Posted on: April 10th, 2010 What Makes You Tick

by David Steffen

My holding cell fills with the gas, the sedative they use when they wish to experiment. I play my part, allowing my tentacles to go gradually flaccid, dangling off the table. After months of examination they understand nothing about me. Obsessed by the physical world, these self-proclaimed scientists have placed blinders over their own eyes. I don’t eat. I don’t excrete. I don’t breathe or bleed. Their MRIs and other sensing technologies detect no signs of life, yet I move as though I live. I am a paradox they cannot fathom, so they bring their straps and their knives and explore the frontiers of my body. They will find nothing.

I could heal the wounds in seconds. I could reduce their scalpels to molten puddles, but I choose not to. Every operation is video taped, and my reactions must be consistent. I am curious how long they will maintain interest in the absence of new discoveries. If they start to lose interest I will vary my reaction to draw them back in.

Dr. Talbot’s attention is focused on his incision, the eyes above the gas mask narrowed with his concentration. He cuts deeper than ever into my spherical body, and again to make an “X”. When he’s finished he pulls the flaps wide, revealing deep into my insides, but he sees nothing of interest, only more of the same gelatinous flesh, a uniform gray. Already the first of these autopsy tapes have circulated the internet, but have been dismissed by even the most fanatic believers as a pathetic hoax.

While the doctor focuses on the task at hand, I feel my way delicately across his mind. He pauses for a moment, but dismisses the tickle as nervousness.

This one is a fresh recruit, younger than the others, hired to replace Dr. Carlson who drowned herself in her toilet. Of course, Dr. Talbot doesn’t know about that. Fresh in his mind, just beneath the veil of concentration, Dr. Talbot has been thinking about his girlfriend and the sex they had last night. Her name is Amber. He couldn’t tell her where he was going or why, only that he had to go and that he would be back in two weeks.

They always work in shifts, two weeks on, two weeks off. She’d told him she was afraid he would never come back. Their fear drove them to fornication, a sweaty and messy affair. I grasp a thread of the memory, entwining it around an extension of my mind.

In the present, Dr. Talbot has one gloved hand shoved elbow-deep in my newly opened orifice. I draw the memory of his girlfriend up from his subconscious, piercing through the shield of his focus like a needle through cloth.

His hand pauses inside me as lust arises in his mind. His genitals respond to the stimulus. He shakes his head, trying to clear his mind again, but I hold the memory there. Already I can feel the associative threads solidifying between this operating table and his bed, her genitals and the gaping maw of my rent flesh. He continues his work as though nothing were wrong, the only visible signs the bulge in his trousers and the sweat on his brow. His brainstem battles with his conscious mind, and he is both aroused by the operation and frightened by his own arousal.

When he’s finished I release the memory. I have learned in my short time here that such associations take minutes to create, but are permanent once formed. Operating tables will make him think of Amber, and naked women will make him think of me.

He washes his hands, shuts off the video camera, and returns to his quarters where he immediately satisfies his urges in a complex wash of pleasure, disgust, worry, and fear. He is already my favorite test subject, his mind so easy to inflame. I hope he lasts longer than the last one.

Posted on: March 27th, 2010 Company

by Stellan Thorne

Continuity isn’t that important. I’ll tell you something that’s important:

We meet in out-of-the-way moments. There’s a bridge in Prague under which, September 9th 1910, you should come have a drink. If you don’t mind the cold. The river’s very dark that night.

We’ll take you shopping afterward, 33.4.7321, on the Ledge above Saturn. You’ve got a choice: you get yourself one nice suit, or you find a moment in an abandoned palace and build yourself a closet. It’s better to travel light. Don’t worry. You’ve got a line of credit there.

We’ll take care of you.

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Posted on: March 13th, 2010 Conventions of the Genre

by Jesse Bullington

“If we knew where they came from we could stop them,” Gove says.

“Silver seems to stop them just fine,” I remind him, funneling the carefully measured metal pellets into the mouth of a yawning 12-gauge shell.

“I mean all of them,” he says.

“So do I.” I seal the end of the filled shell and get another hollow one from the box.

Every moonrise is another action movie.

I used to hate action movies.

Until they ate my husband and my little boy.

I used to think I just hadn’t found what I was good at–what if Wong Kar Wai was born, say, two centuries earlier, before film, before cinema? Would he have done something else, found a different means of crafting beauty? Or would he have floundered, an artist trapped in a world without the tools he needed to flourish?

I was right. About not having found what I was good at, I mean. I could write articles, of course, give lectures, attend conferences, keep the lights on, the internet up, the old 16mm I picked up for a song thrumming along. But I wasn’t an artist the way I am now.

I think Gove would have cut out on me a long time ago if I wasn’t so good. He stopped bitching about the camera’s weight the last time we hit one of their dens, when we must have mistimed the moonrise, when it went from another day at the abattoir to an action movie in the time it takes for bones to break, for fur to sprout, for fathers to realize the sentries were dead, for mothers to realize that their pups have been crushed in their cribs, for all of them to see me framed in the doorway, backlit perfectly, the silver-plated sledgehammer leaning against the wall, the pump shotgun in my hands, my smile shining in the dark the same way there’s used to. They weren’t smiling then, and Gove wasn’t bitching about the camera’s weight, he was doing what I’d told him to, the shutter clicking along with the slide on the gun as the shells were pumped into place.

I would have said my motivations were cliché, that they were pure grindhouse. I would have rolled my eyes when some naïve undergrad argued that any female protagonist was better than none, that the backstory of the heroine was, if not original, at least compelling. I would have told my husband about it later, the wine spicy on his breath, and he would have sided with the student, because he liked grindhouse, he liked action movies, and he especially liked playing devil’s advocate.

So I’ve become a stereotype–an archetype, he would argue–but I’m a stereotype with a silver sledgehammer and a shotgun, a brace of pistols, a nuanced performance (if I might be allowed the vanity), and a cameraman. We burn their dens, we burn everything, but they have good noses, of course, and so I’m sure the others find our presents–I make doubles of everything, so that my personal albums don’t suffer from the filmcases full of evidence we leave for any that come after, that wonder at the inferno that claimed their brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, cousins and friends, spouses and children.

I’m sure I sound like some xenophobic gun nut pursuing the genocide of a people, but the truth, the real truth I don’t even tell Gove, is that I don’t want to kill all of them–I always want them to be out there. As long as they’re out there, waiting, I have a means of making myself happy, of forgetting the dead, of creating something beautiful, and of having an audience. I wonder when Gove will realize that I’m intentionally timing it so that at least a few rise with the moon to find us in their midst–it would be much, much easier to go in the middle of the afternoon, much, much safer to go then, but it wouldn’t be half so beautiful. An artist works with the tools given her, and my tools are made of newly risen moons, the screams of grieving parents, and pure silver. Roll credits.

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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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