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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Posted on: April 26th, 2009 Entropy in 606 Words

or “A Fictional Exploration of Current Thinking on Localized Entropic Models and Possible Associated Unexpected Phenomena

by Derek Zumsteg

Tom wake up more dumb, bonk head on bed.

“Ow,” Tom say.

Tom blink. Tom forget where work. Also how.

“I get less smart last night,” Tom say. “Much way less smart.” Tom head hurt. Tom try to rub head. Tom put hand in eye.

“Owwwww,” Tom say. “Bad day start.” Tom think. Tom think. “Too much think. My head hurt. Time for walk.”

Sun shine. Sky blue. Each day sun shine sky blue. Not like old place. Rain rain rain rain. Tom smile. Nice town. Young girl point at Tom. Young girl laugh at Tom.

“What?” Tom ask.

“No pants!” girl say. Tom look. Girl right. Tom blush.

Tom walk to school. “Work!” Tom cry. Tom walk around. Tom see green tube sign. “Lab!” Tom yell. Tom run down stairs. Room hot. Many box whirr on many rack. Much wire. Man with giant head.

“I know you,” giant brain man say.

“I know you,” Tom say.

“I look for you.”

“What you do!” Tom yell.

“Box work last night.”

“Think box?”

Brain smile. “Real large comp crunch crunch crunch.”

Tom frown. “Box think think think?”

Brain smile. “Yes!”

“No! Box bad.”

“Box work,” brain said. “You wrong.”

“Not box work wrong. Box work is bad!” Tom jump up and down. Dish rag fall off.

“Oooooooooooh,” brain say. “What?”

“Smart box make dumb. When no box: Me, one thought. Him, one thought. Her one thought. Now box three thought!” All look at Tom. Tom jump up and down. “Box three thought! Me no thought, him no thought, you no thought.” Tom stop. Tom look at giant head guy.

“That more or less same for you.” Tom say. Big brain face go red.

“All work out. Black holes. Stuff like that. I write, you read?”

“I read! I say you write wrong.”

Brain shrug. “That you,” brain say. “You wrong.” Brain stick out tongue. “Nyah!”

“Look!” Tom shout. Crowd stare. “More of you!” Tom wave arms. “It draws for more think! More more!” Tom look. Man bonk head. Tom point. “He walk in rack hurt nose. Hey!” Head bonk guy look. Tom hold up hand. “Count?”

“Errr,” young guy say.

“No count!” Tom ask.
Giant head guy roll eyes. “So?” brain say.

“Here! I fly plane vwoosh vwoosh vwoosh me go see mom now crash plane!”

“Oh.”

“No no here!” Tom yell. “I work in lab! What this glass thing? Take home for wife! Smell smell smell. Cough cough die. Die die die.”

“Oooooh. Bad,” brain say.

Tom look for big grey box. “Box write down, or box…” Tom grind teeth. “Box keep in head?”

Brain grin. “In head. Think fast think in head. Write slow.”

Tom find wall. Tom open big grey box. Tom pull heavy top switch. Room go dark, quiet. In the faint red glow of the emergency exit lights, Tom read the labels on the breakers and swapped the lights back on.

“Well, that should be better,” Professor Van Landingham said. He looked around to see the assembled group staring back at him. “Let me be the first to propose that as dangerous this phenomenon was, there’s going to be some outstanding papers in it and there’s no reason we can’t all have our names attached to them if we cooperate.” No one responded. He looked down. “Before we continue, though, I might propose that I would greatly appreciate it if as the first order of business, someone could produce a spare pair of pants I might wear.”

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Posted on: April 18th, 2009 Parasite

by Jeremy Shipp

The tick sucks you out of me in a matter of minutes, but it takes three months before you’re born again.

During the waiting period, I scribble down ideas, diagrams, even snippets of dialogue.  I fill an entire notebook with jagged letters and little holes where my pencils puncture the paper.

Finally, I’m standing over the tick, biting my fingernails, watching him push the embryonic sack out his tiny ass.

“Does that hurt?” I say.

“Yeah, a little,” the tick says.  “But it’s worth the $500.”

“What do you need with $500 anyway?”

“What do you need with a little man?”

You emerge, and cut your way out of the sack, coated with green pus.

“Where did he get the knife?” I say.

“It must be made of calcium deposits,” the tick says.

You’re still disoriented, swinging at the air, shouting something about the army.  I stick you in the black bag.

At dinner, my wife tells me about some non-profit organization, and I pretend to care.  She ends up crying—I’m not sure why.  Maybe I laughed when I should’ve frowned.

Later that night, I’m inside the garage, looking into the gerbil cage.  The black bag isn’t moving, and I’m terrified you’re dead.

But then, when I dump you out, you get up and yell, “What the fuck did you do?”

“This isn’t about me anymore,” I say.  Well, recite.  “You always made everything about me, but it was always about you.  Now you’re gonna pay for what you did to me.  And mom.”

You point your knife at me.  “Let me go, or I’m gonna fucking kill you.”

I laugh.  I laugh at your stupid little knife and your stupid little voice.  I used to be so afraid of those eyes, but now they’re mine to play with.

So I open my notebook.  “You can forget begging for mercy.  I have to do this.”

“You could’ve let me stay dead,” you say.

You’re right, of course.  I shouldn’t be here right now.  I should be in bed, holding my wife in my arms, dreaming this nightmare instead of living it.

But it’s too late now.

I reach for the ant farm.

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Posted on: April 12th, 2009 Apocalypso

by Soren Lundi

In Vegas the odds were against us.  Everyone was betting on God and his angels; they walked around like it was a done deal.  I put 10 dollars on the forces of evil and the bookie smiled and shook his head.  When the day came, everyone stayed in to watch the rapture on TV. Our television was broken.  We could have gone over to Severin’s and watched the whole thing unfold in black and white like a Goddard film, but it just didn’t seem that important.  We were damned either way.

We went to bed early, making love like nothing was happening.  The stereo up to cut down on the noise, your Joy Division records sounding more like the end of the world than the end of the world ever would.  I bit your lip and you pulled my hair and when we woke up in the morning it was like nothing had changed.

But looking out the window we saw the lake of fire, and I for one was pleasantly surprised.  From what I’ve seen of hell it’s a beautiful place, I don’t know how it got such a bad reputation.  I watched you get dressed and we drove to the bookie’s to collect my now completely useless 50,000 dollars as a souvenir.

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Posted on: April 5th, 2009 The Time-Share

By Fred Warren

They time-shared me to Chuckie Lee Wilson after he died. If you take a life, you give your life. That’s the law now. No excuses, no shades of gray.

Chuckie Lee car-jacked me at a dark intersection downtown. When he broke through my window, I stepped on the gas and dragged him for three blocks. The prosecutors told me I was lucky the upload crew got to him in time, or I would have spent the rest of my life in a cage.

“He was going to kill me,” I said.

“Nobody knows what he planned to do,” they said. “Chuckie Lee Wilson is dead, and you killed him.”

“I didn’t mean to kill him. He had a gun, and I panicked. His sleeve caught on the door.”

“You could have stopped the car. Instead, you took his life. Now you’re going to give it back.”

So, Chuckie Lee gets half my life in exchange for the life I took from him. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are mine. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday are his. We trade off on Sundays. I wear a tracker locked onto my ankle.

Monday night, I ride the bus to Chuckie Lee’s apartment on the East Side. The state pays his rent and sends him an allowance so he doesn’t have to work. I clip on the wires from the upload box, lie on his bed, and press the button. It’s like getting hit in the head with a jagged rock. I go into the box, and Chuckie Lee goes into my brain. Inside the box, there’s nothing. I sleep, but I don’t dream.

Tuesday belongs to Chuckie Lee.

Wednesday morning, I wake up and deal with whatever Chuckie Lee did to my body the day before. I’m hung-over. My mouth tastes like road kill, and my clothes stink of cigarettes and weed. My face and hands are bruised and cut. I shower and take the bus to work. Anybody who talks to me stops when they notice the tracker.

I’m no good at my job anymore. I forget things. My company wants to fire me, but the court won’t let them. The judge says it would have an adverse impact on Chuckie Lee. After work, I order take-out and eat it at home in front of the TV. Then I go back to Chuckie Lee’s, and it starts all over again–Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and every other Sunday.

On my Sunday, there’s no upload that night, and I sleep in my own bed. I dream, but I don’t want to. I see Chuckie Lee’s face, pleading, twisted in agony. I hear him scream as the pavement tears him apart, over and over again.

I used to be married. Melanie was pretty, and we were happy together until I killed Chuckie Lee. When the time-share started, Melanie couldn’t handle it, knowing Chuckie Lee was inside my head. She was scared to be alone with me. Chuckie Lee came after her one Tuesday, and she fought him off with a kitchen knife. Friday morning, Melanie was gone. I think she went back to live with her folks. I don’t remember. I wear long sleeves to hide the scars.

I wonder sometimes what it’s like for Chuckie Lee. I left him a note once: “Please take better care of my body. You got a second chance. Do something good with your life.”  He didn’t reply. The hangovers just got worse. His friends sit on the apartment steps and laugh at me when I go inside to do the upload. “How’s it feel to be Chuckie Lee’s ride, Slick?  Serves you right.”

I passed another time-share on the street last week. His clothes were torn and dirty, and he staggered as he walked. He was a teenager, but his hands shook like an old man’s. When he saw the tracker, he stared at me like he was drowning, like I was the only person in the world who could understand, begging me to save him.

I turned away. Save him? I couldn’t save myself.

I want my life back, the part they stole from me and gave to Chuckie Lee, the part he beats up, and poisons, and wastes, one day at a time. I want to drive my car again and have dreams that aren’t nightmares. I want Melanie. I want to remember.

I’m tired of sharing.

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Posted on: March 29th, 2009 Celery Stalk

by Daria Patrie

Loading the groceries into the car, my roommate finds this jar of celery salt.  Hating returns, she just goes home.

That night I find her in the kitchen, hair soaked in sweat, clutching the celery salt, lips puffed, face flushed, snarling.

I run.

Cops show up.  She’s dead.  Anaphylactic shock.  Allergic to celery.  Who knew?  Open and shut case, they say.

Except twice now I’ve found celery salt when I’m paying for groceries, and the caretaker says this weed is outside my window.  Green, thick, straight stalks, bulbous white root.  Keeps growing back no matter what he does.

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Posted on: March 22nd, 2009 Prairie Star

By Cat Rambo

“All right. One tube of Airborne. Kleenex. Two fashion magazines and one book of Sudoku puzzles. Advil and Dramamine just in case the flying doesn’t agree with you. Some chocolate truffles,” Jess told me.

“They do still feed us in first class, don’t they? It may have been a few years, but I do remember that.”

“Yes, but I thought you might like to have a snack handy,” she continued, undeterred by the crankiness in my tone. “Here are your plane tickets. Someone will meet you at the Wichita airport, there at the exit to take you to the retreat center. Are you sure you don’t want me to come?”

I packed away the travel supplies Jess had brought. She stood there, fussing over me. I resisted the urge to pat her on the head. She looked like a Scottish terrier we used to have, Rags, who’d stand there with just that same expectant head tilt, leash in her mouth.

“I don’t want company,” I said.

“You need a driver, you can’t drive yourself.”

“Jess, look, I’m willing to go to this Prairie Sun Center…”

“Prairie Star. They did amazing things for that French rocker, Etienne – he came out of there and laid down half a dozen tracks that got him a platinum recording.”

“I’m willing to go to this Prairie Star Retreat Center and try to get my music back, if it’ll shut you up, but I don’t want a nanny going along with me, I don’t want a friend to hold my hand, or a keeper to make sure my eggs are scrambled right, and I particularly…” I broke off there before I said anything that pissed her off. “Look,” I said, “I’ll be fine. You stay here in NYC and enjoy some quality time with Brian.”

“It’s Ry-an.  And we broke up three months ago.”

It’s always a mistake to pretend you’re interested in other people’s lives.

On the plane, no murmurs, let alone shouts. Sometimes there’s a whisper, an old fan who never fails to ask what I’m working on. I hide from them. It used to be worse.

At 20,000 feet, the stewardess comes by with another round of drinks. “Ma’am?” she says. And again. “Ma’am?”

She’s not the reason I turn away from the cold, blank window. Rather, it’s the crackle of the Captain’s voice telling us to fasten our seatbelts.

“Shit,” he says to someone before the intercom shuts off.

The turbulence hits hard and fast – the plane’s a rat being worried and shaken, flung up in the air and caught to be shaken again. There’s some screaming back in coach and from the sound of things, someone knocked out or threatened with being knocked out, so loud that most people miss the first engine’s failure.

I eat my chocolates one by one, though not too slowly. I return my tray to its upright position and put my half-finished Sudoku puzzle away.

When the second engine goes out, we know for sure we’re falling. And it’s in those moments, those last long and suspended moments for which Jess has packed no anodyne, that what she said would happen, does.

A new song comes to me, quick and splendid as a lightning bolt, and I sing it. That’s what I sing, all the way down.

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Posted on: March 14th, 2009 Ye Pickl’d Miners

by Mike Norris

Captain’s Log: February 12, 1688

Trade Winds SSW.  Seas becalm’d o’er Middle Passage.

‘Tis a dreary morning our casks be broken, and ye pickl’d miners therein, be awaken’d.

At dawn, we hoist’d the gratings, and lo, not a wail nor cry from below; not a draught of that common stench so brutal upon a Guineaman. ‘Twas then I did realize how fortunate are we, to be employ’d on this most uncommon slaving vessel.  Aye, peaceful, she be.  No drumming of shackled Hands upon the timbers.  No champing for Yams and Palm Oyl. No dusky heads with a rage for insurrection beneath our feet.  Nay, none of this fain occur aboard The Redlowe.

One of a kind be our vast machine.  For not a slave be fetter’d to her empty ringlets, all a-swinging freely in her tenantless hold.  What queer freight be seven-hundred casks of salt for a slaver.  And aye, slavers in deed we be.  Like the wombs of as many maids, our seven-hundred casks be a-swollen with child.

But for the sluice of waves at waterline, the creak of bleach’d Timbers, The Redlowe‘s stillness be test’d only by the clatter of a Cooper’s Hammer upon those strange Casks, and the scooping of shards from the hold.  ‘Twas a merry Birth Day we celebrat’d for all ye stillborn creatures, whose desiccat’d forms weigh’d but as much fold’d sailcloth.  It makes a man thirst but to look upon their shrivel’d Husks, so caked in brine and a-wanting for water, they who be seal’d nigh eighty days ere their rebirth.

Employ great care in their usage, ye Hearties, as their limbs be brittle as soda crackers.  Gently, ye lift them, all a-swaddled in nets, up to the deck where they be shaved and bath’d for sale in the Spanish Mines.

Should Death take them again before landfall, then reviv’d again they’ll be, with another fine dram of Ye Corpse’s Vigour.  Snatch’d from Death’s embrace, see how their shrivell’d hides swell plump again in the scuttle tubs, yet that stricken aspect of the grave don’t much abate.  Their ghastly faces do appear as tho the bitter taste of my medicine, or perhaps the prospect of an eternity in the mines, don’t agree with them.

Swift then, the Reborn be taken below deck and fetter’d there until landfall, ere they awake to those chains they so abhorr’d in that life they depart’d when I poison’d the lot of them.

Tho cheap to transport these extraordinary labourers be, they are a sad freight in deed, for no scripture can promise salvation for a snatch’d soul, whilst an eternity of torment awaits their bodies.  But they shan’t suffer a glimpse of that Airthly Hell to which they’re destin’d, as no amount of Vigour can undo the salt’s damage to their eyes.  But methinks it not much matters what sights be depriv’d them, when that New World of theirs be a lightless one.

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