Midnight Jolt Run

Caffeine tastes better when the city's asleep

Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Schematics – Part 1

Posted by Fiss on October 15, 2009

satanawesomeThomas Markham had a habit of completing circuits.

When he was nine years old, he fell from his tree-house and became momentarily suspended between two high-voltage wires running from the alley to an electrical transformer.  The jolt had been enough to stop his heart for almost a minute, and his mother’s CPR practice had been the thing that saved him after those terrifying fifty two seconds.  He never told his mom that it was more interesting than it was scary.

In High School he became known as the Mad Scientist.  Undeniably brilliant, (and terrifyingly fearless) he would often tinker with electric motors while they still ran, slap patch cables together with the wires hanging out of his mouth, and had been on the receiving end of no less than three lightning strikes.  None of these accidents, experiments or coincidences were fatal, of course, and despite the grey hairs on his parents and teacher’s heads, he always shrugged the events off as “not that big” or “safe enough”.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted under Short Stories

Posted by Fiss on August 25, 2006

Strike Fiss’ Manifesto

January 2005

The Lost Soul Motel

721 1/2 Middle Street

Nowhere, Montana.

“GIVE ME BACK MY FUCKING PANTS YOU ASSHOLES!”

Not the most dignified thing to say, I suppose. But it’s the best thing I can think to say as they peel away in the convertible and I really, really meant it.

They took my fucking pants.

Still, I suppose it could be worse. There’s a small town in the distance on the highway. Just a splatter of buildings in the middle of nowhere, really. But there are lights, and that means food. The other way down the road doesn’t look nearly as hospitable, actually. Hell, I don’t even know where I am.

Montana is my best guess. We’ve been driving North long enough. Haven’t heard the ocean. Chances are they’ll risk the border and try to get into Alberta. I hope those fuckers get caught. I hope they get strip-searched and cavity searched at the damn border. Thank you, Bin-Laden. Increased immigration security just made me smile.

Walking down the highway without pants gives one time to reflect upon the events that led them to this point. Really, what else is there to do? Beyond a tractor in the distance and this town, I’m alone. First thing’s first. Inventory.

The cop’s wallet and badge are still in my coat pocket. I can feel them as the fabric slaps against my thigh from walking. Honestly, I’m surprised the assholes didn’t take it. Must have forgotten about it. Maybe they were just too damn high to care. Whatever. I got a cop’s badge, wallet, and fifty-nine dollars. That’s fifty dollars more than what I started the week with.

Vegas has a strange power to do these things to people. You can walk out of the desert with nine bucks and fuck over a blackjack table just when nobody’s looking and walk away with twenty grand. It’s what brings people to that shithole. But the shithole giveth and the shithole taketh away. I met Jasmine and Doug while I was spending the money. We got a bit crazy, got some coke, had a nice big fucking threesome and then a cop kicks down the door.

Well, if I didn’t just shit myself when Jasmine plugs him full of holes with her revolver.

Stole the car, been running ever since. Nobody’s chasing. Nobody cares. But we ran. Lone wolves like me do that a lot. It wasn’t a big deal until the two decide that it was better with just the two of them. Locked me in the trunk for a day, then dumped me out here.

Well, hello here. Sorry to meet you.

I go through the back yard of a little trailer house near the outskirts of town. Some laundry is hung up and I find some new pants without any

difficulty. This fucking place seems like a ghost town. Only thing that seems to signal life is the motel vacancy sign. It’s old but looks clean. It’s that or hide under a trailer and risk another fucking cop coming by when someone sees me.

What the hell.

Corner store is open so I walk in and grab some instant burritos. “Hey, buddy.” I ask the guy at the counter. He looks at me like he’d rather not have to speak. “Never mind.”

I pay for the burritos, some smokes and a road map. I pocket a lighter and a bunch of papers. Even if he saw me do it, I doubt he cares.

The heat is really depressing as I get into the street again. Everything is dry and hot here. Time to put the old feet up. The motel has an old granny watching movies on a black and white TV and she points politely to the sign with the prices. 20 bucks later and I’m in my room.

It’s dark, cool, and clean. I suddenly realize how tired being a sneaky bastard makes me.

I’m asleep even before my head hits the pillow.

A trucker guns his engine somewhere as he peels out of the parking lot and I wake up, more than a bit surprised to see the sun isn’t up anymore.

I lock up the room and stroll a few dozen feet out into the cool Montana night with a smoke burning slowly in my mouth. I don’t really like smoking, I suppose. Just habit at this point. Whatever. My hand moves to the bulge in my coat pocket and I find myself entertaining the curiosity to find out the dead cop’s name.

The night is dark and I’m alone with my thoughts for the first time in a long time.

I’m suddenly overcome with the feeling of a righteous pissed-off mood. Shouldn’t have shot him, those bastards. Him. The weight of his badge makes me realize I’ll either go mad or I’ll look at the damn thing. I don’t want the fucking thing haunting me like that. Hell, I feel guilty enough and I didn’t even pull the trigger.

Biting the bullet, I slide it out into my hand. “Officer Gus Provo.” I announce out to the cool, still air around me. “Shit.” The name sounds like my grandpa or something. Gus. Why couldn’t it be ‘Murdock’ or something dramatic deserving of a dramatic death? People named Gus are supposed to be old, adorable security guards, fatherly beat cops, and Maytag repairmen.

I only saw his face for a second of panic. I can barely remember it. I think he had a moustache. Gray and black hair.

Shit.

My foot digs up a small chunk of the freshly tilled field across the road. “Well, officer Provo.” I say to the badge. “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry. If I knew what to do I would have stopped the bitch.” I pause, then drop the badge into the ground and cover it with a kick.

I feel cold as I walk back to my room.

It’s sometime just before morning that I realize I’m dreaming.

I’m at the bar I first dove into once I got to Vegas. A little shit-dive with dirty hardwood tables and a bar-tender who’s finest outfit consisted of a wife-beater sleeveless shirt with so many stains it looked like an aerial map of Tibet.

The smoke hangs heavy in the air around me. Oppressive. The beer in front of me…three of the nine bucks I have left…is already half gone. There is someone oddly familiar sitting next to me.

“It’s worth more than you think.” Came a gruff voice from the cop.

“Pardon?” I ask, looking over at him. His face is hidden by the tyrannical smokescreen choking the room, but I get the impression I’m not supposed to see it now anyway.

“Your apology.” Gus says. “It means a lot. And it’s accepted.”

“So you’re not going to haunt me or some shit?” I ask, taking a sip of the beer. It tastes much better in the dream than it did when I actually had it in my hand.

“Course not.” He laughs. It makes me both happy and sad to hear he was once such a jolly fucker. “No. But I figure we are both in the situation to need each-other.”

I raise my eyebrow and look over at him again. The smoke hides most of his face, but I do see his lower jaw as he raises a beer of his own to his lips. “No offence, man. But you’re dead. Not much more you need now beyond some flowers and a pine box.”

He laughs again, then nods. “‘Suppose you’re right.”

We both sip our beers. The bar-tender refills mine. It’s even sweeter than before.

“Here’s the deal.” The cop says. “I want revenge. Nothing fancy. Either kill them or get them locked away.”

“I’m not killing anyone. And if I never see those two fuckers again in my life I’ll be a happy man.” I say quickly. It’s an honest response. I’ll go to death row for nicking a pack of smokes before I’d kill anyone. Only one life I own, and even then, I’m not sure sometimes. “No deal.”

The cop nods. “You may not want to see them again, but they want to see you.” He pauses deliberately to let the words sink in and suddenly my beer doesn’t taste as sweet. “They’re coming back for you. You’re the only witness. You got their names. You have the evidence linking them to my death.”

“Bullshit.” I say. “They’re off to Canada to get ass-raped by the border police.” He’s not fooled for a moment. I’m scared. I put on a good show, though. At least I think.

“You’ll be awake soon.” He says. “I don’t have much time. But here’s the deal.” Gus says. “I have no more body, boy. You can be my eyes and hands. Call my precinct at least. So long as the fuckers pay for what they did.”

I listen.

“But if they see you here, they’ll kill you on sight. Then we’re both fucked. You kill them, though, and you get the fifty grand they didn’t tell you about in the back seat of that shit convertible they’re driving.”

My beer reflects the surprise of my eyes. They were driving an old convertible, after all.

“Stay in the room. This place is special. Watch your back. If you don’t want to help, you should be able to duck out tonight. But if you’re serious about that apology…I’ll owe you big.”

I nod slowly. “Alright. Say, for the moment, that I’m in.” I turn to see his smile. “How do I get them?”

“Check under the bed.”

I wake up.

I’m really not sure if I want to check under the bed. Breakfast first.

The same apathetic kid is at the convenience store. I pay for a coke. I take a few pre-packaged sandwiches and jerky sticks. He doesn’t care. I almost entertain asking him if he wants something, but he probably just takes what he wants and marks it up as shoplifting anyway.

When I walk out of the store there is a brilliant sky.

Somehow while I was in the store, the entire hemisphere transformed into a rather dull blue sky into a masterpiece of cloud, light and shadow. You never see such amazing skies by the coast. Lived there all my life and the most spectacular thing I’ve seen was a hurricane. Even that was only a few minutes I dared stay out in the rain. This place is beautiful. The damn sky is sculpted for me, and here I am, eating stolen sandwiches and about to be killed.

Why the hell am I here?

I almost wonder if I said it out loud. The sandwiches are alright and the pop works wonder on my nerves, throwing a bit of sugar into me again.

I want to run.

Every time I look down that road, I either see myself going down it, or those two cop-killers driving back down it to finish me off. A fifty-fifty chance, really. Can I make it to somewhere big enough that it’s not worth them looking around in? Would I even have a chance in the middle of nowhere without a car? Or maybe the dream was just a dream and I’m freaking out.

Who’s to say they wouldn’t just drive by this place? They may not even remember where they threw me out. It’s too much to hope for, though, and all I can think of is how beautiful the sky is and how much all this shit doesn’t matter.

Maybe I’ll just let them shoot me down. Maybe I’ll fake it and join back up with them. That wouldn’t sit too well with Gus and I both, but I’d be alive another day. Is that really what I want?

Live another day?

I’m not so sure anymore. The sky looks like someone painted it. When was the last time I even bothered to look up?

I decide to look under the bed. More answers instead of questions that way. If the dream was just my brain playing tricks on me, then I’ll probably find some mothballs or some lint. If I find something useful, then I know at least that much more is real.

Just as I cross the road, I think I see headlights off in the distance. I hurry inside before the car gets close enough to spot me.

Munching on my last sandwich and using the empty coke can as a glass, I watch as the convertible pulls down the road. They’re both in it. Both look pissed off and frantic. They’re looking for me. I will them to keep going. I pretend, just for a second, that I’m some powerful mind-fucker fortune teller from Vegas, and I try the old Jedi mind-trick on them.

“This isn’t the place. He’s moved on. Better hurry, he’s going to tell the cops in the next city.” I whisper through the curtains. “You were high. The next city is the right one. It looks familiar.”

Sadly, the Force does not smile upon me and I see them yelling at each other as the car slows down. Jasmine motions to the motel. I nearly spit up my sandwich, but I realize it’s the only one in town and they probably just want to stop for the day so they can search around for me. They pull into the parking lot, still shouting and swearing at each other. I can nearly hear them mentioning how stupid they were not to kill me before. They walk right by my door and don’t seem to notice me, though.

I move away from the window. They’ll be staying the night. I pray they don’t notice the occupied room.

The bed is well kept. Looking under the frame, I’m slightly disappointed to find nothing. It’s completely clean underneath. Then, before I give up hope, I look at the crease between the box-spring and the mattress. It’s a statistical fact that more teenaged boys hide porn from their parents between their mattresses than anywhere else. I slide my fingers into the crease and lift it up.

My heart nearly stops.

There is a dusty, old Ziploc bag laying near the middle. It contains a gun and a scattering of bullets.

“Fuck.”

I try not to want a smoke. I really do. But eventually, I give in and I’m smoking in this non-smoking room. I feel bad. Any other motel in the known universe and I wouldn’t give a shit if I painted the walls with my piss, but here…I don’t know.

I just don’t know.

The gun is very well cared for. It’s oiled and clean. I’ve seen the occasional gun here and there, and I know enough that it’s not going to explode if I shoot it.

It’s a semi-automatic. The clip is full, and there’s a spare ten bullets that seem to have no cracks or dents. It’s all ready to use. I could probably empty the clip before that bitch got two shots off. That comforts me a little.

But only a little.

Before I can think about running again, the night comes. Their car is parked a few doors down. I don’t hear them, so that’s a good sign they’re not just next door.

That bit of comfort grows with the weight of the pistol on my lap as I sit on the edge of the bed. Before I know it, I’m asleep.

“Who’s gun is it?” I ask, looking over to Gus. He’s on his third whiskey and coke and I can smell it on his breath. Don’t blame him, really. If I found out I was dead, I’d drink too.

“A hit-man’s.” Gus said. “He says he doesn’t need it anymore.”

“He says?”

“Yeah. Dead too. Said I could use it.” Gus’ foggy smile said. “Got killed before he could come back for it. Says it’s his favourite, so be nice to it.”

“It’s a very nice gun.” I say.

“He’ll be happy to hear that.” Gus says, burping out another cloud of whiskey.

Curiosity. “What is this place? Hell?”

“Think of it like in-between.”

“Like Purgatory?”

Gus pauses on that and nods, downing the rest of his glass. “More like…a place where souls can wait for their unfinished business to be finished.”

“Sounds nice.” I say.

“Oh?”

“At least you get that chance. I don’t even know what my business is.” I say. “Right now, though, it’s helping you. Not for the cash. And I really don’t feel like killing people, but these two are barely people.I want to make things right.”

Gus nods. “To our destinies combined.” He says, suddenly with his forth glass in hand and raised.

I find my hand around another beer. What the hell. I clink glasses with the dead cop named Gus. “To our destinies.” And drink it down.

It’s very sweet.

Another trucker guns his engine, and it wakes me up in time to see the

shadows under my door.

I wonder if I get bonus karma to my aim when the door flies open. It is, after all, quite similar to the moment Gus busted in, a cop in blue all full of righteous attack, only to be shot down by a bitch on the bed. The fact I’m sitting on the bed makes me smile.

The door reverbs off the wall. Doug steps in with a huge knife. Doug’s angry eyes turn surprised when he sees the gun in my hand. Doug drops dead when I pull the trigger three times and two bright-red flowers bloom on his chest. Doug falls down dead, and Jasmine leaps out of the way as the next three bullets miss her.

“DOUG! DOUG! FUCK! DOUG!??!!” she screams. Doug is dead. He doesn’t respond. I almost feel bad for him. He wasn’t the one who shot the cop. He was, however, the one who gave Jasmine a congratulatory cock in the ass for killing the cop later on that night. I no longer feel bad for him, remembering the grin on his face when he asked if I wanted to help him fuck her.

I slide off the bed, crouching behind it. She’s loading her gun. I can hear her even while she’s panting and frantic. “YOU’RE A DEAD MAN! YOU’RE FUCKING DEAD! YOU KILLED DOUG!”

“You killed Gus.” I say quietly. She probably didn’t hear me anyway. She probably wouldn’t care. “Doug is only half the payback.”

My hand is shaking, but the weight of three bullets comforts me inside. The moon is thin but bright, and I see her shadow easily. She’s shaking too. Dogs are going apeshit, but I hear no cops or sirens over the sound of trucks driving by.

“You killed a good man.” I say loud enough for her to hear. “And it’s either me or you now. You won’t win.” Where this bullshit confidence is coming from, I don’t know, but it feels damn good. So VERY damn good.

“Fuck you, asshole!”

“Sorry, I’m not Doug.”

That gets her.

I stand up as her shadow spins around. I fire too early, though. A bullet slips by her head harmlessly. The one shot is all she needs. I almost say ‘how did you punch me from over there?’ before I realize I can’t breathe. When I do breathe, it feels like my lungs are being crushed by a ton of bricks. Air feels like sand.

Well. Shit. My shirt’s bleeding.

Oh. Wait. Never mind.

She walks over to me and kicks the gun away as I slide down against the wall. I silently apologize to Gus’ hit-man friend who liked his gun so much that he let it kill once more after his own death.

Jasmine looks like the crack ho she is. Dirty red lines crease her face as she yells at me and kicks me and pokes and prods me. For a moment, I wonder what the hell she wants. I’m dying. Why is she bothering to yell at me? Curiosity takes over and I try to focus past the shot ringing in my ears to hear what has got the bitch so upset.

“WH…B…CO…BAD….BADGE!”

I finally realize she is talking about the badge. The last chunk of evidence, I suppose. She was the one that ripped it off the cop’s dead body and threw it to me for a trophy. Prints are all over the thing.

“O…t…si…de…” I point weakly to the door. She realizes I said ‘Outside’ and swears.

“You’ll show me EXACTLY where or I will torture you until your last fucking breath!”

I nod. What. Like I’m going to bother? Why not. At least I got one of them. Maybe Gus can haunt her now. That would be cool. I don’t struggle when she hauls me up and helps me outside.

There are still no cops. No witnesses. Even the other rooms and the motel’s office are strangely dark. Business is being done. Nobody interferes. I find one of my lungs still burns, but the other isn’t breathing sand anymore. A lot of me hurts, but it’s not a really bad hurt. It just kind of sucks.

“There…” I whisper, unable to do much else. Talking still hurts like a bitch. Oh well.

She swears nervously, looking around the empty parking lot. She seems more weirded out by the fact nobody is there than I am. “Hurry up! FUCK! Just hurry up!” she screams, pretty much carrying me at this point. Her gun is on my shoulder. If my head wasn’t swimming and my body not weak, I figure I could take it from her and finish the job. The more I think about it, though, the more I don’t care. I’m sleepy anyway. You know in the movies where they tell the dying guy not to sleep? Well, they don’t know how nice that sleep is looking. It’s looking pretty damn good.

“There.” I croak as we stumble out into the field. She literally just dumps me down right there.

The bitch shoots me again. Just to make sure.

What a bitch.

I watch with detached interest as she digs up the badge, laughing a frazzled, cracked laugh. I wonder if she’s realizing it wasn’t worth the loss of so much. Who cares.

It’s a bit more interesting, however, when I watch my own hand reach for her gun. She had dropped it at her side to dig. She doesn’t notice me still moving.

I should be dead. I really should. But I move. I grab the gun. I’m not breathing, and I can’t feel my hands or the cool metal of the weapon, but I know I’m about to pull the trigger, so it doesn’t surprise me when the side of her head explodes into a red mist.

Sure surprised her, though.

Jasmine falls to the ground, deader than I am. The badge of Gus Provo rolls out of her hand and I watch my hand pick it up.

I’m suddenly back at the bar.

“So? Now what?” I ask. My beer is full.

“You’re dead.” Gus explains, but I know there’s more. “But you did good.”

I smirk. “A lot of good it did me.”

“True. But you helped me. That counts for a lot around here.” Gus said with a smile. His face is clearer now. “Counts for enough that

you have a choice. If you want to go back, you can.”

I look down at my beer. It doesn’t taste as sweet now, but I like it much better. The flavour is real.

Gus turns to me. His head is still haloed in smoke. “If you go back…”

“I’ll have to change some things.” I say before he does. “And I don’t want that.”

He seems a bit surprised at this.

“I can die, I guess. Not really scared of dying now that it’s already happened. But I have no unfinished business, and I just killed a man. Not too proud of myself. I’d rather not go to hell or whatever is in store for me.” I offer. “So, what I’m thinking is another deal. Even if I go back, I’m just going to end up in another situation like that. I’ve been doing this my entire life. It’s not the best, but it’s me.”

Gus nods, smoke still hazing his features.

“So. Let’s do this.” I say, drinking another sip. “I stay here. You go back.” The beer is very real. Very, very good. I’m suddenly sure of myself for the first time in decades.

“We can’t trade back.” Gus says. He is a cop, after all. Even if he just used me for revenge, he’s gotta have something good inside him that makes him warn me. “You’ll be stuck here until you figure out it is what you want done.”

“And I don’t know. So I may be here for a while.” I smile at him. “But, that’s pretty much par for me. Maybe I’ll go down. Maybe up. Maybe I’ll just stick around here. Whatever. I like that better.”

Gus just smiles. Then, he nods, and brings up his glass. “To our destinies.”

We clink glasses once more.

I enjoy the drink for the first time in years.

I walk up to the convenience store while the state troopers clean up the mess. Looks like they’ll just label it as a drug-induced fight between lovers. Two guns, two deaths. Nine pounds of crack in the back of their car. Pretty cut and dry for the middle of nowhere.

The duffle bag of money on my shoulder feels awkward, but it looks old, ratty and dirty enough that the kid at the counter of the corner store doesn’t even give me a second look.

The map shows I have a long way to go no matter where I turn. When I bring up the two dozen sandwiches, bottles of water, juice and first-aid kits, the kid just looks at me with a strange smirk.

“Hey. Buddy. You not stealing anything today, man?” he asks, starting to ring things through the old register.

“Young man…I’m an officer of the law.” I announce with just a bit of pride and resentment. “I would never shoplift. I suggest you check with my chief. Twenty-nine years of unblemished service in the Los Vegas PD.”

The young man blinks, then just laughs and shakes his head. “Yeah, whatever.”

I pay for the food and then leave.

The sky is beautiful. The roads are clear. I almost feel like a new man.

I’ve never been to the coast.

West it is, then.

Strike Fiss, Studio Shinnyo 2004. Khattam-Shud, EOF.

Posted under Manifestoes, Short Stories

Escape Jar

Posted by Fiss on August 14, 2006

Strike Fiss’ Manifesto

March 2005

 

My uncle was a bitter man. 

 

He was huge and rough from life and what spare fastballs it threw his way.  He caught a few.  Got hit by a few.  Some would say it fair, but not my uncle for he was simply a bitter man. 

 

I’m certain that luck, fortune, or whatever the tiny packets of reality mentioned above are all, fundamentally the same object.  I, for example, have been both good and bad luck for my uncle.  Before he was a bitter man, I’m sure I was the kind of lucky fastball that he felt he hit out of the park, or caught with a lovingly well-oiled catcher’s mitt.  To be named a Godparent must have been quite an honour for this old engineer and factory worker when he had been younger…hearing his sister was pregnant and having me with one of his best friends who she had married not a year before. 

 

But I can still remember the look in his eyes as he stared at me.  Freshly delivered in my rumpled clothes at his door-step.  The car of the social-worker speeding away with the paperwork stating that he was to be my new legal guardian. 

 

He was retired by the time I came to him.  It was never an issue of money.  The government had a tidy sum delivered to him every other week to assist with my feeding, clothing and schooling.  What was left contributed to equal parts whiskey and the Escape Jar.

 

Now, because it’s not important at this time, I shall simply describe the Escape Jar to you.  For you see, it will become important soon, but for now, it is simply a huge, barrel-like pickle jar on the upper shelf of a tall, foreboding bookshelf in my Uncle’s study.  There is a sealed top with a narrow slit cut in it, and the epoxy-resin patchwork from a historic single break that had emptied the jar minus twenty nine pennies that still lay in the bottom, squished under more pennies, then dimes, then quarters and dollar coins, until finally fading into a multi-layered and multi-coloured mosaic of bills stretching back in time to the point that they seemed to form layers in the earth where dinosaur fossils were discovered.  Even with the multitude of legal tender within, the jar, when I arrived at my Uncle’s home to live, was barely half-full. 

 

Now that you know a bit about the Jar, I can tell you more about my Uncle and myself. 

 

First, myself.  If I were me, and I am me, I wouldn’t really know what to make of myself.  Other people, however, seem to think I’m some kind of savant.  Some kid genius because I can read people’s actions to such a silly degree of accuracy that my parents had sent me to be tested for ‘powers’ three times before they died in a car-crash I knew was going to happen.  It wasn’t that I predicted it.  I just could see my dad was done with life.  This led to years alone with a social worker, who, for several of those years within those years, began to believe I was Jesus.  Now, I know better, but try telling someone with blind faith that when she’s seen you ‘read her mind’ when really, all I was doing was listening and watching.  Still, I guess I do pick up on things quickly.  That’s all one needs to do to be exceptional in this silly world.  Be one step ahead of the others. 

 

Now, eventually, my social worker became so convinced of my heavenly connection that she began to plot my crucifixion.  It took a great deal of pain, gauze and running to the police with the wounds received to convince anyone that it had gone too far. 

 

They finally decided that a relative would be best, and my Uncle had just become available due to retirement. 

 

Truth be told, I had no problem with the man.  Still don’t.  Just, I always questioned the logic of putting a savant with stigmata-wounds with a retired aerospace engineer stuck in a wheelchair and mostly paralyzed.  Not that I couldn’t help him, and he certainly would be a good choice for a guardian.  But then, part of what I saw in his eyes on that first day, me at his doorstep, confirmed my fears that I would remind him of all the things he couldn’t do.  Every moment of every day. 

 

Trying not to tread on the toes of my uncle’s ego was about as easy as avoiding a devout Catholic with a nail-gun. 

 

Sometimes, I almost preferred the nail-gun. 

 

He was one of those uncles who had done everything, knew a lot, and had seen more than ‘you could ever imagine in a million years, little whipper-snapper’.  And I liked that part of the deal.  But a few years before me showing up to darken his doorstep, he had improperly welded a high-tension spring to a propeller, which had snapped and severed a neat line of muscle, spine and nerve tissue in his lower neck. 

 

This was right after the Historic-Break-In-The-Jar.  Every month, at least once, I would hear him tell himself that if only he emptied out those last few pennies, fate wouldn’t have been so cruel to him.  It made no sense to me, but then again, he was a bitter, jaded man, and I was too kind, and liked the man too much, to dash what little control he had left.  His own bad mood. 

 

He had emptied the jar to buy most of what resided currently in his workshop.  Machine tools and sheet-metal.  Pipes and tubing and wires and cutters, welders and torches of nine types.  He also purchased a gun and one bullet.  Long before the accident, he knew he would kill himself with that gun. 

 

You see, the other part of what I saw in Uncle’s eyes when I showed up was simple.  Pure.  And it said:  “Oh crap.  Now I have to keep living for something.”

 

I think that’s what really hurt both of us.  Deep down. 

 

Regardless, it was a happy time of my life.  With my Uncle keeping mostly to himself, he didn’t mind me going through his entire library between school-days.  School was boring but manageable.  That’s pretty good for schools these days. 

 

Some days, I would actually try spending time with Uncle.  It was usually on those days we both felt we should attempt more of the ‘family’ thing.  Despite some successes, the failures were memorable.  For every laughingly made chicken-gumbo in the kitchen, there were three or four arguments stemming from our generation gap.  From our ability gap.  From his ego and my inability to pretend I was a stupid, weak and helpless child.

 

Still, there were good days, and the best day was my eighteenth birthday, in which I was allowed to drink with my Uncle for the first time.  In which, the day was a gumbo-making day, and the government cheque was not late, so there seemed to be a perpetual good mood about the day

 

I learned more about my Uncle that day than all the other years combined. 

 

I learned that he had been in the army and fought for Canada, the United States, and even Russia.  I learned that he spoke French and Italian and Russian without ever hearing a word from any other language but English from him before.  I learned he has killed a man with his bare hands, and it still haunts him in his nightmares thirty years later, and the only reason he hasn’t killed himself is to honour the poor S.O.B. by living out his life with useless, harmless hands.  I learned he had a son once, but his wife liked to drink and drive and one day took him to pre-school after downing a fifth of gin.  Seeing the wreckage haunts his nightmares the other times.  I’ve learned he saved an orphanage in Russia once.  That he’s pulled twenty nine people from their deaths in his short career as a life-guard at the beach.  That he had the largest crush on Miss Piggy when he was a kid, and that one of his aircraft designs was so amazing…so classified…that nobody ever saw or heard it, but he’s told it prevented World War Three.

 

As the whiskey is hitting me hard, and he is clearly near the end of his run of talking for the night, he pours me another drink despite my protests, then lifts what is left in the bottle to his lips in a toast. 

 

“They say that the world is round.” He tells me.  I agree, stupid and drunkenly missing the lead up to a phrase that haunts me to this day.  “The world is round, and that means that if you keep going one way…any way…for long enough, you will come full circle and be right back where you started.”

 

I nod, letting the words sink in as he looks up at the Escape Jar.

 

“I want to see if this is true.  I want to fly around the world.  Then, if I see that everything is the same, I will kill myself with that gun.” He says plainly.  “And if it is not, then I will shoot that bullet into the pure, blue sky.”

 

He died a year later, but not before explaining what the Escape Jar was for, and filling it up with hundred dollar bills until it threatened to burst.

 

And now you can be told what the Escape Jar is for.

 

The money is for an escape, yes, this is true.  An escape from the omni-present knowledge that no matter how far you go, you will one day come full-circle and be right back where you started. 

 

My Uncle was a bitter man, but it was because he saw the truth in that statement.  After sixty years of life, he believed he had simply returned to the start.  Helpless.  Dumb.  Unable to walk.  Unable to do anything but exist like a newborn baby.  I know that sounds pessimistic, but his words rung true in my head.  Everyone always talks about leaving a bad place.  About traveling to see the world.  And yet, no matter how far you travel, you will come back to the same place and it will be like you never left in the first place and the only thing to prove you did anything were the dreams and pictures and things you collected on the way. 

 

So, one day, after going through my Uncle’s possessions, preparing to pack up and leave on my own, I came across his blueprints.

 

The blueprints to the Escape Craft.  What the Jar had been collecting for…had always been collecting for.  Even it’s brief emptying simply made room for the workshop that was to build this craft.  Even if the jar had not been full, I would have had enough to finish the craft, with my modifications.

 

I had Uncle cremated. 

 

Now, as I fly over the Earth, with the slipstreams around me, every day, I release a small part of my uncle into the air over the ocean.  Or a city.  Or a desert.  Or wherever I am when the sunrise reaches me in this cockpit. 

 

I’m almost done.  A full circuit of the globe.  And I think the heaviest baggage is that damn gun that tempts me to fulfill my Uncle’s promise to it to claim a life or to herald in a new world not bound by gravity. 

 

My Uncle is now everywhere on earth.  He has escaped, somewhat, the fact that one will always return to one place by being in all places at once.  And as I fly over the coast, following the mountains to Uncle’s home, I know the promise was passed onto me to fulfil. 

 

I really don’t want to kill myself, but at the same time, I’ve been thinking more and more about his words as I fly.  That, even I were to do this every day for the rest of my life, I would still simply just be in the same place.  A place I have been before.  The place where I started. 

 

I can see my Uncle’s house now.  A small speck in the middle of a billion others. 

 

What the hell. 

 

I land in the yard, nearly inch-for-inch where I took off from a year and three months ago.  As I step out onto the grass, I shoot the gun into the sky. 

 

I can’t believe everything is the same. 

 

Not after seeing what I’ve seen.  Circling the globe.  Seeing the stars and the oceans and the deserts and the forests.  Still, I know that isn’t the right answer, and as I walk by the empty Escape Jar, I throw in the two bucks I have left in my pocket. 

 

My Uncle started with pennies. 

 

But there has to be more out there.  Past this silly little globe.

 

My Uncle started with pennies.

 

But I’ll need more if I’m to build the rocket I need to truly escape. 

 

 

Strike Fiss, Studio Shinnyo 2005.  Khattam-Shud, EOF.

Posted under Manifestoes, Short Stories

Jolt Run – Part II

Posted by Fiss on August 14, 2006

Strike Fiss’ Manifesto

January 2004

 

 

Strike Fiss Goes On A Jolt Run…

 

                                    Part 2.

 

 

 

 

They call him Old Joe Coke. 

 

He’s not that old, and sometimes, during the wee hours of the morning, his drinking buddies call him ‘Ol Joke’, but this lad aren’t nothing of the sort.  He’s a big man, arms as thick as trees and a neck to match.  Keen, steely eyes that are hidden by his old New York Yankees ball-cap, but you can feel watchin ya across the bar if you’ve made him mad. 

 

He hails from the old States.  Back in the day, they were proud and mighty…now all vying for their place in the world.  Nobody’s sure where he’s from exactly, but he’s known around these parts as the boy from the Valley.  The Valley is still like this tiny bit of the Old World…shiny and bright like the future should be, but hidden and protected by those who would keep the plunder for their own.  Maps are all but destroyed in these days, and ledged has it they have these men with rifles so accurate they can pick ya off even if you’re three mountains away. 

 

Ain’t nuthin around that seems to scare this man, and I think that’s why we all remember that night at the Broken Kettle.  Nothin scares ol’ Joke, but you could tell his hands wouldn’t be so steady on the wheel that night.  You see, he may be a legend in his own right…but we have legends too, up here in the North, and I think ol’ Joke knew it just might be more than a legend when the old fool came bustin in through the door, gasping and shakin from his boots to his duster. 

 

The Broken Kettle sits on the great intersections of the Western World.  Far North of the Valley, but close enough you can see some of it’s treasure up here and can get it for a fair price if you know the right hands to shake and boots to knock.  Fruits from the old Okanogan and some rare ones from California.  Metals from the Rocky Mountains, mined at the great dangers of things far too true and terrible to be legends.  Animals from all over the great world, and technology from sources new and ancient.  All the faces sitting in the Kettle are hardened, often happy with wealth, but the eyes around show the true wealth they’ve earned is in their experiences over the years.  The tricks they’ve known to be survived by.  Where the tales told are all real…mostly… and yet sound like tall ones to outsiders who don’t know any better.   So when an old-timer…if he’s survived this far…comes in looking white as a ghost, even the hardest assholes in the joint turn a quiet ear to the man’s plight. 

 

“Just…just seen it!” he stammers, rainwater still sloshing out of his boots as the wenches take his coat and hat.  “Just seen it…the…the Rodger…”

 

You know that sound…in the old movies…where everyone in a place drops their spoons, or spits out their drinks in surprise?  Yeah.  That sound is real.  You see…It happens when people hear something they don’t wanna hear.  Or get into their little heads that one of their demons is out to haunt them that night. 

 

And when someone goes around spoutin crazy talk about the Rodger, even the most hardened folk start to shake, even if just for a second, when they aren’t sure if it’s lies or codswallop…or Lord have Mercy…

truth.

 

Slowly, as the man is offered up a pint to soothe his rattled spine at the bar, everyone but ol’ Joke kinda get close in, knowing a story’s about to be told.  Tall or not, one can’t afford, even with all the treasure out there, to ignore a sighting of the ol’ Rodger. 

 

“I never believed the stories…” Rickety, the old dodger’s name, starts.  I recognize him now he’s nuzzled between a bar-wench’s bosom and a pint of Keith’s Ale.  “But I swear on me muther’s eyes I saw what I saw.”

 

Rickety’s never one for tall tales, so now, everyone’s interested, and I can see that Joe Coke is peekin out at him just out from under that ball cap of his. 

 

“I was speeding down the North leg of Long Highway…bones getting tired so I put on the gas to make it here before the tiredness took hold.  Then, there’s this storm that seems to roll in from nowhere…” he says, voice getting quiet like all good ghost stories demand, but the fear is in his voice alone.  “I see this flash of yellow on black.  Lightning…but it’s gone a moment later and I know something about it wasn’t right.  Like it was just a flash against my window, not an actual bolt.”

 

“The Jolty Rodger…” someone next to him whispers.  “The skull…the skull and bolts…black with red and white.  I’ve seen it once before in an old picture disk…never thought it still existed outside of the story books, though.”

 

“Story my ass…it’s truth.  Back when the Calgary Underdogs still sailed the plains underneath a Coder’s flag, it was the Jolty Rodger.”

 

“Aye, but it was only a Coder’s flag back then…” Rickety says, taking over the tale once again.  “Not…not meaning what it does today.  Back then, it was the North’s kin to the Valley.  Nearly wiped out, even in the days gone past, but they survived until the Virus War, when nearly everyone was wiped out.  Some used to say they survived…but not as Coders.  Now I know the truth.” He says.  “For the flag still sails the plains…and it is not their own Code they covet…”

 

I smile at this, for I know why the man’s not shakin as much as some of his audience is.  And why he’s not dead or truckless on this dark and stormy night.

 

“Fate…protects women, children, and old Fools like Rickety here!” laughs the bartender.  “You caught sight of the Rodger while hauling a shipment of USB Five controllers and Heat-Sinks?  And you lived to tell us sorry ol’ dogs the tale!”

 

That caught a rowdy round of laughter and beer splashing as goblets were raised to Rickety’s health.  The old man blushin’ slightly, but obviously much more at ease now that it was announced.  “Aye, but I think I know why I be safe this night…there be much larger, succulent fish in the sea to catch than I.”

 

The bar gets kinda quiet now.  A few of the old boys here are haulin likely targets.  The boy from AOL starts to shake, knowing Pirates kill boys like him on sight these days. 

 

“Aahh, I pity the man who sails under a Microsoft flag tonight.” Rickety laughs, thinking nothing of it.  “Ol’ Rick is safe with such tempting booty parked out front.”

 

The bar looks around for the face that just went white, owning up to the barge sailing under the MS logo.  Nobody notices the way Ole Joke smirks under his hat.

 

“That’s Joe’s truck.” I finally pipe up, looking right at the man.  “Ole Joe Coke’s got a shipment right from the heart of the Valley tonight, I’d wager.”

 

Now, like I said, had this been any other man, they would have been sayin last rights for the poor sunovabitch.  But this…this was legend versus legend. 

 

Old Joke just stands up at that point.  “So what if I am?”

 

“The rarest, most expensive Warez this side of the lower Rockies.” The bartender whispers.  “Tell me you didn’t sail with a Microsoft Trailer!”

 

“I sail with what the Valley gives me.” Joe grumbles, obviously not impressed with the shaking, surprised old men.  “I’ve worked hard to be the North Highway driver, and I’ll proudly display my flag to any Pirate Scum that comes my way!”

 

Haha!  Oh yes, that gets the reaction I seek.

 

“Pirate Scum…” the bartender whispered.  “You speak ill of legend, young sailor.”

 

“You speak bravely of thieves.” Joke tells the barkeep outright.  “Far too bravely for men who scrap a living up off the leftovers they can steal!”

 

“Thieves…maybe.” Rickety sighs, but then looks up at the boy.  “But still legend.  They’ve saved many a small town from disaster with a spare PC or two…many a times offering broadband when others offered dial-up.  Why…I once heard they got a hold of some of the old OCT-124s that Telus had in spare!”

 

“Pirates are still pirates.” Joe shouts out.  “And you are fools to think otherwise!  Just now you were frightened to death of a glimpse of a flag!” he coughs out a laugh.  “What happened to such wisdom?”

 

“Strong words.” I chuckle.  “For someone safe within these walls.  These old ‘fools’ show more wisdom in keeping their spirits here than on the great pirate highways of the North.”

 

The entire bar is looking at old Joke now, thinking much about his name.  It’s time to ante up. 

 

“I bet anyone here ol’ Joke won’t sail till dawn.” I shout, holding up a crisp new hundred. 

 

A bit of silence and Joke smirks right at me.  His legend is strong and he knows it. 

 

“Another hundred…with your bet!” the barkeep smirks.

 

Suddenly, everyone’s whipping out money, all on my side…betting against Ol’ Joke.  Joke turns red as he sees just how much money is now in the air, pitched against him. 

 

“I’ll match whatever you bums pitch against me.” Joke growls, standing up and adjusting his cap.  “You’ll all make me richer with your stupidity!”

 

“Proof…” Rickety, who has produced a fifty short of a grand in his hand, hisses.  “We want to see your delivery receipt once you get back, or we’re not giving you one dollar!”

 

“Fine!  I’ll make sure to get a few copies for you silly bastards!” Old Joke says, looking around then back to me.  “You best not jip me on the prize when I get back.  I got a real good eye for money, and right here, I see over six thousand.”

 

“We’ll be waiting, Ol’ Joke.” I walk over and pat the man on the back.  “And if I were you, I’d cover up that big Microsoft sign on the side of your trailer…just to be safe.”

 

“I’ll do no such thing and laugh at you when I come back with me pay!”

 

And with that, Old Joe Coke storms out into the storm.  A thunderclap echoes out to announce his departure, and slowly, the bar begins to sing the song always sung for doomed souls.

 

    “Yo…ho…yo…ho…and a bottle O Jolt…”

 

    “Seven silver shillings on the Fated’s Chest…” came the    Bartender, who suddenly has a gleam in his eye. 

 

    “He broke with the tide and Rum on his breath…” Rickety continued the song as more joined in. 

 

    “Lazy with booze he did not see that the night would bring his last and final fight!”

 

As we dress in our dusters, long, thick and oil-skinned to stop the rain, some of the regulars smile knowingly to the surprised newcomers, who wonder out loud at the song. 

 

     “Aye!  For Whiskey will slay ya and Beer makes you fat!  Tis no    

     drink better than t’one approved by the Cap!”

 

On cue, me drogues all produce their hats.  Thick, curved felt and leather.  Some wear skull-caps and others old Cowboy felts.  Every single one of them black, however, and when the newbies see the Jolty Roger on the side of my hat, some of them spit out their drinks!  Ha!

 

      “Coffee will Kill Ya and Tea is to weak!  But the Jolt in your  

      veins will drive out the meek!  No better drink than the Bubbly   

      Black!   We’re all wired on Jolt and there’s no turning back!  So

      ready your Swords and your USB, Jack! ‘Cause tonight is the night

      Software Pirates… 

 

      ATTTAAAAAAAACK!”

 

The rousing cheer nearly wakes the heavens as all those under my helm jump to their feet and run out for the storm.  I, as Captain, am of course, the last to leave, and with a flourish of my pitch black duster, I grin past the rim of my hat to the surprised newcomers in the bar.

 

      “…drink up me hearties Yo Ho!”

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Joke got quite a lead out there on the North Highway during the song he never knew was being sung.  His pride was stung, but recovering with great speed now that he was back on the road.  “Crotchety old bastards…” he chuckled to himself, passing a Ford on the highway that had been going a bit too slow for his tastes. 

 

The lights of the Ford disappeared into Joke’s rear-view mirrors and he relaxed, seeing that he was nearly alone on the road.  Only the rain splattered across his windshield and smeared the dark, grey road and sky into streaks that made the slivers of moonlight still poking through the stormy sky seem as bright as lightning when it struck some distant tree or hill.

 

Suddenly, he sees a glimpse of something coming up behind him.  Fast.

 

It’s not on the road, though, and Joke starts to twist and turn his head, trying to figure out what the gleam is out there in the storm and the rain. 

 

“What the devil?” he shouts over the roar of his engine and the roar of the rain.

 

Sure enough…the moon catches the flag.

 

The Jolty Rodger.

 

The beast has wheels as big as tractors.  Has a body shaped like an old war-ship of old with half a tank welded onto the front.  It’s all painted black…black as Jolt and black as Night!  It looks alive when it’s headlights explode into life, nearly blinding ol’ Joke, like a hungry elemental here to claim his soul and his cargo.  It needs not the highway to keep speed with his rig, as the wheels propel it over rocks, wheat and trees like they were nothing. 

 

It’s flag whips angrily in the night as Joke realizes finally that they’re gaining on him.

 

“NO!” he shouts, hitting the gas and daring to go faster than he ever has on rain-slicked pavement at night. 

 

And, sure enough, he starts to gain speed on the Jolty Rodger haunting his rear-views.  He starts laughing.  It’s a worried, scared laugh, but he knows he can win now.  He has hope!

 

Until the Nachos drop out from the side of the massive tank-boat thing. 

 

They’re painted black and have armour…old relics from the Old World, but their engines have all been cared for by a loving mechanical hand.  Three of them launch onto the highway from a long ramp lowered, and Ol’ Joke has to keep telling himself that it’s an optical illusion how quickly they catch up to his suicidal speed.

 

Joke finally realizes that he can’t out-run these cars, and hits a few quick buttons and levers on his dashboard.  The truck slows slightly, but suddenly, it’s driving on it’s own.  Another gift from the Valley for it’s lone truckers who please them with prompt deliveries. 

 

He unbuckles his seat-belt and quickly scrambles to the back of the truck’s cab, finding the ladder leading to the guns.  He hasn’t needed to fire the guns in a long time, but he knows they’re well oiled and as deadly as the first day they were installed. 

 

“Okay, Old Jolty…time to see what you’re made of!” Joe Coke said as he sat into the half-moon turret.  Rain splattered over his shoulders, but his head and eyes were clear.  He caught sight of one of the Nachos…one trailing behind him next to the giant Jolty Roger.  “DIE!”

 

A hail of bullets streamed out from the three long barrels, over the ass-end of his trailer and towards the boat-thing.  He laughed as the Nacho swerved to protect it’s mother-ship, spinning slightly to deflect the bullets off harmlessly instead of into the huge tank’s wheels.  No matter where he tried to aim, though, the Nacho’s armour was there a second later and he never got a penetrating shot into his main target.  The weapons fire, however, was enough to slow the two vehicles down and he was soon grinning.  “Is that all you got, assholes?  Huh?”

 

“RRRRRUNNNNNMMMMMMMMM!!!”  The second Nacho bashed into the side of the truck, angered that Joe picked on it’s brethren.  Joe howled in surprise as the truck nearly ran into the ditch, but was saved at the last second by the truck’s auto-pilot. 

 

“AAARRG!” he yelled, spinning the turret to meet the new threat, not noticing the third Nacho pass on the shoulder of the highway.  “DIE PIRATE SCUM!”

 

Bullets pelted the road in front of the Eagle Vision and soon, a lucky strike made a huge pot-hole in the road, forcing the car to swerve and back off out of range.

 

“Hahahaha!”  Joe Coke yelled.  “Is that all you got?” he stood up out of his gun-seat, rain splattering over his back.  “IS THAT ALL???  BAH!” he sat back down in the seat…

 

Then gasped as he saw a lone figure standing at the end of his trailer. 

 

He growled, hating the fact he actually got boarded, and turned the guns to the trespasser. 

 

The guns clicked and issued a loud warning klaxon.

 

He gasped, looking past the aiming sights to see that a slash had bent all three of the barrels.  He could see the glow of fire where the barrels were damaged, and realized the explosive rounds were about to go off!

 

He rolled free of the turret just before it exploded, and stopped himself just barely from flying off the edge of the rain-slicked top of the trailer. 

 

The figure began walking up to him with a grin, hand on something at his hip.  “Old Joe Coke!” he shouted over the howling rain.  “Time to pay your dues to the Jolty Rodger!”

 

Joe shook his head, standing up.  “NEVER!  I’ll fight you tooth and nail before I give into a punk like you!”  And to illustrate his point, he pulled a thick metal pipe off the top of his truck’s cabin.  Attached to it was a long chain that he began to spin. 

 

“Is that all?” the man shouted back, pulling out something long and thin from his side.

 

Lightning showed that it was actually a sword.

 

Joe swallowed hard. 

 

“Last chance!” laughed the man.  “All we want are your Warez.  Give in and you keep driving in one piece!”

 

“NO!  NEVER!  FILTHY BANDITS!” Joe shouted, then yelled and ran at the man.  “DIEEEE!”

 

The man side-stepped Joe and caught the chain with his sword’s scabbard at the last moment before the trucker slid over the edge.  Surprised, Joe was lifted back up to the top of the trailer. 

 

“You…” he gasped as he was thrown onto his butt and allowed to regroup. 

 

Sure enough, it was the man who first placed the bet against him at the bar.  With a sly grin, he bowed.  “Strike Fiss the Third, at your service.” He said, taking off his Jolty Rodger hat with a bow. 

 

Joe backed away quickly, realizing he was in grave danger.  “No…I must…I must win!”

 

“You cannot.” Fiss said, wiping his glasses off with the edge of his duster, only to have rain speckle them once more.  Finally, he sighed and put them away.  “You have been trained by my mortal foes.”

 

Joe Coke frowned.  “How did you know about…THAT?”

 

“I can smell it on you.” Fiss glared at him.  “You stink like shrimp.” He paused.  “And I can see pink feathers in your coat lining.”

 

Joe gasped and hid the protruding feathers.

 

“Microsoft always did like to hire you Flamingo bastards…” Strike Fiss III said with a smirk.

 

Joe stood up, calling upon his Flamingo powers to aid his nerves.  A pink aura enveloped him, staining the beautiful night with a glow of tackiness.  “Very well.  Then I shall fight you as your mortal enemy.” He grinned widely, with wild eyes.  “We destroyed Strike Fiss II, and we will destroy YOU!”

 

Fiss sighed.  “Fiss the Second died raiding a Jolt factory.  Your kind had no such pleasure.”

 

Joe frowned, then let a wicked grin slip across his lips.  “Who do you think guarded the Jolt from him?”

 

The lightning showed the anger in Fiss III’s eyes. 

 

“Filthy Flamingo bastards…” he whispered.  With that, he pulled out something round and colourful from his long, black duster. 

 

Both warriors stood at the ends of the trailer as they sped down the highway.  The three Nachos and the Jolty Rodger slipped back into the night, enough to give their leader privacy of the duel. 

 

Then, lightning struck somewhere nearby, and the thunder signalled the start of the battle with a roar of anger. 

 

The lead pipe was nearly shredded by Fiss’ sword in one strike, but the evil pink aura kept the weapon whole no matter how damaged it became.  Fiss blocked the retaliatory strike of the pipe and chain with his sword and the monster-cookie he had pulled from his coat.

 

“Still using the old weapons…?” hissed Joke.

 

“Whatever works.” Fiss grunted back, head-butting the man in the face.

 

They both stumbled back and re-grouped.  Joe Coke lunged with a howl of insanity, but Fiss leapt into the air and glided to the opposite side of the truck with his coat flaring out like a parachute.  He then opened his coat and used the rushing air to throw him back against the Flamingo-Fu trained man.  It was just enough that he scored a solid, surprise hit on Joke with the sword.

 

Pink and red blood splattered to the trailer’s top.

 

“You’ll…never…win…” Joke hissed, his voice more demonic than human.

 

Fiss frowned, standing up and taking a bite out of his cookie.  “Hey…what’s that on your face?”

 

He threw the cookie right at Joke’s head. 

 

“Huh?” Joke gasped, then was enveloped by a fireball that threw him free of the truck and into the trees that lined the side of the road.  A satisfying CRUNCH! indicated he hit a nice, big evergreen.

 

 

 

 

 

As he stands by the truck, now parked on the side of the road, Strike Fiss III grins as his companions pull up in the three Nachos and the Jolty Rodger. 

 

“ALL HAIL!” he shouts out as his minions explode out of the vehicles and run over to ransack the Microsoft trailer.

 

As they crack open the trailer, however, Fiss smiles a new smile.  “Ahh, there be Jolt in them thar pallets.”

 

They grab what they can before the highway patrol shows up far too late, and in the very back of the truck, they see a small shipment of foodstuff. 

 

A pallet of Coke.  Two of Pepsi.  And three, glorious cases of Jolt Cola.

 

“Leave the swill.” Fiss orders as some of the newer members run for the Coke and Pepsi.

 

They all bow, and grin, knowing they will each get their reward. 

 

“Now…back to the Leaky Kettle.” Fiss said as he raises a bottle of Jolt and cracks it open slowly.  “Ahh…a fine vintage.  It would be a shame to let the rain water it down.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, legends are only legends on dark and stormy nights.  The cops list it as an abandoned truck and move on with their rounds…a load richer in Coke and Pepsi.

 

 

 

 

Two days later, Ol’ Rickety and the Barkeep are laughing, telling dirty jokes and making the bar-wenches all blush and giggle.  I’m in the corner, nursing a fine Jolt.  Rare to have them ship from the Valley, but they always have a good vintage when they do.

 

Not as good as locally, though…but fine Jolt, nonetheless.

 

All around me are my men and women.  All enjoying long sleeps in and lazy nights of crazy caffien. 

 

And sure enough, as I did not expect a Flamingo to die so easily, in walks Ole’ Joke with a haunted look on his face.

 

He sees me outright, then glares at everyone in the bar.

 

“I’ll get you all for this.” He hisses, walking over to me.  “YOU had better watch your back from now on.  Now that I know where you are.”

 

He’s still battered and bruised from the fight, but his powers have already repaired most of the burnt skin on his face.  Most of it. He won’t fight when he’s so weak, and I just smile up at him as he shoves six grand in my lap. 

 

“Come back anytime you’re hauling such lovely Warez and we’ll have a re-match.” I offer.

 

He hisses at me.  The Bartender puts his hand on his shot-gun, but Joke is already heading for the door. 

 

“Oh…and bring more Jolt next time.” I grin.

 

Joke turns and growls.  “Damn you.”

 

And with that, Rickety walks over and kicks him out through the doors. 

 

Everyone laughs…and we teach the newbies the song.

 

“Yo ho, yo ho…”

 

 

 

And a bottle of Jolt.

 

 

 

 

Strike Fiss, Studio Shinnyo 2004.  Khattam-Shud, EOF.

Posted under Manifestoes, Short Stories

Winter

Posted by Fiss on August 14, 2006

Strike Fiss’ Manifesto

April 2003

 

 

Winter.

 

 

It is colder here than in the mountains. A strange, silent winter befalls the land as you gaze outside your frosted windows from the false comfort of your bed. Four walls shield you, but from only so much of the thing outside that takes your heat, takes your time, and warps your soul into something distinctly cog-like. The mountains, while I know this to be false due to the science taught to me over the years, lift you up to the sky. Away from the winter, no matter how impossible that may seem. In the middle of ice and snow are pockets of green. Pockets of life. Be it an evergreen older than half your family combined, or just a patch of wild grass creating an impromptu picnic spot, there is always life in these high castles of stone. Men and women were kings and queens, and existed as such in those magical lands, living beautiful, pure lives as every snowflake does. Down here the life I see is slowly cooled in the eyes of the people every day. Cooled and reshaped into something much less.

 

Here, Winter comes closer each day.  A slow, chilling wraith that glides across this world to deliver it’s message to those listening.  I consider it both a blessing and a curse to be able to see their dying joys. I know that it means I still have a bit left in me. That the memories I hold protect me from this slow, decaying, clawing cold. But I also realize that my ability to see this tells of a person walking a fine line. They say a man close to death is able to see the dead – am I already such a familiar face to this?  Does Winter call me friend?  Disciple?

 

The cog spins precisely despite it’s chipping, gnawing and gnarled teeth. I find myself joining those outside soon enough at the whim of a buzzing demon in my clock. Always late, he tells me. Always late. Never enough time to sleep. Never enough time for warmth. Never enough, and it will never be. As we pass through the still-morning streets, we stride over homeless and stray dogs who claim this cobblestone as their own parts of the cold. Their tiny, sagging kingdoms against the Winter as defiant walled cities of old. How their eyes have not frozen shut, I can only give to the pity, nay, humour of God or Death. Still, while their pride is lessened, they see us as the ones most doomed. If death takes them tonight, they will be infinitely free, while we never have time to die. The demon in my clock tells me this, and I know it to be true. The dogs raise their hackles at me as I pass: friend or foe? Am I one of these winter bound slaves, or am I a stray? They fold back their ears, and yet keep their tails bristled in confusion as I go on.

 

Something in the way the air moves this morning has my eyes on the mountains again. A sweet, caressing pull. Intangible and tender as if my heart has become addicted without my intervention or permission. The snow up on the sides of the high stone parapets is clean and pure, not like the soot down below. Down where winter lays waste on our cog-like-souls.

 

The day passes by as a mindless fog. For this I am grateful, though it sparks anger as I walk away from the thief of my daylight. The sun’s brief ray already gone behind those blessed mountains. Walls erected around this tiny speck of cancer so as not to let it spread across the land. Though it’s concrete tendrils lash out, few can conquer the peeks. A stray road and the rails gouged through the rock by fire and steel are the only hidden escapes from this town. The road is one that fools would still not attempt this time of year. I can almost feel the warmth on the other side of them. To the West where the day still exists. I wonder if you can feel it too.

 

Can your prison of ice be as thick as mine? I move, I see, and yet, I am furthermore lost in a maze of false freedoms and shallow breathes. How many snowflakes lie down across your cheek this lonely winter’s dawn? Without count, I can tell it is not enough to make me forget. Make me cold. Leave me untouched by a strange, familiar warm sensation each morning just after my dreams succumb to reality. I pray that this fellowship is wrought with love, and not just the frost in both our bones, despite the very different sources. Are my bones becoming as brittle? My features becoming still and stoic as one frozen in time? You live on in perfect beauty – timeless – while I decay in the same. This alone shows me the injustice of the day, where the simple pleasure of growing old with you is robbed from my desires.

 

Meagreness is the theme of the life I live for us. Tiny portions of food. A single bed. Far too few bottles of whiskey and wine to make the year pass as quickly as I wish it to. No excess, in hopes of moving away. All of it in hopes of moving away from this winter. While others long since have given up their dreams to enjoy the few expensive sins in this town, I am unable to leave for a much different reason.

 

Half of me is still frozen up there in the mountain. It is in a kind light I look at it, though, as it has kept me away from the frost thus this far. It is my blessing and my curse that I must still love you. Every day it gets harder to look upon the sheer mirror cliffs. A small flat on the side away from me marks your grave, and I feel it though I cannot see it.

 

My feet are nearly frozen as I climb. The chill is more in spirit, though, and I feel a gentle tug washing over me as I rise above the town. Climbing is forbidden in avalanche season ever since your death, and yet, once again, I break this unspoken rule that is even now just barely enforced with terrible stories.

 

Stories.  Tales.  How you were ripped apart by the ice. Or crushed into a red mist by the snow-cap. Trapped, dying slowly over the week it took for them to find us and save only myself. All fantasy. The snow took you completely. Instantly. Sad, but painlessly. Just as you look now. The summer and fall before this moment have been kind to you. The snow we fell in makes a crystal coffin for you as beautiful as pure diamond. Hard as diamond too, but a cool air comes off it to refresh my ragged lungs from the climb.

 

It is the last breath I take before sobbing.  Before me is a perfect image of who I was.  Who you were.  Who we were.  Behind me is only soot and winter.  Up the mountain face, I see the ever stretching arms of heaven. 

 

The air is warmer here than in the city, even as I lay next to you.  My arms reach out to touch your ice coffin.  Even as the cold creeps up my spine to fill my blood.  It cleanses the soot from me.  Crystallizes my mind and breaks the cogs inside.  Winter will not take me.  I give myself to the mountain, just as you did. 

 

The air in the mountains is so much warmer now that I’m with you.

 

 

 

 

Strike Fiss, Studio Shinnyo 2003.  Khattam-Shud, EOF.

Posted under Manifestoes, Short Stories

Legend of the Boobiemaster

Posted by Fiss on August 14, 2006
Strike Fiss' Manifesto
February 2003


The Legend of the Boobiemaster









Valentines Day.  Loved.  Dreaded.  Feared throughout the modern world.
Chocolates and candies flow freely like...some kind of free thing that
flows like water.  Yes.  Water.  Or Honey.  Or, lots of candy.

To Wolfgang Noobernack, this day was feared before anything else in his
life.  His life wasn't that bad, you see.  He had a wonderful job at
the local television studio, making commercials for non-profit
organizations and churches.  Not only was the pay well, but he met his
wonderful girlfriend during one of the client meetings.  Apparently,
she was wooed by his kindness in helping out the Save the Garden Gnome
foundation of West Kansas come up with their latest slogans and posters.

They fell in love after discovering they shared much in their lives.
After a few nights at each other's houses watching Knight Rider re-runs,
they began to date officially.  It was fate.  It was love!

Until two years ago.

Valentines Day came rolling around; their first together.  Wolfgang had
heard that Melinda (that was her name, of course.  Silly author for not
mentioning it sooner! Hahahahaaa) had always secretly wanted a romantic,
intimate present for this day.  To confirm this, he would watch her out
of the corner of his eye as they trekked too and fro in the mall,
passing lingerie stores.  Sure enough, as the ads and billboards began
to boast their red and frilly nighties on sale, she would spend the
extra few seconds in front of the store, debating if going in would
give him enough of a hint.

Pleased with himself that he was so observant to his lover's desires,
he snuck into the store the next day under the guise of an errand to
run at the corner store.  Picking up the first thing he saw that seemed
the right shape had seemed intelligent at the time...

Oh, how he wished he knew...

Valentines Day, and the perfect romantic evening was planned.
Candlelight dinner for two, in front of the fireplace.  The dogs and
cats were all locked outside in the back yard to bug the Garden Gnomes
instead of interrupting their evening.  He even had the foresight to
call up everyone who might call during the evening and wish them a
happy holiday, then called to confirm his health and happiness to his
parents.  After that, he wisely disconnected the phone.

Most of the evening went off as planned.  Dinner was light to make room
for the conversation, music and champagne.  With desires running high,
he decided that it would be the perfect moment to spring his 'surprise'
gift.  With much romantic and poetic speech, he brought forth a red and
white foil wrapped box.  That alone won him an impressive series of
hugs and kisses that made up for the cost of the outfit itself (and the
three hours trying to wrap it impressively enough to fit the mood)

As the evening's entertainment turned decidedly less food related and
the two retired to the bedroom, she promised to return shortly from the
bathroom, wanting to change into her new gift.  Excited and pleased
with how well the whole day went, he continued crafting the perfect
setting.  Candles were lit around the room that smelled of cinnamon and
vanilla.  Finding just the right balance of volume and music was key,
and took several moments to get juuuuust right.

And then, he heard sniffling.

Then...crying!

Concerned, he walked over to the bathroom door, just in time for her to
walk out...covered in a sexy, beautiful, frilly tent!

It was about five sizes too big.  Everywhere.  Some parts were at least
six sizes too big.

After much crying and sobbing about how he thought she was fat, and him
trying desperately to deny it, she got dressed and left, running off
into the night.

He learned later on that she had been quite overweight in her younger
years and was still very sensitive about it.  After deep and many
apologies, explaining that it was all an accident, they made up and
both decided to put the whole incident behind them.


The second year...last year...was a bit less dramatic at first.


Wanting to wholly avoid the repeat of the last year's horrible incident,
he planned ahead nearly two months.  Consulting with his sister and
cousin, who obviously, would know a little about women's underwear,  he
was told to try to get a measurement for her bust line and waist if
indeed, he wanted to get her the perfect romantic and sexy gift.  While
it was embarrassing at first, he reminded himself that it was all for
Melinda and making up for last year's mistakes.  All it took was a
quick look into her laundry to find a bra, then he matched it to a
measuring tape he had handy.  Her jeans betrayed the final bit of
information he needed and so: he was done!

He walked into the store with a proud look in his eyes and a knowing
grin on his lips as he ventured past the frilly nighties to the more
interesting and revealing exotics.  They came in pairs, meaning only to
hide the bare minimum of a lady when worn.  Melinda would look stunning
in half of the sets here...now only to decide on a style that they
would both enjoy...and make sure the size was correct.

Now, this next part is important, as it shows why the Boobiemaster
himself exists at all.

At the counter, still smiling brightly, he placed the garments down and
pulled out his credit card.  Even the high price tag was not enough to
make him stop smiling.  The lady at the counter found his smile a bit
annoying, though, and saw what he was buying.  She was instantly
overcome with jealousy that her husband would never buy her something
this nice...nor would she be able to look as good in it as whoever this
man was buying it for would.

So, she decided not to tell him that unless the girl was
disproportionate in the chest, or had recently spent a lot in cosmetic
surgery, she would find this set to be a little loose up top.

Needless to say, the dinner flowed down hill the moment Melinda walked
out with a scowl on her face, asking if she was adequate for his needs.

After much heated discussion about breast size and how 'obviously' he
wanted her to have hers altered, they both unofficially agreed:
Flowers and Candy only.

It put a damper on their relationship for a few months, but after much
tender nursing of the broken emotions, they were back up to full
strength to celebrate holidays like Christmas and New Years together.

Always in the back of his mind, though, was the looming threat of this
Valentines Day.

Lamenting next to the water cooler at work proved to be not only
beneficial to his mood, as many of the male co-workers agreed that his
predicament was common and justified, but also beneficial in finding
the solution.

"There's always the Boobiemaster." John said, sipping from his coffee
mug.

John was a legend in his own right.  He seemed to always have the
answers to any problem and question.  Despite his obvious intelligence,
though, he was never condescending, and listened to his co-workers'
pleas with a friendly ear.  However, this was a much different problem
than usually came through his vast knowledge base (or so they thought),
and many of the co-workers looked at him in disbelief.

"What's a Boobiemaster?" Wolfgang asked, before anyone else could.
Still, despite his confusion, he knew that if John was offering this
information, it may indeed be useful.

"Last Valentines Day was nearly perfect." John explained.  "It sounds
like you tried your best, but the evil garment wench at the counter
thwarted your romantic evening out of spite."

The men all nodded, agreeing.  "It's always hard for men to be in those
stores." Trevor said.  "The women there always look at you funny.  It's
quite disheartening."

John nodded, then smiled in his wise, Yoda-like smile.  "Indeed.  If
only...if only."

Wolfgang's eyes widened.  "You mean...there is a man who works at one
of these stores?"

"Yeah, but he's probably gay." Sighed Ralph.

John nodded.  "In the past, the only men to work in lingerie stores
were indeed rather feminine themselves.  However...there is another,
and he is known as..."

Lightning struck somewhere outside.

"The Boobiemaster." As thunder echoed the halls.

In awe, the men all bowed to John.  "Please, you must tell me how to
find this man!  This man among men!  This hope among hope!  My
Valentines Day Savior!" Wolfgang whispered, bowing as a disciple to a
wise old sage.

"The trek is not light." John warned.  "It takes many miles to reach
the Boobiemaster.  Lest you be attacked by several Toll Booths, it is
best to walk the last portion through many wild acres of woods!"

"I will do what I must to obtain the Boobiemaster's wisdom." Wolfgang
said, tears in his eyes.  "No price too high, nor journey too long for
me to make Melinda's day!"

The other men all were cowering at the prospects, but remained curious
to see how Wolfgang's plea would be met.  They watched from behind the
cooler and behind the walls of cubicles, shaking in fear, but eyes wide.

"Your heart is true..." John said, placing his hand on Wolfgang's
shoulder.  "Rise, my friend.  I shall give you the directions, for they
are not in the Yellowpages."



The directions were as thus.  The drive alone would have turned many of
the half-hearted petitioners away from this mystical, holy place.
Thirty miles outside the city, not accessible by Interstate.  Then, the
road turned into a camping ground.  Following the directions given, he
went to Park 201, for it overlooked the lake.

The Lake of Thoughtless Men was a forbidden place that many had
perished before.  As he walked due North, trusting his compass more
than anything, he found himself only wet to his ankles.  A small sand-
bar, meant to keep the lake calm for swimmers made the trek possible.
To the left and right, however, were the men who went astray.  Dead
bodies, looking up at him with lifeless, ghostly eyes...

He could see the temptations on either side.  A Hooters Bar and Grill
to the left.  Signs that pointed to a Nude Beach on the right.  Still,
he kept focused, vowing not only to make sure Cupid didn't get the best
of him again...but also staying true to his promise to make Melinda
happy.

The other side of the lake was a hard climb almost straight up the face
of a mountain.  Still, undaunted, he scrambled up the hundred foot
cliff, and found himself catching his breath on the driveway to a small
building, crowning the hill with a soft, pink light.

He looked off down the road.  Indeed, many more temptations lay down
that path.  The one he took was the safest, but also, was meant to test
his resolve.

The bright neon sign, accented by little pulsating hearts, read:
Fanny's Fine Lingerie.

Doubtful at first, but trusting John's advice, he dusted himself off
from the hike.  He rung out his shoes.  He tidied his hair, and then,
he walked in the door.



It was bright and cheery inside.  Several women, young and old, were
there both shopping and working.  At first...he saw no men.  His heart
sunk.

"Hello there!" came a kind old lady with a "Fanny" name-tag on her
shirt.  "You must be looking for the Boobiemaster."

He blinked, then nodded frantically.  "Yes!  I have traveled far to
seek his guidance!"

The old woman smiled and pointed to the back, past many shelves and
racks of night gowns and panties.  "This way.  Don't be scared...he is
wise beyond what you have no doubt heard.  Simply speak your heart and
be honest, and he can help you no matter your difficulty."

He walked into the back, and found Him.

The Boobiemaster wore no nametag.  He was only known as his title.
Maybe, it was the legend that made him so popular.  Maybe he wasn't as
good as everyone said.  But, as he turned around and smiled at Wolfgang,
he somehow knew that he was not about to be let down.

"Welcome.  You seek me.  A gift for Valentines?" the man said simply.
His voice was strong and kind, akin to John's, but he carried an air
about him that was mystical in nature.

"Yes." Wolfgang bowed his head.  "These past two Valentines, I have
failed.  I wish to make up for my short sightedness and win back her
favor for this holiday so we might enjoy it together!"

With a nod of approval, the Boobiemaster walked up to him and offered
him a seat on one of the stools he had been using to reach the higher
boxes in the stock room.

"What is the lady's name?" he asked.

"Melinda."

The Bobbiemaster nodded, then closed his eyes.  "Tell me about her."

"Her bust size is thirty..."

"NO!" he scolded.  "No, you must not tell me, or it will ruin
everything!"  the Boobiemaster smiled and shook his head as he saw
Wolfgang's scared face.  "You must be true to herself...not her
measurements."

"She likes Knightrider re-runs.  She is tall and fit.  She loves pasta
and kitties named 'Spot'.  Her eyes are the same color as delicious
grapes...not the red ones, the darker green ones."

The Boobiemaster smiled and nodded.  "Much better.  Now, this part is
important." He raised his arms and opened his hands, as if pushing back
against something.  "Show me how you hold her."

He raised his arms, nervous, but then, realized he must be truthful if
the Boobiemaster was to do his work.  Slowly, he imagined Melinda in
front of him, and his hands holding her.  At first, around the waist.
Then, he smiled, feeling the power and magic of this holy place take
hold, and give him the ability to nearly feel her in his arms.  He ran
his hands all over her imaginary body, and when he was done the
Boobiemaster was nodding in approval.

"Very good, young one.  You are learning." He turned and disappeared
into the stock room for a moment.

Still nervous, but feeling pleased, Wolfgang accepted the small package
that the Boobiemaster gave him when he returned.  It was already gift
wrapped in red and white paper.

"Go to her, and have a wonderful Valentines Day." The Boobiemaster said,
patting him gently on the shoulder.  "You will find everything is in
order."

Wolfgang dropped to one knee in a respectful bow, akin to a soldier who
was just knighted.   "How can I ever repay you, Boobiemaster?"

"Cash, Debit or Visa at the counter." He smiled, making his wise old
eyes crinkle around the corners.  "But, beyond that, simply tell those
who you think are worthy of this place.  I will always be here to help
those in need."

And with that, he was gone.  (had to go to the bathroom)




He didn't dare open the package, as he assumed it was enchanted with
the same magic that made the Boobiemaster so powerful.  It was for
Melinda to open the package, and the more he thought about it, he
realized any act for him to peek inside would simply show he didn't
have faith.

Melinda showed up to candles and dinner as usual.  This time, though,
she was noticeably worried when he presented the box of intimates.
"Honey...I don't mean to be rude, but after all we've been through..."

"Please.  Just once more." He smiled.  "I promise."

With a grudging sigh, but also a small smile when she saw how sure of
himself he was... "Fair enough...one more try."

When she stepped out of the bathroom, she was blushing.  A bright,
wonderful smile on her face.  Wolfgang's eyes were wide as she walked
over to him, wearing the most...

Perfect.

Thing imaginable.  It was the color of maple syrup, and seemed three
times as silky and soft.  Every measurement was made to be perfect.
Every bit of cloth held where it was supposed to.  It left the
imagination wonderful room to work with, but also, proved that she did
not need to wear anything to be this stunning...

"I like valentines day..." he sighed happily as she descended on him
for a kiss.







So, when valentines day rolls around, all you fellows out there should
have nothing to fear.  For...there is one among us who has the power.
The skill.  The magical aptitude.  He will be the promised one who will
prove that yes...men can shop for panties and bras.

He is the Enlightened One.

The Valentines Day Savior.

He is...

The Boobiemaster.

And if you believe in him, he can help you too.






Strike Fiss, Studio Shinnyo 2003.  Khattam-Shud, EOF.
Posted under Manifestoes, Short Stories

Changing of the Guard

Posted by Fiss on August 14, 2006

Strike Fiss’ Manifesto

January 2003

 

 

Something new.

 

 

 

Darkness. 

 

Not the kind he enjoyed, oh no…this was different.  The haze from the chloroform finally wearing off should have introduced something to his eyes, but there was nothing. 

 

“W…what’s going on?” he choked out, throat still stinging from the smell of hospitals and his own vomit.  This was nowhere near as enjoyable as a hangover, and he hated those with a passion.

 

“Nothing you need to be concerned of.” Came a voice.  His voice.  It wasn’t nearly as kind and possessively righteous as usual.  “You just woke up too early.”

 

He starts to panic, realizing his limbs are immobile.  The sting of thin, wire-like ropes burn his arms and legs as he tries to struggle free to no avail.  His sight eventually does escape, though, as the white blindfold over his eyes loosens enough to wiggle out of. 

 

That’s when he sees the drop.

 

Just outside the window, there is a five story drop.  Somehow, it looks impossibly more-so. 

 

He turns, still groggy, but energized by the panic in his blood.  He sees his co-worker…standing over him, having a morning tea, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to have kidnapped his friend and thrown him on the edge of a fatal drop. 

 

“You’re probably wondering what’s going on.” He says after apparently draining the last few drops of his tea.  “It’s quite simple, actually.  You’re no longer needed.”

 

The one tied up scowls, suddenly forgetting his mortal dangers and turning his attention to pride.  One of the deadly sins, and perhaps, his favourite.  “Not needed?  Oh, I think you are mistaken, my little angelic friend.”

 

This seems to amuse the other, and with a flick of his wrists, his teacup is thrown across the floor.  “Really?  Then perhaps this will be more amusing than I thought.” He walks over and sits down across from his bound companion.  “Since I seem to be the instrument of your destruction, you may want to shed this light upon me and show me that I am wrong in wanting you gone.”

 

“My head is far too light at the moment.” The other grumbles.  “To engage in such a debate would prove indeed fatal.”

 

“Engaging in debate may save your life as well.  Considering that I was just about to punt you over the edge anyway, you should be grateful for this chance to chance my mind.”

 

Damn.

 

“Fair enough.” He sighs, not thinking so, but wanting to indulge in his captor’s more sensitive side.  “Quite simply, if I am gone, you won’t be able to do your job.  I exist for the reason you exist.  If we are not on opposite sides, everything will be lost.”

 

“This is the assumption.” The little man in white nods.

 

The tied up man in black nods quickly, continuing.  “He needs us both, you see.  I can understand that recent events have put you in emotion against me…but you cannot deny that you must have me to help balance out His life.”

 

“Recent events have not jaded me against you as well as you seem to think.” He smirks, but then lets the other continue.

 

“Had I the mind, I would call you on that, but for now, I will not.” He huffs…head hurting, but becoming clear.  “To continue, what will He do in the next few weeks?  Months?  If he is not to have me to guide him?  Surely you realize he will be pitted against many evil things.  This new job of his…a horrible place…full of cruel souls and hard minds!”

 

“This is something I know to be true.” The other nods, arms crossed.

 

“And you must also know that without someone who is familiar…who is evil themselves…our young master will be surely drifting through another sea of horror.  Even you must see my value in this light!”

 

A long, long pause.  The little silver timepiece on the desk dresser across the room fills the air with crisp, perfect-second clicks.  At least ninety go by before the man in white nods and stands.

 

“Are you finished?”

 

With a gulp, the man bound nods.  “I am finished with my proof, if that is what you mean…and I mean not to be finished by it.  If you wish it otherwise, I will perhaps continue!”

 

“You have done your job too well.” The other says with a sad smile, as if, despite his pleasure in this act, he has needed to banish many thoughts in contrary to it.  “This is why you are no longer needed.”

 

“If anything, I have let you work too much!” the other argues quickly.  “He is hardly known as a bad man!  Something I have received many laughs and head-shakes over!”

 

“You will be quiet.” The other says quietly, but with the effect of a bellow from the heavens. 

 

“I fear I will be.” The other swallows back a worried lump in his throat.

 

“Our young master has been through hell.  Anything you do, or advise him in cannot even come close to this.” He shakes his head, making the shadows around them shift.  “And I have found myself filling in your job more than you have had the chance to fill in mine.  What would you do if you were suddenly possessed to guide him to helping a stranded kitten?  Or returning a lost wallet to the local constabulary?”

 

“I…I would feel as if I was ailing.” The man admits with a chuckle.  “I cannot see myself advising the young master in such a way.”

 

“Nor would I expect a man from the noir to do so.” The other smiles, but the smile is lost.  “And yet, I find myself telling our young master to fight.”

 

“To fight?” the other blinks, at first, not believing his pointed little ears.  “To fight what?”

 

“Is it not my job to advise him in the best course?  In the ways that lead him away from temptation?  In the rooms that provide no harm?  The halls that lead him to happiness and love?”

 

“It is…as far as I have gathered in my service with you these long years.”

 

A smile and nod.  “Do you not think it strange that I am willing to tell him to fight?  Not simply just to revive lost spirits?”

 

“It does seem slightly out of disposition, but I suppose if it is for the right reasons…then you are still doing your job.” The other says, mind clear enough at least to focus on this work.

 

“I do not know if I will be leading him into love.  Nor happiness.” He says, an apology in his eyes.  “But I know that in this time, I must both guard him from you…and yet…make sure he sees your virtue and use.”

 

“Virtue?” the little devil chuckles.  “I doubt I could live to hear the Endtimes and that word spoken of me once more!”

 

“Nor any of your kind.  But this is why I must do what I plot.  Because our young master is not like the others.  He is not needing both good and evil to balance him and sway him in such superficial ways.”

 

“Yay, you are quite wrong still!” he scowls, sitting up against the window.  “You could never hope to do what I do!  If, as it seems to me, it is a question of doing evil well…I doubt you have the guts nor the mind to do so!  The soul and will, perhaps, but that is not what I am made from!”

 

A strange, thin smile on his companions’ lips.  “Perhaps.  Perhaps you believe that I cannot show him how to fight.  Nor, how to survive against evil.  Correct?”

 

“Correct, correct, and double-correct!” the other shouts.  “While I admire you taking your skills to this level, you must know you are not in this match!  That you are outmatched!  That this is a hurricane, and you are just a match!  Like implied, I believe with all the belief I can muster that you cannot hope to accomplish my job in the slightest!  It is as if the light desires to cast the darkest shadows with itself instead of it’s absence!  No, I say NO! You must prove and provide the balance!”

 

The smile disappears, but his body indicates laughter under his breath. 

 

“As I have already stated…you did your job too well.  You showed me all I need to know to save our young master, as well as the fact that he does not need you to mutter his little dark fantasies and pleasures.  Since the dark times last year, I would say you have done the best to get him to drink more than once a week!  Oh my!  You are quite an evil man!”

 

“Y…” he pauses, stumped for a moment, but it is enough.  “You simply do not see my full value!  What of this virtue you recently spoke of?  What of my job being fulfilled to the letter and beyond the letter ‘Z’?”

 

“Thanks.” The other explains.  “For help in the past.  Indeed, the balance was good for him.  The shifting made his life interesting and real.  But in this upcoming challenge, he needs strength instead of uncertainty, and has a lifetime of sorrow to keep his goodness balanced.”

 

“What do you want to do?” the other frowns, not understanding and too flustered to continue the debate.

 

A long pause once again.  Not as many silver-second-ticks go by, though, and this worries the bound man against the glass.

 

“I wish to save him.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.” His comrade explains finally.  “You do not.  You want to simply place darkness in an already dark pool.  You want to freeze a block of ice.  To cook a ball of fire.  And, while this may once be excusable, you do so for no other reason than to be useful…or an annoyance depending on your point of view.  You have done nothing in these last few years to make him grow.  Nor, learn.  You are simply annoying.”

 

“And I still say you are too weak.” The dark man scowls as his comrade walks closer.  “I still say you are too focused on joy to save him from harm.  In all these years, I have never seen you do what the dark can do!”

 

He leans forward, almost within range to bite.  Then, opens the window just enough. 

 

The dark man’s eyes are wide with realization as he begins his first and last breath, falling back against air. 

 

“You’ve never seen what the light can do.” The little angel says with a glare, watching the little devil fall to it’s doom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waking up from a strange dream, He looks around, startled by the sudden gust of air over his body. 

 

The young man blinks the sleep from his eyes finally, and sees the tiny angel sitting on his right shoulder.  He is reading the morning gazette, and enjoying now his second cup of tea. 

 

“Hey.” The man says with a rasp throat. 

 

“Good morning.” The little angel replies, smiling a hello before turning back to his tea and news.

 

The man sighs, then looks over to his left shoulder.  It is strangely vacant. 

 

The little angel is still there, sipping on his tea.  It smells like jasmine, but it could be Earl Grey as well. 

 

Back to his left shoulder.  Still vacant.  Back to the right, to where the angel sits.  “Uhm…”

 

The angel blinks, “Yes?”

 

The young man seems to think it an odd thing to ask, but once more, his empty shoulder asks it through his curiosity.  “Aren’t there supposed to be two of you?”

 

“Who?” the angel blinks.  “Two of me?”

 

“No…you know…the other guy.”

 

“Ooooh!” the angel laughs.  “You mean the devil?”

 

“Yeah.” The man smiles, but still curious.  “Yeah, him.”

 

“Oh, I got rid of him.” The angel says, turning back to his paper.

 

A long pause.  The ticks and tocks from the clock make it apparent that it is a long pause.

 

“But…don’t I need him?” the man blinks.

 

“For what?” the angel replies.

 

“Er…you know…to tell me bad things?”

 

“Bad things?  Oh, no, he was just bothersome.”  The little angel smiles to himself, then puts down his newspaper.  “He was nothing.”  The angel explains.  “Don’t worry…you’ve got me.”

 

 

The man looks up at the roof with a sigh as the dream fades away.

 

Slowly, though, the worry in his mind melts away.

 

A smile melts through his worried frown.

 

He can still smell the tea.

 

“It’s going to be a good year.”

 

 

Strike Fiss, Studio Shinnyo 2003.  Khattam-Shut, EOF.

Posted under Manifestoes, Short Stories

Books That Melt In The Rain ™

Posted by Fiss on August 14, 2006

Strike Fiss’ Manifesto

November 2002

 

 

 

This is boring, but plagiarism of the mind never smelled so delicious.  Let tell you of the thought I stole from my brain.  Coiled and grey as it is, thoughts like this are too wonderful not to share.  Apple pie baked and hickory smoked.  Books that melt in the rain – it’s the next craze your children will buy into and your TV will worship.  Endorsed by God and Pope-John-Paul Approved.  Once, I had a book that only melted half way before it stopped raining.  The edges of the pages looked like blueberry jam.  The remains of the spine were like caramel candy, so I took a big bite of it on the edge and passed out right after I discovered that it tasted like pennies and sunlight.

 

In the hospital, the doctors with the white coats and purple stethoscopes all told me I should have been dead for ignoring the ‘recommended usage’ label – for the books were clearly not designed to be consumed by human beings, and I should never ever do anything like that again.  My mom told me that my head broke open and my brain flew out onto the grass, getting dirt and bugs all over it.  I told her that I liked bugs, and was impartial but friendly to dirt, so it was okay.  Not much of a beginning, I suppose, but somehow, I think it explains a bit about the leaves…and maybe, it will be a bit of an introduction into the Happiest Boy On Earth and Most Of Space Except For One Planet. 

 

Let’s dive briefly into that last thought.  You see, being the Happiest Boy on a Planet is not very hard.  For example, you could be the unchallenged ruler of a large percentage of that world, and be waited on hand and foot so every waking moment is a joy and pure happiness rains down from your armpits when you run at the Royal Gym.  You could be a porn-star with an uncontested clause in your contract that you only make love to beautiful, young, sexy women who all want to devour your bodily fluids and any rate you can produce them.  Or perhaps, you would be an evil dictator.  That alone would make many people happy.  Especially if you could have a big red button to press that would consistently destroy everything you didn’t like about life.  Yay!  Or, maybe, you’re just a really big Star Trek fan, and somehow, you got to hang out with Patrick Stewart for a whole day, getting his autograph and at the end of it, him saying that he had lots of fun chilling with you and that you should go to Hollywood and hang out with him sometimes and kick the shit out of William Shatner.  That would certainly make me the happiest boy on earth…but then, I got to thinking, what if there was a planet somewhere that could throw my happiness to shame?  Maybe, the planet Joy in the Glee galaxy.  On this planet, there was a country called Happy Happy! and the people there (yes, happy with an exclamation mark on the end) were the happiest in the whole universe, because their entire beings were moulded to good karma and thoughts all day long, and the worst thing ever to happen to any of them would be to have only three candy canes left, instead of the unlimited supply.  And even then, the Three Candy Cane alert would be sounded, and their friendly, happy friends and loved ones would immediately run to them with happy smiles and fresh, delicious, sugary treats to tide them over while the Candy Cane Plant gave overtime to their happy workers to make a few hundred extra Candy Canes of Pure Happy Sugar to send to the poor people who were ALMOST out of Happy Candy Canes. 

 

We shall return to that thought in a moment.  First, I want to tell you about the ancient, little known, and even lesser practiced art of Phyllomancy.  So they tell me, the only people or things to practice Phyllomancy are Garden Gnomes, their more adventurous cousins, Lawn Gnomes and the very few (I’m the only one) humans who have the gift of divination in this way.  Seeing the future can be done with many tools, you see.  Some more accurate than others.  If you look up into the sky, you can know if it will rain a few minutes from now.  If you look into a crystal ball, you may even know what is happening next month with your job or love-life.  Some learned sources have pushed the thought that a fortune cookie in the hands of the right person can explain events long into the months ahead.  But, what the Gnomes and I know is much more powerful.  We see the future by the rustling of the leaves on the ground and in the trees.  I would later find out via x-rays that my brain had fallen into a pile of raked leaves when it popped out of my head, and the doctors had been too shocked and surprised and worried to think to brush it off before it was sewn back into my skull. 

 

Armed with this talent, it was almost inevitable that fortune, both good and bad would come my way.  Seeing the future is never a good thing, but lots of people with money seem to think it is.  Lots of important people with ties and suits.  Black briefcases that are filled to the brim with secrets both mundane and amazing.  I saved one of those men’s lives one day by telling him he should not take a step forward, and should not get hit by the bus that he did not see.  Now, normally, this is just a matter of perspective, and one would simply not think anything of it if told this when about to venture onto a street.  However, this was during lunch in a park, with no busses around us for a ten minute walk.  Needless to say, he was quite surprised I should offer the information to avoid the busses when there were no busses to be had.  I told him that I knew he would die if he didn’t listen to me, though, and that it would only take a second to stop if he was about to cross a busy street. 

 

He laughed at me, but then finished his lunch quickly, obviously a bit concerned I was loony.  I ate my lunch, deciding that if people honestly wanted to follow the direction of the leaves, they would.  That they just needed to listen harder.  After all, in a park, the trees were quite wise.  These were much more than the average potted office plant.  They were elms and oaks.  Trees that, between you and I, know much more than you could ever hope to fathom.  When a tree tells you something, you listen.  Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that trees are always talking, and ignore them because they don’t say “Here are the winning lottery numbers!  Enjoy!” out loud in a British Accent and a flourish of their branches like a man tipping his hat to you. 

 

Ten minutes later, though, the business man comes running back to me, completely pale.  He had an amazing mixture of fear and joy in his eyes, and the leaves tell me that I have done well spreading their knowledge. 

 

Like all things commercial in this world, it starts as a fad, then gets noticed by people with lots of money, and then it becomes a product.  At first, I was the centre of a small cult of librarians, historians, and a cobbled together group of people that had benefited from my powers or who thought I could help them in the near future.  The nice thing about the power is that you can tell when people are going to screw you over well in advance.  You know when to call the cops so they stop whoever is about to knife you.  You know when to lock up your wallet and jewellery.  When the front door can stay open.  What days are better just to stay in bed and hide, and what ones will be the happiest days in your life.  It takes some of the fun out living, unless of course you realize that, if you listen and watch closely to the world around you, any person can have clues.  It was offering these clues to people that made me the happiest.  Telling them to mind where they stepped, instead of they were going to get hit by a bus.  Telling them to watch the stock markets for coffee companies, instead of telling them that Nabob was about to take over Columbia with ninjas.  The leaves became amazed and proud at what I had become.  Sharing their wisdom, but never overstepping my power and trying to do too much. 

 

I became a commodity.  Both the leaves and I were afraid that I would be chopped up and sold on the market for the hungriest pigs on the planet.  Rich men and women would come to my little apartment and try to bully me into telling them things that even the leaves did not know.  How to live forever.  How to rule the world.  Where could they get one of those ‘one rings to rule them all’.  How to destroy their enemies.  I can’t say I was surprised when I started seeing Senators and Ministers and Mayors and all sorts of politicians at my door.  The problem with people with power is that they CAN make your life miserable.  I could tell that…if I didn’t tell them what they wanted to know…they could crush any happiness I had in this dwindling time of happiness.  They would run up to me with big men in black suits with big, shiny guns and tell me to speak nothing but riches and how to get them.  How to get votes.  How to get women and or men.  Never did any one of them ask how to be a better person.  How to be a better politician.  I suppose that was too much to ask for.  I asked the Mayor of Toronto if he wanted to know how to be a better person.  He looked at me as if I was a crazy person then ran out the door to collect the riches I had inadvertently lead him to.

 

Finally, after being awake for three days to answer a particularly nasty stream of questions right before the voting season…the President knocked on my door.  I was exhausted.  I had just finished shooing away three Senators and two Members of Parliament by telling them some lottery numbers, and I wanted to sleep.  The leaves in my brain hurt from the effort. 

 

He walked in with all his little secret service people who had guns and lasers and bad things like that.  The leaves told me that they were all loaded and trained to shoot people like me, even if I could tell where the bullets would go, I also knew that I wasn’t that fast to dodge several dozen. 

 

“How can I save my country?” he asked. 

 

I was happy, but also quite sad.  Happy, because I had always wanted someone important to ask something this important from me…but sad because…well…it was such a question that the leaves told me right away.  I told him that he would not like what I had to say, but he said that there were so many problems…so many people poor and dying…and so many crimes and bad things out there that he was prepared to follow my instructions to the letter.

 

I asked him if he was serious.

 

He said yes, so I told him to jump out the window.

 

He did.

 

The secret service people all looked at me in horror, but did nothing, believing that I would tell them all to do the same thing next. 

 

Soon, it was all over the news.  That I had killed the president.  Well, I hadn’t really.  The leaves just told me that he was a bad, bad man, and the Vice President would do great things for the world.  They told me that there was a robber trying to rob and kill a little old granny five stories below as well, so I figured it would be doing her a favour as well if the President landed on the robber.  He did, and the lady was saved.  (turns out the old lady was also in charge of a chemical lab that would also find a cure for nine types of cancer, AIDS, and the dreaded Corporal Tunnel Syndrome next year as well.)

 

Despite the good that it caused, there was also a very nice, selfish side effect.  Nobody wanted my advice anymore.  Nobody asked me questions.  Everyone realized that some of their answers could include death and misfortune, like the President and his destiny.  At the same time, though, I was shunned.  My landlord kicked me out, and no matter where I went, I was too well known to find a home, a job, or anything else for that matter.

 

That was when the leaves tried to help me once more.  They said I was hungry for soup, and honestly, I was, so I listened to them.  I walked over to the store and bought some ramen noodles.  When I opened the lid, I found a little sticker inside that said I had just won something. 

 

The leaves told me that I might never be as happy as the ruler of Happy Happy! in the Glee Galaxy on the planet Joy, but that this would make sure at least I was warm and had a place to live.  For that, I was happy, though I wondered why they told me about the country of Happy Happy!. 

 

Turns out that they didn’t realize I wouldn’t be happy here. 

 

The prize turned out to be a show home.  A contest sponsored by some local Japanese Business Men and their huge, happy, fat wallets, it was the centrepiece to opening up a new suburb for young professionals and rich old retiring couples.  This home was the first built, as if to incite the owners of it’s future brothers and sisters to come and spend their money.  Indeed, it was quite the attraction.

 

Three stories tall at the back end, with rooms that faced the four corners of the compass.  The basement was cool and furnished with soft carpets and wooden wall units that could hold several thousand dollars of televisions and devices that hooked up to them.  The back yard was huge and held enough soil, you should know this is quite a lot, to grow a family.  The halls were long and paved with rich, hard oak.  While I was not given every convenience to fill the house, I was given a full kitchen, and a huge dining table that looked out of place with less than a dozen people at it’s seats.

 

It was horribly, horribly empty. 

 

There was only one redeeming factor.  The endless empty marble and wood and tile and ceramics were balanced out by a tree in the back yard.  There was a much prettier tree in the front yard…but it was brought there against it’s will.  The leaves were too scared to talk to anyone after the gardeners ripped it up from it’s happy home in the forest a hundred miles from here, then shoved it into the ground in a hole much too small for it’s mighty roots.  It had shrivelled to a mere echo of it’s former beauty…but human eyes could only see the pretty reds and golds its leaves would make in the fall. 

 

It envied the tree in the back.  Whoever built the house had the heart not to destroy this tree, nor move it, nor build over it’s roots or in it’s sun.  The tree told me it’s name only one day after me talking to it.  For such a magnificent tree to tell you it’s name in such a short amount of time is quite rare.  Even master gardeners and protectors of trees, could they ever hear trees, must often wait decades for this honour among honours.  I’m afraid I can’t reiterate His name, for that would betraying the Tree’s trust, but I will tell you that he was wise and kind, even among his species. 

 

I decided to make the bedroom facing the Tree my home.  A nest, if you will.  Coming from such a tiny apartment, this vast expanse of a house was too much.  Secluding myself into this one room made me happy for a while, but soon, I began to get lonely.  Letting in the occasional squirrel and racoon was nice, but many didn’t stay.  I promised myself to stay the winter and see what happened.  The trees of the street all shed their leaves and my powers dwindled, despite the fact that my leaving the doors and windows invited many of them inside for the winter.  Soon, snow banks would collect and deposit themselves in many of the rooms, and even after that, cobwebs were replaced with that kind of wonderful ‘old’ dust that makes large houses seem spooky and haunted.  Being a newly built show-home, however, I was not blessed with ghosts to talk with. 

 

You may think that this is the point where I start going crazy and talk to myself.  I’m afraid that it was much worse than that.  I stayed in my little room, curled up in my blankets, listening to the radio for some sign of purpose, and hearing my friend the Tree comment occasionally how well the winter was going, and how the birds were staying healthy thanks to my letting them in the spare rooms.  He was very impressed and said that I made a wonderful honorary Tree.  This was the only thing in my world that kept me going.  My wish to be a tree.  To be rooted and have a purpose.  The Front Yard Tree just mocked me, mentioning how wonderful it was to be ripped up from his home soil, and commenting that I would love to feel the same sense of pain.  At least if I had someone to talk to, even myself, I may have come out of that Winter with much better spirits.

 

People started to move in just before Christmas. 

 

I remember shivering, walking over to the kitchen to get some water, when I looked out the window and found myself waving back at an excited ten-year-old girl and her father as they strung up holiday lights along their fancy new home.  I bet she’ll get one of those books that melt in the rain for Christmas.  It’s the latest fad, if I remember correctly. 

 

The strangest thing happened.  I began to watch the houses around me with a kind of detached interest, and the leaves in my head allowed me to gain insights into the lives around me.  At first, it was just a few peeks out the windows.  I could tell that Mr Johnson next door had just cheated on his wife after finding out she was pregnant, and she knew, but wasn’t saying anything…yet.  The Webbers across the street were avid pot-smokers despite the fact they didn’t move here with their old Hippy Van.  Wilma Terrick next door was a horrible woman who kept her entire family under her thumb…even the three children were restricted from playing in her luscious rose gardens outside.  The one he respected the most was Lou Kennith, just a few houses down.  He saved a poorly planted Elm in his front lawn from disaster by nursing it back to health all spring.  I tried to emulate him and help my Front Lawn Tree, but he was too stubborn and spiteful to let me dig around his roots to free them.

 

By the time Spring was in mid-swing, however, I realized that these homes were far more empty than mine.  Even Lou wished to spend as little time indoors as I did.  All these homes were manufactured.  A product.  A fad.  Just like me and my powers. 

 

The gardens of the street bloomed, and my mood descended into darkness.  It was all fake.  False.  The Front Yard Tree wasn’t helping, either.  His comments became more biting and depressing as the spring wore on, and by the start of Summer, he had told me that a good way to get to the roof was through the North Side of his branches.

 

At first, I didn’t realize what that statement meant…but then, I forgot that he too had leaves, and would be able to tell the future.  I was going to kill myself.

 

Sure enough, one fateful night, with the moon shining into my room too bright for me to sleep, I wandered outside in my pyjamas and over to the Front Yard Tree.  He seemed more than happy to help me…telling me what branches would get me to the roof three stories high…giving me a little boost and shove when I needed it.  Soon, scrambling to crawl up on the tiles, I found the ground a very long way down and my heart even lower. 

 

I asked the leaves, and they sounded a bit worried when they told me that yes, if I jumped from this height head first, I would break my head open once more, and this time, they wouldn’t be able to scoop my brain back inside. 

 

The East Side of the roof faced the kids bedrooms in the Terrick home.  At least my messy, splattery death would ruin a few of Wilma’s precious roses.  That made me feel good about what I was about to do.  Made me think that this would be my purpose.  Maybe, if they were of the time to be amused by gore, I would bring some happiness into their lives. 

 

I turned away and looked across over the neighbourhood, and, for some unknown reason, I stopped just before I took that last running step off the edge. 

 

The moon was so bright. 

 

And everywhere I looked, I could see Them looking at me. 

 

It was not the noble trees that caught my attention, for they are too wise and too long-yeared to care about a simple suicide.  They were not concerned neighbours who wanted to save me, not even to protect the property value of their own homes.  They were not the squirrels, birds and racoons I occasionally harboured, since they would have free reign in my kitchen with or without my existence.

 

The Gnomes.

 

I looked out over the gardens and the lawns and found their eyes.  Bright.  Soulful and wise.  Some winking, some crinkled in smiles, others simply gazing up at the sky.  It was then that I realized I was not alone…that they shared the same gift.  That they saw what I saw.  Knew what I knew.  Felt how I felt. 

 

Despite the Front Yard Tree’s protests that I was going crazy, I found the sun rising to me perched on the top of my house like a smiling gargoyle, looking down at the Gnomes that were trapped in this prison as I was.  Toiling endlessly in worthless gardens that produced food for only bees and birds.  Watering lawns that had thousand dollar sprinkler systems installed in them to water automatically anyway.

 

That was the first night they talked to me.  They told me of the Gnomes of old…of how they were always there to help the poor struggling towns of Men, always pitching in when nobody was looking, hoping to make this world a happier place with greener lawns and beautiful gardens to keep us happy, healthy and well fed.  These days, however, they were seen more of as ornaments.  Things of status and wealth that the people owning them would never appreciate to the full extend they should have.

 

They also told me that they were waiting.  Waiting for something.  Someone to guide them.  To take them to their promised resting place.  A happy place.

 

It was then, as the sun crawled over the hills of Suburbia, that I realized my purpose.  I was not put here to give politicians money.  Not was my full potential in saving business men from busses and vice-versa. 

 

I was to save the Gnomes.

 

Slow work, it was.  At first, just one at a time.  At night.  Under the cover of sleep and early mornings, I snuck into my foe’s lawns and gardens and hedges.  I leapt through automatic sprinkler traps and security systems and motion lights and barking dogs and cats.  I narrowly escaped many evil contraptions such as chain link fences and potted plants.  Eventually, however, the resistance grew. 

 

One by one, the Gnomes found their way into the back yard, guarded and protected by my friend, the Tree. 

 

Bright red tunics, pointed hats and snow-white beards were all saved from the occasional prying eyes by the high picket fence around my yard, and the long shadow under the tree where my army gathered. 

 

Now, at this point, you must be wondering how I could call the occasional Gnome theft akin to a military action.  One man does not make a war.  This is true.  However, as I have always believed…I am not alone.  Every morning, when I brought back the latest member to the resistance, I noticed the numbers of Gnomes were growing.  More and more Gnomes started to migrate to this place…this magical point of salvation that had been brought to this world by happenstance and my semi-delusional design.   

 

The Tree told me with some sense of pride in His part, that the Gnomes were going out and liberating more of their kind every night.  It was a joint effort now.  My Army, now rightfully so, grew larger all the time.  Soon, the extra rooms of the huge, three story house were populated.  Gnomes took up residence for the first time inside the homes they helped to protect and build.  You may think they would be messy house-guests, but they are actually very clean.  Close to a hundred strong, and my House was looking better than brand new.  Each Gnome, you see, is a master craftsman and quite handy with a broom as well as other more common tools of a workshop.

 

The hard-wood floors now wore proud, intricately carved pictures showing the liberation and the days of prosperity ahead.  The giant kitchen table was now an engraved list of the names of the Gnomes who spearheaded the force…and the mourned who had perished to dogs, cats, and garbage men alike.  I was shocked and amazed to find my name at the top of the list. 

 

I was their leader. 

 

Soon, I spent all my time meditating with the leaders of the Gnomes…all the while trying to find a direction to take them.  It’s one thing to be the leader of a great people…but something quite different to fulfill a prophecy that not even the people fully understand.  Not only this…but my further wish to help Humanity as well was growing. 

 

The leaves finally brought the answer to me.  On Midsummer’s Eve, I found myself looking up into the midnight sky, and I fell into a kind of a trance.  My vision was enhanced a billionfold, and suddenly I could see everything in the whole of human thought.  Human thought is pretty vast, no matter how much television has limited it.  No matter how many books are melted instead of eaten. 

 

There had been a great war.  A horrible toll had been exacted on the Country of Happy Happy! and it’s ruler, a young man by the name of Rapture McVelvel the Ninth was alone in the middle of his broken palace of Yaybricks and Wheestone.  All had been soiled by a foolish War…the country next to theirs named Happy! claimed they were Happier…and thus, a huge dispute exploded from it’s seed. 

 

The war had ended quickly when they both realized that neither side was happy any more. 

 

Their Happy Candy Canes would not be produced in time for the holidays.  The fields of Happy Sugar Beets would wither.  Their homes and palaces would be ravaged by the coming storms that normally were cause for joy, as it signalled Kite and Hang-gliding Season.

 

The Gnomes took my idea to heart, and soon, it became a crusade.  It was a Holy Mission. 

 

Right now, as I look out my window, I see my neighbours gawking in awe at the house.  It took more than a week, but you see, in Suburbia, nobody really stops to notice anything anymore.  It was this fact that let us get away with such a radical change.

 

The house now stands eleven stories.  It is covered with metal and glass and crystal.  The shape has been completely changed, and I am told by the head Gnome architects that it will indeed be spaceworthy.

 

There is a magical smoke coming from the base that has been strengthening all day.  Gnomes are amazing chemists and wizards, you see, and are able to convert the simplest house-hold Jell-O Mixes into rocket fuel that NASA would kill for.  The Tree has explained to me that, while the planet Joy is several million, billion and trillion light-years away, the Gnomes and He have calculated that it shant take more than a few months to arrive there with my Gnome Rocket.

 

Plenty of time for my army of Gnomes to save Happy Happy!. 

 

So, I suppose this is it.  My last message before we lift off.  The leaves are worried that there won’t be trees on this planet, but the Tree has told them there are many.  So, if you see me back in about a year’s time, handing out candy canes, hopefully that means I have succeeded in my mission to save the planet Joy, and I am back with their gift to the Planet Earth with enough Happy Sugar to turn things around back here. 

 

Until then, save me one of those books that melt in the rain.  I would like to see if they still taste like sunlight and pennies once I get back.  Or, maybe it’s just best if you just find out for yourself. 

 

I would like that very much. 

 

 

 

Strike Fiss, Studio Shinnyo 2002.  Khattam-Shud, EOF.

Posted under Manifestoes, Short Stories

Simply Unreal

Posted by Fiss on August 14, 2006

Strike Fiss’ Manifesto

October 2002

 

Redeeming One’s Self

 

 

 

     It’s the smell that wakes me up.  Jogs my memory.  Reminds me I’m still alive despite the fact my body has gone completely numb.  It’s of burning.  Flesh and blood.  The smell of sweet gunpowder and hot flak.  A kind of heady, earthy rush mixes with these mechanical death smells…the forest floor I’m laying on.  It bleeds sap and rain, not the crimson goo that covers my hands. 

     They must have thought me dead.  Left me to be picked up by the garbage collectors.  I can still hear a dozen or more of them fighting close by.  Having a tough time, by the sounds of the grunts and yelling.  Most of the name calling and screaming obscenities for the camera shots are only in the first few minutes.  These men and women aren’t used to fighting on ground that doesn’t ‘klang’ when you step on it.  They’re unfamiliar with the rolling natural hills and ancient roots that hide some of the more useful traps and weapons. 

     My HUD powers back up.  Flickering.  Showing my armour is almost dead.  It also shows I have one round left in my gun.  I’ve had worse odds, but not when I’ve been left so far behind.  A little ‘beep!’ in my helmet tells me I have six minutes left before someone wins.  It’s bad.  Very bad.  If I get up and move, someone’s going to see me.  Someone with much more ammo.  Just like the man over the hill.  He spots my body, but thinks I’m dead and turns away.  Reloading what looks like… 

 

      Yes.

 

      My favourite.  A tri-barrel rocket launcher. 

 

      With a deep breath, I force my arm to move again.  It lines up the scope of my rifle.  One shot is all I need if I don’t screw up.  If anyone else sees the shot…though…I’m dead before I get to the rockets. 

      This is the point I reach in every match.  Where I know it would be better just to sit here.  Wait.  Hide until the end of the match and not get myself killed.  But then I remember all I have worked for.  All I have sacrificed.  All those I let down…but also…all those who are hoping for me.  Calling out my name.  Watching me, though I can’t see the cameras. 

 

      And it is the most satisfying feeling when a bolt of lightning arches out from my gun and vaporizes the head of the man a few feet away from me.

      My feet scramble and I am somehow upright.  I take the rockets and the portable cannon.  All the others are fighting on the other side of the trees: none the wiser to my return to the land of the living. 

      I reach into my pocket and take the last bit of Adrenalin I have.  The only legal drug in this sport…and the only one you need if you’re smart enough to use it.  Fire engulfs my body.  My heart races!  It’s like a star being born in my stomach, radiating pure energy out in my limbs.

 

      The next parts are almost a blur. 

 

      I jump over the roots of the trees guarding my rebirth, on instinct, loading the first two rockets in my launcher.  I know what lies over this hill…and it’s never left alone for long.  Sure enough, as I let the rockets fly, my instincts prove themselves.  Two lumbering hulks in armour were heading for the Shield Pack that I am now free to pick up. 

      My armour hums to life and a field of orange energy crackles around my body for a moment before fading again.  In less than ten seconds, I have gone from dead to full power again. 

 

      Not a moment too soon.  “FIVE MINUTES REMAIN!” is broadcasted everywhere.

 

      I look down at the fallen I have just claimed, and almost can’t believe it when I see a large warhead next to one.  It is marked with the warning signs of radiation and nuclear goodness.  I pick it up and ready it in place of my rocket launcher. 

      My heart still racing, I run and jump over to the edge of the clearing.  Below, in the valley formed between the massive roots of these alien trees, I see the main battle.  Those who have survived this far are grizzly.  Fearsome.  Bloody and loving every moment of it.  They fight like rabid wolverines, but with chain-guns, energy weapons, and when all other ammo has been expended, guns that civilians use. 

     

      I stand over the scene with a grim smile.  In their feeding frenzy to be the last one standing, they don’t see me.  My visor lifts off, so I can see the scene clearly. 

 

      “Ahh…” I find myself whispering to the giant gun in my hand.  “I’ve been away for far too long…”

 

      With that, I let the Redeemer fly.  My victory is announced even before the shockwave clears.

 

 

      And with that, I smile, and hit ESC to quit the game.

 

 

http://www.unrealtournament2003.com/     

 

Strike Fiss, Studio Shinnyo 2002.  Khattam-Shud, EOF.

Posted under Manifestoes, Short Stories

The Lost Soul Motel Part 1

Posted by Fiss on August 14, 2006

Strike Fiss’ Manifesto

August 2002

 

 

 

The Lost Soul Motel

721 1/2 Middle Street

Nowhere, Montana. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To this day, I don’t know what it was that made me stop here.

 

I can only remember the feeling of freedom as I drove.  Endless, but headstrong and foolish freedom.  I dared to drive far too late into the night, and I would say it was simply chance that I would pick that moment to stop my car.  In truth, however, it was something far less occasional and much more strange than that. 

 

The songs had all stopped for the night.  The radio had gone silent, and it was just a touch into three a.m. when I had begun to see civilization again.  It came in the form of a dusty old farmer’s town called Nowhere.  The actual name was shrouded in the dust covering the signs put up by the Montana State Authority, but I remember distinctly that the first run-down maw-and-paw gas station had a sign in the window.  “Welcome to Nowhere.” It said.  Red and blue letters, probably once as proud as the flag, now faded into cardboard clarity. 

 

But it was the tear that stopped me. 

 

About a mile into the little town, for some unknown reason, I felt a lone tear break free from my eyelid.  This was, and I should warn you this was a guess and an estimate at best…but at the same moment, a single drop of rain hit my windshield.

 

Now, I’m hardly a poetic soul.  Far from it.  I’m a bad, hard, nasty soul with too much behind him and not enough ahead.  The worst kind, in retrospect.  But whatever that tear was, it made me stop the car.  My dusty old Ford.  It’s a convertible that I haven’t had to use the roof of ever since this stretch of dry land.  I have just begun to love that Ford, and suddenly, it has all been forgotten as I leave the driver’s seat to stand up and look at a completely cloudless black and star-filled sky. 

 

Where rain could possibly come from, I can’t fathom.  It’s been dry all week in these parts, and if I hit a puddle on the way, it would have been the driest of mud. 

 

As I trace my eyes over the sky to get my bearings, still slightly confused and velocitized (the term the police give a person who is far too familiar with highway speeds, then is forced to suddenly slow down), I see a flickering neon light.  Like a million others that offer shelter on long, endless drives.

 

Motel.  Vacancy. 

 

The tear is wiped from my cheek, and I attribute it to my eyes being tired from the thirty hour long drive.  Chicago is far too far away now.  Perhaps sleep would do this old vagabond well.

 

There is a clerk still awake at the motel as I walk into the office.  She is an old Indian woman.  Eighty if not older.  Watching a movie of some kind…black and white with the sound turned down.  Maybe it doesn’t need sound.  Maybe she’s deaf.  I don’t even have a chance to ring the bell to get her attention, though, as when I look down to the counter in front of me, she has already passed me the sign-in-sheet, leaving me a friendly, wrinkled smile to tell me she isn’t trying to be rude, and welcomes me to the motel. 

 

I smile back, allowing her to continue gazing at…ahh, is it Humphrey Bogart?  Must be.  The pen seems to slip like silk across the paper, and I must admit, the fifteen dollars I place with my moniker is well spent, whatever the state of the room.

 

She slides me the key to my temporary abode, and I find myself in a small piece of heaven.  Heaven being a well-made bed, extra pillows, tiny chairs but clean toilets.  A shower fit for a man filled to the brim with the dust of travel, and even a small potted plant that I am pleasantly surprised is real. 

 

For fifteen dollars a night, I know that I will stay at least one more as I drift off to sleep. 

 

I never dream.

 

But I imagine I was close that good night.  The middle of the desert that could never be a desert, in a heaven I wasn’t even looking for…  I really don’t blame myself for sleeping in so long.

 

I could see myself walking.  Something I did far too much.  A dusty, desert road at morning.  Though I could tell it was myself I was dreaming of, the feeling of pity washing through me was anything but self-loathing.  It felt as if this me was someone else.  Someone better left far behind. 

 

When I woke up, there were birds singing outside. 

 

Also, the sound of a television next door.  The entire morning was lazy, and wonderful because of it.  Sounds of Saturday Morning Cartoons and a radio somewhere off in the distance were a pleasant surprise for my ears so accustomed to hearing gunshots and screams.  Crying from the previous night’s ravaging.  At best…the moans of half a dozen hangovers were just as common, and probably the only thing I’ll miss about Chicago. 

 

Except maybe the skyline.  Rising up from the billboards and decay of the street stood strong and tall monoliths of humanity.  Towers that would make the heavens worry about intrusion.  Lights that could fill the sky with stars…and then some.  Above all of it.  All the dust. 

 

But people from the dust don’t get the nice offices in the highest Chicago Towers.  We get pain.  And worry.  And death. 

 

Once in a while, though, we get peace as well. 

 

But it never lasts long.

 

My peace was ended as I took my shower that morning.  The walls were empty and full of pipes, so the sounds next door could be heard loud and clear, even over the rushing of water.  

 

“Turn that shit off!”

 

It surprised me, actually.  I had to catch myself from jumping.  It was next door.  A moment later, the cartoons turned off.  A sigh escaped my lips.  It was nice while it last…

 

Then the first of the screams. 

 

“Little sluts don’t watch cartoons.” The voice said loudly.  It was followed by a tell-tale smack.  Skin on skin.  Usually in anger. 

 

I know because I’ve caused that sound once or twice.  Part of a past I am still running from.

 

She cries out.  Doesn’t speak, but I can tell she can’t be that old.  Not old enough to be called these names the older man is calling her.  She sounds the age of cartoons.  Cartoons and bubblegum…not dusty motels and horny old men.

 

“I won’t keep some little baby who can’t give me what I want.” The voice continues.  A yelp out in pain, but then, all of a sudden, silence. 

 

Maybe it’s because I’ve left the bathtub and found my way to the sink so I could throw up. 

 

The past is an evil thing.

 

I wish I could feel something more, but instead, the urge to leave is overtaking me once again.  Somehow, even so far away, I’m confronted with the same old shit. 

 

My mind deliberately filters out the sounds next door.  Grunting.  Crying.  All those little sounds you think would never bother you…but they do when you know why they’re being made.  How they’re being made.  The filter can only do so much, but it’s enough to get me dressed and out the door before the images begin to come into my mind. 

 

Very bad images.  Like a nightmare you know will happen…just as soon as you close your eyes. 

 

The old woman is there as I take out my key.  She smiles, and points to the guest book.  Sign out, if you wish, I guess. 

 

To this day, I don’t know why I took out another twenty dollars and placed it down in front of her. 

 

She nodded, then took the money, adding a little squiggly mark next to my room number to indicate I would be staying another day.  The room next to mine…ahh…there it is.  Yes.  It has a squiggly as well. 

 

I don’t bother staying for the change, and find myself driving a moment later.  The convenience store has all that I need.  Gas for my Ford, a pack of cigarettes and a two-six of Southern Comfort.  With a small bag to hold my booty, I am just about to go, when something else catches my eye.  The clerk thinks nothing of it when I ask him to add a roll of twine and some tissues to the bag, and I leave with more than I expected.  The day’s sustenance is found in a day-old cheeseburger in the back seat of my car.  Still tastes like card-board, but I’m hungry enough it doesn’t matter. 

 

A brief drive around the little town reveals no cops.  Wouldn’t really matter if there was a station right next to the motel, though. 

 

I drive back…grim thoughts in my head…but a determined smile when I see myself in the mirror.  Maybe I’ll just leave.  Right now.  Count the twenty I slapped down as payment for reminding me of what I’ve left behind…then continue on doing so.

 

But then I see her.

 

On the balcony.  Legs dangling over as I walk up the stairs to my room.  She looks up at me as I pass, but is completely silent.  She’s hurt.  Her lip is cut and looks like it has been so for a while now.  Her hair is messy, and it may just be the light, but I could swear some of it is burnt or torn out…

 

But her eyes.  She looks at me with the most crystal clear brown eyes I have ever seen.  Her worn, dusty clothes a size too big could be clergy robes in my mind.  All of a sudden, this little angel reads my thoughts, and tells me hers all in the span of a heartbeat. 

 

She’s running too.

 

Just not getting as far. 

 

I see a pig of a man stare out of the window.  I don’t slow down, though I can still imagine that heartbeat lasting hours.  He takes a swig from a half-crumpled beer can, then tosses it over his shoulder into the darkness of the room. 

 

As I close my door and lock it, I hear him bark out something.  “Get back in here.” Or something equally appalling. 

 

 

 

There is a dark part inside me.  It protects me.  Filters the sounds and cuts the images I hear and see.  Tells me that what is going on next door isn’t really happening.  That I am best leaving all this behind. 

 

It saved my life, once or twice in the city. 

 

Moments where…I knew…if I walked into that room and tried to stop what was happening, I would have been shot.  Or stabbed.  Or worse. 

 

Or times where I gave up my wallet willingly…because I could see in the asshole’s eyes that he didn’t care if he killed me right there in the alley. 

 

And, once or twice, the dark part of me told me to get drunk…so what was happening didn’t seem so horrible, and I could wake up and live again when the sun rose.

 

I tried.

 

It tried.

 

The little bottle of Southern Comfort was nearly gone sometimes before ten in the evening.  All I can remember feeling, however, was the rough, itchy texture of the twine as I felt it in my hand.  The dark part of me wasn’t able to handle what I was hearing. 

 

The little girl being raped. 

 

Beaten.  Then again, raped. 

 

These things are supposed to happen.  Out in the middle of nowhere.  Some seedy motel. 

 

But this was my little piece of heaven, and that little angel’s eyes still haunted me. 

 

I stood.  Then reached into my pocket to pull out my knife.  It’s small, but useful.  Legal enough to carry everywhere you go, but sharp enough that you can cut through anything. 

 

Absolutely anything. 

 

So, I put on my jacket, opened my knife, but held it in my palm, then walked out and knocked loudly on the door to the left of mine. 

 

The crying stopped.  Scuffling.  I remembered hearing an angry ‘shhh!’.  So…I knocked again.  Loud.  And again. 

 

A growl.  Grumbling.  Mumbling.  The man began to move.  “WHO THE FUCK IS IT!?!”

 

I knocked again.  Loudly.  With much energy.  Under my breath, I wondered what to do if he simply ignored me and didn’t open the door?

 

He opened the door.  I smiled.  Then, I plunged the knife into his eye.  I honestly don’t believe I’ve seen someone so shocked before.  Shocked enough that he dropped the pistol that was in his hand.  As he shakes and screams, I close the door behind myself as I enter the room. 

 

I kick the gun beneath the lamp-table.  The little angel is watching with those same eyes…not surprised, not shocked that I’m here.  I feel slightly embarrassed when I realize I’m looking at her naked, but she doesn’t seem to think anything of it.  Maybe it’s because she knows I’m not like…this.  Him.

 

“WHO THE FUCK ARE…”

 

I remember myself, and kick him right in the face.  It’s more of a stomp, really.  Whatever you wish to call it, I’m certain that it was enough force to knock him unconscious.  Or…maybe he was aware of me tying him up to the shower-curtain-rod, but overestimated his abilities to escape once it was done. 

 

The twine is rough, and it hurts the man as he tries to struggle free…awake enough again to see that I have already started on his legs.  His pants are half on, but they’re not allowing him to slip out of the trap I’ve caught him with. 

 

Soon, he is crying out.  Making noise.  So much noise.  Things like “I’ll do anything!” and “How much do you want?”  and “Please…Please let me go!”

 

The little angel is watching now.  She has retrieved her clothes, but I stop just long enough to give her my jacket as well.  She takes it without word, and returns a moment later with the gun. 

 

I shake my head.  “No guns.”  In this, I strongly believe.  I’ve heard too many bullets hit flesh to think of them favourably.

 

She nods, but continues watching.  Twine is now everywhere.  Had he not been attached to the metal pole, his body would still be quite ridged.  All methods of escape are tied, and the most he can move now is his mouth…still making noise.

 

“Mister…please…you have to understand…This isn’t your business…” he pleads.  “Just go!  Please!”

 

I smile at that, but still, it’s just all noise now.

 

Out of desperation, he said the one thing he shouldn’t have. 

 

“Oh come on!  You’d do the same thing too!”

 

I remembered how worried he looked when I smiled up at him.

 

Then, I took my knife, and as he howled out like a sick, dying monkey, I cut off…no…I gouged out a large section of his reproductive-organs and the area around them.

 

They flopped into the bathtub, then were joined by a large stream of red as he began to bleed to death.  He cries out over and over…horrible things.  Calling me things…calling the angel things.  I don’t think either of us care, though.  We watch with grim satisfaction. 

 

Just before it’s over…

 

I lean up and look him in the eyes. 

 

“You don’t deserve to be in such a wonderful place.” I whisper. 

 

I really don’t know where that came from.  Another mystery I carry from that day to this day.  Maybe I meant this little piece of heaven in the middle of the desert.  Maybe I meant life.  Or being away from the pits where this was common and I had fled from. 

 

He died, knowing that I was right, though.  What truth he heard, I can only guess at, but it made me glad I said it.

 

 

 

The Angel sleeps next to me as I stare up at the ceiling.  She hasn’t said a word since I’ve…no…not ever.  Not yet.  She curls up next to me in a ball.  She smells of shampoo and wonderful fresh rain after her shower, and I am a bit concerned that I barely remember…let alone care…about what I have just done. 

 

I sleep well that night.

 

The Angel visits me in my dreams that night.  She tells me wonderful things…shows me places I will go.  Great things I will do.  Books I will learn from and people I will be taught by.  Her halo is soft and bright, like a morning star lighting the night before the sun makes it’s lazy journey upwards.  Her voice is unreal.  Soft and a hundred times sweeter than honey.  She tells me of a place…not far away.  A place that will become home. 

 

She lets me cry.  Cry on her lap.  She is clothed with robes of soft light, and it makes the pain and the hurt come out…then fills me with joy. 

 

“Why are you crying?” she asks.

 

I honestly don’t know…but I still think some of the reason was because I knew I would wake up and have to leave that morning.  That I would have to see the desert, when I wanted rain.  That I would be like I always was. 

 

 

 

I wake up to a soft kiss. 

 

 

 

She smiles at me with bright, wonderful eyes.  I try…  I try to ask her not to come with me.

 

I explain that I am a bad man. 

 

She smirks at that.

 

I try to say I am off to a dangerous place.

 

Excitement flashes in her eyes.

 

And finally, I try to tell her that she can’t come along…just because.

 

And she is already helping me pack.  With a soft laugh, she runs the room keys back to the old Indian lady and jumps into the dusty old Ford long before I realize I could take off without her. 

 

There is a long pause as we look out at the road. 

 

“Which way should we go?” I ask.

 

She looks to the way I came from…then the way that I was going.  With a grin, she points to the way I was going. 

 

The engine guns, and we fly down the highway. 

 

Somewhere, along the way, the sky opens up and it rains.  Neither of us reach for the button that will deploy the roof.  Somehow, I know that this is right.

 

Tears feel so much different than rain.

 

I’m glad.

 

Strike Fiss, Studio Shinnyo 2002.  Khattam-Shud, EOF.

Posted under Manifestoes, Short Stories