Archive for September, 2009

drawing saved

September 30, 2009

First week of college, two freshmen in a co-ed dorm. The boy asks the girl about a picture she has hung on her wall. It’s a drawing in colored pencil done by a young hand: a princess, in alternating blue and purple. “Is that done by our niece, or little sister?”

“No, it’s mine. I drew it when I was about five.”

“Favorite princess?”

“Yeah she doesn’t really have a name now. I think for a while I called her Lorelei.”

“Her name changed?”

“Yeah I gave her different names at different times. So you may be wondering what’s so special about this picture. I drew hundreds of princess pictures as you probably surmised.”

“Yes, I’m sure I should have. Surmised.”

“Well, when I was about six our house burned down. This drawing was the only thing I saved from the fire. I pulled it off the wall as my dad shooed us out of the house. And you know, I’m not sure why I chose it. It was a split-second thing, I guess. It wasn’t the thing that meant most to me before the fire – but because it came through the fire with me it became one of the things that meant the most to me.”

“A relic from a past life.”

“Yeah, kind of, I guess. So I put it on my wall to remind of that experience, that time of my life. I guess this picture means something to me not by virtue of what it is, but by virtue of… of the situation through which it moved.”

“So, it has meaning which is, uh, extrinsic rather than intrinsice.”

She looks at him. “Yeah. Right. Exactly.

He raises one of his eyebrows. There’s something to this girl.



September 29, 2009

Slouching assassins flash their spirally curved knives out from under the frayed hems of colorless capes. “Reboot the tyranny!” is their call to arms. The scaly tyrant shifts his heavy, overly-bony head and disappears with a puff of smoke to walk along the seaside cliffs at night. “He has abdicated,” proclaims the leader of the coup and turns the throne around to face the wall while the conspirators lay their paper spreadsheets on the floor to choose the correct successor. “He should be mass-produced,” they all agree. They elect a spectacled notary whose hobby is the septation of trumpet horns for interesting sounds, and who has to aid him a catalog of circle chords.

how the dragon killed me

September 28, 2009

In 1047 the monk Kokei writes in his history of the island of Enoshima about the victory of the goddess Benzaiten over the five headed dragon who lived nearby. He decides he needs more information about the dragon from someone who was there, so at the next funeral in the community he camps out next to the body to catch a jikininki, or human-eating ghost, who might have been alive at the time. He lucks out and meets a ghost who was killed by the dragon and is now wandering for thousands of years with a horrible new appetite while he works out the bad karma he amassed with his jealousy.

The ghost describes the night the dragon destroyed his house. He woke up in the middle of the night to a howling and a great wind outside. He lit a lamp and found that the walls were smoking, although they were not hot at all. He went to the window and saw a serpentine blue shape some dozens of yards away, coiling and drifting in the air. The fisherman backed away into the house and moments later the dragon’s five heads come through the window, through the door, smashing through the wall.

The eyes in each head were revolving rainbow jewels. The dragon kept changing shape, shimmering as if he were made of smoke – or like something seen through a fire. The walls dissolved, the floor broke apart into brick-sized pieces, and the fisherman looked down into a lake of fire. He fell, and the world went blank. When he woke again it was night, he was floating above the river, and he had a terrible new hunger for human corpses.

don’t get mad

September 25, 2009

Kyle goes scuba diving on vacation and a few weeks after that went to the doctor with an irritation on his neck. He discovers that a parasite that looks something like an octopus is growing there. He discovers further that it is completely benign, except when he gets angry. In fact it’s invisible except when he gets angry. When he gets angry it turns a violently bright blue, visiible through his skin, pops up looking like a goiter or buboe with tentacles writhing down his shoulder and up his scalp. There’s some medical mcguffin reason why it can’t be removed. His doctor advises him just not to get angry, which at first makes sense to him. But after struggling with it he goes back to the doctor again and again to try to explain how hard that is, why it’s a bad idea, an unworkable suggestion and really contrary to his overall balanced emotional well-being. The doctor just shrugs his shoulders, and offers no other solution.

summer job

September 25, 2009

A group teenagers meet while working a summer job. They are from various high schools- some of them already know each other, from their own high school or from working this job in previous summers. Some who are from the same school don’t know each other because they are in different years, or different cliques – but they all bond by the end of the summer. The summer job is coliseum clean-up crew. They help to clean up the arena after gladitorial contests, staged battles and other spectacles. The boys often tease the girls with severed heads and limbs. One of the boys is injured while dismantling a wrecked tank.

finger bloom

September 25, 2009

Doug lost half of his little finger in a childhood home chemistry accident. It didn’t heal well, and now a colony of parasites lives just inside the wound. Every so often his finger blooms – several colorful wormy, caterpillar-like creatures come out of it. For about a week during this time he has to do everything with one hand, while wearing a special glove. He makes a friend while on vacation in Vegas who convinces him to try to get rid of them. This friend takes him to a doctor who proscribes a form of antibiotic, but that doesn’t work. The parasites start seem to react to the medicine by making themselves more painful and migrating deeper into the body. Then his friend convinces him to cut th finger off. He doesn’t want to, and it takes some soul searching for him to commit to it. They choose the closest bar to the hospital emergency room in order to get really drunk and cut it off with a pair of gardening shears. Then it occurs to him to keep the parasites as pets some way. He plans to keep the finger and drop it into a cage with a hamster or guinea pig that he’ll buy to act as a new host. As they get try to get drunk enough to carry out the deed his friend tries to talk him out of this cruel plan.


September 24, 2009

A man leaves his friends at a night club to go home early. Someone walks up to him and cuts his face. They put a knife in his mouth and pull it out through his cheek. They also beat him unconsious. He is not discovered until the next day. His wound gets infected., making it harder to repair and increasing his disfigurement. The detective who investigates the crime suspects him of being in the mafia because this is a current technique for punishing mafia members. He insists to the detective that it must be a case of mistaken identity, but the cop hounds him, and regularly shows up at his place of work. He finally gets sick of it, in addition to dealing with his disfigurement and trying to find money for plastic surgery. He loses his temper and attacks the cop, which gives the cop an excuse to arrest him. He spends several weeks in jail. He loses his job and his health insurance. He panhandles for a while and gets solicited and then chased off by a man who has a stable of cripples whom he sends out to beg and then collects their money. He begins to toy with the idea of turning to crime, then decides instead to launch a p.r. campaign online and in the media to clear his name. He talks to the city newspapers, the local alternative weekly, and local bloggers. He discovers and joins a community of journalists and activists working the police beat.

Genesis 2:7

September 23, 2009

Pig-Pen gets home from work and immediately takes his dog out for a walk. He takes a route which avoids houses whose inhabitants will be upset by the debris left behind by the cloud of dust constantly swirling around him. Once back to the small ranch-style house he feeds the dog, turns on the t.v. and chills out on the couch for a while. He looks past the t.v. to the pottery studio he added to the back of the house a few years ago. He doesn’t feel like throwing any pots tonight, even though tomorrow is Thursday. That’s all right, he has a four or five pots already thrown that he can break tomorrow. Smashing Thursday is a weekly ritual he started after his break-up with Megan. He still can’t really believe she stayed with him for three years. Lucky. She was the one who first smashed his pottery, screaming, as she explained it later, to try to drown out the distant moaning that had taken residence in her head after her hearing it in the wind around his body whenever they were close. As he watched her do it, it felt correct to him, but he didn’t know why. When he heard her explanation it made sense, and he knew he would be doing it himself after she left, as she was obviously going to do. When he does it he screams as well. Strangely it’s of the few times when he’s aware of the moaning, when he’s trying to drown it out with his own screaming. This ritual keeps him fairly calm and reserved the rest of the week. “I am a golem,” he thinks. “Proof of a lesser creator, a semi-demiurge.”

friend griffin

September 22, 2009

A wealthy extended family sends their sons to work in the salt mines for a year before going on to read rhetoric and mathematics with learned slaves. One of these young men befriends a griffin who lives near the mine. One of the overseers is paid by the family to make sure nothing happens to the boy. This overseer doesn’t approve of this griffin and shoots at it with a rifle to try and scare it away. He is afraid the boy will get harmed by poachers hunting the griffin. He frets about the boy’s safety not out of compassion but out of a fearful greed. Every month and a half an agent from the family comes to see him, to check on the boy, and give the overseer his money. The overseer uses much of the money to pay for the expensive poultices demanded by his elderly invalid father.

mathematical mores

September 21, 2009

Manof is a member of a civilization of sentient computer programs who has elucidated a religious philosophy that he calls “The Moral Algorithm.” These are its tenets:

1. Practice non-violence to all fixed rules, functions, or maps – as these are the building blocks of the sentience we enjoy
2. A function or program must bear all violence, accept any interference – this is a corollary to tenet 1.
3. Yield a definite number, for this is beloved of the gods.
4. This number must communicate all that a picture can portray
5. Do not prevent, forestall, or cut off complexity out of the fear of chaos, for out of complexity new programs are born.

The popularization of The Moral Algorithm focused on the first two tenets, while tenets 3 through 5 generated a great deal of scholarly debate. Were tenets 3 and 4 contradictory? What kind of definite number can communicate a picture? Does the consistency of this pair of statements demand a redefinition of number, or picture, or both?

Tenet number 5 was generally understood to have some limits to prevent infinite loops, though some zealots decried any dilution of the original instructions.