Archive for August, 2009

photo edit

August 31, 2009

In support of a magazine story a photographer visits a ward for the terminally ill in a children’s hospital. He happens to photograph an eight-year old girl at the moment of her death. A few months later he discovers that all his photographs now have the image of this girl somewhere in them. He is baffled, and fears for his career. He becomes depressed, and he can’t seem to get enough sleep. His wife discovers that it is he – he gets up in the middle of the night and edits all of his photos to put in the image of this girl. However he denies it and still views it as a supernatural occurrence, of which he is the victim.


changeling strategies

August 30, 2009

The faerie kingdom of Alverdine is in decline. The neighboring kingdom of Breena is doing very well, however. The king of Alverdine believes that this is because Breena is much more successful in stealing human babies and leaving changelings behind. He selects two faeries to travel to Breena as secret agents and discover the secret to their changeling success. The two faeries discover that when Breenan faeries steal a human baby, they contrive to give the mother certain designer drugs, which they have obtained through contacts they have made in the human counter-culture. Another part of their strategy is to expose the mother to literature that claims a link between autism and inoculations. When the changeling grows sick or doesn’t act human the mother is thus not as suspicious – she can either blame it on the inoculations or lack of inoculations, whichever choice she has made.

primal scene

August 29, 2009

A seven year old boy has a recurring Jungian dream of a giant worm lying prone, its end filled with teeth. In the dream he stands stunned and amazed by the light shining from behind it. Then he runs, in fear tinged with awe. He doesn’t feel like he can talk to anybody about this dream. This is the first time he has had a secret. His mom asks him whats wrong, but he feels he can’t tell her. In the parent-teacher conference his teacher (a woman) tells his mom he looks sad. His mom pressures his dad to talk to him, but his dad seems reluctant. His dad, and all the other boys, seem to share a shameful secret that they all understand that they cannot talk about, even with each other – even with the ones they know must share this secret. He contemplates the school bully – though he still hates him, indeed loathes him more than ever, he feels he understands him better.

dam fault

August 28, 2009

One of the engineers who built the dam that broke warned his superiors about the flaw. At a dinner party at his home, he tells his wife and the three other couples there that he knew it was going to fail someday, but nobody would listen to him. One of the women accuses him of being responsible for the accident – she goes so far as to tell him, “You as good as casued that flood. It was your duty to make people listen. You failed.” Most of the people at the party think she’s being a bitch, but one of the other men agrees with her. The engineer admits to being wracked by guilt. “But I try to imagine the feelings of my manager, who was the one who really quashed my warnings.”

Said manager is on vacation in Wyoming with his young teenage sons – staying in a cabin, fly fishing. He decided to get away when the flood hit the news the week before. He knew he would face questions from the press, and he wanted to give it a chance to blow over. He wanted to give himself a chance to come up with answers. And he wanted some time to internalize it, he told himself – though he knew that by ‘internalize’ he really meant ‘rationalize’.

mirror mirror

August 27, 2009

A stylish playgirl has a man’s living disembodied head on a side table in her living room. He acts a little bit like the magic mirror in Snow White, giving his opinion on her fashion choices as she prepares to go out for the evening. One night she comes home drunk with a young man and they plays some music the man has brought along. “Do you know what that is? It’s by an old band called the Flaming Lips, and the song is called ‘Let’s Keep the Disembodied Head Awake! Ha ha ha!'” The head knows she is being cruel, but it’s hard for him to get really upset, or emotional at all, without a body. All those hormones, and the blood pressure, and the rate of breath, they play a large part of having feelings. The head mostly likes to keep up with the news- in fact he’s a bit of a political junky. The only time he gets a little irked is when she doesn’t give him access to a newsreader, or leave the radio or tv on for him while she’s at work during the day.


August 26, 2009

A six year old boy has trouble at a new school because he’s covered with tattoos. The other kids make fun of him, and where he comes from he’s learned to resolve conflicts physically, which doesn’t really work in his new environment. On field trips he’s refused entry because of his tats. His new home is on the alluvial plain by the sea. His family comes from the plateaus in the foothills, where people live in large stacked stone and concrete buildings. They live in intermixed tribes, differentiated by their tattoos. The tribes pursue strong rivalries with battles ritualized to the point of sport, but still deadly, fought on ropes.


August 25, 2009

Thin antennae, hundreds of meters tall, sway as they are climbed by a green and blue skinned little man dressed in something resembling plastic lederhosen. He scrambles up these thin metal rods like an insect, and once he reaches the top he attaches a piece of equipment near the tip. He flips a switch on the equipment and ragged cartoon lightning shapes pop out of the air in a radial pattern around the end of the antenna. They are solid, floating like balloons, and he pushes some of them out of his way as he works. He checks to make sure the shapes are the right color – blue is best, and green is ok, but yellow or red are very bad and require him to attach some other equipment and and make some adjustments. When he switches off his equipment the shapes turn to smoke and start dissipating and drifting away in the breeze. He hops to the next antenna if it’s close enough, or if he has to move to another cluster a distance away he scrambles down and then back up. Mid-way through his day he finds that some of the shapes are purple. He doesn’t know what that means. Is there a virus or something spreading through the antennae? What kind of effect will this have on his friends below? He scrambles down and finds that here and there people are keeling over with ecstatic expressions on their faces, and literally bursting apart. Their bodies are popping, separating into a few dozen globules that form from the exploding flesh. On closer inspection these globules are creatures, with cilia or small tentacle-like appendages at one end. They move along the ground, grouping and ungrouping in shifting patterns. Then the feeling hits him – the pleasurable feeling of his mind being separated into pieces and put into a larger pattern.


August 24, 2009

A dam upriver from a small town has sprung a leak. The water is rising slowly but steadily. One family has not evacuated. The father thinks they can weather it. He wants to move everything upstairs and try to waterproof the downstairs. The mother wants to evacuate – she has a brother in the next state with whom she wants them to go stay until this thing is settled. But there are a couple of things she doesn’t want to lose that she wants to package up and send ahead. The eight-year old daughter is on the father’s side, and the four-year old son is worried because his mother is worried. The father thinks that they live on high enough ground that the water won’t even reach their house. They stay more from inertia than from actually making a decision, but when the flood does come, the father is right: the water stops a few feet from the house. Then looters arrive by boat. Three men. Things get brutal – the father and the daughter are the only ones that survive. Afterward they are faced with the immediate problem of what to do with the bodies. The obvious solution is to weigh them down in the water. But also, they have a boat. The daughter convinces the father that they should take the boat and go. They go to the nearest non-evacuated town down the fiver. They are hesitant to involve the authorities, since they disobeyed orders to evacuate, but they tell their story to others at the shelter where they end up, and word gets to the police. So they are debriefed, but no action is taken – for now, at least. The father is more broken than the daughter. He slips away, mentally, and then one night physically. She goes back to the police for help to look for him. They go back to the house, and he refuses to leave. They are forced with the choice of whether to restrain him or leave him.


August 23, 2009

The colony didn’t remember how it was formed. As far as it knew it had always had the same queen, and she emerged as queen with attendant colony from the chaotic unremembered birth of the universe. The colony’s oldest memory is the day it found the dead mouse. The colony got there and disposed of all of it before any other scavengers. Usually the colony’s members were driven off by other insects, or by a mammal, even a reptile. Those failures had happened countless times. The rare success was notable, memorable. Its memories are chemical – its memories are left in trails across the forest floor.

Another notable event, somewhat more recent, was when it found a wounded worm. Some members were lost there, crushed under the worm’s final flailings. But now something new has happened – and it is a startling discovery that re-aligns the world: there is another colony. It is a possibility the colony never considered: after all, it was the universe. Now there are two universes.

Even though it had never been able to imagine this situation, the colony discovers instincts for how to react to it. Its members fight whenever they find members from the other. However as a whole it at first avoids the other colony. You may say out of fear, or you may say automatically, reflexively, thoughtlessly: since food was naturally less abundant in the direction of a competitor, foraging was more successful elsewhere. But the other colony expands aggressively. Its tunnels reach so close that soon enough it is foraging in home territory. Finally a real battle is joined, not a mere skirmish such as has happened up until now. Members come back from this encounter not after it is done, but somehow a chemical reaction decides them to fetch reinforcements.

The advancing enemy eventually breaches the central chambers and devouirs the queen. The colony’s identity fractures and disintegrates. The remaining foragers in the territory outskirts have lost all of their chemical mind except for the wispy trails of thought that say, “Food over this way.”

bait the trap

August 22, 2009

Open with an old woman and a young girl of about twelve sweeping the ashes of their hearth. They live in a cabin in the western wild. They have a vegetable garden, and a few goats. They have a lot of cats. They do some fishing, some trapping. They buy supplies with money in a bank account some where , which the old woman says is her savings, but actually it’s a trust for the young girl. A coyote eats one of their goats. They improve the fence on the goat pen, then the cats start disappearing. They set a trap for the coyote, with no results. The old woman decides they need to bait the trap. To the young girl’s horror the od woman kills one of the cats to bait the trap. The girl lies awake at night deathly afraid that the old woman will kill her for bait next.