Posted on: February 28th, 2010 Brats Of The Celestial Heavens

by Idan Cohen

The romance of the sun and moon, said my grandfather when once he fell to drink too deep, reached apotheosis upon a cold night of spring a thousand and five years ago. He continued; The romance of the moon and sun, he said (my grandfather, being drunk) began before the world was born and when it reached it’s final climax it was something to see.

Here my grandfather, being drunk, and a respectable scientist who had published many papers in Nature, looked up into the sky as though he could see before him the light explosion the bright orgasmic energy flush the dual creation. And he said; They had children, you know (the sun and moon), and then they split up. Broke it off. Kaput. How weird is that? he said. And; Damnit, I’ve finished the bottle.

On another occasion, when he was not drunk, my grandfather took me to the woods; and it does not really matter what woods they were, and however much I asked, my grandfather would not tell me where the woods had come from, since we lived on the coast. And in the woods we lay down, and I said; Didn’t you bring the tents? And he said; Shut up for a second, so I did. Then my grandfather looked to the sides, as though checking to see if anyone was eavesdropping. Then he looked up, and then up a little bit more. Look, kid, he said, can you keep a secret?

I nodded, sort of excited, sort of scared, confused a lot, a regular state at that age. So my grandfather looked up worriedly at the sky again, then motioned me closer to him. He whispered; d’ya know the story about the sun and moon I told you? About their children?

I nodded. He whispered; Well, guess what. The brats of the celestial heavens? That’s us. I blinked, and whispered back, not really knowing why we’re whispering; What, you mean like, people?

And he whispered, gaspingly, no! Not people; us. Me. Your mom. You. Your cousin Tom. And I didn’t know how to take this, so I stood staring at my grandfather from so close I could see the wrinkles in his nose, the pores of his skin. And he knelt staring at me. Look, he said, it’s important that you know.

A year later, my grandfather, who was a respectable scientist and a good family man, died of cancer. That sort of thing happened to grandfathers a lot. So I thought, maybe he went back to the sky. That’d be nice. It’s all a great metaphor, really.

But then, one day, the sky exploded and the stars collapsed and the sun and the moon settled their differences and got back together, you remember that day. And the whole family, well, we started getting Christmas cards made of stellar matter.

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Posted on: February 13th, 2010 The Jacob Miracle

By Katherine Sparrow

Everybody underestimated Jacob Apple. He’d launched spells from the chaos camp for the last three years, and though he was by far the strongest witch in the world, so what?

He’d made Germany turn pink, and mice talked now. Every year on April tenth people in Chicago danced all day long. His spells had strength, but no substance. Everyone said Jacob didn’t know his why. Without a why, a witch is just a prankster.

But what if we’d known that the previous year Jacob had traveled to Senegal and met up with animists who drove off his bad spirits and bathed him in ram’s blood? What if we’d known that he’d gone under the hill in Leeds, drank the wine, and lived a thousand years in one night? And what if we’d heard that he had fallen in love with the sly Sally Sugar, but she didn’t love him back? Well, even if we knew all that, no one cared that much about Jacob. Hard to imagine, I know.

He arrived at chaos camp and everyone thought he was the same punk kid as last year, though he entered the misty Norwegian field, full of fault lines and meridians, wearing mirror cloth and laughing hysterically.

He set up an army tent in the middle of the thousands of witches who’d come to try their spells. No one was allowed in, except for his minions who carried plates piled high with mutton and lingonberries. Before long, strange screams came from that tent, punctuated by an unsettling silence.

When his beloved Sally Sugar tried her spell, the mere sound of her voice made his screams rise and pierce the atmosphere. He distracted her, she faltered, and instead of curing asthma, a cloud of aerosolized salmonella rose up from her chicken sandwich and took to the sky. It’s still roaming today, somewhere over Russia.

And Jacob’s screaming only grew worse. Witches moved their tents away, until Jacob’s camp sat in the middle of a bare circle, two hundred yards wide.

Then, on the morning of June 17th, Jacob emerged from his tent. He wore soiled mirror cloth, and green sunglasses that looked cut off the bottom of a couple of wine bottles. He walked around his tent and raised his hands. He began to mumble an exotic love spell, full of shimmied hips and exclamation marks.

He paused and spoke in a whispered yell that wouldn’t disrupt his spell. “No more heartache. Today, I free love, and all of us shall love deeply and madly, without borders!” He looked toward Sally Sugar, and then resumed his muttering and wild-man dancing.

Twenty kids vomited.

Thirty swooned.

Sally Sugar yelled, “This is not as impressive as curing asthma!”

Jacob howled and grabbed his flute. He honked out the last of his spell, and a wind blew through chaos camp — hot and cold, bothersome and comforting. Kids fell toward each other, eyes bright with adoration and lust.

“This doesn’t make the world any better,” Sally yelled. Her heart was made of hate and salmonella, so the love had no room to wiggle in. She tramped across the empty grass toward Jacob. His minions saw her coming and wanted to thwart her, but grew distracted by the groping of their fellow minions.

And so, when Sally stood twenty feet away and aimed her skipping rock, nothing stopped her from side-arming it at Jacob’s head. It hit his cheek, and broke his glasses, and struck his temple, and shifted his magic, knocking it up and away. As it flew away from him he made a mistake. He reached for it and made the Jacob Mistake.

The Jacob Miracle. Which I love, which we all love, despite its problems.

All states fell. All industry stopped. World birth rates approached zero, except for the lucky few of his inner cabal, because we all fell in love with Jacob Apple on that day. We all want him and adore him, and can’t seem to focus on anything else.

For example, I had meant to make a list of things I must do to survive, because I get confused as I walk along the long march that we are all on, as we search for Jacob. But instead, I wrote a Jacob story. Everything is a Jacob story now, and nothing else matters.

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Posted on: January 30th, 2010 Sm@ll But Obvious Differences

by Gary Cuba

Mr. Rolfson, our l@test @dmission @t the St@te Hospit@l, continues to exhibit violent, potenti@lly self-destructive beh@vior. The roots of his ment@l imb@l@nce @re unknown; nothing useful @ppe@rs in the me@ger c@se file th@t @ccomp@nied him–only th@t he w@s picked up by the police for drunk @nd disorderly conduct. He insists th@t he’s been “displ@ced from @nother universe” @nd w@nts to return there. @s ne@r @s we c@n interpret his r@vings, he cl@ims th@t sm@ll but obvious differences drew him to this conclusion. The ex@mples he offered were nonsensic@l, utter gibberish. I’ve prescribed b@rbitur@tes for the present, until we c@n schedule him for prefront@l lobotomy.

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Posted on: January 16th, 2010 My Corrosive Angel

by Mark Mills

Yes, she was beautiful but her breasts were corrosive. Wood warped, metal turned to rust, stone broke down to sand—nothing exposed to them could stand. When she danced at the Blind Fox Grill, the beer taps flaked away and the pole crumbled before the next girl took the stage.

“She’s an incarnation of Kali, goddess of sex and murder,” an old man said, stuffing a two-dollar bill in her G-string.

“Fool,” I spat. “She’s an angel.”

“Well,” he replied, wiping red-brown flakes from his wrist. “Your angel just melted my watchband.”

Angel or demon, she never stayed at the same club for long. True, she drew the crowds, but that couldn’t make up for the property damages. I sought her in the streets but nobody knew her address, nobody knew where she hailed from. After work she squeezed into thick metallic chestplates that blackened and smoldered after a few hours, but even with such a clue to work with, I could never track her.

She was alone: her breasts an unforgiving wall around her heart. One morning during rush hour, she stripped to the waist on the Golden Gate Bridge. Three dozen commuters tumbled down with her, their cars dissolved before hitting the water. Now they all vilify her, they curse her, they sow all kinds of hate about her but I know better. I have looked beyond her breasts to a vista unseen by other men.

I now begin each day by descending in my bathysphere, searching for that tell-tale cloud of hazy, corrupted water. Each day I follow her path across the sea floor as it leads me farther and farther into the deep, where the sunlight never reaches, where the fish have neither eyes nor color. I sink lower with each expedition, knowing that one day we will be together, that not even the greatest of walls is insurmountable, and that of all things gold does not corrode.

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Posted on: January 3rd, 2010 Folio Chat Log #1623

by Hollan Lane

ScottishKing: I must depart anon. Unfriendly men crowd

my gates.

Pr05per0: An’ it pleases you.

ScottishKing: Should my lady seek me here, tell her of the

foe we face.

Pr05per0: Verily.

(ScottishKing logged off)

(Hal_23 logged on)

Pr05per0: Good morrow, my prince.

Hal_23: Good morrow. Thinkest thou I am thy prince?

Pr05per0: Wherefore would thou not never be my prince?

Hal_23: I cry you mercy! I speak in jest.

Pr05per0: It is by your mercy I do abide.

Hal_23: Speakest thou always with so straight a tongue?

Pr05per0: Wouldest like thou my tongue were crooked?

Hal_23: It liketh me not. Speak freely. Use thy

tongue in the manner God did intend.

Pr05per0: An’ it pleases you.

Hal_23: It pleaseth me well enough. Where art thou?

Pr05per0: An island on all sides surrounded by fens. . .

Hal_23: Jest not! Mine sides ache with merry making!

Pr05per0: Ho! Sits the wind in that quarter?

Hal_23: Thy mind is cluttered! Cleanse it or leave my

eminent person.

Pr05per0: Verily, verily. It is cleansed! I abide on an

isle of foul beasts, devils and spirits.

(Honourable_Man logged on)

Hal_23: An’ it like you?

Pr05per0: The beasts, devils and spirits liketh me well

enough.

Honourable_Man: Widowed, I am and seek the comfort of a

skillful wench.

Hal_23: Wise men to the devil depart . . .

Pr05per0: Hades liketh me not. Mine books are burn’d. Mine

soul cries mercy of the Lord.

Hal_23: An’ the Lord dost give it?

Honourable_Man: Dost a skillful wench abide within?

Pr05per0: I know not. Time of such making escapes my

grasp.

Hal_23: Thou willest catch it one day.

Pr05per0: Better in’t catch me.

Hal_23: Dost not matter who begins such a duel. Tis thou

wilt lose’t.

Pr05per0: Tis a duel all men of dust and spirit must lose.

(Honourable_Man logged off)

Hal_23: Verily.

(DrowningGirl logged on)

DrowningGirl: Good morrow, wizard. Good morrow, prince.

Pr05per0: Wizard liketh me not. Mine books are burned.

Hal_23: Good morrow, lady.

DrowningGirl: My mind liketh me not. Such ghouls do live

in’t that Hades seems a land of light and angels.

($$$Lender logged on)

Hal_23: Such sorrow! May I attend?

DrowningGirl: Attend me not, my lord. My lover spent a

fortnight pondering his father’s death.

$$$Lender: Needful of fish bait? 300 ducats for one part a

pound.

Pr05per0: He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.

DrowningGirl: An’now his hands doth drip with the blood of

mine own father.

Hal_23: What knave is this?

$$$Lender: Ask for Antonio tomorrow you shall find him a

grave man.

DrowningGirl: His name matters not.

Pr05per0: The devil damn him black!

DrowningGirl: No, my lord. Rain not damnation on his head.

I cry you mercy! I must depart.

Hal_23: Dear lady, depart not!

DrowningGirl: Adieu, my lords. A fountain awaits. . .

(DrowningGirl logged off)

($$$Lender logged off)

Hal_23: Lady! Lady! She hath gone to commit some terrible

act, I fear.

Pr05per0: Verily. An’ not we can do wilt stop her.

Hal_23: Our revels now are ended.

Pr05per0: An’ the rain it raineth every day. Look up, mine

prince. The sun doth break the clouds.

Hal_23: Oh aye.

(ScottishKingLover logged on.)

ScottishKingLover: My lord? Where art thou, my lord? Spot,

be gone!

Pr05per0: The lord you seekest hast depart’d to face an

enemy at the gates.

Hal_23: So close?

Pr05per0: Aye. Usurping liketh him not.

ScottishKingLover: My lord’s hand’s stained as mine own!

Hal_23: It liketh not my father, either.

Pr05per0: Touché.

ScottishKingLover: My lord engages the enemy on our

doorstep?

Pr05per0: Of a certainty.

ScottishKingLover: I shall seek him out yonder window and

return anon.

(Network down 16:24)

(Reconnecting 16:32)

Hal_23: Good sir, thou hast returned?

Pr05per0: Verily, my prince. Where art the lady?

Hal_23: Perhaps the window liketh her not.

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Posted on: December 19th, 2009 How Duane Came to Be In the Bathroom

by Jamie Grove

Duane sat on the bathroom floor, his feet braced against the vanity so that he could keep the door wedged shut. Fists hammered on the other side of the door. The reverberations made it difficult dial Petru’s number.

“I told you not to open the crate,” said Petru. Duane could hear booming house music, which meant Petru was still at the club.

“Right, you left me a note. That’s true. I’m an idiot,” said Duane. He tried not to grunt when his head bounced against the door.

Petru said nothing. His accent always made him sound bored and semi-pissed, but Duane figured his Romanian roommate was annoyed for real since he’d been chatting up a blond when Duane left the club.

After a moment, Petru sighed, “Look, I can’t get there for at least an hour.”

“An hour?” Duane screamed. “This door isn’t going to last five minutes! You’re right around the fucking corner!”

“Maybe one hour, maybe three,” said Petru. “You’ll just have to hold on.”

The line went dead, and Duane recalled that Petru didn’t deal well with confrontation.

—-

Twenty minutes before, Duane stumbled into the apartment and discovered a large, wooden crate sitting in the middle of the living room floor. There was a note on top of the crate, and a crowbar lying beside it.

Dear Duane,
Do not open the crate.
Seriously.
- Petru

Petru was always ordering weird shit online and rummaging through people’s trash. When they’d first moved in together, Duane thought it was just a quirky hobby but the volume of crap soon overwhelmed Petru’s room and spilled out into the living room. Now, their apartment looked like a psychotic curio shop: stuffed monkeys (yes, plural), urns, bordello lamps, primitive weapons, more dead things in jars. Really, Duane had become a bit numb to it all and he’d recently taken to spending time on Craigslist looking for a new place to live.

So, was the crowbar an invitation or just Petru being Petru?

Duane spent about 30 seconds puzzling over this and then he decided he didn’t care. He cracked open the crate and dug through the packing peanuts, sweeping them onto the floor. Eventually, he had to get into the crate to reach the peanuts.

It was at this point that Duane uncovered a face. At first he thought it was a mannequin or a doll. As Duane cleared away more styrofoam, it became clear that he was looking at the corpse of an attractive woman.

The woman held a small, plastic bag against her rather ample bosom. Inside the bag there was a pamphlet, a thin stick, and a vial of violet, glittery goo. Duane pried the bag free and hopped out of the crate.

My Zombie Girlfriend(TM) – “She’s Necrotastic!”

INSTRUCTION MANUAL
“My Zombie Girlfriend is designed to provide decades of dedicated service to her master. Reanimating the undead is as simple. Just apply a small amount of the included Styx Lyx Serum (assorted flavors) to her lips using the included applicator (do not use your fingers). Apply additional Styx Lyx as needed to keep My Zombie Girlfriend lively and supple. Opened vials of Styx Lyx should be kept refrigerated to prevent spoilage. Additional vials are available online from our website. The living should not consume Styx Lyx. Please keep Styx Lyx out of the reach of children and pets.”

Duane wasn’t very good at reading instructions, but it seemed like even he couldn’t mess this up. He opened the vial and the smell of raspberry filled the room. He used the long thin stick to ease out some of the Styx Lyx and smeared it on the dead woman’s lips.

The effect was instantaneous. The woman’s eyes opened and locked onto Duane’s. She smiled and licked her lips. Duane smiled back. The woman was so attractive that it was difficult to keep in mind that she was also thoroughly dead.

“You have the amulet?” the woman purred.

“Amulet?” Duane replied.

The woman rose from the crate. Her smile disappeared.

“Page two of the manual,” she said.

Duane looked at page two.

“To protect your substantial investment, My Zombie Girlfriend is equipped with a security protocol which primarily involves feasting upon the flesh of unauthorized users. Do not attempt to reanimate the undead without the Amulet of Power in your possession. As an additional precaution, your Amulet of Power will be shipped separately.”

And this is how Duane came to be in the bathroom.

Posted on: December 6th, 2009 Mount Rainier Considers Its Mental Health

By Spencer Ellsworth

I am a volcano, and I forgot to take my antidepressants.
It started with my doctor. He climbed me with spiky shoes, snow thick in his beard. “You’re overdue,” he said. “By about a hundred years.”
“Is that bad?” I asked. Behind him, I could see the haze of buildings that was Seattle, Tacoma, and their connecting parts, square streets and square houses trying to live on round hills scooped up and ladled out of round valleys. I had watched it grow, from felled trees to skeletal frames to buildings that acted as though they had always been there.
“My wife was overdue for our first kid. I blame my kid’s weight on that. He’s a fatass. Won’t even climb a hill with me.”
“Am I going to have a baby?”
“You’re going to erupt.” He looked down at Seattle and Tacoma. “Half of that is going to be buried in thick soft ash and boiling rivers of mud. You, my friend, are an unquiet place in the earth.”
I wasn’t a place in the earth; mountains were on the earth. But given that this man seemed to have problems at home, I thought I would be gentle. “That’s interesting. I always thought I sat on an unquiet place in the earth.”
“Semantics. You’re the problem,” he said.
“People tell me I am beautiful,” I said.
“It’s a terrible beauty.”
I didn’t like that at all. “Can you help me?”
“No,” he said. “But a lot of things come with volcanism, you know. Anxiety flares you up, depression flares you down. You could go at any minute or you could wait forever. It’s driven some volcanoes crazy. By the time they erupt they don’t know who they are anymore.”
I opined that that sounded like a pretty good thing, given that I didn’t want to know that I was responsible for burying the people below in boiling mud.
“Semantics,” he said again. “You could be the only mountain in the Cascades to be awarded an honorary English degree.” He held up a big bottle of tiny pills. “Take one of these every year,” he said.
“And this will keep me from erupting.”
“The problem here is the inevitable crushing depression,” he said. “We all have bad days—we all, so to speak, erupt and drown Tukwila in fiery mud floods. But we can control how we face them.” He looked at his watch. “This time tomorrow I have to be home so I can spoon-feed chili-and-macaroni-and-cheese into my son’s disgusting mouth.”
I let him go, because it was obvious that his family needed him.
I took the pills. They helped me forget what he said, most of the time. I was determined to think of myself as sitting on an unquiet place in the earth, and that helped.
He climbed me again ten years later. “You’re still overdue,” he said.
“Maybe it was your imagination.”
“Nope.” He looked back down. “My son lost a lot of weight and is dating a vegan.”
“That’s good.”
“No it ain’t. Bastard still won’t exercise. You can take the fat out of the ass, but not the fatass out of the fatass.”
“Oh.” I didn’t feel qualified to comment on his problems with his son, so I said, “I’ve been taking the pills.”
“And are you able to function?”
“I guess so. What if—” I had wanted to ask him this for a while. “What if I just don’t erupt? I mean, I’ve got a choice in the matter, don’t I? Everyone has control over their own destiny.” This is one of the tenets I live by.
“The only thing you can control is your attitude,” he said. “Blind studies prove it.”
“Everyone,” I said, “has control over their own destiny.”
“Easy now,” he said. “You don’t want to start rumbling.”
“I don’t think I need these,” I said, and gave the antidepressants back to him. “I’ll do fine on my own.”
His snowy beard framed an angry frown. “I’m trying to help you.”
“Thank you, thank you, and I appreciate it, but… no.”
“Good God,” he said. “You’re just like my son. No idea of what’s good for you.”
After he climbed down, I felt a rumble. Rocks broke against each other, grinding to bright lava, boiling inside me. I watched the cities swell below, trying not to fidget.
I am fine.

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Posted on: November 22nd, 2009 The Chinese Room

by Alec Deason

It held out its palm for Jason to see. There was a single grain of sand on the worn plastic surface.

“I have many thoughts,” the thing elaborated.

It gestured at a dozen or so woven grass baskets that dotted the dune above the high tide mark. Each was filled to the brim with sand.

“Do you have a…” Jason began but stopped and started over. “Do you remember the manuscript we brought you?”

He spoke in a slow, slightly sing-song voice like he was talking to a child or an idiot. It was a reaction he couldn’t really control. The thing withdrew its hand, glancing down into it and then back up at Jason.

“This one is about irrigation practices in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous region,” it said.

“A woman brought the manuscript. About a week ago.”

The woman, Charlotte, would be doing this part too instead of Jason having to come down here, but she was sick and deadlines were deadlines. The thing stared at him for more than a minute in silence. Jason thought about how this conversation would seem in a Turing test. Not all humans could pass them either.

“I kept the manuscript,” the thing said at last.

It reached into the hole in its plastic shell where the neck emerged and pulled out a rolled bundle of paper which it offered to Jason. The paper was discolored and felt like it had been out in the rain. In was covered in Chinese characters which were blurred to illegibility by the moisture.

“Thank you,” Jason said. “We were hoping that you had given it some thought as well.”

“You are welcome,” the thing said and then after a pause, ”I have many thoughts about the manuscript.”

It turned and lumbered towards the nearest of the baskets. Its feet sank deep into the sand at every step. The thing dipped its hand into the basket, brushing at the handful of sand it retrieved until there was only one grain left. It held this out for examination. The other grain, Mongolian irrigation, was clutched between its thumb and index finger so it would not get lost.

“Its about the relationship between calligraphy and typography in modern Chinese writing,” it said.

“That’s very interesting, but have you thought about the translation we asked for?”

The thing stared at him in silence again before answering.

“No,” it said. “Do you have anything to write on?”

Jason dug an empty spiral bound notebook and a pen from his backpack. He handed them to the thing, which set its grains of sand onto the basket. It began to write smoothly, filling page after page. Jason sat down to wait.

He dug up a handful of sand and let it sift through his fingers, thinking about those early pioneers of machine translation who, after decades of failure, had decided that any machine capable of manipulating human language in a meaningful way would have to be at least as complex as a human. He wished those people had been wrong or that their descendents had found a way to make their complex machines seem more like humans. Or less. It wasn’t clear in which direction the problem really lay.

The thing finished. It handed the notebook back to Jason. He flipped through the first few pages. They were in English. Those with better taste assured him that the thing’s work was always beautiful.

It reached out and plucked a grain of sand that had stuck to his shirt.

“I have a thought,” it said.

He turned to trudge back up the dune without responding. The thing didn’t seem to mind.

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Posted on: November 8th, 2009 ISO

by Derek Zumsteg

“Need missed connections posting. $2,” they offered.

I stopped pushing an origami fetish site for affiliate money. Two bucks is two bucks.

“Interested,” I replied.

“Man, short brown hair, stocky, Embarcadero Plaza. Must appear organic.”

Organic = mistakes. I wrote it:

I allmost ran you over …Sorry – w4m – 30 (Embarcadero)

Iw asn’t watching and almost walkedinto you. Id didn’t have time to think of a line. I blushed mumbled and ran off. You: short brown hair, preoccupied too?

Overjoyed customer = $20 tip. Badly-patrolled forums learned where folding and paper cuts meet sexual release. I ate. My customers returned.

“Can you do additional good MC w4m $20? Same but different, and give us the anon@ account.”

“Yes.”

“Apx 6th & Geary, yesterday 7-8pm, suit and tie, glasses, badge.”

“NP.”

I’m giving it up, I swear – w4m – 36

You: smart-looking, glasses, suit. 7:30 ? Me: long brown wool coat, hair up, smoking, embarrassed. You looked at me curious ? Great eye contact but you walked on. In a hurry or? Let’s have a drink. I won’t smoke, really, I promise it’s a funny story.

They paid forty. Forty! I’d spam my mother for forty bucks. I’ve done it for less. I’m not proud. And yet, the crawly feeling. The badge — what conventions were in town? They came back in an hour.

“Again but at coffee. Please no emo.”

No emo. Fuck you no emo.

“Age range?” I asked. “Where? Identifying details? Pics? Vid? Extra charge for emo-free lol.”

“40s. SOMA. w/similar looking friend. Can pay $20 for emo-free.”

“Done.”

Next time don’t bring your friend, doc ;) – w4m (SOMA)

You came in for coffee. Both in suits with badges. I was your barista. You gave me a great smile. I waited for a chance to talk and didn’t get it. I’m pre-med (was pre-med) and you might be immunology(?)

I looked like your standard late-30s underemployed, but it was mid-shift and I clean up nice, I promise. Let’s meet for not-coffee.

Turned over the account and got paid.

“Thought no emo?” they said.

Hahahahahafuckyou.

SOMA almost certainly meant AACR.

“Need response email,” they thought. “Short, convincing. Pay 400.”

400 was rent. 400 was things. At 400 I would fold my mom on the origami site I spammed her about for twenty.

Also: response? Someone bit?

“Convincing requires details,” I said. “48h ETA.”

“8h = 2x bonus? five ten, sharp features, decent shape, black-framed glasses, green eyes. Subj went to two: Left Hand Bay Cafe, Industrial Process Coffe Co.”

“Agreed.”

Subject? I scratched at the curious itch of conscience. I searched the UCSF internal listings and shuddered cold in my office-salvage chair at the titles:
Need F med students for soc survey

ISO F med school drop outs for grants

Commercial work for authentic grad students

Work training program filming testimonials. Barista experience a plus.

I checked Stanford, UC Irvine, UC Davis. Trawlers worked them all with similar nets.

Then, a jolt of recognition on the second page of AACR presentation speakers: square, black-rimmed glasses on a glass-cutter nose, his chin a sheer drop. Suit untailored, but not bad.

I watched his incomprehensible presentation on trial T-cell use in cancer prevention. He made a little joke early and he smiled — cute — and looked sheepishly at the audience, flashing green eyes. Aww.

He owned four early T-cell anti-PMSA patents outright, shared rights in dozens of others tied up in lawsuits.

Shit.

He’d be on to straight spammers, suspicious of family and friend business pitches. This, though… cash-only short con or part of those lawsuits, in a year he’d be broke and selling his patent rights, living off whatever they paid teaching professors. Which is like ten percent over career spammer. There’s a match for you Prof, but she’s not responding to a casting call. Maybe she’s in an apartment she shares with six people, trying to justify this and failing.

Re: Re: Next time don’t bring your friend doc ;) – w4m (SOMA)

Left Hand Bay. You had a black suit, badge had green(?) ID stripe. Pen in your shirt pocket: cute! Almost black hair and bright green eyes. I hope this is you and not your friend – you took the drinks, he sat down. I smelled of coffee, and always will.

And if I don’t take the job someone else will, and I’m sorry, so sorry. So here’s this in paired warning, as complete as I can be in only 750

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Posted on: October 11th, 2009 First Annual Brain Harvest Mega Challenge Winner

Enough with the phone calls, and showing up at our houses! Enough of bugging our moms, trying to get them to spill the beans! The winner is a story Jeff Vandermeer described as “an excellent example of spinning out an absurdist idea to its furthest (il)logical conclusion,” which structurally is “like pitting one of Mike Libby’s steampunk insects against a melting clock.” While none of us know what the hell he’s talking about, we share his enthusiasm for the story, and for its author, Brian Francis Slattery.

If you read Brain Harvest, you probably know Slattery’s work. Brian is an editor, writer, and musician. He wrote Spaceman Blues and Liberation, which are thoughtful, genre-bending stuff with heart and guts that go down as smooth as a nice whisky and then burn for a week. He lives at www.bfslattery.com

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The World Is a Voice in My Neighbor’s Throat
by Brian Francis Slattery

The people who live in my neighbor’s esophagus do not know that they are in an esophagus. They believe that they have died and that my neighbor’s esophagus is their afterlife. Because more of them keep arriving, they have built a structure within the esophagus like an office building, including an intercom system that can be heard outside my neighbor’s person. The building is already very full; a committee has been created to deal with this, but has reached no actionable conclusions.

My neighbor does not like the people in his esophagus and has attempted many times to remove them. He has drunk scalding tea. He has swallowed spoonfuls of chili paste. He has smoked cigars and eaten small pieces of the burnt tobacco. He has induced vomiting, then held in the bile for longer than anyone should, so that the people in there can marinate in it. None of this has dislodged the people from his esophagus, though it has led them to believe that they are in the sinners’ afterlife that their nation believes in, which they were warned about when alive but ignored in favor of, for example, shaky real estate deals, gambling, or driving too fast.

You may have noticed that the punishment seems harsh for the sins. The people in my neighbor’s esophagus have noticed this as well. Also, my neighbor’s esophagus does not at all resemble the sinners’ afterlife of the people’s holy scriptures; in those texts, the place of eternal damnation consists of a very, very bright light and a loud, keening noise, neither of which ever stops. The contrasts between this apocryphal place and the reality of my neighbor’s esophagus are glaring, and the people have formed several investigative committees in reaction.

The first two committees formed exploration parties that left the esophagus from its top and bottom several months ago, rain slickers rolled and tied to their backs, flashlights, crampons, and rappelling gear in hand. As neither party was heard from again, subsequent committees turned to more philosophical, theological work.

The third committee argues that the people are in the sinners’ afterlife, as the environment would suggest by process of elimination (the concept of the saints’ afterlife has as its principal elements a warm orange sun and a sea of golden honey), but it has driven mad anywhere from one to all of them, who labor now under a very elaborate hallucination. This committee publishes an ongoing journal of their findings every two weeks. Of late, the debate has stalled over who is hallucinating and who is a hallucination, and whether the findings of a given author can still hold weight in committee decisions if it is discovered that the writer is, in fact, a figment of another’s imagination. This has led to rampant libel and slander, as rivals seek to knock each other out of consideration for committee chairs by accusing each other of not existing. The fourth committee inverts the third committee’s work, suggesting that perhaps the people have been in the esophagus all along, and its mucus-lined walls are the reality revealed to them upon their deaths. This idea has attracted few adherents, for reasons that should be clear.

A fifth committee began its inquiry by vanishing altogether. They were gone for six days, returned with beatific smiles on their faces. They said nothing, wrote nothing down, did no work at all. They seemed to be in a state of constant, tranquil bliss. A few days ago, the chairs of the other two extant committees assembled the fifth committee for an inquiry. Where did you go? What did you discover? How can it be that you are so content to be here? No one in the fifth committee answered; at last, one of them rose and kissed the chair of the third committee on the forehead. That night, another of them broke into the office on the top of the esophageal structure with a crowbar, stepped in front of the microphone for the intercom, and sang a song, high and wavering, in a tempered fifteen-note scale that nobody in the esophagus had ever heard before. We could hear it, too, emanating from my neighbor as he stood in his driveway after taking out the garbage. We all stopped and listened, transfixed in our yards, until the song was over. By then, the sun had gone down, and we could not find our way back to our houses.

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