Oh, crap. I almost forgot to do this today
By Ken Green
“Haveluck, attend me!” bellowed his mother.
Haveluck sprung to his feet. It did no good to keep Mummy waiting, not since she found the resonant frequency of Dogood manor. The house had survived fire, flood, and countless peasant revolts, but even its noble oak beams trembled when the matriarch raged.
Breathless, Haveluck rushed into his mother’s chamber. She sat in her dressing chair, feet resting on a convenient dillokin.
“Havelock,” she said, “You’re coming of age. Soon you must choose a wife.”
“But, Mummy,” Haveluck protested, “I wish to join the navy!”
“Pish and posh!” Mummy cursed, “I forbid it. I’ll not have my only son shipping off to die in a war. God has created poor people to do that for us.”
“But it is the duty of every man to take up arms and defend humanity.” Haveluck countered.”
“The boy raises a valid point,” the dillokin chimed in, “And military service would make him a man.”
“Shut up, cousin Eddie.” Mummy said to the surly furnishing. “Nobody asked your opinion, and nobody ever will.” Dillokin were the shame of House Dogood, stunted, hunchbacked creatures with corrugated shells, the product of centuries of inbreeding. But they made lovely footstools.
“As for you, my son,” Mother intoned, her wattles quivering, “You have responsibilities. Soon you must take the reins of the family business.”
“But Mother,” Haveluck protested, “The stars call to me! I crave a life of adventure. I want to be more than a pastrami farmer.”
“That’s the spirit, boy!” Footstool Eddie cheered, “Stand up for your dreams!”
“I said shut up, Cousin Eddie!” Mother screamed and kicked him so hard he rolled across the room and off the balcony.
“Oh,” she cried, “This is a disaster. Wherever will I rest me feet now?”
Haveluck stood speechless. Cousin Eddie had been a kind companion.
“Haveluck,” Mother said softly, glancing to the floor, “Do be a lamb…”
Haveluck sighed and knelt before her. She swung a foot onto each of his shoulders, affording him an alarming view of his place of birth.
“As I was saying, you have responsibilities. House Dogood must have an heir. Therefore, you must marry. Preferably someone outside the family. I don’t grandchildren with flippers.”
“Grandchildren?” Haveluck asked. “You’ve never said you wanted…”
“Of course I want grandchildren!” Mother exclaimed. “I wish to look upon their beaming faces and deny them my love.”
“Must I choose a wife now, mother?”
“No, son,” she replied, “Today you are meeting with that horrible Chlorine woman.”
Of course. Ammonia Chlorine, of House Chlorine, his family’s rival. Of all the noble houses of Trylanor, none had caused more misery the House Chlorine. House Chlorine held a vast estate on the other side of the Kneebiter mountains and was claiming a parcel of land that had been ceded to the Dogood clan by King Halfknob himself, prior to the succession wars. Mother had agreed that Haveluck would meet with her to inspect the property.
From the distance the soft ‘Thwoppa, thwoppa, thwoppa’ of an approaching whirly came.
“It seems Ammonia is running early,” Haveluck said, “I must away. I take my leave of you, Mother.”
She dismissed him with wave. “Make me proud, son. Or, failing that, try not to embarrass me. As you leave, do send in a servant. I wish to do some more yelling.”
“As you wish.” Haveluck strode from the chamber and to the whirly pad. As he approached the whirly, Ammonia kicked the door open for him.
“Good morning, Ammonia.” Haveluck said, climbing into the whirly and strapping in.
“Good morning, you foul bag of putrescent yak vomit.” Ammonia said. She kicked the back of the pilot’s seat, and the whirly began to climb. Presently, they were flying over the pastrami fields, and the cabin was filled with the sweet peppery aroma.
“It looks like you have a good crop this year.” Ammonia said amiably.
Haveluck took a moment to study Ammonia’s face. Her too-perfect cupid’s-bow lips and curvaceous eyebrows gave her a doll-like quality. He quickly glanced away.
“The peasants look so happy, toiling away in the fields.” He said.
“Yes,” Ammonia said absently, “My peasants often die of happiness.”
They rode in silence as they gained altitude. They were heading towards the Kneebiter mountains. In the foothills, a group of workers had gathered. They seemed to be building something.
“Pilot, could we take a look at that group of people down there?” Haveluck asked.
“What do you think they’re up to?” Ammonia asked.
“I don’t know, but I haven’t authorized any construction projects…”
The pilot buzzed the construction site. The peasants had built a trebuchet, and were cranking the long wooden arm down.
“Whatever could they be doing with that stupid-looking thing?” Ammonia asked, as they levered a boulder into the sling.
“I have no idea.” Haveluck replied.
They peasants released the trebuchet arm with a cheer, and the boulder arched through the air, shattering the canopy and decapitating the pilot.
“Oh, bugger.” Ammonia said.
“It appears the peasants are revolting.” Haveluck surmised.
“Yes,” Ammonia agreed, “I have always found them so.”
The plummeted to the ground with a crash. Haveluck and Ammonia found themselves surrounded by an angry mob.
“Just so you know, Haveluck,” Ammonia declared, “This is completely your fault.”
Haveluck sighed and stepped out of the whirly. He gazed at the revolting peasants. They had rakes and pitchforks in their pastrami stained hands.
“Who’s in charge here?” Haveluck demanded.
“That would be me.” One of the farmers said, striding forward.
“Now see here, good fellow. This is completely unacceptable behavior…”
“We have no beef with you, we’re here for her,” the farmer pointed at Ammonia. “You can take a hike.”
Two of the peasants had dragged Ammonia from the wrecked whirly and brought her to the leader. “Don’t you dare abandon me, you coward!” She hissed.
“I shan’t.” Haveluck said, “I’m not leaving without her.” He told the mob’s leader.
“Suit yourself,” the farmer said. The peasants bound their captive’s hands.
“Do something, you spineless worm,” Ammonia hissed at Haveluck.
Haveluck said nothing. He was studying his captors. They were a rough lot, hardened by work, and browned by long hours in the sun. Their coarse, homespun clothing a stark contrast to the soft silks and satins that proper people wore. And yet they walked with a surprising dignity, seemingly unimpressed by Haveluck and Ammonia’s obvious genetic superiority.
The peasants marched their superiors to a small farmstead and into a barn. There, they bound Haveluck and Ammonia to posts.
“And so it begins.” Ammonia said, scowling. “They are going to ravish me, and all you’ll do is stand there and watch. Surely, in all the universe, God has never created anything more useless than you, Haveluck, Dogood.” Her voice dripped with venom.
“We’re not going to ravish you,” the farmer said.
“Oh, yes you will,” Ammonia’s voice was heavy with disgust, “I can see the lust in your eyes. You will tear the clothes from my body, gaze upon my milky white breasts, mock me, spit on me, and force me to my knees. Then you’ll make me perform vile, disgusting acts for your twisted pleasure. You will bend me over that workbench and have at me till your rage is spent. You will run your filthy hands all over me, use me like a common whore. And when you are done, you will have left no part of my tender, bruised body unviolated.”
The farmer considered this. “Nope,” he said.
“Oh, you don’t fool me,” Ammonia said, “I know what you have planned. When every man in your group has had his turn, twice, the women will come for me, with their whips and their candles…”
“Does she ever shut up?” The farmer asked Haveluck.
“Not in my experience,” Haveluck replied, “Tell me, good fellow, what do you intend to do with us?”
“We’ve already sent a runner to House Chlorine with a list of our demands.”.
Edited: KenGreen on 11th Feb, 2016 - 11:54am
Today's entry is more of a character study than an actual story. I'm trying to find a good, tight ten page plot.
Gogs found Trinkit up in the first class lounge. After being cooped up on the Wicked Lady, being able to wander on a star liner was a luxury.
Trinkit was in a booth, seemingly engaged in conversation with something dwelling under the table.
“What are you doing, Trink?” Gogs asked, more concerned than she was letting on. She had never been on a pleasure cruiser before, and fancy places made her nervous. She was afraid they’d get thrown off if they messed up.
“There’s a baby feleen under the table, and he won’t come out.” Trinkit said, then returned her attention to the unseen quarry. “Where’s your mamma, Honey?” She asked, “I’m sure she’s worried about you.” Turning to Gogs, she said, “I’ve tried every language I know. All he does is cry.”
Gogs squatted down to peer into the shadows. “That’s not a feleen, Trinkit. It’s just a cat.”
Trinkit squinted. “Of course it’s a feleen, you crazy human. Just look at him.”
“It has a tail. It’s a housecat. Felix Domesticus…” Gogs said.
The ship steward showed up. “There you are, Admiral Mittens!”
The cat darted out from his hiding place and jumped into the steward’s arms.
“See?” Gogs said, triumphant, “He’s just a cat. A pet.”
“You mean he’s an animal?” Verdians didn’t have the tradition of domesticating animals, so the concept was foreign to her.
“Oh, Admiral Mittens is much more than a pet.” The steward said, cradling the beastie in his arms. “He’s the ship’s cat. An ambassador. Would you like to pet him?” He offered.
“Can I?” Gogs asked. She was from New Manhattan, where only the richest of rich people had pets. She had never touched a cat before.
“Be careful,” Trinkit urged. “He’s an animal. You don’t know what he’s going to do.”
“Don’t be silly.” Gogs chided. “It’s perfectly safe. Oh!”
Apparently, Mittens had decided that Gogs needed a cuddle. He made his intentions known, and the steward transferred him to Gogs’s shoulder. Gogs held Mittens the way you would a fussy baby, rocking him gently. He settled in, and rested his head on her shoulder.
“Back home, you’d be worth five years rent.” She cooed at him. He purred. “But I wouldn’t trade you for anything.” She turned to Trinkit. “Get over here. Pet my cat.”
“Oh, no,” Trinkit said, backing up to the wall, “I’ll just stay here and watch.”
“You’re being silly.” Gogs said. “Hey! We have a ship, why don’t we have a pet?”
“I do have a pet,” Trinkit said, looking pointedly at Gogs, “And she’s starting to annoy me.”
“Fine,” Gogs said, “Be that way.” She gave Mittens a squeeze. “Ignore the cranky lady. She doesn’t know better.”
“Ladies,” the steward said, “I’m afraid Admiral Mittens has duties elsewhere.”
Gogs took the hint, and tried to hand the cat back. But Mittens had other ideas, and jumped down. Without so much as a by-your-leave, he trotted off to God knows where.
Allurica joined them, fresh from the pool deck. Her swimsuit was still wet, and of course she looked gorgeous despite that. Allurica could wear a dish towel and still look like a goddess.
“I do hope my girls aren’t giving you any trouble.” She said to the steward, her voice like honey laced with whiskey.
“Oh, not at all.” The steward said, suddenly flustered. Allurica has that effect on men of any species. Women, too. She’s kind of amazing. She gave him her million credit smile, and he too had sudden, urgent business elsewhere. He bowed, and took his leave.
Allurica turned her attention back to her girls. “We may have a job.”
“But,” Gogs butted, “We’re on vacation…”
“Oh, there’s no rest for the wicked, sweet child.” Allurica cooed. “We’re meeting the client at dinner, so I need you dressed to the nines.” She said to Trinkit. Then she turned to Gogs. “As for you, well, we’ll do our best.”
“Can I take her shopping?” Trinks asked, her eyes lit up like Christmas.
Allurica sighed and handed Trinks a credstick. “Do what it takes. Just make it tasteful.”
“Oh, no.” Gogs begged. “Please, don’t let…” Gogs hated wearing girl clothes, and the confections that Trinks picked out always looked like wedding cakes. Or piñatas.
Allurica cut her off. “Do what Trinks says, and don’t give her any lip. Tonight, we have to be perfect. We may have found a patron.”
“I can’t leave the stateroom like this!” Gogs cried, “I’m practically naked!”
Trinkit had outdone herself, but in an unexpected way. She had Gogs decked out in a simple coral sheath, with neither a bow nor ruffle to be seen. The front was modest enough, but the back had latticework from her shoulders to Australia.
“Don’t be absurd.” Trinkit said, “You look beautiful.”
Gogs looked over her shoulder at the mirror. “Can you see my butt crack? I don’t want people seeing my butt crack.”
Allurica had heard enough. “You look fine, child. So stop complaining try to be charming.”
“As chief engineer, that falls outside my job description.” Gogs protested.
“Yes, but you are also my chief of ‘shut the hell up’. I’d like you to focus on that skill set tonight.” Allurica said.
It was easy for her to talk. She was wearing a silk toga that would have made Helen of Troy hang herself.
Trinkit was wearing a catsuit composed of nothing but constellations of sequins, as if the Milky Way galaxy had unwound its spiral arms to hold her in a carnal embrace. Looking at her shipmates, Gogs almost felt pity for the potential client. Like a ship caught between two gravity wells, he’d have to do some fancy maneuvering to avoid being drawn in.
Dinner was a private affair. The client had reserved the entire dining room. You can do that when you own the cruise line.
He ordered beef. Real beef. Gogs struggled to keep her eyes in her head. Forget five years rent, his meal would have bought a condo overlooking central park. This clown was exponentially rich.
I reworked this article that explores the relationship between Gogs and Allurica. Still trying to find the plot for my next story. I've joined a writing group that allows me to bring up to ten pages of material to each session, so I'm trying to find stories that I can tell in ten pages or less.
THE WICKED LADY
By Ken Green
Gogs adjusted the magnification on her multi-vis goggles. The magnadrive had been acting skitzy all week, and she had finally traced the fault to the control unit. At 300X, she saw the gap on the circuit board.
“Got you, you little bastard.” She muttered under her breath. The Wicked Lady was a sixty-year-old freighter, and keeping her running was a full time job. Gogs stabbed the fault with her circuit pen, and screwed down the cover.
From down below came the sound of the cargo ramp opening. Gogs climbed down the ladder to the cargo bay, her work boots echoing in the emptiness. Allurica had parked the scoot and handed Gogs a bag of groceries.
“Hey, kid.” Allurica smiled. “I picked up some synthosteaks. I figure we can grill them on the fuser.”
Gogs arched an eyebrow. “Did you forget I’m a vegan?”
Allurica frowned and read a label. “They’re algae. Algae’s a vegetable, isn’t it?”
Gogs shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. Did you get any hot pocs?”
Allurica grimaced. “No. I thought I’d make us a nice dinner. I got some taters, some veg paste…”
“Fancy.” Gogs said.
Allurica narrowed her eyes. “Hey. I’m making an effort here. You could do likewise and feign some appreciation.” She started walking towards the galley.
“Sorry,” Gogs said, following. “I’ve just been cooped up all day. If I could just get out for a while…”
“Nice try.” Allurica said, yanking the galley door open. “I’m not going to risk you getting scooped up by skin traders. I truly hate those bastards.”
“That’s ironic, coming from you.” Gogs said, “You were going to sell me to a brothel.”
“Sell you to brothel?” Allurica scoffed, “Did you really think I would do something so monstrous? Is that what you think of me?”
“Wait…” Gogs demanded, “You were bluffing? You weren’t going to…”
“I promise you this, child,” Allurica said with a smile, “You will never know the answer to that question.”
“But…that’s horrible! I was terrified, how could you put me through that…”
“You survived it, didn’t you? And in doing so, learned a valuable life lesson.” Allurica said.
Gogs set her bag on the counter. “Is it really your job to teach me life lessons?”
Allurica sighed. “Well, child, somebody should have.”
“Well,” Gogs protested, “It was still pretty mean…”
“Help me stow these groceries.” Allurica interrupted. “I’m getting bored with this conversation.”
Gogs obeyed. With Allurica, there was a very thin border between bored and pissed off. Gogs had crossed that line enough times to know it when she saw it. They put the food away in silence.
When they were done, Allurica put her hand on Gog’s shoulder. “Next jump puts us in the outer colonies. I figure we’ll be safe there. We can take a week off, do some sightseeing.”
Gogs unwrapped the steaks, and dropped them on a reasonably clean plate. “So what’s there to see in the outers?”
“Well,” Allurica thought about it, “There’s Sailor’s Rest. A barely developed world with sugar sand beaches and skies as blue as…well, me, actually.”
Gogs gave Allurica a long look. She really was a lovely shade of blue. Then again, all Cyans were beautiful. Didn’t seem fair.
“Sounds nice.” Gogs said. “When do we leave?”
“As soon as I get a decent cargo.” Allurica said, gathering some plates and flatware. “I’m seeing a broker tomorrow. By the way, where’s my damned wife?”
“Sleeping beauty?” Gogs rolled her eyes. “As far as I can tell, she’s been in your cabin all day. What did you two do last night?”
“Well, Honey,” Allurica said with a big smile, “When two mommies love each other very much…”
“Eww!” Gogs couldn’t cover her ears, because she was still carrying the steaks. “Please forget I asked.” They made it to the engine room. Gogs dropped the steaks on the fuser, and they started to sizzle.
“What do we do with the taters?” Allurica asked.
Gogs thought about it, reached up, and ripped some thermofoil off an overhead duct. She wrapped the foil around the taters and stuffed the bundle between two heat pipes.
Allurica glanced up at the vandalized duct. “Is that an important part of the ship?”
“That depends.” Gogs said, as she squeezed the veg paste out of its tube and onto the fuser. “Were you planning to have children?” She flipped the steaks and pushed the paste around with her spatula.
“Fair enough.” Allurica shrugged.
“That smells…wonderful.” Trinkit said, as she walked in, wearing her nightie and some bunny slippers. The pink lace was a nice contrast to her green skin.
“Oh, look.” Allurica said. “It…is… alive.”
Trinkit smiled a sleepy smile and gave Allurica a sleepy kiss. She turned to Gogs and hugged her. “Hi, Cutie,” She nuzzled a bit, and ran her green fingers through Gogs hair. “Your roots are growing out. We should dye them again. Do you want to stick with the purple?”
“I like purple.” Gogs said, annoyed.
“And you look fabulous.” Trinkit kissed her on the cheek. “Even though you insist on dressing like a lumberjack. When’s breakfast?”
“Twelve hours ago, you lazy little slut.” Allurica said, “This is dinner.”
“Oh, good.” Trinkit yawned. “I’m hungry.” She wandered off.
“Seriously.” Gogs said, watching her walk away. “What did you do to her?”
Allurica shrugged. “I must have pushed her happy button too hard. Maybe it’s stuck.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not touching it. I don’t work on software.”.
Well, when you set out to write bad stories, there's a good chance you'll succeed, at least some of the time. This one is a real stinker, but I'm counting it towards my my 52 (I think it's number 48). Enjoy.
INTO THE STEAM
By Ken Green
“Miss Farthing!” Professor Kettle bellowed, “Come here at once!”
Penelope leaned her broom against the wall, brushed her hands on her apron, and headed down the stairs to the laboratory. There, she found the esteemed professor standing next to the control panel of his apparatus, beaming as proudly as if he’d just given birth to the damned thing. With his white beard, and ruddy cheeks, he looked like a demented Father Christmas.
“At last,” he said, “The translocator is complete.”
Penny gazed upon the creation before her. A series of heavy iron hoops, bigger than the wheels of watermills, was the dominant feature. These hoops, ten in number, formed a tunnel through which a wrought iron footbridge passed. Each hoop was connected to its own gearbox, which in turn was connected to a fierce huge electrical engine. The control panel was a hodgepodge of copper wires, vacuum tubes, spinny things, and other such deviltry.
“Very good, sir. If you wish me to dust it, I fear I shall need a ladder.” Penny said.
“Dust it?” Professor laughed, “Oh, no, girl. I wish to test it!” He yanked at a lever, and the machine sprung to life. The great motor spun, Fierce sparks raced between coils, the gearboxes trembled, and the huge hoops rotated. The air within the hoops seemed to shimmer, and a cold, dry breeze flowed from them.
Penny pasted a huge grin on her face, “Well, Professor, it certainly seems to work!” she gave him a thumbs up, “Truly this is a great day for science.” She started to back away slowly. “We should celebrate. I’ll just run to the kitchen, and make a nice pot of tea.”
“Miss Farthing.” Professor ordered, “The test is not complete,” he gestured towards the bridge, “Up you go.”
“Oh, Professor, I do not deserve such an honor…” Penny declaimed.
“Miss Farthing,” Professor was no longer smiling, “I insist. Take this,” he handed her a bound journal, “To record your observations.”
“Oh, bugger,” she said, as she mounted the bridge, and strode towards the unknown. Within the hoops, time and space committed obscene acts of Einsteinian buggery.
She found herself on a vast dusty plain of red sand. In the distance, she saw sun-bleached plateaus and arroyos.
“This must be Arizona.” Penny speculated, “However shall I get home?” she gazed at the cloudless blue sky. “At least it’s a pretty day.”
A shadow passed over her. She glanced up to see a huge bird plunging towards her. No, not a bird, but a bestial, winged man-like creature! He seized her with his cruel talons and bore her up into the sky.
“Good heavens!” Penny cried out, almost dropping the heavy journal, “I’d heard that American were rude, but this surpasses all boundaries!”
The demon gained altitude, it’s leathery wings easily lifting their Edwardian burden. Far below, a grand canal snaked its way across the desert. They flew to a plateau taller than the others and, topping it, they plunged down its central shaft. Down and down they descended, till the fiend deposited Penny at the bottom, then ascended without her.
Penny despaired. She was surrounded by darkness, the only light coming from the opening so far above.
As her eye adjusted to the darkness, her fear grew. There was movement in the cavern.
“No,” she begged, “Please. You have taken my freedom, must you now come for my virtue? It is far too cruel a fate to bear…”
“We do not come to hurt you,” came a voice, low and gravelly, “We too are slaves of the high ones.”
Forms emerged from the shadows, hunched, bent armadillo people with thick, leathery shells and terrible claws.
“Oh!” Penny retreated, but realized she was surrounded. She closed her eyes, and through trembling lips said, “Do what you will. But I beg you, be gentle.”
“We’re not going to do what you’re thinking,” the voice said, “It isn’t even anatomically possible. So relax. We just want to talk.”
Penny opened her eyes. “How do you know what I’m thinking?” she asked.
“We are reading your mind with telepathy. We can do that. We’re Martians. My name is Dillokin.”
“Martians?” Penny asked, “What are Martians doing in Arizona?”
The Martian brought his hands to his head, as if he had a sudden headache. “We’re on Mars. Every day, our captors force us to go to the fields and dig for roots.”
“So, why don’t you just run away at night?” Penny asked.
“We cannot. It is far too cold at night. We would never make it.”
“Have you tried working together?” Penny asked, “Perhaps you could huddle together for warmth.”
“Working together never occurred to us. We will try your plan this very night.”
They waited for sundown, and crept out the slave tunnel to the frozen tuber field. They tried huddling together, but it was far too cold. Reluctantly, they returned to their cavern.
“It’s no good,” Dillokin moaned, “It is our fate to be trapped here for all eternity.”
“Don’t give up hope, Dillokin!” Penny said, “I do not believe in fate, any other than the fate we make ourselves. Why can’t you escape during the day? Surely, with your armored shells, the High Ones cannot harm you.”
“It is true,” Dillokin agreed, “Our shells are impenetrable, even to their evil spears. Alas, our shells do not cover the entirety of our bodies. No matter how tightly we roll up, our bellies are still exposed. When they swoop down upon us, they merely have to flip us on our backs, and we are undone. Our very anatomy condemns us to servitude.”
“I do not believe that. Penny pronounced. “God would not be so cruel to such a kind and noble people as you. There must be a solution to this puzzle.”
“But however will we find it?”
“We’ll do it the British way,” she said heroically, “With violence, arrogance, and an unearned sense of privilege.”
“But how…” Dillokin stared to ask.
“Let us sleep on it tonight.” Penny proposed, “Perhaps the solution with come to us.”
The next day, they headed out to the field. The high ones soared and glided overhead.
“I have an idea.” Penny said, “Huddle up again.”
“But it is not cold,” Dillokin protested.
“Not for warmth, but for protection.” Penny explained.
“I don’t see how this is going to work, but we’ll try it,” Dillokin vowed.
They formed a tight phalanx. An overseer swooped down to investigate. Hovering a meter above the armadillo people, he poked at them cruelly with his spear. Penny threw her heavy bound journal at his face, as hard as she could. He was stunned, and fell to the ground.
“Tear him apart!” Penny ordered, “Show them what fear is!”
They set upon their victim with the rage of the long oppressed, tearing his flesh with their wicked claws. He howled in terror and pain. The other high ones swooped down to his aid, only to get dragged down and clawed to death. The overseers were becoming more cautious, setting down further away from the group, trying to draw individual armadillo people from the safety of the huddle.
“I have another idea,” Penny declared, “Join hands and form up into a giant ball!”
“But…” Dillokin, protested, “That’s a completely stupid idea.”
“Yes,” Penny said, “That’s why it’s going to work.”
The armadillo people assembled themselves into a big ball with Penny at the center. Unsure what to do, the high ones set down to examine the strange new tactic.
“Roll, armadillo people!” Penny exhorted, “Roll to justice! Roll to freedom!”
By shifting their weight, the armadillo people were able to roll, slowly at first, then gaining momentum. In this way, they crushed their oppressors and gained the freedom which is the birthright of all intelligent creatures, even the ugly ones. They rolled to the safety of their long abandoned home, an arroyo with steep walls where the high ones would never be able to trouble them again.
This is the most recent thing to leak from my brain:
By Ken Green
The ship was in trouble, pitching and heaving with each crashing wave.
“Reef the sails!” Captain Stalwart shouted over the howling winds, “Fluster the lanyards! Befuddle the anchors!”
Duke Antonio struggled to keep his footing on the surging deck. Cruel winds whipped at his robes as he made his way towards the captain. “Captain!” he shouted, “This is intolerable! The brochure said nothing about storms!”
The captain glared at Antonio. Lightning painted the sky with blue-white pallor. “Get below decks, you idiot! We’re all in peril!”
“How dare you speak in this manner?” Antonio demanded, “I am the Duke of Milan!”
“You’ll be a petitioner in Neptune’s court if I don’t get us clear of this storm! Below decks with you, or I’ll throw you overboard myself!”
Safe in the tower of the island fortress, Miranda stared at the magic lookie-thing. “Those poor people!” she cried out, “Father, we must help them!”
“Oh, I’ll help them,” Prospero swore, pulling a lever, “I’ll help them to more wind!”, he flipped a switch, “More lightning!”, he spun a valve, “More rain! Ah !” he threw his head back and cackled with demonic glee.
“This is your doing?” Miranda asked, appalled, “Father, I beseech thee, stay thy hand! I beg you Father, show mercy to those poor souls!”
“Mercy?” Prospero scoffed, “You plead for mercy on behalf of those wretches? Do you not know what they have done to me? No, of course you don’t, for you were a mere child at the time…”
“Tell me, Father,” Miranda probed, “What could they have done to earn such wrath? For I know that you are a kind and just man. What vile deed could lead you to seek such vengeance?”
“Know this, Miranda,” he said, stepping into the exposition light, “Once, I was a duke, the ruler of Milan. A just, and kind ruler, to the best of my abilities…”
“Wait,” Miranda said, “Does that make me a lady?”
“Yes, Lady Miranda,” Prospero answered, “The day-to-day affairs of state held little interest for me. I wished to study philosophy, in order to better serve the spiritual needs of my people…
“Did we live in a castle?” Miranda asked.
“Yes. Sforza Castle. It was very nice,” Prospero said, pointing at the exposition light, “I trusted my brother Antonio with the administrative duties, and, with the help of King Alonso, he usurped my power, and…”
“Was there a stable?” Miranda asked, her voice suddenly cold.
“Of course there was a stable. It was a castle.” Prospero continued, “They put us in a boat and cast us to the sea. We washed up, half-starved and penniless…”
“Were there ponies?” Miranda asked.
“Ponies? Yes, you had one named Butterscotch. We washed up on the shore…”
“THEY TOOK MY PONY?” Miranda howled, “I’ll kill them!” she raced to the control panel, pounding the buttons with her fists. “I’ll kill them all!”
It took all of Prospero’s strength to drag her from the controls.
“It’s no good, my daughter,” he said soothingly, “They’ve made it to the shore.”
“It’s the damnedest thing,” Captain Stalwart marveled, “There’s no damage from the storm. The ship is perfectly fine.”
“Aside from being on dry land, you mean.” First Mate Koshini pointed out.
“Yeah,” the captain sighed, “We’re not going anywhere soon.”
Antonio emerged from below decks. “Captain,” he called out, “When will we be continuing our journey?”
Stalwart gestured to the beach below. “Your Grace, there may be a slight delay, followed be an extended postponement.”
Antonio gazed at the beach. “Captain, this is clearly unacceptable. I have a schedule to keep.”
“Your Grace,” Stalwart said, “I assure you, I have my best man working on the problem.” He gestured to Koshini.
Antonio peered at Koshini, and said, “That’s a girl in drag.”
“Yes,” Stalwart nodded, “And she’s the best man I’ve got.”
“Very well,” Antonio said, “It was your incompetence that stranded me on this island. What do you suggest I do?”
“It’s a lovely day, your Grace,” Stalwart replied, “Perhaps you could take a walk. A nice, long one.”
Antonio sighed and walked away.
“What are we going to do, Captain?” Koshini asked.
“There’s nothing for it,” Stalwart moaned, “Grab a shovel. We’re digging a canal.”
Interlude: More funny stuff happens, leading up to the final confrontation scene.
Antonio walked along the beach. The pleasant, fragrant breeze, sparkling sand, and impossibly blue sky only served to annoy him. After a short time, he came upon a wooden sign. It read, This way to the Final Confrontation Scene. There was an arrow pointing the way.
Antonio rolled his eyes. “Oh, for God’s sake.” He continued walking in the direction the arrow pointed.
He turned a corner, and Prospero was waiting for him.
“You have wronged me, brother.” Prospero intoned.
Antonio sighed, “Did I? Did I really? Fine. Let’s hear it. List your imagined grievances.”
Prospero’s eyes narrowed. “You took my dukedom…”
Antonio crossed his arms. “You hated being the duke. Worse than that, you were crap at it.”
Prospero gasped. “I loved my people! I sought to enrich their minds!”
“Yes. But you neglected their bodies.” Antonio countered. “You sought to build a grand library when Milan needed a new sewer system. What good are books without bathrooms to read them in?”
“Man cannot live by bread alone.” Prospero said.
“That might be true,” Antonio admitted, “But men denied bread riot in the streets. Milan was on the brink of collapse when I stepped up. I have spent twelve long years cleaning up your mess. Now, Milan was a world-class seaport…”
“But,” Prospero interjected, “Milan is landlocked…”
“Yeah, it was when you left it. Like I said, it’s been twelve long years. But Milan has never been in better shape. The streets are clean, the people have jobs, we have free public schools, I’ve got that city running like a machine.”
“A city without a soul, no doubt.” Prospero grumbled.
“Well, I’m hoping you can provide that.” Antonio said, “I’m here to bring you back.”
Prospero gawked in disbelief. “Really? You’ll restore me to my dukedom?”
“Oh, hell no. You can have a seat on the planning committee. I’ll make you a minister of culture or something. You’ll still have time for your damned books.”
“But what about Butterscotch, Uncle Tony?” Miranda asked, emerging from the jungle, “What did you do to Butterscotch?”
Antonio’s brow furrowed. “Butterscotch?”
“The pony.” Prospero helped.
“Oh, right,” Antonio said, “Butterscotch is fine. She has babies now,” he whistled.
Butterscotch came running along the beach, leading a small herd of baby ponies.
“Butterscotch!” Miranda screamed with joy, running to hug her beloved pony, “OMFG, I’m so happy, I just came!”
“I didn’t need to hear that.” Antonio lamented.
“Right there with you, Bro.” Prospero commiserated.
“So what do you say, brother?” Antonio asked, “Have you stared at your naval long enough? Are you ready to bring the boons of enlightenment to the people you love? Will you rejoin civilization.”
“Yes,” Prospero said, “Twelve years is long enough. Let’s go, Miranda. Pack your bags, we’re going home.”
“No, Father,” Miranda declared, “I wish to stay here with Butterscotch. In this island paradise, we will raise a pony nation, and I shall be their queen.”
“Yeah, okay.” Prospero said, heading for the boat.
Edited: KenGreen on 15th Feb, 2016 - 10:35am
Off to a slow start today. Went to my writing group last night, got home late. So today's offering is a bit thin.
“En Garde!” Glaive Gisarme shouted, as he lunged with his foil.
“Good Heavens!” Penny cried out as she dodged the mad Frenchman’s attack. Frantically, she searched for anything she could use as a weapon. On the table next to her stood a bottle of chardonnay.
A hearty red would be better, but a maid must often make do with what’s at hand. She grabbed the bottle in time to parry the next attack. Steel clashed against glass, and the bottle shattered, dousing both combatants in dry white wine.
“Such a waste of a good vintage.” Glaive said, pressing his attack.
“I prefer a Riesling, myself.” Penny said, as she riposted.
“German swill!” Glaive sneered, “I would not wash my feet with such!”
“Having stood downwind of you, I find that statement completely believable!”
“Enough of this banter,” Glaive disarmed penny with a flick of his weapon. He had her at his mercy.
Penny gasped. “How could you treat a poor maiden so?”
He chuckled, “That’s a strange attitude from such a… modern woman.”
“I never said I was a bloody suffragette, mate.” Penny countered. She weighed her options and found them wanting. Glaive was a master swordsman, and her hands were empty. He had her pinned as sure as one of the bugs in the professor’s damned collection.
“Do you yield, Mon Cherie?”
“Yes. Stop poking my bodice already. I bloody yield.”.
Ugh! I just realized I posted my Anna story twice! I'm so embarrassed. I burnt this morning on revisions to Exile to Paradise, but I have a follow-up, a possible part 3. I don't know whether I want to continue the Exile story or not. I still need to come up with something new for next week. Anyway, here's what I have for you today.
PIECING IT TOGETHER
“Explain it again.” Darla said patiently, “How did you get here?”
Olivia sighed. They were sitting the pier. The sun was rising, the fishing boats were still out, and there was no trade to be had. The quiet part of the day.
“I was flying from Detroit to Nashville…” Olivia started.
“Flying, Honey?” Darla asked, “How? Were you on a broom? You’ve dodged one hanging, why invite another?”
“You’re right, Darla. People can’t fly. Why do I keep thinking crazy things?” Olivia looked down at the oily water.
“You just have water on your brain, that’s all. Maybe if you tilt your head…” Darla offered.
“I’ve tried that, Darla, I’ve tried sitting in the sun to dry it out. I don’t think I’ll ever get better.” Olivia lamented, “I’ve even tried making myself cry, figured that would drain it for sure. Nothing works.
“There, there,” Darla said, putting her arm around Olivia’s shoulders. “You’ll be okay. One day, you’ll be right as rain. Just start at the beginning.”
“I was fly…I was travelling to Nashville…” Olivia resumed.
“Which is in the Americas…” Darla interrupted.
“Yes...” Olivia confirmed.
“Where the copper-skinned savages live.” Darla said.
“No, Darla, they’re not savages. And they’re not really made out of copper. They’re just regular people whose ancestors got screwed. Can I just tell the story now?” Olivia pleaded.
“Sorry,” Darla said, “Why were you going to Nashville?”
“Because I wanted to be famous. I was going to write my own songs, and sing in arenas, and I’d be rich, and everybody would love me.”
“But you wound up in the sea.” Darla prompted.
“I’m pretty sure I fell.” Olivia nodded, “I think I remember falling from a great height. Oh, Darla, I keep remembering pieces of things, things that don’t make sense.”
“Yeah, yeah, cars and teevee, and towers as tall as the sky, made of glass,” Darla said, “Such beautiful nonsense.”
“It’s not all beautiful.” Olivia said.
“Come on,” Darla said, getting up, “I want you to try something.”
“Where are we going?” Olivia asked.
“Where any sane person goes for answers.” Darla said, “We’re going to a tavern.”
They walked down the street, and turned a corner. They wound up at the Cock and Bull, a smelly tavern with a stupid name. Out front, there was a busker, passed out, drunk. He lay in the street, snoring and hugging his lute as if it were his lover. Darla squatted down and wrestled the instrument from his arms. She stood up and handed it to Olivia.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” Olivia asked.
“You’re a musician,” Darla said. “Figure it out.”
Olivia slung the strap over her shoulder with a motion that felt strangely familiar. She held the lute and picked out a chord, and then another, and another.
Darla’s brow furrowed “What kind of music is that?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” Olivia confessed. “I think it’s rock and roll.”
“Well, play some more.” Darla urged, “Maybe it gets better.”
So Olivia played, and she started to sing. Tears ran down her face, but her voice didn’t falter. She played songs that she knew without knowing that she knew them. Songs from the motor city. Songs from the swamps in Georgia. Songs about war in a faraway land.
Darla began to move with the rhythm. Soon she was spinning, and her skirts were swirling in a crazy gypsy dance. Passersby threw coins at her feet. A crowd had gathered.
“Look, Sweetie,” Darla said in hushed tones, “You’re famous. And somebody loves you,” she added softly.
“Thank you, Darla,” Olivia said, “But I still don’t know who I was, or how to get back.”
“Does that really matter?” Darla asked, scooping the coins up in her dress, “If you can’t find your old life, why not find a new one? Stay here. With me.”
“Oh, Darla,” Olivia said, “Do you really want to spend your life with a crazy woman?”
“Only if she’s you, Squire.” Darla side-hugged her because the lute kind of got in the way.
“Hey! That’s my lute!” said a voice from below.
“Well, you’re not getting it back.” Darla replied, “That’s what you get for cheating me.” And that’s a lesson you can take home, kids. If you live in a one-whore town, you had better treat her right, because payback’s a bitch, and so is Darla, when she needs to be.
The two walked arm in arm, to the beach. The sun was warm, and the sky was impossibly blue.
“You know,” Olivia said, “I still have the money Deep gave me.”
“So what will you buy with it?” Darla asked, her eyes dreamy. “Something pretty?”
“No.” Olivia said, “I’m thinking of buying passage on a ship. To the Americas.”
Darla took her arm back. “Fine,” she said, her voice as hard as her face, “Go. If getting answers is so damned important…”
“Passage for two, you idiot.” Olivia said.
“But…” Darla objected, “I’ve never left the duchy.”
“Neither have I,” Olivia countered, “I’m not afraid, why are you?”
“I’d be leaving everything I know behind…”
“Not everything,” Olivia said, “I’ll be right by your side.”
“But my life is here.” Darla pointed out.
“A life on your knees. You keep telling me you hate it.” Olivia crossed her arms. “What’s the real reason? Why are you afraid?”
“You keep saying that life here feels like a dream.”
“Yeah?” Olivia said, “So?”
“What if it is? What if you wake up? What happens to me?” Darla asked.
“Darla, have you been dipping your head in seawater?” Olivia asked, “You sound as crazy as I do!”.
Some stories feel like exorcisms when I writing them. This ones pretty rough, in more ways than one,
By Ken Green
“Dirtsider,” Tabitha spat out with disgust, “On your ten.”
“Don’t call them that,” I chided her, “You’ll get in trouble.” Tabs was my best friend, but she had a serious hate-on for Terrans. Bad luck for her, it was an Earth week, and we were hostesses, so we had to be nice.
“You take him,” she said, “I’m not in the mood.”
I turned to my left and spotted him in the crowd. Sure enough, wearing a floral shirt and a confused expression, holding a map. Dirtsider. A big, corn-fed one, an American by the size of him, and all mine. I put a big, big smile on my face, shook out my crazy Irish curls, and strode toward him.
“Can I help you find something?” I asked him, and took a deep breath. Some Americans were good tippers, and everybody likes the twins. Yes, I’m shameless. Shame doesn’t pay the rent.
“I’m looking for sector ex ex eye?” he said uncertainly.
That’s when I knew I had him. You won’t get far in Nova Roma if you can’t read the numbers.
“That’s section twenty-three. We’re in twenty-one. You need to go two spokes spinward.” I told him.
“Spinward?” he asked, looking even more confused.
I gave him my best yeah-you-want-me smile. “I’d be happy to show you the way, if you’ll permit.” I said it clearly, so my subdermal was sure to catch it.
He smiled. “Yes, I guess you’d better.”
My subdermal pinged. “Contract accepted, the meter is running. Go get him, girl.” Rachel was on monitor duty, and she’s a nice person to have in your head.
“Well,” I told him, “The quickest way is by velo…” I gestured toward the velo path, where commuters pedaled on their way to wherever.
“What are those, bicycles?” he asked, “I need to get there alive, Sweetheart.”
Americans never say yes to the velos. That’s why I always ask.
“Well,” I frowned, “We can take the tube, but it’s awfully crowded this time of day…”
“Can we get a private cab?” he asked.
Bingo. “Follow me.” I said, smiling sweetly, as I led him to the cab stand. I made a completely unnecessary gesture, and a cab arrived. I took a good look at the cab number, so Rachel could read it off my retinal cam. We got in, and he accepted the charges.
My subdermal pinged. “Kickback confirmed, you hussy,” Rachel purred in my head.
It’s always a tense moment for me, getting in the cab. If a client wants off-menu services, the cab ride is usually where he’ll ask. I don’t go off menu. Sure, I’m from the under, but I’m not a gorram whore.
I glanced away from him and whispered, “What do you have, Rachel?”
“Not much,” she said, “Mike Dubinsky, arrived on the shuttle, up for the day on business. Works for Infotech. Must be casual day.”
Turning back to him, I took a moment to study his face. He hadn’t spent a decicredit on rejuve, that much was obvious. But under those wrinkles and the fat there was a hardness to him. His nose had been broken, more than once. I glanced at his hands. He had the scarred knuckles of a brawler.
“So,” I said, in my sweet, practiced voice, “Will you be staying with us for the Mars run?”
“No,” Mike said, “I’m just here for the day.”
“Well, that just won’t do,” I said with mock disapproval, “You can’t see Nova Roma in a day.”
“I’m not here to see the sights, sweetheart,” he said, “I’m here to kill a man.”
I have to confess, Terran humor often escapes me. So I did my best fake laugh.
“You’re going to kill somebody…,” I laughed, “That’s funny…”
“I’m glad you think so,” Mike said, “I doubt he will.” He reached into his pocket and handed me a folded sheet of paper.
“What is this?” I asked him.
“That’s the guy,” Mike said, “Open it up.”
I unfolded the paper. There was a photograph, a resume, the address we were going to…
“This isn’t funny, Mike. This is sick.” I punched the cab’s panic button. “Stop the cab!”
The cab began to slow down.
Mike sighed, “Executive override. Lock doors, resume course.”
The cab sped up.
“Why are you doing this?” I asked him.
“Look at the paper.” Mike said.
My subdermal pinged. “Do what he says, Colleen!” Rachel said, sounding scared.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“There’s guys from Corporate here.” Rachel said, “Scary guys. Just do what he says!”
“No,” I said, pushing the paper back to him, “I don’t want any part of this. I’m nobody, I’m nothing. I just took this job…”
“Don’t say that,” Mike commanded, “Don’t ever say that. And don’t ever believe it, either.”
“What?” I asked.
“Don’t say that you’re nothing. It’s not true. You’re a person. You have value. Every life has value.”
“Every life, Mike?” I held up the paper, “Even his?
“Yeah,” Mike said, “Even that dirtbag.”
“Then why are you going to kill him?”
“For the same reason you flirt with strangers and give them directions,” he said, “It’s my job. It’s how I pay my rent. We all have a place in this universe.”
“But, why…” I stammered.
“Look at the paper.” Mike said. “Look at him. Know him.”
“Because he has a life. And it’s going to end soon.”
“What did he do? Why does he have to die?” I asked.
“I have no idea,” Mike said, “All I ever know is who and where. They never tell me why.”
We arrived at Infotech tower. As the cab slowed down, I got ready to bolt.
“Don’t even think about running,” Mike instructed me, “I’m faster than I look.”
Soon, his hand was on my elbow, and he was steering me through the lobby. I looked to the security guards, and they looked away. We had the elevator to ourselves.
“Please,” I pleaded, “Just let me go…”
“It won’t be much longer,” he said, his voice flat, “Just stay calm. You’re doing great.”
We arrived on the designated floor, and he steered me along a corridor. He pushed me into an office.
“Look at him.” Mike commanded.
I looked at the sad, pudgy midlevel manager whose resume I had memorized. He looked like he wanted to cry. I know I did.
“Okay,” Mike said, “Wait for me in the corridor. You don’t need to see the next part.”
I stepped out to the corridor. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t. Why couldn’t I run? I leaned against the wall.
Through the wall came the muffled sounds of fists hitting flesh, of a body hitting walls. Again, and again. Meaty sounds, groans, and whimpers. Gasping sounds, and the celery sound of breaking bones. Sounds I thought I had left behind me, in the under. A final falling thump, then silence.
The door opened. Mike emerged, his fists bloody.
“No…” I backed away from him.
“Oh, crap. I’m sorry,” he said, reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a Kleanwipe, and wiped his hands. He threw the Kleanwipe into the office and closed the door.
“Why?” I asked him, in the cab again.
“We’ve been through this,” he said, “I don’t know why. They just tell me where to go, and who to kill.”
“No,” I said, “Not that. Why bring me along? Why make me a witness?”
“Because, it’s like I said. Every life has value, even that boot scrape up there. But in the next few hours, a cleanup team is going to sanitize this office, another one will clear out his apartment, his accounts will be settled, and his credit lines closed.”
Mike looked out the window. “He had no family, nobody to will mourn him. It’ll be like he never existed. And that’s not right. He did exist, he had a life. Somebody should mourn him. Somebody should carry that memory. But it’s not going to be me. I’m not going to carry anybody else.”
The cab stopped.
“You can go now.” Mike said. The door opened and I ran like hell.