Category Archives: fiction

Memorial GIFset

Kelly stands with Amy in the back corner of the Mourning Customer Service parlor, watching a GIFset of The Bot’s life set to a soundtrack of minor key piano parts and synthesizer strings. She turns around to face her friend and says “I’m still not sure I really believe this is happening.” She folds her arms across her chest and shivers.

“I know what you mean,” Amy says, and wraps her arms around Kelly’s neck, pulling her in to an affectionate hug. Kelly keeps her arms across her chest, and both eyes set on the biopic GIFset. A moment passes. Kelly drops her stiffened shoulders, letting Amy pull herself closer, share in the warmth, and protect them both from the oppressive overhead cooling fans of the over-air-conditioned room.

“I’m so fucking pissed. Still, so fucking pissed,” Kelly says when she finally shrugs Amy away. “I’m sorry if this is rude or whatever, but seriously, what the hell was The Bot computing? What the hell process went through its tinny fucking head that made it do this?”

“I wish I knew,” Amy says. “I wish I knew.” She steps forward and tries to put her arm around Kelly once again, but Kelly squirms away, her body writhing and twisting like the snarl on her face as she avoids the forced affection.

“There’s like five thousand people here and no one ever wants to have a real conversation. It’s all just, ‘woe is me,’ ‘it’s all said.’ Of course it’s fucking sad! Of course it sucks!” Kelly closes her eyes for a moment to collect herself, crushing her fists into tiny rocks at her side. “It’s just, you can say it all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that The Bot was wired wrong, that some stupid fucking algorithm didn’t add up, so it Force-Quit every program and scrapped itself to fix the problem.” She collapses into the dark green loveseat with the red and purple vines stitched into it. She drapes her arm across her forehead as she sinks into the cushions, lets out a sigh, and then the punches the throw pillow beside her with her balled little hands. “And to top it all off, I didn’t even make it into the fucking GIFset. Like I wasn’t even worth a kilobyte in its memory,” she says, and stares ahead and watches the pixelated pictures of The Bot’s life flash by.

Amy sits down on the arm of the couch beside her. She motions towards the screen and says, “I think they just cobbled that together off of what they found on Twiblrspace.” She places her hand on Kelly’s knee.

“And I wasn’t a part of any of that,” Kelly says. “I wasn’t even around enough to make it into The Bot’s public cloud, or its Twiblrspace, or anything. I wasn’t there enough to know that there was something wrong, some virus or some wires crossed or —” Kelly waits until the threat of tears has passed, until Amy breathes a sigh of strength. “Where’s the backup?” she finally says. “The Bot had a cloud. That’s where you said they got the GIFs from. So the data’s still there. Still somewhere, anyway. So where’s The Bot?”

Amy smacks her lips. Her head bobs slightly as she swallows, shuffling her tongue around inside her mouth. She places her hand on top of Kelly’s. She breathes. She stands. She walks away.

Getaway Car

A conscious decision not to take a step forward. Beware, I tell myself. Caution is the only thing I have. Don’t look at him, I tell myself. Everyone gets here, right? Fear is just fear, right?

Go, he says.

He doesn’t know anything, I say under my breath. I want to say it louder, but I’m too scared—another thing I fear. Just a moment ago, I would have, I think, but something’s broken between now and then. Kicked off inside my head. Let me have another second, I tell myself.

Maybe if I just take this moment to breathe.

No, he says.

On Sunday, he told me he was done praying for the rest of his life. People can change just like that, I suppose. Quite the feat if you ask me. Risks are only risks if there’s a reward on the other side, right?

Stop thinking so much, he says, because he knows.

There’s a dent in the car door. Under the hood, it’s full of rust. Why did I ever think escape would be glamorous?

The Origins of Pumpkin Beer

It was nearing sundown on that late autumn evening, and soon the frost would settle in for the long winter months. Mordecai Willington III was tending to the last of his crops, surveying the remaining gourds that littered his field in a tangled mess of pulp and vine, like a spider’s web in orange, brown, and yellow, speckled with flecks of green. It was the end of the harvest season, and though his yield had been high this year, he wasn’t selling as strongly as he had hoped. Soon the gourds would go to waste, buried beneath the snow along the cold Atlantic coast. Without the money he had hoped to make, his family would be forced to ration their goods until the spring.

Mordecai was gathering the final fresh gourds when a blinding white flashed across the field. It was radiant and burned without pain, as if God Himself had come down from above to bless the land. Mordecai was then surprised when a young girl emerged from the glorious haze, wearing boots to the middle of her shins that were covered in the fur of what appeared to be some relative of a sheep. Her long hair seemed an unnatural auburn shade and her clothing was immodest: a form-fitting pair of slacks made of some material he had never seen, and a button-down shirt in tartan tones that clung tightly to her well-supported bosom. She did not appear to be a harlot, though her face was indeed painted, giving her an angelic glow.

“I’m Alyssa,” she said, and when she smiled, her teeth were neither yellow nor jagged, but rather like a child’s in a full grown mouth.

“The Lord knows me as Mordecai Willington III,” he said, and bowed his nod. “Are you a messenger from God? Have you come to tell me how I shall feed my family through this cold, dark winter?”

“I do, but not from God. I come Northeastern University, four-hundred-and-something years in the future. Well, technically I grew up in Jersey but now I’m studying marketing. This is my internship semester.”

Mordecai turned his head and looked curiously at the strange woman. “Your words, they sound like English. I know them, yet I do not understand them. There is something queer about them.”

The girl — Alyssa — rolled her eyes and let out an exasperated. “Ugh, it was one time after volleyball practice. I’m not like a dyke or — you know, forget it, that’s not the point. I’m here to tell you that you need to take those leftover pumpkins, and turn those into beer, so we can get fucked up in the future. Oh, and from now on, you should probably ferment at the start of the harvest, so we can drink them starting in like, August. Got it?”

Mordecai laughed and said, “Others have done the same with their leftover gourds. It tastes retched compared to true ales! But it does indeed get you through the winter. But if we were to use our pumpkin harvest in the summer months, before the crops are ready, it would taste so green, and soiled. And then we would not have the crops to use in the fall!”

“That’s why you just dump a bunch of nutmeg and cinnamon and crap in, and you’ll be fine. And then you just sell that and you’ll make like a million dollars and you won’t even to worry about selling more crops in the future. I’m telling you, I’m marketing major, and I’m doing all kinds of alcohol brand ambassador stuff at  my internship now. I totally know what I’m talking about.”

Mordecai took a step towards her and peered at her with squinted eyes. “Why would I waste such valuable spices? We do make ales from pumpkin at the end of the harvest, but only out of necessity, never for flavor, and certainly not with pride. Why should I listen to you? How do I know that you are not sent here from the Devil?”

“Ugh, why does everyone hate Jersey so much?” the girl replied. She crossed her arms beneath her breasts and said, “Just trust me, okay? Think of me as like, the Ghost of Frat Parties Future. Or something. I don’t know. I never read that book, just the SparkNotes.”

#

The next summer, Mordecai took his entire pumpkin harvest and did precisely as he was told. But no one would barter or pay for his beer, and without any other crops to sell, his family went cold and hungry, and over the course of the winter, his entire family succumbed to the elements. But their sacrifice made for some like, totally sweet parties in the first few weeks of the semester.

Rachel: Ian’s Return

On Thursday morning around ten-thirty, I hear the lock on the front door undoing. My stomach clenches up from my position at the kitchen table, where I am at my laptop doing some insurance paperwork. I literally close my eyes when Ian walks in the house.

The front door closes. I hear the sound of his suitcase roll across the hardwood in the foyer. Stop. His footsteps over to the kitchen table, over to me, and I feel his kiss on the crown of my head.

“Hi, lovely,” he says.

I hear him track into the bedroom, his bag rolling behind him. Then, the shower in our en suite flips on. I don’t open my eyes the entire time.

Ten minutes later, Ian walks through the French doors of the bedroom in a dress shirt and a tie, and he’s looking down at his cuffs, struggling to button them. His hair is wet.

“I’m going to run to the office. It’s still only four in London,” he says. He bends down to tie a shoe, and then comes over to me. He puts both his hands on my shoulders. “Hey. I love you,” he says. Then he grabs his car key off the hook by the door to the garage, and disappears as fast as he came in.

I blink a few times in succession, not sure if what just happened actually happened. I get up from the table and walk into the bedroom, and sure enough, Ian’s jeans and t-shirt are tossed in a pile on the bed. I sit down on the edge of the bed next to them for a second, then get up, walk over to the bureau, pull out my jewelry box, and slip off my wedding rings.

Automourning

At the wake, Walter stands beside the barren case that used to hold the Bot and receive its mourners with a firm handshake. He is mobbed by hundreds of its friends whose names he can’t remember. They look at him with pity in their eyes like he is some pathetic puppy dog and they whisper things like I’m sorry for your loss and it was such a good Bot and the Bot would have loved this and if only it had realized how it important it was to so many people and you should be proud to have built a Bot like that and they flood the room with their sodium liquids shouting why, why, why would it do that, it had so much more to function for, and Walter nods and says yes I understand and they keep walking or they press their crying bodies into his, smearing makeup and moisture on his favorite black jacket and move on to the next awkward greeting.

Sweet Dreams

She pushed the covers down from around her throat and turned to him. “It was a bad dream I couldn’t wake up from,” she said.

“Then go back to sleep,” he said.

Attack of the Were-Chinchilla

“Look at it! It’s so fluffy!” Lucy said. She turned her head to the side as she awaited a response but kept her eyes focused on the furry grey chinchilla in the cage. The animal stood upright on its muscular hind legs, its tiny hands wrapped around the thin metal bars to help it keep its balance. It waved its twitchy nose in the air, as if trying to peer around its own snout to get a better look Lucy. “You gotta see this, John. It’s got like, little T-Rex person hands.”

Lucy peered over her shoulder and saw John standing by the doorway of the pet store, poking at his smartphone. Her head followed the rolling arc of her eyes as she looked back at the poor trapped critter. She sighed and slipped a waggling finger between the bars of the cage. “Hewwo Mistew Mogwai,” she said in that cutesy falsetto that we all reserve for animals and babies. “That’s what you are. You’re a little Mogwai, like in Gremlins. That’s why they can’t get you wet, no.” Her finger brushed along its fine fur coat, revealing starbursts of white hair beneath its dark grey tips. Her voice returned to its normal tone and she said, “Oh my god, you are the softest thing I’ve ever touched.”

The chinchilla let out a sharp, high-pitched bark and snapped at Lucy’s finger. She  gasped and quickly pulled her hand away. The chinchilla yipped again and bit down on the bars. She wondered how such a cute little creature could get so mean. Lucy noticed a small dab on blood on the tip of her finger. She stuck it in her mouth to suck the blood away and she heard John say, “We should really get going. It’s almost rush hour and mall traffic always sucks. Especially when it’s a full moon. That’s when everyone —  ” He stopped in the middle of his sentence, the skin on his face stretching back in disgust. “I hope you washed your hand first. Those things are disgusting. They literally bathe in dirt.” Lucy pulled her finger out of her mouth and hid both her hands behind her waist, as if he wouldn’t notice. “C’mon, let’s get out of here,” he said as he strode towards the door.

#

Evening came and the honey-colored moon grew brighter in the blue-black sky. John had an early shift the next morning, so the two of them had crawled into bed around 9pm. Lucy was surprised at how easily she fell asleep, but by 11:30, she was completely awake again, staring up into the sky as hunger pangs came over her. She went out into the kitchen and tore through the refrigerator but nothing caught her interest. Then she looked on top of the refrigerator. She saw a box of mini Sun-Maid raisin packs. She could feel her eyes grew wider, bright as the moon, as she grabbed one of the little snack packs and tore through the cardboard visage of that red-berretted woman and let the sweet, sun-soaked wrinkles fall across her tongue. But she could only eat two before her heart began to race. The sugar made her fingers tremble and she was overcome with thirst.

Lucy ran over to the kitchen sink and turned the water on, lapping at the faucet, little droplets spraying on the counter. She was lightheaded, woozy, though not quite tired. With three good hops she found herself standing in the living room, suddenly beckoned by the creases in the couch. She curled up beside it, making herself as small as she could, and tried to hide beneath it, but she was still too large. She tucked her head down and pulled herself in tighter. She held herself more tightly across her chest when she noticed delicate clumps of silky fur covering her shoulders and her back. She reveled in the softness as she shrank and shrank and shrank…