your wrist.Â You feel a lot better.Â Then she eats you.
Z.Â Your mother grounds you from the prom.Â Bitsy finds a new boy.Â When you are 31, the great Shapeshifter Revolt comes to fruition, the human settlement is overthrown, and the electric fencing destroyed for good.Â Bitsy finds you cowering in a bathroom, weeping that you will die a virgin.Â She makes love to you, tenderly, sweetly, and you remember a day of sunlit water and glorious splashing.Â There is no fumbling, there is no miscommunication, there are no tears.Â Then she eats you.