Blue Rose


Roses red and roses white
Plucked I for my love’s delight.
She would none of all my posies–
Bade me gather her blue roses.Half the world I wandered through,
Seeking where such flowers grew.
Half the world unto my quest
Answered me with laugh and jest.

Home I came at wintertide,
But my silly love had died
Seeking with her latest breath
Roses from the arms of Death.

It may be beyond the grave
She shall find what she would have.
Mine was but an idle quest–

Roses white and red are best!

 — Rudyard Kipling

A Tangible Warmth

Deeper and deeper they went, hacking at the earth, chipping the rock into rubble. Long ago having cursed the sun for its burning light in summer and its pale cold glare in winter, they turned from its remote indifference, declaring instead their fealty and love for the Earth, only the Earth. With an aching need to be closer, to feel its solid, warm embrace they’d entered the cave, descended to the depths of its cavernous abodes, then, upon meeting the final nook, they began to tunnel.

As they descended their gratitude grew, for here they found freedom: freedom from fickle weather, freedom from cruel predators, and freedom from the changing seasons. And they found warmth growing, so they graciously shed unnecessary garments—all was laid bare as the rock of their walls, roof, and floor. When any one of them had doubts about their course and harboured thoughts of the abandoned luminous world above, these were assuaged with an assurance that “where there is warmth, there is light.”

For this devotion they were richly rewarded. An uncontainable abundance of precious metals and stones overflowed their bulging pockets, falling unheeded into the worthless pebbles of broken terrestrial skeleton. Still they drove deeper, superterranean memories becoming more remote, their senses becoming more accustomed to the dim light of their torches. In this darkness, the glint and glean of their newly discovered treasures seemed to ever brighten into dazzling attraction.

In this pursuit, they turned first from the harsh glare of their torches to the faces of those who held them, and as the fires passed away from their sight, so did they pass from their words and thoughts.  Pupils dilated wider. Then even reflecting faces too became unbearable to see, and they turned to their shadows on the walls, addressing them so that when they talked to each other, they talked to their shadows.

Downward they dug in the hot darkness, surrounded by their frantically dancing shadows.

A Nightmare Vision of the Modern World

This is the modern world
Billions upon billions of mass human fleshbags with ultimately no purpose to the obscene, mind-boggling quantity
A dying globe covered with a layer of endless writhing undifferentiated human
It desperately tries to heave off the bulk living detritus, to buck off the mindless mess, but there is too much–much too much–and the suffocation is uninterrupted
We have made a hell of Earth

Blasted Beasts

Kill ’em all, he thought.  18 of the beasts had cornered him here with all the exits blocked, and with what he’d been through, giving up was even less of an option than flight.  They sure as hell wouldn’t call it quits, not while their blood—or whatever it was that oozed out when he put holes in them—still circulated, still animated the hideous frenzied urge that enthralled them to his doom.

He probably wouldn’t make it out of this, but if he did, it would be through their dismembered corpses.  Their faces were like exit signs to him, showing him the way through fortified flesh that needed opening with his blaster.  Point there, squeeze here, and a portal would burst open in the beast, letting him walk out through the meaty mess.  The thought of myriad instant butchery provoked his hunger for killing into just the kind of madness needed to eagerly charge the deadly savagery closing in.

“Put down your weapon and reveal your empty hands!”  The audacity with which the tyrannical beast voiced this demand made his stomach churn.  Those sick freaks had no place using words—words are for humans, real, live, red-blooded humans!  The corrupted souls of these damned creatures—whatever the hell they were–could be seen a mile away through their dead eyes.  They weren’t fooling him, though they continued to try.  “If you comply willingly I am authorised to adjudicate a mitigated sentence.”

The nerve. “There’s just one thing I wanna know!”  He gripped his blaster tighter and became a coiled spring.

“What would you like to know?”

He’d been through hell—all 9 rings and a few extra epicycles to boot.  He’d pillaged a good deal of knowledge along the way, vast booty of arcane science and occult perceptions plus the usual exoteric observations on the requirements of survival: blast whatever gets in your way, keep moving, trust only self and blaster, sleep while blasting, and if blasting doesn’t work, smash it.  Don’t drop the medkit, unless you enjoy moving on perforated legs and smashing with a broken hand (he didn’t—much).  Getting a new medkit takes a lot of killing.

He also knew his blaster had 88% charge.  That would probably be enough, accounting for maybe 2 or 3 more unexpected complications.

And then there were all the things he thought he knew.  He thought he knew the layout of this facility down to the last brimstone brick.  He thought he knew that this room had access to the ventilation exhaust system.  He thought he was out.

It didn’t, and he wasn’t, and now he knew that hell had a lean-to, a 10th ring, a ring for the last finger, the trigger finger.  Lucky for him, he knew all about trigger fingers and his own was just itching to squeeze.  As he looked at the blaster in his hand a flood of countless memories of encroaching doom upon which it had rained down a cleansing fire visited him, and he smiled fondly at the intricately printed metal and energy display and glowing, murmuring hole of death at the end.

“I wanna know what kinda slimy bile’s sloshing around insida your soulless corpses!”  His brain blitzed into activity like a berserk Tesla coil, sending lightning rage through legion motor neurons to explode each harnessed muscle fibre with the motive power of undiluted centrifugally enriched bloodlust—or whatever-the-hell-lust.

The Bitter Cold of Nevada in Summer

Northern Nevada

In Nevada, which should have been the hottest and driest stretch of the trip, or so I thought, ignorantly assuming north was the same as south, after brief periods of minor showers we made our way to the western half of the state.  Cruising along in calm air, a sudden change of wind hit us head-on, bringing a cold ominous foreboding that physically slowed our progress, and mentally assaulted my resolve, so that, in confusion, I stopped at a barren rest stop, void of even a single wall as shelter.  But there was nothing to do, nothing but go on right into the thick of the menacing storm heralded by the bitter relentless gale.  My resolve would be tested yet further as the wind pierced deeper, driving cold wet closer to our souls.  Not heat and aridness would we find, but winding roads littered with fog, snow, and mud–and of course a most beautiful sunset.  Other bikers turned around. We shrugged as they passed and turned our faces forward, the throttle open, and the handlebars naught.

On the other side of it, tired and shaking uncontrollably and rattling frozen bones, I proposed an early stop–why not right here? It was not too far till sundown. Kim was unreceptive and indomitably undeterred, thankfully dragging me out of my momentary weakness. We’ll say the back seat is shielded, more pleasant, less draining. That’s what we’ll say. Knowingly into the dark trap, then. We let the sun duck under the hills and spring an ambush, catching us on the road with a falling shroud of darkness. Groping blindly along the highway, occasionally accompanied by one of the shrugged-at bikers who’d apparently decided to turn around a second time, we snaked westward. At the hotel, we booked the last room and received free cookies.

A grim glorious day that was, but perhaps not as grim as the escape from San Francisco. The transportation networks were choked with traffic; a plethorous mass of human flesh clogging the roads out of San Francisco, slowing the flow to fully stationary, punctuated by brief rolls forward half the length of a car.  Even outside the city, the swelling hominid profusity pressed out and filled all spaces, not sparing the “in and out burger” we stopped at.  Living talking ape meat spread its teeming overabundance into every seat and table so that we were forced out when we eventually received our order, and we ate outside. The masticating mass was repulsively nauseating. As repulsively nauseating as the pink centre of my burger, which I pushed down my throat in a clinically calculating decision to gain nourishment to counter sleepiness without needing to stop at another restaurant. A cheery employee walked by and asked how the food was.  I gave him a cold, dead, “it’s pink”.  As dead and cold as the centre of my burger.  “What?”  “The burger is pink.”  “So… that’s good?”  “No.  It’s bad.”  “Oh… sorry.”  And he walked away.

Later we rolled into Mark and Shannon’s driveway with the relief of Atlas at the apocalypse.

Deep Night

He watched the distant stars scroll by slowly as he turned in weightless suspension.  None of them were familiar, he had recognized no constellations in his minute here.

So this was the edge of the error range in that fundamental equation that lay at the heart of the teleportation device, he thought to himself.  The engineers who built it were all confident that this possibility lay well beyond probability.  But the physicists who’d dreamt it up, those wizards of matter and energy, knew it was there.  As one of those physicists, he had known there was a chance that the blink, the instantaneous relocation, wouldn’t land him in Lab B, the intended target, but the promise of this technology that could open up all horizons and make every place reachable was too enticing.

That same miraculous insight that allowed the technology to work, the realization that, with the right manipulation, the universe could be tricked into thinking that each point in space was the same as any other, was also its greatest flaw. With the tremendous amount of energy, concentrated to densities well beyond natural phenomena, needed to focus the machine on the intended target, all it had taken, presumably, was a picosecond drop in that energy flow for the focus to be lost, and without focus, every single point in the universe became equally likely to be his destination as any other.

Of course, if he’d known that he’d end up marooned between the stars, far from any planet, far from any sun, in who knows what region of the galaxy, or what region of the universe, he would never have stepped into the departure chamber at Lab A.  But here he was, and regrets are useless when there’s only three minutes of oxygen left.  He forced himself to appreciate the peculiarity of the transportation method that required the departure chamber to be void of all matter but the payload, therefore necessitating that he make the trip in a sealed suit with its own oxygen supply, leaving him with a few precious breaths at the end of his life instead of having his last ripped from him in this deep vacuum of deep space.

Three minutes of fresh air left, he thought to himself, and then a few seconds of fading consciousness. And then? How long would his body drift in nowhere, radiating out his heat until it dropped to the universal 3 kelvins, and how long would his nearly absolutely frozen corpse hang, motionlessly falling, pinned to nothing, without anything at all to molest it? Perhaps it would remain mummified until the very last days of the universe, when the atoms themselves ultimately tired and fell apart.

Rescue, even if his lifeless corpse waited a trillion years, was impossible.  Finding a fraction of a speck of a shaving from a needle in a haystack would be easier than finding him in the random spot in the universe that he’d been dropped.

He thought of his future there, buried between the stars, ascended to the heavens to endure eternally among the constellations.  Did that make him like the mythological gods whose great deeds in life earned them a fixed place in the firmament?  As the only solid matter in a space potentially greater than any galaxy, he was indeed by far the most powerful being in his realm, and certainly in comparison to any of the isolated helium nuclei he could call his neighbours he would be considered a god.

The god looked out at his world and the night that surrounded him.  His night stayed; there was no Sun to warm his backside, as the Earth has, and no hope for a dawn.  Only night that would pass away to yet more night as he rotated like a miniature planet.

But the Sun is just a star, special only for its proximity, and his world was filled with stars, none occluded by any planet.  If night means being in the shadow of the Sun cast by your planet, then he would declare himself his own planet, and all the multitudinous stars shining on him his suns, thereby placing him in eternal day.  It would be day more gloriously bountiful than the fleeting periods experienced by those still trapped on Earth.  Not eternal night, but a miraculous uninterrupted teeming quantity of day!

Realizing his oxygen supply had depleted, he felt relieved to have come to terms with what he now knew was his fortunate fate.

One last thought touched his consciousness as it faded out: a billion billion sunrises every moment, and all of them utterly dim.

Man and Television, a Music Video

Man is the only beast capable of becoming enthralled to television. He is alone in his desire to turn from reality and life and fixate on the hypnotizing hypercolour display. Unlike the lesser beasts whose existence is tied closely to the world and life around them, he is seemingly freed from the necessity of struggling for sustenance and survival. But he is a natural born slave, and seeks a new master immediately upon release. This he finds in television, and he gladly submits to its remaking of him fully, from the toes up, in its own image. The other beasts are immune to its enticing glow, and instead must be ripped apart and rendered into the new oversaturated and overexposed existence by force, as they flee. Man reclines dumbly into blissful oblivion and welcomes the damaging overstimulation to his senses, and the toxic hypercolor poison blasted into his mind. The fullness of sunlight and its broadly continuous spectrum which nourishes a teeming superorganism of unfathomable beauty and nuance is supplanted and made dull in comparison to the dominating harsh plastic brilliance of the screen’s discreet cold chromatic distillations. Invigorated by its supple prey, television evolves quickly into the apex predator of man’s attention, its obscene glare and hum outcompeting and drowning out all thought in man that is not television. But the wind and beasts and thermodynamic laws have no mental glandes to tickle and continue unperturbed by television. Man’s neglected civilization crumbles around him beside his unwatching eyes, and the synthetic tentacles that went forth from it to give birth to television go slack. A vestigial glow from the unpowered screen shows the deflation and unravelling of the new man in the absence of his animating essence; his flickering screen and hyperstimulation. Flashless to flashless, dull to dull.

The Lamp

Gazing euphorically at the lamp, he was reminded of all the effort it took to get to this point. There was the ten years of study he’d spent in his early years, reading all that was written about genies. Then, emerging from seclusion, there were the years–twice as many–abroad, searching, asking, digging, all in an unwavering drive, never doubting that he’d find one, some day. Against all odds that day came, the day his trembling hands pulled out the tarnished lamp and held it up the the gas lantern so that his eyes might see through their streams of satiated joy and confirm his highest hopes. But even after half a lifetime of anticipation and through his strongest desires for fulfilment, he had willed his hands into stone so that they would be unable to give the lamp the slightest polish, the faintest brush. This genie, he had been utterly determined, would not wake until he’d become ready to meet him.

And so he’d begun the most arduous and most important period of his life, twice still as long as the last. For the last 38 years he’d immersed himself in study of law, philosophy, logic, linguistics, and whatever field or discipline could prepare him in any way to meet the genie. And now, looking down at the lamp, as seductively close to pristine as it had been when unearthed, still beckoning and yearning to be wiped clean, he knew he was ready.

Fools, as the stories show, would unthinkingly rub the lamp right after finding it and summon the genie without preparation. Invariably, they’d ask for gold, immortality, or any number of pleasures, and, inevitably, the genie would smugly grant their wishes through fiendishly calculated horrors. They’d receive gold stolen from a king eager to have it returned, immortality without youth, or a harem whose beauty and quantity was matched only by the ferocity and diversity of its’ venereal diseases. The fools.

But he would succeed where they failed, he’d hesitate in thought where they acted dumbly, he’d outwit the cunning genie and cast a trickery-proof armour about himself as his first wish. He was sure of it.

This first wish was the result of the efforts of his final years. He’d ensured it was grammatically correct. He’d proved the logic had no loopholes for exploitation by ill-meaning genies. And now he was ready to become the first man to come out on top after rubbing a lamp.

He removed the glass case and tossed it aside. It crashed against the floor and spread out into thousands of shards that would be of little concern to one who has the powers he would momentarily undoubtedly possess. This time when he held the lamp the only tremors in his hands came from his age. His certainty was acting for him now, all he needed to do was watch as the scene played out. He watched as his sleeve, held in his hand, rubbed against the lamp. He watched as the shimmering smoke poured out and produced the grantor of wishes with his arms crossed over his ethereal breast. He listened as the genie made the offer: three wishes, whatever he might desire. And he listened as his own reply came, the same as in its numerous rehearsals:

“I wish that I was immune to genie trickery,” he commanded, with a clear and audible voice.

Immediately, the genie disappeared.

The Secure Palace

There is a palace that is so secure that it has no doors, no windows, and no way for solid matter to get in or out. To enter, a person must pierce themself with small tubes that protrude from the wall and allow their blood, their animating essence, and their soul, to be sucked out, leaving a rubbery empty husk of skin and bones and shrivelled viscera that crumples up into a dead heap on the dirt. Their liquids are piped into the palace, wherein they are pumped into a new lifeless shell. Consciousness returns after the new vessel is fully inflated, and the guest attends to his business. To leave, the same process is undergone.

Still Space

“What do yo mean it’s OK?”, he croaked cautiously. The stars in the viewport hung motionless as the stale air in the spacepod. The pilot’s low, even tone caught the cook off guard, and his face erected a quick sheepish smile to mask his contemplative hesitation.

He chuckled once, “uh, just exactly what I said. It’s OK to drink. It’s safe.”

The pilot smiled humourlessly to himself. “But I didn’t ask if it was safe. I just wanted to know we had enough that I could have this one right now.” Turning away from the control console, he faced the cook directly, ready to fully observe and analyse his response. ”Is there a reason why it wouldn’t be safe?”

”No, no. I just wasn’t sure what you meant. It was a vague question, you know.” He went back to reorganizing the remaining rations, then realized that the rations way out there in the corner might need some organizing too, and so pursued them to that end.

The captain watched the cook’s receding back, analysing the way it was carried, and what that meant about his inner thoughts. ”You can tell a lot about a guy based on the way his muscles hold onto his bones,” he mused quietly to the copilot. ”Incidentally.”

The copilot kept his focus on the temporarily impotent controls. Temporary, that’s the word the tech kept emphasising every time he was asked. Where’s the distinction between temporary and permanent? Ground bases on Venus, they call them permanent but only expect them to last for ten orbs. His own position as copilot, that was supposed to be temporary, but how long has it been? A few more revs of consuming the unrenewables and all their lives would become pretty damn temporary. He kept his eyes on the controls and obligatorily accepted engagement into the conversation. “How do you mean?”

The pilot was ready. “You see they way his muscles are all–I know, it’s hard to see them under the fat–but just look at the way his muscles are all hard and awake, clutching his bones tightly. That’s a sure sign he’s worked up about something. They’re all wrapped around his ribs and tight. Not much room to stretch them. Much more of that and they’ll start to fight back–twitch. That’s the next stage, that’s what they do. Just watch them. Keep an eye on them, that much I’ll say.” The pilot continued to watch them.

The copilot blinked a stolen glance of the pilot, and blinked his eyes back to the controls. “Yeah, this wait is taking its toll on all of us. Are you going to drink the Carrot Essence?”

The pilot forced a scoff. “There’s no need to get antsy, tech says we’ll get moving soon. Everybody’s fine.” He looked at the essence and rubbed his chin. He narrowed his eyes at the essence. He turned his head slightly and clenched his teeth at the essence, then let out a long angry sigh. Dropping his hands to his legs, he said, “I’m not playing his games,” and stood up. From the suddenness, and from uncertainty of the pilot’s next action, the copilot’s heart twinged and beat rapidly. He realized he didn’t actually know the pilot very well.

They’d served together for two orbs on this ship, and were strangers before that. The pilot was a native of Venus, and had that aura of impatience and immediacy all Venusians had. That didn’t bother the copilot; his homedome was on Luna so he was used to all kinds of people. But he’d never before been stuck on a dead ship halfway to the dead edge of the solar system with any of them.

The pilot walked out the room and the copilot’s blood took a moment to fizzle out.