The Sketchbook Project 2012

Why do I always wait until the last minute? Because I do my best during a cramfest. At least I like to tell myself that. So I had less than a week to complete this sketchbook. I chose to do a graphic novella based on my sketchbook’s theme — Time Traveler. The Time Traveller is also a frequent guest of my vignettes, in small and strange stories exploiting the temporal possibilities of such a lifestyle.

This is explored further in this graphic novella. The majority of it was done within a ten hour period. Please read and comment. Disregard any errors you might find, and don’t mind the sloppy last-minute artwork. Or do. Tell me what you think. Insults, solicitations, questions, advice, psychic readings, and then some are welcome.

The pdf version of my sketchbook — Man of the Multiverse: The Ballad of the Time Traveller

Here’s also the pdf to my 2011 Sketchbook Project Submission. More about The Sketchbook Project 2012 and then some.

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The Burning City

The Time Traveller sat at the bar and watched the city burn through the plate glass window. The snooty establishment was empty, its occupants fled many days before. He had made a martini—shaken, not stirred—and lit up his favorite cheroot. A hard lifetime’s work was finally done, and he basked in the simple pleasures. The horizon swam with incandescent needles shedding great globules of burning steel in a dreamy haze. Infiltration, notoriety, fame, then betrayal. He held no qualms about what he did. He stared down the horror in their faces as the bombs fell and he walked from the city on a ruined road in his best suit. They came at him from the crumbled buildings and he shot them point-blank, with all the emotion of putting an animal to sleep. He was an agent of chaos, no hard feelings, baby. It had to be done. He stopped to smell the roses, even as they wilted from the hellfire at his back. Now, on his plush seat, he considered his options, fingering his white collar and spangled the red air with blue smoke rings.

Word Catalyst Workshop Prompt 1/2/08

Sasha

Sasha sat in the crèche, a sprawl of connectors snaking from her shorn head to an outlet in the wall. She wore mirrorglass lenses swarming with halogen text.  It was a code read-out of the future, specifically that of the SecResCorp Inc. grounds. The spatial-temporal dimensions belonged to an agent in deep cover. The identity of the field agent, codename Janus, was deeply classified. The length and breadth of experience in space-time within his proximity was fed backwards through time.

It was a power of godlike proportions. A complete three dimensional data capture of a single spatial-temporal slice unfolded in her mind. It was a security complex. The higher aboves wanted an article from the desk of office space 24D in Complex HAZK8. These slices of space-time could be put in a containment field, the electromagnetic equivalent of an ol’ mason jar, and using this method Sasha was able to investigate all the possibilities to ensure maximum survivability rate.  In rapid fire she undertook several scenarios. Virtually, she experienced each iteration, died and lived through each failure and success until the options towards the best possible course consolidated. Ghosts of pain tingled where limbs were scorched off, slashes gashed, internal punctures ruptured. She finished these sessions feeling like a patchwork woman.

She was an artist, dancer, philosophizer, warrior, architect, general, and a woman. Sasha applied herself to her bloody art with finesse, rough-hewed when necessary, and ultimately outputted a scenario that yielded an 100% success rate. She downloaded a copy onto a datachip. She grinned with satisfaction and swept the nodes from her skull. She had even accounted for Johnny Kester. Sasha headed for the mess hall, jiggling the datachip in a hand.

Johnny Kester was a pilot, and relatively new with the company. It would be his first time working with Sasha. His specialty was the Cricket, a small thopter, capable of flying with payloads under a thousand kilos. Any heavier, it would still fly short distances, hopping long parabolas from point to point. Johnny was supposedly the best. He probably was, Sasha surmised. The superiors never half-arsed on help and resources when it came to Sasha. She found him just leaving the mess hall. He stopped when he saw her.

“It’s just like a dance.” She pirouetted, tossing the chip to Johnny who caught it with the reflexes expected of a pilot. She grabbed him by the coat and slammed him against the wall. “Don’t fuck it up.” With slackjaw amazement he watched her ass recede down the hall.

Final Scenario:
She always felt alive in free fall. Clouds rushed past her. When she was a little girl she dreamed of angels, little plump baby cherubims flitting among the downy clouds. She would frolic with them, leaping from puff to puff, and they would have snowball wars. Snowballs like small comets shedding chlorofluorocarbons and ice in the thin cold reaches. She remembered catching God square in the face, his smile of shock. The wind tore the chuckle from her lips.

Ka-chump! Firing downwards the marshmallow canister, she tucked her knees and straightened into a dive. The canister impacted and exploded in a rapidly expanding bubble of translucent gelatin. She punched through and the gel absorbed her mass velocity, bulging, spreading it along its circumference. She tumbled slowly, turning to land in a crouch. She could see small impacts bursting small bubbles in the gel. They were shooting. Wait, wait, wait. The gel destructured and foamed to the ground. She slid, her guns haloing. In a smell of carbine smoke, she had dispatched an entire squad.

The layout burned bright in her mind as she unerringly traversed labyrinthe corridors, squeezing off bursts of her rifle with heavily rehearsed rote. She fired at empty doorways and danced past falling corpses whose rolling eyes showed they didn’t know they were dead. Running, wild and fast like in the green fields of her childhood where butterflies kept pace in a squall of grasshoppers and crickets, her trigger fingers blazed tracers of bullets thin and deadly. She dashed into a stairwell, shedding a mine as she ran steadily upstairs.

A miniature rocket launcher did the job, punching the door inward into a flurry of burning splinters. She ran into the smoke with her eyes closed, her trained legs flawlessly navigating every obstacle. At the desk, she stopped, knelt, and looked at the framed picture. The frame was brightly coloured, as if painted by a child’s hand. The picture showed a little girl with a beaming smile, tongue sticking through the gap where her baby teeth had fallen out. So the higher ups had a heart. Usually it was money or damaging information. Sasha brushed an unexpected tear from her eye, and grabbed the picture.

The thopter whirred into her line of vision. “Right on time. Not too bad of a chap, after all,” she said as she placed her foot on the edge of the roof and threw herself into eternity.

After the mission she took him in the locker room and fucked him until the cartoon sunshine of a thousand megatons filled her body with incandescent ecstasy. She dressed and left him in a gasping heap, smiling cruelly as she pushed out the locker room.

Blue Dreams

“When I bring up his father, he becomes very upset and says he is nothing like his father and goes home to drink, which makes him very much like his father.”

He snapped awake in the frigid night, chest heaving. Moonlight poured through the window into his small room, splashing silver light on his narrow bed, the bottle of rum on a single chair, jacket on the coat hanger. His breath steamed cold blue picture-scenes and in all of them he died. He shivered. “I’ve been in the reality game too long. I need a vacation,” he muttered and turned in bed, throwing the blanket over his shoulders.

“Poor chap. Got his head in the sand. Liable to rip it out, if he tried, and he’d be running ’round like a headless chicken.”

“He’s been through enough. He’s been—well, is—everybody. I wish we could cut him a break.”

“Discovered morality, haven’t you? You and your fads. Besides, he’s been broken. He can’t change anything.”

“Remember it’s also yourself you’re talking about.”

This time the Time Traveller woke to the sepulchral fog that flooded the countryside to drown the town square, and from his window he watched a cat on a ledge paw the condensation. The fog swirled and eddied: he could empathize. The moon, a grinning half dollar, lay low in the sky. In the silver scene he pulled his jeans on, slipped into a shirt, took his jacket, and went out of the door.

On second thought he came back for the rum.

How I Crack Myself Up!

One morning he came home from work looking ten years older, with faded scars where there were none last night, but his skewed grin was just the same, if not wilder. He burst through the door and grabbed her arms, and through softly stinking breath said, “Put on a pot for me, dear?” Then he collapsed into the easy chair.

She, the sweet and irritable housewife, made to her duty. With a pot swiftly rushing to a boil in the kitchen, she timidly came back into the living room and stared at her husband. “What happened to you? Your face!”

He looked up with haunted eyes that spoke of hardships and suffering that could not have been experienced in a single night working at the docks. His eyes, as pained as they were, smiled. His grin jagged his rough face and he tenderly took her hands again, “Dear, what I am about to ask of you may seem strange…” He drifted off for a moment, resumed, “…but humor me. You have to do it. I’ve influenced too much.” He sat back and closed his eyes, but not his mouth.

She looked at him and nodded numbly at his mumbling features, straining to retain in memory his requests: a bicycle in the living room, old work boots in front of the door, pencil on the floor at his feet, crook that hung picture frame, that jug of moonshine reserved for his side of the family on the television, turn the lock a quarter clockwise, open the drapes three inches wider, and place a vase on the floor by the door.

She did what he asked of her then brought the steaming pot of tea and placed it on the end table. She tentatively woke him with a warm hand on his shoulder. He blinked. Surveyed the living room. Looked at his watch, the pot of tea, and smiled, “Perfectly on time! You’re lovely. Now go smell the flowers you picked this morning, my dear. Go on.”

As she left down the long hall to the bedroom bloom of hydrangeas dying slowly and beautifully in its crystal vase, the Time Traveller bared a grin to regain composure and glanced at his chronoscope. It was go time. Dark visors glinted behind the drapes and he smiled tiredly through the waves of deja vu.

Thud, the forthcoming sequence of events was a bright map in his mind, memorized from hundreds of failures, and thud he would not fail now. Thud. He could not! He steeled himself for the ballet to come as the door shuddered and splintered. Thud! It cracked and split, the lock in its current angular position breaking through the cheap door to stave the black clad MP first through the door in the groin. He lurched forward and crashed into the vase, a piece cutting jagged under his visor to slice through a cheek, into an eye. He bled and howled.

The Time Traveller was up on his feet, pot of hot tea in hand, and hurled it at the next man to come through the door. A cloud of steam filtered the morning sunlight as the MP thrashed onto his fallen comrade and the door’s momentum was halted by the now violently squeaking work boots, placed there earlier by his wife. The door, its full swivel limited, bucked and bulged with the frustrated, frantic efforts of the remaining MPs. Finally, a round of gunfire shredded the door and tattooed the far wall.

The Time Traveller knew his wife was crouched under the bed, weathering the storm with tears of dismay and confusion. She would be okay. So far. He kicked the bicycle over and watched the following MP leap over his feebly struggling teammates, only to trip onto and through the twanging spokes. The other soldiers swarmed behind him, and he, struggling with the bicycle, sent a round through the ancient television set.

The Time Traveller smiled. It was all according to plan. The alcohol leaped like ghost plasma to wrap itself onto the remaining MPs with blue fire. The last MP in line ripped off his helmet, now crackling and blistering, and hurled it to the floor where it bounced to a stop outside the door. He fell backwards against the wall and just above, the crooked hanging frame, a family heirloom, broke loose, slipping its sheet of glass downward to precisely curl the flesh from his red-burned face.

The Time Traveller was on all fours, watching, huddled on the floor and grinning like a madman. He lapped at the moonshine unlicked by flame. His face capered, tongue agog. His eyes rolled drunken paths in their sockets. He chortled, barked. Furiously, the soldier in the bicycle wrested himself free and with a roar leaped at the source of his misery. A solid jackboot met the pencil and lost its friction. The MP went down at a bad angle and did not move again.

The Time Traveller swiped at his glistening brow, his normal demeanor returning. He had done it! In each and every iteration, there was a miscalculation. A life lost, hers, or his, almost. He had to hurry. The unknown was spread ahead now, an entirely new vista, and he had no desire to rehearse life further. A sobbing from behind, wafting in the atmosphere like the scent of freshly rotted fruit. In his moment of triumph, he had almost forgotten the reason he had suffered so. He turned tenderly towards her.

“H-how did you know this would happen?” his wife, lovely despite all that blubber, gasped. He bent his head. This was different; she was watching! Did he make her perplexingly brave, courage seeping through the seams of experience from all these repeated moments? “Trial and error, babe. Mainly error,” he said, looking at her with so much anguish that she wanted to cry again. Then his grin split open again and her slit tingled a smile into her face.

The Time Traveller stretched his arm out and took her hand. He was still smiling when he said, “The world is as clay. The wonders I have to show you!” He kissed her hand, and a line of saliva glistened like spider silk in morning dewlight. A question dangled from the eyes that peered up. “Will you come with me?”

Shell-shocked, doe-faced, slack mouthed she, hands a-clasped at her breasts, nodded. His smile seemed to race higher through the frequencies, and she almost had to squint. He spun on his heel, and did a crazy little jig. A soldier, groaning awake, raised his head. The Time Traveller’s boot caught him square on the forehead, and it returned to the floor with a solid thud. She giggled at the cartoonish open-jawed expression of surprise that had replaced the elation on her husband’s face. He sobered up, spread his arms out, and his smile lazily returned. He spoke softly.

“Narcissistic reality, paralyzed with its own beauty against its own waters. The hall of mirrors. A gigantic vanity, woman’s dream. Come. Time is just not a dimension, you see; it’s also a place, a plane of places. That being said, we got a plane to catch!” He chuckled, peering into his chronoscope. “How I crack myself up!”

All Mixed Up

A crush of movement. Strobing light and sound. Cellophane color music. Jerk and grind of bodies. Powdered nostrils and sweat beaded brows. The Time Traveller adjusts his lapels, flicks a wayward lock, bares a grin at nobody in particular, and checks out his chronoscope. He elbows his companion and says through white teeth more accustomed to lying, “Though the show has started a number of minutes ago, the show is starting soon.”

His companion, a vixen foxy in a short number with all the nice parts just about spilling out, howls yow wow! and spins around in a platinum blur frenzy of dance. Angel lights wash over her. Lava dance of chroma. The Time Traveller watches her placidly, dimly acknowledging the bulge swelling at his crotch. Another peek at the chronoscope and his lean limber limb stretches out long fingers that wrap around a sweat slick, softly fleshed humerus. He pulls her to him and snarls, his long brown hair eddying around his lean features. She snaps back with sharp even teeth. They laugh. Bodies that twist and twirl within their circumference feel an unearthly unease upon hearing his mirth.

“So…,” her rubicund lips work like soft red warm worms. “Where’s the spectacle?” He spreads his arms wide stageward and they watch the gyrating figure of Rick Dagger, who might as well be the Time Traveller’s identical twin.

“Here, look! Watch the shit hit the fan,” he grins, and as if on cue, Rick Dagger’s hands disappear behind his back. With a conjurer’s flair they reappear, laden with a gift the world would be long in forgetting. She squirms excitedly, shivers in the music.

“There was a scatological treatise written that exceeded the heft and weft of the Starr Report. Man, was I a dick back then,” he says loudly to her across a chord snared in a fading refrain, but she doesn’t hear. Like crayola dying, a lux waxwork of psychedelia melts down his face. Diablo he grins: a rimshot. Brown explodes over her astonished features.

“But then, I’m still one,” The Time Traveller muses philosophically. “Or will be. I get all mixed up in this business.”