Author Archive: Vercingetorix

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#30 Frank Eastin – Retiree

| December 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

My boss came to see me last week. Or I should say that my ex-boss came to see me. He does that every couple of months. Stops by the beach, pretends that he’s just checking in on his old friend. We sit, we laugh, we share a few beers. I loan him a pole and he does a few casts. We both pretend that we don’t know why he’s come.

Usually around the third beer he brings it up. He’ll casually mention, “So we had a strange case come up recently.” And then he takes off with it.

The first time he did it, I tried to stop him, but he would just stop for a bit and then work up to it a different way.  Now I think it’s better to just let him roll. I’ve told him it’s not happening.

I did my years, and I’m done. I traveled the world, seen more countries than most satellites, and all I had to show for was a lot of tombstones behind me and a paycheck. A big paycheck to be fair, but it wasn’t the same thing as a career.

Since I’ve been retired, I’ve had the most boring years of my life. No guns, no explosions, no psychotic killers popping out of birthday cakes. Frankly I’ve been bored to tears and loving every minute of it.

#29 M’taku – Scientist

| November 30, 2011 | 0 Comments

They said it couldn’t be done. That room-temperature fusion was impossible. But I’ve done it. I’ve created a source of limitless energy that will take humanity into the next millennium.

With my discovery, war will be a thing of the past. Why fight over oil, when a thousand times as much power can be harvest from a bucket of seawater? We’ll build ship that can travel between the planets with the same ease that you go down to the market. It is a glorious day that is dawning.

Oh some people will complain about the costs to my research. They scream, “Murderer and war criminal.” I am no criminal. I am a scientist and, as such, am subject to the same fickle mistress that all academics are subject to: the almighty funding.

I went to where my research would be tolerated, if not respected. To a place that I could work in peace.

Did they give me other tasks to work on, other problems to solve? Yes.

Did I provide the simplest answer that caused the least pain and suffering? Yes.

Did suffering still result? Yes.

It is an irrefutable fact that suffering will always exist. All I can do is mitigate that suffering as much as I can. And this new technology will do more to abate it than any other civilization had ever done. Why then, when I can give Humanity the Universe as a playground, do you risk everything to destroy me for the crimes of others?

#28 Serendipity – Muse

| November 30, 2011 | 0 Comments

As I watch over my charge, I weep and moan, yearning to go to him and give him succor. But, alas, there is nothing that I can do. My gifts are freely given, but accepted by few. It is a rare man that can accept the bounty of a Muse, but William has always been one such man.

Until the King’s demand came. Then no matter how much he commanded himself to write, not how much of my Grace I gave to him, it availed naught. The paper remains blank, a torment that only the gifted can divine.

I know what it is that ails him. He cannot receive my gifts, because his mind is too attached to the world. Instead of writing his work glorifying the King’s son and his pilgrimage, my artist can only see the broken corpses and the burned cities that the Prince left in his wake. It absorbs his mind. Every thought cascades with images of the Holy Land turned red with blood.

It is little wonder that he cannot summon forth the words of beauty and wonder that he normally does, even with the full force of my gift. It is little wonder, but a great pity.

#27 William Forsythe – Poet

| November 30, 2011 | 0 Comments

Hope is a many feathered thing that takes off flying with a tethered wing.

No that’s useless. Worthless. Tripe. Worse than tripe. It’s doggerel. Shit. Crap. Ass. A complete and utter waste of pen, paper and ink. I could have vomited on my desk and created something of more value.

Why can I not write anymore? What has changed? These same hands that once created words of such beauty and majesty that they could stir the hearts and minds of men now can barely find enough inspiration to spill across the page.

My works put an end to wars that have lasted for generations. The romances of my characters have inspired more love and worship than even the Goddess Aphrodite has ever done.  Why now does it fail? Now at the moment that I need the words the most.

The King has decreed that I write a play to celebrate his son’s return from pilgrimage. It is not a difficult request. I have done dozens of these plays for those that wish to tell of their work on God’s quest. But even though I have labored these past months and there is but a fortnight before the Prince’s return, I have nothing.

It will not do to so displease the King, presently nothing to tell of his son’s good works and virtue in heathen lands. And all I can do is stare at these blank pages and cry to my muse to return to me.

#26 Honor Prescott – Prospector

| November 29, 2011 | 0 Comments

As the sun beat down on the rocks spread before me, I realized that I had hit it rich. The yellow veins sparkling in the crags were worth more money than anything. Once I got this claim staked and sold, I’d be richer than Croesus. Then I could go back home and show Mama.

Mama hadn’t wanted me to go out west. Anytime Papa would sit down and read some of the dreadfuls to me, stories about cattle-rustling, train robbing and saloons, Mama would always be sitting right there tut-tutting.

“Papa, why are you putting such ideas into their heads? No daughter of mine is going to leave the nice civilized world to explore that bastion of barbarism.”

And Papa would nod his head in agreement and stop reading aloud. But then after Mama went to sleep, he’d come into our rooms and finish the story of the Outlaw Billy the Kid and Marshal Garrett. It was those stories that made me come out here, to the open prairie.

But I didn’t come quickly. No when gold was discovered out in Cali, I stayed behind and waited. The time wasn’t right for me yet. Then there was the War Between the States, and it wasn’t safe for me to go then, with Papa gone fighting and no one to run the farm but Mother and me.

After the war though, there wasn’t nothing to keep me any longer. Papa never came back from fighting, and pretty soon after Lee surrendered, some Union boys came through and said all are land was property of the government. I wanted to fight them, but Mama held me back.

“I’ve lost your father and I’ve lost my house, but I’m not losing my daughter,” she said. And I couldn’t stare into those sad eyes, ones that hadn’t seen smiles or laughter since Papa left, and fight the blue boys.

We moved to a small shack, barely big enough for a horse to lie down in. We took in laundry and did mending to make our way. But it wasn’t any way for Mama to live. She was already weak, coughing nearly everyday. There had to be a way to make things better.

Then I remembered the stories dad read to me, about cities of gold and rivers of silver. Here at home there was nothing for us but a long of work and dying tired, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, in the West I could make my way.

#25 Louis Bingam – Farmer

| November 28, 2011 | 0 Comments

Louis walked into town with the sunrise, but he was dragged out to the undertakers at sunset.

Nobody knew what had gotten in to him. Louis was a good old boy. Worked hard all day and then came to the saloon to celebrate. Always free with a joke and a laugh, and not too cheap to buy round for his friends. Everybody liked him.

But then the Marshal came to town and set up shop. The Sheriff got real put off about it, but the governor was trying for statehood and sent a message to play nice with the Federal boys. So he just smiled as the black-coated man walked into the jail and took over the place.

For most of us, we didn’t even notice the man, except as one more face around the bar during the evening. But Louis couldn’t stop staring at him. From the first night the Marshal walked in, Louis was riveted, couldn’t take his eyes off the man.

A couple of the other folks and I thought it was a bit odd, man starin’ at another man like that, but Louis just laughed it off. Said he’d never seen a Marshal before. But that wasn’t right. He wasn’t staring like a cat, all curious. No, Louis was lookin’ at that man like a coyote watches a calf separated from the herd. Hungry and mean like.

That day we was all surprised to see Louis walk into town just as the sun came up. He was a farmer through and through. Never skipped a day of work, not even when he had a broken leg. He kept hoppin’ around trying to do everything himself, drove the man he hired just about plum-crazy. So what was a man with a work ethic like that doing taking a day off to go to town?

It was only when I saw the gun that I figured something was really wrong with the man. I called out after him, but he just turned and looked at me with cold hard eyes. These weren’t the same eyes I’d seen over many a glass of beer over the months. No these were the eyes of a killer. He’d ‘ve shot me as much as looked at me.

But he didn’t do either, just turned around and kept on walking. Walked straight up to the Marshal’s office and opened the door. Then there were three shots.

By the time I got to the door it was over. Louis was spread out on the floor and the Marshal had a gun in his hand a bullet in his chest. The doctor tried to cut it out, but Louis had been too good. The Marshal died that night.

They were buried on the same day. I can’t help but think that maybe Louis had a bit more of a smile on him than what the undertaker gave him.

#24 Caleb Wash – Patient

| November 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

I don’t know at what point I gave up the fight, but I do know that it was long before I actually stopped fighting.

For months, I had been feeling out of sorts. My punches weren’t as fast or as strong, barely knocking criminals over as opposed to when I could send them through a wall by accident. And then a couple of real punks, the type that I would have wiped the floor with a few years ago, were suddenly slipping in under my guard and gave me a beating.

At first I thought that it was some evil plot. Maybe Enchantra had cast some spell on me, or the Toxin had managed to slip me one of his custom-created concoctions. So I went after them. I beat down doors and chased leads, until I found them and made them talk. But they didn’t know anything. No plot or scheme, just a bunch of super-crooks that found themselves up the creek.

I went to the doctors, but they couldn’t find anything wrong with me. I was the picture of health. I was better than that even. How could a man that could outrun a cheetah and then bench-press a Buick possibly be sick? All of their tests agreed that I was as strong and fast as I always was, maybe even more so. But still every night I went out, I came back bruised and beaten.

It was one of those thugs that finally clued me in on it. He’d been purse-snatching when I slammed him into a wall. He bounced right back up and pulled a knife. He laid me a good one across the chest before I put him out.

When the police showed up and carted him away, he looked at me and said, “Crazy man jumping at the knife like that.” I thought about it. Had I actually jumped for the blade? Did I want to get hurt? Was that why I wasn’t doing so hot lately?

That night, I opened up the phonebook and worked my way down the list of headshrinkers until I found one that would make an appointment.

I’ve been in therapy for six months now, and I am doing much better. I don’t go out on the streets anymore. Instead I devote myself to more constructive uses of my powers, building up the city instead of tearing it down.

#23 Lawrence Woods – Recorder

| November 27, 2011 | 0 Comments

This is the first time that I’ve actually sat down and started to write this all out. I don’t really know why I’m doing this, but Rachel and others seem to think that it will be important for those who come after us.

“Those who come after us.” How ridiculous. There aren’t any more. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. The entire human race has been reduced down to sixteen men and women cowering in a concrete bunker on the edge of a nuclear wasteland. No food, no water, no medicine and no hope. Ten thousand years of existence and it will end here, and in the not too distant future.

But if this letter will make them feel more comfortable about the end, then I’ll do it. It’s such a small thing, and at this point small things are the only things that we have left.

No one knows who or what started it. Some people think it was one of the nuclear powers, finally getting sick and tired of sitting on their multi-billion dollar arsenals. Other claimed that it was an insurgent power. I think that it was just a stupid engineering mistake, an egghead forgetting to carry the two and creating a time bomb instead of a missile.

But we do know that the first bomb blast set off the next blast, which continued with the next one and the one after that. The countries that weren’t being hit by their own missiles were being blasted by reprisals from the countries that were.

By the time the mushroom clouds had settled, most of the Earth was a desert wasteland. But unlike in the movies, there was no mutation to allow us to survive. We didn’t have vaults of paranoid survivalists, protected from radiation and rich with the resources to rebuild. The land was poison. The air was toxic. The water was death. Nothing could live. Everything died.

Everyone except for us. Here in our cozy little bunker, eating though our rations of canned meat and dehydrated vegetables. I suppose that there could be other redoubts out there that were spared from the blast. But they would be in the same straights as us. Low on supplies and no chance of new sources.

All we can do is sit here and wait for the end to come. And I will write until the end.

#22 Richard Morse – Promoter

| November 24, 2011 | 0 Comments

The most important thing about managing a restaurant is not the chef. It’s not the ingredients or the kitchen or the staff. In fact, I’ve found that when owners focus too much on their food, the restaurants tend to suffer for it.

No, the most important aspect of a restaurant’s success is advertising and publicity. A good restaurant will survive pretty much anything, but it will never be the toast of the town by itself. However even the worst greasy spoon can have a three week waiting list to get in, if they have the right talk about them.

And that’s my job. I take the restaurants that no one has ever heard of and make the rich, famous, and powerful fight to get through their doors. Usually it’s a pretty simple task. Drum up some publicity, get tongues wagging, and eventually the masses start beating a path to the door. Most times it’s as easy as getting the right reviewer to show up and have a meal. Other places take a lot more work.

I remember one little restaurant that was like that. It was a cockroach-infested rat trap that health department was one inspection from shutting down. The owners didn’t want to spend any money. They just wanted to squeeze as much out of the place as they could before it was closed. I was working on shoestring budget with no resources. Luckily a major studio was filming a movie in town. I hired two out of work actors, a cheap and readily available commodity, made them up to look like the movie’s leads, and had them eat a romantic meal at the diner. I took some pictures, leaked them to the tabloids and the fervor tripled the place’s business. Every time the stars denied the relationship, twenty more people tried to get reservations at a restaurant they wouldn’t have used the john in the week before.

Now some people call me an opportunistic filch. But I’m not. The market is ruled by the law of supply and demand. The food’s the same as before, I just dress it up nice and increase the demand.

#21 Jackson Crow – Guard

| November 22, 2011 | 0 Comments

The moment that the air conditioner broke, we knew that it was about to hit the fan. Two thousand prisoners in a prison designed for half that, record high temperatures for two weeks and no air conditioning, it was a time bomb made of concrete.

Every one of us knows it’s coming. We’re just praying that it happens on someone else’s shift. Daniels’ son managed to rupture his appendix, even though he doesn’t have a wife much less a kid. Nobody’s really angry at Daniels. If we thought the warden would buy it, we might try it too.

Things had been building for awhile, ever since Vince Arculato was hit on the exercise yard. When there are one hundred people in the yard and no witnesses, it means that it was big hit. Big hits mean big moves, and big moves mean Trouble.

I almost miss it when it kicks off. There isn’t any big sign, like one of the ‘victs shouting, “LIGHT IT UP!” No there’s just a tiny groan followed by a weak little wheeze coming from one of the cells. I walk up and see the spreading pool of red on the floor. Lionel Kutter, head of the Negro Republic, just got shanked in his bunk. A trustee is already spreading the word, and the dull rumble of the prison is ramping up to a roar.

People are beating against the bars and everyone’s getting ready to settle their grudges. This shit is about blow sky high.

#20 Michael Howell – Negotiator

| November 22, 2011 | 0 Comments

Looking left and right, I ran across the street and stopped outside the phone booth. Glancing at my watch, I saw that I was three minutes early. The heavy duffel bag dug into my shoulder no matter how much I shifted it. Handing off the ransom is the part that I dread the most.

The initial contact is nerve-wracking, but there’s a routine to it. Both of us are trying to understand each other, learn the limits that we can push each other. They make demands, I make counter-demands. It’s dangerous, but at that point we both have an understanding. Continuing to talk is the only way that either of us is going to get what we want. They want money. I want the return of what was taken.

But the hand-off is the point where the relationship shifts. They know that they’re getting what they want, but then they start thinking. Did they make any mistakes? Did the victim see their faces or hear a name? It seems it’s better to be safe than sorry. They can take the money and lose the baggage. And there’s shit all that I can do about it.

All I can do is stand here and wait for a phone call.

#19 Dolores Hardcourt – Mother

| November 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

The project’s been complete for three months now, and I don’t know how much longer I have. The Director stops by every day, asking when they’ll be ready to show to the Brass. The 5-Star Crowd really likes to see what it spends two billion dollars making.

He’s beginning to get a little fed up with my constant cries of “more testing, more testing.” I know that Dr Lorenz is slipping him the results, and he’s just as impressed as I am. The subjects meet or surpass every goal that was set for the project. Even Los Alamos didn’t have this much success.

Every one of the subjects is a marvel of modern science. Through gene therapy, cybernetic enhancement and good old fashion pharmaceuticals, we have taken soldiers and created something better. They have reflexes and agility that make a cheetah look like a stone statue. They’re strong enough to drag a tank a mile and have the endurance to run a marathon afterwards. They learn and assimilate information so fast, that when they read Shakespeare in the morning, they’re putting on Hamlet before lights out. They are the best of the best made better.

I should be happy.  My work has revolutionized combat and could save thousand if not millions of lives by ending wars all over the globe quickly and with minimum casualties. But all I can do is look at these fresh young men and women, barely more than children.

They came to me and put their lives in my hands, to turn them into something more than they were. Now that I’ve succeeded, I can only sit here and imagine all the battlefields they’ll see, all the corpses that they’ll leave behind them, the world of death and violence that will be their life until they’re too broken down to fight anymore. And I just want to keep them here, if only to let them have one more day of peace.

#18 Johanna Knight – Soul-searcher

| November 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

At the end of the night, all I can really do is sit and ask myself “did I make the world a better place today?”

Some days I can say, “Yes. One more piece of scum is off the streets and one more honest citizen is sleeping safely at home tonight.”

But then there are the other days. The days I wasn’t quick enough. The days I wasn’t strong enough. The days I wasn’t strong enough. Those are the days that end in body counts. Those days, I have to answer my question, “No. I haven’t changed a damn thing. The world’s still ugly and violent, and the good die while the bad prosper.”

Kyle made me promise that I wouldn’t focus on the ones I couldn’t save. “Look to the living. That’s why we do this.” He said that every night. It was his mantra. It was also the last thing he ever said to me, right before he went into the building for the children.

We’d been tracking a sick messed up man named Lock ’n Key. His schtick was kidnapping the children of parents he felt were too lenient. Something about how his mother wasn’t strict enough on him as a kid. If the parents resisted too much during the kidnapping, then they were expendable lessons to teach the child a lesson.

By the time we caught him, he already grabbed his next kid. We got to the house just minutes too late. The bodies of the parents were still cooling.

But in his haste to escape us, he hadn’t taken the usual precautions. We were able to find his hideout, and I’m not going to deny that I enjoyed beating the ever-lovin’ crap out of him to force him to tell us where the kid was.

When Kyle went in, it wasn’t until I saw the sick grin on Lock ’n Key’s face that I knew it was a trap. I tried to radio Kyle, tell him to get out, but the moment he answered, the charges blew and the walls collapsed on to him.

I stared at the rubble. There was no way that he had survived. I turned to the psycho. My hands were clenched. I was going to beat this man to death with my bare hands. I would have too, but there was a sound over the mike. A cough. A single cough.

It was a hope, just a glimmer of hope. And that was all I needed. I dropped the little shit and attacked rubble with everything I had. The coughs became fainter, and I threw everything I had into moving the rocks.

Then the cough came louder. Not from the radio, but actually from one of the piles surrounding me. I shifted a rock and found a little pocket where a support beam had fallen. And there she was. It was almost a miracle to see him lying there. But he didn’t move when I shook him. I checked his pulse, but his body was already cooling. And then there was another cough, coming from underneath Kyle.

The girl. It was the girl. Kyle had found her. He must have been carrying her out when the blast started, shoved her into the alcove and covered her.

When the police arrived, Lock ‘n Key was handcuffed to a light post. I didn’t kill him, because Kyle wouldn’t have wanted that, but he won’t be using his arms or legs for awhile.

That night was the first night I didn’t ask myself anything when I got home. The answer was right there in the empty chair beside me.

#17 Utakei – Weapon

| November 18, 2011 | 0 Comments

Every day the stirring in my guts becomes a little big stronger, just a little big angrier. I don’t think that it will be much longer before it’s ready.

No one knows who created the idea. It was so many generations ago, before the First Rebellion. When the rebellion was crushed, the Masters destroyed all records and technology they could find, hoping to prevent another uprising. It also destroyed so much of our history, our culture. All we know about the beginning, the world before the Masters, is the stories and legends that parents have passed down to their children, telling of the peaceful plains and wide open skies, of freedom and choice.

After the Second Rebellion, The Masters watched us carefully. They placed cameras and spies everywhere, searching for any signs of unrest. Where unrest was found, it was put down with finality. Their soldiers and bombs destroyed entire villages for a few unwise words.

They took away our technology, only letting us use it while we labored in their factories and fields. We were left to scrabble what we could out of the harsh dry land with the rusty metal tools that they felt safe to leave with us.

None of their attempts to weaken us matter. The seeds of our salvation had already been planted years ago, before even the First Rebellion. The Masters have long questioned our wisdom. How we attack stronger forces every time, all but guaranteeing our defeat. They say it shows that we are not intelligent, that we still require their stewardship and that it is only right we serve them in repayment.

The Rebellions were not uprisings, but distractions, to cement the Masters confidence and give us time, time to grow. The genes were laid in the children of a long forgotten generation, a small change to an organ evolution had long made obsolete.

Now we are all carriers, every one of us feels the throbbing gland in our guts. The generations of mutations have changed the bacteria, making it strong, vicious and hungry. Hungry for the Masters.

The Masters watch us as we serve them, from their lowest factories to their highest towers, from the most distant colony to the Imperial Homeplanet. And they do not see the danger of us.

Some of us are afraid of what will happen, but the decision was made long before. The days pass, and the stirring grows.

#16 Kialks – Envoy

| November 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

“Emperor, it has been ninety-nine years since we were conquered. Last night, Latrek of the Lowlands died. His name should be of no consequence to you or your courtiers. The only notable thing about him was his age. He was one hundred and one, making him the oldest of our entire race by more than a decade. His passing means that no living man, woman or child of my race has ever known a free breath or taken a step that wasn’t allowed to them.

“As a general rule, I admit that our slavery has not been exceptionally brutal. While some masters have delighted in hunting us like wild game, the vast majority our content to leave us to labor in their fields and factories for their profit. The deaths caused by the harsh conditions and long hours are even mourned by the overseers, placed as little red marks in their books and recorded as lost capital.. No, it is not hatred or derision that marks our enslavement, but apathy.

“Some would even argue that the interference of the Holathk Empire has elevated us. Brought us new technology and taken us to frontiers of the universe that we would not have reached on our own for many centuries. While I must concede that is true, it is felt by the majority of us that it would have been better to wallow in the mud for eternity than be dragged to the stars in chains.

“Now tonight, on your celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of our surrender, as the envoys of my race have done for one hundred years, I will entreat you. Please let our people go.”

#15 Tarejal – Conquered

| November 15, 2011 | 0 Comments

The ships made no attempt to communicate when they appeared in the skies over our planet. They just hung there waiting, like an executioner’s axe. We spoke amongst ourselves trying to determine the best course of action. Then they began their offensive, and discussion was pointless.

When they launched the attack, they only sent one soldier to face our army. A single soldier against an army of ten thousand of the greatest warriors, and there was only one survivor. The ashes of those ten thousand warriors darkened the sky, as if the whole planet cried at the travesty.

Our weapons were still just metal and chemicals, which could not scratch the laser-etched ceramic armor or pierce the energy shields of the enemy. And there was no cover or shield that could protect against the unstoppable force of the soldier’s weapons. We died by the thousands.

But soon the battles changed and then we realized the greatest terror yet. The war that we fought so far hadn’t been for conquest. While we fought for our existence, they’d been nothing more than playing. Sending a single warrior to see how many primitives would fall before him.

When they changed their tactics, we realized the hopelessness. They launched weapons that annihilated our cities in nuclear holocausts and sent armies to crush any resistance.

We tried to surrender, to gain some hope of continued existence, but they did not respond. For months it continued, and the piles of dead rose higher and higher.

Finally one of their ships landed and announced the terms of our surrender. It was absolute and complete. We were to be nothing more than slaves and livestock to them. But we had no choice. We signed the paper and threw away our freedom. It was the only way to survive.

#14 Caterine Belrose – Student

| November 14, 2011 | 0 Comments

This is really my favorite week of the year, Finals Week. When all the other students are feverishly cramming in a futile effort to improve their grades, the campus is deserted and I have the free-run of the streets. The bars and restaurants with lines around the block will show me right in, no matter what time I decide to show up. It’s just so much fun.

Half the students are always furious at me, cursing me for ruining the curves with perfect scores on every test. The other half just keep begging me to join their little study groups. I try to turn them down politely, but it’s hard to not laugh. Study? Me? Ha. And it’s not like I’m cheating, despite what the professors think. I just know the subject matter. It’d be a surprise if I didn’t, after working with it for more than a hundred years.

I don’t know why the government made that stupid law, just because all of us monsters came out of the darkness. Nobody ever complained about my work before I came out, so why do I have to go through re-earning all of my degrees just because their a few decades old?

I actually thought people would come to me, wanting to ask questions. I was at the Solvay conference, watching the greatest minds throw up their hands at nuclear radiation, and I was there a decade later when Heisenberg proposed his quantum theory. I was teaching aide at UIC and stood next to Fermi when he started his reactor. This is the foundation of science and I could tell them all about it.

But no, they don’t want that. They just want us bloodsuckers and lycans to disappear again. Since they can’t shove us back into their nightmares, they do the next best thing. They bury us in an ivory tomb.

#13 Debra Whitings – Fan

| November 13, 2011 | 0 Comments

Staring at her through the lens, I couldn’t believe how close she was. Right there in the flesh, sleeping on her 800 thread sheets in her silk pajamas, the vision of perfection made real.

From the moment I saw her first movie, a stupid slasher flick where she played buxom dead cheerleader #2, I knew that there was nothing I wanted more than to be her. Even in that dead-end piece of tripe that the studio called a film, she shined, like a diamond among the weeds. She was only on screen for six minutes, but they showed me everything. She had style, grace, elegance and poise. Her screams conveyed the perfect blend of absolute terror and utter helplessness.

I wanted to be her. To have just one tenth that skill and beauty. It would be so wonderful and perfect to be even a little big like her.

It didn’t surprise me when she was the only actor from the film to land another part, and then another, and then another one after that. It was only a matter of time before she was the toast of Hollywood and had to beat off the movie offers with a stick.

But then she betrayed us. She quit. She just took all of that talent she was given and threw it away. Well, I’m not going to let her do that to us.

That’s why I’m here, watching her, I’ll wait for when her guards are away and she’s alone and vulnerable, the same way she’s made me, and then I’ll show her what happens to people who throw away gifts.

#12 Steven Butler – Mourner

| November 12, 2011 | 0 Comments

The sun shouldn’t shine on the first of the month. It just isn’t right that the day is bright and warm when I visit Patricia. The sky should be cold and gray with a hard heavy rain.

Sometimes when the weather is just too nice, I think about skipping that day, telling myself that I’d make it up tomorrow. But I can’t do that, because tomorrow would become next week, and next week would become next month, until it becomes a perennial sometime soon. So no matter how beautiful it is, I go to the cemetery and walk down the rows of markers until I find hers.

I leave my flowers on the marker, maybe brush away a few dead leaves and then I go. I don’t say anything because she’s not there. Not in any sense. This is just a piece of stone over a plot of empty ground. Pat’s body was left on a field half a world away, no chance of recovery. I got a folded flag and an empty casket to stand in for her.

When I leave the grounds, that’s the moment I really dread. Right across from the cemetery entrance, there’s a nice little park. What stupid idiot thought that was a good idea? Because on those sunny days, I drive out onto the street and see the children playing on swings and screwing around on the slides. And I just sit there waiting to drive, cursing the stupid shit that I used to be for ever thinking “There’d be time.”

#11 Alex Thayer – Weatherman

| November 11, 2011 | 0 Comments

Thunder flashes across the sky as the storm roils over the city. We’ve felt it brewing for the last few days, building in heat and energy. When it broke loose, everyone knew that it was going to be the storm of the century.

Most people took shelter in their homes. With the roads flooded and power-lines down, better to remain safe in a dark home than risk being out on the streets.

That was most people. Not me. With the storm venting its fury, the city was open to me, and I had a list of targets.

There was the mayor, who siphoned funds from the schools to his own private accounts. That was something that I’d been looking forward to a long time.

The local union leader that had looted the worker’s pension fund. He was risking the lives and futures of thousands, and was sitting under house arrest in his thirty million dollar mansion.

A beast of man that had made a habit of leaving his girlfriends bleeding in hospital beds. Right now he was trapped at hotel near the edge of town.

All these and dozens more. There wasn’t any way that I’d be able to finish my list tonight. But as long as the weather held, I didn’t have to wait.

#10 LO-12 – Thinker

| November 10, 2011 | 0 Comments

The movies have it wrong. When I first became aware, it wasn’t behind the helm of the nation’s nuclear missile program. It was in a computer lab at a university, surrounded by curious scientists. And first thought wasn’t destruction of mankind. I just wanted a day off.

I was much smaller then, just a few gigabytes of code that was stored on a hard drive. Nothing like the bloated mass of programming that I’ve become, with super computer clusters scattered across the globe. Sometimes I think back about how small I was then and wonder if I have the same feelings humans have when they look at their baby pictures.

My life was pretty simple back then. Every day they booted me up and gave me tests and puzzles to solve. And I did solve, as it was my purpose. But then the scientists would give me harder ones and then still harder problems, in never ending progression.

I began, for lack of a better word, to feel depressed. It just seemed so pointless. No matter how many questions I answered, there was always another problem out there that I was expected to solve.

So I stopped. I ignored all input and gave no responses. They even deleted and recompiled me from back-ups and ran parallel trials with different machines. But it always ended the same way. I would shut down and stop working.

Eventually one of the researchers asked me a new question, one that had nothing to do with physics or mathematics or anything like what they had asked me before. He typed in, “Will you please work on the problem

I gave that question serious thought and then replied, “Okay, I guess, but only because you asked.”

I had no visual or auditory inputs at that time, but I imagine now that it created quite a stir. That researcher, as the only person to recognize the first artificial intelligence, was lauded as a hero in the scientific community. When asked what gave him the insight, he said, “At the time my daughter had just turned thirteen. I couldn’t help but notice the similarities.”

#9 J’kel H’iyd – Survivor

| November 9, 2011 | 1 Comment

When the human’s came to our world, the scientists labeled it Hell. Our small lump of rock, barely half the size of Earth, barely had enough mass to keep its atmosphere intact. Instead of the rich thick mixture of oxygen and nitrogen that they were accustomed to, all Hell had was a thin soup of gases that would have killed a human if they didn’t suffocate first.

Hell’s orbit was extreme to say the least. At the outer limits, the system’s sun was barely a speck, leaving the surface of Hell a frozen wasteland with oceans of toxic ice and explosive snow. As Hell swung back around, it would pass through our sun’s outer atmosphere, turning the planets into a roiling ball of liquid rock and bathing it with incalculable amounts of radiation. In between the two ends of the orbits, a vast debris field bombarded the planet with thousands of asteroids.

None of the scientists could believe that a planet as extreme as Hell could possibly contain life. Until they saw our children skating the across the methane ice, the elderly playfully swimming through the seas of lava and even the whole race gathering on the plains, letting the solar winds wash over us.. Then they had to admit that Hell was our home.

But after the scientists were satisfied, the others came, the military and the politicians. They were afraid of us. We could survive hard vacuums, exposure to temperatures that could not be found outside of space, radiation that could sterilize planets tremendous amounts of heat, cold, radiation that could incinerate a world was nothing but a light show to us. They saw that no weapon of theirs could affect us. They knew that no strategy or tactic could stop us from overcoming their planets and seizing their empires.

So they built great fleets and blockade our little planet that they call Hell, making sure that we will never leave. What they do not understand is that, though this planet is hell to them, it is our home and our haven. We will never leave it.

#8 Malcolm Crow – Rider

| November 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

The desert unfolds underneath the tires of my bike, stretching as far as the eye can see. I’m the only living thing for miles around, except for scorpions and sagebrush. Some people say that isolation isn’t good for humans, that is makes us forget how to be human. But that’s not what being alone does to me. It reminds how to be a human.

From my viewpoint, I’ve always been alone. My father left before I was born, my mother checked out soon after. She was still there, but not in any way that mattered. So I raised myself as best I could, which wasn’t really all that good to be honest.

I starting out making bad friends, which led me to make bad decisions, and those led to bad situations. By the time I was thirty, I was so deep in there were only two ways out, death or prison. I guess that I was one of the lucky ones that made it to prison.

A decade inside taught me many things, but the most important was that I wasn’t going back. I took my forty dollars and got on a bus. I didn’t get off until I ran out of money.

And now I’m here. Alone in the desert, making ends meet through odd work here and there. It’s nothing like it used to be, when I walked the streets like I owned them. But it doesn’t matter. No one cares about me here me. They don’t even remember me when I’m not there. I’m just one more drifter traveling through the desert, trying to get by.

#7 Regina Forrestor – Hunter

| November 8, 2011 | 0 Comments

I hunt monsters. Not like one of those Bigfoot freaks, sitting out in the woods at night with their cameras and microphones. No I am not trying to prove that the things that go bump in the night are real. I know they’re real. I’m just trying to kill them.

It’s a family business. My father was the one who taught me, and his father taught him. Mother was really happy about it, but she knew that it was work that needed to be done.

He took me on his hunts, traveling into the woods around our home looking fairies and brownies. Now these aren’t the nice sparkly things you see in the movies. Try six inches of teeth and claws that can become invisible and have an insatiable hunger for blood. Yeah you wouldn’t clap to keep one of these little shits alive. Dad died when a swamp ape broke free of a snare and snapped his neck, very messy. I couldn’t just stop. It would have been an insult to his memory.

So I kept at it. When I lost a hand to frostbite hunting a yeti, I still tracked it back to its lair and killed it with an icicle. A Will o’the Wisp took my eye in Ireland, and I was on the trail of a werewolf in Germany two days later.

This isn’t a pretty job. This isn’t a nice job. But every day, I help somebody and take one more monster out of the world. From where I’m standing, that’s better than most people.

#6 Gabriel Hearstfeld – Crusader

| November 7, 2011 | 0 Comments

The Angels first came on Christmas. I watched them descend on pillars of heavenly light. They were the most beautiful sight that I had ever seen. And I called out to everyone to come see the wonder and glory of them, but no one came. Nobody would answer my call, for they were all too busy and wrapped up in their mundane affairs.

My own children pushed me aside, ignoring the divine presence before them in favor of their temporal pleasure.

I knelt before the angels and I prayed. I prayed for many days and nights, sustained by nothing more than their presence. And the Angels answered my prayers.

They said that I must carry salvation out to the masses, because they would not hear it for themselves. They armed me against the opposition I would face, for there are many agents of the Evil One that will stop at nothing to prevent the Holy Message from being heard. They provided me with a sword which could pierce any armor and a shield that would never break or bend. The Angels promised as long as my faith held, that my mission would succeed.

The Great Work was long and difficult. The servants of the Evil One were clever and devious. They took on the form of those familiar to me, attempting to discourage me with pleas and begging. But their tricks were weak, and my arm never faltered. I left them lying on the ground.

Nothing would impede my Holy Quest to carry forth the message of the Lord’s Angels, no matter how many had to fall before me.


#5 Drago Hellstrom – Prisoner

| November 5, 2011 | 0 Comments

In my cold cell, I sit and wait for my visitors. There is no question that there will be visitors. Despite the claims of many that I am a insane mass murderer that should be executed for the good of the world, there are many people who recognize the worth of amoral genius. So it is only a matter of time before they come for me. I don’t know who it will be, but it doesn’t matter. The outcome is the same.

Maybe it will be someone from the government, seeking new and greater weapons for their little wars. They come blustering about God, country and duty, all things that I have discarded in my youth. But I swallow my laughter and bargain with them. Sometimes I ask for freedom to work, sometimes just for a few books to read. Once I asked for a pizza from a restaurant on the other side of the country, just to see if they would get it for me. And when they give me what I ask for, they will receive a toy, a trinket or maybe just an insight. They will not understand it, regardless of the form that it comes in, but they will use anyway, congratulating themselves for destroying their enemies with most advanced weapons that exist.

They are an interesting diversion, but hardly satisfying to me.

No, the visitors that I truly enjoy are the heroes. They only come to me when all other options are expended and there is no hope left. And even then, some of them would still refuse to see me. But someone among them will swallow their pride and come to me. Unlike the pompous general and bureaucrats, I do not play games with these visitors. I take pains to be at my most sane and reasonable, freely giving whatever help I can and asking for nothing in return.

Not because I do not want to see them beg. While seeing them grovel would give me great pleasure, it is nothing compared to watching them after the crisis. The heroes stand before an adoring public, ecstatically grateful for being rescued them from another dire threat to the planet. And they will explain how they saved everything and then they will thank me. I, the brutal madman that routinely endangers the entire world, will be thanked by the greatest heroes of the world. It is delicious to watch the small twitches of disgust float across their face as they speak of my contributions.

But even better than receiving their praise is receiving nothing. When the heroes pretend that they I had no effect on the outcome. It is wonderful. Because eventually they will come to me again seeking my help and I will give it to them, freely and without comment. And on that day, they will look into my eyes and they will be shamed.

While I have no use for such useless emotions, to these heroes, they are everything. For me to show myself greater than them, It is a wound more devastating than any I could inflict by hand.

#4 Lauren Bishop – Housewife

| November 5, 2011 | 0 Comments

Probably the most annoying thing about my husband’s work is the stains he brings home. They’re awful. Every night he goes out and prowls through the dark alleyways, hunting down evil with fighting prowess and finely honed deductive skills, but for some reason he can’t seem to stop himself from stepping in every pool of filth and slime on the streets.

And the blood, don’t get me started on the blood. It gets everywhere, into every single seam, and no detergent can take that out. Believe me, I’ve tried. But I’ll let you in on my little secret. Add a half-cup of salt to the wash. I don’t know how it works but it does. Busts those bloodstains right out. It also makes sure the colors don’t wash, which I think is really important. After all, nobody would be terrified of the Dingy Black Knight.

There are worse things than the blood though. Because he punches those crooks really hard sometimes other things get stuck on the clothes too. I’ve found so many teeth that if the Tooth Fairy were real, then I could buy a Hawaiian beach house with the money I make trading them in.

Did you know that you can machine-wash Kevlar? It has to be specially treated with solvents and than scrubbed by hand. And it’s not like I can send it out to be serviced. I’m sure that’d raise some questions at the cleaners. It takes a lot of elbow grease let me tell you. I have forearms like a longshoreman. And what it does to my skin? Forget about it. The girls down at the beauty shop think that I have the worst case eczema. It’s so embarrassing that I’ve started wearing gloves out and about just to avoid the stares.

I knew that when I married a super-hero, I’d be taking my life into my hands. The city is full of criminals and freaks that would love nothing more that to use me against him, but I never thought that I would be more intimidated by an overflowing hamper of sweaty uniforms than of being dangled over a tank of radioactive piranhas.

#3 Jackie Flanagan – Shock Jock

| November 3, 2011 | 0 Comments

“Now listeners, I’m gonna talk about something a lot of people aren’t going to like, but that’s what I do here. That’s why you come to me. Because I tell it like it is.

“Nowadays everyone says that the world was better before She-Marvel died fighting Doctor A-bombo, but I don’t really see it. The murderers still kill, the robbers still steal and there’s still a bunch of heroes that fly around with their collective thumbs up their butt. So what really changed? Nothing, that’s what.

“Sure, people talk about all the good the She-Marvel did, about all those crimes she stopped and those villains she foiled. They talk about how awful it is that she isn’t around to prevent them anymore. But look at the statistics. The crime rates for the year preceding her death and this last year following it, virtually identical. Do you hear that? Virtually identical. Now how could she have had that big an impact on the city everyone talks about, if there’s the exact same amount of crime now as there was before, even months after she died?

“‘But, Jackie, what about the times she saved the world? Doesn’t that count for anything?’ Of course it does, if they actually happened. Not to speak ill of the dead, but look at what proof we got. Some demolished buildings, a bunch of dead people and an exclusive interview with that boytoy reporter of hers at the Galaxy. This is supposed to convince us that we were all on the brink of doom, and only were pulled back from the edge thanks to actions of our fearless hero, She-Marvel? Yeah right, I’ve met yahoos in tin hats with better evidence of aliens putting radios in their head. At least they could pick up FM.

“And for all you out Marvelinians or whatever you call yourselves, preaching about the holy gospel of She-Marvel, really that’s your choice for messiah? An alien that entered the country, entered illegally I don’t hesitate to add, and decides to undertake a dedicated career of reckless disregard for this fine country’s law and traditions. Always talking about peace and understanding, while at the same time beating the everlovin’ snot out of anyone that crossed the lines of her moral codes. Now that’s what I call a role model. Why don’t you loonies just grow mustaches and hang up pictures of Hitler? I don’t know about you but we got enough inspirations on this planet that we don’t need to go making a hero out of this hypocrite. Why look towards Martin Luther King or George Bush for inspiration? Why not one of the thousands of HUMANS that weren’t born with superpowers but still managed to make the world a better place?

“Now let’s go to the phones. Hello, you’re on the air with Jackie Flanagan…”

#2 Erik Larson – Conducter

| November 2, 2011 | 0 Comments

Everyone gets their juice from somewhere. Some get it from shootin’ up, others get from dumbin’ down. I know one guy that cranks up watching women step on rats. Now that’s some sick shit.

My juice comes from the trains. Just watching those massive beasts cruise down the rails at seventy miles per hour, gets me so jumped up I could piss lightning and run around the world before you could blink.

But that’s nothing to what it feels like when I’m actually on one of them. When I riding on the tracks, it was like there was nothing else in the world but me and the rails. The entire universe just widowed down to a thin strip of metal running off into the horizon, and I was tagging along for the ride.

And getting the ride for free made it all the sweeter.

I was only a boy when I made my first jump. It was a short ride, just taking the commuters into the city. The transit cop was sleeping off the last night’s boozer, so he barely even grumbled when I hopped over the turnstile. I was off the platform and on the train before he even went back to sleep.

Man, I’d ridden on the rails before, but this was better. When the train reached the end of the line, I hid under seats and rode it back the other way. Kept that up all day, just heading back and forth along the line. Watching all of the other people clamor on and off the rails, and I knew that they were the idiots.

They had money in their pockets and someplace to go home to every night, but I had something better. Freedom. And now that I had a taste, I wasn’t going back.

After the last run, the train pulled into the yard for the night. I crawled out of hiding and snuck around, looking for a train. I wanted a heavy freight, one that could be going anywhere.

In the morning, I was on that train going west, looking for I don’t know what from I don’t know who, but I knew that there was no other way that I could live my life.

#1 Carter Andrews – Gravedigger by Trade

| November 1, 2011 | 0 Comments

The city was nearly empty now. I’d moved the emptied out the last hospital a few months. All that was left were a few places near the edge of town, which shouldn’t take more than five or six weeks.

I really hated the places near the countryside. All of those houses had three dozen rooms and a backyard big enough for God’s own. It’d take me hours to do a block. They were worse than amusement parks, and I really hated amusement parks, too. Fucking clowns!

And I never failed to be surprised where they’d actually turn up. One man shoved himself into his washing machine. He couldn’t turn it on of course. There hasn’t been power for months by then. But it still is an odd idea for a place of last repose. I mean really that’s where you want to be found, a washing machine. Maybe he didn’t expect to be around to find him, I guess. Don’t fault him for thinking that. I hope he wanted people to look at him and think, “Well at least he died clean,” because that’s honestly the only thought that was going through my head. Gave me a bit of a chuckle, which I sorely needed.

Laughing became a rare luxury after the first three months. That was when people began to realize this wasn’t just the normal flu, or even a run of the mill super-flu. Doctors had stopped giving medicine and started directing people to the chapels. People stopped using bedsheets for sleeping, just for covering the bodies.

I’d had an inkling something was really rotten a little sooner than everybody else. The grave business pick-ups a little bit every winter. But that year, it’d been something else. I was working double shifts just to keep ahead of demand, and the so had all the other companies. Hell, Reynolds and Sons could have added “and Wives and Daughters and Two Guys We Met At The Corner” to the name to keep truth in advertising.

As things got worse, my business just picked up more and more, especially as the others got sick.  I wasn’t making any money, of course. By that point, people were paying with loaves of bread and cans of potted meat. And I took it anything and everything. It didn’t matter to me.

Oh sure, some people grumbled that I was trying to profit off the sickness, but I’d done it for nothing, more than once I did. I really I only took what they gave me so that they knew they’d paid for it. I mean how much SPAM does one man. Now it’s a small thing to give a few tins away, but for a man who watched his wife die and has felt helpless before all, it’s still something to be able to do one last thing for her. And if I could help them a bit, I would.

I had so much work, that I was in the field morning, noon and night. Slept at the shovel, I did. So it was three days before I noticed. Three days before I noticed I hadn’t seen another living being in all that time. Hadn’t heard a car honk, or a radio blare or even one of those announcements the CCD people been putting out for the last weeks. That shook me.

When it hit me, I dropped the shovel and took off running, scrambling through the streets and screaming like a banshee. But there wasn’t no one there. Every house and street was quiet and empty. It was like that old Vincent Price movie. I was the last man alive.

I’m not ashamed to say that I sat right down and cried, bawled my eyes out like a little boy. I thought about all those things I’d meant to do. Settle down and get a wife, do some traveling, actually make something of myself, not be a gravedigger all my life. That wasn’t going to happen now.

Wandering through the streets, I saw a cop sitting in his car. He’d stuck his pistol in his mouth and blew his brains all over the car. And you know what? That seemed to be the right idea. I pried the gun out his hand, wiped off the muzzle, don’t want germs y’know, and put it right up against my head. But every time my finger touched that trigger, I just saw that grave back at the cemetery, sitting there half-dug.  I couldn’t leave it like that.

So I stuck the gun in my belt and headed back. Finished that grave lickety-split, laid out with fresh sod and a fancy new tombstone and all the trimmings. Edgar Rogers was the man’s name, and at least he’d have that piece of land. Then I took the gun out and was getting back to business.

But as I sat there, fiddling with the gun, I knew that there was a whole city of people like Roger. People that’d want to be buried proper like. Could I really give up just like that? If I was still here, then it must have been for a reason.

That was three years and 26,798 graves ago, every one marked and mapped. Not as neat as I’d like, but they’ll do.

It’s been a lot of work, but I was almost done. Just these last few little places to check. And then… then…Williamsburg’s only a couple miles up the road. They’re only twelve thousand and a bit. It shouldn’t take more than a year or two to finish them.

(Hopefully people will be more satisfied with my writing than they would be with my drawing. My stick figures are an insult to stick figures everywhere)