The Strange – Episode 29 – InVision

Goldberg found himself pedaling his bike with it’s distinctive “bood-ie-hop-mmm” sound down thirteenth street towards eighth and away from campus.  He wasn’t quite sure how he’d made it this far, couldn’t think of how he got up the hill from the Pen, didn’t really remember saying good bye to Joy, though he did vaguely remember “If you need me, call me” and the concern on her face.

The red warning of the guy on the balcony and the craziness of Teague, of all people, knocking the guy’s lights out had spooked him.  He was only now coming back into his mind.

“What the ever-loving fuck?  I … I really wish I had just a second to slow down and think.  Hiding had clearly not worked for me.  Maybe running?…”  He realized that he was well beyond the turn off to Third, which would have taken him home.  Running was happening already.

“Gotta think.  Gotta clear my head.  Ganja was a bad idea.”  He snorted at that.  “Story of my life.”

The downhill slope of the street at this point made the noise of his tires into a hyperactive hiccup.  “Just got to think.”

His mind, still stoned, looked down at the post of the bike, where it met the handlebars.  Once again, he imagined himself as a tiny man watching this from the balcony of some kind of theater on a huge screen.  He’d had this feeling before, generally while high, and it always amused him.

He tried not to look at the corner of his vision, where the glasses cut off, but soon enough he noticed a peculiar tunnel vision.  More peculiar still, the rhythm of the noise from his ten-speed piece-a-shit slowed to his ear.

The tunnel in his vision popped away.  The cadence slowed even more.  Goldberg became concerned about balance and traumatic injury and road rash.  The view of the outside world receded and slowed still further until he could see the edges of the screen, notice the speakers.  Turning his head, he found the view to the outside still showed on a very huge screen.  That screen showed the handlebars and the now very slow passage of the street under his front wheel.

His view, his new view, the view of the little man inside of his head looking at the huge screen from a balcony, was … just that.  Except his seat was really nice.    Like one of those plush desk chairs that was good but not so overly ornate or big or high backed that you sagged into it.  A nice improvement over the worn bike seat that was giving him a wedgie the size of Kansas and was threatening to numb his junk.   He looked at his hands and feet.  Totally normal.  He was that little man.

This not being his first hallucination, he took full advantage of it and looked around, swiveling his chair.  The view over the balcony was into just a blank floor stories below.  The ceiling was way high and on his side of the balcony, it was a regular-sized ceiling with different screens and monitors lining the walls.  Turning almost all the way around he noticed a table with two drinks on it that had been slightly behind him with his original vantage point.  Grabbing the one nearest him, he saw a hand grab at the other.

He could have sworn he was looking in a mirror as he glanced up.  There he was, new haircut, red rose sunglasses, nose too big for either.  He waved his right hand and the other waved his left.

“You wanted to think and I thought it might be a good time to have a chat,” The Other said.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Loveless dreamed of black and white.  He’d worked on the problem with the model until sleep finally claimed him, yet his work followed him into his dreams.  Even here he hated surprises.  While there was color here in the dream, or there would be if viewed objectively, Loveless didn’t dream in black and white, he dreamed of black and white.

In this dream, loveless walked down University, just at the corner where Hogstown State started, past the bookstore and around the corner from the burrito place.   He looked at the color, the clear blue sky, the birds, the unrestrained throng of students and cars and bikes and everything.  Color and noise and indecision and formless nonsense and bustle.  All around – chaos.

The color was just one aspect of it, but it was emblematic.  It held no certainty.  Was this blue a black or a white?  Maybe it was a navy blue that looked like black.  Maybe it was a very dark blue that was impersonating black or was the blue in an LED streetlamp that impersonated white.   Would it be or not?  Would it appear or not?  Left or right?  Up or down.  The noise of it!  The chaos!

He brought his hand down hard and smashed the world flat.  The black of nothing was pierced in only two dimensions by this flat world as loveless once again raised his hand.  This time he made a passing wave and filleted the world by color, assigning each a dimension and either a black tile for present or a white tile for not present.  He could have gone with white for true and black for false, but it didn’t really matter.  At angles to these planes of color identification he created more superficial properties, cold and hot, again as numbers that would further be pivoted to yes or no, blossoming off as Loveless focused on more interesting qualities.  Moving or not moving, connected or separate.  To these he pulled his hand back and stretched them through time creating discrete points each with their own qualities, each manipulated and perverted to render themselves in being or not being.  Though this, Loveless formed order from chaos.  Certainty.

No scales.  It either is or is not or is probably white or not.

In his dream, the world swirled around as either or.  There was no gray.  It was or was not and then had the probability of either.  And then one probability affects the probability of other aspects to be in or not.  Black or white.

Loveless floated through his dream of black and white, certain of it all.  The dimensions and probabilities flowed around in certainty of being.  And even then, when a thing was probabilistic, if looked at close enough the outcomes themselves either are or are not in themselves.  What would be grey are vanishingly small points of certainty.

Color splashed through his certain world.  A new issue as yet unaddressed in the model he’d created.  Loveless dissected it with new dimensions.  Though it fought him, in the end, he was the master.  Even this splash of color would resemble a checker board by the time he was done with it.  He would will it.  Cut it.  examine it.  Find it’s pattern.  Find it’s certainty.

And he did.  This seemingly random issue came to a mundane wrinkle, like all others.

Except…

Before him lay a splotch… two splotches.  Red.

An obvious pattern laid across the white and black sea of constantly shifting dimensions and ever resolving probabilities.  Two red splotches.

A simple geometric pattern, yet they defied quantification.  They remained… qualitative.  Squirming.  He imposed his will and yet it refused to cooperate.

Frustrated, He reached out to pick it up.

The glasses, for that is what they were, slapped themselves to his face.  Everything became red as blood or the sickly black of bile.  Certainty shifted into chaos as dimensions collapsed and probability defied expectations.  The wave forms refused to collapse, no matter how hard he stared under this new sight.

He grabbed at his face.  The glasses, though crude and wirey, remained resolute.  All around, the struggle cleared away the carefully laid constructs that kept the hues of the uncontrolled world to a minimum and the scalars confined to ones and zeroes, left and right, up and down.  The certainty of is or is not broke down completely.

With a great expenditure of will, he wrenched the glasses free.  His bare eyes witnessed nothing short of chaos.  Color and form, property and action and relations all swirling randomly.  And within that colorful and misshapen form, danger lurked.  The chaos Loveless feared.  Things uncategorized and untamed haunted him from the cover of wavering confusion.  He began again to master this domain into the black and the white, but it no longer fit.  He could not find the thread.  The pattern changed and changed again.  Something kept it in motion.

He wandered off to find a truly dark place in this new world.  Finding it, he looked down at the glasses that changed his world.  He knew these glasses.  He knew who wore them.  Goldberg.  The jackass from the lottery, the Collector’s house, the picture Vic took of his weird ass wearing glasses, these glasses.

He put the glasses on once more and found that the world resolved back to a state of polar color, but instead of black and white, it was now blood and bile.

Well, Loveless could live with that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A green canopy let only bits of light down to the forest floor.  In the distance, the village appeared, but that was not his destination.

Delgado realized that he was much too close to the ground, as if he were on a belly crawl.  The sounds of the jungle and the things that lived inside of it were all around and sharply in focus for him.  As he walked, he noticed, unsurprised, that his paws padded the well-worn path.  Splitting from the path to the village, he dove up the trail, tail lazily swishing in time to his stride.

He passed priests and astronomers, in their red and gold robes.  They all looked down with reverence at his form.  One day, he may eat one of them, and they would be glad for it.  Such are the ways of this time but for now, he was not hungry.  He had a meeting to keep.

He threaded his way through the increasingly familiar Aztec ceremonial complex, tracing the avenue east to west.  At the foot of he stepped pyramid at the center of the complex, he stopped, turned himself inside out around his navel, and stood as a man.

There were stares, he could sense them on his skin, but he paid them no mind.  On his powerful, tan legs he propelled his squat, muscular body up the stairs of the pyramid.  When he reached the platform, he lifted his arms high to the heavens.

As if to answer, a rift opened in front of him and a man wrapped all in cloth with a transparent window where his face should be stepped through.  It was apparent, that this was no man and he belonged on the earth not at all.  Through the window a single huge eye stared back.

The two, cat man and non-man stood at the top of the stepped stone pyramid for a while before the non-man spoke.

“So, are you going to put some clothes on, or do I have to be reminded of how you people procreate … again?”

Delgado could tell from his vantage point behind the cat-man’s eyes that this was not English or Spanish, but he could understand it all the same, just like with the other dream.

The man smiled.  “And since when did you get to be such a prude?  Nice get up!”

“Yeah, don’t remind me.  Squeezing my ass into this thing was a monumental undertaking.  Not everyone is so enraptured by the form you humans occupy. “

“Well, we could have asked you to come in the guise of a cat. “

“Blah!” The thing shook.  “You realize that I have to keep most of myself in a pocket dimension just so I don’t frighten the natives.  Have you any idea how badly that chafes?”

“Oh, poor baby.” The cat man smiled.  “So, pleasantries out of the way, old friend, I got your message.  How is it that I can assist you?  Oh, and make a bunch of grand gestures for the audience.  They love that shit.”

The man in the strange garb with an eye for a face turned to him.  “I’m not an attraction here.  That you keep up this ruse of divinity for these people is your problem.”

“Yes, well, as long as I’m running the narrative, they won’t gut me as I sleep.”

“Wonderful.”

The man smiled down at the watching crowd and said through gritted teeth, “Seriously, though, you didn’t come all this way wearing that to scold me for nudity.  What is going on?”

The being rolled his one single huge eye that only the cat man could see and raised his hands up and down.  “You remember the last time we worked together, right?”

“How could I forget?  The Azdomidans came through the dimensional rift under the river basin.”

“And you remember our allies?  The Knight, the Ninja, the Dark Warrior.”

“Yes, and you brought them all here with you.”  They both kept waving their arms up and down like idiots.

“No.  Those people are of this planet, just like you.  I followed the Azdomidans as they were planning to do to your dimension what they tried to do to mine.”

“Yeah.  Those guys were dicks.”

“And dangerous, Greedy.”  The non-man looked around, swiveling his body so his faceplate could allow his single huge eye to take in the scenery.  “I am not of this plane naturally but I quite like it.  I’ve taken to exploring it along with some of the others from that group.  And I have learned of and made alliances with others of this plane that are not of this planet.”

The cat man stopped waving and knitted his brow at the non-man.  “You found aliens?  Are they headed here?”

“Calm your fur.”  The non-man also stopped waving his cloth covered limbs. “These aliens had already made contact with the great civilizations of the west, east and the land beneath the great desert and the great island.  Places your ancestors never knew of or lost to their histories. They were given gifts, warnings really, or communications.  A way to … as you say … keep people like yourself from being gutted.”

The cat man gave the visitor the side eye.  “That isn’t making much sense, even for you.  You going to simplify that for me?  Remember, before I could skin walk, I was just a farmer, not even an astronomer.”

Delgado almost yelped in his sleep when the non-man pulled from a pocket in his garment the silver block.  He wanted to keep the cat man from reaching for it, since he was inhabiting that skin.  The silver thing stung like fire, he knew.

But it was smooth and cool in the cat-man’s hand.  “What is it?”

“It is a gift from civilizations that have come before any of the human civilizations.  Other beings have been touched by the same ineffable magic – even for a being such as myself there is no better term for it – that touches you and the others.  It is an emissary of the ones who have traveled before and travel still.  It helps weigh the weather and keep the storms at bay, lest they rip this world asunder.”

He palmed the device.  “So, I’m supposed to keep this and it will make me safe?”

“No.  It keeps you safe by giving it away.”

The cat-man blanched.  “To who?”

“To one of them.”  The non-man pointed his finger down the side of the pyramid at the crowd.  “But choose wisely.  Some of your people are kind of dumb.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“It’s reflex,” The Other told Goldberg.

“Reflex?” He said, not quite tracking.

The Other took a sip of his drink and set it on the coffee table.  “Look.  You asked specifically for the power to show things that were relevant.  Those things pop up in your hind brain way before you can intellectualize them.  So… reflex.  If a basket-ball were headed towards you, you wouldn’t calculate the trajectory, you’d just put your hands up or duck.  Knowing you, probably the later.”

“Do you have to be a jackass?”

“Well, I am you, dude.  You are naturally self-deprecating.”

They both shrugged, knowing the truth of it.

“So, putting Joy in the path of a bullet… ”

“A bullet that was headed toward your junk, by the way.”

“Well, yeah.  But doing that … That was reflex?  She could have died!”

The Other took another sip then shook his head.  “Nope.  You came here to think, so think.  Joy and Sarah both have the same weird hair thing, right?”

“Yes.”

“Examine that.  Focus your power on it.  And don’t pussy it. Really dig in.”

The answer came to him almost immediately.  “They… How can they have the same number of hairs on their heads?  That’s statistically…”

“They are the same person.  It’s fucked up, but it’s the most likely solution.  So, if one gets shot, the other takes half the blow.  That’s what we were working with.  Panned out.”

Goldberg gaped and The Other waved his hand.  “Dude, come on.  Don’t be all shocked and amazed with me.  You knew this.  At least you suspected it the second Sarah showed up at the Pen.”

“This more reflex?”

“No.  Look, you really need to think a bit about what the power you have really is.  Luck… at least our luck, is just foreknowledge plus reflex.  But it’s so much more.  You can divine the likely output of all things physical.  The relationships between things.  And it’s everything!  Be very, very glad that the first thing you did was to put a damper on this thing or else you’d be drinking from a firehose.”

“So… Why aren’t I again?”

“Because you asked, right when the power really began to manifest, to be told what was relevant or painful or when you asked.  The power wrapped itself around that as a permanent feature.  So, you need to concentrate on something for the relationships to appear.  And be super glad that you also got a huge upgrade on your ability to process information from the power, but we also keep that from you and use it to crank through the combinations and permutations.  That’s the only way to figure out relevance and harm.  As you instructed.”

“You say ‘We’…”

“Turn of phrase.  Pronouns get really fucked up here.  You are actually part of the ‘we’, after all. Consider me or us as the back office.  You are the front man.  Or just don’t think of it at all, but try using the resources your power gives you once in a while.  You are going to have to work on this.  So far, you’ve only been reacting to things the power gives you because they are an immediate threat.  You can do much more if you thought about it.”

“Ok, fine.”  He looked around.  “I gotta say, sitting here all plush while my meat body is out there cranking away is a nice plus.”

“You’ve only been here for a handful of seconds.  There is a time dilation because you are perceiving this weird-ass space ship delusion at the speed of thought.  And you can talk to yourself awfully fast.  Besides, you can’t do this for very long.  You’d do something stupid.”

“Like what?”

“Trip, run into a pole, hit a rock the wrong way.  You aren’t paying attention to your surroundings.  The mechanism behind it really doesn’t matter.  The effect is the same.”

“Well that’s …”

“Look, you wanted to think, so think.  You didn’t do this so you could drink imaginary Electrogreendrink with your imaginary other self, you came here to think.  What’s on your mind?”

“You mean aside from your little intro to how the power works?” Goldberg was starting to get annoyed with himself interrupting him. “OK.  What the hell am I doing?”

“That’s a good place to start.”

“And how did all this start?  Who is chasing me?  And why?”

“I think you’ve got a good idea about the why.”

The room changed.  Suddenly, Goldberg was in the entryway to Bill’s house.  The huge mess in the front room gave him the same crazy fractal spiral, rendered in translucent non-color.  Everything was exactly as he remembered it.

“Yeah.  Fuck.”

“You’ve been ignoring it,” the voice of the other said out of nowhere.

Goldberg shouted up at the high ceiling.  “I’ve been trying to stay ahead of it, actually.”

“By going off for hours and getting high?  By putting yourself in public view to get your lottery cash?”

“Hey, I needed to do that today or I got nothing.”  He felt the need to raise his voice, like he was shouting at the sky. “At least I didn’t go in to City Hall and the epicenter of all things Cop.  And what was that with the lottery anyway?  Was that you?”

“Initial burp of the power.  Reflex.  We were kinda sick of being poor.  So, we looked at the balls for the drawing, looked at where they would be and got the numbers.”  The Other mumbled in its disembodied voice, “Actually, a bit of a crap shoot.  They might have mixed things up more on us.”

“Just like that?  More reflex?”

“Yep.  Not terribly subtle, but it worked. Given the initial state and the action, the outcome was preordained.  Tada!  No longer poor.”

“But known…”  He looked at the door to the kitchen where he knew Weird Bill’s body stood, propped up.  “…Hunted.”

“We didn’t know you were going to be stepping hip deep into shit when we did it.  That was a week ago.”

“Again, with the ‘we’.  Fuck you all.”

“We’ll have an orgy in your honor later. Now focus.”

The room changed back and Goldberg mumbled into his drink.  “I don’t wana.  I don’t need to see it again.  My first dead body and it had to be someone I liked and knew well but wouldn’t exactly call a friend.  You’d think if I had to avenge someone, I’d at least, like, be buddies with them or something.”

“Well, we don’t get to pick our first corpse.  Does thinking about the ‘why’ resolve things for you?”

“No.  Why didn’t the cops want to take a statement?  Why haven’t they found me by now?”

“That last bit, that’s more reflex.  We’re routing your random wanderings around them.  It only works because it’s a passive search, but it’s worked so far.”

Goldberg got tired of being surprised and instead hung his head.  “So, I didn’t know about it, but I’m hiding from the cops?”

“Sure!”  The other leans back and rattles off the day.  “Dan talks you into going to the secluded woods, your desire to ‘disappear’.  Someone chases you and shoots darts at your ass and you go have lunch instead of calling the campus police?  You haven’t been mindful or purposeful, so your hind brain and your reflexes have been moving you around to best advantage.”

He looked up.  “That’s fucked.”

“Not really.  Ninety percent of all human activity is just one big shrug.  It’s the really rare thing to contemplate one’s actions.”

“Ok, now that’s fucked up and depressing.”

“Yes, but it gives the power here a little bit of something to hold onto with humans.  We can’t determine what a human will do, but given the default, we can expect them to do that.  That’s how we got Officer Small to be right where he needed to be.”

Goldberg sank back into his chair.  “Well, as long as it keeps me safe.”

“Oh, you aren’t safe.  You’re still fucked.  I can keep you from random cops, but that other guy is both active and … wrong.”  The Other scrunched up and visibly shivered.

“Yeah, I got that too.  It set off my alarm like crazy.”

The Other looked like he smelled something rotten.  “It shouldn’t be alive. Not like that.  Its arm was broken and it didn’t even notice. And this was before Teague broke most of the bones in its face.”

“So, what are you saying?”

“Don’t know.  No information.  But, and this is just me as your other me talking, I’d stay the fuck away from that thing and maybe … and I understand that this isn’t your strong suit, but bear me out … maybe you need to be more proactive here.  Whatever this is, it’s going to find you.  You can be ready, or you can let it blindside you.”

There was a sharp sound in the room and the light changed.

Goldberg looked up and around.  “That can’t be good not good.”

The Other looked alarmed.  “Yeah, That’s the power and it’s telling you to wake the fuck up. Been nice chatting!  Remember to think.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Goldberg instantly found himself biking along thirteenth again.  He’d only gone a block in all the time he’d spent wool gathering.  He used his power to focus on the bike.  It reported to him in a color that was not a color that the chances of it being involved in a catastrophic accident in the next few minutes was five percent and steadily growing.

A tan Buick slowly advanced with the traffic on Thirteenth street.  In the passenger’s seat, a man with Angry eyes poking out of a face covered in bandages had his arm slightly out of a window.  His hand, also bandaged, waved in the breeze.

A truck turned right ahead of them, exposing the hunched shoulders of Goldberg, pedaling away. The bandaged Mr. A pointed his hand towards Goldberg and a smile made of cracked and bloody teeth split the oozing gauze.

 

[Author’s note: Well, back.   Dad is up and about and back to giving me a hard time about my life choices.  Nice to have that continuity back.

I’m curious to see if anyone comes back to the strange.  You are here, of course, because if you aren’t here you wouldn’t see this, but I’m thinking of the other people and, of course, the robots, randos and people looking for porn and going away disappointed.  In other words, the internet.

From a story perspective, we’re finally starting to turn a corner here. And as far as my manuscript of already kinda finished chapters, it’s where the road starts to get bumpy.  This chapter, for instance, is completely new.

In any event, I’m trying to find my groove again and we’ll see what that groove winds up being.  I’m also going to do NaNoWriMo in November with a new story “The Minions of the Orange Overlord” as a further attempt to recapture my mojo.  I’ll try to get some episodes in the can so there won’t be another huge pause.

As always, votes on top web fiction, likes and follows are super helpful to spread the word for the story.  And also, you can… you know… just spread the word.  That works too!

Stay Weird

-SC]

Idle Hands – Episode 3 –The New Girl – Part 3

[Author’s note: This is the last of three parts and will likely not make much sense without parts one and two]

Mitch set up two drinks at the bar for Sal and Dee Dee.  The bar was deserted this late on a Monday, so he was cleaning glasses and listening in for the entertainment value.

“Hi, Sal!  I’m really glad you could meet me so we could go over this.”  Dee Dee took a sip of her Virgin Bloody Mary.

Sal felt both nervous and ungrateful.  “Yeah.  You know, I don’t want to do that job.  It just seems, and no offence to you, but it seems sort of … cruel.”

“Well, I certainly don’t want you to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.  But we do want to see you out working and getting paid, so let’s see what we can do”

She opened up her lap top and pulled up the ever-changing job opportunities board.  Putting in ‘Accountant’, she was dismayed by the choices.

Beaming a plastic smile only slightly too wide for her face she said, “Ok, I want to emphasize that we one hundred percent guarantee that you will get these jobs.”

“It’s that bad a list, eh?  Well, let’s hear it.”

“We have a foreclosure specialist.”

“Keep moving.  I’m not taking away houses”

“Tax auctioneer.  Ah, here’s one!  An auditor for child protective services.  I hear that they have great Benefits!”

She beamed her too-wide smile at him, which freaked him out.

“Oh, uh, you know what?  If this is at the top of the list, we should just stop.”

“But, I’ve got a few more openings!”

“Stop,” he commanded in a quiet tone.

She started to lose her composure and gave him a glaring stare. “Look, I’m sure I can find a job that is good enough for you and your… particular tastes.  You have no idea what placing you means to me.”

“I’m sure these are fine jobs.  I’m just not so… I can’t check my heart at home.  I’m sure others can, but that’s not me.  Really, these kinds of things, selling people’s homes and taking away their babies, that kind of thing keeps you up nights.  I don’t think I’d be good at it, either.”

She glared at him with blue sparks in her eyes before finally saying “Fine! But can you please just finish out the week?  I have other candidates for the job, but I need a bit of time to transition them in.  And I really want to try to get you another job.”

“Sure, I guess.  As long as I can give notice tomorrow.  I don’t want to cause you any grief or anything, I just want out.  I can stay until Friday.  But after that… I don’t know.  These are pretty much all non-starters.”

“Yeah.  Good.”  She got up and stomped to the back of the bar, barely able to control her mounting anger. “I’ve got to go take a wiz.”

Mitch leaned over the bar after she was gone. “Man, What a bitch.  Bet she pees standing.”

“She’s just doing a crappy job, Mitch.  I can sympathize.”

“That’s your problem, Sallie.  You are too nice.”

“Well, I’d rather have that problem than be a bastard.”

Both men turned to the back of the bar as a feedback scream of frustration grew louder and more intense.  Suddenly, the wall at the back of the bar blew open as if a bomb had gone off.  Shrapnel and plaster flew out into the table area near the bar.

“Oh my god!  That girl!  She was in there!”  Sal walked toward the exploded rubble and was about to call after Dee Dee when a large, silver hand shot out and grabbed his neck.  Through the dust, a huge, shock-laden smile stretched across the hole.

Mitch threw a bottle of vodka at the monster in a panic.  It burst into flame on contact with the demon’s sparking skin.  In its surprise, the monster dropped Sal and both men ran for their lives.

“What was that?” Mitch yelled as they scrambled in to the haze of the night.

Sal looked back.  “I don’t know, but Dee Dee!…”

“Don’t even think!” the young man said, breathing hard.  He came to an exhausted stop in a nearby alley.  “Ain’t Nothing you can do, Sallie.”

“Yeah, poor girl.”  Sal walked over and slumped against the brick wall.  He looked back at the now smoking bar, rubbed his throat, and tried hard to make sense of what just happened.

“Who are you calling ‘poor’?”  A voice from farther in the alley startled the men.  Dee Dee appeared from the shadows, dirty but seemingly alive.

“Hey Lady!  You OK?  We thought…”

“Well you thought wrong,” she snapped.  “Look, we need the Police or the army or something here.  Some kind of monster.  Can you call for help?”

Sal looked at his phone.  “Strange, no.  My cell phone is dead.”

Dee Dee walked up to Mitch and put a hand on his shoulder.  “Why don’t you find a pay phone or something and call the cops?”  Her words dripped with fake sweetness.

“Why me?” he shrieked.

“Because Sal’s old, I’m a frightened little girl, and it’s your bar that’s on fire.  Now go!”  She pushed him into the street and he sprinted off into the night.  She smiled a smile that was uncomfortably wide and said softly, “Besides, Sal and I need to have a little chat.”

She turned around and faced Sal.  Her hand went to her hip and she tapped her foot.  The light from the street poured over her shoulder into the dark alley. All Sal could see was her clearly annoyed outline.

“Do you know how hot it is in hell?  I mean really?  You people think that this summer heat wave is hot, but where I used to work, now that was hot!”

Sal looked at her outline and couldn’t comprehend what he was hearing.  “Wha… HUH?”

“Oh, come on, Sal.”  She spoke sweetly but he could now see her spark-filled eyes in the dark, recessed shadow of her head. “You don’t think I’d go through all of this trouble just for a commission, do you?  You see, you are my ticket to a job working on the earth.  There are certain… fringe benefits… that I really like about working here.  The weather is just the beginning.”

She began to walk slowly towards Sal.  He could see the outline of her legs beneath her skirt suit.  They walked toward him in a smooth, sexy fashion, one leg slightly crossing the other.  But when her feet hit the pavement there was a crunching sound.  It was as if the pavement was complaining about having to support her.  Her smile, which was always a little freaky, now stretched to the very bottoms of her ears and her teeth shot sparks at each other.

“You!  You are the monster from the bar!” Sal started to back away from the woman who seemed to grow taller and less human with each passing step.

“Duh!”  Her voice now had a hint of the feedback-scream. “You really aren’t that smart, Sal. But since you brilliantly figured that out, I’m going to give you one last chance.”

Dee Dee’s right hand stretched out, becoming huge and metallic with sparks arcing between the fingers.  Her thin arms became long flexible.  The hand grew as it came toward him, fingers stretching out like knives. It snatched him up off the ground. “Take the job.  Any job. I really don’t care.” The hand made a cage around him and dragged him close.  “I’ll pay you a ridiculous amount of money.  I’ll send your kids to college.  Hell, I’ll even suck your putrid dick. Just take the job.  It really does mean quite a lot to me, Sal.”

His thin hair stood on end and he cried out in terror. “Ah!  Ah!  So, what if I still don’t take the job?”

“Well, that’s easy.”  Her huge mouth curled at the ends in a perversion of a smile. “Do that and I go back to plan ‘A’ and kill you.  Not as advantageous, I’ll admit, but it will make me feel better about going back home.”

Her spark-filled eyes gleamed as she held him above the ground in a strong, vice-like grasp.  She opened her mouth wide and he screamed “Oh God!”

“Not quite.  The boy-scouts stay out of our little game.”  It was a new voice, a man with the hint of a smile under his voice.  Dark red smoke filled the alley.  One rope of smoke formed around the arm that held Sal.  As he watched, it became a pair of sheers which closed and severed the hand that held him.  An inhuman scream erupted from Dee Dee as she turned around to try to find the source of this attack.

Sal dropped to the ground, still in the hand’s unyielding grasp. He kicked at the metallic fingers. They wouldn’t budge, but they no longer squeezed or sparked.  Whatever happened next, he was helpless to do anything but watch.

Dee Dee twirled around as the smoke quickly gathered in one place.  She shrank down to her human form as sparks re-grew her missing hand.  Clutching her wounded forearm, she looked at the man who formed from the billow of red smoke.  His suit was impeccable, and though it was a dark night, he wore yellow-reflective sunglasses.  With his blood red suit, black shit and black tie, he looked like a pimp or a rock star.

The wounded woman looked at him.  “Fuck!  You know how much that hurts, you dick?”

“Dee Dee!  Is that any way to talk to your Boss?  And here I thought we were becoming friends!”

“Friends, my ass!  You stuck me with a self-righteous loser that doesn’t want to work for shit.”

“So, you attack him?” He clasped his hands in front and looked at the ground.  “I suppose you might call that a bargaining technique, but I had asked you not to abuse the clients.  In fact, it’s a dismissible offense.”

Dee Dee snarled. “You won’t do that!  I’ve got the man himself backing me and that trumps your bullshit rules any day.”

He moved around and talked to the air, gesturing with his hands.  “You know, you’re right.  The Big D likes you and he really wants you to fit in and learn the ropes here.  Quite frankly, that is enough to overcome some infractions of the code of conduct.”

Dee Dee’s grin was spark-filled, wild and six inches too long for her face.  “Good, so fuck off!”

The man in the suit walked calmly with his hands clasped behind his back. “On the other hand, your employment was contingent on the successful placement of a certain ‘self-righteous loser’ for a period of five weeks.  And it seems to me that our little test is not exactly going well.”

Her crazy smile started to droop at the corners.  “We were dealing with that when you showed up and fucked it up.  Go back to playing your little games, doomed man.”

“Well, you see, it’s my duty to follow up with our clients and placement employees to gauge their satisfaction.  So, excuse me while I talk to our friend here.”

“What? Wait!”

He quickly became a cloud of smoke and swarmed around Dee Dee.  Re-forming on the other side, he walked over to Sal, still trapped in Dee Dee’s severed hand “Hi!  I’m here to enquire about your satisfaction with our placement services.  Do you have a second, or is this not a good time?”  He smiled a genuine smile which confused Sal all the more.

“What?”  The prone man was wide-eyed in disbelief.

“I’d like to know if you are happy with our placement services.  So, tell me, do you feel that you are in a position where all the elements are in place for you to succeed?”

“Huh?  No!  The job’s a nightmare.” Sal saw Dee Dee approach the man from behind, growing in height, strength and power as she did. He struggled furiously against the constraining, severed metal hand.  “Get me out of here!”

“This is stupid.  I’m being railroaded.” Dee Dee powered up her right hand to swipe at both the struggling Sal and his interrogator.  Her hand came across like a crane boom with talons, but smoke quickly formed around both men and hardened into a curved wall.  Her blow glanced off the wall, throwing her off balance.

The structure dissipated into smoke as quickly as it had formed.  From that smoke, the man in his sharp dark-red suit and tie emerged and walked towards Dee Dee.  She was quickly regaining her composure and was readying for another strike.  He raised his hand.  “That’s enough.”  The smoke rushed at Dee Dee.  She swiped at it with both spark-filled hands but to no avail.  A brick-red crust started to form around her wrists. Once it was thick enough to hold her, it pulled her arms behind her back.

“What the hell do you think you are doing!” She shouted.  Her mouth grew bigger and the sparks that made up her teeth arced out like crazy lightning.  Her voice boomed like thunder.  “LET ME GO!”

With his hand still raised, the man in the suit now pointed a finger and a large, constrictive gag went over her mouth.  He materialized a binder with the Idle Hands logo on the cover and calmly flipped through it as he strolled up to her.  “You see?”  He showed her a page in the book.  “Paragraph 4 of the agreement you signed.  ‘Third party satisfaction surveys are routinely conducted two weeks after an initial placement and every month after.’  You aren’t being railroaded.  It’s in your contract.  Plus, check out paragraph 7.  I can use whatever means necessary to carry out my survey.  You really should have read through the employee handbook instead of just blazing through to the signature page.  Your loss.  So, I’m not going to let you go.  You are interfering with my evaluation.” He snapped the binder closed and it instantly turned into red smoke.  “So, hang out while I finish this satisfaction survey.  Who needs a spell book when you can have an employee handbook?”

Dee Dee glared at him with sparking eyes and fought against her bonds as soon as he turned back to Sal.  “Sorry for the interruption.  So, where were we?  Ah yes. You had problems with your current placement.  Did you bring them up with your Idle Hands representative?”

“Yeah, I called.”  Sal looked down at the now disembodied and immobile, giant, metal hand that held him.  “Hey, can you do something about this?  It’s really uncomfortable.”

“Oh, of course.  How rude of me.”  Smoke swirled around the confining metal cocoon and it slowly relaxed its grip on the middle-aged accountant.  “So, what happened next?”

“What happened next is she tried to kill me.”  Sal dusted himself off and looked at the man.  Fire from the bar lit him from the side, the flams making jumpy patterns on the brick wall behind him.  And those mirrored shades held the flame. “I looked over the jobs she had and I didn’t want any of them.  She lured us out here, got me alone, and threatened to kill me if I didn’t take a job.”

“You know, we have strict rules about that sort of thing.”

Sal shot an angry look at Dee Dee.  The fire dancing off of the shining metal facets of her demonic form.  “I’d hope so.  And why am I not scared?  I should be terrified of you two, but I’m not.”

“Oh, I find I have a calming influence when I get involved in HR matters.  And on that point, are you sure I can’t place you anywhere?  Based upon your experience here at Idle Hands, with Ms. Dee Dee, you are sure you want to sever your relationship here?”

Sal nodded and said, “Absolutely.”  The word carried forever, as if it had broken some sort of spell.

Dee Dee fought wildly against her restraints and finally managed to slip free.  She used this free hand to tear free the gag that held her mouth shut.  “This guy is full of shit.  You set me up!”

“You can think what you want Dee Dee, but he just quit, your contingency came up and now…”  He grinned an evil grin that seemed right at home on his face. “I believe that you are dismissed.”

Dee Dee screamed a feedback scream of utter contempt as she lunged at the two men.  As she attacked, a great burst of hellfire surrounded her.  She continued to reach for Sal even as she burned.  The hellfire yanked her back down to the pit just in time as her lunge stopped just short.   Screaming an awful metallic scream, she was sucked back into hell.

The fire went out in seconds, leaving no trace of ever having been in the alley.  Sal looked at the mysterious man who had saved him and tried to think of something to say.  He finally settled on “Thanks … I think.”

“Don’t mention it.  I’m just doing my job.”

“And what exactly is that?  I have a strong suspicion that I’m not going to remember any of this so you may as well tell me the truth.”  He tried to look the man in the eye but was blocked by his sunglasses.  “I’m right about that, aren’t I?  People don’t just have this kind of thing happen to them and get to tell about it.  You’d have heard.”

“Yeah, Sal, you aren’t going to remember anything odd about me or Dee Dee.  You’ll get paid well … extremely well … for your hours and I’ll make sure there is a bonus in there for you, because…”  He paused and faced Sal.  The man was middle aged, rumpled, and defeated by life, yet he had an air of dignity. He’d never given in to the struggle.  “Because I like you, Sal.  I deal with people all day … and they are assholes.  They just suck, but you … you have done me a favor by just giving a damn and being a good guy.  If I have one true gift of my own it’s to be able to size a guy up and know what he’s good for.  I saw you and knew you’d be able to do this for me because you are fundamentally decent.  And while you were doing that, I have done you an insulting disservice.  Think of the bonus as my way of saying sorry, you deserve better.”

“Well, that’s kind of you.  Thanks again. Money isn’t everything, but it does buy some nice stuff.”

The man chuckled behind his glasses.  “Yes, it does.”

“But I’m troubled.  You seem nice and all to me, but the things you are doing… you and that… whatever that was … They aren’t very nice, are they?” They walked out of the alley and into the stuffy night.  Mitch’s bar was now fully on fire and the two could see him wandering around outside.

“I’d like to say you don’t have the right of it.  But, you see, we didn’t come up with the postings.”

Sal stopped walking, which made the man stop as well.  “But you fill them.”

The fire from the bar lit the man’s face and glinted in his yellow-mirrored sunglasses.  “Sal, the world is a place that is filled with horrible consequences and even worse random shit-storms.  You didn’t deserve unemployment.  That Barron shit kid doesn’t deserve to fuck supermodels.  And no one deserves to be on the receiving end of a screwing, but life is risk.  That foreclosure job?  How do you know those people reached for the ring and came up short?  Actions, consequences, free will.  For instance, no one is forced to work at Idle Hands, not even me.”

“Or me.  This… I’m probably still in shock, to be this calm …”  A throaty woosh came from the bar as something inside of it gave way.  “… but really, I just want to forget all of this.”

“Yeah.  I can do that for you.  Kinda have to.”  The man avoided Sal’s gaze. “Hope you don’t mind.”

“But how do I know that I’m now done, that you won’t test me again or use me as a pawn?  Can I get your assurance that I’ll never be messed with by you or your people again?  Can you give me that?”

The man smiled.  “I give you my word and my promise.”  He raised his hand and said “We are done.”  A small puff of smoke blew out of both of Sal’s ears.  He stared blankly for a while and turned to help Mitch, having forgotten all about his dealings with Idle Hands.

“And Heaven forbid, Sal, that I would ever tell a lie!”  He chuckled, and in the street the echo of his laughter lingered.  The haunting sound stewed in the sweltering heat of the summer night, becoming one with the sound of the burning bar and the approaching sirens.  Real flames now poured out of the broken windows. And the man in the red suit, slowly turning to smoke, joined with them and drifted away.

[Author’s final note:  Sorry for leaving you hanging over the weekend.  I’m still not sure about the final edit on the last bit, but either I left it alone for a week or shoved it out on stage now with cue cards.  Hope it’s not too hackneyed.

And here again I’ll ask you for likes, to tell your friends and random people on the street about the story and the site.  Also, if you like Idle Hands, Maybe you’d like my main ongoing, “The Strange” which has a much slower burn than this, but is starting to tighten the screws.  I’m not advertizing and my social media ability is kinda crap, so word of mouth would be absolutely huge for me and help me justify continuing to write stories for you all.  I love to do it, but it is a bunch of work.  Please help me out if you can.  More than enough said.

Stay Weird.  More Strange coming this week.

-SC]

 

 

 

Idle Hands – Episode 3 –The New Girl – Part 2

[Author’s note: This is part 2 of 3 and will make not a whole lot of sense without part 1 which is here.]

The next morning Dee Dee slipped from behind a street lamppost in the middle of the town’s central park.  The grass was well watered but suffering under the summer’s heat.  The gray paving stones of the park’s walkways radiated heat back at the demon woman as she walked.  To her it seemed like a fine spring day but the people in the park were wilting under the heat and humidity.  In her pinstriped skirt-suit she stalked seductively through the park looking for her new boss.

“You are late.”  From the bench she just passed, the man in a sharp, red suit took a drink of coffee from a red ceramic mug.  The logo for Idle Hands, Inc. smiled from the side as he took a drink.

She smiled as sweet as she could, through the rough lines on her youthful looking face.  “Good morning to you too.  I was, um…”

“Sun glasses.  You should wear sun glasses, especially on the surface.”  He produced a pair of Ray Bans from a cloud of red smoke and tossed them to her. “Makes you look cool.  People like that.”

“I’m sorry,” She flipped the sunglasses back. “I already look cool, thanks.”

“No you don’t.  You look bitchy.  There’s a difference.  There’s cool, and then there’s frigid.”

“Excuse me?”

He put up his hands as an illustration.  “You are giving off two different vibes here.  One of them is ‘fuck me’ and the other is ‘I’m going to kick your ass.’  Combined, it comes out to looking bitchy.”

He stood up and his mug disappeared in another puff of red smoke.  “Let me help you out with something.  You may have been the big D’s pick for this position, but you are still my employee, and that makes me your boss.  You think that D gave you the run of the place, but you are wrong.  Use the glasses.”  She looked surprised that he was talking to her that way.  “Besides, you say way too much with your eyes.  You want to keep that you’re going to tell the big man that I’m mean to you a secret?  Use the glasses.”

She snatched back the sunglasses, put them on and said, “Yes sir!”

He looked at her and smirked “And don’t be smart.  Take a good look around.  The downtown’s screwed from unemployment.  A veritable playground.  See anyone you like?”

She looked at the men with newspapers and pens, some with briefcases in suits.  Pointing at a particularly rough looking young man, drinking from a tall boy beer, she said, “How about that guy?”

“Nah, He’s given up already.”

“Yeah, you’re right.  Taking that guy is a waste of time.  He’s already on his way to hell.”

He looked at her and raised an eyebrow.  “You still don’t understand the plan, do you?”

“I understand fine, I just think the plan is a little ‘pussy’ is all.  I mean, look at these fuckers.  You telling me any of them are good for shit?”

The man stroked his goatee, raised a finger, and pointed at the sour looking young woman.  “Hmm, well understand this.  We need workers, not slackers.  No matter how inherently evil, a slacker makes no impression on the world.  We want people to work to further the cause of misery, because through human suffering, comes human temptation.  It all has to fall out of free will.  People choose to give each other a hard time, leading to more and more desperate circumstances.  Eventually even good people turn to evil of their own free will.  It’s a domino effect, with each domino getting bigger.  And it’s working.  The big D must think so or else you wouldn’t be here.”

“Fine, we play it your way,” she added a snide, “Sir!  But I’d much rather be making some of these bastards’ nightmares come true.”

He quietly said, “This is a placement agency, not a dating service.  You can work on your love life in your own time.”

“What?”

“You heard me.  So, you got anyone you like?”

“No, they all look like desperate losers.”

“Well maybe we can take a break and see if you can score some dates instead.”

She turned on her heel and put a hand on her hip.

Ignoring her poisonous stare, he said, “Come on, I think I have your challenge.”

🙂 😦 😉

 

“God, it’s hot.”  Sal slumped into the shady park bench.  The humid breeze reminded Sal of an open oven from which there was no relief.

The truth was he had seen many of the places that were hiring already.  Every one of them had said that they would keep his resume on file, in case something showed up.

He looked around at the buildings that ringed the park and imagined his resume residing in dozens of offices, just waiting to be hooked up with a job.  “Something is bound to happen,” he mumbled.

From a place beyond the vision of mortal eyes, Dee Dee and her new boss looked at Sal.  “Him?  That old fart is my test? And what is he, like, Fifty-two?  And he’s going to heaven, so far.”

He nodded.  “Yeah, and he still might, even if he keeps one of our jobs.  It’s a strange system, getting into heaven and it’s not even our concern.  We’re spreading woe through the abstract layer of the system, not singling out our workers for damnation.”

“Yeah, but…”

He cut her off.  “Look, I thought you were the people person and the crafty manipulator.  You think this guy can beat you?  I need to give you a challenge, not just a hall-pass to torment the living.”  He waived off the thought. “You get this guy one of our jobs and keep him there? You’re in.  If not, well…”

“How long?” Dee Dee looked at her hand.  It dissolved in a shower of sparks and twisting metal until it became a cell phone attached to her wrist.

“Month.  Five weeks to be exact.”

She snarled with more venom than should be possible with her girlish human face and tiny frame.  “Fine!  Save your reverse psychology bullshit.  Not only am I going to get this guy working for us, I’ll damn his soul too.”  She pressed a button and Sal’s cell phone beeped.

“Hello?”

“Hi, this is Dee Dee from the Idle Hands employment agency.  We ran across your resume and would like to speak to you about a position we have opening up at Barron Brothers Holdings.  Do you have a moment?”

Sal looked around the park, cupping his hand to the phone.  Dee Dee watched him from her invisible vantage point.

“I guess I can take a moment.  One thing though.  What’s the pay rate?”

The small woman smiled a smile that was too wide for her face and she said, “I’m sure something can be arranged.”

🙂 😦 😉

 

Shelly came through the still un-repaired hole in the office wall and sat in a chair.  “She’s a total nightmare.”

Without taking his sunglasses up from the paper he was reading, the man behind the desk nodded. “I know”

“She’s totally botched my filing system and is an utter bitch!”

“I know”

“Did you know that she has been dating topsiders to death for sport?  Not to mention that she keeps leaving us with the bill at happy hour.”

The man looked up.  “That’s actually kind of funny.”

“Not on what you pay us it’s not.  She’s prancing around here like she runs the place.”

“I run the place.”

“Not for long and at this rate there won’t be anything left to run.  You’ve got to wonder what the Big D was thinking, sending her here.”

At that, he stopped and put down the paper.  “Ah yes, the Duke of Deceit.  I tell him we’re growing and need some help and he sends me someone to help force me out and no doubt send me back to eternal torment.”

He kicked back in his desk chair and laced his fingers.  “One thing I learned while wandering in hell’s endless desert is that a fervent devotion to deception, lying and chaos tends to make a being predictable, if you are organized and observant of its behavior.”

Shelly flipped her hand and a bit of blood oozed over her palm.  She mentally pulled it back in. “Moot point if you are sent down.  My afterlife is going to suck.”

Leaning forward, the man smiled under his sunglasses.  “Now shelly, would I make your hereafter a living hell?”

Her face brightened. “You have a plan?”

“I have better than a plan.  I have a man.”

🙂 😦 😉

 

Papers shuffled in nervous hands as Sal prepared for his first meeting at Barron Brothers Holdings.  It had taken three weeks to draw up detailed prospectus sheets on the two companies the firm was looking into and he was happy to find two solid companies.

He walked into the meeting room five minutes early to find people he didn’t know joking and talking.  “I’m sorry, I’m here for the ten o’clock meeting for Foster Inc. and Stewart Manufacturing.  Is this it?”

“Yes!  You must be Sal.”  The young man in a well pressed shirt offered his hand, but did not stand.  “I’m Duncan Barron.  Bill told me you have been going over the Foster and Stewart records with a microscope.  I appreciate the attention to detail.  But can you nutshell it for me?”

“Well, they both are medium manufacturing outfits with reasonable profit margins.  They are solid corporate citizens and both are in reasonable shape with no hidden bombs on the books…”

The smirking young man put up his hand.  “Just tell me, where’s the fat?”

“Excuse me?”  Sal still hadn’t sat down and everyone who had been in the meeting room were now looking at him with half smiles.

“Is there anything in these companies that is doing worse than other pieces?  Less profitable?”

“Well, the Medical Products Division of Foster has operated at a loss for the last two years, weighed down by R&D spending, but is working on a promising new material.  And Stewart’s Auto Parts Section has been hit hard by changes in the auto industry.”

“Ah, well, there you go.  We buy these companies, close down the crappy divisions and sell them off when their stock prices jump up.  Three years, max, make our money back tenfold and wash our hands of the whole thing.”

“But the R&D is what gave Foster the growth in the other sectors, and Stewart has a very good plan to modernize …”

“That’s great and all, but in the now, the companies are weak and our plan is a solid win for our shareholders.”

“But there are four thousand people working in those divisions!”

The room went quiet.  Everyone looked nervously at the seated young man in the crisp shirt and the standing older man in his rumpled brown suit.

The young man smiled. “Well they weren’t working hard enough to be profitable, now were they?  Maybe we can find someone who will want to buy them, but that’s not my concern.”

“Not our concern?  What do those four thousand people do?”

“Look for jobs.”  The room erupted in laughter.  “You are new, so here’s the deal.  It’s all about the quick flip here.  My only concern is to put lipstick on these pigs, make them all sexy looking and sell them to the highest bidder.  If I lop off a few limbs from them, fine.  Thanks for the reports, Sal.  I appreciate the quick turn around.”

The tall blonde man took the two binders from Sal and left him standing in the conference room.  He had the rude impression that he was being dismissed in all possible ways.

Sal looked around the room for a moment and couldn’t believe the apathy of the collected executives.  He turned on his heel and walked out of the meeting room.  As he walked, he could hear the room once again erupt in laughter and understood that he was probably the butt of the joke.

🙂 😦 😉

 

The rhythmic pumping under the railroad overpass came to a climactic stop.  In the pale blue light of an almost full moon, a large man rolled over and revealed a much smaller woman pulling down her miniskirt.  They laid side by side on the railroad tracks, using the hard steel as a pillow.  The smell of cheap happy hour drinks and sweat floated around the pair.

“Wow, you sure are a special kind of woman!”

“You know it, babe.”  She lit a cigarette with a spark from the tip of her finger and straightened her blonde bob cut wig.  “They don’t make them like you every day, either.”  Though there was a bit of sarcasm in her voice, he was much too drunk to hear it.  “It’s been so long for me, Stud.”

He had a goofy grin on his face, which increased the magnitude of his dough-like double chin. “I tell you what, this is the wildest thing I’ve done in … forever.”  He looked over at her, still grinning. “I mean it.  You really are something special.  I’ve got to get your number.”

She smiled a grin that was just ever so slightly wider than it should be.  “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll be sure to stop by so we can relive this night forever.”

“You mean it?”

“Sure I do.  Now lean over here.  I’ve got something to tell you.”  He leaned over onto his elbow and she cuddled up close to his ear.  She sweetly breathed into his ear, “train” and dissolved into a shocking mass of writhing metal that escaped under the oncoming locomotive.

The train passed in a loud, hot rush.  Squealing wheels trampled and crushed the lecherous drunk into man-cobbler.  Minutes passed as the train spread the gore for the better part of a mile before obliviously sliding around the bend and back into the night.

A shower of blue sparks and silver wire coalesced into the form of the woman wearing the blonde wig.  She stood looking at the tracks and watched the last remains of the lecher’s soul slip slowly down into the earth.

Her smile was just slightly too wide, as she said “Oh, we definitely will have to do this again.  But next time, I’ll be on top.”

A few Yards away, a door opened in a solid concrete wall, revealing a bland office corridor.  A man in a dark suit, colored black by the pale blue of the moonlight, came through the door.  She only barely acknowledged the man as she took off the blonde wig.  Her straight black hair, now free, fell to the middle of her back.

“Do you think this wig makes me look bitchy?”

“Uh, No.  It’s not the wig that makes you look bitchy.”

She looked over her shoulder with her hand on her hip.  “I suppose you are here to chastise my choice of dating activities.”

He put his hands up in the air as if in mock surrender.  “Hey, what you do on your own time is none of my business.  Just don’t drag it into the office.  Actually you have someone on hold, waiting for you at your desk.”

“Oh really?”  She smirked.  “They must be important for you to make a new door.  So who is it?”

He smiled. “It’s Sal.”

Her face went white and her smile disappeared as she ran through the door in the concrete slab.  The limbo workers were knocked off their feet by Dee Dee as she passed at a full sprint.  She threw herself into her office.  Straightening her skirt and putting her headset in her ear, she slammed at the phone to get Sal’s call.

“Hi Sal!”  She greeted him with a fake smile and saccharine sweetness in her voice.  “What can I do for you?”

Her face became white, then angry and finally started to crack while listening to the man ramble.  “So, Barron Brothers isn’t what you expected?”  She listened. “It’s really so bad you can’t work it out?  I mean…”  White hot sparks came from the small fissures, metal wires started to snake from the cracks and wind around her face, both binding and breaking.  “Sure, sure.  I understand.  Listen, um, can I possibly meet you somewhere where we can talk about this?  You know, I’d like to be your friend in this.  Maybe you just had a bad day or…”

She continued to nod and reveal more of her monstrous true appearance as a blank-eyed, limbo-bound soul came in carrying some paperwork.  “Sure, Sal, that sounds great.  I know that bar.  It really means a lot to me to see an – uh – upstanding man like yourself up and working.  So, let’s see if we can’t work this out.”  Her face was twisted in a demonic mask of metal wires, spikes and sparks as the last remains of her perky voice chirped “Ok!  See you there!  Bye!”

The man carrying the paperwork said in a limp voice, “Shelly wanted to make sure you filled out all the proper forms for Sal’s change in job status.  She’s a real stickler for that kind of thing.”

Dee Dee suddenly grew a mouth larger across than her desk and lunged at the man.  His eyes bolted wide with panic as she bit his head off with one sadistic “Chomp!”

🙂 😦 😉

Idle Hands – Episode 3 –The New Girl – Part 3

[Another Author’s Note: This is part 2.  Things get a touch nastier here, so … uh … hi mom! 🙂  Part 3 is coming up soon.

I’m still trying to figure out if I’m going Crabtree, Idle Hands or something else after I’m done with “The Strange” so if you like this, please hit the like button or if you have a comment, I’m up for those too.  By the way, “The Strange” is about to get a lot nastier too, so maybe, check that out?  Thanks.

And please spread the word!  I’m trying not to be a self-aggrandizing and pushy bore to people, but it’s tough to let potential readers know that any of this stuff is here.  I’m not advertising so any word of mouth is extremely helpful to me.

Thanks for reading and Stay Weird

-SC]

Idle Hands – Episode 3 –The New Girl – Part 1

Hell, it seemed, had turned its eye toward the city and was slowly turning up the heat.  Yellow and red beams of light tangled with the humidity, becoming solid outside Patty’s bar.  Each red and yellow facet of stained-glass created its own flame, pouring fire out into the sweltering heat of the mid-summer night.

Out of the haze walked an older woman, her graying blonde hair curled by the humidity and heat. She opened the door to the bar and instead of finding the heart of an oven, she found cool relief.  This was not the furnace, it was a respite.  The furnace was the rest of the world.

Though she went up to the bartender, her eyes never left the lone man with a marked up classified section sticking out of his pocket.  “How’s our boy, Mitch?”

The middle-aged man in the rumpled, brown suit stared at his drink.  He looked through the ice cubes, moving them in the glass, making them chase each other around the bottom.

Mitch looked at him with a face of tentative, positive appraisal.  “He ain’t bad, considering.”

“Is he drunk?”

“Nope, just quiet.  He’s been looking at that same drink since I called you.  Seems he ain’t here to be cheered up as much as he don’t wanta feel down no more.  What he’s looking for is in that newspaper, not in that glass.”

The blonde shook her head.  “Sal had a big interview today.  I’m guessing it didn’t go so great.”

“Oh shit, Marcy, I’m sorry to hear that.  How are you all holding up?”

“We’re doing ok.  Got savings.  It’s just hard on him.”  She sighed.  “I better go.  Thanks for being a sweetie.”

“Hey, no problem.”

As the pretty, older blonde walked down the bar, Sal looked sideways at her.

As they watched, Sal seemed to be in a trance.  He stared into the half empty drink glass, at the ice cubes and he started to talk.  It was detached,  as if he weren’t really there.

“I’d be happy to just live up to the life you have given me, Marcy.  But without a job, I can’t pay my way.  I’m not living up to my promise to you, and I’m not living up to the promise I made to myself to do something worthwhile.  My skills aren’t that much, but they come from a life worth of study, and they can make things better for people.  No one wants them.”  He shook his head.  “I just want to be needed again.”

Stroking his shoulder, she said, “I need you, sweetie.  Come on, let’s go home.  Tomorrow’s another day.”

He nodded and absently slid from his bar stool.  He nodded to Mitch.

“Yeah.  See you, Sal.  You take it easy, big guy.”  He watched them go into the hot and muggy night.

🙂 😦 😉

A knock came at the office door and a young woman with a blonde pageboy haircut stuck her head in.  “You’ve got a guest here, boss.  He says he’s interviewing here?”

The man behind the office’s lone desk looked at his watch and said, “Yeah.  It’s a transfer request straight from the big D himself.  Send him in.  Oh, and Shelly,” he added, adjusting his reflective sunglasses, “What do you think of the guy?”

“What do I think?”  She snuck in the door and closed it.  Her slight frame seemed impossibly fragile, yet somehow more feminine than girlish.  “Well, he was kind of a dick to me when he came in, all bossy and ominous.  He lightened up a little after I got him a soda, though.”

“Not the good stuff.”

“Grocery store brand.  Put it in a cup so he wouldn’t bitch.”

“That’s my girl.”  He grinned, stroking his black goatee.  “So in other words, you’d do him.”

She nodded.  “Totally, but I think I’d rather slash my wrists than work for him.”  The tall blonde raised her forearms and giggled, showing long, deep razorblade slashes as she backed through the office door.  “So, you want him now?”

“Sure, send him in,” the man said with a wave.  The blonde girl disappeared and from the hallway he heard a loud thumping sound.  He tugged on his red suit jacket and smoothed his shiny black tie over his even blacker shirt.

Suddenly, the door, frame and all, ripped free of its place on the wall, with a sickening, tearing sound.  Through the hole strode a creature made of metal, wire and blue sparks.  It seemed to be in a constant state of unnatural motion as its arms and legs didn’t seem to keep their length or shape for very long.  The face was a rough sketch made of wire and metal plates, webbed over by constantly changing sparks.  A wicked smile that was much too large for the face grew even larger, showed the sparks that it used for teeth, then said in a voice that sounded like feedback and static, “I’m here to inquire about the job.”

The man wiped dust off of the sleeves of his suit coat and blew the dust off of the desk.  “Yes.  You must be Demon-go.” His hand darted out as he stood and smiled.  Behind the creature, plaster continued to fall. The limbo-bound souls who shuffled paperwork in the office couldn’t help but stare in amazement at the new opening the creature had just made.

“Actually sir, it’s pronounced Dee-MON-go.  Emphasis on the ‘MON.’”

Tipping his finger against his forehead, the man said, “Of course.  Well, are you ready to begin?”

“Sure.  Do you have a copy of my resume?”

“Yes, they sent me an email, and it’s printed…”

The ghastly sparking creature threw a stack of three papers on the desk. “Here you go.  This one has all my formatting and I printed it on some nice paper.”

Picking up the pages, the man felt the weight of them.  “Oh, this is nice paper!  So,” he looked at the resume, “Demongo, I see you have been in the Seriously Fucked Up Sins Department for the past millennium.  What exactly did you do there?”

“Well, I was sodomizing pedophiles,” the thing screeched out.

“Ah,” the man said, lacing his fingers.  “And why do you wish to leave your current position?”

The thing tilted his head and had a hard time looking into the man’s red and yellow sunglasses.  “Well, it was a great job in the beginning.  I started out really strong as a new guy and continued to refine my technique as I was promoted.  But for the last couple decades, I’ve hit a plateau with that kind of work.”

“Understandable.  Even the best of jobs can get old after a while.  I understand you had a lot of client interface in that job, talk to me about that.”

“Well, yeah.”  It smiled and the grin grew even further past the confines of where its face should be.  “It was usually like them saying ‘No!  Not again!’ And after a while I had to really work with them to get that nice scream of total despair out of them.  I mean, after being down there for a while, the clients kind of need some special attention every once in a while, just to keep things fresh for them.  I always gave that extra mile for the clients.”  A large spark shot from its large right eye and hit the curled up end of its humongous metallic smile.  “I like to think of myself as a people person.”

“Well good!”  The man in the red suit continued to read.  “And before that, you were in the Mischief making department.  You got to go out onto the earth and spread misfortune.”

“Ah yes.  I liked that job.  The pay was lousy but I really liked my co-workers.  And my boss, Mr. Woe, he was a right hellion.  Happy hours were a real scream!”

“I bet.  So, you think you can do this?  We place people in jobs here and the jobs are carefully selected to cause mischief.  Do you think you can be both friend and tormentor to these people?  It takes someone special to pull off this job.  It’s a blend of psychology, sweetness and force.”

“I hear that you are the best so I’m sure you will be able to teach me.  But yes, I feel comfortable lying to these fresh souls.”

“Well it’s not really about lying, more about a careful presentation.”  The man looked at the thing while resting back in his chair.  “And I almost forgot.  We do have a dress code here: ‘Business Casual.’  And you generally need to conform to a human appearance.  We’re all former earth souls here and it’s become customary.  Is that a problem for you?  It’s a bit of a lifestyle change, I understand.”

“I’m sorry.  No one mentioned it.  No, no problem at all.  I’ll change now, if you don’t mind.”

The man waved his hand.  “There’s a bathroom right across the hall if you want some…”  The thing had already sprung across the hall and ripped the door off of the woman’s room, eliciting a shriek from inside. “…privacy.”

He could see across the hall that the creature shrank so it could fit in the stall.  A hail of blue sparks shot around the bathroom as the creature assumed a human appearance.  Out of the stall came a small woman with straight black hair, and straight cut bangs.  Her small bust was further hidden by the pinstriped skirt suit.

She walked back into the office and asked, “Is this ok with the dress code?”

“Yes.”  His surprise was evident through his glasses, though he was more amused than shocked. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ve a few more questions.”

“Sure.”

“Well, I was wondering what kind of job you would like, under ideal circumstances.”

“You know, I’ve always wanted a job like this.  From what the big man tells me, it’s really about getting the earthly people to be wicked by employing them in select jobs and then send their tainted souls down here.”  She motioned to her resume.  “If I could be permitted to sell myself, I have the requisite skills and have always risen to the top in the positions I’ve held.  In mischief making, I was always very crafty at tricking people into ill will, or putting them in a frame of mind to sin.  Of course, in my last job, I had to fill some time in the nightmare section.  We did a lot of hunting there, and I really like the feeling of giving someone a good, bloody death.”

The man sat back in his chair and put his index fingers to his mouth.  “You know, that’s very interesting.  So, would you describe yourself as sadistic?”

“Oh, sure!  I’m a total sociopath, and I always take great pleasure in coming up with new and interesting ways to kill.”  Her girlish face showed a trace of her former wild unconstrained smile as she talked.  “I can’t wait for the opportunity to go after fresh meat on the surface, though.”  She practically purred. “I hear that they have particularly lovely screams.”

He leafed through the resume, scowling.  “Yes, I can see you are a very talented tormenter, and you do come highly recommended.  Well now, the challenge for me is to see if I can put you to the best possible use.”  He snapped the resume on the table.  “So, do you have any questions for me?”

“Well, I understand that the staff here is almost entirely former tormented souls that got out of their respective torture by agreeing to work with us.”

“Something like that.  In fact, all of our recruiters are former ‘top-siders’ like myself. But you would be our first full demon working here.  I hope that won’t be a problem.  The Big D wants us to have a more diverse workforce.”

“I’d have no problems working with you blackened souls.  I’m sure we can all get along.”

“While we’re on the subject of diversity, I want to mention that we’ve also just added a bunch of souls from limbo for our routine office work.  They are boring guys, but they keep the place running smoothly.”

“Really?  How does that work?”

“Well, if we don’t have them doing any actively evil work, they can be used for organizing duties.  Gives them something to do and helps Shelly out a ton!  We call them a ‘soft asset.’  So, before we wrap up the interview, is there anything else?”

She put on a fake smile that, again, was a touch too wide for her human face. “Actually, I’m a little confused.  The big man was talking to me like I’d already gotten the position and talking to you was kind of a formality.”

He smiled.  “As I said, you came highly recommended.  If you’d like, you can wait in the lobby.  I need to make a phone call.”  He got up out of his chair and extended his hand.

“Uh, Ok.”  She got up and shook his hand and made her way out through the hole in the wall.

He called after her.  “Um, could you…?”

He made a motion to the hole and she said, “Oops, Right.”  For someone so small and slight she displayed every bit of her previous strength by lifting the large slab of wall and fitting it into place as best she could.

The man looked at what used to be his office door and shook his head.  Picking up the receiver, he hit the first speed dial and was almost instantly connected.  “Yes, is this Nancy?  Hi!  Nice to talk to you again.  I was wondering if I could talk to the big D, please.  Is he busy?”

He leaned back in his chair and smiled.  “Thanks, Nancy.  Oh, and before I forget, thanks for the fast work on those reports.”  He nodded.  “Yes, I’ve got my staff poring over them as we speak.  I really appreciate it.  You run a tight ship there. Oh, and before I forget, those souls we got from limbo are a really great addition to my clerical staff.  They are fantastic office drones.  …  He’s free now?  Ok.  Of course, I’ll hold.”

He sat up in his chair and said, “Hello, Sir. …Yes, this is about the applicant you sent over. … Yes, Demongo.  … I agree, Sir. A charming girl. … Yes, a real go getter.”  A frown crossed his face as he listened.  “I understand that you want more actual Demons in high positions here at Idle Hands, but, … Well, yes.  But that’s the issue, isn’t it?  Since most of us, myself included, used to be surface people, we know how to work with ‘em.”

The phone chatted in his ear.  “Well, I’m glad that you are so interested in our project that you would like to franchise, but it’s really a subtle technique, and I’m afraid that Demongo is too heavy handed and sadistic for the system here.  I’m afraid that I’d like to decline your generous offer to have her on my staff.”

Great gouts of flame poured from the telephone’s earpiece, completely incinerating the man’s face and head.  As soon as the flames died down the man’s eyeballs re-grew out of dark red smoke.  While the rest of his head was coalescing from the same dark smoke, the eyes blinked in astonishment.  With his one hand still holding the telephone receiver, his other created a new set of sunglasses.

Putting the sunglasses over his wide eyes he said, “Sir, I can see your point.  Clearly, I’ve overlooked something in this girl that you cherish.  I’ll give her a shot, but if she doesn’t work out, I want to know that I can get rid of her.  I don’t want to compromise my efficiency by having to handle a problem employee.  I’m sure you can understand the importance of what we are doing here.”

The line was silent for a while then spoke.  The man heard the words and said, “Thank you.  I will set up a test for Demongo right away, so she can get a fair evaluation of her skills and,” he paused slightly at this last word, “temperament.”

He smiled and stroked his goatee.  “Yes sir, she will start in the morning.”

🙂 😦 😉

Idle Hands – Episode 3 –The New Girl – Part 2

[Author’s note: This is the second Idle Hands story, though the “episode” numbering is 3.  Long story, If I reorganize this to be a real serial, This bit might even go first.  In any event, I’m cutting it up into three sections just like Crabtree for the sake of convenience.

If this is a story you like, please give me likes on comments.  So far, the serial after The Strange (which is by no means done, is between this, more strange, Crabtree and a couple of other projects I’m working on.  I’d like to know what people like, so I’m asking.  I know my wife likes Idle Hands the best and that’s a strong vote for, but being evil is difficult.  🙂

What’s also difficult is getting the word out.  Please, if you like what you see here, tell a friend, or a stranger, or a friendly stranger or a strange friend.  I’m not advertizing and having days where no one is visiting me but spambots and my mom (hi mom) is a little… Well, it doesn’t help me churn out more words.

Thanks.  That’s it.   Stay Weird.

-SC ]

Fixing a Whole

Bobby couldn’t sleep.  Two nights running, thoughts crept into his head and set up camp.  His mind buzzed with ideas, thoughts, plans, problems and anxieties screaming for attention.  It was like trying to sleep in the middle of a carnival.

His new wife was no help.  He could hear Barbra’s soft, even breaths over the hum of the HEPA air filter.  Jealousy is an ugly thing in a marriage, especially when you are only a couple of months in.  ‘She can sleep anywhere, anytime,’ he thought.  ‘I’d love to do that.  I’m in my own house and can’t sleep and she could doze off at a bus stop with sirens blaring.  Sleep? Hell,’ he turned. ‘I go to visit her folks and I can’t even crap much less sleep.’

The clock read one forty five in angry red numbers.  He was starting to get desperate.

Somewhere else, three figures dressed in black lurked, keeping watch over the train wreck of Bobby’s mind.

One spoke with perfect diction.  “Perhaps we should implant the suggestion?  The one we had discussed?”

“Yeah, Yeah!  Maybe this time!  Let’s do it.  Can I do it?” another chimed in.

The third one tilted his head in thought.  “Sure, go ahead.  Let it loose.”

In Bobby’s mind, a new thought drifted in and soared above the chaos.  His best friend, Ernesto, had suggested that he try meditating.  Ernesto bought into all that new age crap that Bobby considered himself far too enlightened to fall for.  Yet, for all the seeming ridiculousness, Ernesto always looked rested.

Tossing and turning, he tried hard to drift off to sleep, but the harder he tried the more frustrated he became.  If ever there was a time to try Ernesto’s crazy idea, this was it.

‘No more crazy than sitting here awake for the third night in a row,’ he thought.  ‘I can’t go on like this.  Today was brutal.  Need SLEEP!’

He rocked back over onto his back and stretched out with his legs straight and his arms relaxed.  The rhythmic sound of his wife’s breathing filled his ears as he dismissed any thought that came to him.  Work problems inundated him and were dismissed.  Life plans were put on hold for the time being.  The financial books in his mind closed and background music faded away.  Unpaid bills and parking tickets, random facts about breweries and bands found themselves directed to the land of dead thoughts.  All of the nagging thoughts of things left uncompleted were ignored and silenced.

The whole of Bobby’s mind began to unwind.  It stretched out into an open plane of dreams as his body gave into the fatigue of sleepless days.  Tense muscles relaxed and he felt like he was retreating into himself.  He let go of his thoughts and finally went with the flow.

Soon he was flying across the quiet landscape of his mind.  He noticed things that occupied his normal waking life as he passed by their representations, but he did not focus on them – the branching machine that was the computer program he worked on, the cartoon like structure of a game, the tables and racks of probabilities that made up the rules of cribbage. He passed them all by and idly floated within his consciousness, feeling better than he had in days.

Up ahead, in this veritable forest of thoughts, skills and knowledge, floated a dark void.  He headed for it, hoping it was an even deeper level of sleep.

As he went closer to this place that wasn’t, free of all cares, he found himself being drawn into it.  Drunk on the novel whimsy of throwing away all his worries, he now wondered if going into this blackness was a good idea.  Too late, he realized that it wasn’t.

In his bedroom, Bobby’s body tensed.  His unseeing eyes bolted open.  His conscious self was sucked down into the blackened abyss.

And three figures smiled in triumph.

# # #

Bobby sat in a white leather recliner.  His white button-down shirt was undone at the collar with sleeves rolled up, as usual.  Across a white room that appeared to have no walls and no end, stood three men who all looked a bit like him.

One of them was unkempt, in black shorts and a tee shirt.  Waving his hand, he said, “Hi Bob!  Ooo!  I just heard ‘Hi Bob!’  Like the game ‘Hi Bob!’  Gota drink!”  A shot of Tequila appeared in his hand and he drank it down.

“Sorry to bring you down here, Bobby, but things have gotten out of balance,” another said.  Bobby thought he was looking at a mirror when he saw this one, except his clothes were black and not white.

The third one dressed in an all black suit and tie and said, “We’ve come to help you set things right.”

A moment passed as the three looked at him.

“Yeah,” Bobby droned out while thinking.  “OK, well… this is all very weird.”

“Perhaps introductions are in order.”  Bobby’s twin stepped forward.  “You see, I’m Ego.”

The man in the shorts said “Id!” while pulling apart a pizza that appeared out of nowhere.

The man in the suit gave a stiff bow. “I am Super Ego, otherwise known as your better self.  We’ve noticed your recent trouble with control in the consciousness and feel compelled to… lend a hand.”

“What do you mean? ‘Trouble controlling the consciousness?’  I’ve just been… a little out of sorts… and not sleeping well”  As Bobby got up from his recliner, it disappeared like an unneeded thought.

Putting down his pizza, Id said. “Dude, you aren’t out of sorts, you are letting your demons run you.  It’s getting crazy out there!  Now, I might like crazy, but I also like sleep.”

Ego stepped in.  “I’m afraid Id is right, Bobby.  You have a problem with balance.  Not getting enough sleep is just a symptom of the issue.   The fact is things are just stacking up and not being addressed.”

Bobby got worried, and then started to smile. “Hey! This is one of those crazy dreams.  I bet if I wanted, I could do the flying thing or make like I’m having sex with Britney Spears or something.”

Id perked up.  “Dude, forget that.  There are much better looking chicks than her.  What about that English teacher you had in tenth grade.  Mrs. Wortz.  Damn, she made my balls hurt!”

Super Ego slid over to where Id was materializing a bucket of fried chicken. “Good god. Must you be so foul?”

Around a face full of drumstick Id smiled and said, “It’s my job, man, and I do it well!”

“We’re still not getting to the point here, and please don’t encourage … It.” Ego waved his hands in the direction of Id who had regressed to wearing a black thong. “The fact is, Bobby, if you don’t get your head in order here, you aren’t going to live a normal life again.  Is that what you want?”

“What I want is some sleep,” Bobby replied without a second thought. “You’re saying I need to psychoanalyze myself in order to get it?  Fine.  Let’s get to it.”

Super Ego said, “Yes, Let’s,” and turned to a screen rising from the floor.

As the lights dimmed in the white, wall-less room, Ego looked at Bobby and smiled.  “I’m glad you are taking this so well.  We’re only here to help.”

“Since you are me, I would hope so.  By the way, exactly which one of you is me?”

At the same time all three of them said “I am.”

“Well that clears it right up.”

Ego walked over to the screen hovering in the air and said, “You don’t sound totally convinced.  Since we are you, we anticipated that.”  He tapped on the screen and a blob with a squiggly line drawn through the top came up.

Looking for a seat in front of the screen, Bobby said, “What’s that? It looks like a blob, or a map of Barbados.”

“It’s an ice berg, for illustration.”

Bob scrunched up his face trying to make out the ice berg in the picture.  He hadn’t recalled sitting but suddenly realized that he was sitting on a white leather couch between Id and Super Ego.  He’d thought that the screen was missing a couch big enough for all of them to sit on, and here he was, as if by magic.  Or maybe it was all in his head.  He looked up and focused on the task at hand.

Id was suddenly interested and hopped up to sit on the back of the couch. “Ego!  You cut out  Rum?  How could you, man?”

Super Ego slid over to Bobby and said, “I wanted to do this with snazzy graphics, but Ego said it was a frivolous use of the visual cortex.”

Putting his hands up, Ego said, “This doesn’t have anything to do with Rum, computer graphics are frivolous and you…”  He pointed at Bobby.  “I’m you.  You suck at drawing.  This is an iceberg!”

Bobby crossed his arms.  “Fine.”

Mimicking Bobby’s mannerisms, Ego combed back his hair with his fingers.  “So the iceberg is your total mind.  You are the conscious mind or the part controlling the day to day, represented by the part above the water.  Below the water, is where Id and Super Ego duke it out over topics of the day.  Sometimes Super Ego wins out and you are more conscientious and civic minded, moral and upstanding.  But, when the Id wins, you eat fried food and watch porn.”

Bobby took a quick, evil look over his shoulder at Id who was still eating fried skin from the bucket of chicken.  Id just shrugged his shoulders.

Turning back to the screen, Bobby asked, “So what do you do?”

“Ah, I’m the messenger and the arbitrator.  I’m all over.  Id and Super Ego give me constant feedback and what comes to you as the consciousness is the most persuasive argument at the time.  So really, your job is to translate my direction into actions.  I coordinate between the bickering factions of the subconscious and relay them to you as the voice in your head.”

Pointing his finger, Bobby leaned forward.  “So you are the bastard responsible for getting songs stuck in my ear!  You are a sadistic fucker, you know that?”

“Actually, that’s mostly Id, with the music.”

From around a piece of food, Id said, “What can I say?  I like show tunes.”

Turning once again to Ego, Bobby said, “So wait.  Isn’t this a dream?”

“I’m afraid not.”

Id continued to eat and said, “You are in here with us until this gets resolved.”

Super Ego stepped up to explain.  “You see, you fell, rather unceremoniously I might add, into the hole in your life.  Climbing out and sealing it up is not an option.  And the reason that the hole is there, is that balance has been lost.”

“Cutting to the chase,” Id broke in, “one of us has to go!”

“What?”  Bobby’s head whipped around in surprise.

“I’m afraid so,” Ego said.  “One of us has gotten too powerful and no longer listens to the others.  Now things are out of balance and the cracks are starting to show.  Not being able to sleep is just an outward sign.  So are the recent arguments with Barbra.  The uptick in drinking…”

Bobby stood up from the couch, which faded like the screen once it outlived its use.  “Now wait a second.  If one of you go, wouldn’t things get out of balance in the opposite direction?”

Super Ego, who was sitting on the couch with Bobby and now sat in a high-backed chair, laced his fingers together.  “Actually, no.  At least not in the long run.  The troublesome aspect would reestablish itself fairly quickly, but in the meantime, the remaining aspects will strengthen themselves so that a more appropriate balance is restored.”

“It’s like a lizard.”  Id came forward and wiped the crumbs off of his black tee shirt. “You cut off the tail, but it knows that it needs a tail, so it grows back”  He looked off into the distance and mumbled, “Damn, lizards are so cool.”

“So,” Bobby clapped his hands together. “It’s a mystery!  Someone is out of balance.  Well, I’m anxious to get started so I can get some rest, so I’ll start by interviewing you individually.  Together you all bicker too much.”

“That is our function, but I do fear that it’s made worse by the imbalance.”  Ego put out his arms and seemed to draw in the other two.

“Yes, OK, all fine and good, but if I’m to get to the bottom of this, I’ll need to talk to Id and Super Ego myself.  I’ve already realized that you aren’t the one out of whack, so I’ll talk to you last.”

The three looked at one another, somewhat astonished, and then Ego turned back to Bobby.  “Feel free to take all the time you want.  I’ll consult with you at the end.”  He smiled and added, “Then we will get some sleep.”

Bobby clapped his hands together.  “Sounds great!  So who’s first?”

Id jumped in front of Bobby and wheeled him around to a desk forming out of the mist.  “I hate waiting.  Let’s get this party started.”

# # #

Bobby went around to the business side of the desk and took the plush white office chair.  Id sat in the not quite so plush guest chair on the other side.  Pens and paper found their way to the desk as soon as they were looked for, as did a picture of Bobby’s wife.  Feeling at home, he checked the roll on his white shirt sleeves and laced his fingers.  “Okay, so what do you do?”

“What do I do?  Yer kiddin’ right?”

Bobby was once again impressed with how much the Id looked like him, though much more animated and sloppy.

“I’m the one who made you stick at it until you got into Mary O’Conner’s pants all through college!  I’m the guy who persuaded you to throw that killer party for Halloween two years ago!  That’s who I am.”

“Mary O’Conner.”  Bobby leaned back in the chair and let the name dredge up fond memories.  “You are a good man with that one, but what have you done recently?”

Id thought for a second, stroking his temples. His fingers snapped and he exclaimed, “I got you to buy season tickets for hockey!”

“But that was for ‘bonding time’ with Barbra!” Bobby protested.

“You think?”  Id leaned back and smiled.  “Ego is really good at spinning stuff.”

Bobby picked up the picture of his wife, and she started to look kind of pissed.  “So what else?”

“Other things, big and small.  To be quite honest, you ain’t been listening too much lately.”

“What can I say?  I’ve been busy trying to build a life, now that I’m married.”  He put the picture down.  “I can’t exactly just do whatever I want any more.”

Waving his hands to emphasize points, Id said, “Do you really think that’s all I do?  I’m some kind of animal?”

“Yeah.  You are my impulses and baser desires, right?”

Bobby’s sloppy twin kicked back in his chair, but kept a cautious eye on the man in white.  “You’ve got me cold.  But it’s not all fun and games.  I let you be comfortable.  What do you think about that new couch you got a few months ago?”

“I love that couch.”

“You see, that’s me working.  Without me, you wouldn’t enjoy stuff.  I’m the thing that lets you laugh and make jokes, especially the crude ones.  I invite you to have a beer after a hard day and unwind with a good action move.  I drive you to cuddle and *ahem* other things with Barbra.”

Straightening up in his chair, Bobby waved his finger.  “Careful, this is my wife you are talking about here.  I love Barbra!”

“Hey! I’m in charge of that too.  Heard about being ‘madly in love?’  Just call me cupid”

Bobby looked at his desk and found the notes he would have taken about the conversation, had he taken notes. “So without you, I wouldn’t be motivated by emotions and sensations?”

“Exactly.”  Id smiled wide.  “I gotta say, though, things have been pretty tough out there lately.  Imbalance and all that.  Cupid isn’t exactly able to get though all the stress and brewers droop.  You gotta throw us all a bone and let up.”

“I don’t get it,” Bobby said.

“Don’t I know it.  You’re trying too hard.  Even trying too hard to have fun, which takes all the fun out of it.  That couch is awesome, you need to decide to turn your crap off and sog into it more often.”

“I can’t.  I’ve got things to do!” Bobby protested.

“Then do ’em.  Or not.  Ether way quit stressing out about it, man.  You’re not acting as much as you are acting out and on anxious idle.  Shit like that keeps you up all night!”

“OK.”  He reached out his hand and Id shook it gleefully.  “I’m all done here.  Can you get Super Ego for me?”

“Sure thing dude!  Nice knowing you!”

# # #

Super Ego came to the door of the dream office and walked into the room.

“Hi, Super Ego.  Have a seat.”

The stiff version of himself laid down a three page resume on the desk.  “I come prepared.”

Bobby read over the resume until he came to a line. “Hm.  You were the one that kept me from marrying Mary O’Conner right out of college.  Good man.  She was a nightmare.”

Super Ego sat there, looking pleased.

“Is there anything else, or is it all here?”

“Well, I’m much more about keeping you from doing detrimental things. I’d like to point out that anything that takes more than a day or so to plan is controlled by me as well.”

With a kidding grin, Bobby said, “Well, my ability to focus is crap, so thanks a lot”

“Certainly no fault of mine.  You treat your body like a garbage dump.”

“Well, aren’t you also the part of me that drives me to the gym?”

“To be honest, that’s one of the points where the Id and I agree, though for differing reasons.  I propose that you need to take better care of yourself, lose weight and tone up your cardiovascular system.  The Id just likes the runner’s high and the fact that it improves your sexual performance.  And, he tends to like places where women walk around in tight clothing.”

“And you aren’t in on that?”

“I’m ambivalent.  It’s not my job.  My job is to keep you from trying to start anything with those tramps at the gym.  I keep you doing your job, until it’s time to go.  I get you up in the morning and make you go to bed at a decent hour.  I keep you from breaking laws and your word.  In other words, I am your higher self and steer you toward noble goals.”  He folded his hands in his lap and stood straight and still in the chair.

Bobby was impressed with this guy, but he had to find out if he had taken too much power away from the other two.  “So, lately, what is a major accomplishment that you can point to as being mostly your own.”

The stiff twin shifted in his chair and looked Bobby straight in the eye.  “That question shows a lack of understanding of the predicament in which we find ourselves.  Nothing gets accomplished without the input of the other aspects.  Everything is tempered, run through justifications and finally filtered through the personality, you, to actualize in the physical world.  So, I can rightly claim nothing to be my accomplishment.”

Silence greeted this answer, as Bobby considered it.  “Okay, let me rephrase.  What timely action, taken by all of us, was most driven by you?  There must be something that you initiated.  I’m sure you weren’t the initiator of the Hockey tickets.”

“Oh the Hockey tickets.”  He rolled his eyes.  “I spent a long time at the insistence of the Ego coming up with justifications for that.  Truthfully, ever since you got married, it’s been harder and harder to get anything done around here.  I get you checking your check book and going to work, but even that is a struggle.”

“Is that because of the imbalance?”

“Yes.”  His eyes grew wide in alarm and he seemed to somehow grow while staying the same size.  “The imbalance makes it difficult to properly align with expected norms of behavior.  What results is only minimally acceptable, triggering coping mechanisms.  Your lack of sleep, for instance, is every undone thing shouting at you, both the required and the desired.  These things don’t just go away if you ignore them.”

“Well I really haven’t been able to focus on any of that stuff.”  Bobby waved a hand as he replied. “I’ve been busy, you know…”

“NO!”  Super Ego insisted.  His fist came down on the white table top of the desk, momentarily turning it black.

“Excuse me?”

Behind SuperEgo, the white room darkened.  The figure in the chair became more clearly defined, somehow more there than he had been before.  His face froze into a hard, lecturing stare.  “You do not get to give yourself a pass on this one.  The way you are acting, taking on every problem and resolving none, taking up every distraction and vice without care or enjoyment, you are acting as a barbaric fool.  No wonder Barbra argues with you. You drink, you eat like crap, you avoid her, you avoid your job, you avoid the gym.  Your logic wants to think that behaving like an animal will make you happier, but still you can’t let go enough to enjoy your antisocial behavior.”

“Hey!” Bobby squeaked in protest, “Quit stepping on my dick, jackass.”

“I would like to, but you keep presenting it to be trod upon and keeping you on the straight and narrow is my job.  As part of that job, I have to tell you that you, as you are now are a loathsome creature.  And to top it all off, you don’t even have the common decency to be ashamed of yourself.  You must… put an end to the imbalance… or we are all lost.”

“You done?” Bobby crossed his arms and rocked back in the white office chair.  “You done, or would you like to sit there and shit talk me… us… a little more?”

Super Ego straightened and feigned distraction by inspecting his sleeve for lint.  “I believe I’ve said my peace, Bobby.  I’d apologize for the unfiltered nature of my comments if I didn’t believe that they were one hundred percent justified.  I fear that even with this admonition, you will continue on your current course.  And as usual, I will have your best interest at heart and will attempt to guide you down a path of piety.”

“Uh, thanks, I guess…”

A pencil eraser tapped nervously in Bobby’s hand, rapping against a notepad.  He looked at the notes that appeared on the pad as he thought them up then addressed Super Ego.  “OK. I need to think about this.  If you can let the others know that I’ll be out in a bit.”

The stiff entity stood up and left the office, leaving Bobby to ponder his subconscious.

# # #

“How did the interviews go?”  Ego was so exactly like Bobby that he was a touch stunned at seeing him again.  It was as if the mirror suddenly started talking.

“Fine. Just don’t tell me that you really are Mary O’Conner.”

“No.  Actually, I’ve got some regrets about that girl.  She was quite the troubled soul.”

“Yeah, she was.  Hot though…”  Bobby nodded at the ground for a moment then raised an eyebrow at his twin.  “I’m having a hard time.  Both Super Ego and Id have elements that seem over the top and out of control.  But I’m thinking that the Id has grown too crazy.  His appetite for fun and games seems to be a problem.”

Ego shook his head. “I was afraid you’d say that.”  The man in the black placed a hand on bobby’s shoulder.  “You see, Bobby, It’s you, the personality, the consciousness.  You are the problem.”

“Me?”

“Yes.”

“How can I be the problem?  I’m the one who is actually Bobby!”

“Not without us, you’re not, and that’s the problem.  You have suppressed your subconscious to the point where your waking mind must do all the analysis and make all the decisions.  You haven’t done what you wanted to do, because you thought it would be indulgent.  You haven’t done what you should do because you resent always having to be responsible.  In the end, the tools that are given to your conscious mind are overtaxed and running out of control, causing you stress and sleeplessness.  The waking mind can’t sleep because you have given it so much work to do that it needs to run well into the night to catch up.”

Bobby stuck his hand up and turned away from Ego. “That’s a bunch of crap.  All I’m doing here is talking to myself.  This is just another weird dream, though I guess I should be thankful.  At least it means I’m sleeping.”

“See?  You aren’t paying attention.  This is no dream.” Ego charged at Bobby with his finger in the air.

“But I’m keeping myself together as best I can for my wife, my job and my future!”

“Your wife and your job would be better served if you let your whole self address the issues in front of you.  She fell in love with you as a whole person and the problems that come up between you two are partly because you changed.  As for your future?  Well, you can’t keep your current state up very long.  Eventually your conscious decision making process will crack and you will start screwing up or going mad.  You already can’t sleep, so who’s to say you won’t have a costly nervous breakdown.”

The Personality of Bobby clenched his fists.  “I won’t let myself have a nervous breakdown!”

“Now there, you are more right than you know.”  Id and Super Ego flanked Ego and all three were looking at him.  “You, Bobby’s personality and waking mind, you are the one who has to go.”

“Whoa, wait a second!  Then what was all that interviewing and such about?  You said one of you all must go.”

“I said one of ‘Us’ must go.  Knowing that you were the one of ‘Us’ that was on the way out, none of the rest of us thought that there was any harm in letting you have your fun.  Besides, you might have learned something and made this unnecessary.  As it is, further self reflection will have to be handled by your successor.  Good bye.”

“Wait!  Hold on! What are you…”  Bobby’s personality slowly disappeared into the vague whiteness of the room’s boundaries, as if it had been a piece of forgotten furniture.

Out in the real world, Bobby’s whole body sighed and the cleansing chaos of dreams flooded his mind.  It swirled and danced with the pieces of computer program, making them play cribbage to thirty one.  Worlds unfolded and evaporated to give rise to strange beings as gravity bubbled up and explored the ceiling.  All of the trouble in life mixed with this chaos and new connections were tried with the crazy logic of dreams.  The magic work of the subconscious raced through the sleeping mind.

At the center of the storm, in the endless white room, Id, Ego and Super Ego looked at an image of the sleeping Bobby on a screen flaked by the dream images.  A separate screen showed the progress of Bobby’s brain and body descending into a deep sleep.

Super Ego leaned in to talk to Ego.  “Are you sure that was wise?”

“No.” Ego turned and faced the straight laced, subconscious personification. “But it was necessary.  He’ll sleep past his alarm in the morning, giving us ample time to create a new personality from his memories and experiences, his thoughts and dreams.  It will be him – us – but without all that willful control nonsense that was causing so much trouble and angst.”  Ego looked once again at Bobby finally at peace, healing and resting.  “When Bobby wakes up, he’ll feel like a whole new man.”