Wednesday, November 30, 2011

220/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Alright" by Ledisi

In the middle of it all, the occupation, a series of of posters appeared on the old telephone poles around the city. Nita, under the cover of an intense rainstorm that occluded the view of the cameras, stopped briefly and looked at one of the posters. It was hand drawn and the ink was running.

People come and go.
Are you okay with that?

It was all it said. There was no call to arms like in the early days. It was just a question, yet somehow it nagged and wriggled. Nita wiped water from her face and quickly carried on. "Nothing to worry about," she said to herself. "Not my problem."

She arrived home and unloaded her coat pockets of food. You were only allowed to buy what you could carry on you at anyone time. It was a simple way of implementing rationing. She took off her coat and shook it out in the communal apartment hallway. Then she wiped the excess wet from her hair with her hands. She closed the door and went to the bedroom.

"Momma?" she asked. The figure on the bed was breathing slowly. "I'm home. You alright?"

Her mother smiled and opened her eyelids a crack.

"I'm fine for now," she said. "But as for alright...well I don't know."

"Don't start that again, please," said Nita.

"This isn't my world anymore," said her mother, "but it's still yours."

"Don't you talk like that Momma."

"They'll come for me soon enough."

"No, they won't. I won't let them. Uh-uh. No," said Nita. She straightened her mother's covers, smoothing her hands over her mother's frail legs.

"You can't just shut this out. I thought I raised you better than this."

Nita stood up straight, and brushed hair from her mother's face.

"Would you like a cup of tea? It's one of the few things we have a lot of, but if you prefer, we could split a teabag between us."

Nita's mother sighed heavily and looked at the ceiling. She closed her eyes and didn't reply.

"Fine," said Nita. She left the room and busied herself with preparing the evening meal in the kitchen.

As soon as she'd put the kettle on to boil there was a knock at the door. Nita instinctively squeezed the handle of the kettle as her heart jumped. The knock repeated harder. Nita wiped her hands on her pants and ran of for the door.

"Who is it?" she spoke through the thin veneered wood.

"The officials," said a deep voice. "Open up."

Nita unlocked the door and opened it a crack.

"What do you want?" she asked.

"Excuse me?" asked the man in a black and white uniform of the officials on the other side. He pushed the door wide open and stepped on Nita's foot. "We have reason to believe that you are harboring an elderly individual. If this is true you will be fined two year's salary."

"Please, I don't know what you've heard--"

"Do you or do you not harbor such a person?"


"It's alright," said Nita's mother. She stood in the doorway to the kitchen. "Let them take me."

"I can't--"

The official pushed Nita into the counter and she lost her breath with the impact.

"Stop!" said Nita's mother to the official. "What do you think you're doing?"

"I don't have to explain myself to you," said the official coldly to Nita's mother.

"Oh yes you do, you little twerp!" bellowed Nita's mother.

"Momma don't!"

"You should listen to your little spawn," laughed the official. "You--" he prodded a finger into the back of Nita's neck, "are going to get docked another year's salary."

"I haven't got a job!" yelled Nita. "Thanks to your party's asinine economic policies, so there!"

"In that case, and adding in an additional charge of wilful sedition, I'm going to liquidate all your assets and reassign your living quarters," said the official, leaning into Nita's ear. He jerked her upright. "I'll be back with the paperwork later."

He crossed over to Nita's mother and grabbed her by the elbow.

"Careful!" yelled Nita. "She has osteoporosis."

"What does it matter? This body is going to be recycled."

"Do you even know what that means?" asked Nita's mother. "Do you even know the type of society you're complicit in?"

"Not my problem," said the official.

"What happens when your replacements come for you one day? Aren't you're curious about being recycled? Don't you ever wonder what that actually means?"

The official snorted and adjusted his suit, but he didn't keep pulling Nita's mother to the door.

"You do wonder," said Nita's mother with a hint of a grin. "You wonder if all the stories are true. You wonder if what the party official tells us about it. How could we possibly have the technology to repair an elderly human body back to a pristine state of health. How can we wipe the brain clean and replace it's contents with those from another. And then you retell yourself the stories of the monsters that had been rewritten too many times. The story of the brains that ate themselves. You think about it and you wonder, don't you?"

"Yeah. So. Everyone wonders about it. Doesn't mean there's any reason to doubt the truth of it."

"You admit that?" whispered Nita.

"Fortunately that time will be a long time off."

"Maybe, but what you're hoping for, the best case scenario, that you will get rewritten back onto your old body time and again, that you won't have to share your body with others. You're wishing, not wondering."

The official stared at Nita's mother for a moment, he's eyes stationary, frozen, belying that his brain was locked in a loop. Then he snapped his gaze.

"Come on," he said, pulling Nita's mother.

"Momma!" said Nita.

"It's alright," she said. She winked at her daughter.

Nita pushed the official and hugged her mother as tightly as she dared.

"It's alright," her mother repeated.

"No, it's not," whispered Nita.

"Then fight girl. Fight, because your life depends on it. And don't miss me. Don't you ever miss me."

The official pushed them apart and dragged Nita's mother out the door. Nita trailed behind, but there were other officials in the hallway and they held her back. She watched her mother's retreating figure. Many of the neighbors had poked there heads out their doors, and Nita wondered which one had given them away.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

219/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Armory" by Daft Punk from the TRON: Legacy soundtrack

I was shown into an empty movie theater by a tall man who looked like he could be a bond villain's henchman. He actually wore black leather gloves and a scowl. He directed me to a row in the middle of the theater and motioned for me to take a seat and so I did. Then he left. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then a thin aging man came in. Well, he practically scampered in. He was smiling when he came up to me, his eyes crinkling in genuine delight (I was a bit put off by this enthusiasm), and offered his hand. I took it and shook.

"Thank you so much for agreeing to participate," he said.

"Yeah. So when do I get my twenty bucks? Before or after the show?"

"Oh, after of course. You have to sit through the whole thing, but don't worry, it's only fifteen minutes long."

I looked at my watch. It was three forty-five. When I got done with this, I'd have time to pick up a few groceries before heading home.

"Well when does it start?" I asked.

"In a minute or two. You will be here alone."

I remember nodding, and then he was gone--just disappeared. The room felt suddenly colder. I stood up, my skin goosing up.

"What the hell..." I'm sure I said.

The thin little man came scampering in again, smiling broadly.

"How do you feel?" he asked.

"What? Where did you go?"

"I was just outside," he said. He cocked his head slightly, and I could tell he was examining me, the little creep.

"But you just--I don't--what happened?"

"You saw the show," he said. He put his hands on his hips. "You participated successfully. Oh," he dug into his pants pocket, "here's your money." He handed me a twenty dollar bill.


"That was the fee. Look, I can't afford more. This is just an alpha test after all."

"But I didn't see anything! Nothing happened...except the air conditioning came on." I'd finally sorted why the air was colder, but it didn't make any sense.

"Yes. When it works, you don't recall seeing anything, but you did. The film, let's say, enhances your subconscious--let's it take control over you, so you will do the thing you most deeply desire. It's your subconscious that is responsible now." He tapped his forehead as he said this.

"Really," I said angrily. I snatched at the money. I wasn't going to let any fool waste my time. I brushed past the little man and out into the relative light of the theater hallway. I felt light headed, so I stopped. I looked at my watch. It was four-oh-five. Something did happened. Did I black out? I'm still not sure. Then the headache started. It was at the back of my head, then it cascaded forward in a wave. The theater hallway buzzed and blurred, and then colors exploded right in front of me. They turned into a school of rainbow fish that shimmered and swirled, and then they dissolved.

The headache was gone. I looked at my watch again. Four-oh-four. I lurched forward, and out into the mall. There was a little more light and air here. I started to walk quickly to the nearest exit. I started to loose my balance, and so leaned against a standing mall map. The headache came back. It wasn't fish again precisely, more like large fireflies, still swirling. There were little bits of void mixed in. The sounds of the mall were muted around me. When the light show passed, I looked at the watch again, dreading. Four-oh-three.

I turned and started to go back to the theater once I had my legs again. Somehow it felt suddenly normal to be jumping back like this, but I needed to know if it was temporary or permanent. I don't know why I was so accepting of it--it was almost like it was the true state of existence. I saw the thin man exiting the theater. It looked like he was trying to flag down somebody else to try his experiment on. He kept approaching people when actively avoided him. I waved to him. He nodded in my direction, and I went up to him.

"What did you do?" I asked.

"I gave you a show," he said. "You have your money."

"But what does it do? Why am I...jumping backward through time?"

"Is that what it is?" he asked.

"What? You did this. Why would you not know?"

"I didn't choose that scenario for you," he said.

His face started to go fuzzy.

"Don't you go away!" I yelled too loudly. I looked at my wrist and could see the minute hand slowly turning in the wrong direction.

"You must have a strong desire to relive something in your past," he said. "To go back and change something."

"But that can't be done," I said. He shimmered; his limbs looked like noodles.

"That's your assumption," he said. And then he was gone--dissolved into a starburst of pink and red and yellow. When it finished, I was alone. Half of me didn't believe him. It was some elaborate trick, or maybe he'd slipped me some sort of hallucinogen on the twenty dollar bill.

I snuck back into the theater and found the door to the projection booth. I ran up the stairs, hoping to get up there before the next jump started. The projection booth was a long hallway that mirrored the hallway between the theaters on the ground floor. There were windows into the theaters below...but no projectors. There was no equipment whatsoever. I walked over to one of the windows and looked down. All the seats were covered in individual plastic bags. They were just being installed. How far back did I jump?

I stood back, waiting for the next jump to overtake me, but it never did. I walked back down and back into the mall. I went to the food court and asked the attendant at the pretzel place what day it was.

"Uh, Friday I think?" she said.

"But uh, what month?"

She looked at me with a raised eyebrow.


"The year?"


"Oh." I said. "Oh no. Is it July 17th?"

"Yeah, I think so, dude," she said. "Why?"

"It's my birthday."

"Happy birthday."


"You gonna buy a pretzel?"

"I'll pass."

So that was it. The cruel joke of all this. The day I unconsciously wanted to go back and do over was the day I was born.

Monday, November 28, 2011

218/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Wake Up" by Arcade Fire

At sunset, when the sky was bruise purple, we were racing across the salt flats, digging intense grooves in the white crust, making our own track. The trains were a recent addition to the races and ours was ten cars long and outfitted with nitrous oxide rockets. We ran in a heat with just other trains and we all cut through the approaching night, whooping and hollering, and not caring if we won, only thrilling in the speed and the passage of air over our heads.

It was ludicrous of course. But we didn't care. All things can happen, given enough time, even trackless train racing in the desert. We held hands as we pushed the throttle harder. The air grew colder and faster. The other trains belched and wailed but we kept going, and when we reached the grandstands, we didn't stop, we didn't even slow down. We went past and on into the night. We knew the mountains were somewhere up ahead, or should have been. The radio crackled. Where are you? What are you doing? Stop! For the love of God, it's all over! Come back!

No, we all thought. No. Not on this day. We climbed out of the cockpit of the lead car, and made our way way to the last car. We had to leap across the hitches as the salt sped by below. We laughed and grabbed each other's shoulders. We hugged.

I was the one who unhitched the last car. Friction gained dominion and we slowed. The front of the train quickly disappeared into the darkness. We rolled along it's grooves, and then stopped, crunching on crystals. In the distance, at the mountain, an orange fireball rose up, and a few seconds later, we heard the crash with the mountain. We screamed and threw our hands in air. What lovely destruction.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

217/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "The Calculation" by Regina Spektor

We were both watching the projection of the fire on the wall when the pump signal failed. Teddy looked over at me with a crooked smile.

"Was that..." he said.

"I don't know," I said. "Maybe we should sit down."

We sat on our white leather sofa. The project fire kept flickering and burning.

"I think it is," said Teddy after a moment. "We should call somebody."

"I'm not sure, it's just--"

"But we both felt it. That twinge. Do you remember when the system went down in Singapore two years ago?"

"It was just an hour."

"I know. The devastation."

"It won't happen here, not like that. It'll be up soon."

"What do we do in the mean time?" asked Teddy. "Should we just sit here?"

"I guess we could get back to work," I said. "After all humans got along just fine for hundreds of thousands of years without the aid of an emotion pump."

"Yes, but they led short, brutish, violent lives. Humans can't control their emotions naturally. At least enough to be properly civilized. I'm not sure I want to experience that."

"True, but it can't be that debilitating to just let our brains take control of how neurotransmitters are handled, especially if we don't do anything to provoke the balances."

"Your logic is sound," said Teddy. "Still, I think, if this doesn't take long to pass, we should just stay here. I uh..."

"What, Teddy?"

"I don't feel well," he said, slumping a bit.

"You look a little flushed," I said. "Perhaps you should lie down."

Teddy covered his mouth suddenly and lurched forward. He clutched the coffee table for support.

"Are you alright?" I asked. I put my hand on his back, and felt something inside me--a hollowness. I assume it was an emotion, but I didn't know what to call it. Teddy nodded that he was okay but I wasn't convinced. "What is it?"

"An overwhelming sensation. When I look at you."

"Really? I make you sick? Goodness."

"No, not sick. I don't know what it is. I think maybe the feeling has been suppressed for a long time. Masked. I can't not acknowledge it now."

"Oh." I was confused.

"I'm not sure we're fit to be work mates," said Teddy, rubbing his stomach. He straightened up, then suddenly stood, not looking at me. He went in the room for food preparation and opened a drawer, staring at the contents.

"What are you doing?" I followed him into the room.

"I don't want the pump in me anymore," he said quietly.

"It's illegal to--"

Teddy withdrew a slender knife and before I could stop him, he plunged it into his abdomen. He screamed and I ran to him.

"What are you doing?" I implored.

He dug with the knife, screaming with each turn and press. I tried to grab his wrists but he batted me away. My face was wet. He pulled out his pump, a gray device with two clear tubes. It buzzed in his hand. He threw it in a spatter of blood onto the countertop.

"No!" I exclaimed.

"It's done," he said. "Help me dress the wound."

The hollowness in me deepened. I went into the bathroom and grabbed a clean towel and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. I felt my feet shuffle across the carpet, and the lights in the hallway there and back to the food preparation room were a blur. I helped him clean the wound and blotted the blood with the towel. He glued the gash closed and then we bound it with antibiotic gauze. Since removal of a pump was cause for immediate imprisonment, he wouldn't be able to go to the hospital to have it properly sewn up.

"What have you done?" I asked quietly. The pump system still wasn't back up, and I was beginning to feel sick too, but not to the extent that it had affected Teddy.

"I found my freedom," said Teddy. "I feel alive."

"But you are already alive," I said.

Teddy smiled at me.

"I wish you would--"

"I'm not doing that to myself! Are you kidding?" I was shocked with the sudden violence of my own words. I ran back into the living room, and leaned my head against the wall with the projected fire. I felt like my insides were burning and my cheeks were hot. What was this? How did people deal with all these strange sensations back before the days of the pump?

Teddy walked up behind me. He leaned in close, then wrapped his hands around my waist. The burning intensified, and changed somehow, and then my fingertips were cool. I felt something like pins and needles in the center of me.

"When the system comes back on, remember this," he said. He pressed his face into my shoulder. I turned to him, and wrapped my arms around him. He squeezed me hard, and it felt, I don't know, as if that's how I should spend the rest of my life, standing against the wall, my arms entwined with Teddy's and not doing anything useful.

"I will," I said.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

216/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Forgive Me" by Le Loup

There they were again, those footprints with the long second toe, in the drying sweet sand. Albin crept to his hands and knees and sniffed the footprint. There was nothing he could smell but the faint scent of something between vanilla and coriander. He traced his fingers along the inside of the arch, tamping down slightly. He surmised that it was made less than an hour ago, just after the tide had retreated out into the bay. He looked at the direction of the footprint's travel--towards the ocean. Had Gjord gone for a swim? he wondered.

Albin sat down lightly in the sand, to the left of the print. He arranged the tatters of his pants to cover his legs to prevent unnecessary scorching from the twin stars in the sky. One was vast and red, a blood glow behind the constant haze. The other was white and tiny and focused. Albin once thought that together they looked like an eye, gazing down at him, but only after a few weeks, watching the white star orbit the red one, and after calculating that they would never set and that the planet was tidally locked, it just became an oppressive, angry backdrop. The only relief was when the planet's small moon eclipsed the suns, offering less than ten percent shade. What was worse, was that he could visibly see, on each eclipse, that the moon's orbit was decaying. Albin surmised that there was only a few earth months until the moon smashed into the planet. He doubted the event would be survivable.

"Margh," he muttered. His words were abandoning him. There was no need for them, now that Gjord had gone off. Run off. Run away. Off in the rocks somewhere, hiding from him. Only a few traces belied his continued presence: footprints, a pool of urine every so often, a sickly wet pile of shit behind the tall rocks.

Albin licked his finger then stuck it in the sand. He pulled it out and sucked on the grains until they melted. Sweetness. It made his teeth ache as it soaked into the porous enamel and attacked exposed nerve endings. It was the detritus of the planet's ocean, the fecal matter of the exotic microbes that turned the sea to iridescent sludge. Gjord had called it manna. Albin scoffed. It was simply sucrose. It was their only food supply, and over the months they'd been stranded, Albin had felt his bones deteriorate and his mind spin. There were trace minerals in the sand, which probably kept their bodies somewhat functional, but prolonged death.

He thought for a bit, debating again whether to try to find Gjord and apologize. He couldn't remember the argument though, and hated the idea of apologizing for something he might have been right about. He stood and stretched his wiry frame--his pants fell from his his waist to his hips, and he pulled them up, readjusting the makeshift belt. He'd lost so much weight. He wondered if Gjord would even recognize him now--he laughed haltingly.

Albin turned his back to the suns and followed his shadow up into the rocks. He knew them all like friends, or at least consistent and silent neighbors, since he didn't find them talkative enough to start up any friendships. He veered to his right, as he usually did when he came up this way. He stopped and suddenly wondered why. He turned and faced left. He furrowed his brow and scratched at his beard.

"Why is that?" he said, his voice barely a whisper. "Why do I never go this way?"

He started to walk in that direction, scrambling delicately over the rocks. He grew more excited.

"Gjord!" he shouted. "Gjord! I am here! It's Albin! Let's end this fight! We have been silly men, foolish men. We have been like children! Gjord I--"

He stopped. A few feet away was a mound of gray mosslike life. There were thin stalks rising up, waving in the breeze and capped in glossy red tips. He took a few tentative steps towards the mass and then knelt down beside it. The moon was beginning to rise from the ocean, a blackness, and started to eat into the red sky. Albin inserted his fingers between the stalks--this was novel life and he hadn't seen it before. The stalks were pliant and velvety. He slid down and pressed his hand into the mossy substrate--it was spongey and wet. He grabbed a bit of it between two fingers and pulled. It ripped away, and there was a waft of ammonia. He covered his nose with his other hand. He pressed further into the mass and felt tough fibers. He quickly pulled away more of the mossy layer and revealed a layer of matted hair.

Albin gasped and fell backward.

"Gjord!" he wailed.

He picked at the moss and found bare teeth--the lips tore away with the moss. The nose was relatively intact, but leathery and shrivelled. The eyes were go, replaced by curled up stalk threads, still white in the darkness of the skull holes. Albin slipped a hand underneath the skull and brushed the hair with his fingers. He rocked back and forth.

"Look at the suns Gjord. Do you see them?" He started to cry. "The moon is coming. It's coming for us. Do you see how it darkens the sky now? When we first came, it was just a dot, and now it brings a half-hearted night. Soon it will darken everything."

Albin withdrew his hands, letting the skull drop the inch to it's resting place.

"It was me all this time," he whispered. He looked at his feet. "I forgot I had lost my shoes."

Friday, November 25, 2011

215/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Goner" by Dr. Dog

If anyone had ever been compelled to write a biography of Caleb Jenkins they would have noted that he had experienced family tragedy as a child and as a consequence, was obsessed with death. His most successful book was 'A History of Taxidermy', which was followed by a slim volume on modern preservation techniques used on humans, which preceded his favorite project, a coffee table book filled with photos of the recently dead, in their hospital beds, being mourned by their loved ones. He saved up and visited Lenin's tomb, and marvelled at the now amber flesh of the former leader, and the way his beard hairs were so perfectly positioned. Caleb was usually a quiet person, but if pressed or asked about his interests, he would rattle on enthusiastically about what the end moment of life might be like, which methods of burial were the most economical, or how best to write a will, much to the repressed horror of the asker. It was if he spent the entire length of his life preparing to meet his own end--which ironically never quite came.

Somehow, at the time that he went missing, he managed to have a girlfriend, a slight woman named Debbie. They woke up together, and she got up and put on a pot off coffee. Under a minute later she returned to the bedroom to find Caleb gone. She called out, and searched the house. She called his number, but his phone rang from the pocket of his pants, which were draped over the end of the bed. She waited nervously, periodically calling everyone she knew that he knew (which weren't that many people), unspooling the time until the requisite twenty-four hours passed when she could officially report him missing.

After several weeks of intermittent investigation, the police seemed to lose interest. 'We have to allocate our resources sensibly,' they said. After a few more months, when Debbie had recovered from the initial shock of Caleb's vanishing, she too moved on, slowly losing all memory of their time together. After a decade, she did not remember him at all.

And then one day, a depressed teenage boy sat on a child's swing in a park and dissolving into a gray hoodie that was two sizes to big for him, wondered aloud what it would be like to die.

"Marvelous, and dreadful," said Caleb. He stood in front of the boy, barefoot and wearing his pajamas and a sweater.

"What? Who the hell are you?" asked the boy. He stood, readying by instinct for a fight.

"I don't know..." said Caleb dreamily.

"What's wrong with you?" asked the boy.

"Nothing," said Caleb. "I just love death."

"Why? Why would anybody say that?" said the boy shifting his weight.

"It's this transition, you know? Very subtle most of the time. You're body is still there, but then you're not. And usually, you can't go back, after five minutes, or if your brain has been significantly chilled. It's the closest thing we can get to experiencing real magic. We exist and then...nothing. How can that not be fascinating?"

"I guess," stammered the boy. He stepped backward and jostled the chains of the swing. "But then there's nothing."

"I would say so," said Caleb, "although many people think it's just the beginning. But I prefer the idea of blackness--the eternal night. Painless. Infinity collapsed to a mere moment."

"But it's the loss of everything. It's final."

"Yes, but we all have to let go sometime. It's only a loss if you didn't get to do what you wanted in life."

Caleb smiled warmly. The boy looked around; uncomfortable, he was searching for other people and excuse to leave the conversation. When he turned back, Caleb and his pajamas were gone.

"Huh," said the boy. He rubbed his eyes, then slunk away from the playground, having decided to write a list of things he wanted to do in life.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

214/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Aerodynamic" by Daft Punk

The first round started on Titan and the champions were fully automatous. Humanity's champion landed with retrorockets that flamed white, igniting the oily sludge the covered the icy surface. Methane rained down on its flanks as it settle and waited five hundred years for its foe.

The other champion was for a long dead species that has spread to sixteen systems in the direction of Virgo before it died out, consumed by a fitter civilization that hadn't yet touched any of Earth's descendants. The champion of dead species (unaware of the fact), landed a mile from humanity's champion, and the latter, detecting the landing, came to life inside. The surface engines revved up, and claws scooped up material from the surface for the reactors to feast on.

The dead species champion lased a hole into the surface--sludge poured in, greasing the sides, burning and charring, and the champion began to burrow towards Titan's layer of molten water magma. Humanity's champion unfurled wings, and briefly ignited its rockets to gain altitude, and glided towards the enemy. The dead species champion, sensing movement, crawled up out of the hole and aimed it's lasers at the wings of humanity's champion.

The great machine pitched and rolled in the murky sky, then fell, spiralling, thrusting out various sets of legs, impacted the ice, sending shards spinning up into the atmosphere. It scrambled, scratching for purchase on the ice--the enemy lasers burned out again, blazing and arcing, criss-crossing rapidly, and where the endpoints touched the ground, the hydrocarbon sludge flamed up green and blue.

Humanity's champion rolled and ducked behind an ice outcrop--the reactors revved up to maximum and threw out a concentrated magnetic pulse in the direction of the enemy. The dead species champion was momentarily stunned, and while it rebooted it's systems it fell and stumbled back into the whole. Humanity's champion leapt up over the outcrop and dashed for the hole, which was too small for it to pass into. It stomped on the sides of the hole, crushing ice and sending in large boulders, burying the enemy champion. It spun up it's array of magnetrons and flooded the hole with microwaves, melting the ice to slush, then watched it rapidly refreeze and solidify, entombing the enemy.

But the enemy was not destroyed. Its internal systems recycled, and then it continued its burn down to the magma, where it released its payload: the micro-organisms of its home planet, for a fresh start at evolution.


Yup, 'magma' on Titan is actually just liquid water (ask ESA/NASA). Also, apparently, the gravity is so weak and the atmosphere so thick (1.5 times that of Earth's) that humans could fly by merely flapping strapped on wings--which is mindblowingly awesome, although you'd probably freeze to death in a matter of minutes (the atmosphere isn't toxic, but you'd need supplementary oxygen and a really warm parka).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

213/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Move Your Feet" by JUNIOR SENIOR

The rumblings of unrest finally emerged on a hot August day. Frederic was working his shift at a small electronics store when it happened. As usual during the summer, there were few customers, so Frederic spent most of the day enjoying the air conditioning and watching the wall of silent TVs across the store from the checkout counter.

A crowd loud people ran past the store window. Frederic took his elbows off the counter and leaned forward, trying to see where the crowd was going. Another clot of people passed by. One of the people straggled and stopped in front of the store window. He got up close to the window and looked in with his hands shielding his eyes from the unrelenting sun. He saw Frederic and then banged on the window with his fist.

"Hey!" exclaimed Frederic.

"We're going downtown! It is on!" yelled the man.

Frederic rushed around the counter and shouted, "What is?"

The man ripped open the door and stood in the threshold, sweaty and grinning.

"We're going to purge those fuckers for good!"

"What? Who are you talking about?"

"The aliens of course. They think they can just come here and live here, but this isn't their planet."

"But they have nowhere else to go--"

"Not my problem."

"They're not doing us any harm--"

"You're not one of those sympathizers are you?"

"Wuh? I--"

The man spat on the carpet, glared at Frederic, and ran back out onto the sidewalk. Frederic tentatively went outside and stood just outside the door. The heat pressed in and he immediately started to sweat. More people ran by with expressions that combined both anger and joy. Someone jostled Frederic, grabbed his shirt, and pulled him along. More hands pushed him.

"Stop!" he yelled, throwing his hands in the air. "Don't touch me!"

A middle-aged woman pushed him angrily into the store window.

"Don't you tell me to stop!" said the woman, with her mouth an inch from his chin. "God-damned alien-lovers! Do you know how much these things are costing us to house?"

"What does it matter to you?" asked Frederic.

"It's my tax dollars! You don't make enough money to pay taxes you retail monkey, so how would you know anything about it?"

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me," she said venomously, before joining the crowd again.

Frederic turned and shoved his way into the oncoming crowd like a salmon swimming upstream. He made it back to the door of the store and went in, locking it behind him.

"This is insane," he said to himself. The crowd outside was getting thicker, and someone hit the store window with a rock, making the window spiderweb out.

Frederic ran to the back room and locked himself inside. He went to the far corner, and sat down on the floor.

"There's nothing I can do," he said, eyes wild, rocking back and forth. He heard the store window give in completely, and then the shouts of triumphant looters. Frederic pulled up his knees and started to cry.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

212/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "AF607105" by Charlotte Gainsbourg

"Will I dream?"

"Oh it's so much more than a dream," said the woman in a mint green uniform with navy piping and a yellow and blue cravat.

"You're I unconscious already?" A young woman leaned back in her plush blue chair, her eyelids drooping. Long hair flowed down her shoulders and pooled on her chest. She wore a pink cotton shift.

"Would you like some coffee?" said the woman in the uniform.


"I can offer you a wide selection of beverages, to make your journey more comfortable."

The young woman sat straight up and thrust her hands towards the woman in uniform, grasping at the lapels of the uniform.

"Who am I?"

"Please, miss, just relax." The woman in uniform peeled off the young woman's hands.

"Why am I on an airplane?"

"It's a suitable analog metaphor. It makes the situation easier to accept. Are you feeling better? It's perfectly normal to experience some disorientation after takeoff." The woman in uniform smiled pleasantly.

"Who am I?" asked the young woman groggily. She glanced out the window to her left shoulder. "And why is the sky green?"

"Your name is Carmella. A very pretty name."

"Really? It's a bit weird. Seems familiar though. I guess it must be my name. Who are you?"

The woman in uniform pointed to the winged name badge over her heart.

"Madge? Your name is Madge," said Carmella, slurring the words.

"Yes," said Madge.

"I'm really tired. Why are you so awake?"

Madge leaned towards Carmella and whispered, "I'm you too."

"How is that?" asked Carmella after a moment. "Is this a dream?"

Madge sat down in the empty seat beside Carmella.

"No," said Madge seriously.  "This environment is a metaphor you've constructed to protect your sanity for the duration of the journey."

"Maybe it's not doing a convincing job of being...a metaphor."

"It's good enough. Are you sure I can't get you some coffee? You can even smoke on this flight if you like. There's no one else here."

Carmella pulled herself up unsteadily and looked around at all the empty seats in the passenger cabin.

"It's a big empty metapor," she said, slumping back down into the seat. "Pilots?"

"You're the pilot."

"Am I. Where am I flying?"

"The future. You have to pass through the night first. The darkness."

"What's that an analog for--oh. I see. I think I've lost something Madge. Something that broke my heart."

"Everything spilled out," said Madge ruefully. "If you don't smoke, do you mind if I do? I suddenly feel the urge."

"If it's metaphor smoke, I guess it won't hurt my lungs. Have at it," said Carmella, flicking her hand lazily.

"I knew you'd understand," said Madge. She reached into her jacket pocket and took out a single cigarette and a stainless steel lighter. She put the cigarette between her mouth and flipped open the lighter. Carmella turned and looked out the window. She leaned in and pressed her face to the glass.

"There's nothing out there but green," she said.

Madge took a puff and blew out a thick cloud of smoke.

"Everything's out there," she said. "The whole universe. All of time and all of space."

"All the pain and all the love."


"What's waiting for me in the future?"

"A correction of the past. The thing you lost. The thing you want more than anything else."

"The one I love?"

"The one you love," said Madge, looking at Carmella beatifically.

Tears began to stream down both their faces. Both smiled.

"Then I want to fly faster," said Carmella.

"You have decades to fly through. Centuries. Millennia. You must go to the end of the universe."

"It's not so far away. It's just one night away."

Carmella turned back to the window and looked at the wings of the plane. She put her arms out and closed her eyes, and put herself into the wingspan.

"I can't see my love's face any longer. It's a blur. I need to keep moving."

"You will arrive at your destination when the flight ends," said Madge.

Carmella's eyes fluttered open.


She leaned forward and tilted the wings down. The engines started to groan. The cabin lights flickered. Madge clutched the armrest, grinning. The cabin titled fully vertically. Their hair floated out like wide haloes. Madge let go and floated freely up.

"Terminal velocity!" screamed Madge triumphantly.

An orange light formed below and in front of them, from the flight deck. It was fire, an explosion roiling up in slow motion. It consumed the seats ahead of them.

"I hope you had a pleasant flight," said Madge, just as the flame reached them. Carmella felt suddenly filled with love and memories and life.

Monday, November 21, 2011

211/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry

The crew was spread out on lawn chairs around the portable campfire, which blazed blue and orange and flung light out across what could be called a veldt. There were ten of them, loyal and free, and ranged in age from fifteen to sixty-six. Some smoked, some drank, and they had all just finished off the ribs and potatoes. Janelle, the captain, examined the back of her hand against the bright splash in the night sky that was the Milky Way.

"Where do you want to go next?" asked Gary. He was the medical officer (even though he was missing his M.D.) and Janelle's best friend since high school.

"I don't know." Janelle retracted her hand. "It's so fucking big."

"Yup," chuckled Gary, looking into Janelle's empty cup.

"I don't think people back home really get it."

"They'd have to get out here to find out."

"Yeah," said Janelle contentedly. "We can afford a second ship now. We'll need a second crew. Show a few more people just how fucking big this universe is."

"Have you decided for sure?"

"I don't know. Maybe I should just retire and hand it all off to somebody else. There's a lot of risk in this business."

"You couldn't give it up."

"Hah! Yeah, you know me. I'll die on that thing probably." She gestured towards the ship, parked behind them, a lurking dark mass in the night.

"Until then, we keep going."


"So where?"

Janelle turned to him, leaning in, her head bobbing with the consumed alcohol.

"Why're you so anxious? What's up with you?" she asked.

"I don't know," said Gary, stretching out his feet towards the fire. "It's just so peaceful here. Untouched. Primeval. I could stay so easily. And I've never wanted to stay anywhere before. To tell the truth, that frightens me a little."

Janelle sat back in her chair, leaning in the opposite direction. She let out a short, barking burst of laughter. The other people looked up at them and tuned their ears into the conversation.

"It's not funny," chuckled Gary.

"Yes it is. I don't think you're frightened of staying in the same place. I mean, technically, you've stayed in one place on the ship for twelve years."

"It's not the same--"

"No, you're frightened of being boooooored! That's all. Boredom. Hell, I fear that. I fear it every minute of every day." She leaned back towards him, putting her hand on his. "There's no shame in that. It's healthy. I don't know man, maybe we should stay here a few more days and just enjoy this weird little planet for what it is. In a few hundred years it will be overrun by people. They'll ruin it of course, but for now it's a gorgeous paradise."

"It could use some birds though," said Gary after a moment. Janelle laughed again.

"Evolution never fails to surprise me," said Janelle. "Anyway, what I meant to say is that we occupy this tiny little slice of time. We should be afraid of wasting it."

Janelle leaned into the back of her lawn chair, tipping it back slightly, then thumping it forward. She dropped her cup to the ground and folded her hands over her abdomen and closed her eyes. Gary took a sip of his drink and watched the rise and fall of her chest in the reflected light of the fire.

"That's a sound philosophy," he whispered to himself.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

210/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Dollar Bill Rock" by Pop Levi

"What's he doing?" asked Jen, looking at her sister Viv with concern. "You didn't tell me he was wealthy!"

"I didn't know! I swear. I just thought he was a guy in a band. They never have any money."

Jen and Viv looked at the man writhing naked on the bed, sweating, and twisting his leg in the soiled sheet.

"I mean maybe he doesn't even have it--maybe it's something else, like a drug overdose or something."

"Did you give him something? Did he bring anything with him?" Jen shook Viv by the shoulders.

"No!" wailed Viv, beginning to cry. Jen slapped her face.

The man bolted upright in bed and held his arms out towards the sisters.

"Get my lawyer!" he screamed, before vomiting up frothing blood.

"Ahhhh!" screamed Jen. She slammed the door shut. "It's happening! It's definitely happening! He has it! He definitely has it!"

"Oh God, oh God, oh God--"

"Shut up!"

"What are we going to do?" Viv pulled on her sister's arm, much as they did when they were children. Viv always deferred to her sister's age and relative wisdom.

"We have to find out how much money he had. Maybe it won't be so bad. Do you have his wallet?"

"It's in there with him!" yelled Viv, slapping her palm against the door, her lips quivering. Jen pulled her hand away.

"Don't make so much noise!" she hissed. "You don't want to attract him."

A rattling groan emanated from the other side of the door. Jen and Viv turned to look at the grubby painted wood, as if they were trying to see through it with their ears. There were two thumps on the floor. The mattress creaked as it gave up its weight. Skin dragged against the wood floor.

"He's up!" whispered Viv frantically.

"We have to lock the door."

"It locks from the inside! Maybe a chair?"

"That would only work of the door opened out! Damnit! We'll have to run!" Jen put her hands in her hair and clutched her roots. Viv sobbed and suddenly hugged her sister.

"I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!"

"Oh God, it's not your fault, Viv!"

The doorknob started to turn, and Jen grabbed it, pulling back.


"Run Viv! Run!"

"I'm not going without you!"

"I'll be right behind you--this guy is strong--"

The door opened a few inches as if to prove her point. Jen screamed and Viv gasped. Jen pushed her foot up against the door jamb and the door slammed closed.


Viv ran down the hallway, her bare feet slipping on a throw rug. She rounded the corner to the staircase and jumped down the stairs three at a time. Jen let go of the door and bolted down, steadied on the floor with her sneakers, and caught up to Viv in the space of a few seconds.

The man tore the door open and stood tall in the frame, all of his muscles flexed and tight. His own blood covered the entire front of his body, and his lungs kept gurgling up more.

"Gaaarrrgguuuuuuuguuuuuguuuuug," he said.

Jen and Viv burst through the front door and into the autumn afternoon. Their street was very modest, with graffitied trash cans and many vehicles past a decade in age.

"We have one in here!" screamed Jen at the top of her lungs.

One of their neighbors, an elderly man who only enjoyed nature shows on television opened his front door and stared at them.

"Close the damn door then!" he yelled across the street to them.

Jen slammed the door and fumbled for her key. She got it inserted in the lock and turned just before something crashed down the staircase.

"I'll call the, uh, squad," said the neighbor.

Thanks, mister," said Jen.

"What are you wearing?" he added.

"What?" asked Jen.

"The other one!"

"Oh!" exclaimed Viv. She looked down. "Oh my God I don't have my pants! I just have my boyfriend's t-shirt! Oh my God, he's not my boyfriend anymore!" Viv moaned and crouched, trying to pulled the shirt further down over her thighs.

"Oh, if he was wealthy, he was probably never your boyfriend," said Jen.

"Don't say that! You're always so mean--"

"Gnnnnnuuuuguhhhhhhh!" The man's body slammed up against the frosted glass of the door.

Jen and Viv jumped back, clutching each other. The man's gaping dark mouth could be seen behind the glass. He pressed his lips up to it, and the dark space filled with red. He banged his forehead against it with increasing pressure.

"Ewww," said Viv.

"Get yourselves out of there, you idiots!" yelled the neighbor.

Jen and Viv ran across the street.

"Not here, not here!" said the neighbor. "I don't want to get that infection! I saved up all my life!"

He closed the door and locked it, then peered at the sisters through the curtain of the slender window adjacent to the door. Tires squealed on pavement and three vehicles came onto the street, stopping dramatically in front of the house. One was a police car, another was an ambulance, and a third was a van, hastily painted fluorescent yellow, specifically rigged to take care of the extreme cases. As soon as the vehicles stopped various men and women jumped out and started cordoning off the area. A police woman spotted Jen and Viv and ran over. She doffed her hat.

"How bad is it?" she asked.

"He's gone," said Viv.

"How gone?" asked the police woman. "How much money did he have?"

"I don't know!" wailed Viv. "I thought he was just a bass player."

"Oooh, a vanity band. Was he any good?"

"No, not really, to be honest, but what do I know about music?"

"I think he must have been at least a millionaire," said Jen. "He had the full on blood vomiting. His eyes were wild!"

"Sounds like he is gone then, if that's the case. Maybe he's just a trust fund baby."

"I don't know!" said Viv. "He was maybe twenty-five?"

"He called for his lawyer before he transitioned!" added Jen.

"Okay not a trust fund baby." The police woman clicked her radio. "Take him down with extreme caution boys. We won't need the ambulance."

They watched as the police and the people from the response van broke down the door then shot the man in a haze of smoke and bullets. Then man lay on the ground twitching. The response van people moved in with cattle prods. They electrocuted various parts of his body until his stopped twitching. Viv hid her face in her hands.

"I'm sorry. Were you close to him?" asked the policewoman perfunctorily.

"I only just met him last night. I thought he might be the one!"

"Oh God," sighed Jen. "Seriously? After what, twelve hours? You have got to grow up."

"I loved him," sobbed Viv. "I really did! Why'd he have to go so soon?"

"Well," said the police woman, looking to extract herself from the conversation, "we still don't know why this disease affects people in inverse porportion to their financial wealth. Until we do, I suggest you date only the poor and unemployed." She awkwardly patted Viv on the shoulder, then donned her hat and walked back to her police car.

"Thank you!" yelled Jen after her. Viv flopped her head on Jen's chest. Jen pulled her closer and smoothed her hair. "There, there. It'll be all right. We'll always have each other."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

209/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Via Con me" by Paolo Conte

I love the city streets in the evening. At least the good streets, the ones with the independent restaurants and little boutique shops where the people who make more money than they know what to do with shop at. On a night like this, without rain, the air is clean and smells of baked foods. A coffee shop is calling out to me now I do believe. It thinks I should drink a mocha, and I'm half convinced that I should, but I want to linger in the street a bit longer.

The sides of this street are filled with parked cars. The passengers are patrons now, eating their gourmet food over loving gazes, or in some cases, barely contained seething anger. Their faces are lit in yellow light, behind glass. They don't see me. People never see me. I walk the street nonchalantly. I see a car that looks promising. I check the VIN. It's a match. I take a set of keys out of my pocket and lean against the car. The keys are just a ruse in case anyone sees me. It looks normal to take out keys before you get into a car, but what I really do is pop the lock with a strong magnet. It's my own technique. There's actually quite a bit of skill in it, in working the lock the right way, but there's no fingerprints on the window, no awkward fumbling, no hiding a metal rod down my pants.

I open the door and slide into the passenger side and close the door behind me. I do a quick search of the cabin, then open the glove compartment. I slip the package from my jacket pocket and place it under several layers of maps. I see loose photos on top of the maps. Who gets photo prints these days? I picked them up and riffle through them. Small children, probably grandchildren, given the photos are prints. Oh good luck to this family. There's a little white dog in a photo taken from above. I hate that when people stand over a pet or a small kid and photograph it all foreshortened. You've got to get down on its level. I take the photo of the dog and fold it up twice and put it in my pocket. I leave the car.

The street is still just as calm and the air is just as clean. I feel somehow lighter, glad to be free of that package. A couple passes me by. They're laughing. I smile at them. I continue on. I stop by a trash receptacle. I take off my jacket and hold it between my knees. I unfasten the lead vest. Man that thing is heavy and hot. The outer fabric must be saturated with alpha particles from the Americium. I drop the vest in the trash and bury it with some stray soda cups. I fling the jacket in on top of it all with a flourish, and continue on my way.

Friday, November 18, 2011

208/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Never Forget You" by Noisettes

The large room was filled with people and flowers. Leola's brother stood at the podium, narrating a slideshow, and cracking jokes about their shared childhood. Grace sat in the back, having slipped in a few minutes after the proceedings began. She avoided looking at the screen and picked a piece of white lint from her black suit.


Grace fumbled through her purse to try to retrieve her phone, her heart jumping. She found it and saw that the caller was 'Janus'.

"Oh my god," she exclaimed. She looked up to see everyone staring at her. "It's uh...I've got to take this," she said quickly to everyone. She got up and ran stumbling towards the door.

"That's Grace everyone," said Leola's brother. "Doesn't really live up to her name, does she?"

Grace glanced back at him before going though the door. He winked at her. On the other side, in the relative quiet of the anteroom, she answered her buzzing phone.


"Is this Grace Morneau?" said a woman's voice.

"Yes, it is," said Grace.

"Are you ready for your scheduled retrograde call?"

"Yes," said Grace, her throat suddenly dry.

"Have you read and do you agree to our terms of service?"


"Good. You will be charged the full amount for your call whether we are able to successfully connect you or not. Please realize also that your calling party may or may not answer, even though you've specified the best time to call. Do you understand these conditions?"

"Yes, yes!" said Grace impatiently. "That was all in the terms of service."

"Most people don't actually read it. We have to check. You understand."

"I understand you're taking thirty thousand of my dollars for three minutes," said Grace.

There was a brief pause.

"Well not me specifically. If you want, I can upgrade you to the five minute plan for only an additional ten thousand dollars. That's a fifty percent savings. We're running this deal through the month of March and you may combine it with other offers. Would you like to do that?"

"Just connect me please," Grace sighed deeply.

"Okay, Grace. After your call completes, please stay on the line to complete a brief survey to tell us about the quality of your call and our service."

Grace clenched her hands and bobbed down and up, looking at the ceiling. She silently mouthed the words 'oh my god'. There was a click, followed by static. There was a low, vibrating groaning sound, then a series of rapid clicks. Then there was a ringing tone. Grace leaned into a wall, her knees suddenly weak.

"Grace! Why are you calling at this time of night? Is everything okay?"

"Leola," said Grace, her face contorted. She held her hand up to her mouth. Tears poured down her face.

"What's wrong sweetie?" said Leola, concerned. "Why are you crying? Is it Josh again? Do you want me to kick him in the nuts for you?"

"No, Josh is fine," said Grace, as a sob turned into a chuckle. "There's no need to beat him up."

"You know I've always got your back," said Leola. "Alway's sweetie."

"I know." Grace looked at the doors.

"So what's up? Why are you crying?"

"I'm at a, um, funeral," said Grace, wiping her cheeks.

"Seriously? At eleven at night? What is it, a funeral for a vampire?"

Grace and Leola laughed together.

"Come on, seriously, what's going on?" asked Leola.

"I just felt a bit lonely I guess. I needed to talk to someone. I wanted to hear your voice."

"Isn't Josh with you right now? I thought you two had gone out tonight."

"Yeah, we did, but uh, he had to go home early. Had a meeting in the morning or something. I mean, he has a meeting in the morning."

"Oh, well we could still go for coffee, or go get a drink or something. Have a double with me. I don't know, maybe alcohol is a bad choice if you're down. Coffee then?"

"No...I can't," said Grace. "I uh...I just can't."

"Fine, fine. We can talk. I was just watching a Kurt Russell movie but I can finish it later."

Grace laughed.

"You and Kurt," she said.

"Forever and always," said Leola. "I know he's not everyone's taste these days, not all of us have our Josh's if you know what I mean."

"Hah! I'm not sure I do. Not to change the subject or anything, but I'd like to say something before--well there's no time like the present. I uh..."

"What is it?"

"All the time we've spent together...uh...I'll always, always remember you. I love you, Leola."

There was pause.

"Leola?" asked Grace.

"This isn' this one of those...oh God it is. It's going to be within a week. Oh holy hell. Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. Just tell me, will it be gruesome or peaceful?"

"I can't--"

"We're best friends. Tell me. For the love of God, tell me."

Grace started sobbing again.

"You're my joy!" she yelled.  "And you're gone now. You're gone! Why did you do that? Why?! Why did it have to happen?"

"Grace, sweetie, listen to's okay. Go live a good life for me. Will you do that?"

The line cut to static.

"Leola? Are you there? Leola?"

The static faded into a muzakked pop song.

"Please hold for your survey. It will take only a few minutes to complete--"

Grace ended the call and threw the phone to the floor. She pulled up her legs and cried deeply into the hem of her skirt.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

207/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Painted Sun In Abstract" by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross from The Social Network soundtrack

Clyde woke several seconds before the alarm began to chirp. The lights slowly brightened the gray, cement walled room and he pressed the off button on the alarm. He rose, washed, and dressed in his worn work-clothes, all in the space of the eight foot by eight foot apartment. He ate his allotment of morning carbohydrates standing up over the sink, then brushed his teeth with peach-flavored toothpaste. He checked the time, then left hurriedly and joined his co-workers in the hall, on their way to the staircase. They walked down five stories in single file. On the ground floor was the airlock. The hallway wall was lined with rows of rebreather masks. Clyde picked up his assigned mask, donned it, checked the filter and pressure gauge (looking out of habit at the large overhead sign that read 'Have you checked your filter and pressure gauge?'), and then lined up to enter the airlock. He shivered in his clothes and secretly hoped for a new set to arrive soon.

Through the clear interior and airlock doors, Clyde saw the outer brille door, made of smokey, reinforced glass, roll up--light poured in, silhouetting all the figures ahead of him. He closed his eyes at the brightness. There was a subtle warmth that penetrated his eyelids and he smiled. Each worker progressed through the airlock one-by-one and soon it was his turn. He waited for the airlock door to seal shut, and the chamber to flood with fresh air, then opened the interior door and stepped into the chamber. He wrapped his coat tightly around himself, bracing for the chill of winter air. The outer door unlocked--he pushed it open and stepped out. A warm breeze passed through the weave of his clothes. Fluffy pink pollen floated on the air in dense waves.

"Spring," he said quietly, behind the silent safety of the rebreather.

He looked up into the air, watching the pollen clump and dance. Someone bumped into him from behind, grabbing his elbow, motioning him forward. The others got annoyed when he broke the line. He saw the face through the mask, his own that also belonged to one of his drone brothers, another Clyde.

He ran up to him, grinning, finding the other Clyde's hand. He yelled "It's spring!" through the mask, hoping some of the sound would carry, or at least the shapes his lips made.

"We have to work," mouthed the other Clyde, shaking his hand free and continuing onward. Clyde followed at a slower pace, walking to the side of the column of workers and receiving furtive glances.

Eventually he arrived at the worksite and greeted his partner Dan who was similarly dressed but flagrantly wore facial hair. Clyde admired his rebelliousness, although many of the Dans chose to wear beards. He often wondered who the first Dan was. Dan nodded a brief acknowledgement. They set to work. It was Clyde's job to shovel crushed rocks into the hopper. The machine churned and masticated the rocks into a paste. Dan controlled the nozzle that laid down the foaming cement into the waiting form blocks. Week-by-week new apartments and storage units accreted into buildings. More room made for more drones. The colony was growing at the expected pace.

They worked for eight hours straight. Clyde's mind fuzzed and blurred; the rocks he shovelled barely held his attention. Dan had to turn the machine off before Clyde realized that their shift was over. Dan patted him on the shoulder. Dan left and joined the column walking back. Clyde lingered in the room they were working on. He watched the others leave until there was no one but him. The light was dimming. He looked at the sky through the missing ceiling. Clumps of fluff dotted a purple sky. Night was near. Spring.

A thought invaded him, pressing from the inside out, demanding and urgent, and before he could countermand it, he slid his rebreather off. Shocked at having broken the quarantine of the mask, he held his breath tightly. Putting the rebreather back on wouldn't help. He was doomed. He exhaled in short bursts, then his lungs cried for air and he sucked it in. It was warm and fresh and deeply fragrant. He puzzled at the smell, then realized it was methane. He laughed, then laid down on the floor he'd shovelled and ground up just yesterday.

He marvelled at the changing sky with eyes not hidden behind a layer of plastic, until he felt a tightness in his chest. He sat up and coughed and realized the consequences of his folly. The fluff was harmless, so they said, but the micro grains would always get you. The pain grew and he moaned.

"I've always wanted to do that!" he yelled out, smiling through the waves of pain. He began to cough up blood. He fell on his back, and began to feel the thrall of a seizure. He choked on his blood, and watched the stars come out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

206/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Me Me Me" by Lars and the Hands of Light

The room was surprisingly small, cozy perhaps, if it wasn't white, with textured wallpaper at one end, that had soaked up the sounds of hundreds of patients dying, screaming, bleeding, whispering urgent last requests, and regretting youthful choices. He stared at that paper with its corrugated stripes and sponged memories, from the doorway, with his heels still in the hall. The form he refused to acknowledge was covered neatly with a poly-cotton blanket, draped without wrinkles and tucked in under the side bars of the bed, as if a mannequin in repose, not dead, but only because it had never lived.

He rubbed the back of his knuckles of his free uninjured hand against the coldness of the metal door frame, up and down, up and down, up and down, as if the feeble friction could bring life to the room. The heart rate monitor bleeped steadily. He tuned the sound out. The respirated wheezed in and out. The chest of the form rose and fell, rose and fell. He swallowed, then, determined, stepped forward. He walked to the foot of the bed, and forced his eyes to the eyes of the form. There was gauze holding down cotton padding, white with red seeping into it. He clenched his fist and looked again at the wallpaper.

"What are you doing here?" It was a woman, in a plaid shirt, older, husky, rugged, and giving the immediate impression that she worked exclusively out-of-doors, possibly in the wilderness, yet her voice was passive, weak, and hoarse from crying. She stood in the doorway, a cup of over-hot dispenser coffee in her hand.

"I want her to wake up," he said, turning his attention to the woman in plaid.

"Do you," she said, her voice quivering.

"It's not fair. There was nothing there, and then she was there, in front of me. What was she thinking? My arm is shattered because of this. I need my arm to work. She's changed my life and--"

The coffee cup dropped to the floor, the thin styrofoam slit up the side, and coffee spread out, a tidal wave on the linoleum tile. The fist of the woman in plaid landed on his chin. He spun backward, onto the bedframe. The back of his skull shattered on a metal vertex. He slumped as blood flooded to the wound, and he slid into the coffee, unconscious.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

205/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Feeling Good" by My Brightest Diamond

I really liked the meadows. That's what they were in the beginning, but it's all changed now. Just rolling hills covered in uniform green grass as far as the eye could see in any direction. I loved to just lay down in it and look up at the cloudless blue sky. If I tamped down the grass around me, I could see only blue and the sun and it felt like I was just velcroed to the Earth and if I got up I'd fall away into space.

"How are you feeling today?" asked the doctor.

"Fine," I'd say. Elaborating had always been such a chore and I was still in the habit of avoid the work.

"Are there any side-effects?"

"It's kind of boring," I'd say.

"Let's change that then," he'd say.


I'd start the exercises. It was frustrating at first, the first few weeks I guess. I sort of lost track of the time. The doctor would give me verbal instructions, which was awkward, because the exercises were like origami--you kind of needed to see what you needed to do. But that was the only way we communicated.

"I want you to sit up--"

"Do I have to?"

"Yes. Sit up and focus your eyes at a point in front of you. Have you done that?"

"Uh, yeah."

"I think you're still sitting."

"How do you know?"

"I can see it on your scan."

"Get out of my head."

"Sorry. It's a little late for that. Shall we continue?"

"Fine. I'm sitting up. I'm not sure how that makes a difference."

"This exercise was rigorously tested. The sitting position is most effective. Anyway, I shouldn't be arguing this with you. You need to follow my instructions or you won't improve. You want to improve don't you?"

"Doctor, this is already a massive improvement."

"Glad to hear it, Holly. Now, focus your eyesight at a point--"

"Yeah, got that part."

"Okay, now pinch that space. Squeeze it into a dot."

I sighed. What the hell did that mean? I squinted.

"It should look darker," continued the doctor. "Keep at it until you get a black spot."

"I'm staring at air."

"Yes but there is color behind that, in the background, even though you're not focused on it."

I squinted some more.

"Who created this system? Why can't I just recite zen koans or something? Or couldn't you have given me a magic wand? This telekinesis stuff is out there."

"It's not telekinesis Holly."

"It is to me."

"Please try to keep your focus. It may take awhile."

"It's like looking at one of those stupid paintings back in the 90s, trying to see the three-dimensional image. I'm not sure that wasn't all just bullshit."

"Keep your focus. Talking isn't going to help."

I shut up. I mean, I really did want to learn the stuff--I didn't have many options. I stared and eventually the background color did darken. It was subtle at first, and then once I noticed it, it popped completely to black.

"Good job Holly!"

"I finally did it!" It was there, a black orb that looked a little velvety, just stationary a few feet in front of my face. "Can I touch it?'

"If you touch it, it will retain that form indefinitely. It will also drop to the ground because once you acknowledge the form, it will then obey the laws of physics. You can if you like, but wouldn't you rather complete the exercise?"

"Oh, okay, sure," I said, withdrawing a finger that was finding it's way to the orb.

"Now keep your focus on the object. I want you to expand its volume."

"How do I do that?"

"Imagine it coming closer to you, but make it also stay in the same spot."

"Uh..." I didn't think about it too much, and it happened right away. It grew so large so fast that its bottom touched the top of the grass and I had to lean back.

"Excellent Holly! You're a very fast learner."

"I guess. Look, you can stop with the pep talks. I know your trained to--"

"They're not pep talks. I'm genuinely impressed, but as you're aware, your situation is different from the testers. You are fully integrated with the simulation."

"It's not that. Don't call it that." I don't know why I hated it so much, that word. It was my world now, my salvation. I was locked in and couldn't go back, my brain was severed from my body, unraveled, mapped, and done with, not to be reversed, but it didn't matter. That old life was...unbearable.

"I understand," said the doctor. "Now I'm going to upload some code to you. It will look like a white haze right in front of you. When you see it, push it with your mind onto the object. Let it envelope the object. It might take a few seconds, but when you're more practiced with it, the transformation will be instantaneous."

"What is this transformation? What's it going to be?"

"You'll see. I'm sending you the code now."

It arrived, barely visible, like a sheer veil. I pushed it to the orb, and it floated around it, then it sucked in and clung to the surface of the orb. The orb shrank and deformed, stretching out to the sides, sideways and front-to-back, and squashing itself up-and-down. Legs descended from the bottom. The sides flattened into wings, then grew transparent. In about ten seconds, the velvet black orb had transformed into a jurassically large dragonfly. It hung still in the air, its wings frozen and its eyes dead.

"That was interesting. Its a bit big," I said.

"It won't harm you. Besides, it doesn't need to eat in the...your world. The code I sent you is accessible at any time. You just need to see the dragonfly in your mind. You can control the size when you invoke it. It's just one of many variables. It's aspect oriented programming. You can modify the code--combine it with other codes that you will learn. You can also combine behaviors, extract behaviors to make them abstract and apply--"

"Hold up. You're going too fast for me." I was positive, well, completely sure, that the doctor was not one person, even though there was only one voice. I met the research team before I was inserted into the world and I tried to tease out who the last speaker was, it must have been someone dorky, but the memory kept slipping. I wondered if they'd done anything to help grease that along. Maybe in a thousand years I wouldn't even remember that all this was manufactured for my benefit.

"Don't worry about the details now, Holly."

"I'm not."

I spent a great deal of time, several days in my world, although I'm not sure how that translated to the outside world, learning new instructions. I created plenty of animals, rabbits, butterflies, groundhogs, lizards, owls, rabbits with feathers, owls with fur, rabbits with insect wings, tiny rabbits, massive groundhogs that burrowed cavernous holes. I started to realize that the project had its limitations. They really hadn't come up with a lot of code. I then learned how to manipulate the vegetation. I pulled trees up from underneath the grass (I had a choice of and indistinct bonsai, white pine, poplars, or birch). I made a large grove of birch bonsai, but I got bored with it quickly. I then pulled poppy petals out of grass blades. All they gave me was the code for poppies, and soon I felt like a bonafide opium grower.

I didn't have to sleep, so I spent my nights looking up at the stars. It was beautiful, until I realized there were no other worlds circle those stars. They really were just dots of light. It would have been depressing, but I couldn't physically be depressed any longer. That was the whole point of the project anyway, and I was the center of it.

"When will other people join me?" I asked, on more than one occasion. I hoped I got a different team member each time, but they all seemed to keep their story straight.

"We're in clinical trials," the doctor would say. "It's very difficult to get another volunteer, given the sacrifice involved."

"How is it a sacrifice? It was this or death."

"It's's complicated," the doctor would inevitably say.

"Are you hiding something from me?"

"Are you feeling paranoid?"

"Would I tell you if I was?" I swatted a minuscule flying rabbit away. "Look, it's just a bit lonely in here. That's all. Plus the owls keep staring at me. It's creepy."

"You can erase them."

"Sure, but you're not really answering my question."

"Have patience."

I did get more code eventually (I could change the seasons and the temperature, and I could make various water features), but still no real people.

Then one day, as I was practicing with the wind with a cleared and focused mind, the doctor interrupted me.

"We have something to tell you," said the doctor.

"You're breaking character," I said. I let the breeze die down and my world went still.

"It's appropriate," he said. "There have been some political events here, and well, we lost funding for the project."

"What does that mean, exactly?" I said.

"We...literally, have to pull the plug."

"You're going to kill me?" I asked, my voice was barely audible to me, but of course they couldn't actually hear what I was saying directly. It was all transferred from my brain.

"Technically, you're already dead."

"When is this going to happen?" I asked.

"We're sorry, but it's now."

Monday, November 14, 2011

204/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Adagio for TRON" by Daft Punk from the TRON: Legacy soundtrack

"It was just there. I couldn't believe it. It had the look of a dying puppy, the look Forrest would have had if he never married Jenny. Just...sadness. Who does that? Who puts a huge stone statue in the middle of a field, lying down as if it's just about to die of the weight of the world? Statues are supposed to be magnificent, leaders on pedestals, men marching, benevolent Buddhas, leaping lions and the like."

Vaughn poked a stick into the campfire under the coffee pot, sending up sparks. Myles slurped a spoonful of warm beans.

"There are those creepy angels in cemeteries," said Myles, chewing thoughtfully.

"They're, I don't know, protective and haunting. Not sad, not like this was," said Vaughn. He stretched his back and looked at the stars.

"You gotta show me where that thing is," said Myles. He scraped bean sauce noisily from his metal plate.

"I don't know. Tomorrow maybe. I'd rather keep going. We can't have detours or we'll run out of food."

"You don't think it's interesting? Something like that? Here?" asked Myles.

"I think we'd be best to leave it alone, but I have to admit, I would kind of like to see it again, even if it was unsettling the first time."

Vaughn stood and cracked his back and then his knuckles. He ambled over to the tent and crawled inside. Myles cleaned his teeth with his tongue, and looked into the forest and down the path that Vaughn took. The wind trickled through the trees, and they swayed gently. The path seemed lit from within, ever so slightly, but Myles decided it was just the opening the path made in the forest that allowed more starlight down and to reflect outward. He stood and poured the coffee out onto the fire. Smoke rose up, and he checked for any remaining embers with his foot. When he was satisfied, he looked one last time at the path. He felt the chill of the wind and shivered. He crawled into the tent and laid down next to Vaughn, who was already asleep.

At dawn they were up, and quickly disassembled the tent and packed up there camp with long practiced efficiency. It was a cloudy, foggy morning and they worked in silence. Myles thought of asking Vaughn again about the statue, but reasoned that the rational thing to do would be to continue on their journey. He consulted his map and compass, and made a mental calculation of how far they could travel before noon.

When Vaughn was finished packing their gear, he looked once at Myles, then set off down the path he had come back on that night with firewood. Myles looked up with surprise, but followed dutifully without comment, the coffeepot banging rhythmically at the end of his backpack. They walked for ten minutes, until they came to the edge of the meadow.

"It's over that way," said Vaughn pointing.

"You can't see anything through this fog," said Myles.

Vaughn walked out in the direction he indicated, and soon disappeared from view.

"Wait!" yelled Myles, running after him. "We'll get lost. We can't get separated."

"You're the navigator," said Vaughn cooly.

"Yeah but, you know we don't have to do this."

"I just feel we should. Like it was important."

"There you are!" said Myles, reaching out and touching Vaughn's shoulder. "This fog is unreal. And look at this grass. Soaking wet. My pantlegs are drenched. I'm never going to keep warm today. Why'd you stop?"

"It should be here," said Vaughn, his voice cracking.

"It's foggy, how would you know?"

"I know," said Vaughn. He turned around in a circle twice, then stopped, pressing his hands to his mouth.

"What is it?" asked Myles.

"Oh god," said Vaughn. "Look at the grass."

"It's grass."

"It's laying down." Vaughn grabbed Myles by the shoulders. "It was here. And now it's gone."

"It got moved?"

"It was stone."

"Teleported maybe?"

"What? You've got an imagination."

The wind began to pick up, thinning the fog.

"Well it didn't just..." Myles noticed the grass further out. "...walk away."

The pair stood frozen in the field, watching more and more of the fog clear. There was a clear trail of massive footprints. Myles fished out his map and compass. He found magnetic north and found the meadow on the map. He raised his hand in the direction of the footprints and matched it to a vector on the map.

"The ship," they said together.

They immediately began to sprint across the meadow, and soon found the edge of the forest again. Trees were uprooted, and the footprints cut into the soil. They scrambled over them, panting. After ten minutes full sprint they had to rest. They walked on further, with pink cheeks and fear. By noon they were halfway back, and the footprints were their constant companion.

"It knew," said Vaughn.

"How can it know?" asked Myles.

"Well, obviously, for one, it's not a statue. It looked so human. Why would it look like it?"

"Why would you think that we put a statue here?"

"I don't know. We're not the first here," Vaughn stopped walking and wiped sweat from his forehead. "What's the point..."

"We've got to see if the ship is safe," said Myles.

"It won't want us here. It will have destroyed the ship by now."

"How do you know that?"

"I just felt it, when I saw it. Just the look on its face. Like it was beyond hate. It despaired that we had come."

"Now you're the one with the fertile imagination. Maybe it's...species...just looks like that. Maybe it's their happy face. You never know." Myles smiled wanly. "Come on, let's keep going. We might as well see if we're stuck here or not."

They continued walking on into the afternoon, shedding layers of clothing as the heat rose. They made quick progress going downhill a bit, and saw the top of the ship over the trees by late afternoon.

"It's still there," said Myles brightly.

"So are the footsteps," said Vaughn.

"They are," acknowledged Myles.

Shortly they arrived at the clearing where they had landed the ship. The footsteps ended several yards in front of it.

"Okay, where did it go?" asked Myles. "Did it backtrack or something?"

"Maybe they fly," said Vaughn.

"Flying giant statue people?" Myles burst into laughter.

They circled the ship, checking the hull for damage, but it was perfect. They ran up the ramp and closed the ingress. They dumped their backpacks in the storage area and ran up to the navigation room. Myles turned on the main power and ran a diagnostic.

"All systems fully functional," he said.

"I don't know how you read that stuff," said Vaughn.

"I'm a nerd. I can figure out any system with moving parts or moving bits. Even if it's a stolen alien one."

"Well, let's get out of here then. Away from the sad rock people. Pick another planet from the database."

"Yup, already working on it. Despite the matching vegetation, this obviously isn't Earth."

Vaughn rubbed his face and sat down on the floor next to a chair that was comically too tiny for his frame. He leaned against it.

Myles started the engine cycle, flicking buttons and sliding his fingers around on the glass panels. He punched in the coordinate sequence for the nearest candidate planet and let the computer work out the safest route that avoided bad stars and patches of debris. He turned and looked at Vaughn.

"I'm sorry I got you into this," said Myles. "It was a dumb idea."

Vaughn chuckled.

"Who wouldn't give it a go? I fantasized all my life about getting off Earth and away from all it's mundane problems. Never thought I'd miss it this much." He smiled at Myles. "Maybe someday we'll make it back in our lifetimes."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

203/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Sur cette patinoire" by Etienne Charry

Adeline first noticed it when she was three years old. At first it was just a shift in the pattern in the wall paper. She went over to the discrepancy and traced her little fingers over it. It vibrated out slow beats. It was warm.

She slept with her covers clutched in her fists and framing her face. She tried to breath shallowly so that the wallpaper wouldn't notice her. But it did.

When she was five, and coloring in a page of a coloring book in shades of purple, the discrepancy shifted further and the paper bubbled out. As it rapidly crinkled then set, Adeline dropped her crayon and ran from the room. She wanted to tell her mother about it, but didn't know what to say, and anyway her mother was chatting on the phone about whatever it is that adults like to talk about to each other. Adeline wandered around the house for an hour, draping herself over furniture and wondering what to do.

She found herself at the threshold of her door, staring at the far wall. Curiosity pulled her in. She felt the series of tiny bubbles. They were brittle and she popped a few of them. A clear liquid oozed out. She wiped her hands on her pants and hopped on the bed diving under the covers. She stayed very still, listening, but heard nothing.

The next day she inspected the wall again. She poked a crayon into the scar of one of the popped bubbles. The surface was soft and she embedded the crayon halfway before she hit something solid. She pulled the crayon out and it made a schuck sound. Then the wall groaned. Adeline sat on the edge of the bed and sniffed the crayon. It smelled like crayon, but then the tip started to melt. She threw it into a corner of the room, next to an abandoned and naked Barbie doll. She decided to ignore the wall.

Two years later she was awoken in the night be a soft fluttering sound. She pulled the covers tight and felt a hardness in her stomach. After a few minutes of continued fluttering behind her, she got up and ran for the bathroom, slamming the door shut and locking it.

"Are you okay?" asked her mother after knocking gently.

"I'm fine," said Adeline, shaking.

"Let me know if you need anything," said her mother, before heading back to bed.

Adeline rummaged through the cabinet under the sink as quietly as she could. In desperation, she pulled out the hair dryer, looked at it, then tossed it back into the jumble of contents. She slept in the bathtub with a towel over her and water dripping onto her socks.

"Can we move?" she asked her mother over cereal the next morning.


"I don't like my room," said Adeline.

"Do you want a big girl bed?"

"No. I want a different room."


The next month her mother replaced her bed with a longer but not wider one. Adeline watched the patch of pocked wallpaper while her mother set it the bed, struggling to make sense of an extensive set of instructions. After her mother was done, Adeline spent the afternoon rearranging the furniture so that her bed was partly inside the closet and as far as possible away from the patch.

The fluttering became a nightly occurrence. Adeline sat up against several pillows and watched the patch, but nothing ever moved. It was if something was brushing up against the other side of the wall, but there was nothing on the other side. Eventually Adeline learned to fall asleep to the sound.

When she was twelve, the fluttering stopped. She still watched the patch every night, waiting, almost sorry the sound was gone. One day, when she was in a rather intrepid mood, she took out an X-acto knife and started to scratch at the old bubbles. There was no oozing this time, and she surmised that the bubbles were just to old. She worked at the wallpaper, cutting out small bits and analyzing the wall behind. It looked to be stained, imprinted with the pattern of the wall paper. She pushed the knife into the wall and scored the surface, trying to scrape off the pattern. Layers of paper and chalk peeled away, but always the pattern remained.

She worked at the wall for an entire morning, and by noon had excavated a hole that was a foot wide and a foot deep. She went to the kitchen for a lunch of soup with her mother.

"How deep are walls supposed to be?" asked Adeline.

"Several inches, normally."

"What do you mean normally?"

"In houses. In big concrete buildings, skyscrapers and such, I guess walls would be thicker."

"So, in a house, a wall a foot think would be...abnormal."

"Yeah..." Her mother looked at her suspiciously. "Why do you ask?"

"School assignment. We're supposed to calculate the square footage for a particular area of room, but I don't know to take into account the area of the walls."

"Oh, I always hated word problems. If it's not stated in the question, you can safely ignore it honey. I had to learn that the hard way." Her mother thoughtfully slurped up a spoonful of soup.

In the afternoon Adeline decided to hang up a poster to cover the hole. She picked out one her aunt had given her for her birthday. It was of a pop star Adeline had absolutely no interest in, and she debated whether or not it was worth staring at his face for several hours each night as she fell asleep, but it was the only one she owned that was big enough to cover the entire patch.

The poster stayed in place for another year. Then one day as she arrived home from school, she found the face of the pop star burnt out. Only the edges of the poster remained, and the hole was clearly visible. Adeline slammed her door shut and shoved a chair against the knob. She ripped down the poster and examined the hole. There were little wormholes all over the chalk and paper layers, like insects had been eating the wall from within. She found her X-acto knife and furiously started chipping away at more layers. By evening she had dug a further foot. The whole area was riddled with wormholes, but there was nothing else. The wall just kept going.

Adeline went to the kitchen for a glass of orange juice. Her mother left a note on the counter stating she had gone out for a date and wouldn't be back for several hours. She encouraged Adeline to forage in the fridge for dinner. Adeline went down to the basement and found a sledgehammer left to her mother by her grandfather. She dragged it upstairs and swung it against the wall.

She swung and swung, and after an hour, her arms and shoulders aching, she was standing on three feet of debris. The hole was as tall as the room and seven feet deep. The pores of her skin were clogged with chalk dust, even those under her clothes. She pulled her bedside lamp closer to the hole. There was no sign of worms or insects or anything.

She flopped down on the bed and pulled the sledgehammer to her chest. Exhausted, her eyelids became heavy. She vaguely wondered what her mother would say, but figured she would escape trouble since the hole was so abnormally deep and weird.

The wall fluttered. Her eyes opened, and every muscle in her body went stiff. The fluttering continued, but it was faint. Adeline forced herself to get up. She crossed to the hole. She turned on her flashlight and examined the interior. There was movement. She jumped back, then moved back in, closer. The light revealed thin clear strands wiggling out of the wormholes. They stretched into the void, reaching for each other. Adeline suppressed the urge to gag.

She ran to the bathroom and fished out the old hair dryer from under the sink. She plugged it in next to the hole and turned it on full blast. The strands immediately ignited, flaming up blue, then dropping as black ash. The air smelled bitter. Adeline turned off the hair dryer. She scanned the surface of the hole with her flashlight. There was no movement. She sat on the edge of her bed, with the flashlight propped up inside the hole, and watched for movement for another half hour. When she was satisfied, she took a shower and washed away all the dust, then sat in the living room, reading a magazine until her mother came home.

"I have something to show you. Please don't be alarmed," said Adeline when her mother arrived.

"What did you do?" asked her mother angrily, as Adeline led her to her room.

"It's...abnormal," said Adeline. She flicked on the light to her room.

"What?" asked her mother.

"I..." Adeline stumbled forward to the wall. It was completely sealed up. There was no hole. The wallpaper was perfect. She rubbed her hands against it.

"What are you doing?" asked her mother.

Adeline turned to her, ashen faced.

"Can I pitch the tent in the back yard?" she asked.

"It's winter, so no."

Adeline studied her mother's face for a few long moments. Then she went to her bed and ripped off the comforter.

"I'm sleeping on the sofa until further notice," she said.

That night, as she snuggled down into the sofa cushions, the wall behind her fluttered.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

202/365 --Playlist Story-- inspired by "Paris 2004" by Peter Bjorn and John

The bell over the shop door jangled. The pair entered sending up a mini-maelstrom of dust. The door slammed shut behind them and they surveyed the shop's offerings.

"All the fruit is moldy," said Caitlin. She scratched underneath her braids then leaned over the counter by the register. "I'm so hungry."

"Some of the bread might still be okay," said Kai. He opened a glass case with various pastries and rolls and shone his flashlight across them.

"We shouldn't be wasting our time with this," sighed Caitlin. "Let's just pick up some cans of something."

"I'm tired of cans," said Kai. He picked up a hard roll and knocked it against the edge of the shelf, then placed it in a large canvas bag that was slung over his shoulder. "I want real food."

"None of this is any good anymore."

"Well, I want it while I can still have it."

"I'm leaving," said Caitlin quietly. She retreated back outside and sat on the curb next to an abandoned car.

Kai cleared out what was still remotely edible and then stepped outside and watched the back of Caitlin's head. He lit a cigarette. Caitlin turned around at the sound of the lighter clicking.

"That'll kill you," she said. She turned back and watched the empty street. A pair of cats were watching back from the other side of the road, but otherwise there was no sign of life.

"I think the asteroid will get me first," said Kai, sucking in a drag of smoke.

"Ughhh, the asteroid," said Caitlin. She leaned back and tilted her head skyward. "We should have left with everyone else."

Kai sat down next to Caitlin. He wanted to touch her hair but didn't. He watched the cats and burned up his cigarette.

"I'm not sure it's coming," he said.

"Of course it's coming. All the experts confirmed what the aliens said. You're just paranoid."

"It's supposed to come tomorrow. If it's big enough to destroy all life, why can't we see it yet?"

"Too far away still? I dunno. It doesn't take a big rock to wipe out everything. Just a fast one. You originally said you just don't trust them."

"We're a stupid, brawny species. Perfect for enslavement. It was a ruse."

"Good grief."

"Nobody helps anybody else just because. There's some other motive--we just don't know what it is."

"Oh give it up," sighed Caitlin. She sat up and drew up her knees and clutched them. "God, what are those cats staring at?"

"Probably wondering what the hell we're doing here."

"If anything, they're wondering where the hell everyone else is gone. 'Who's going to open my tin of food? Who's going to change my litter? What do you mean I have to forage for myself? That's so bourgeoisie. Where did my human go'?"

Kai laughed heartily. He snubbed out his cigarette on the curb then flicked the dead butt into the street.

"Why did you stay with me?" asked Kai.

"Dunno. Guess I'm not keen on the idea of being up in space. Might as well go down with the ship. We'll get to see what the dinos saw. That should be interesting. Besides, we're not the only ones who chose to stay behind."

"Oh, maybe one out of a thousand. Don't you think it's curious so few people stayed behind?"

"I think the survival instinct is pretty strong in most people."

"Not us?"

"You don't think it will happen. You're betting that they're going to eat everyone else for dinner, or turn them into slaves. That's survival instinct."

"And you?"

"I dunno. I guess it's just plain old fear. Or maybe I just don't want things to change. A universe without the Earth? Just doesn't seem right somehow."

"An asteroid isn't going to get rid of it. Earth is tougher than that."

"It won't be the same after." Caitlin relaxed and sat cross-legged. "Got another cigarette?"

"You don't smoke."

"We're going to die in a few short hours. I don't think the tar will kill me, not to mention I won't have the time to form a habit."

Kai smiled broadly.

"I'm still betting the Earth will be here the day after tomorrow. I'm not going to let you pick up such an abhorrent habit."

"Oh geez. If the Earth is still here in two days, then we'll have cause to get really depressed. Canned food, fighting with wild animals for resources, trying to figure out fire like our cave-dwelling ancestors. No internet, and no indoor plumbing...ugh, that's bleak."

"Fresh air. A good, clear view of the stars. Lots of free-time. No one to boss us around, no schedules to keep. No more Monday mornings!" He paused and looked at the pavement. "We'll have each other."

"We'll be at each other's throats in no time."

"I'm not so sure about that."

"Keep dreaming lover boy."

Kai blushed, and Caitlin laughed. She shoved him gently in the shoulder.

"Aw, maybe that wouldn't be so bad," she said.

"The day after tomorrow can't come fast enough," said Kai, smiling.