All That Remains – Part 5

The rocket was ten by four by six meters and shaped like a stubby airplane.  The rear held seven large engines in a hexagon and the nose had a half-extended ramp to match the half-buckled supports on two of the three landing skids.  As Pez watched, leaning against a boulder in the shade of the parasol, a steady stream of bent parts and curses poured down the ramp.

“Not that it isn’t lovely out here, but how are you doing in there?”

Another bent piece of metal rang out as it flew down the ramp and joined the pile.

“It looks like the robos were actually fixing it after a fashion. I mean, all the guts are all over the place, but the computer still works. They fixed the power reactor – having previously shot it out from under me – and the anti-grav…” Mixie’s head popped down upside down, her short hair fanning out below her.  “Maybe they were trying to make a friend?” She grinned.

“Ah, again, levity. You humans are much more about levity than my people. I like it.”

Mixie retreated into the ship but continued to talk.  “Yeah well, it’s either laugh or cry.  And…’Your people?’ You mean, you’re not human?”

“Nope. I just look like this to keep you from being … thoroughly unhappy, though the Neplax are not so different from you, though. Bipedal, big head, scrawny.”

“Now who is making jokes.” Mixie started to squeeze through the partially open ramp to join Pez.

“Yeah. I believe you humans make jokes about things you find too painful to talk about directly. Ironic… your pain makes you funny. You touch things without actually … touching them this way, feeling the softness of the skin of a thing without confronting the …” Pez smiled at Mixie as she joined in the parasol’s shade. “…The fact that my metaphor has run off a cliff. Sorry.”

“Look, I know this is a sore subject, but you realize that I don’t actually believe much of your story, right?  I mean, what’s the most logical thing – explorer comes here, gets stranded, figures out how to live but loses their mind … OR you are god.”

“A god.  The Neplax were polytheistic.”  Pez sniffed.  “Is it possible that you have such a hard time with this because you, yourself don’t believe yourself worthy of love?”

“You are dodging the issue.”

“Yes, but it’s a brilliant dodge.”  Pez grinned, then pressed on.  “Why are you so resistant to possibilities?  You have been out in the universe and seen it’s wonders.  Why is this so challenging?”

The question hung for a moment.  Mixie showed new interest in her boot print in the sand. Finally, she sighed and said, “Your assertion is extraordinary, and you are putting it on me to justify my unwillingness to just take it on your word?  Come on.”  She walked around and scuffed at the sand.  “And besides, I’m a spy, Pez.  I kill people.  We’re in a war and my job is to gather intelligence that will get people killed and sometimes kill them myself.  And they are not all robots.  The only god I’m aware of frowns upon that shit.”

“So, you think that there are actions that make you less deserving of love?”

“Yes!  No!”  She kicked a rock “I don’t know!  You know, Pez, I am thoroughly uncomfortable talking so explicitly about this stuff.  Not to mention that I’m not at all convinced that you are not completely nuts.”

“Nuts?  Nuts!?  Of the residents of this conversation, there is exactly one who travels lightyears across space, bypassing the wonders of the spirit and the physical while armed and ready to murder people and destroy walking trashcans.  I tell you that I love you, without expectations, because that is what I do and how I feel and instead of that being warm and reassuring it gives you the willies and makes you barf up your every shortcoming and doubt.”

“Well, what do you want from me?”

“Nothing!  That’s the point!  I want you to be happy!  This murdering thing clearly isn’t doing it for you, now is it?  So stop.  And beating yourself up for what you’ve been told you must do to keep people you might one day love, because no one in their right mind goes out and kills strangers for no reason.  I’ve looked into your soul.  You aren’t the type.  Every one of those people haunts you.  You are … human for lack of a better word in your language.”  Pez trailed off with a mumbled, “Little ethnocentricity in that language choice, by the way.”

“Look, I’m sorry for not immediately buying your delusion.  I… I just… proof would help me.”

“But proof destroys the divinity of the divine.  Turns it into a tow truck.” Pez smiled. “I’m sorry, I’m not doing parlor tricks.  I do not want this to get in the way of our friendship, for I do believe you are my friend, Mixie.” Pez smiled and Mixie found herself smiling back.  “And the nice thing about my divinity is that I do not need you to believe me for me to continue to be” Pez posed with a flourish of the hand, “divine.”

Mixie snorted.  “Quite!  And Pez, you… you are my friend, as much as these few days at any rate… I just don’t know… And maybe, if you’ve got this delusion from some kind of trauma, I can maybe get you help.”

Pez sighed.  “Is it so bad a delusion?  I mean, if I’m truly mad and delusional, would this particular delusion be all that bad?  For me?  For you?  Would believing it really cause you any great harm?”

They sat in silence for a while.  Mixie drank from the canteen while Pez rifled through the backpack and brought out some toasted gecko and some roots cut into long sticks.

“That lunch?”

Pez smiled up.  “A picnic!”

“More gecko? I’d think with all your godness that you’d be a vegan.”

“I am not wasteful, nor do I delight in the killing, but food is important to you.  These beings are hearty and easy to trap.  And the greens of the roots here make a decent rub with the ever so plentiful salt.”

The two ate in silence for a while with Mixie taking heavy swigs from the canteen.

Finally, she asked, “So, what happened to them? Your people?

“Oh, a mix of things. Many of them fled this world. Too few… And not enough who would accept the old teachings enough to … let me go with them. I let them go with the love of a mother for her wayward child.” Pez sniffled, then added, “That’s one of my many aspects, you understand.”

“Of course,” Mixie smiled. “But I was more interested in why this world is so… dead. It’s got the ability to sustain life, but it just doesn’t.  Not the way it should.  It’s fucked up how much salt is everywhere.  You would think it would … I don’t know… migrate with rain or something?”

Pez packed up the rations and dusted one hand on the other. “Ah. Well. That’s both a simple and a complex story that’s best shown, not told. You said the ship was mobile, at least a little, any chance we can take it somewhere?”

“Actually yeah. I can anti-grav the thing and just throw the computer inside.  Won’t go much faster than walking, but… I don’t see much of a point. Rebuilding the rocket from scratch will take forever…”

“Well, I’m sure I could help you pass the time. I am the god of love after all. Billions of creatures have coupled in my name.”

A laugh erupted out of Mixie.  “That’s your pick-up line?” Pez continued to smile, which should have been unnerving, but it wasn’t.  “Yeah, and don’t think I don’t appreciate the offer, but … Pez? Are you male or female? I haven’t figured it out yet.”

Slinging the backpack over a shoulder, Pez said, “You humans are so cute! All ‘detail oriented.’ But suit yourself, the offer still stands to lie with a God. But come… Not all things on this planet are ruin.”

[Author’s note: Hi.  Trying to get this out before NaNoWriMo hits next week.  Please like if you care to spread the word of the site and my work (I could use it).  And feel free to look around.

Come November 1, I’ll be posting my daily NaNoWriMo output under the “Minions of the Orange Overlord” page.  With any luck it won’t be a total dumpster fire but I’ve probably only got about 5K worth of story in my head for it.  Luckily, those parts are the beginning, the middle, and the end, so I got that.

Hope you like the story so far.  It’s not that much longer but I’m doing a fair bit of editing, as with everything these days.

Stay Weird

-SC]

All That Remains – Part 4

Morning broke as a red haze above the planet. Mixie watched the local star split the horizon and light the ever-present dust clouds.  Her quick calculation told her that days here would be longer than Earth standard, but not so much as to completely goof up her sense of time.  Morning was still morning and noon was still fast approaching.  They burned this crimson daylight at their peril.  Night on this planet rivaled space for darkness.

As she scanned the motley landscape for any sign of threats or pitfalls, Pez plodded past her carrying a parasol. Despite herself, Mixie grinned at her companion. “You know, Pez, you really didn’t need to come out with me. This could be dangerous.”

“Well, I couldn’t let you roam out here by yourself!  I’m both touched by your concern and unconcerned about my wellbeing. And even if I was, I wouldn’t be. … Concerned that is. Sorry if that’s a bit of a tangle.” Pez waved and stared into the distance.

“No, I get it. And that is…”

“Because I am the selfless embodiment of love.”

Mixie pointed at Pez.  “Yeah, gotcha. That’s how you roll. Ship should be over that way, I think.”

“Yes, good.  Dead reckoning and all that.”  Pez looked over at Mixie as they walked side by side.  “You know, there is the not insignificant matter of your not giving yourself adequate time to heal from your injuries.  I can’t believe you didn’t tell me right away how hurt you were.”

Mixie shrugged.  “Didn’t really know until I took off the suit.  Got hit in the thigh and the hip.  Didn’t really want you gawking.”

“How…“ Pez shook with the effort of finding the word. “…Puritanical!  Really!  And here I thought you were this practical soldier and all and you couldn’t let someone help you with your wounds without being all shy.  Be glad that silliness didn’t kill you.  There are still infectious organisms on this planet that I highly doubt you’ve had your shots for.”

Rolling her eyes, Mixie said, “Yes mother.”

“I am not your mother.” Pez smirked.  “If I were, you’d still be convalescing not hopping about the dunes after only a few days.”

“Yeah but… I thought you said that the geckos were a top predator here.”

“Predator yes, but a rockslide or a cave-in or a bad storm will make you just as dead.”

Mixie pressed her side.  “I’m fine.  I’m as mobile as I ever am, even if I’m not happy about it.”

They pressed on in silence, passing the edge of the plains and the strange rock columns.  The frozen bodies of the robos could be seen already being steadily eroded and covered by the sticky red dust and the corrosive white sand.  Past the pillars lay the shallow canyons and broken landscape in which she took refuge immediately following the crash.  Compared to that time of hiding from cover to cover, they made excellent time.

They came to a box at the end of one of the canyons and decided to climb up the dozen-odd meters to higher ground.  Mixie learned two things upon standing on this strange plateau.  One is that it was noon.  The other was that she was not the only thing the Robos had troubled on this planet.

“Well, there she is. Fuck!” She dropped her binoculars. “I sorta figured the robos would mess with the old girl, but this…”

“Is not entirely space-worthy,” Pez finished for her.  The ship was still a good way off but it was obviously partially disassembled.

Mixie shook her head.  “To say the least.  Fucking Flange!”

For a moment the two just stood, surveying the damage from afar, and then Pez used the folded parasol as a cane and precariously started across the precarious landscape to the ship.

“Come on, bitching will not help. You may as well see exactly how bad it is.”

“Is that some sort of love thing?”

Pez smiled up at her as she continued to pout.  “I believe you’d call it tough love, but not really. I just understand that if you didn’t work on the ship you’d be simply miserable company. Intolerable!”

All That Remains – Part 5

[Author’s note: I had a “great idea” for a piece that went before this one that, upon reflection, sucked with the power of a supermassive black hole.  Sorry it broke the string of posts for the people following this in real time.

Please like or follow to help grow the site if you enjoyed this.  It helps get the attention of the robots out there.  Nice robots, not Robos.  Also, check out the other things I’ve offered up on the site.  I definitely do weird fiction, but I try to hit diverse topics.

And most of all, Stay Weird

-SC]

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]

All That Remains – Part 3

Through the curtain and down a hall, a much brighter and utilitarian room opened up.  In contrast to the high ceilings and echo of the front room, this room had human dimensions.  More important, in the center of the room held a large table adorned with big dishes of different foods and pitchers of drink.  Mixie dug into it with abandon.

“I take it the food is to your liking?” Pez said with a smile and just a hint of revulsion.

“Yeah!”  Mixie said through a mouth full of something starchy.  “This is great! A real lifesaver. I’ve been going on rations for a while. It’s…”

“A miracle?”

“I was going to say wonderful, but I guess it’s that too.”

Pez sauntered around the kitchen.  “I am so glad you like it. I get so very few opportunities to entertain, you understand.”

Mixie cast a wary eye while continuing to eat.  “I don’t want to sound ungrateful or nothing, but, what are you doing here?”

“I’m feeding the hungry.”  The tall man made a display of looking off into the distance.  “I believe it’s called a form of charity where you come from.”

“No, I mean, you’re out here in the middle of nowhere with enough power to take out a robo pursuit pack. And let me tell you, we could really use what you’ve got.”

“Yes. Yes, you could.”

“So, what gives?”

“Why I do. I give without the expectation of repayment. It’s one of the things I do.”

“No, I mean, why are you here with enough firepower to save my behind?”

“I’m…” Pez started to say with a grand air and then stopped.  He eyed the eating woman and sat down on an adjacent stool.  “Mixie, you are not likely to believe me.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. For you would like the truth, but it runs counter to your beliefs.”

Mixie frowned.  “I’ve only been here an hour and you think you know what I’d believe?  I believe what I can see and I saw you, or something you did, save me.  Why do you think I wouldn’t believe you?”

“Because I know your heart, Mixie.”  He stood up and struck a grand and dramatic pose. “You see, I am the god of love.”

The last word hung in the air and dropped into silence as Pez retained an exagerated pose.  Inspite of herself, Mixie started to giggle.  When he broke his pose by glancing sideways at her the tension of the past days broke out in full out laughter.

“Ah! Levity!” He became once again friendly and happy. “I Adore levity! Yes, you’ve found an incongruity and as such you laugh. I’m most pleased!”

“And mad as a hatter.  You? You’re the god of love?”

“Well,” Pez became defensive. “A god of love, yes. More specifically the god of love to the people of this world.”

Mixie looked around.  “But Pez, this world… It’s a rock. No one lives here.  I did scans before I lande… Ok, so I crashed, really. And I was under fire, but … I’ve been here a couple of days and all I’ve run into are little gecko-looking things.”

“Yes. So, you can see why I haven’t had much company lately, and I do so enjoy entertaining.”

“You’re mad.” she said, still chuckling. “But fine. Keep your secrets.”

“I assure you that I have no secrets, only mysteries.”

“Oh, yeah, of course, because …” She waved a fork in the air.  “yeah.”

Pez continued to be a gracious host, but became short and miffed.  “I told you you would not believe me. Regardless, I am who I am and you are welcome to stay and heal. I grant you the sanctuary of my altar.”

“Uh, yeah. Thanks.” Mixie scraped a fork across her plate, but noticed the sudden chill in the room.  “Hey.  It’s.  I didn’t mean to be … It just … I’m sorry.  Your pronouncement just hit me funny.  I didn’t mean to laugh.”  She looked up.  “That is, I didn’t mean to laugh at you.  That was wrong.”

Pez started to clean the empty dishes and take them over to a sink set into the stone of the wall. “Apology accepted,” came from the turned back in a way that meant that it wasn’t, at least not fully.

After a few moments of awkward silence Mixie tried again. “Hey, listen. I am going to need to get to my rocket so I can at least try to get out of here. Not that you don’t have a very nice… altar, but there is a war on out there in the galaxy.”

“I’m aware of your wars.” Pez said coldly, still cleaning the dishes.

“Really?  This place just seems… remote.  Do you have some kind of hyperspace uplink or something?”

“I have no need for your technology so I do not possess it.”

“Yet you have stores, can lay out this kind of spread.  How can you do that without technology?”

“In the face of love, all things are known. Plus, I’m a God remember? It does come with a few… perks.”

Mixie shrugged.  “Whatever you say. You don’t happen to have a perk that will just grab my space ship and drag it here, do you?”

“I’m afraid I’m a bit weak at the moment. After centuries with nothing but my pets, it’s been quite the busy morning. Exhilarating!”

“I’m glad I could get you warmed up… Look, Pez, that thing you used to make the robos self-destruct, that’s a damned handy thing. Can you at least consider telling me how it works?”

“You are unconvinced of the reality of my being. However, I am pleased that you do not find me to be a threat to you, because I am not. You amuse me. But you will find that I am not good with your technology nor am I a fitting replacement for it. Love is not a tow truck.”

“Shame. I’d love a tow truck right about now.”

“Ah, more levity!  That one I get!” A smile stretched across Pez’s face and for the first time, Mixie had the presence of mind to examine it.  Pretty, with eyes that were a little sunk and a nose slightly too big, but not so much that it made the face unfriendly.  If anything, the imperfections made the whole more relatable and endearing.  In the face of that draw, Mixie became more curious.

“So, you know of the war going on, yet remain here?  In a place not exactly rich in resources?  You must trade.  Who are you allied with?  The Alien Federation?  The Floon Empire?  The Bakag Holding?  You aren’t allied with the Terran Colonies or else you’d have been marked on my navigation map and you clearly aren’t with the Robo Central Collective.”

“I am with them all.  And none.  Well, all except for maybe the purely synthetic ones. Those are as rocks to me.” Pez waved a hand.  “You are curious, cautious, likely paranoid and distrustful.  Fortune placed you within my influence and you are rightly wary of fortune.  I will not judge as that is not in my nature.   But I have no place in your war and will take no sides, even yours.”

“But the Robos…”

“… have no love and no life. I will not betray you but I do beg you not to bring your conflict to my world.  Now, as I mentioned, it’s been a long day.  I will leave you now. You will find quarters including a bath through that door. My chambers are through that door. I would be pleased if you would join me, for levity is not the only thing that gladdens my heart. You are very lovely, Mixie. I would like you to lie with me.”

“Um. thanks? I’m flattered and all but … I think I’ll just … turn in, if that’s OK.”

“Of course. The invite is open and there is no obligation. Overcome your caution and suspicion.  Love is patient and I have nothing but time.”

All That Remains – Part 4

All That Remains – Part 2

It was too good to be true.  Whatever it was knocked all of the robos totally dead, frozen in mid step.  After a moments rest, a few minutes from the first aid kit in her flight suit cargo pocket, she was up again and able to limp through some rudimentary recon.

Hope fled with the realization that she had no water, no map, no food and was injured.  No one knew where she was and she had set out in such a panic from the crash of the ship into the dust storm, neither did she.

“Time to pick a direction,” She said, just to hear something besides the wind.  Regarding the direction where the energy wave originated, she pointed and said, “Might as well be that way.”

 

The cliff was a surprise.  It rose across the desert like a wall and extended as far as the eye could see through the haze in both directions.  The door was an even bigger surprise.  It was high, wide and massive, made of stone and pitted with age.  When she touched it, it swayed effortlessly, but betraying its mass.  With one last look at the cliff face, impossible to climb, and the certain dry death of the desert, she readied her blaster and stepped into the darkness beyond the door.

“Hello?”  She felt stupid.  Nothing but trouble in here, but maybe there was water.

To keep the dust out, she turned and pushed the massive door shut again.

“Ah, you are house trained. Good!” a flippant voice said from the dark.

Mixie fired her blaster near but not at the voice and the report echoed off unseen walls.

The voice was unconcerned.  “But not so well mannered as to refrain from threatening your host. Ah well, Kids these days. So impetuous!”

“I’m…” Mixie caught herself.  She wasn’t sorry.  She had followed her training.  “Who are you? You don’t have the Robo voice.”

“Then I clearly am not a… what did you call them? ’Robos?’ Yes, definitely not one of those.”

Mixie hardened.  “Well then who are you?”

Soft footfalls padded in the dark.  Mixies eyes were adjusting and she could barely make out the room, a large rectangular hall made of stone.

“You see,” the voice instructed, “when one is caught breaking into a house, it is usually customary to make introductions, especially when the owner has had the grace to save you from certain unpleasantries at the hands of your ‘Robos.’

Her head swam but she kept her resolve.  “You did that?  Um… I’m Mixie. Now who are you?”  She stuck her blaster out for emphasis.

The room lightened slowly and a thin person trailing a robe stepped into better light.  “Hello Mixie,” the being said with a dramatic, unperturbed flair.  “I…  am Pez.”  The figure, draped in sheer robes and stuck in an exaggerated pose as the name echoed around the hall.

The echo died as Mixie continued to point her gun.  All at once the pose broke into an exasperated flap. “Well? Are you going to shoot? It seems a rather a curious way to say, ‘thank you for saving my life back there, with the ‘about to suicide’ and loss of limbs and all’ … But I suppose some cultures are just like that.”  The being crossed the room to a fountain and dipped a cup in, mumbling, “Seems rather rude to me, really…” The figure approached on soft feet and held out the cup.  “…or is it just that you’ve been running for so long that you no longer recognize kindness in strangers?”

Mixie considered it, then quickly lowered her weapon and slid it into her hip holster.

“Ah that’s better.  Isn’t that better?”  The being handed her the cup and she took it.

The room seemed to be much lighter now, though the corners were still lost in shadow.  The figure turned a door that had been lost in the shadows. She contemplated her hosts exposed back. “Mr. Pez…”

“Just Pez, if you please.”

“Fine, Pez.”  Her feet followed. “What are you doing here?”

The figure stopped with a hand on the doorway and half turned.  “Why, this is my home.  I putter about. What do YOU do at your home, young lady? And since it’s almost mid-day, I’m making lunch. Come,” Pez’s eyes wandered up and down Mixie. “You look like you could use some.”

All That Remains – Part 3

[Note: Thanks for reading.  Likes and follows are helpful for getting traffic flowing to the site again if you find the story amusing.  I’ll be back to my usual stories as well pretty soon.

Till then, Stay Weird

-SC]

All That Remains – Part 1

A lifeless wind pushed across an unforgiving planet.  Red iron desert and alkaline salts gave the wind grit, bite, and angry color, a color that reflexively spoke to the core of any sentient life form.  It said, you are not welcome here.

Mixie’s boots crunched over the gravel as she ran, blaster in one hand, useless infopod in the other.  She was glad for the stinging dust and its angry color but now that the wind was dying, the dust settled.  It no longer got in her eyes, but she would have cried a river of tears if it would have kept them from flying.

“Halt!” The robotic voice commanded from behind.

Hundreds of robotic soldiers emerged from the same dust storm and kept pace with the fleeing woman in her white flight suit.   With a clear target, the robots began shooting.

“Argh! Dammit!”  One blot grazed Mixie’s leg, slowing her progress as bolts flew everywhere.  The robots didn’t need good aim.  They had numbers.

“Mixie,” The voice said.  Mixie could hear the whir of it’s jet pack gaining elevation. “You are found to be guilty of espionage against the Flange. Your continued evasion proves your guilt.”

With a huff, Mixie twisted, ignoring the pain in her thigh and shot.  The graceless robot sputtered and crashed back to the ground, where the countless others walked over or around it.  Her glance back showed that very few were becoming airborne.  Not a good sign.  They wouldn’t waste energy flying if they had already calculated her capture as inevitable.  Another of the robots continued to speak.

“Destroying one of our rank will not save you. We will not tire. There are scores of us. We have your accomplices. We have your ship. We Have your data.  Soon all will be broadcast back to the Center.”

“Well then you don’t really need me, do you?”  She said between ragged breaths.  She was surprised when it answered.

“Need is irrelevant.  We have been mandated by The Center to retrieve your torso and head alive. Extraneous parts are to be left at the site of capture.”

“Great,” She said, looking across the plain.  In the distance, what looked like a forest of tall columns sprouted from the ground.  She sprinted to it as fast as she could limp.  It was good enough and she relished the feel of rocks under her boots.

From behind her, she heard the sound of the robots activating their hover units.  Maybe there was hope.  Acting on instinct, she dashed left through the odd pillars, hoping to throw off her pursuers.  A few fleeting moments gave her the impression that it might work, until a robot clumsily slid into her path.

She shot the robot full in the chest and turned back to the right.  They would know where she was.  They would all know.

And then the pillars were gone.  She ran out onto a plain every bit as flat as the one she had just left.  No time to think.  Run.

A massive bolt struck her and sent her tumbling to the ground. “Ah!” She screamed.  “No! no. Not … Not FAIR!” She considered her blaster, considered the taste of the barrel.  She was looking down that barrel when the sound of a hovering robot became louder and crunched down near her.

Looking up, the expressionless camera pods focused on her.  “You…”

She shot the robot dead center and it fell away from her.  As the rest of the robots crunched their way through the maze of pillars, Mixie tried to crawl away over the endless plain of sand. The robo she’d shot could no longer move, but it continued to talk. “Damage to one unit will not prevent your capture, Mixie.  We have been told that in times like this, you humans usually choose to genuflect to your deity.  You should do so now before you are disassembled.”

The shot tore through the crippled robot, obliterating it.  Mixie looked down the sight of the energy weapon and cursed herself for wasting time.  Flipping back over to her knees, she continued her painful crawl.  As the loping crunches grew louder, she knew she would know the taste of that barrel.

A wave of energy unexpectedly raced across the desert plain in front of her.  It looked like death, but at least a more tempting and complete death than a blaster bolt.  Mixie continued to crawl.  It washed over her like a blanket of static, loud and impressive.  Once it was gone, all the dust surrounding her stuck to her like a magnet and her wounds screamed from the sand and grit.

She clenched her teeth, but continued to crawl, and crawl, and crawl. She listened for the sound of robos crunching or flying that would be the signal to have a final meal of blaster bolt sandwich.  She listened, but nothing came.  Looking over her shoulder, she saw that her crawl had taken her only meters from the pillars, but out in the open.  Nothing came.  It was quiet, just her and the angry colored sand.

All That Remains – Part 2

[Note: This is a piece that’s not terribly long, but I’m putting it out in parts just to get back into the swing of writing.  August hasn’t been a terribly kind month and this is an attempt to break the logjam.

I’ll be back on The Strange and other projects soon. But until then, enjoy my emulation, update, and tribute to 1950’s sci-fi rendered in Liquid Wax.

Stay Weird

-SC]

The Strange – Episode 28 – A lot to Learn

“Central!”

Central jumped as she called out his name. It had been some time since their morning training and he clearly thought she had slipped out. The sudden realization that she never left put metal into his spine and rang him like a tuning fork.

“Yes! Um yes Bee. Central, go ahead.”

The wicked smile on Bee’s face was almost audible in the silent dark of the central monitoring station. “When was the last contact with Mr. Aye’s unit?”

“I…I don’t know, Ma’am.”

“You don’t know?”

The temperature of the room dropped a few degrees and it made Central stutter. “I…I’m just handling our routine security. I thought you were handling the … Uh … intelligence gathering.”

“And your unit does not report in?”

“Well he’s supposed to, but he hasn’t. I… Uh… Please don’t hurt me, but I thought he was reporting to you, like we loaned him to your team and you were controlling him. We don’t play offense here, just defense. I have to stay out of that stuff in order to work in the office.”

“So, you don’t actually know what we do here?”

“Well… No. I route phone calls, I watch monitors for unauthorized people and route security. Those guys get their marching orders from other people. I mean, I know this stuff is shady, and quite frankly, you people scare the shit out of me, but I don’t actually know what you are doing.”

Her voice softened. “Well then I apologize. So, no contact from your man Carl?”

“No. We do log these things and there’s nothing.”

Ms. Bee pulled her lips in, and the lines in her face deepened in the shadow of the room. “If you get any contact, call me. I will be available. Please, keep up your surveillance. Remember our lesson and reinforce it with the others in your group. We will be visited with hostile intent.”

“How do you know?”

Ms. Bee let her smile reflect the glare of the monitors. “I don’t, but I’d rather be wrong than in jail … or dead.”

 

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

 

Mr. Aye came back to the world in the solar powered broiler of the Buick’s back seat. His face was one big bruise, his eyes were blood red and when he blew out, purple blood came out in little droplets. The drug store parking lot gave no cover from the heat and glare, even here around in the back, near the dumpsters. Mr. Aye didn’t seem to notice. Now that he was conscious, he thought about his prey.

“Goldberg.” He said the name while crawling out of the back of the car, disturbing a stray dogs inspection of the dumpster. “Dude lives like a pig. Juvenile, decadent pig. Makes me sick.”

He found his footing on asphalt so hot it softened the plastic of his shoe soles and cooked the blood that dropped from his face. A spot of shade on a narrow strip of grass that separated his parking lot from it’s neighbor called to him He wandered over. Again, the stray dog startled and growled protectively in front of his dumpster.

“Fuck you, dog.” Mr. Aye sat heavily, every bruise and ache complaining. “Lucky to be here. That bastard had a punch.” He spat again, noticing the absence of blood. “Heh. Lucky. Take that Mr. Goldberg. You aren’t the only one with luck. Shit, I survived the fucking Gulf War… twice, Contras, and countless wars with no names. And you, you fuck, you wind up with a hot girlfriend and more money than God for doing what? Sitting here, getting high and teaching kids to count?”

Thick hands rubbed over the purple and yellow bruise that was Mr. Aye’s face. He winced at the pain, but it focused his thoughts. Raw hate sparked in his eyes. “I’m going to get you, mother fucker. It’s my mission and I’m going to enjoy ending you.”

A sudden barking erupted from the dog, directed at Mr. Aye. The hired gun stayed perfectly still, eyes staring into the distance. The agitation in the dog’s bark increased. It repeatedly pounced forward and retreated, trying to scare Mr. Aye. Still the man did not budge

The dog quickly looked around, then appeared to change tactics. It slinked closer to Mr. Aye, growling all the while. It stayed beyond an arm’s reach of the man and crouched low. The growl exposed every one of the dog’s teeth all the way to its gums.

Mr. Aye’s eyes flicked over to the dog.

The dog yelped.

 

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

 

Carl strolled across the parking lot carrying a bag of first aid supplies and two sodas. Getting into the driver’s seat he said, “Here’s your fucking cola. Bandage that face before you go scaring children.”

From the passenger’s seat, Mr. Aye grunted. He swept up the soda in one meaty hand while the other grabbed at the medical supplies.

“You’re welcome, jackass”

“We’re going north, around to the other side of the campus. We’ll cut him off up there.”

“So, you called in and got some intel or something?”

“Uh…” He paused. “Yeah. Something like that.”

“Good. I’m glad we finally called in. Mr. Loveless gets particular about that kind of shit. So, north side. That’s pretty far pretty fast. You sure?

“Just do what I tell you. I’ve got a nose for things like this.”

They exited the parking lot as a smear of red came from behind the dumpster and seeped into the small strip of grass.

 

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

 

The hot afternoon sun, the post-lunch food coma, and the eventual crash from that morning’s bong hits made the world seem burnt and all too real to Dan. The canopy of green played with the sunlight and it streamed down from the branches in pollen-filled beams along with the Spanish moss.

As he walked with Molly, the aging pervert considered the freshman’s short, round body. While he’d never been terribly picky and actually liked a little heft on his women, Molly had the look of someone who had given up on fitness for good. Dan didn’t care. Fat, crazy, needy. These weren’t problems. Problems were for people who did relationships. Goldberg had problems, Dan had opportunities. And Molly? She was female and that meant he was waiting for an opening.

“I could use a coffee. You know if we finished off the coffee this morning?” The sound of the young woman’s voice was both strangely familiar and somewhat out of place to Dan’s ears. She hadn’t said much this morning, not much that made sense anyway, and somehow this straight forward, practical question was odd.

His response was cool yet friendly, betraying little of his thoughts. “If not, I can direct you to the Quick mart. I’ve been up since last night, so no coffee for me. More bong hits, maybe, but no coffee.”

“Oh yeah, I forgot. You are nocturnal. Isn’t that a little weird?”

Dan shrugged. “Nah. You find work or the work finds you. I’ve worked hard to get a life where I don’t have to work so much. Weird shifts are a part of it. Pays well.”

They rounded the corner to the street where Dan shared the apartment with Goldberg. It was the only quiet side street that had been paved recently, so there were a bunch of kids doing skateboard tricks on homemade ramps.

“But what about girls?” She searched for his eyes as they walked. “Don’t they, like, have a problem with it?”

He smiled and looked out for errant skateboarders. “I suppose the right girl won’t mind so much.” The clacking skateboards of a half-dozen young daredevils swirled around them as they approached the apartment. Shuffling up the dusty driveway, they slid through the open lower door.

Climbing the stairway, Molly said, “Well, I don’t mind it. Especially on a hot day, it makes all the sense in the world to sleep past this heat.” She got to the door to the apartment and pushed it open without a second thought.

“Well, you know… If you wanted to join me…”

She turned around with a shocked look on her face. Dan tried to keep his careful mask of nonchalance in place, wondering if he’d just made a huge mistake.

“I… I never thought you’d ask,” she said with a blush.

“Well, I didn’t want to rush it,” he replied with a grin and an internal sigh of relief.

Halfway hiding behind the door, she made flirty eyes at Dan. “So, can I make you a bong hit, Dan? Will you be able to stay… up… for me?”

He grinned. “Never a problem.”

Molly walked into the cluttered apartment with Dan now nakedly ogling the way her behind wobbled in her shorts. “Uh, Dan?”

“Yeah.”

“I think the cats got into your stash.”

His anticipation broken, he finally noticed that the coffee table was a total mess, the rolling tray upended and weed spilled out on to the floor.

“Crap! Look at this mess. Billie!” Dan went off looking for his cat.

He came out of the bedrooms with a blurry eyed white cat in his arms. Back at the coffee table, he picked up what could be salvaged. “At least they didn’t knock over the bong. Dang, they ate a lot of this. They are going to be acting weird all day.”

“Why? What do they do?” Molly asked.

“Junior turns into the ‘great gray hunter’ and Billie mostly just sleeps or chases stuff. They are hyper-annoying, though, so they get to play outside today. Besides, I think we want to be alone, don’t you?” He flashed a leering grin then turned and called into the house. “Junior!”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Delgado drifted through the confused recesses of his own mind as it coped with the new doors opened and rooms created by the silver. In reality, he was in a toy car in the hot sun, but that world was lost to him now.

Thoughts drifted to dreams and dreams became crazy and jumbled, but surprisingly lucid. Delgado had not been much of a lucid dreamer. This nap though, this was something different and he knew it.

He began high above the desert, flying backwards, watching the sun set in the east. He knew it was east because a huge compass lay just beneath him, attached to his sternum with the north pointing off his left hand.

Bright light entered his eyes and then washed down to the color of sand. As the brightness faded further, the sand separated into a naked blue sky above and sand below. The horizon slowly sharpened and in the sand he could see acres of crops being planted along neat rows. The novel channeling of the far off river turning the silt to mud. Further focus found people in the fields wrapped in simple loin cloths, their bronze skin and dark hair marking their African heritage.

Delgado became momentarily disoriented as his view of the scene shifted suddenly. He realized that he was looking through someone’s eyes and that the viewer had been looking out a large, open window. Now the person whose eyes he was gazing through walked through the room. A high, thatched roof made of palm fronds kept the sun off of the dozen or so people examining papyrus documents and waiting for an audience with the man in the gold chair at the other end of the room.

“Nur!” a man called out, running forwards. Though Delagdo couldn’t understand the words, the meanings were plain as anything he’d ever heard in English or Spanish.

“Minister Makek. To what do I owe the honor? “

“Nur, I was wondering.”

“And what is it that I might help you with?“

“Well, it’s your brother. I was wondering if you might talk to him again.”

The man named Nur sighed. “Defense Minister, you have me in a bind. You know that my family is forever and always at the ready to serve the Pharaoh.  We are loyal people.”

“Yes, we understand. But the Assyrians from the East … Nur, they are a threat to us all!”

“I am aware, which makes my bind all the more painful to me. Pray thee, walk with me to my brother.”

The Minister stiffened. “I… I’m not…”

“Come now, Minister. We’ve talked of this before. My brother is a man and a simple man at that. I myself witnessed his birth. I myself had to shelter the boy, lest he fall to rogues. Retain a calm tongue and you’ve nothing to fear from my brother.”

“But if I’m to convince him to help us defeat the Assyrians once and for all, I must, I’m afraid, give evidence of the righteousness of our cause. These people are animals!”

“Then I’m afraid we reach, once again, my bindings. My brother is both simple in mind and quality and is, by his nature, very gentile. The thought of anyone suffering, even a foe – for he does not distinguish, upsets him greatly. You would have him aid our Pharaoh by bringing him to war, but his is the mind of a child. As such, he is much more attuned to playing with blocks.”

The pair crossed the room and swept aside palm frond doors and sheets of linen that separated the main room from the patio outside. The strangeness of the scene presented to Delgado in his dream made him question its truth. There on a pillow of white sat a young and frail boy with almost pitch black skin. He drank in the hot sun. Around him flatten disks of gold made crude mirrors that reflected even more sun onto him. If anything the blackness of his skin became even blacker for the light as it let no reflection escape.

As for the boy himself, his smile was docile and wistful. The glare around him was intense but the boy did not seem to notice or care. Instead, he looked off into the distance. There, Delgado could see both a quarry and a building site.   The site held the bottom third of a massive stone pyramid. As he watched, a gigantic stone rose up from the quarry and made its way over the land resting on a beam of golden light. It slowly rested on top of the incomplete pyramid and the boy stuck out his tongue, manipulating the stone into place. When he was done, he smiled again.

The boy noticed his audience and smiled even brighter. “Triangle and a square. Sun, Moon. The path of heaven in stone.”

“Yes brother, you have learned well of our spirits. You follow the instructions of our Priests and Architects. The gifts they have given you, you continue to repay.” Looking over at the Minister, he said, “To build is a calling, brother. Be safe with the men and give to the gods.”

The Minister’s eyes fell even as Nur smiled.

The boy turned back to the quarry where the quarry master had just raised a white and a red flag up, waving them. “Ah! Another block.” The boy’s skin seemed to suck the light in from the sunshine and the mirror’s refection. He smiled and stared again into the distance. The huge stone block rose from its place in the quarry and he said, “I like blocks.”

Nur turned to the Minister, who shied away from the boy. “Minister, we would like to help but it appears that all we can do is free up the men and resources while still giving our Pharaoh a just and fitting final home, a gateway from this world. My brother, though miraculous, is no weapon of war.”

The Minister stood straighter. “I can see that now.   Not all power is force. But we must remain vigilant. You say this boy is no god, I disagree. Let us pray that should the Assyrians find one of their number with similar qualities that they should be so peaceful.”

As the Minister turned from Delgado, looking through Nur’s eyes the scene washed out into the glare of the sun coming through the passenger side window of the micro compact car. Delgado shook his head, his real head, and tried to straighten out.

“Good morning sunshine,” Belatran said. “Or really, good evening.”

“What time?” Delgado said, but realized that he already knew. The silver had given him an internal clock. “Three thirty?”

“Yeah.”

The solid marine tried to untwist himself from his sleeping position. “What are we doing?”

“I’m asking questions, talking to people, getting the lay of the land.   You’ve been taking a nap.”

“Oh shit! Sorry.”

“Nope. No need. You are getting your training in.   History.   Let me guess, Nur?”

“Uh… yeah.   Did that…”

“Yep. Nowhere near the earliest, but interesting.”

“What happened to him… the kid”

“Pretty sure he eventually died.”

“Well, yeah, but… nobody bothered to note this, that he built the pyramids?”

“To be fair, he only helped with a few. The rest was blood and sweat. Look, recorded history gets weird around powers. The more power at play, the less reliable things get. People can’t handle the idea of powers so it all becomes folklore, explained away, outright changed and forgotten by the same forces that produce the strangers in the first place.”

“That’s convenient.”

“Yeah, but get used to it. These strange things happen but it’s hardly ever truly random. Too many coincidences. It’s almost like someone is fucking with us just to make it interesting.”

“Ah, now you are just being paranoid.” Delgado once again broke out into a big yawn. “It’s not like someone is watching us or anything.”

“You say that now.” He watched the younger man snuggle back into a nap position despite the heat. “You’ve got a lot more to learn.”

The Strange – Episode 29 – InVision

[Author’s note:  Back again in Houston.  Dad finally got out of the Hospital and though according to all of the doctors he’s not only extremely lucky to be alive but it’s a straight up miracle he doesn’t seem to have any lasting damage, he’s super weak.  And cranky.  Weak and cranky.  Glad to have him though.   So, The Strange hasn’t been a priority.  Sorry.

Thanks to everyone who has voted for the story on top web fiction and helped to spread the word that it’s here.  The likes and the votes and such help other people find the story, so if you could please help me out by keeping those coming I’d really appreciate it.

I hope this episode finds you all well and still enjoying the ride.  I hope to post again soon, but my posting schedule hasn’t been regular for quite some time and I don’t believe that will change soon, maybe not until the next project.  I’m working from a draft and frankly some episodes need more help than others.  Between the recovering Dad, and everything else that seems to be cratering this summer, I’m not sure I can promise that I can do much of any thing with regularity.  However, I am committed to being a weirdo, so you got that.

Stay Weird

SC]