Archive for: December, 2011

Santa, in the Off-Season

Dec 25 2011 Published by under The WiFiles

Sometimes I like to slide down the chimney if they have one. All dolled up in the fuckin suit. You know – do it up big like Christmas morning. Pop out, full of fuckin soot, coughin like a motherfucker. Not that they ever notice. Johnny sittin on the couch, workin on his fourteenth beer. Sees me there while he’s watchin the news or watchin the Late Show. Sometimes they think they’re dreamin. Other times they think they’re bein robbed. This one time, this real rat-lookin fucker actually came out of the bedroom, saw me standin there, and he said – I swear to Christ he actually said – “But it’s only August.” And me coughin soot and coughin smoker’s cough, standin there with my big bag of presents slung over my shoulder. Nothin in it but a shotgun.

I can’t help but think I’m gettin too old for this shit. Always runnin from cops and whatnot. Freezin my balls off in the winter up at the north pole, listenin to that old cunt wife of mine bitch about how I never do anything around the house. Knees all shot to shit. Man my age should be retired and he should be sippin whiskey all fuckin day in one of them big-ass lawn chairs. Some beach in Tahiti. Should have a drink in my hand at all times. Blowjobs performed by the natives upon request.

Instead I’m still doin this shit. Make the toys in the fall and winter, deliver them by Christmas, clean up the shop and restart the lists in spring. In the summer I murder people.

Always had a special place in my heart for Rollin Falls. I caught the clap from this girl named Mary-Anne here, bout thirty years back, in a whorehouse right across the street from a place called Diamonds. Bitch made me wear a condom too. Then right when I was in the middle of fuckin her, right when I was in a delicate state of mind, she told me for an extra fifty I could take it off and fuck her raw, the way God intended. Couldn’t say no. Money well spent, I figured. Always wanted to put a hole in that bitch’s head. But she wasn’t on the list.

Billy was on the list. Been on it for a while, but I never got around to him. Wish I’d gotten to him sooner, but it’s a long list.

I found Billy in a bar in late September, around midnight, sittin on the closest stool to the wall all by his lonesome. And me with the shotgun, sawed-off, strapped to my leg under a trench coat. I pulled up a stool next to him and ordered whiskey and water.

“Too early to be cold as it is,” I said to Billy and to no one.

He looked over at me and nodded from behind his beer, and then he turned away again, looked up at the television.

Ain’t much else to tell about Billy. I talked to him for a while and soon enough I showed him the shotgun. Said I aimed to kill him with it. All he said to that was, “Is that so?” Almost like he didn’t believe me, or maybe like he believed me but didn’t care a hell of a lot. I pulled out my list and put on my glasses – scanned the list for his name, and there it was: William Victor Conway, Rollin Falls. Wonder if he cared when I levelled the shotgun to his temple and blew spaghetti brains out the opposite side of his face.

Sometimes I like to say “Merry Christmas” or some shit like that, right before the end. Keeps it entertainin for me. Gives the witnesses somethin to talk to the reporters about.

Billy’s family took his death hard, the way families have a habit of doin. Can’t say I relate – my old lady’s a cunt bitch and I wouldn’t much mind if someone put an ounce or two of lead in her fat ass. Just bein honest. Thought about doin it myself a time or two. But she was never on the list.

I went to Billy’s house a week after the I blew his head off. Maybe it was longer than that. Long enough that the rest of the family and friends weren’t really hangin around anymore. Not overnight, anyway. There was a chimney on the roof but I opted for the front door. Had my bag slung over my shoulder. Dolled up in the suit.

It was dead of night and the place was dark. I turned on a light and helped myself to the refrigerator. Still plenty of funeral food left over, even all this time later. I picked out a few sandwiches and poured me a glass of milk and went over to the table. I waited there. I ate.

Before long I heard footsteps creaking down the stairs in the next room. I finished the last sandwich and dusted the crumbs off the front of my suit. Pulled my hat down over what was left of my hair to hide that I hadn’t showered since before the night I found Billy.

“Mom?” Cody’s tiny voice came from the living room. I remained silent and I waited. Soon enough Cody came through the doorway, immediately shieldin his eyes from the light. “I had a bad dream,” he said. I already knew that of course.

But I wasn’t his mother.

“Hello Cody.”

He froze.

I said, “It’s alright.”

Slowly, the boy pulled his arm down and squinted. When his eyes adjusted, when he recognized me, his face lit up. For a time he was too shocked to say anything, so he just stood there with his father’s eyes and a wide open smile, shakin like he might piss all over his jammies.

“Santa?” he said.

I let out a small chuckle. Waved him over.

“Why are you here?” he asked. He climbed up on my lap without care, like I was just another shopping mall impostor.

“I was in the neighborhood,” I said. “Heard you been havin a tough lately.”

His smile faded.

I said, “I know.” Sighed. “I know all about it. But I got somethin for you.”

“You do?”

“I do.”

“But it’s not Christmas.”

“It don’t have to be Christmas.”

First things first. I reached inside my suit and pulled out my list and ran a finger down it until I found Cody’s name. Cody Nathanial Conway, Rollins Falls. And then with another sigh I put it back inside my suit. I reached for the bag.

Cody’s bright eyes watched my every movement. His body shook. Couldn’t believe Santa was right here in his kitchen this time of year. Can’t say I blame him. I don’t generally do house calls.

From the bag I produced a snowglobe and I held it up for him. It wasn’t the kind of thing a child of this new millennium finds appealing. Cody’s face turned perplexed. But he stared at it all the same.

“What is it?” he said.

“It’s the north pole. Here.”

He took it from my hands and shook it, and together we watched the snow scatter and float down over the tiny town within. He wished it could do more, I knew – but then, Cody’d wished for a lot of things.

“You know, Cody, I can see you when you’re sleeping.”

He stared at the globe.

“And I know when you’re awake.” I waited to see if he’d respond, but he didn’t. I put my hand on his arm and leaned around to see his face.

In another life Cody’s old man, Billy, he might not have been such a bad guy. Might have just been regular. But when he was a boy he had this uncle that stayed over with the family every now and again, and some nights, after Billy’s parents fell asleep, he’d pay Billy visits. Climbed into bed with him and called it a camp out. You see, the thing about diddlers is they inherit that shit. It’s like a fuckin disease. Billy’s uncle passed it on to Billy like someone had passed it on to him. I found Billy’s uncle in ’78 at a place called Diamonds that was situated right across the street from a whorehouse that still makes my dick burn to think about. Part of me always wished I’d gone lookin for Billy sooner. Before he had a chance to pass it on to someone else.

“I know,” I said to Cody. “I know. And I know you don’t feel as sad as you think you should right now. I know you’re pretendin. But that’s okay, Cody. You don’t have to feel sad. You don’t have to feel anythin.”

Finally, he turned those blue eyes up at me – his father’s eyes.

I said, “Just look at the way the snow falls.”

He cried noiselessly, wordlessly. I’d seen it before. I’d seen it a million times. There are things you can’t really comprehend till you’re older, till your emotions grow filters. When you’re six it’s hard to understand how sometimes you can’t trust the people you’re supposed to trust the most, and how the people you do the most damage to (and vice versa) are the people you love, and how sometimes you can love and hate the same person at the same time.

“Look at the Snow, Cody,” I whispered, and then I leaned down to reach back inside my bag. Just one thing left in there. “Now you hold still.”

- – - – -

Bio: D. Frederick Cook is an aspiring novelist living a nomadic gypsy lifestyle in various parts of Eastern Canada. Currently based in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, by night Cook plays online poker professionally, which allows him to devote his days entirely to the construction of his first novel. Cook is also the author of several short stories he hopes to publish soon, the first of which appears above.

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Extraordinary Adventures Featuring Jesus by Eric Del Carlo

Dec 18 2011 Published by under The WiFiles

Bryan’s mom and dad didn’t get it about Jesus. Not that he should’ve expected them to. Too busy with mortgage worries and whatever Congress was doing this week and this or that country getting a nuclear bomb. People their age agonized all the time, and about nothing that really seemed real to Bryan. Then again, the most real thing for Bryan lately was Jesus.

None, or almost none, of the girls at the junior high got it either. They haughtily claimed comic books were kids stuff, no matter how often it was pointed out that this was a serialized graphic novel. By February every boy Bryan associated with was totally into Jesus. This had even started to cut into the time he spent graffiti-ing and trying out complicated cuss words. Each monthly issue was pantingly anticipated, devoured, reread immediately, and endlessly talked about. You could keep a discussion going for an hour about one page, or even the fine details of artwork and dialogue in a single panel. The book was just that good, just that involving, just that addictive.

Bryan loved Jesus.

How could you not? He was the coolest, awesome-est, most unique character he’d ever come across in his whole life. Jesus was powerful yet humble, tough but gentle–and he was the son of God! How extreme was that?

The origin issue–or, actually, the first chapter of the novel’s scheduled twelve–had been spectacular. It was set in olden times, like Conan was, only without the gore and sorcerers. Exciting omen-like stuff led up to a baby being born in a barn to a virgin woman. (Which sparked a whole lot of breathless debate about just exactly what that was. Until Roddy Hochhalter, who said he’d had “hand sex” with a girl, told everybody definitively. Bryan tended to believe the claim, since if Roddy was going to lie, he’d do it bigger, like all the other guys.) The baby’s birth was this mystic big deal, with three different kings following a star to bring the infant rich gifts. You knew the just-born boy was going to be important even before everybody started proclaiming him “the Messiah.”

The drawings were beautiful. No other word for it. So much detail–every golden hair on the camels, every fold in a robe, the blissful glow of the birth star, all of it put you there in the desert setting, making the ancient times seem like they were happening right now. And the writing–man! The descriptions were poetry without ever being boring. Bryan, rereading and re-re-rereading, was amazed every time at how much mood and information a few expertly chosen sentences could get across. Same with the dialogue, which had an old-time sound to it even though you could totally understand what was being said.

No other comic had ever looked or read like this one. This was a new standard for graphic novels. And every boy who started buying the series that winter understood that something very special was coming into the world.

But it wasn’t just the art or the wicked cool lead character, or the juicy historic detail or the love-to-hate-’em villains in the Romans. Bryan saw depths here. There was a sort of philosophy going on in these pages. God had made a son in human form. He was just a workaday carpenter, but he was also this Messiah that the people oppressed by the Roman Empire had been waiting for for a long time. The second issue jumped right into Jesus’ adulthood, where he was starting to realize who he really was. He was also acting with a purpose, doing worthwhile things. He talked to crowds of people and said they should be good to each other. It wasn’t just being nice to your friends or your countrymen–it was treating everybody everywhere like you, well, loved them. He could also do amazing miracles, which was the actual evidence that he was the son of God.

And even so he met unbelievers. That, maybe, was the real hook, and why the series appealed so much to readers Bryan’s age: nobody understood being underestimated and dismissed quite as well as a boy did.

That spring every boys’ baseball, basketball and soccer team wanted to call themselves the Apostles. Bryan and his cronies rode around on their skateboards pretending Roman soldiers were chasing them. But it was more than that, at least for Bryan. He had long since given up tagging walls with graffiti and other kinds of petty vandalism. Now he thought about what Jesus taught, the lessons that were dressed up like stories. Jesus had so much…compassion. (It was one of a slew of words Bryan was really understanding for the first time.) His teachings were so simple and obvious. It seemed like if people would follow his example, even just a little, the world wouldn’t be as screwed up as his mom and dad seemed to think it was.

Every boy knows the acoustics of his own home, and Bryan had painstakingly explored every corner of his; and so he knew just where to crouch silently at the top of the stairs and hear perfectly what was being said in the downstairs den even with the door closed.

“But have you actually looked at them?” This was his mom, voice worried.

“I had a glance. I even asked him about it. They’re his favorite comics.” His dad, sounding a little less worried.

“But do you know what it’s about? It’s…weird. The protagonist is God’s son. He’s the Messiah! I mean, it’s so–I don’t know–post-Talmudic.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard some Jewish groups are protesting it.”

“Let them. I’m only concerned about Bryan.”

“Hey, when I was his age, all I cared about were Micronauts.”

“But this is strange, occult stuff. It’s not like a superpowered superhero, like Superman. Or even just a regular hero, like Captain America.”

“Captain America was injected with the Super-Soldier formula. He wasn’t just a guy with a shield.”

“Aren’t you informed.”

“I’m a well-rounded person.” Laughter followed, and those damp silences that probably meant they were kissing, which was when Bryan beat a hasty retreat from his listening post.

For the end of the school year talent show Bryan and his friends convinced the principal to let them do a skit about Jesus healing the lepers. It turned out maybe not to have been such a great idea. Bryan, with spirit-gummed beard, played Jesus to the hilt, while others wore rags and hobbled around stage. The faithful readers in the audience loved it. But it scared the younger kids who thought the lepers were zombies, while the parents and faculty were just bemused.

The summer issues were incredible. You didn’t think it could stay as good, much less get better, but the story always did. Bryan had a whole new geographic vocabulary, which he flaunted whenever he could: Bethlehem, Nazareth, Galilee, Jerusalem. He and his widening circle of friends held trivia contests. Test your Jesus knowledge! The serial apparently attracted a lot of different people, even some girls now. When they acted out scenes in Barry Buczacz’s garage, sometimes Matilda Kiley, who was Mark Kiley’s twin sister, would be Mary Magdalene. Bryan, lately, had started to really like Matilda.

So, when Roddy Hochhalter–worldly Roddy again–snickered about Magdalene being a hooker, which the story did imply, Bryan went tearing across the garage. He felt the red heat on his face. His hands bunched into fists. He hoped Matilda got a good look even if Roddy, who was bigger and better looking, did kick his butt in the ensuing fight.

But Bryan stopped himself dead-still halfway across the concrete floor. It was like a big gentle hand caught him, and he felt a calmness slow his speeding heart.

He drew a long breath with everybody watching him and said, “Roddy, would you like it if somebody here said something nasty about you?” And there was stuff you could say about him; but Bryan didn’t resort to any of it.

Roddy got pale and looked away, and looked back and said straight to Matilda, “I’m sorry.”

The moment seemed to hold still awhile, and it felt, well, divine. And Bryan never forgot it.

* * *

By the time school resumed in the autumn, Bryan and the others still obsessively reading had started to sense the greater shape of the story. There had been awesome episodes about Jesus’ teachings, and that one time he raised that guy from the dead and other miracles, and about the Apostles and Mary Magdalene and all the rest who’d fallen in with the merry wanderers. But now the individual pieces were making a bigger picture.

Jesus was doing epic stuff. Sure, it was taking place long ago in a primitive desert country; but the ideas–about unconditional acceptance and universal brotherhood–were just as ginormously radical now as they would’ve been back then, had anybody bothered to suggest them. Jesus embraced everyone, even his enemies. And he wasn’t impressed just because somebody was rich or powerful. In fact, he seemed more on the side of the poor.

Speaking of enemies, Jesus sure had them. There was this old Jewish sect that the big bad Romans apparently let operate, and the heads of it were none too pleased with Jesus, who was shaking up the status quo in a growingly dangerous way. This was to say nothing about the militaristic Romans themselves, who might come down like a hammer on the whole thing at any time.

Bryan was especially worried, for this was how he was starting to see the overall story line shaping up. Jesus had done his good works. Now, Bryan had the increasingly queasy feeling that he was going to have to pay….

School chafed at him this new year. He found it stuffy in a way that he hadn’t before. These lessons were more than the usual old boringness they’d always been; now they seemed almost pointless. Nothing he was hearing was making him a better person. Numbers and grammar and all the rest–what about how people were supposed to act toward each other? Where was the morality? (Another of his new words.) Jesus had the kindness of God, his father, to fall back on, but he was always the first to put himself on the line, like that amazing installment where he intervened in Magdalene’s stoning. Bryan, secretly, had actually squeezed out tears over that.

His grades suffered right away, since he could barely get himself to scratch at his homework. Inevitable notes were sent home. He hated when his parents confronted him about it, since it forced him to promise to do better–and keeping a promise was now serious stuff to him.

“You can’t just decide you’re sick of school,” his mom said.

His dad was more cajoling. “Maybe a little more attention to the schoolbooks and a little less on the comic books, ‘kay, kiddo?”

Bryan pulled his marks out of their dive, though what knowledge he was absorbing still seemed useless to him. He didn’t, however, ease off one bit from his interest in Jesus. He continued to read and reread the issues, and to talk about Jesus with his equally still engrossed friends.

Over the course of the summer the merchandizing had kicked in, and posters, T-shirts and trading cards were everywhere, which was how people who’d never even heard of the serial finally got an inkling of who Jesus was. That was how the majority of the adults caught on about just how big this had gotten. It worried parents, and the parents worried the faculty; and like that, there was a school assembly with eye-rollingly dumb lectures about the dangers of cults. Cults! Bryan and his by now pretty impressive circle of friends split their sides laughing about it later.

But later still it made Bryan feel a little bit like he was being oppressed for his beliefs. And that made him feel even closer to Jesus. He had never forgotten the thrill of wearing that phony beard and playing the part in the talent show. He had already decided that as soon as he could, he was going to grow a real beard and long hair.

He asked Matilda Kiley to a dance. He was nervous and very formal, and he was surprised when she brought up the subject of the latest issue, speculating about what might be coming. “I’m worried about Jesus,” she said, the same way she might’ve said her dog had run away. Bryan, in a burst of bravery and sympathy, put his arm around her soft shoulders. They sat together and talked the rest of the evening, only going back out on the floor for the last dance.

Halloween? Forget about it. Everybody was doing it. Jesus and the Apostles swarmed the streets, plus a few smartasses who went as Romans, plastic spears and all. Bryan got sick of it pretty quick, though, after the fifth or so clueless time he was asked if he was supposed to be a Bedouin. He was more interested in the November issue anyway, the second to last installment, soon to hit the stands.

When it came, however, it was devastating. The worst possible turn the story could’ve taken, way worse than any kind of payback for Jesus Bryan had anticipated. He read it walking home from the newsstand. Twice he plowed right into another pedestrian, once a lamp-pole. He mumbled apologies to all three. Blood drained out of his head. His feet went numb. He had to stop a block away from his house to wipe his eyes on his sleeve.

For the first time since January, he didn’t immediately reread the issue.

The word spread quick.

Bryan wouldn’t eat dinner, not having to fake feeling sick. He wouldn’t even take a phone call, not until it was Matilda on the line. “I don’t believe it,” was what she kept saying, at first like she really meant it, then, after a few minutes, like she was begging for it not to be true. Bryan had to choke back his own sobs. He felt Matilda’s pain; he sure felt his own.

He wanted to see her, but it was too late tonight. Strange; normally a phone call from Matilda Kiley would’ve set his mind to spinning out complicated fantasies, but this night he just lay under the weight of shapeless black thoughts and had his first adult-like sleepless night.

The scene the next day after school in Barry Buczacz’s garage played about how you’d figure. Lots of disbelief and sadness and anger. Matilda’s brother Mark went so far as to tear his issue in two. But none of it changed anything: Jesus had been betrayed by one of his Apostles, and the Romans had arrested him, abused him, then nailed him up onto a pair of wood beams. It was a kind of capital punishment called crucifixion.

“That can’t be a real thing,” said one of the diehard disbelievers in their group, like that would make it not have happened.

Crucifixion. Bryan already hated the word. It had such an ugly sound. And it was so cruel and outrageous. What bastards those Romans were!

“I had a bad feeling….” he heard himself muttering now. Matilda, sitting next to him on the lid of an ice chest, looked over at him. Other eyes turned his way. Louder he said, “When they went into Jerusalem, with all the palms and the cheers, I thought, oh, this is going too smooth. But I was hoping Jesus had something planned. I mean, he’s God’s son, so he should know what’s coming and how to avoid trouble. But I didn’t think that Judas would—”

“Screw that Judas!” said Dennis Wren, which riled up a couple shouts just like it.

Bryan stood up. He must’ve had a very serious look on his face, because everyone got quiet. He said, the idea coming to him only now, “Maybe he was supposed to die. Maybe that was the plan. Remember in the garden when he’s talking alone to God? He says he doesn’t want to `drink the poison.’ I didn’t really get that. Now, though…” He swept the group with his eyes. “He knew he was going to die and went ahead and let it happen anyway. He did it as a…sacrifice.”

It touched off something close to a riot in the garage. Two dozen kids were suddenly talking and yelling at once. Barry’s dad had to come in and shush everybody. Bryan sat back down on the ice chest, and Matilda reached over and took his hand and held onto it.

His mom must’ve heard what had happened, or else just sensed how serious his mood was, because she acted extra nice to him and didn’t bug him about any of the trivial stuff she usually did. His dad actually asked him directly about it, wanting to know what was going on with the serial, very much like he really cared; and when Bryan blurted it out, his dad was convincingly sympathetic. He also said, “Hey, there’s still one more issue, right? Comic book heroes have a way of surprising you.”

Bryan appreciated the effort to cheer him up. But his dad hadn’t seen the panels where Jesus, in that awful mocking thorny crown, had expired on that cross, surrounding by jeering Romans and weeping women.

It never got far from his mind. The numb days that followed were still full of sadness and argument. Nobody in Bryan’s circle could get past what had happened. Lives had been disrupted by the terrible event. It was a chilly miserable late autumn.

Bryan stuck to his theory, though, and the more he thought and talked about it, the truer it seemed. Jesus had sacrificed himself. He had taken into himself all the sins of the human race, all the rotten vile stuff inside people, and he had gotten dragged up on those two crossed beams of wood and let himself get nailed in with spikes and he had died in that horrible way so that he could take away, with his death, all the evil in the world. When Bryan finally summoned the courage to go back and look at the dreadful November issue again for the first time, he found clues that supported this.

And so he talked about it. A lot. Preached it, even. He discovered he had kind of a knack for it. Really, it wasn’t all that different from being on that talent show stage again. His friends gathered to hear him; then more classmates came; and even a few high schoolers, who’d heard about the meetings from younger siblings, started showing up. He spoke at people’s homes, playgrounds, parking lots, wherever.

Bryan mostly just quoted from the graphic novel. All the wisdom you needed, he said with growing authority, was right here. He felt a great peace inside himself–and at the same time a burning need to spread the word. He felt what were probably the first real stirrings of adulthood, the clues pointing him in the direction his life would go. He would devote himself to Jesus’ way of life. No matter who thought it was stupid idea to take a comic book so seriously.

* * *

A printers’ strike that nobody had heard anything about until it was over delayed the release of the final installment. It didn’t hit stands until a week before New Year’s Day. In the issue Jesus rose from the dead; and later on he ascended into heaven. It made for a lot of controversy among the faithful. Still, though, it was a great story. For Bryan, it was the greatest ever. Already there was lots of buzz about making the whole thing into a movie.

Eric Del Carlo’s bio:

“Eric Del Carlo’s short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons, Brain Harvest, Futurismic and many other publications, and is upcoming at Asimov’s. He has co-written several books with s-f and fantasy stalwart Robert Asprin, including the Wartorn novels published by Ace Books. His solo novels include Nightbodies, published by Ravenous Romance. Eric lives in his native California.”

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Talk To Your Universe by A.J. Fitzwater

Dec 11 2011 Published by under The WiFiles

I do not know how long I slept.  Could have been moments, could have been millennia.

 

Now, I could hear light, see wind, breathe the viscosity of the golden milieu that greeted me–tactile concepts that were but a dream of a taste of a distant memory.  I may have detested the emptiness from where I’d come, but this terrible unending light was not much better.

 

“You’re going to ask whether this is the afterwards,” a silvery voice called out, and I flinched.  I squinted against the spiked crystal shards the glare shot into my mind.

 

A figure resolved out of the light, arms and tentacles performing a complicated dance as they wove dainty flower chains.  Evidence that this had been an endeavour of some effort wilted in a pile on a purple grassed hummock and around a thick green neck.

 

“Why would I ask that?” No air brushed across vocal chords, but words formed.  Perhaps they were in my head.

 

I shaded my eyes in an automatic response, but the light came from all around, even from within.  I dropped my hand and squeezed my eyes shut, willing the light to let me go.  Either I succeeded, or the being took pity on me, because when I opened my eyes the beast sat before me full and whole, larger than a universe but no bigger than a house.

 

“Well, you think you’re dead, don’t you?” They could have been speaking to me across meters, or forever.  The abomination did not look up from their task, and their voice remained smooth, steady, small.  I waited for the clumsy appendages to tear the flowers, but the piles of necklaces, perfect and forgotten, and diligence afforded the task, belied my expectations.

 

Dead.  This made sense.  Or at least it angered me.

 

My fists clenched.

 

“Ahhh.” Dozens of eyes, all shapes, sizes and hue, blinked me up and down.  Their opposing glitter and flatness made it hard to know where to look or how to read the ugly face meters above me.  “You chose bipedal.  Very good.”

 

“Of course I’m…that.”  I settled a vague recollection of dignity across my shoulders.  “What else would I be?”

 

“Whatever you want to be.” The single mouth stretched too wide across their commodious head, teeth sparking a warning behind the lipless edge.

 

“But how-?” I stopped and my grim smile matched the beasts in intensity.  “I guess that would be easy for you to say.  You are a God after all.”

 

A great blast of sweet breath staggered me back as the beast gave a large harrumph. “Names.  They have little meaning to me.  And don’t bother trying to remember your own.”

 

I teetered forward, wobbling much like the huge beautiful, shiny-skinned gut threatening to spill over my head.

 

“You’re not helping,” I grumbled, glaring up into bestial glory.  Such a terrible smile, all wicked needle teeth and promise of oblivion.

 

The brute laughed a peel of bells.  “I offend your sensibilities.  For all your unbelief, this is not quite what you expected.”

 

Sweetly sick, I set my mouth in a thin line.

“I can’t read your mind, if that’s what you’re thinking.” Their voice pattered and soothed like summer rain.  “But I’ve observed sentients before.  Oh maybe not quite this close, but their expectations about death are always quite amusing.  Myriad too.  So many of you, but you all seem to think alike, much like you all die alike, in the end.”

 

I made as if to walk away, push this monster out of my mind, but no matter where I turned they sat before me, grinning.

 

I opened my mouth to defend reason and choice and many other concepts that tickled the back of my mind, but words stuck in my craw.

 

“No, theist matters were never your strong point, were they?” The beast’s chuckle reminded me of someone who made me be that way.

 

“Are you sure you can’t read my mind?” I planted my legs wide, hands on hips, and chose an eye to stare into.

 

“You’re disoriented.  I get that.  Death is not something one can move on from easily.”

 

I blinked, and the light voice, a complete anathema to the hideous visage, now came from closer to head height.  An aesthetically pleasing face with a lipless warning of a mouth topped a square torso with four useful limbs.  The skin remained green, and the best remained unconcerned with clothing and hair.

 

“So this is not any sort of After, and you’re not a god, or gods.”  I found it much easier to look the beast in the eye now they only had two. “Where am I then, and who are you?”

 

The green beast discarded their floral ornamentation, hard work instantly forgotten, and indicated I walk with them all in one gesture.  So we walked, but with no limits or landscape we may as well have been walking in place.

 

“Would a name make you feel better?”  They asked, and I nodded.  Then I shook my head, wondering why such a gesture came so easily, and they smiled.  “Alright then.  I have been afforded as many as they are useless.  Kalima will suffice.”

 

Grim satisfaction spread across my face.  “And I am Renita.” I surprised myself as the name came unbidden, unneeded.

 

Kalima shook their head, the strange light burnishing its skin copper.  “Some sentients have such a need to name things.  Can’t thing just Be?”

 

“You seem a little hung up on that concept.”  I pushed on as our feet pushed against purple grass. “Can we move on?  I need to know where I am, if I am not dead anymore.”

 

Kalima’s chuckle cascaded like a clear stream.  “It’s been a very long time since I’ve had someone manifest, let alone express curiosity.  You must have been very strong.”

 

“I don’t remember,” I muttered, a vague sense of frustration darkening my words.  I stopped and stared at the beast, finding it easier to look up them as the moments went by.  Perhaps it was the familiarity of the strong shoulders, the reassurance of its breast.  “There are more like me?”

 

“Always have been, always will be.”  They stopped a few paces ahead and threw away a gesture, seeming uncomfortable.  Did they not know how to speak to me?

 

I caught up and we fell into pace. “Where are they?  Can I meet with them?”

 

“For someone so strong from a well advanced race, you’re still stuck on some old fashioned ideas of what it’s like being mortal,” the beast replied cryptically.

 

“Oh please forgive me if I seem a little disorientated,” I replied, words heavy with sarcasm.  “You try dying sometime, see how it feels.”

 

“Oh I do, on a regular basis,” the beast threw off, laughter tinkling.  “How do you think I changed into this form that’s far more appealing.”

 

I swallowed my next words, anger and confusion a curious mix.  Why would Kalima want to appease me, a mere non-mortal?  Had they brought me back as their play thing?

 

“This place only has the meaning to which you afford it.”

 

“I don’t understand.” Curious that the beast showed curiosity for how I got here.  Surely that was within their realm of influence?

 

Kalima painted each example with their hands.  “Why do you see grass?  Why is the light just so for you?  Why do you walk like that, but not like this?”

 

They startled me by inverting their face next to mine, walking oh-so-casual as you please upside down.  Their flesh defied gravity, not sagging towards the ground.

 

My ground.

 

Suddenly claustrophobic, I flinched down and away.  When I looked up, no floor or ground or walls were evident that Kalima walked upon.  I straightened, and they took perverse pleasure in maintaining the demonstration.

 

“The laws of physics that I’m used to are…what?  All in my head?”

 

“No, they exist.”  The beast lengthened their stride, swinging arms and humming a tuneless cadence, as if taking a casual stroll.

 

“Just not here?”  I furrowed my brow and hurried to keep up.

 

“You got it!”

 

“Then…this is a different universe,” I concluded, wrapping my arms around me.  I felt naked though I imagined clothes on me.

 

“Clever girl!”  They clapped, quick and light, arms tight against the flat green chest.  “Skipping over magic, well into higher concepts.  We will get on well!”

 

With a tight smile, I stepped up and away so that I walked on the horizontal to the beast’s inverted vertical.

 

“Now you’re getting the hang of it!”  Their laughter peeled merrily off into the golden surroundings, but found no surface to echo off.  Slight nausea sweetened my gullet and head.

 

I squinted into the distance, which may have been no distance at all, and tried to will into existence a mountain, a house, a tree.  Nothing came of it.  Perhaps I was still too weak from only recently being dead.

 

“Don’t get too cocky,” the beast said, glancing askance.  “For all the change you think you can do, this universe is still mine.”

 

“Aha, and there it is,” I grinned, perversely pleased the beast had revealed their avarice.

 

“I am not a god, even though you desperately try to label me that,” they sneered.

 

“Then what are you?” Who wouldn’t want to be a god?  What could be better than that?

 

“I am a Maker.”  A careless flick of their green fingers and a building appeared before us.  I stumbled to a stop only inches from brown mud brick walls, losing my horizontal equilibrium and falling into a graceless heap right side up to my old thinking.  Green feet and knees, smooth and unlined, the type that had never seen physical use, appeared at my head. “Welcome to my home.  Won’t you come on in?”

 

A rough wooden door opened with a satisfying creak and those green limbs entered.  As I glanced up, I was afforded a decent view of the underside curve of their smooth buttocks.

 

The door remained open, the darkness beyond a heavy invitation.

 

“You’re very liberal with your information,” I called after them, pushing myself to a standing position. “That could be very dangerous.  You don’t know how it could be used against you, what sort of person I am.” Indeed, how could I use this to get me out of here? Now that that claustrophobia had passed quickly, the latent agoraphobia settled back over me like a heavy, wet blanket.

 

A snort wafted back at me.  “Suspicion makes your species so slow.  Different universe, different rules.  Time does my bidding here.”

 

I rushed through into the darkness.  After the sustained hue of outside, it took me a long time to adjust to the gloom within.

 

The beast had changed.  I narrowed my eyes, trying to discern the darker shadow against the dark.  I pushed with my mind, like I had against the glow when I first arrived, but nothing happened–this was Kalima’s house.

 

The beast tsked.  “I always forget the newly dead are so literal,” they sighed, and a light sprang up, a comforting glow from beautiful filigree metal and glass lanterns.

 

I blinked at the pillar of wavering shadow that stood a respectful distance away.  The top of their two meter tall body flickered with a cool midnight blue flame, and movement suggested four limbs again.  They had no face to focus on or genitals to differentiate–the beast did this to throw me off kilter.

 

“Another of your little deaths.”  I tried to keep my voice light, though my belly trembled.  The body of blue-black flame rippled with the silver laughter.

 

“How quaint.  But yes, though no death is ever small.”  The shadow undulated into a large wooden chair suggestive of a throne with a tall back and curlicues.

 

“You are very contradictory,” I sighed, fingers hovering near a familiar feast set out on the large table between us.  A longing took up in my gut–no, where my gut would have been–and I grimaced at the memory of hunger.

 

“And you have no gatekeeper on your thoughts,” the beast said, though no mouth moved in the black hole of its head. “I like that.”

 

“Yes, I guess you’re right.  I seem to recall that making me somewhat dangerous.”  I hope the beast hadn’t lied when they said they couldn’t read minds, otherwise my fear-filled boast would do me little good.  I gave in to easier cravings and sat on a humble stool, picking out fragrant cheese, bread, pastes and fruit.  I avoided meat, and when I looked back around the spread for my second helping it had disappeared.

 

And so I ate, and so the beast watched.

 

“I have a proposal,” they said once I sat back satiated and licking my fingers.

 

I feigned disinterest with a bare raising of an eyebrow, pouring myself another cup of blood-thick wine.

 

“Stay,” Kalima asked.  The barest hint of loneliness disappeared before I could grasp on to it, replaced with a universe of promise.

 

My other eyebrow matched its companion.  “You barely know me.  I’ve only just arrived.  I could be dangerous.”

 

“You know none of that to be true.”

 

Who was the better liar of the two now?

 

I searched what I thought to be their face, attempting to penetrate the darkness.  After that merest bleed of longing, they offered nothing.

 

“But I am dead.”  Another deflection.  “How useful would I be if I am a vagrant?”

 

“Wouldn’t you like to find out?”

 

Stunned, I covered my fear with a gulp from the liquid in my cup.  It was not wine.

 

“And just where would I go if I didn’t stay here with you?”

 

“Anywhere and anywhen you wanted.”

 

The words pushed me away, but the voice pulled me in close.

 

 

#

 

 

I stayed.  My imagination could not extend that far.

 

The first time they treated me to a Little Death, I came awake gasping furiously.  I had escaped my earthly body only to be treated as capriciously as this?

 

The rebirth was glorious.

 

I learned my lesson well–any other death would belong to me.

 

And I made many of them.  I remade myself in many images familiar to my first corporeal life, but none were as alien and terrifying as Kalima could make them self.  This was their universe, and they knew them all because they had created them.

 

We sat one time atop a purple hill, observing the swirls of far off golden light.  Kalima mocked me with a mirror image of my current form, ebony skinned, impossibly tall, skin bared to the eloquent breeze.

 

“To you they may only be a flicker quickly snuffed out,” the beast explained.  In their kinder moments, they resorted to language more comforting to me.  For all my exercises in death and rebirth, I still favoured that which mortality had borne in me.  “But to me they each have their individual taste.  They are my Creations coming home, ready to be reshaped and renewed.”

 

Incredulity stretched my night-filled brow.  “But you said you were not a god.”

 

“And you said you were a non-believer,” they mocked back.

 

My head drooped, hating myself for my slowness.  “It doesn’t take a god to create a universe.”

 

“Though many of them to think it does.”  The beast grimaced and I grinned.  When they mimicked my form, they also took on many of my facial expressions.

 

“Hard indoctrination to shake,” I teased.

 

“Yes, especially when they see all this and take some taste of it back with them.”

 

“Take it back?  You could always fix that you know.  Make them less spiritual.”

 

“Accidents happen.”

 

“Sure they do.”  Or they were allowed to happen. I contemplated the words a moment longer.  “Do you mean to say reincarnation exists?”

 

The beast sighed and reached out a dark hand to finger paint at the light.  Swirls twisted and followed their fingers.  “If you must insist on that word, then yes.  There are only a finite number of souls to go around.”

 

I skipped around the idea, not daring to defy the beast’s wrath.  They could hurt when the mood took hold.

 

“But the universe is massive beyond reckoning!”

 

“I applaud your belief.  And yes, your universe is.  Some of them aren’t.”  The beast drew in a shimmering point, examined it as someone may examine a particularly loathsome insect or fungus, and flicked it away.  A tiny sound, knife-edge on glass, scratched my mind.

 

“There is more than one…oh.”

 

Thoughts swirling like the lights before me, I went silent for quite some time, indulging in a Little Death to quiet my mind with that in between blackness.  By then Kalima had bored of me, turned into a ten-storey multi-limbed being and wandered away to make more necklaces, this time out of stunted black trees.

 

I came back as I thought I remembered my original self–a grey, shapeless, wrinkled thing, a single thin braid or fibre down my bent and gnarled back.  I stood at one of the beast’s massive toes and shouted up at them, but they didn’t hear me over the grinding of their fingers, which set the bones of my ears to aching and I walked far away to be rid of it.

 

I took to my own hill and tried to manipulate the light, but they did not bend or respond to my probing fingers.  I wanted to populate my hill with cats and dragons and people I had loved, but their souls were far elsewhere.  I had my suspicious about just which souls Kalima had control of.

 

“They’re not souls!” They berated me as we sat a-table, our table a mote in the middle of an empty, white plain.  The beast indulged in food, but only to take pleasure in disgusting me–they ate unrecognizable things that wriggled, wobbled or smelled quite hideous as they popped them in any one of their many mouths.

 

“Whatever you want to call them then,” I snapped back, my appetite quite forgotten.  I only drank the blood-thick juice of that first communion.

 

“Your words are too puny.” Their growl belied the forked tongue and green scaled limbs and tail they sported.  “They are-” The beast uttered an unintelligible word that rolled the sky beneath my feet.

 

I swallowed my understanding of its importance with my last mouthful of wine.

 

A thought flashed across my mind like the lightening Kalima threatened me with.

 

“You control these souls–let’s just call them that for the sake of brevity, shall we?”  I put up my hands, curled and callused.  Kalima echoed the capitulation, but quicker, three digit hands falling to a scaled lap with a dry slap.  “You Make their bodies, their universes and worlds they live in, and you control these souls.  But do you Make them?”

 

Kalima died and remade them self before my eyes, a black oily thing shot through with ugly purple and green shimmer rainbows.  When they spoke, the voice was as viscous and vicious as the body.  “That’s a question for my brothers and sisters and-” another unintelligible word that vibrated the air.

 

“Can we?” I asked once I recovered some of my equilibrium and hearing.  Cracks danced through the glacier beneath us.

 

“What?”

 

“Ask them.”

 

“No.”

 

The beast slithered away into the cracks in the ice, causing them to open wider and run faster.

 

They left me alone for a very long time, or it might have been no time at all.  Boredom eventually won out over pride.

 

“Bored?  How can you be bored with an entire universe at your disposal?”  An invisible presence, their wind chime voice admonished me from atop a grey slate mountain.

 

“Be in, yes.  Play with, now that’s something only you can do.”  I wore a younger version of myself, glaring up the sheer wall of stone before me. “There’s only so much eternity a person can take.”

 

They went silent again and the golden light faded to a dusty yellow, as if seen through a dirty window.

 

Perhaps I had struck a nerve.

 

When Kalima spoke again, they manifested as a dancing yellow flame.

 

“What do you propose I do?” They demanded of me.  “I’ve been there and done that.  World building is a delicate balance.  I’m best at repurpose and recycle.”

 

“Then try something new,” I said.  “Repurpose yourself.”

“You mean become like them?” I did not like the disgust that muted the pretty tone.

 

“Look at the possibilities you’ve created.  Pick one.  Be it.”

 

“But…why?” The flame flared up.

 

“Why do anything?  Because it’s there.  Because it may help you refine your technique.”

 

“Hey, I’m not omniscient.  I just plant the seeds.  Evolution does all the hard work for me.”

 

“And you enjoy the havoc that it wreaks.”  I crossed my arms across my youthful breast and tightened my face with a skewed mouth and set jaw.

 

“I wouldn’t say I enjoy it, but I do appreciate the odd pleasant surprise it throws up.”  The beast’s unpredictable laughter sprinkled silver delight through the gold.

 

“So why wouldn’t you want them to evolve as far as they can go?  I notice they have a tendency to die or kill themselves off long before they do.”

 

This time the silence was my answer.  I had suspected Kalima and her unseen ilk of not having all the answers.  Oh sure, they had a lot of them.  Kalima abhorred the title but cherished the privilege of implied godhood.  Why wouldn’t they want to be a better god?

 

Why hadn’t they furthered the god-pool? Why couldn’t I be a god?

 

As if sensing I had ceased recompense for their hospitality, the Kalima-flame drifted away, mixed with the light of the universe.  I strained to see their outline against the maelstrom of souls.  I could barely fathom that I was arguing with a being that could arbitrarily send me to any realm within their mastery, perhaps even sic me on their siblings as punishment.

 

And how would I know they had?

 

“Alright, let’s go.”

 

The beast appeared abruptly–young, tempting, dusky of skin, black of hair, eyes and smile.

 

Just like that.  No preamble or preparation.

 

“You want to be like me?”  I guessed, though I still hid my confusion well as to what I may have been Before.  “What makes you think you’ll end up becoming this particular being.”

 

The beast frowned.  “But don’t you want to go back like this, like you remember?”  Their hand and eyes fluttered up and down my body.

 

“Me?”

 

“I’m not doing this alone.  You’re coming with me.”

 

I suppressed a smile.  A trick, this form of theirs had to be a trick.

 

“But where’s the challenge in becoming what I am?  Haven’t you learned enough just from having me around?  You have so many other species to choose from!”

 

“I could learn everything from any of the souls,” they sniffed, propping up their improbable breasts with folded arms.

 

“Have you?  Before me?  Ever?”

 

Silence.

 

“Alright, if it’s a challenge you want, you have it,” the beast ground out between gritted teeth, fists clenched at their sides.  They opened and spread one fist, right cheek lifting in a half smile.  “Perhaps an interesting bunch of warrior arachnids who think in base eight.  Or perhaps aquatic mammals with year long conversations in base four to wrap your head around.  There’s also a high chance of becoming an amoeba in a primordial soup–that could be reasonably quick and painless, and we’d be back home in time for tea.”

 

“So be it.  Whatever happens, happens.”

 

“You can’t go back with knowledge of this plane of existence.  You’ll be a baby, naked of knowledge.”  Kalima smirked.  “How infuriating, having to start all over again.”

 

“No knowledge of reincarnation, no taking anything back.  Gotcha.”  I can play this game too.

 

An inkling of doubt sprung up about their control.  My people had known something, in amongst all the superstition. “Just remember, you have to be the same.”

 

The smile fell from their face, and the silence and light rippled.  He was something new.

 

Anxiety.

 

I prodded that sore spot some more as we walked towards the light, a bubble of expanding crystal that sent hot shards into my mind.  “Who will universe-sit while you’re gone?  Your siblings?”

 

“Never!” They roared, an infinity of mistrust and misdeeds shaking the light, causing the crystal to chime and sing, and their steps faltered.  “You mortals are always so linear.  I’ll be here even when I’m not.”

 

Kalima rolled their dark eyes and the golden sky rolled in response.

 

“So you know-”

 

“No, I don’t.”  Only the perplexed furrow on their brow kept me from checking the lie.

 

A minute hole opened in the shimmer before us, barely a prick in the sky.  The opposite of light showed through, an inverse star, the black hole of my universe perhaps.  Did black holes exist in others?  I had forgotten to ask.

 

“Wait.” I held the beast back by the upper arm, and they looked down at my hand, forehead so tightly drawn a line appeared between their eyes.  “If there are only siblings in their individual universes, who created you and them?”

 

“The universe,” they replied mildly, answer obvious, and I shook my head, forcefully reminded of my mortal origins.

 

Kalima stepped up to the pin hole.

 

“How will I find you?” I called after them.  No push or pull encouraged me to follow, and I realized with a hitch in my chest I could stay here.  Was I up to the task of wrangling a universe and truculent, unseen siblings?

 

“Parent, lover, friend, enemy.  Or you may never.  Who knows!”  Kalima’s laugh tinkled back at me, sharpened by crystal, warmed by gold.

 

Looking back at the dimming light, eternity of my own making beckoned, cajoled, but righteousness stood stronger.  There was no way I could let them run rampant through an unsuspecting world.

 

I swear the beast did a little jig as I cursed and dove after them down the tiny hole into the universe beyond.

 

 

 

END

 

 

Bio: AJ Fitzwater resides in Christchurch, New Zealand, knows no hobbits and has become adept at skipping cracks. The author has been published in such venues as Semaphore Magazine, Flash Me Magazine, and the “Tales For Canterbury” fundraising anthology, takes an interest in amateur voice acting, and blogs at pickledthink.blogspot.com, pontificating about the writer’s journey and other mind detritus. The author’s writing desk is often home to a somnolent calico cat.

One response so far

3 Different Seconds by L.Vera

Dec 04 2011 Published by under The WiFiles

Subject 1:

An excerpt from a tape recording of Martin Stevens’ interview with Dr. Henry Wurzbach.1/20/89 9:00 A.M.

 

“How are you doing today, Martin?” Doctor Wurzbach’s voice entered through the static.

 

“Good,” Martin replied.

 

“If you do not mind Martin, I would like to go ahead and ask about the first time you discovered your ability,” Doctor Wurzbach said with his deep calming voice.

 

“Sure. Like I said before, it all just kind of happened. Well, I was out with my friends. We were walking home from practice and we got to the bridge across from the park. Michael jumped on the stone wall on one side of the bridge,” he stopped.

 

“Go on,” Doctor Wurzbach said.

 

“He fell . . . or so I thought he did. But . . .” Martin paused again.

 

“But he did not?” Doctor Wurzbach filled in.

 

“No. I grabbed his hand and well . . . he . . . um . . . didn’t fall.”

 

“So you saved him,” Doctor Wurzbach suggested.

 

“Well, I didn’t think I saved him. I just thought it was . . . I don’t know . . . ”

 

“So did you tell anyone about this?”

 

“No. I thought it might have been something . . . I don’t know . . . like maybe . . . I don’t know I couldn’t explain it.”

 

“So no one knew yet? Your parents? Your brother . . .”

Martin interrupted, “No one knew.”

 

Subject 2:

An excerpt from a tape recording of Christopher Stevens’, Martin’s brother, interview with Dr. Henry Wurzbach. 1/20/89 10:30 A.M.

 

“How have you been Christopher?” Doctor Wurzbach’s voice cleared the static.

 

“Bad. I don’t want to be here.”

 

“Why is that?” Doctor Wurzbach asked.

 

“It’s cold and it stinks.”

 

“Well, I will see what I can do to better accommodate your stay.”

 

“Why am I here?” Christopher asked.

 

“To talk. To see why . . .”

 

“Look. I don’t see . . .”

 

“How did you get those scars on your arm?” Doctor Wurzbach interrupted.

 

“What scars?”

 

“The scars on your arms . . . You know your parents are concerned.”

 

“No one asked them to be concerned.”

 

Subject 1:

An excerpt from a tape recording of Martin Stevens’ interview with Dr. Henry Wurzbach. 1/20/89 9:05 A.M.

 

“Did you use it during your soccer games?” Doctor Wurzbach asked.

 

“At first it felt wrong. It felt like I was cheating; but it started coming to me naturally. I remember the first goal I made,” he cleared his throat.

 

“I made a run towards the goal and when I went to kick the soccer ball . . . I saw myself miss the goal. It curved high and to the right but then . . . I was back. I was still running towards the goal. I paused and then corrected the kick. The next thing you know my team was screaming and crowding around me. I scored.”

 

Subject 2:

An excerpt from a tape recording of Christopher Stevens’ interview with Dr. Henry Wurzbach. 1/20/89 10:33 A.M.

 

“Have you ever been punched?” Christopher asked.

 

“Well . . . yes,” the doctor answered.

 

“Have you ever seen yourself get punched 3 seconds before it happens? It feels like . . .” he paused, “it feels like getting punched twice.”

 

“The first time I realized I could see into the future I got the worse beating in my life. You know, you see it hit you, so you flinch. But it doesn’t come when it’s expected; it comes three seconds later. Of course, after a couple of times you kinda get the timing down but you still see twice as many fist hit you.”

 

“So you can see three seconds into the future?”

 

“Well… now I can see further.”

 

Subject 1:

An excerpt from a tape recording of Martin Stevens’ interview with Dr. Henry Wurzbach. 1/20/89 9:07 A.M.

 

“So you can see three seconds into the future, Martin?” Doctor Wurzbach asked.

 

“Yes, about three seconds.” Martin answered.

 

“Do you mind if I test you?”

 

“Sure.”

 

The doctor spoke into the microphone, “I am holding two stopwatches and an ace of spades from a deck of cards. I have started both stopwatches at the same time. One stopwatch does not make a sound. I will give this to Martin.” One click is heard on the recording. “Here Martin, take this stopwatch. I have started both at the same time. When I raise the ace of spades I want you to stop your watch.”

 

A couple seconds of silence pass. Then a click is heard.

 

“My stopwatch reads 5.09 seconds,” said Martin.

 

“I can confirm this and my stop watch reads 8.52 seconds,” said Doctor Wurzbach.

 

Subject 2:

An excerpt from a tape recording of Christopher Stevens’ interview with Dr. Henry Wurzbach. 1/20/89 10:40 A.M

 

“So you are telling me you can test me using these stopwatches,” Christopher asked.

 

“Yes,” Doctor Wurzbach answered back.

“This is stupid. You see these cuts. This is my test,” he emphasized the word my, “I’m up to seven seconds.”

 

“Amazing. Seven seconds, how?”

 

“I think pain increases the time.”

 

There’s a long pause before it’s interrupted with, “I’ve done some pretty crazy things in seven seconds Doc. I’ve done some gruesome things. I’ve even murdered people . . . some of them multiple times. I’ve murdered you twice during our conversation.”

 

Subject 1:

An excerpt from a tape recording of Martin Stevens’ interview with Dr. Henry Wurzbach. 1/20/89 9:20 A.M.

 

“The bus was a mistake.”

 

“I do not understand, Martin.”

 

Martin hesitated and then said, “The bridge . . . um, well . . . the bus drove off the side of the bridge. So I tried to stop it. I got up from my seat and ran down the aisle towards the driver.”

 

“What happened then?” the doctor asked calmly.

 

“I fell . . . and I caused the accident.”

 

Subject 2:

An excerpt from a tape recording of Christopher Stevens’ interview with Dr. Henry Wurzbach. 1/20/89 10:55 A.M

 

“Why were you on the bridge Chris?”

 

“I was just . . .”

 

“Jumping off the bridge?”

 

“Well . . . yeah. How did you know?”

 

The doctor explained, “Seven seconds. That is plenty of time to stop you from killing yourself. But tell me . . . What do you see before you jump?”

 

“Nothingness. Complete and total nothingness,” Chris paused for a moment and then continued, “It’s just black and empty.”

 

The tape filled with static. As it slowly cleared, Doctor Wurzbach voice said, “What happened when the bus came?”

 

Subject 1:

An excerpt from a tape recording of Martin Stevens’ interview with Dr. Henry Wurzbach. 1/20/89 9:24 A.M.

 

“As the bus swerved, I saw my brother standing on the wall on the bridge. He turned around and looked straight at me. He stared into my eyes. I saw it in his eyes. He could see the future too.”

 

“It happened so fast. He jumped towards the doors and pried his way in quick,” Martin took a quick breath, “he grabbed the steering wheel and kept the bus on the bridge. He saved us.”

 

Subject 2:

An excerpt from a tape recording of Christopher Stevens’ interview with Dr. Henry Wurzbach. 1/20/89 11:00 A.M

 

“The first thing I saw was… me jumping onto the bus. I saw myself pry the door open but I had problems. So I tried it a different way. It was like I had multiple tries at everything.”

 

“So you saved everyone?”

 

“Yeah,” Chris said unenthusiastically.

 

There was silence and then the sound of a notebook closing.

 

“Well then I think we are done,” Doctor Wurzbach said.

 

“So that’s it. I can leave?”

 

“Yes. I believe that even after this frightful incident you can still live a normal life.”

 

“So . . . no more talking, no more test?  No scientist taking me apart or using me as a weapon.”

 

The doctor assured, “No. As long as you do not attract anymore attention you can go off living a normal life.”

 

“What if I do? What if I do want to attract attention? What if I do want to save people? What if I want to become a hero?”

 

“Then you must decide on your own if it is worth the risk.”

 

The voices faded out from the small tape recorder Doctor Henry Wurzbach held in his hand. He pulled the last tape from the recorder and lingered. He thought to himself, “I had a chance to save him,” before he tossed the last bit of evidence into the fireplace.

 

 

 

Bio: The economy forced me to do what I love. I was laid off when I decided to post some of my stories on an art website. I won two small contests and got a story published online. Now I keep a serial fiction running that has brought me lots of fans. I have just recently self-published the first serial story. It’s called Diary of a Madman. You can find it on lulu.com or on deviantArt for free.

 

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