Saturday, October 18, 2014

No one ever says yes

'You come seeking answers, yes.' A statement, not a question. The voice came out of the dark, emanating from the wizened form just barely visible through the smoke and shadows of the small hut. The close air seemed suffocating to the supplicant.

'Yes. Yes, there are things I wish to know, things only one such as yourself can tell me.'

'Heh heh.' A dry sound, devoid of all humor, like the sound of a foul insect rubbing its legs together. 'I can answer your questions, yes. I know things you cannot imagine, things that would send your feeble mind screaming into insanity to protect itself. Yes.'

'This I know, venerated one.' He used the title not out of respect, but fear. 'I have come far to seek your wisdom.'

'I shall answer your questions, yes. I will give you knowledge and wisdom you think you want. It will destroy you. Your end begins here, yes.'

'I must know, venerated one. I must.'

'Oh you think you do, yes. Heh heh. You think you do. All who come before think they must have the knowledge they seek, but I tell you now, it shall do you no good, yes. It shall destroy you, yes. You are destroyed, and yet you know it not, yes.'

'I have come so far, venerated one...'

'Far, yes, you have come far. They all came far. I told them what they thought they wanted to know, yes. What shall I tell you? Would you like to know the time and date of your eventual death?'

'No, venerated one, first I seek the answer to...' He stopped, as the venerated one grumbled something. "I'm sorry, venerated one, I couldn't hear you?'

'Nothing. Ask your question, yes.' The elderly being said, but when the supplicant once again began to speak, it cut him off with an exasperated sigh.

'I'm sorry, venerated one, is something wrong?' The ancient sage shift, and mumbled again, just below the level the man could understand.

'Venerated one, I couldn't hear...'

'No one ever says yes!', The old one said in a peeved tone.

'I'm sorry?' The supplicant was bewildered.

'Do you know how long I've been doing this, boy?', the being said, leaning forward, allowing an errant beam of light coming through a space in the gnarled wooden wall to glint off a huge, red eye. 'I've been here since before your home was even a thought, since the days when your kind was just learning to speak. I've been here, at the ass end of all things, for long enough that, if your puny mind could comprehend the number of days I've seen, it would force everything else out of your head and you'd starve to death as a drooling moron. Which I would then eat. I've been here, communing and making deals and bartering fragments of my very soul to gain information that has brought you over immense distances and through ordeals which no sane being would endure, for so goddamn long that I wouldn't be able to remember my own name, even if I hadn't traded it for more wisdom. And for that entire time, a parade of idiots, just like yourself, have wandered by, with their petty problems and halfwit conundrums. And each one who comes to pester me and interrupt my work, I ask if they would like to know when they're going to die. Not one of you nimrods has ever, not once, not a single time, said yes!'

'I'm sorry, revered senior, but why would anyone say yes?'

'Why? Why? Because, you slobbering pinhead, it's important! Knowing when your life ends is the kind of thing that allows you to plan! To make the most of your time! You pea-brained simpletons all want to know simple, idiotic things! Where can I find the Nut of Wisdom? How do I dethrone my brother? How can I make Griselda the pig-keeper love me? Why do the seasons change? And to each of you I offer a nugget of real wisdom, something that, unlike whatever stupid question you've dragged your ass hither and yon to find out where I was, and then even farther to get to me, you wouldn't be able to figure out on your own if you took two damned minutes to ponder it. I offer something ineffable, and all of you say, nope, I'd like to know how to keep ants out of my butter!'

'But death is frightening, old one... OW!' The man yelled as the creature struck him of the forehead with the knobbled end of its ancient wooden staff.

'Not knowing when you're going to die is frightening, clod! Death is easy! It's slipping into a warm bath! It's laying down in a cool, welcoming bed! Waiting for it to happen is the hard part. Knowing when it's going to happen means you can end it how you please, insulting everyone who annoys you, owing everyone money, and in bed with someone elses wife, or daughter, or cow!'

'Still, I don't see...'

'Shut! Up! You don't see anything! You actually thought it was easier to hie out to the middle of goddamn nowhere and risk your soul to ask ME to solve your problems! Of course you don't see! That goat you passed outside, the one I use for clothes and milk and heat in the winter and love, it's got more wisdom in one of it's cloven hooves than you ever will! You can bet, if I asked it if it wanted to know when it was going to die, it would happily and humbly take the information! It would be over the moon knowing that such a gift had been given to it by one so ineffably wise as myself!'

The man sat, wide-eyed, as the ancient form in the shadows panted, out of breath from its tirade.

'You know what? Screw it.' The being waved its stick at the door the man had entered through. 'Get out. Get out! No wisdom for you, dummy. No actually, there is some wisdom for you. You came all this way and you risked a lot and you don't get your question answered. That's it. All you get is yelled at. You know why? Because life isn't fair, you puddingheaded son of a bitch. Now screw, before I turn you into a frog."

Friday, August 16, 2013

Mojo of the Blood-Fire Apes! Ch. 12

      I hit the bottom of the empty pool flat on my back, hard enough to knock the wind out of me, if I'd had any. Dropping twelve feet onto concrete wouldn't have slowed me much, normally, but the three holes in my chest would and did. Even for someone with my 'condition', large caliber slugs weren't the kind of thing that you could just brush off. I might be a gorilla, and a vampire to boot, but pain is pain.
      The world went fuzzy for a bit. When it slid back into focus, first thing I saw was one of the bonobos who'd ambushed me swinging down the ladder hooked to the side of the pool. I could hear him hooting to himself as he rolled over to where I was splayed out, bitching about being sent down to put another round into a guy just took three in the chest.
      I'd have felt bad for him, if he and his pals hadn't just tried to punch my ticket. Low ape in the pack always gets the crap jobs flung at him. Also meant he was going to be the first of them to die.
      He looked surprised when his eyes met mine, and even more when my hand shot out, faster than he could track, and grabbed him by the wrist. I twisted, hard, his elbow dropping and his shoulder pulled towards me. I got the hand holding the gun pointed back towards it's owner, just as the order to fire reached his trigger finger. What was left of his face looked most surprised of all.
      The round that killed him had severed an artery, and I clamped my mouth over the pumping spray. I don't like to feed on my own kind, but I'd need the juice to survive the next few minutes.
      I'd gotten a good bit of the blood down when the first shape appeared at the edge of the pool. It took a second for the scene to register with this fella, but when it did, he let out half a swear and reached for his cannon. While he'd been goggling, though, I'd pulled his dead friend onto me, and used my legs to shove the body up over the lip of the pool, and it was still rising and moving fast when it hit him in the chest. Both the living and the dead vanished from sight.
      I used the momentum to roll forward onto my feet, crouched, and leaped upward. No normal gorilla could have passed the edge of the pool and still been rising, but a vampire with a load of fresh blood in him can do all kinds of amazing things. The other four bonobos seemed to be moving in slow motion. As I passed the closest one, I made a long arm and wrapped my fingers around his head. My momentum pulled him off his feet, and his weight brought be around in a circle, until I landed on my feet. It felt like something cracked when my hand, still holding his head, came down hard on the tile floor. I was already moving, even as I registered that, leaping forward and throwing a balled fist into the chest of another bonobo. Ribs and sternum gave way, and the force of my hit took him over the edge and into the pool, a line of blood coming out of his mouth.
      I turned toward the last two would-be assassins. They were standing, one behind the other from my perspective, all three of us in a line. I closed the distance to the nearest one, using one hand to grab the wrist of his gun hand, forcing it out of line with my body. The other hand I wrapped around his neck, lifting him slightly off the ground. His eyes, wide with fear, locked onto mine, and I felt the tendons of his wrist tighten and loosen as he fired round after round into the ceiling of the abandoned pool-house.
      The last bonobo had time to get a good bead on me, and unload three quick rounds in what felt like a tight group. Pity his partner was between the two of us, or he might have done me some serious harm. As understanding spread across his face, I reached out one last time and gave his head a sharp twist. And that was that.
      They'd come prepared for a gorilla, and for a PI with a hard rep, but they'd never expected a... Vampire Gorilla, PI.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Drink

“Heaven,” Hes said, “is a shit-hole."

The young man looked shocked. “I'm sorry?”

Hes finished his shot, and repeated, “Heaven is a shit-hole. A slum. A 'wretched hive of scum and villainy', if I remember the quote right.” then tapped the shot-glass twice on the bar.

“Heaven is perfect, y'see. Not my perfect, or yours, probably. But perfect in God's eyes. Not perfect for people.

“It's designed for a certain number of people, and what those people are supposed to do is worship God. That's the point of Heaven, right? You follow God's laws perfectly in life, and you're granted access to the ultimate gated community. And what you get for being a good little worshiper, is an eternity of doing the same. You get to love God with all your heart, forever.

“With no distractions. None. You get a place to sleep, in a crowded barracks. You get a place to eat. And you get a seat in the big amphitheater. What's in the amphitheater? A walled garden, with God's throne in the center. You sit there, looking at the radiance of God, which is like staring into the sun, by the way, and sing his praises. That's what you do, in Heaven.”

Hes downed another shot.

“That was the idea, anyway. A long time ago. God designed heaven, sat down on his throne, and apparently hasn't moved since.

“So the angels run the place. Not all of them, most are off doing whatever the hell it is angels do. The angels of Heaven were made specifically to run Heaven, and their orders were real basic. Keep the monkeys housed , keep 'em fed, and, most importantly, keep the amphitheater full. Keep those hosannas coming.

“That's it.

“So you get to Heaven, you get your bunk, you get a seat in the chow hall, and another in the amphitheater. Then, you're on your own. The angels don't give a fuck about you, won't even notice you, unless they need you in the 'theater. And the 'theater? It's only built for one hundred and forty-four thousand souls.

“You have any idea how many people have made it into heaven, over the centuries? A damn sight more than one hundred and forty-four thousand, tell you that. Which means, you can land in the Holy City, get processed in, and never see another angel; never set foot in the 'theater. They send teams out to grab souls when the need asses in seats, but there's millions of souls around.

“And that, in a nutshell, is why Heaven is the worst slum you ever imagined. The angels keep expanding the housing, 'cause more souls keep coming in, and creating more chow halls, but that's it. There's nothing else in Heaven but five things: angels, souls, bunks, chow halls, and the amphitheater.

“No bars, or bookstores, or movies. No parks, no open spaces, no trees. Everything's made from stone that you can't chip or wear away. The sky is blank a couple shades lighter than the stone. The robes don't tear. There's nothing to read, nothing to see, nothing to do.

“It drives people crazy, all of them, in one way or another. People start doing terrible things to one another, just out of boredom. You can't kill, or maim anyone, but you can still hurt them. Some souls fight constantly, just to be doing something. Souls don't experience sex like a living body does, but there's a lot of fornication, consensual and non-. There are streams of people who just run, anywhere and everywhere, until the drop from exhaustion, and then get up and run some more. Holy men from all over fight about points of orthodoxy, first with words, then fists. Some others just sit in the same place, doing an saying nothing, some plead with God for answers, some pound there heads against walls over and over... Some do all of these, at different times. It's madness, and it never ends.

“Unless you find a way over the walls. Unless you cast yourself into the outer darkness, and fall. Hell is a balm to the soul, by comparison. Mostly because Satan seems to have given up on the whole game, and while He doesn't give a rat's ass about you, either, he doesn't set up any rules. Oh, you'll get punished in Hell, don't doubt it, but it'll more than likely be by other souls. It's easier to escape from, too. Everyone's so caught up in there own little things, see? Nobody's counting heads, 'cause no one cares.

“Which means, that if you keep traveling, you might just get somewhere you can finally get a goddamn drink...”

 Hes tapped the shot-glass on the bar again.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Good Day's Work

When They came, it was with the inevitability of the tides. As the Sun darkened, and the blood red moon swelled in the starless night sky, They swarmed over the Earth. They came out of the corners, from underneath us, twisting angles and reality, driving mankind mad.

The tissue thin sanity of the human race was torn, bent, folded, spindled, and, beast-like, we mangled ourselves, human tearing into human with a frothing rage never before seen on our sorry little world, to the sound of Their mad, cacophonous laughter. Our blood ran into the hungry soil of what had been our planet, for Their amusement.

The ones who succumbed to the insanity, and those killed in the First Days of Their Return, they were the lucky ones. As They folded space/time into a hideous shape more to Their liking, the dwindling numbers of mankind found no solace in their holes and hideaways. As reality shifted and oozed into its new form, the last survivors found that their compatriots would suddenly shudder and swell, to be torn apart as one of Them was born, ready to savor the terror and the slaughter to follow.

In less time than we could possibly imagine, humanity vanished from existence. The last human, the first captured when They arrived, was forced to watch the last group of resistors degraded, tortured, broken, the shattered soul of each consumed in turn. Crucified, eyes unable to close, the last man was kept alive by Their will until, as a final terrible benediction, Their leader revealed Its true form to the tattered thing once a man. With one final, horrible sound, the soul of the last man was consumed and enjoyed, by Them.

As the last scream faded, the leader's chief lieutenant came forth to await instructions.

'Alright, enough fun,' the leader said, suppressing a burp, 'Tell the Boys to start scouring the planet, and have the Unfolders reset the physical laws back to the zero set. Don't let Them slack off, the Boss wants to plant the next batch of humans tomorrow! He says this time he's going to let them run up to producing atomic fusion, maybe we can harvest without all the hard work...'

Saturday, November 13, 2010

You know what life is?

You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

These things matter...

Second Son, Inc. Second Son Detective Agency. Paladin Problem Solutions.

I needed a name. Something to paint on the frosted glass door of my new office door.

Paladin Solutions. Paladin Solutions & Deli. Paladin Resolution & Bakery.

Old, rundown, mildewed, in a bad part of town, intermittently heated on the best of days, by clanking iron radiators that leaked steam and made the air like a sauna. A relic of a bygone era, somehow not yet pulled down, with broad round windows looking over the empty five way intersection below. It was a hole. I loved it.

Herr Doktor Roncevaux, Chiropractic, Evil Smote, Hats Blocked. Prof. Ollie's All-Scientific Anti-Evil Unguent, guaranteed made right on the premises.

I remember an old story about Dorothy Parker.

A few hours later, new paint gleamed in a small oasis of cleanliness amid the peeling wood and dusty glass of the office. 'Utica Drop-Forge Company', proclaimed the new letters upon the frosted glass. In smaller letters, under the company name, 'Please Knock'.

Now I am ready to start.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Where's my jetpack?

What happened to your future? We're it. We, men from the future, have kidnapped you the day before you were going to make your ground-breaking new invention known to the world. We've taken the invention itself, and every scrap of paper and every shred of information about your process, and we're gonna keep it. All of it. And, this is the good part, we're going to remove not just all memory of your invention from your brain, but make it impossible for you to ever stumble down the mental path you'd need to follow to recreate it.

It makes us sound like Republic serial villains, doesn't it?

Of course, the Ape with the Brain of a Robot, our leader, knows the repercussions of your little machine would have led to an unacceptable level of upheaval and collapse, along with all the death and suffering such things entail.

Food for thought.

That's where the future you wanted went. The jetpack, the ones that maimed and killed thousands in the future, we made it disappear. We dropped agents into every year of this century, and they built up automobiles and air transport, along with the infrastructure to support them. And jetpacks faded into dream, only remembered by lovers of musty science fiction.

Weather control. Personal laser guns. All those crazy airplane designs. Dirigibles. We took them all away. The easy way, like this. We stop you, and whatever like-minded inventors might follow a train of thought similar to yours, from following through. We come here, remove your life's work, everything connected with it, including your memory and some of your ability to reason, and then we go forward and look in the history books to see if any of them still mention you. Your singular contraption will be displayed in the Museum of Unreal Inventions.

The first removal I took part in, we saved the entire world. All by this, what I'm doing to you, happening to another genius with no common sense. I'm going to make the modern house as clean as clean can be, this clever fellow thought, and came up with a living floor covering. A live rug, that would digest any dust or dirt that settled in it for too long. Its excretions? A scent of your choice.

Do you have any idea how many dead skin cells are in household dust?

By the time it occurred to someone that walking on something that was subsisting on your very flesh was not the best of ideas, we'd already lost. The rug-things had discovered they liked the taste of human. One of them found that they could produce a scent that was a soporific for us. Made us just want to lie down, spread ourselves out, and feel good. It was the most merciful way of killing a person I've ever heard of.

The cities were overgrown in days, but the things, although it might have been just one big thing by that time, well, they hit their stride when they got to open country. Places to root, soil to drink from, animals to lull and consume, they just spread and spread and spread. A huge, crazy-quilt blotch spread over the Bavarian countryside, growing visibly even when viewed from space.

The uninfected areas of the world were arguing their way towards doing something when Pakistan went silent. Cambodia dropped away. Kenya vanished, followed by New Zealand, all of Southern Africa, Taiwan, Peru, the Pacific Rim, the North American Union. Separate outbreaks. Projections indicated that the death of the last human would run neck and neck with the death of the entire ecosystem.

So we dropped back to the proper year, and made it all go away. We don't solve the problem, we make sure the problem never needs to be solved. Not removing the mistake from existence, but removing it from ever having existed.

For what it's worth, I'm sorry we have to do this. Your breakthrough would have made you a name for the history books, in many different ways. But, for the sake of 120 Billion people forward of us, I'm more than willing to cast you into an uncertain future. You'll still be a genius, after all.

You won't remember any of this, just like all the other times we've met and I've done this to you. You just can't seem to stop with the world-shattering inventions. Three more of these and we give you a neat tattoo you'll never know how you got.

Well, time to get to it. This is gonna hurt like hell.