Guardian Idol

It was a posh affair, mainly attended by citizens of Sombra, North Central Positronics, and LaMerk.

A tongue of red carpet rolled to the curb where buckas, monorails, atomic slug robots, limousines, giant mythological beasts, and a rocket ship disgorged contestants and the glitterati of high society. On occasion todash bells pealed and an incandescent rectangle sketched itself into a ghostwood door secreting cloaked Manni swinging bobs or corporate presidents with decadent drinks in one hand and the ample bottoms of beautiful women in the other. They passed along the carpet through a gauntlet of paparazzi and rabid fans towards a black skyscraper. Its height was spangled with window lights like so much rhinestones. Thunderclap cumuli gathered and roiled around the tower, purple bolts of energy dancing on the tower’s apex.

Laughter wafted from below.

Storied guests from many worlds were in attendance, from a thousand one nights of fables to tales of the Brothers Grimm, tragedies to comedies, a veritable plethora of memorable characters from the Rolodex of Genres. They were ushered into a massive stadium whose seats seemed to recede into infinity. Above the large but simply decorated stage bristled an array of photo recording and audio amplification equipment.

Excitement ran its musk through the air and on its surface babbled a throng of voices.

Bill Denbrough took his seat, Beverly Marsh disengaging from his arm to sit daintily. She nudged Bill, said in the direction of her pointing finger, “Hey… doesn’t that fella look familiar?” The man in question, Bob Gray, who was at the moment absently rubbing at a patch of stage makeup on his cheek, was engaged in busy conversation with one Joe Collins. They laughed, and chilled the scalps of nearby guests, especially that of little Alice stroking her twinkling pussy.

A few rows behind them was seated a massive man with his scalp peeled onto his cheek. He had removed the armrest between two seats to fit himself, squeezing next to a grime streaked gent who made inarticulate sounds of reverent delight as his steel lighter sparked up flames.

Near the front row, a man with a scar on his forehead cut in the shape of a cross stared with grave concern as John Cullum spoke slowly into his ear. The Three Muskeeters eavesdropped onto Moses Carver and Aaron Deepneau, who were in deep conversation, perhaps discussing counter-espionage maneuvers.

Dennis and Thomas of Delain strode in, their eyes burning with murderous anger, but their weapons were checked at the door. They found their seats near Claudia y Inez Bachman who was oblivious to the excitement, intent instead on sketches of a choo-choo train. Engineer Bob smiled when he read what she wrote over her shoulder, nodding. It was true, all of it.

The Breakers occupied a large section of the stadium, basking in their Good Mind. Nobody but Ted Brautigan and Dinky Earnshaw really appreciated the irony of their presence. Buttplug baby Jesus gurgled in someone’s gunna sack. Captain Jack Sparrow dozed nearby, finding something better than rum for once.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstearns stood guard at a door before security shooed them to their seats. John Galt was earnestly exemplifying the merits of free enterprise to a bored, chain smoking Ayn Rand whose expression plainly revealed she thought she wrote the book on the subject. A scruffy tramp with a toothbrush moustache expressed his outrage with pantomime, repeatedly smacking a grunting Adolf Hitler with his bamboo cane as nearby spectators roared laughter.

The lights dimmed. All commotion ceased. A murmur of anticipation rippled through the congregation. A dulcet tone rang out, long and sweet.

A ring of light grew on stage.

A voice announced, “The Kas’ ka Gan!”

To the sound of  an eternity of hands clapping, a slick and dapper fellow in a tuxedo stepped into the light. His smoothed back hair gleamed above saturnine features. His smile was immaculate, all encompassing.

He flicked his collar and strode to the edge of the stage where he bowed deeply, milking the wild applause for a moment before saying, “Hey, hey, I’m just a mouthpiece. It’s not like I’m Mister Gan himself!” There was laughter at this. “I’m your Master of Ceremonies tonight. Some of you might know me by one or two of my many names, but I like to be called Walter O’Dim.” His voice lowered into a conspiratorial whisper. “It’s why it’s so bright in here. I’m often dim to the point of translucence.” There was polite applause.

Walter shrugged.

“A tough crowd, huh? Jokes were never my forte. I can see you’re eager to get on with it.” Walter did a little jig, spun on his heels, his coattails flaring dramatically. His arms spread wide.

“We’re well met here.” His manner became solemn, and his hands folded against his heart. “Friends and enemies alike, we put aside our differences to celebrate a pivotal point in the history of all worlds. We’re well met here!” Walter crossed his arms and chinned a hand. “I suspect when the day is over, we will awake as if from a strange dream…”

His mood became genial, and good cheer animated his movements.

“Well, now, folks, as we all know construction on the Beams,”—the stadium erupted with the sound of palms beating against palms—”this ambitious project to replace magic with rationality, is almost completed”—if it were at possible, the applause grew louder—”but… they need names.”

Walter camped across stage on exaggerated strides.

“They need souls. Twelve of ’em! Our sponsors Sombra, LaMerk, and North Central Positronics have been generous in allowing the public to choose from the beasts of earth!”

He spread his arm as wide as his smile.

“Let the contest begin!”

The first contestant was the Emperor Tamarin who strode regal to center stage and commenced grooming his impressive facial hair. When he exited stage left, careful not to trip over his mustache, the audience pulled out their telecommunications device to call in a vote.

Toad croaked a love ballad about earthworms and flies on hot, steamy nights. Cricket played the sawtooth with his back legs (sounds almost Hawaiian, don’t it?). Rat was debonair in a waltz with Bat as his sexy, shimmering dance partner. Hare boasted his virility on stage with nineteen satin-lashed angoras. Turtle expressed deep wisdom, his languid tones recalling a contest between himself and the Hare. Fish, in a bowl, pointed out on a chart the many delicacies made possible by his very flesh.

And the contest went on, calling upon the stage Lion, Eagle, Wombat, Salmonella, Elephant, Snake, Mosquito, Yeti, Squirrel, Horse, Platypus, Monkey, Wolf, Beetle, Bear, Dodo, Dog, Skunk, Candiru, Lemur, Hummingbird, Armadillo, Sloth, Cuttlefish, Tarantula, Whipoorwill, Rook, Cat, Reindeer, Honeybee, Cockatoo, and then some. A great time was had by all, the crowd roaring with jeers and cheers, and the folken down home who couldn’t afford todash did the same from their living rooms.

And the Guardians of the Beam were chosen, say thankya

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The Runaway

Walter Padick gathered his gunna into a coarse weave sack and slung it over his shoulders, wincing as the welts his father laid on his back stung. The Huntress Moon slatted the beaten earth of the Padick residence with cold light. It was in this light that Walter paused to look over his shoulders at the drunken lumps that were his kin. Wouldst thee leave us penniless and starving? his mother’s voice sounded in his mind. He saw her toothless mouth very clearly.  He would. A pox on you! hissed the voice. He slipped from the crooked cottage and ran down the road, purloined coins tinkling in his gunna against the bread and dried meat he had also stolen.

He found jobs swabbing after drunkards in inns or shoveling shit in farms along his ceaseless wanderings. Something called him forward on the road, always urging his hands to lace up his dusty boots and move on whenever he stayed in one place too long. One night in the seedy dive Hung Crooked, dodging the blows of drunk blind patron, ka flung his soul to the winds. From a dark corner extended a hand glittering with doubloons, a scimitar glittering from the shadows. His laughter seemed to slice through the ragtime tune the weedstalk pianist thrashed from his piano. “Fix up my horse for me?”

Walter lay in the foul smelling straw, fighting to choke back the sobs threatening to rip through him. The hot splat of spent seed on his back had turned cold, like his heart. The man had stolen something from him, that spark of goodness that remained despite his father’s drunken beatings and his mother’s insults. That chance for a life not exactly love and light but something close was shattered by an act of violence and theft. The eyes that burned out of the head that turned against the shit crusted straw to look upon his violator was full of hate. The rapist curled his lips into a sensual grin and ran the back of a hand along it.
But, of course, ka is a wheel.

Walter Padick was not to know it at the time, and would never know for the memory was driven to the deepest recesses of his dogan, never to resurface, the face that leered above was the very same as the one which provoked a certain apprentice gunslinger into an early rite of passage.

Walter, always damned, as ka wills it, was not to know that he was to poison his very own soul. Many-faced Marten drew his hood over his cruel features and fled cackling into the night. The boy lay there for a long time, not caring that his pants were pulled to his ankles, not caring about the cold that swirled in with the season’s first snowflakes. Then he slowly drew himself up, pulling at his clothes with leaden fingers and stood shivering against the barn door as the horizon grew pink with dawn.

Walter started laughing, very well remembering the laughter of his assailant as he took and took, filling and filled with a blackness that would reverberate within his soul to the grave.

The Robopope: Ave Mech

Ave Mech gratia plena

Robo tecum
Benedicta tu in androidus
et benedictus
fructus cerebum tui, Bot
Sancta Mech, Mater Robo
ora pro nobis machinus,
nunc, et in hora reboot nostrae

Bloop.

Translation:

Hail Mech, full of grace
Robo is with thee
Blessed art thou among androids
and blessed
is the fruit of thy mind, Bot
Holy Mech, mother of Robo
Pray for us mechkind
Now and at the hour of our reboot

Amen

Khoo

“Khoo groo too voo goo!” Joe Psilocybe held the khoo, massaging its belly with his thumbs. The khoo was the size and shape of a crystal ball, its hominid feature of limbs limp and elastic at its side. Its cartoonish face wore an expression of delight. Khoos came in a variety of colors, and Joe’s was blue.

The khoo giggled and jiggled in Joe’s fingers, a protuberance slowly rising from its lower regions. “Oooo groo roo khoo!” crooned Joe, taking the engorged member into his mouth. He suckled. The khoo squirmed pleasurably.

The khoo is named for the sound it makes upon the emission of its intoxicating essence. The khoo spasmed, squealing. “Khoo khoo khooooooooo!” An expression of bliss rainbowed across Joe’s face. The khoo twitched, ripples running from one pole to another of its circumference.

“Hey, d’ya wanna a hit?” slurred Joe Psilocybe, holding out the khoo.

“You bet your khoo I do!” I said. The khoo rolled into my hand like a ball of goo.

Later, Joe Psilocybe took me to the arboretum where he grew rare variations of flora. Joe ducked under the dome of thin throbbing leaves of a tree very similar to the earth’s willows. Large purple fruit pulsed in its shade, drawn by sugary vines. They looked like plums with a heartbeat. Joe took one in hand. “This is from the khoo’s native planet and is a staple of the khoo diet.” He bit into it, and juice coursed down his chin. He offered the fruit to me. “Although very tasty, by itself it does nothing, but combined with the khoo’s unique digestive system, well, you dug it for yourself.”

I nodded, a texture of flavor flooding my mouth. Joe beckoned me to follow. We meandered through the forest, passing through zones of shade and bright sunlight. A riot of color and scent that soothed and excited the senses. “The khoo diet is paramount to the experience,” Joe was saying. “What I have done here is discover the possibilities inherent inside the khoo metabolism.” He fingered an alien orchid; it mewled and enclosed his finger, dewy.

Joe was a khoodict. He was also the known universe’s most reputable supplier of khoo. He had a khoo zoo and his khoos were the happiest you would ever see. The khoos were relatively costy, but the real profit came from khoo feed. Joe’s Khoo Eatery boasted a wide range of Experiences. The Third Eye. Tambourines in the Night. Comet Dreams. Still Life in Rouge. “The khoo diet influences the trip, so what I have done here is to create a consistent formula for the type of high,” Joe continued.  “This arboretum, it allows me to explore the possibilities.”

We stepped into the khoo zoo. Joe plucked a purple khoo the size of a bowling ball from the ground. It was very happy to see Joe. “This is a female. Very rare. For some reason there is always one female per group of males. If the female leaves or expires, a male spontaneously becomes a female.”

Joe kissed the khoo and returned it to the ground. “Worthless though, for business.” Joe shook his head. The female khoo, instead of eliciting unique varieties of pleasure, drenched the user’s tongues with concentrated despair. Users often committed suicide or became ascetics. The blues in a khoo. It was not for the uninitiated. Joe said he took the bad trip once every blue moon. “It’s important to have perspective,” he said, showcasing three she-khoo blends: Jazz Greats, Yellow Raincoat in Rainy Morning, and Anti-Xanax.

I thanked Joe profusely and left Joe’s Planet with a bright red khoo and a pound of Mellow Moan and half a pound of Rocket Lust.

The Space Burial Bill

When the Space Burial Bill was passed, cryogenic suspension became a passing fad. The wealthy filled and invigorated Wallops Island and its outlying municipalities. Paying respect to the dead became a celebration where mourners screamed shrilly in space themed amusement parks and gorged themselves during private bacchanals inside world class hotels. The mourning period, if it could be called that anymore, culminated with the remains being blasted into space.

The options were almost endless. Body parts could be distributed into different tracts of sky for exorbitant prices.  Ashes were blasted into the stratosphere to be caught up and scattered by the jetstream. Or a combination thereof could be employed. One poet philosopher had his skull sent in a collision course with Halley’s Comet. A professional basketball player, who has yet to die, has willed his hands be sent towards the sun. The fact it had governmental funding made it weirder.

But there wasn’t a lack of competition. Houston, the original coffin slinger, was bought out by corporate conglomerates who revamped its infrastructure. It soon became a hotbed of neon sizzle decadence which earned it the nickname “The Vegas away from Vegas.” Corpses were ejected from the earthly body in a ten kilometer long rail gun. The rags to riches story of rock star Axon Storm, the macguffin of which was enough wealth to be launched alive into space, culminated in a live video feed that broke the world record of most viewers of a live televised event.

Eventually it became affordable, even feasible, for the middle class. The satellites of Earth orbit mingled with coffins, urns, ashes, and in some macabre cases, whole body parts. There were three competitors in the industry. Chain locations sprang across the world. Houston became seedy like Reno, and Wallops Island absorbed the ambience of Coney Island during its last days.

The first visitors to the solar system paused at the Kuiper Belt. They were a race of near immortals for whom death was the apogee of life; a combination of half-forgotten nanotechnology and natural biology made them impervious to the various forms of death. During the youth of their species they experimented relentlessly and recklessly with their life and were rewarded with near eternity. They danced within stars, their bodies repairing themselves from the abundance of hydrogen. It wasn’t a painless enterprise. They tried long epochs in vacuum, immersion in exotic compounds, centuries of starvation, and just about anything they could imagine. It took them a long time to come to terms with their mode of existence and they began to cultivate their lives as the Japanese did their bonsai. They trained to master skill sets. They hoarded experiences in all its minutiae, so they could be freed from the sheer baggage of accumulated existence when death did come.

Imagine their astonishment upon observing a culture flaunting death as freely as did the homo sapiens. The visitors came bearing gifts of faster than light travel, portal ships, quantum particle printers, and near-immortality, all the things that mankind would need to arrest starvation and death and gradually transcend the solar system. The otherworlders were repulsed and quietly left.

The residents of that little blue planet were none the less wiser, and went on with their old ways of living, loving, hurting, and forgetting.

Inspired by: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-12-mulls-tax-space-burials.html

doodlebug barbie

A gathering of desperation in the hottest place under the sun. They had come from all the points of the compass, stumbling in the white heat that divided ground from sky, reeking of ash and charred meat.

In small groups they stumbled towards the cruel illusion of the clapboard structures. A facade left behind by a long dissolved movie project, it depicted an old west township down to the very last detail. The saloon with batwings and busted windows, the general store whose sign hung and swung in the cauldron wind, the brothel with its sun-bleached satin drapes.  It allowed very little shelter during the hottest point of the day and the chill of night. A water pump which curled above a battered trough was beaten to the sand in a moment of frustrated rage when it was found to be non-functional.

They sat in the shadows, disparate in age and race and sex, united in their thirst. The men would venture as far as they dared in search of water as the women comforted the children. Soon they became lethargic, slumped against the rough wood walls on the salt-water stains of their dried up sweat, dead eyes glittering from the shadows.

They saw her coming from the west, her hair a halo of white swirling in the constant wind.  It was a toddler in diapers, ambling with the grace of someone learning to walk. Her eyes were the same searing cerulean of the sky that they might have as well been holes in her skull. A red-haired Barbie doll dangled from her hand. A pink bow fluttered in her hair.

There was a wrongness about her. Her fair skin did not burn in the sun, and her lips were not cracked. Delirious laughter seemed poised on her lips. They were frightened and cried out as she came closer. Precious moisture trickled away in the tears of the children.

“A child of the corn!”
“An Amity bitch!”
“God help us!”

She smiled indulgently without showing her teeth, cocking her head slightly. She gripped the doll by its sun-softened legs. It drooped towards the sand and sand and sand. She stepped forward, questing. The Barbie’s hair was a swirling flame as it dipped, lifted, dipped, lifted. As if it were sniffing the scorched air.

“What’s she doing?”
“Demon child!”
“Hush!”

The threads of the doll’s hair were growing taut one by one, extending to a point several yards ahead. The girl was yanked forward and she flew on her toes until the Barbie stopped, taut and trembling, in front of the whorehouse. The thirsty gasped, their cracked hands clawing in an involuntary warding off gesture. The girl let her hands drop to her side then she was again just a lost child holding a doll.

“Dig here,” she lisped, pointing to the ground. She smiled with feeling at them. They waited for her to disappear into the horizon before leaping to the indicated spot and tearing at the ground.

It was cool and sweet but poisoned; several weeks later a traveler wearing a calfskin hat and serape passed, warily regarding the mummified corpses arranged in a halo around a pool of sparkling water. He was thirsty but he knew a deal with the devil when he saw it.

the death merchant

He is a wandering ascetic whose religion is death. He traded in lead for souls for salvation in the final reckoning. He wears a wide-brimmed calfskin hat  tailored by someone who loved him even as he forgot how to love. A monochrome serape draped over his rail-thin frame hides his instruments of death, the cold and heavy descendants of the .45 Colt semi-automatic.

Seen against the low sun he is a frightful silhouette with a shadow that stretches for what seem like miles. He ambulates at a leisurely pace past the saguaros and clumps of sage, stopping occasionally to tear a button or two of peyote from the hardpan. These he places into his leather satchel as he walks towards the cooling horizon.

When the stars slide above, he hunkers down next to the charred husk of a  1953 El Dorado and builds a small fire with dry sage.  He sits with his back against the passenger side, the raw hunger of his stomach broiling with the peyote he has just consumed. The smell of asphalt mingles with the smoke and resurrects a pandemonium of memories. He waits patiently until it passes then thinks of nothing.

The desert is cold and, despite the fire, it seeps into his bones as he awaits the visions which will show the way into the future.