Saturday, April 30, 2011

12/365 -- Playlist Story -- inspired by Intriguing Possibilities by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

He stood in a crowd. The bars were letting out and people were laughing, teeth exposed, carousing, stumbling, and rushing on their way to further parties abnormally fast. Faces blurred by him, unnoticing, their features hardly distinguishable. He tried to move forward, but the Earth pulled him back. It was trying to claw him into the ground. Fingers of asphalt, rocks and dirt twisted up from the ground. They penetrated his shirt and went into his back and out through his ribs and chest. He lost his breath though there was no pain, just a dull push on his insides, the fingers hooked around, grew fatter, and started to pull him down.

He clenched his fists and closed his eyes. He was almost horizontally parallel with the ground when there was brightness behind his eyelids. He opened his eyes and say three tiny balls of blue light, stationary, just inches from his nose. He reached up and touched one of them--they slid down his body and over the asphalt that was engulfing him--the fingers crumbled, retracted, released him, and fell to the ground. The lights dissipated, and he noticed the first hint of dawn in the skyline.

And he was free of the Earth. He floated upward, above the crowd. Several feet above them he slowed down. He thought of the danger, and he sank a few feet, but he held out his hands to his sides and his descent stopped. He was stuck. He tried moving up again, but could not do it. He tried to fall down slowly, but his position remained still. He pulled his knees up to his chest. His clothes turned to dark colors. The fabric grew looser, and threads came apart and grew longer. They swirled and looped around him as they increased. They began to cross paths with each other, and started to knot up. He kicked out and tried to untangle the threads with his hands but just knotted more. They became tighter. They wrapped around his throat. His face flushed with blood and he thrashed out.

The dawn suddenly became dark and night returned. He felt blind. Then light came directly from his body. It burned away the dark knots and weaving threads. He was naked but he felt warmth. The light dripped from his body, and the sun rose. He floated higher up, above the city. He found he could navigate his ascent and descent with the slightest motion of his palms. But a pain was forming, in a line down the center of his body, from the top of his head to his pelvis. The two sides of his body wanted to travel in opposing directions. They cancelled each other out until the pain was unbearably sharp--then his body snapped, and there were suddenly two of him, mirror images. The pain formed again, and then there were four. And again, there were eight, then sixteen.

The sun rose higher, bathing the city in warm yellow light. He and his others formed a circle in the air. They all looked at each other with fear and confusion. They all looked over their bodies to find any hint of seams or scars or other physical evidence of the process that just took place, but nothing was found. He tried to speak, but could not say any words, and could not even open his mouth. The others looked like they were trying to speak at the same time. A hazy white halo began to form around each of their heads. As he tried harder to speak, the halos grew larger, encompassing their bodies. Tendrils of white light formed from each halo, thousands of tiny points, extruded outward. They intertwined with one another. Finally they connected.

He felt larger than himself. His mind was put at ease. They all raised their hands in unison, and the sun emitted an intense luminescence that washed over the city. When the light faded, the city was cleansed of people. The buildings transformed to clear glass and light. Grass and trees replaced roads. Flocks of exotic, brilliantly iridescent, unearthly birds plied the sky. A gentle wind ruffled leaves and the long grass. He found himself on the ground, as one, not many. With a wave of his hand, he grew a building by several stories--it just stretched itself into the sky. He turned the building an opaque, brilliant white, then turned it transparent again.

He recreated people. They came out of the buildings, out of their walls, formed of glass. They left oval openings. They walked slowly towards him. He waved his hands and they became flesh. And they smiled at him. He waved his hands, and they became to live their new lives.

Friday, April 29, 2011

11/365 -- Playlist Story -- inspired by Serpents en flammes by Etienne Charry

The Oldsmobile, engine knocking, slowly rolled to a stop all on the deserted Nevada highway.

"You forgot to gas up, didn't you," said Mikey in the back seat. Dave looked at him through the rearview mirror. Mikey took up the entire breadth of the seat. He shifted his massive weight; decrepit springs tried vainly to call uncle.

"We'd be fine if you hadn't insisted on running the air conditioner full blast," said Dave, rather peeved.

"I'm a polar bear, Dave, or haven't you noticed?" Mikey laid a paw on the back of Dave's seat and squeezed the aged leather menacingly.

"That shit doesn't work with me," said Dave, rolling his eyes, "I'm not a gambler you can intimidate. I know you too well." Mikey sat back, scratched his belly, and looked off into the distance. Dave turned his attention to the car's GPS unit. "There's nothing to complain about anyway. This says the next gas station is a mile from here, just over that little hill."

Mikey grunted. Dave got out of the car and took the keys. He peered in at Mikey, who shifted to avoid eye contact. Dave tapped on the back window with the keys. Mikey lunged at him, rocking the car.

"Oh come on," said Dave, "it's a fifteen minute walk there and fifteen back. It's gonna take at least a half hour to bring back gas. The car's going to get hot and I don't want to leave you in it. Even if you crack a window it will be stifling with all your fur." Dave took hold of the handle to the back door but before he could open it, Mikey slapped down on the lock. Dave unlocked it again with the remote, tried to open the door, but Mikey held his paw pad over the lock.

"Call a tow truck!" bellowed Mikey.

"There's no tow trucks out here! Where in the middle of nowhere Mikey!"

"They could bring one from Vegas!"

"It would take hours. Let's just walk to gas station. It will be over in no time, I promise."


"You are such a child! Get out of the car now!"

"Harrughhhh!" Mikey laid his paws on his belly and narrowed his eyes at Dave. Dave opened the door and pointed at the ground. Mikey waited the several seconds the maintenance of his ursine dignity required before sliding out the door. He stood up on his back legs and slammed the door shut. "This is going to get my Tony Lama's dusty," he said, baring his teeth.

"Yeah, you know what? You can afford to buy more. In fact, you already have dozens. Custom-made! Let's get going."

"These are my favorite pair."

"That's nice." Dave walked briskly, and Mikey lumbered behind. "You gotta walk faster buddy."

"I told you I didn't want to walk."

"Maybe if you did like other bears and walked on all fours--"

"I'm not other bears, and I don't want to get my hands dirty."

"They're not hands. You don't have thumbs."

"If I had thumbs, I wouldn't need you to drive me around."

"And if you hadn't stolen that money from that undercover detective, I wouldn't have to drive you to the state line."

"I didn't steal it. It was a misunderstanding."

"You stole it."

"He just misunderstood that if he didn't give it to me, I'd shove a claw in his sternum."


They continued in silence, except for their footfalls and Mikey's heavy breathing. Finally they crested the hill to see...nothing but more dry road and dirt. Dave stopped. Mikey was several paces behind him.

"Why did you stop?" asked Mikey, huffing.

"It's not there."


"It's not there Mikey!"

"You better not be messing with me, because you know what I like to do to people who mess with me Dave."

"I'm not! See for yourself!"

Mikey came up next to Dave and looked around. "There's nothing there."

"I knooow!" Dave put his hands up to forehead. "We are so screwed."

"No we're not. Just call a tow truck."

"We can't go back to Vegas Mikey."

"Sure we can. We can lie low for awhile at the Bellagio if we need to. The manager owes me several favors."

"No, we can't. Mikey, I informed on you."


"I'm sorry buddy. I was part of that sting." Dave crossed his arms and took a step back out of the way of Mikey's vast reach. Mikey cocked his head to one side, and knitted his brows.

"I don't understand."

"I couldn't let it go on, the way it was corrupting you. I figured maybe you would do a couple of months in prison, and then you would get out and do the act again, and be back to your old self. And when we were there in the hotel room, and you had the detective's head underwater in the bathtub, I just, I just knew, that this is what you loved to do, and that you wouldn't change, because, this is who you are." Dave crouched and held his hands over his head. Mikey stood, perplexed.

"You get me. Wow, you really get me," said Mikey.

"What?" Dave tentatively stood up.

"You betrayed me, and I won't forget that. But I appreciate that you understand who I am, as a person."

"As a polar bear."

"As a person. Let's not be prejudiced."

"As a person," said Dave. Mikey slapped him gently on the back and attempted a smile, which amounted to him baring his teeth and gums.

"Come on," said Mikey, "Let's try the next hill. Maybe the GPS was off. I will get you back though. You won't know when or where, but it will happen." And they walked off together, friends.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

10/365 - Playlist Story -- inspired by Can't Help Falling In Love by Elvis

"Zemlya krasivoĭ," said the woman, Akulina, looking out the window as they tumbled. An hour had elapsed since the explosion.

"What did you say?" asked one of the men, an American named Jonathan as he tried to press closer to the window without pushing himself away.

"I said, it's beautiful," said Akulina in a Russian accent, her thick halo of graying hair framing her still-young face. "Isn't it?"

"More so now, than ever," said the Japanese man, Eiji, furrowing his brow. The woman smiled at him benevolently, and Jonathan put his arm around him. "My wife--" Eiji suppressed a sob.

"Just look out the window and watch," said Akulina, "it will be easier." They all watched quietly as the Earth spun slowly clockwise beneath them, determinedly closing the gap.

"You know what I will miss?" said Jonathan. The other two looked at him for his answer. "Chocolate-mint ice cream." He chuckled and the others smiled weakly. "I can't believe I had my last bowl more than six months ago. And I'll never have it again." He sighed.

"I will miss piloting jets," said Akulina. "Riding a rocket wasn't so bad though--"

"But it's all automated on rocket--" said Jonathan.

"Exactly. I like the feeling of takeoff in a jet. There's nothing like it, especially when it's hot summer day and there's pockets of warm air to push you."

"I will miss the smell of grass," said Eiji. "My father's farm field."

"The cows too?" laughed Jonathan.

"The cows too," Eiji nodded.

"We had plenty of that smell in Wisconsin. I'm not sure I'll miss it," he smiled and jovially jostled Eiji.

"It's just the smell of home. I don't know, somehow it was unique. My father would come in from the field smelling like that, and then he would read to us from the newspaper."

"I miss my grandmother's handmade bread," said Akulina. "It smelled better than the bakery bread. Plus we didn't have to line up for it."

The lights inside the module went out, and the air stopped recycling; the emergency battery was drained. The reflected light of Earth lit their faces as they peered out.

"Not long now," said Eiji.

"It's hard to think there's so many people down there, just going about their lives," said Jonathan. "I bet most of them don't know we're up here."

"We'll probably make the news tonight," said Akulina. They all chuckled.

A ghosting trail of vapor flashed by the window.

"It's starting," said Eiji.

"I wish we could have sent a message," said Jonathan.

"What would you say?" said Akulina. "They must know we're falling."

"It's not that," he hesitated, "I guess I just wanted to say goodbye to everyone."

"They know. They will know," said Eiji. "How could they not?" Jonathan smiled at him warmly.

"You're right," he said. "They know."

The flashing increased in intensity until the could no longer see the surface of the Earth coming to meet them. The heat grew unbearable, and they stopped speaking. A hundred thousand feet or so over the Canary Islands the module disintegrated into a glitter of flaming metal.


Slightly odd photo montage of Elvis (in the same outfit for every photo!) set to the song

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

9/365 Playlist Story -- inspired by Yadnus by !!!

"Halt!" bellowed Cobraman, huffing. He was chasing a man named Jacob Healy, a young ruffian in blue jeans and a black jacket, and Jacob held in is arm the bejeweled City Sceptre, the most valuable object in all of Cityville. Jacob turned a corner and ran down an alley. It opened up and on one side there was vacant lot fenced with chain-link. Jacob splashed lithely through the puddles of muddy rain water, his free hand pressing against the fence with every other step, making a tinny rhythm. As Cobraman turned the corner into the alleyway he slipped in the mud and slid onto his back, covering his green and yellow uniform in a wash of dirt and old cigarette butts; his green plastic helmut cracked as his head hit the uneven asphalt. Jacob paused, looked back, and laughed, before grabbing the top rail of the fence, vaulted over and landed in the overgrown grass with the grace of an underage Olympic gymnast on performance enhancing drugs.

Cobraman groaned and got up unsteadily. He wanted badly to wring out his soaking cape (it was so less photogenic when it clung to his back instead of fluttering out behind him), but he gave chase once more. He rain up to the fence and tried to scale it, but after three failed attempts he stood a few paces back, held up his arms, and turned on his entropic destructor beams. He aimed his arms so that the beams crossed precisely at the fence. In a second the chain-link wire was unraveling itself into the air and peeling back to the sides, forming a hole a few feet wide and tall. He quickly ducked through, but his cape caught on the loose wire. He pulled and it torn, and Cobraman swore under his breath, while looking to see if there were any stray school children about (there were none).

Jacob was already at the other side of the grass lot and headed for a parking lot with a patch of cars. He looked back briefly then started to weave through the cars.

"Stop! Or you will face dire consequences!" yelled Cobraman.

"I don't think so!" taunted Jacob.

"Damnit!" hissed Cobraman, He stopped and aimed his arms at the cars, and turned on the beams. He was running but still a fair distance away from Jacob so he dialed up the power to it's highest setting (eleven). The force of the beams slowed him down, and his arms vibrated with the intense pressure. The beams landed all over the place--cars were unmaking themselves, lug nuts unscrewed themselves and flew towards Cobraman. Tires popped and melted into pools of unrefined rubber. Windows and windshields popped out whole, and paint peeled up in a dust of microscopic droplets before dropping to the ground. Metal doors and panels peeled away and formed flat sheets of steel that clattered to the ground.

"I'm still here!" yelled Jacob from behind a flurry of paint. Cobraman roared in disgust, turned off the beams and ran as fast as he could toward the sound of the voice. He leapt over a partially deconstructed car and slipped again, in a pool of crude oil that had just escaped the confines of a former gas tank. His whole left side was covered in the gunky dark brown sludge. Jacob peered at him from behind the hood of a still-intact SUV.

"Do you need some help there?" he asked.

"Arrrgh!" said Cobraman, inarticulately, through gritted teeth.

"I guess not." Jacob disappeared, his footfalls heading towards another alleyway. Cobraman picked himself up and followed. Jacob was walking slowly, looking back at Cobraman. He waved the City Sceptre, then lurched into the alley. Cobraman ran after him. In the alley, Jacob was bent over tying a shoe. Cobraman grabbed him by neck and slammed him into a brick wall. The sceptre clattered to the ground as Jacob, choking flailed his arms and legs.

"I've got you now!" said Cobraman triumphantly. "You shall not escape justice!" Cobraman pressed in, his mask inches from Jacob's face, and he said, "and I assure you, I will see personally--" Jacob punched him in the jaw, then again in the eye, under the brow the mask. Shocked, Cobraman released his grip and staggered backward. Jacob dropped to the ground and clutched his throat.

"Jeez man," Jacob coughed, "you're laying the act on a little thick!" He scrambled and picked up the sceptre and ran to the other end of the alley and into a crowd gathered for Cityville's Founders Day parade.

"You can't hit me!" screamed Cobraman after him.

Cobraman raised up his arms, roared in rage, and turned the beam against the buildings on his left and right. Bricks unlocked themselves from mortar and rained down in a hail mud. The mortar turned to wet goop and spattered down after. Parts of the buildings' interiors were exposed, and from the second story of one of the buildings a man sitting on a toilet exclaimed "Hey!" and covered himself with a newspaper. The back of the crowd turned to see what was going on and several people screamed in fright.

He turned off the beams and ran assuredly towards the crowd. It parted, exposing a passing parade float. Miss Cityville of that current year rode atop it, waving and dancing in place. Dancing at her side was Jacob. He raised the sceptre into the air and twirled it antagonistically. Cobraman roared again and clenched his fists in the air. Jacob dipped Miss Cityville and kissed her passionately. Cobraman aimed his beams at the float, first cutting across many members of the crowd who unaged to varying degrees. Most of them screamed and clutched their faces since the pain of this process, applied to a living being, was excruciating. Their clothes came unsewn and unraveled into piles of thread at their feet.

Jacob jumped off the float and headed down another alley on the opposite side. When the beams hit the float a flurry of tissue paper flowers unglued themselves, flew up in the air, unfolded, and formed sheet of paper that lazily descended into the crowd. The plywood underneath unscrewed itself, the laminate layers unglued, and the sheets disintegrated into sawdust. The car underneath peeled itself into metal sheets and the float came to a stop. The beams hit Miss Cityville as well. She ungrew by a foot, her long hair retreated into her head until she was bald and she tried to cover her nakedness with her satin sash, which miraculously, had been spared. Cobraman turned off the beams and clambered over the wreck.

"Damn you Cobraman!" Miss Cityville shook her fist at him as he passed. The rest of the crowd jeered at him, but too afraid of his entropic destructor beams, they gave him plenty of space.

When Cobraman reached the next alley, Jacob was nowhere in sight. He walked cautiously down the alley, and checked a dumpster to see if Jacob was hiding within. At the end of the alley and turned to see Jacob talking to an older man next to one of the back doors to City Hall. Jacob handed the sceptre to the man and the man passed an envelope back to Jacob. Jacob stepped back, and Cobraman saw the face of the older man. It was the mayor. Cobraman could not believe his eyes. His idol, his ally, his friend from kindergarten was somehow involved in this nefarious caper.

"Mayor!" yelled out Cobraman. "What are you doing?" he walked towards the pair, perplexed.

"Ugh," said the mayor, glancing at Jacob, "haha, well, this is embarrassing."

"What in the name of Cityville is going on here?"

"This isn't what it looks like," said the Mayor sheepishly.

"I don't know what this looks like, Mayor. You tell me," said Cobraman, stopping a few feet from the pair, and placing his hands on his hips.

"Oh just tell him, will ya?" said Jacob to the Mayor. "This is getting beyond ridi--"

"Silence!!" bellowed Cobraman.

"Look Danny, take it down a notch, okay!" said the Mayor. Cobraman's mouth went agape, and he looked hurt.

"How dare you!"

"What? No. Calm down--"

"How dare you reveal my identity!" screamed Cobraman.

"Dude!" said Jacob, "Everyone knows who you are!"

"That's not the point," said Cobraman quickly. "We had a covenant." Cobraman's voice deepened. "And you just broke it."

"Ah jeez--" Cobraman pointed his arms at the Mayor. The Mayor lifted up the sceptre to shield his face, and the beams exploded it--the jewels popped out, uncut themselves and burrowed their way into the ground. The platinum cladding unattached itself from the steel core and formed a haze of metal atoms in a cloud of crackling electricity. The mayor screamed in pain from the shocks and dropped the core to the ground where it soon reformed itself into a simple molten rod that glowed orange.

The beams turned off momentarily to recycle, and Jacob took the opportunity to kick Cobraman solidly in the groin. Cobraman fell over and curled up intoa ball, whimpering. The Mayor and Jacob each took hold of one of Cobraman's arms and ripped off the entropic destructor beam cuffs. Jacob punched Cobraman in the face again to make sure he was immobilized.

"Why?!" whined Cobraman.

"I didn't want to end this way," said the Mayor.

"End?" asked Cobraman, tears welling up in his eyes. "What do you mean?"

"Danny, I don't know how to say this," the mayor sighed, "but you're an absolutely abysmal superhero. We staged the theft of the sceptre, which is a fake, so that you would cause just enough mayhem that the public would turn against you."

"But I've fought so much crime and injustice!"

"There's not enough crime in this town for the police to fight! We've been rated one of the most livable cities in the nation for the past decade!"

"But I've helped those who cannot be helped--"

"The most you've ever done is ungrow a tree to a sapling to free a kitten. And it was a cat that went up the tree!"

"I still saved it's life!"

"The little girl who owned it burst into tears. The family made the city pay for her therapy sessions." The Mayor laid his hand on Cobraman's shoulder. He leaned in and put on his most pseudo-empathic, campaign trail face. "Danny, most of the time you just strut around town in your costume. It's time to put it away."

"But we're a team!"

"No, we're not Danny. I-I made a mistake letting you think that for so long. I'm sorry."

Cobraman pulled his knees up to his chest and sobbed raggedly.

"That's just sad," said Jacob.

"I can't believe you're doing this to me," said Cobraman. "What will I do if I can't be Cobraman?"

"Dude," said Jacob, "You invented these cuffs. How, I have no idea, but you could make millions from this technology. Why don't you just be an inventor?"

"But I did it so I could help people!"

"Yeah," said Jacob, "but you could apply this in some more practical way. I mean, you could use it to clear landmines in a war zone or something. Just strafe the ground and they would pop up and unassemble themselves harmlessly."

"Yes! Exactly," affirmed the Mayor. "You would genuinely be saving lives and righting wrongs."

Cobraman furrowed his brows.

"Come on, what do you say?" asked the Mayor, nudging Cobraman's shoulder.

"Well I don't know. Would I still be able to wear the uniform?" he said. The Mayor and Jacob looked at each other in surprise and exasperation.

"Yeah, I guess you could wear the suit," said Jacob. Cobraman slowly nodded his head.

"Yeah, okay. I'll do it!" he awkwardly got up, and the Mayor shook his hand.

"Fantastic!" said the Mayor. "Let's go inside and figure out the details." He opened the door and motioned Cobraman through. "Thank you Jacob."

"My uh, pleasure sir," said Jacob.

"Was Miss Cityville really naked?" asked the Mayor. Jacob nodded. "Huh. I guess I can't count on her vote in the next election."


The official music video for the song

8/365 Playlist Story -- inspired by Days of Decadence by Obi Best

A man and a woman sat at the counter. The counter stretched out into the dark end of the restaurant. Behind the pair the wide windows, steamed up from the intense summer night rain humidity looked out onto an empty wet street. Beads of condensation connected and snaked lazily down the glass. Outside a blue crosswalk man blinked out to an orange hand. Numbers counted down. The light was blurred and fragment on it's way in. The proprietor busied himself in the back. Dishes clinked. Water ran.

The woman shifted on her stool. She adjusted her powder blur taffeta dress; ran her fingers under the string of pearls on her neck. She furtively glanced over at the man to her right. He was dressed in a slightly rumpled navy suit with a white shirt and a black tie. Her mink stole fell a few inches off her shoulder. She picked up her spoon and stirred her coffee, watching cream swirl into tan.

The man tapped the counter with his lighter, and stared into his steaming white cup of black coffee. The woman put the spoon down, picked up her cup and blew gently on the beverage. She looked again at the man out of the corner of her eye. She took a miniscule sip and placed the cup back in its saucer. She opened her outfit-matching clutch and fished out a slender stick of tobacco.

"Could you light me up?" she asked the man, in a voice barely above a hush. He looked over at her and chuckled.

"Sure, lady," he said. He flicked his lighter alight and leaned over to her cigarette. She put it in her mouth and bowed down, her eyes on him. She breathed in.

"Thanks," she said. He grunted and turned back to his coffee. She took a couple of drags, and spun her body slightly on the stool to face him. "It's a hot night."

"Yes it is," he said, not looking at her.

"I wonder why we both are having hot coffee," she said. He said nothing. "I wonder if we've lost our senses." Again he did not speak. "What do you think?" After a moment he turned his head to face her.

"If you're trying to initiate a conversation, why don't you get to the point?"

"You're rather blunt, aren't you?"

"What is it that you want?"

"Who said I wanted anything?" She raised an eyebrow and smiled out of the corner of her mouth.

"I wouldn't know," he said, turning back to his coffee.

"You intrigue me," she said. She picked up her coffee cup and took a sip.

"Really," he said.


"Why is that?"

"People out at three in the morning always have interesting stories to tell," she said.

"I can imagine why you're out at three in the morning," he said.

"You'd be wrong," she said, taking another sip. "I'm not that kind of lady." He looked over at her, sizing her up.

"I bet you can't guess why I'm here," he said.

"There could be any number of reasons," she said, smiling at him. "You've been in that suit for awhile, that's easy to tell. Maybe not more than a full day though. You were tapping on the counter--"

"Was I?" He quickly pocketed the lighter.

"Yes, you were. You were deep in thought. Something is troubling you, but you can't immediately solve the problem. You don't have all the pieces of the puzzle yet."

"That's rather vague," he said.

"You're drinking your coffee black. That means you're straightforward. You abhor people who beat around the bush," she laughed lightly, "probably people like me." She smiled, then looked down at his hands. She reached over and picked up his left hand, and turned it over to look at the palm. He did not resist.

"What, are you a fortune teller as well?" he asked.

"Not exactly," she said. She brushed her hands over his. He closed his palms gently, caressing the tips of her fingers as they retreated back to her person. He smiled at her.

"You work in an office. At least until recently. You may have had a manicure recently. You make a considerable amount of money, but you're still just a salary man."


"Am a close?"

"You're warm."

"I am, but as I said, I'm not that kind of woman," she said, smiling.

"Is that it? You haven't guessed why I'm here right now," he said. She looked at him for a moment, before turning back to her coffee. "Well?"

"I think you killed someone earlier today," she said. He stopped smiling and looked a little gray. He quickly forced a smile.

"And would that bother you?" he asked.

"It depends on who you killed and why." She smiled at him. "I think you've been wanting to kill this person for awhile. You've lost sleep over it. It was someone you were jealous of. You finally worked up the courage to do it today. All your plans came together. You strangled this person. And it was the perfect crime. No one would suspect that it was you."

"How could you possibly--that's so specific--" he sputtered.

"I am right, aren't I?" she said. The man looked over his shoulder out into the empty street, then he leaned over the counter to see what the owner was doing, and make sure that he wasn't listening. He turned back to the woman and grabbed her wrist violently.

"How do you know?!" he hissed.

"I don't plan on telling anyone," she said. She rested her other hand on top of his, and carefully peeled his hand off her wrist. The man went slack on his stool.

"It's not true. I uh, was just joking with you," he said.

"Of course," she said. She opened her clutch and took out two dollar bills, placing them on the counter. She took out a business card and slid it over to his coffee cup. "Let me know if you need to make another appointment." She got up from the stool and walked to the glass door.

"Huh?" he said, as she disappeared out into the night. He turned over the card to read "Death. 555-5555. Bulk discounts."


I can't find a video for the song, but the song made me think of the painting Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

7/365 Playlist story -- inspired by "Easier" by Grizzly Bear

The black shiny casket sat above a strip of plastic grass. The man inside was wearing his favorite jeans and and a Who concert t-shirt. A little girl dressed in a pink tutu and a plastic tiara looked at the casket from the vantage of her mother's arms. She imagined the man inside to be sleeping, and remembered once crawling into his lap. He put his arm instinctively around her as he laughed with the other adults at a barbecue. She remembered the feel of his hand on her shoulder, and how warm he felt.

When the mother looked at the casket, she saw the man who held her banana-seat bike as she took her first ride without training wheels. She remembered crashing into gravel, scraping her knees and knocking out her front two teeth. She remembered him scooping her up, apologizing, searching for her teeth in the dirt, and buckling her into the back seat of the Chevy to drive to the hospital.

Next to the mother was an older woman with a smile on her face, and tears in her eyes. She remembered the man running naked, with boots on, singing "I Wanna Hold your Hand", before they both plunged into the lake at Big Bear. When they surfaced he said, "Let's get married!" And so they did.

Standing next to the older woman was an man of the same age, his face drawn and gray. When he looked at the casket he saw the man pulling him from the flaming car. He remembered the man's muscular arm dragging him back up from the ditch, gently placing him on the ground, then running to the road, jumping and screaming to flag down help.

Next to the man was a very elderly woman. When she looked at the casket she remembered the day she found out she was pregnant. She remembered crouching under the stairs as the bombs fell. She remembered the bricks that cut through her mother as their flat exploded. She remembered the electric feeling in her hand as she clutched her abdomen, hoping just to get through the next few seconds. She walked over the casket, and caressed it's surface with her gloved hand, and silently thanked her son for being the man he was.


Here's fan music video for the song

6/365 Playlist Story -- inspired by Shine a Light by Wolf Parade

Hugh slowly turned the large steering wheel. He loved that turning the wheel involved using his back muscles. It reminded him of his days working at the mine where he drove comically massive dump trucks all day, happily hauling up the Earth's innards to be sorted for zinc. He started to whistle a tune as he merged into freeway traffic.

"Oh please stop that," said his wife Marge, rubbing her forehead.

"What I can't whistle?"

"I can't stand that tune," she said, fussing with the maps and other accumulus on the dashboard. This was their nineteenth consecutive month on the road so the dashboard was quite full.

"I whistled that tune the day we got married and you didn't say anything then," said Hugh.

"That's because you haven't been whistling anything but that tune since then!" exclaimed Marge. Hugh looked slightly crestfallen. "Look I'm sorry honey," she said, "I'm just in an 'off' mood."

"What's bothering you? The weather is nice, we're off to an early start, and the kid at McDonald's undercharged us for breakfast. This has all the makings of a very auspicious day."

"It's not that. I was just thinking about the Jones' last night," said Marge.

"I thought you had a good time with them?"

"It was fine, and Caroline is just delightful, although she does go on a bit about Abbysinian cats," Marge lost herself in thought momentarily then continued, "It was something that Nick said. I didn't think much of it at the time, but it's been eating at me."

"What was it?" asked Hugh. "I don't remember anything in particular. He didn't hit on you, did he?"

"Oh gosh no Hugh," Marge tittered. "No, he said to you, 'I'm surprised you've gotten so much mileage out of that old thing.'"

"That's it?" Hugh looked over at her, slightly confused, then he said, "how is that offensive? This bucket of bolts is going to have it's sixteenth birthday soon. Compared to that model the Jones' drive, it's pretty ancient. Maybe it was mildly rude of him to point it out, but it's hardly anything to get worked up about."

"Honey, I don't think he was talking about the Winnebago," said Marge.

"What else could have he been talking about?"

"I think he meant me!"

"That's ludicrous!" Hugh looked over at her and started to laugh. "You're kidding right?"

"It was the way that he said it! And it was hard to tell in the campfire light, but I think he nodded in my direction as he said it!"

"Oh come on. Nick can be a bit of a jackass, but I really don't think he was talking about you. Don't worry about it honey." Hugh reached over to his wife and patted her arm. She folded hers and nodded affirmation to him.

They drove in relative silence for a few miles, ten miles under the posted speed limit. Hugh's cell phone rang.

"Can you get that dear?" asked Hugh. Marge dug under a layer of pamphlets for Carhenge, the Booger Hollow Trading Post, and the Cross Island Chapel to retrieve the phone. She looked at the caller name.

"Oh it's him," she said, appalled.

"Who, Nick?"

"Yes. I don't want to talk to him." She shoved the phone in his direction.

"Honey I'm driving!" Just then they heard a rapid burst of honking to the left. Hugh looked out the window. It was the Jones' shiny new Winnebago. Caroline waved vacantly from the passenger seat. "It's them! Maybe they're trying to tell us something. Answer the phone."

"Oh all right, but we'd better be burning oil or something! Hello?" Marge listened, then screwed up her face in consternation. "What! Well I....HOW DARE YOU!" She slammed the phone closed and dropped it with revulsion back on the dashboard.

"What?! What did he say?"

"I don't want to repeat what he said. Nick, is a very bad man."

"Dear, you must be making a mountain out of a molehill." Hugh looked back out the window. "Why aren't they passing? They're going to get creamed if they stay on that side." Caroline waved again, but this time Nick leaned over (his Winnebago swerved a bit) and held up his middle finger to Hugh.

"What the...?!" said Hugh. Then the Jones' peeled off ahead of Marge and Hugh. "What has gotten into him? He's acting like an idiot! What could he have possibly said to you?"

"I said I didn't want to repeat it. You're just going to get very angry."

"I'm not going to get angry Marge, I promise."

"I know you dear, you will get angry," said Marge. hugh sighed deeply.

"I promise, I swear. Now please tell me."

"I think it would be best to just drop it, Hugh." Marge reached over and fiddled with the radio, attempting to get an acceptable local station. Hugh was silent as he watched the back of the Jones' van recede. It had a collection of magnetic states attached. They were missing Alaska, Michigan, and South Dakota.

"Come on honey, I'm just curious," pleaded Hugh. Marge sighed and looked off in the distance. "Look, how about I do the water and sewage connections for the next month if you tell me?" Marge sighed again. "And the cooking. And washing the RV?"

"I don't care how many times you ask me, I'm not going to tell you."

"Fine," said Hugh. He started to slowly whistle his tune. Marge turned the radio up. It was a local preacher talking cryptically about various Bible passages. Hugh whistled louder and faster. Marge turned to a top-twenty station blasting out whatever it was that teenagers currently found appealing (and sounded to her as if large metal robots were trying to reproduce themselves organically). Hugh switched from whistling to a na-na-na vocalization.

"Okay stop! I'll tell you!" said Marge. Hugh laughed out and grinned. Marge sighed and looked up and the ceiling fabric. She leaned over and whispered in his ear. Hugh's grin slowly turned impassive, then all the muscles in his face tensed up. He wrung his hands around the steering wheel as if he was killing a rattlesnake manually.

"What!" he exclaimed when she was done.

"I know!" she said.

"How DARE he!" said Hugh.

"Exactly!" said Marge. "But honey, just let it go. There's nothing we can do about it."

"Like hell we can't!"

"Hugh no! You promised!"

"I know Marge," Hugh looked conflicted, "but it's just wrong to let him get away with that!" Hugh unclicked the cruise control and pressed down on the gas pedal.

"Nooooo Hugh!"

"Yeeees!" There was a manic glint in Hugh's eyes. They raced well past the speed limit and caught up to the Jones' Winnebago in less than a minute. Hugh honked frantically. The Jones' sped up, and Hugh matched them, then he rammed the back of their Winnebago. Arkansas and California fell off and landed on the hood of their own vehicle. Marge screamed. Nick swerved then sped up even more. They were both going well over 100 miles an hour. They could feel every bump in the road and every stray bit of gravel. Hugh swerved to the left, into the oncoming lane--there was a semi truck approaching. Marge screamed again and clutched her door and the dashboard. Hugh swerved back into the right lane. Nick suddenly hit the brakes and they hit again but didn't stop. The airbags deployed then deflated. Nick sped up again. When the semi passed, Hugh swung wildly out into the left lane again. Marge was pressed against her door. They sped up and Hugh swerved into the Jones', broadsiding them, then swerved back. Another semi was in view. Nick swerved back at Hugh in another broadside. Marge screamed until she was out of breath. The Semi flashed it's lights frantically, honked continuously in a droned, but Hugh paid no attention to it. Marge pointed, at it, her eyes enormous, but could manage no words. Hugh turned directly into Nick, and forced the Jones' off into the corrugated shoulder. One of their tires blew out and their Winnebago rolled over on to it's side, skidding forward, leaving a hot trail of sparks.

Hugh looked over with satisfaction, and slowed slightly to match the speed of the Jones' mangled RV, but it wasn't enough. The semi impacted on Hugh's side. Their Winnebago suddenly rotated to the left but continued to move in it's previous direction. The semi peeled off the left side wall of the RV like it was opening a can of sardines. Hugh was ripped out of his seat and disappeared into the violent mix of metal. The dashboard accumulus battered Marge, followed by shards of the windshield. The RV spun three more rotations before it toppled over and skidded to a rest at the 101 mile marker.

Twenty minutes later, Marge was retrieved from the wreck by a crew of paramedics. She was breathing and alert, and suffered only bruises, cuts, and a broken arm. She asked about her husband, but they only told her to stay calm and not worry. She was escorted into a ambulance, next to Caroline who was on a stretch with a neck brace.

"I'm so sorry," said Caroline, "I told him not to say that to you, but he wouldn't listen."

"No, it was my fault for telling Hugh." Marge reached out and grasped Caroline's hand and squeezed. "Nothing can be done about it now."

"Let's never speak of this again," said Caroline.

"Agreed," said Marge.


Apparently this is a fan-made official music video for this song

Saturday, April 23, 2011

5/365 Playlist Story -- inspired by When We Fall by Phosphorescent

Miss Elizabeth Smith adjusted the buttons on her dress. She patted her neat, practical skirt releasing a billow of fine dust. It was everywhere. It was from the road, and the hills behind the town; it swept in with each breeze, it covered windows and fresh laundry and food just laid out for supper. It was always in your teeth and nose and eyes. It swirled in just-drawn well water.

Elizabeth decided to finally cross the road. A loose horse wandered across her path, with bridle and saddle, and with reigns dragging up yet more dust. It's owner was sleeping a few feet away, besotted drunk and snoring in a dry water trough. Elizabeth found a small sense of self-satisfaction when she thought of him waking up to find himself rather badly sunburnt from his lengthy midday nap. There was no other traffic. She headed towards the tinny player piano music coming from the saloon. When she reached the boards her smart leather boots echoed like a ticking grandfather clock in an empty room just after midnight. She stopped at the swinging doors, stood in silhouette. Shrill and deep voices laughed out from within. She pushed in.

It took a moment for anyone to realize she was there.

"Ahem," she said. She wasn't sure how to address the saloon occupants, and they paid her no heed in any case, so she settled on "Dear neighbors," again no one looked her way, so louder she said, "Dear neighbors!" but found no response. Finally she put fingers to her lips and whistled as loudly as she could, as if she were summoning the pigs to their slop back at the farm in Liberty.

Everyone looked her way. There was the Reverend Stokes, red-faced and slumped at the bar, who looked up at her blearily, licked his lips, and wiped his grubby fingers on his severely stained shirt. The barman who stood beneath a large painting of two very naked and very well-endowed women lounging an a capacious divan, glared at her and narrowed his steely eyes. Elizabeth did not know his name, but he was an imposing, muscular fellow with an impressive handlebar mustache. There was a card game in progress at a felt covered table. The players were mostly shady-looking passers-through that Elizabeth did not recognize. The dealer was the man who ran the general store, a Mr. Pike, if that was his real name, and he was known to shamelessly cheat passers-through, whether through cards, buying their goods at dirt-bottom prices, or selling them goods at exorbitant rates that fluctuated with the perceived gullibility of the particular passer-through. He even took bets from the other townsfolk on how gullible the strangers were, and won most of them. There was Nell, a prostitute, who had failed to dress beyond her dusty underthings who stood close behind one of the card players, giving hand signals to Mr. Pike. She took a puff on her large cigar, then put her hands on her hips and smirked condescendingly at Elizabeth. There was also Amy, another prostitute who sat at the player piano, at least clothed in a gaudy pink satin dress. She had a sour look on her face, as if her focus had been severely inopportuned upon, even if all she did (at least in the saloon) was crank the piano. She laid her hands on the paper roll in the piano and stopped it's cylindrical progress. The music slowly died out. Reverend Stokes hiccupped. Elizabeth could hear the barman's pocket watch ticking. A bird cried out ominously in the distance.

"Looky here! It's our school marm! Miss Betsy!" belched out Reverend Stokes. Nell and Mr. Pike guffawed. "To what, ma'am, do we owe the honor of your presence in this fine establish-establish-establishm--this saloon?" He looked at her with a sickly grin on his face. The barman crossed his arms, flexed his chest muscles, and looked at her expectantly.

"It's Miss Smith, Reverend, sir. I would thank you to remember it," said Elizabeth.

"Betsy, Betsy, Betsy!" taunted Nell before laughing shrilling once more.

"Oh my dear, Miss Smith, please forgive me," said the Reverend, managing a tottering bow from his seat.

"Why are you here?" asked the barman impatiently, in baritone hiss so deep that Elizabeth could feel it tickle her jawbone. It was disconcerting.

"Well, to get to the point," she wavered, hesitated, and started sweating. She continued with, "dear neighbors, I've come to ask for your support for building the schoolhouse."

"Ain't you just did that at church?" asked Amy. This particular selection and order of words grated against Elizabeth's brain, sending a shiver down her spine.

"Well, since no one actually comes to church that's been rather difficult to do," said Elizabeth, uncomfortable and exasperated. "Not even the Reverend." She looked over at him with raised eyebrows.

"Yeah," said Nell, "he's usually under the sheets with fat Maggie on Sunday mornings!" Nell and Mr. Pike guffawed again.

"It's true!" said Reverend Stokes, giggling. He clapped his hands together and gazed upward, suddenly solemn. "Yes, Lord, I have sinned," he looked back at Elizabeth with a grin, "but damn has it been worth it!" Laughter peeled out of the saloon again.

"Well, be that as it may, the children deserve to have a proper place in which to learn--"

"What's wrong with the drawing room at our cathouse?" asked Amy.

"It's not appropriate, what with, uh, gentlemen coming in and out," there was a spattering of giggles throughout the room, "at all hours of night and day. Honestly I don't even know how any of them get a full night's rest with all the constant commotion."

"What do you care about those brats? We just pay you to teach 'em to read and write and count. What does it matter where you teach 'em?" asked Mr. Pike.

"They are my pupils Mr. Pike, and I care very deeply about them. They are also this town's children, even if no one is willing to officially claim them. They are the future of this town and you too should care about their intellectual development."

Nell laughed out again. "Miss Betsy, dearest dear, perhaps you don't realize the future of this town. It's always gonna be a dust-clogged little pimple of civilization. Those little girls will be working the beds, and those little boys will being buying up their hours, just as we all do now. You're delusional if you thinks it's gonna be any other way." She took another puff on her cigar. "And I'm a little insulted that you would think this isn't a perfectly fine way to live."

"Yeah," seconded Amy. "We ain't hurting nobody. We ain't even breaking the law!"

"Well," said Elizabeth, shaking with anger, "I don't wish to disrespect your perspective, or your, uh, profession. However, I'm sure if you gave the children more time and opportunity, and a proper place to study you would see them blossom into--" She was drowned out by laughter. When it died down, Mr. Pike spoke.

"I tell you what, Miss Smith, I will pay for the cost of the construction of a schoolhouse, if," he paused, "you accept and win a wager of my choice, sight unseen."

"Ooh," said Nell, "this should be good!"

"Mr. Pike, What is your wager?"

"Oh no, you have to agree to it before I tell you what it is."

"That's not fair at all sir!"

"I promise, it won't be so bad, and if you lose, you will come to no physical harm," said Mr. Pike. Nell laughed out again. "And it won't be that, I promise. I would never want to be the one responsible for the ruination of your virtue," everyone laughed again, except of course Elizabeth.

"I don't trust you," she said.

"Well, think of it this way, Miss Smith, you have the chance to pay for your schoolhouse without having to ever bother any of us about it again," he said. Elizabeth thought a moment. Her stomach flopped over.

"Alright Mr. Pike, I accept your wager, whatever it is, and I will hold you to each of your promises." A cheer went through the room.

"Excellent choice Miss Smith. All we need do is flip a coin. If it's tails, you win. If it's heads, you have to disrobe, and stand naked in the middle of this table for one full hour while we finish our game." Everyone laughed again.

"An hour's not bad," said Reverend Stokes, undressing Elizabeth with his eyes.

"And it ain't nothing we've never seen before!" guffawed Nell. More laughter.

"Fine. If it's for the children," said Elizabeth. Mr. Pike withdrew a coin from his pocket.

"Wait!" bellowed the barman in baritone. Everyone turned to look at him as he stepped from behind the bar. "I happen to know you have a two-headed nickel," he rasped. He walked over to the table and slapped down a silver dollar. "Use this instead." He turned to Elizabeth and winked.

"Hey!" said one of the passers-through, slapping down his hand of cards in indignation.

"I assure you sir, I have never cheated you!" said Mr. Pike, carefully replacing the nickel to it's usual resting spot in his vest pocket. The passer-through lunged at Mr. Pike while simultaneously and expertly drawing his gun and pointing it against Mr. Pike's temple. The other men at the table all stood up, and Nell retreated to the relative safety of the piano. The passer-through ripped the nickel from Mr. Pike's pocket and examined it, before throwing it down on the table.

"It does have two heads! I want my twenty dollars back!"

"Sir, please, I assure you--"

"No! I am not satisfied. You're going to give me my money back, and you're going to let the little Miss flip that dollar, and you're going to honor the outcome, or me and my brothers will be back with a rope just long enough to hang you! We're just in the next county so we ain't got long to ride to come find you again!"

"Sir please! You're getting spittle on my shirt!"

"Miss, come flip it!" yelled the passer-through. Elizabeth approached with trepidation. She picked up the coin from the felt, and examined it to make sure that this one possessed both a head and a tail. She looked around at all the faces in the room, and they all looked back at her expectantly.

"I will hold you to your word as well Mr. Pike," she said.

"Okay," grunted Mr. Pike reluctantly. "Let's just get this over with. This gun barrel is itching at me." Elizabeth placed the coin over her thumb and flicked it tumbling upward. All eyes followed it up, then down. Elizabeth looked at the result impassively.

"So, what is it?" asked Amy.

"Tails," said the barman as he picked up his dollar. A grin broke over Elizabeth's face. The passer-through released Mr. Pike, throwing him to the ground. "I think it'd be best if you left now Miss."

"I think so too," said Elizabeth. "And thank you for helping me sir."

"Yeah, I don't like him either. It was fun to see him wriggle like the worm he is." The barman laughed deeply. Elizbeth nodded to him, and left the saloon. As she walked back to the cathouse and her waiting charges, the player piano started up again, dust eddied in the air, and all was as it was before.


Someone's rather happy dog video, employing this song

Friday, April 22, 2011

4/365 Playlist Story -- inspired by Shut Up and Let Me Go by the Ting Tings

At three in the afternoon, local time, a text message was sent out. It was time. Feet confidently marched into the square with the statue of a long-forgotten revolutionary hero. Car horns honked, traffic stopped. The marchers silently formed ranks before departing down the main boulevard. More people kept joining in from side streets. People left their cars, doors ajar, to join. They emptied out of classrooms, and left their partly-filled carts in the grocery store. More came from offices. They left meetings mid-meeting, abrupt, silent.

Few of those who stood side-by-side had ever met before. A mother with a child in her arms marched next to a shoeless teenage boy who marched next to a professor of anthropology who marched next to a prostitute who marched next to a bank teller who marched next to a sweaty sanitation worker. Nor had the ever met the originator of the communications that brought them together.

By three-fifteen the procession had grown to over two hundred thousand individuals, marching in near perfect rythme towards the state party television station. It was currently broadcasting a rerun of a rigged singing competition episode. Without sound, without command, the ranks split and half peeled off towards a side-street. The forward half stopped and marched in place. Their shoes, boots, and feet percussed additively against the cement boulevard. There was a resonance accumulating. Other people peered out the windows of the tall downtown buildings. The wails of approaching police vehicles ricocheted in from a waning distance.

Five minutes later they started to move forward again. The police reached the outer edges and streamed out of vans and trucks kitted in full riot gear and live ammunition. A chief figure scream epitets at that marchers through a megaphone. They kept marching. The police released a stream of submachine gun fire into the air. They kept marching. Someone watching from a high-up window laughed. The police threw canisters of tear gas into the marchers. White smoke billowed up and blanketed them. A child screamed in pain, but there were no other voices. Tears streamed from their eyes and many bowed their heads, faltering only slightly out of step. They linked arms and marched onward.

The second column of marchers were less hindered by the police and reached the back of the TV station before the forward group. They fanned out their ranks, and surrounded the building. They locked arms, and pressed themselves, three people deep, in a wreath around the building. The police chief commanded his forces to run towards the station. One line kneeled a few yards away from the second column of marchers, clear plastic shields erect. Behind them the chief ordered a second line to fire rubber bullets at the linked marchers.

The hail of large pellets arced through the air, cut skin, bruised flesh, and broke bone. There were stifled screams, but no voices. No insults, no cries for revenge. Another layer of marchers added themselves to the wreath, then another, to hold up the injured. Sweat formed at the chief's temples and his eyebrow twitched uncontrollably.

The forward marchers reached the back side of the police position. They altered their straight course to weave through the police vehicles. One of the policemen yelled frantically at the chief. The chief issue more orders through his megaphone. A second, ragged line of shields and kneeling officers formed. The police aimed their shotguns at the marchers. The canyon between the buildings filled with a cacophony of ear-splitting cracks. The first line of marchers mostly fell. Blood ran in the boulevard. The second line rapidly moved up to fill the empty spaces. Each of the injured was attended by someone who dropped from the third line. More cracks. More fell. More blood. Still no voices save the hoarse commands shared between the policemen. More spaces were filled and more injured tended. The line of shields unconsciously started to inch backward, each man behind the shields looking to one another for some sort of explanation.

The chief commanded fire for both sides. More marchers fell. Their replacements remained impassive, robotic. The chief ordered the shield lines to expand out, but the marchers met them, and pressed against the shields as if they didn't recognize that they were there. The shields stained with bloody handprints. The marchers pushed through, and the police no longer knew where to point their guns. Some of the marchers broke ranks and swarmed the chief. He emptied his handgun into the pressing bodies but they kept coming. Anger ripped over his face, red and sweaty. Saliva spun out from his mouth as he screamed ferally. He hit and kicked but the marchers grabbed his arms and legs and hoisted him above their heads. They pulled in every direction until he passed out. Then they dropped him in the blood of the fallen marchers. The police officers scattered or slinked out of the boulevard. Some shed their uniforms as they ran.

The TV station was breached ten minutes later. Silence was broadcast.


The music video for this song

Thursday, April 21, 2011

3/365 Playlist Story -- inspired by Postcards From Italy by Beirut

We were ripping out decrepit pre-war cabinets, sixty plus years of dust, food preparation grime, and critter debris freed from the interstitial spaces, exploding out, when fear washed over me. I looked over at Gabriel, sweating, yanking on a crowbar. He was focused, even contented to be doing the renovation. It was what I wanted, or what I thought I wanted. He was happy with the wonky house with temperamental plumbing and birds roosting freely in the attic. It was very much like the house he had grown up in not twenty miles away. Me? I liked the idea of living in rural France, but I wanted modern amenities, and modern clean design--stainless steel and cold white tile. Right angles and level floors. Most of all I didn't want my house to be a framework for an ecosystem.

I was always searching to have my environment conform to my own ideologies. Gabriel went along with my plans for the house simply because it made him happy to make me happy. I wish I could be happy just like that, just like him.

I wasn't shy of the home dust and exertion, or the change in surroundings that it heralded, but it was the age of the dust that bothered me. How many meals were cooked in this room? How many rainy afternoons were passed playing now vintage board games at the kitchen table? How many children were raised from mewling infancy, feeding at the highchair we found in the storage space, to adulthood, in this kitchen? Had they raised their own children here? I wonder if anyone ever died here, in this room, and if so, how long was it before the decaying body was discovered? We did get the house in an estate sale...

Gabriel noticed that I was just standing there.

"Êtes-vous fatigué?" he asked me if I was tired.

"No. I just think I need to get some fresh air," I said. I tried to push my thoughts to the back in my mind. Gabriel stood up straight and stretched and smiled broadly.

"Let's go outside. I could use a break too," he said. He rustled in his back pocket for his pack of cigarrettes (ah the French and their smoking...) We went outside. He put his arm around my shoulders and said something about the weather. It was drizzling a bit, still warm and humid. The rain had not fully settled in yet. We sat on the gray wooden bench next to the peeling kitchen door. We gazed out over the tall uncut grass, towards our neighbors' field of grape vines. A feral cat slinked around the corner of the house, and sat itself down, staring at us for a full minute before it turned its attention to throughly licking a paw. I guess we had blocked it's path. It must have been getting towards late afternoon, judging by the light. The sun was hidden somewhere behind the thick overcast, and I stopped wearing a watch long ago, so it was just a guess. Gabriel stretched out his legs as he finished his first cigarette. I figured there would be a couple more before we both felt obligated to get back to work.

"Que voulez-vous?" What are you thinking about, he said.

"Pas grand-chose," not much, I answered.

"I was just thinking of Kuta," he said. He looked over at me and smiled. That was where we first met. He was there for the surfing, and I was there because I thought it felt dangerous. Kuta's nightlife was famous and it had attracted a terrorist attack a few years previously. Gabriel and I were both natural wanderers, but where he sought out pleasure, I sought out some sense of residual danger. My vacation before Kuta was a tour of several of the former deathcamp sites in Poland, and the one after was in the West Bank (my family was always horrified with my choices). Nothing really bad has ever happened to me while traveling, but being in a place that's seen violence and cruelty and death and sadness, and then seeing it free of those things--there's a sort of ghost, the past permeates the present. You know that people are capable of terrible things, but someone, they mostly just want to live their lives, and follow a stable path.

"Remember that night we went dancing?" asked Gabriel.


"In that Irish pub, a few days after we met. You remember don't you?"

"I can't dance."

"I know," he said, chuckling. "It was fun to see you try though." He lit up another cigarette, then tried to call the cat over. The cat paused, tongue mid-lick, before it decided to ignore him, and resumed cleaning it's foot.

I leaned back against the house. It was so old, but it felt so solid. So stable. I briefly wondered if any Panzers had ever rolled down our street. Probably not. Gabriel had said that his grandparents talked about rationing and some local political infighting but apparently our area had escaped actual, physical war. The rain picked up a bit and started to bow the shafts of grass.

"Would you like to live here forever?" I asked. Gabriel thought a moment.

"As much as I would like to live anywhere forever, I will not. But I don't think that's what you're asking me," he said.

"No," I chuckled.

"It is nice here," he said, "but who knows." He looked over at me. "Was that the right answer?"

"It was satisfyingly vague enough," I said. He hugged me and kissed my forehead.

"Okay, enough deep thoughts," he said. "Let's leave the cabinets for now, and throw some paint on the walls. We can paint sunsets and graffiti, and badly drawn naked figures. We can be Picasso this afternoon. How does that sound?"

"That's sounds swell. And I think some of your father's wine." The fear receded away for another day.


The music video for this song

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

2/365 Playlist Flash Story -- inspired by Magnetic by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross from The Social Network soundtrack

There were whispers in the trench as night descended.

"They say we go over at midnight," said George as he licked a new cigarette closed and stuck it in the space where one of his front teeth used to be.

"Who's this 'they' then?" asked Billy. George shrugged and lit up. "No one ever says who 'they' is."

"I o'er 'eard it in the loo. It was some officer bloke. Fresh to the front he was," said George puffing his punctuation.

"They always are, ain't they," said Billy, looking at a worm wriggle free of the mud on the opposite trench wall. "They come in on a Monday and they're face down in the wire by Friday. They all come in thinkin' they's the one that can move the line a few inches. There's a reason why it's called a 'trench'."

"Poor saps."

"I don't have any sympathy for 'em. It's them types that start these bloody things in the first place. Educated aristocrats thinkin' they knows everything just 'cause they cracked open some book on the Peloponnesian War. Krauts couldn't kill enough of 'em if you ask me. Gimme a drag mate."

"No! I ain't got but the makings for five more and we don't know when the next supplies are comin' in."

"Where's your humanity George?"

"You want a smoke that bad go crawl up and pick one offa one of them cadavers."

"Go to hell mate."

"What? Ain't you looked around lately? We're already there." They both broke up into laughter. There was booming in the distance.

"I wonder when they're going to run out of metal to lob at us," said Billy.

"Probably by the time we get our next leave," said George and they laughed again. The officer du jour pushed past just then, slipping in the mud.

"You there!" said the officer.

"Yeah...sir," said Billy.

"You two sound like giggling school girls! That behavior is not--" The rest of his chastisement was cut off by the loud explosion of dirt a few yards into the razor wire. A decaying German body somersaulted into the trench and onto the officer, who screamed hysterically.

"And 'e's the one calling us school girls!" They both chortled loudly again, as the officer struggled to get free of the oozing, belching body.

"Help me!" yelled the officer.

"All right, all right." Billy and George pulled up the body, and the officer screamed again.

"It's breathing on me! Ugh, it's wretched!" he said.

"No 'e ain't. That's just the stomach gases. Wait 'til you see one pop out there," said Billy laughing.

"Pop goes the weasel!" George and Billy laughed again louder, as they shoved the body up out of the trench.

"Get it off me!" yelled the officer, frantically brushing his clothes.

"We did you daft git," said George.

"No! No, get them off me!" He held out his hand, which was covered in a dusting of green. George and Billy looked closer. The dust was moving.

"What is that?" asked George.

"It look's like spiders, baby spiders," said Billy. The officer retracted his hand. "They're harmless. That's a lot of them though."

"They're biting me!"

"Look at that," said Billy, pointing at the officer's chest. "They're glowing like fireflies!"

"So's they are..." said Billy. The officer screamed in pain and stumbled off in the direction he came, trying to tear his uniform off.

"Lookit that..." George pointed at the edge of the trench top. A wave of of the creatures was coming over. George stood up fully peeked over the top. A sickly glow streamed out of the place where the dirt was thrown up. Billy joined him. The Germans in the adjacent trench were peaking out at it as well.

"Was halten Sie es?" said one of them. Just then, the sky glowed green. George focused his gaze in the distance. There were large forms moving on the German side. One of them flashed green at the top, and a large projectile hurtled towards the German trench. Billy and George ducked. The German soldiers ran up into the razor wire before the projectile hit, but it did them no good. They were splayed out on the wire as lifeless as scarecrows, the glowing creatures spattered across their faces.

"The krauts have some new weapon, but the blighters can't aim it right!" said George.

"We got to get the 'ell out of 'ere," said Billy. They started to run down the trench. The ground began to shake. Men were jostling and trying to run in both directions. Germans were clambering into the Allied trench. A horse complete with a dead officer in the saddle fell into the trench right in front of Billy and George. It kicked and struggled to stand upright, spraying mud and grunting.

"We have to go over!" shouted George, pointing in the Allied direction. They climbed up and picked their way through the wire. There was less of it here than between the German and Allied trenches. When they reached the clear at the back of the front line, Billy turned around, instinctively waiting for German bullets to start whizzing by, but what Germans who weren't trying to run were shooting futilely at the hulking, towering machines. There were hundreds of them, spanning to each edge of the horizon, stomping surely on three tall spindly legs, shooting a projectile in unison on every third step.

"They're walking!" exclaimed Billy.

"Blimey," said George in a whisper, "those Germans are efficient."

"Es ist uns nicht!" shouted a passing German, shoving Billy and George to start running. They all ran as hard as they could towards a treeline but the machines blasted glowing holes obstructing their path, and within minutes the feet of the machines had reached them Several of the machines shot beams of light towards the trees, and they instantly ignited into fireballs. The heat blasted the men off their feet.

"We're trapped!" screamed Billy. George picked up his rifle and aimed it at one of the machines, which was nearly directly over him. Billy grabbed his pistol and aimed for the same spot on the machine's underbelly that George was sighting. It was easy to see because it glowed red and blinked. The German soldier saw them and immediately unholstered his gun and aimed for the spot as well.

"One..." said Billy.

"Two..." said George.

"Drei!" said the German, and they all fired at once. Metal connected to metal and the glowing spot exploded with a high-pitched screech. A second later the hulk of the machined blew up, sending shrapnel and glowing liquid towards the other nearby machines, leaving three stalky legs standing sentinel. The other machines immediately turned and fired on the offending three soldiers. They died instantly. They were the lucky ones.

Monday, April 18, 2011

1/365 Playlist Flash Story -- inspired by Animal by Miike Snow

There are times when my world is filled with darkness. It's then I go back to that time when I was kid, hyped up on high-fructose corn syrup and red #40, jumping on our backyard trampoline, the one with the rusty uncovered springs and spots of shed storage mildew eating away at that summermagical elastin, reaching for the sunbleached blue soaked sky, toes fiercely pointing away at parched grass and terracotta dust anthills, like they represented my citified future, asphalt ruts populated with little self-armored bodies on independent but repetitive, tireless paths, propelled by money and all too tangible, achievable goals, those things you want when you stop dreaming of your future life, your ideal adult you from your childhood eyes of long ago--and I was racing away, my arms pinwheeling slow motion, rocketing me airborn in a still frame of present, to a frozen bliss moment of ultimate childhood apogee. My heart's beating. I can hear it now, blood pounding in my ears. Pom Pom Pom. It's that moment that reassures me that I am not Animal. I am not darkness.


Here's the official music video of this song