Thursday, December 31, 2015

Microstory 224: The Adventures of Braeburn and McIntosh

Detectives Braeburn and McIntosh are two of the toughest cops the Empire of Cortland has ever seen. They’ve just been tapped by the federal government for a special task force, codename Winesap. The team is investigating the wrongdoings of an enemy known only as Northern Spy, operating out of a secret lair in Mount Fuji. The two partners have just infiltrated a special gala at Catshead Manor, hoping that Northern Spy makes a cameo. Until then, they decide to just enjoy the jazz, and have a little fun...

Braeburn: SweeTango, McIntosh! Look at that Pink Lady!
McIntosh: She’s bad news, Braeburn.
Braeburn: So, what?
McIntosh: You know what my Granny Smith always says.
Braeburn: That you’re the apple of her pie?
McIntosh: It’s eye, moron. The expression is “apple of your eye”.
Braeburn: What the heck do apples have to do with eyes?
McIntosh: What do they have to do with—! Oh. Hmm. Whatever, anyway. My granny, she always say, “one bad apple spoils the barrel”. And you know she knows what she’s talking about. She was best friends with the famous Ida Red Macoun.
Braeburn: Hey McIntosh, ain’t that your wife, Melrose? The one standing fireside?
McIntosh: Honeycrisp, what are you doing here?
Melrose: I’m undercover, just like you, Merton. I told you not to use pet names in public. And please call me Ambrosia Antonovka. It’s my fake identity. I’ve been getting to know the wealthy Ginger Gold. And I have made a discovery. Her husband, Jonathan is Northern Spy.
Braeburn: Jon A. Gold is Northern Spy!? He must be using his position as the CEO of Elstar Enterprises as a cover.
Melrose: Keep your voice down, Baldwin. Yes, and he’s planning to assassinate Her Excellency, Lady Alice, along with the Duchess of Oldenburg. Apparently, he has King James Grieve in his pocket, and wants him to come to full power.
Braeburn: Sweet Beauty of Bath, we have to stop him! If he succeeds, it will mean the end of liberty!
Melrose: You two go find him. I need to contact my handler, Ben Davis. He can send out the beacon for reinforcements waiting to be deployed on Bardsey Island.

The three of them go off and catch Northern Spy, foiling his plans for world domination. The day is saved once again, thanks to the hard work of Braeburn and McIntosh. And Melrose.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Microstory 223: Social Piranha

I spent a lot of years trying to blend in with the group. Everyone in my school told me that we should stick together; that we were safer from our predators. But all they want to do all day is eat flesh. I’m not into that. Sure, I like to devour an entire cow now and again, but I mostly like berries. They say, “you’re a piranha! Piranhas don’t eat berries!” But I can’t listen to them. They’re so tasty, and they don’t try to run away from me. Little by little, I would stray from the school, until eventually I decided it was time to just go off on my own. Yes, it was dangerous, but I have to live my life, right? Even if I die at such a young age, at least I’ll know I didn’t compromise my personality. One day, I’m swimming along the river, minding my own business, when I see a berry I’ve never tried before. Yum. Then I see another one. Yum again. Pretty soon, I see tons of berries falling into the water. I make a little game out of it, trying to catch as many as I can before they float away. Eventually, though, the berries are gone. I look up and see a figure on the bank. It appears to be a little girl, but I’m a fish, and I don’t see so good. I do think, however, that she’s smiling at me. She lifts her arm up and throws a berry into the air. I race over and catch it in my mouth. I think she giggles at this, but I’m a fish, and I don’t hear so good. I see her reaching over to a bush, trying to get at a nice group of berries, and so I wait patiently. But then a terrible thing happens; she falls in. I instinctively swim over to her and open my mouth, but I manage to stop myself. No! I’m a vegetarian now! I don’t. Eat. Meat. But it’s so good, NO! Berries are my preference, and I’m not going back on that. I drift next to the little girl as she’s helplessly pulled along the current. She splashes and screams, and her family comes running. Unfortunately, they may be too late. My old school is speeding down the river, hungry for that human flesh. Her parents aren’t going to get to us in time. What am I going to do? I have no choice. Even though everyone is innocent in this scenario, the other piranhas are fish, and they’re less important than the girl. Somehow, I know this. I call upon the strength of the superberries I’ve been eating for years, and ferociously dig into my brethren, killing them all. The little girl thanks me as she’s finally taken from the water.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Microstory 222: Shadows

I call for backup, but if I don’t pursue the suspect, he’ll get away. He’s been firing at me nonstop for what feels like hours, but appears to have stopped to reload. This is my opportunity. As I’m shuffling through and around the machinery, trying to be both as quiet and as fast as possible, I imagine moving in slow motion. My body hovers in the air for several seconds. I pull my weapon close to my chest as if in a pitching windup, then release and twist towards my mark. The enemy jams his palm against the magazine a couple of times. He’s been spraying bullets every which way, clearly inexperience and imprecise. I have less than a second before I need to duck down, so I take my aim and fire. Once. I turn away without knowing whether the bullet landed on the target, but I think I hear some kind of squeal. My brain fills in the data so quickly, I can’t tell if I was looking away, or if I really did see blood splatter out from his side. No, I couldn’t have seen the wound. I don’t so much as know what he looks like. I only saw a shadow. I only ever see shadows. Shadowman; that would be a good name if my colleagues hadn’t started using it just to mock me for even believing he exists. The locals call him The Sorcerer, though, as he’s rumored to be able to read your mind and trick you into seeing things. From my brief glimpses of him, he actually doesn’t seem to have a face.
For a moment, I can’t remember where I am, or what I’m doing. Maybe he does have a superpower, and he’s fooling me right now. I have to fight through it. It’s been long enough; he should have fired back, but he hasn’t. He’s running. I have to go after him. I know I should be after justice, but right now, it’s more important for me to prove that he’s real. I gratuitously jump over one of the work benches, injuring my wrist a little. I’ll have to lie about that later. Yes, the Shadowman is gone, trying to get away from the one man who...focus, get to work. No more internal monologue. When I step out the back door, I notice a trail of blood on the ground. It doesn’t start from inside, but it has to be him. At the end of the trail, shivering against someone’s dog house, I find a teenage boy. As I suspiciously prepare to tend to his wound, he says that a man shot him in the alleyway. He’s wearing brighter clothes than the Shadowman was, but I still can’t be too careful. I don’t remember hearing a single shot since my last one. He squints to examine me while I’m ripping my shirt sleeve to tie around the wound, and then it clicks for him. Has he read my mind? My partner walks through the gate, somehow both casually and urgently. I immediately pull my gun back out and shoot my partner in the gut. As he’s falling to his knees, the figment of my imagination teenage boy disappears in a wave of shadows. My partner transitions in the same way, and I finally see the face of the Shadowman. He asks me how I knew it was him. I reply that I didn’t, but that I’ve been investigating my own partner for having a connection to the Shadowman case. I shot him on instinct, for only that reason. He dies.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Microstory 221: Vampirs

So, vampires. They exist. Not so much anymore, but still. The first of the kind called themselves Pilot Vampires. This originates from a constructed language where vham (pronounced with more of an f sound, and related to famish) means “hunger” and pire (pronounced pier-ay) means “ruler”. Many take the full word to mean “hungry ruler” but it better translates as “ruler of hunger”. Those in the original generation are extremely strong, and difficult to kill. They don’t have trouble with the sun so much as they have trouble with heat, which the sun happens to have a lot of. Their scions were called vampirs (pronounced vahmpiers) and they were weaker, but more compatible with the environment. Each subsequent generation was born more compatible, and they would have likely regressed back into humans, given the time. The species, and all its varieties, are collectively known as murexa, because of their purple blood. The exact cause of this is unknown (except I know), but it is the result of a cobalt-magnesium alloy oxygen carrier, rather than the iron found in most people’s red blood. While Pilot Vampires are immortal, their descendants are not. They live about 190 standard years, and lead pretty standard lives. They eat normal human food, and will die from overheating if they do not receive regular transfusions of human blood. These transfusions allow greater efficiency of blood flow and body temperature regulation, as they will cause the body to temporarily transport oxygen via iron, but this will not last forever. If you see a vampir with purple eyes, then the right thing to do is to immediately present your arm and provide them with blood. The eyes are the most vulnerable, and so the red blood will pool to the eyes for as long as possible, and will be the last indicator of a healthy specimen.
Unlike fictional representations of vampires, real vampires do not have a thirst for blood. In fact, since they were descended from humans, they do not like the taste of blood. It’s gross, and so they avoid drinking it unless they absolutely have to. Instead, they either inject themselves, or consume a special drink that’s mixed with sugar and other, more suitable ingredients. Earlier vampirs did not have fangs, but scientists saw this as a need, and so they gave evolution a nudge, so that later generations would have a safe backup, if need be. They did this along with a special gland in the mouth that alters their breath so that it numbs human skin, lowering or eliminating donor pain. Vampires do not bite people on the neck, because that’s pretty sexual. That’s something we just made up to make vampire monsters either scary or sexy. Vampires do not bite people without consent. If a vampire wants to kill someone, the last thing they’ll do is bite them, because biting leaves DNA evidence, and that would be foolish of them. They’ll use a knife, or a gun, or something like that. Vampires are not evil, or dark, or violent; they’re just people with a medical condition, so please stop treating them differently. That’s so insensitive of you. They do not glitter in the sun, nor do they instantly burst into flame. Yes, a vampire will die if you stab them in the heart with a wooden stake. You know who else dies from being stabbed in the heart with a wooden stake? You. You die. We all need hearts, okay? And it doesn’t matter if it’s made of wood, or metal, or candy cane; any sharp object will do. Some people are allergic to garlic, and some of those people are vampires. Vampires do not heal magically, nor can their blood heal others magically. If you drink vampire blood, you’ll probably get sick from cobalt-magnesium poisoning. Don’t do that. It’s possible to become a Pilot Vampire, but the process is much more complicated than that. It requires dying, prepared for that, if that’s what you really want. Also, you specifically are missing a key component, so it will actually not work for you. Sorry, I messed that up. I forgot who I was talking to. Better choose Jacob. No, don’t choose Jacob. He’s bad. I’m talking about a different Jacob, by the way. Who are you talking about?

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: May 1, 2055

The Delegator returned Mateo and Leona to Topeka last year where they were finally reunited with their family. Aura was still clearly perturbed about having been abandoned twice, but Samsonite had apparently convinced her to convert this anger into love and understanding. Leona’s father and stepmother were notably older, but still looked more youthful than people their ages did back in the day. They say that in less than a decade, aging will be relegated to the developing populations, but that even those would be lifted up and the death rate will slowly begin to decrease from 100%.
When the two of them returned to the timeline in 2055, they were informed that Horace Reaver had been killed in an explosion in his prison cube, along with all five of his guards. There was no further information on the matter, as the powers that be would want to keep details out of the hands of the lowers. Apparently, Danica wanted to discuss something with The Rovers, alone in The Constant, and so the entire group headed for Lebanon. The rest of them waited patiently in the RV.
Danica sighed as they were getting off of the elevator. “It’s nice to see you again, cousin.” She walked them over to the counter where a smorgasbord awaited them.
“And you.”
“Leona,” Danica nodded.
“Concierge,” Leona nodded back.
“What seems to be the problem?” Mateo asked.
“Now that the whole Reaver thing is over, I figured we would reconnect.” She took a beat. “Mostly, I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“We’re all right,” Leona assured her. “We’re worried about the next Reaver.”
“How do you mean?” Danica asked.
“Ours are dangerous lives. We don’t expect to go back to doing nothing all day, everyday. Our next enemy is right around the corner. Because that’s how this works.”
“This isn’t a book or movie, Leona,” Mateo told her.
“Isn’t it?” She tilted her head like a teacher trying to get a student to figure out the problem on their own. “Horace did say that his daughter told him that the choosing ones do this primarily for entertainment.”
Mateo was confused. “When did he say that?”
“Oh, I guess you weren’t there. He spoke of it in my prison suite. Evidently they to watch.”
Mateo turned to his cousin. “Danica?”
“I didn’t know that, and I still don’t,” Danica answered, “but I wouldn’t be surprised. Would you?”
“No, I suppose not.”
“I do have a job for you,” Danica said, changing the subject. “It won’t be easy.”
“I thought the Delegator doled out the jobs.”
She ignored the remark, “the powers would like you to inform the families of the Guards who died in the Reaver explosion.”
“Why did they choose us?”
“The reason is dependent on whether you’re right that they’re purpose is just to mess with our lives.”
They just looked at her.
“They didn’t tell me why,” Danica explained.
“How do you communicate with them?” Leona asked.
“How does the Delegator?” Mateo furthered.
She frowned. “They implant thoughts in my subconscious. Of course, I don’t know exactly how they do this, but no one ever tells me to do anything, I just know I’m supposed to.”
“That’s frightening.”
“Just count yourself lucky that you’ve not experienced it. Because it’s more frightening than you could imagine. I can tell when it’s not really my thought, but I also can’t stop it. It’s like someone whispering loudly, straight at my brain, and it doesn’t stop until I’ve agreed to its demands.”
“Those are some sick puppies,” Mateo pointed out.
“So,” Leona began, “how are they going to send us to the future to give the bad news? Mario? The door-walkers?”
Danica shook her head. “They do not intend to break your pattern. That is the hard part. You’re going to have to wait until you reach the time period on your own. I don’t have the precise timeline at present, but they’re waiting for you sometime in the very early 23rd century.”
“That’s almost five months our time,” Leona exclaimed, having done the math in her head extraordinarily quickly, even for her.
“Somehow, I don’t think the powers that be are bothered by that,” Danica said.
“Rule Number Nine,” Leona said. “gather as much information on the future, and your future, as possible. Write it down if you have to.”
“I’ll write that down,” Mateo said, taking his notepad out of his bag. “Another thing,” he said as he was writing down the rule. “I need to understand what you knew about where Reaver and Ulinthra came from. Did you know about The Gravedigger? Do you know all of the people at Daria’s funeral? What exactly do you, and don’t you, know?”
Danica took in a deep breath and prepared herself. “I am The Concierge, Mateo, of something called The Constant. It is my job to be there for my guests. That doesn't mean fluffing pillows and stocking the minibar. It means that I have to understand what they've been through, which means that I am aware of every single timeline, and everything that was changed between them. Yes, I remember the timeline where you timeslipped mostly alone. But I was not allowed to intervene. I'm walking the line just talking about it here.
“I was not at Daria’s funeral,” she continued, “but I do know every salmon who has been to my present or earlier. I don’t, strictly speaking, have a confidentiality agreement, but I try not to divulge information about my other guests. You wouldn’t have wanted me blabbing to Reaver about what you were up to, right?”
“Reaver was down here?”
“Yes, he spent many nights recharging down here. Everyone does, at one point or another.”
“But the powers that be never come down?”
She laughed. “If they did, then they claimed to be a salmon. Wouldn’t be that hard to convince me. Not for them.”
“Never met anyone named Melly? That’s Reaver’s daughter’s name,” Leona explained to a lost Mateo.
“He told you a lot more than he told me,” Mateo noted.
“I can’t imagine why,” Leona replied sarcastically.
“I’ve never heard of her,” Danica said honestly.
“What about a man wielding a knife who calls himself The Cleanser? He tried to kill me and Reaver in an alternate timeline.”
She shook her head. “I don’t. I don’t know him. I know what you’re talking about, because they implanted the knowledge of the events in my head, but I never met him. Are you sure he wasn’t just an angry former employee of Reaver Enterprises?”
Mateo smiled, grateful to know something others don’t. “He came out of nowhere, and he was there to kill salmon, not Reaver specifically.”
“Then it’s my guess that he’s one of them,” Danica suggested.
“Mine too,” Leona agreed.
A choosing one who goes against the plans of the other choosers,” Mateo thought out loud. “I think we can work with that.”
“Let’s not count our hatchets before the chit,” Leona said...oddly.
“Can our family come down now?” Mateo asked.
“What for?”
“To rest.”
“They’ve been fine,” Danica said. “You’re the ones who need rest.”
“Okay, well they can be our plus...” Mateo tried to count in his head.
“Five,” Leona finished. “Let them in,” she ordered.
“Very well,” Danica conceded.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Reavers Wobble: Resignation (Part V)

That was it for Horace Reaver. He had spent the better part of two decades, working to make the world a better place, then he went back in time and screwed it all up. He had decided to be completely selfish this time around. He landed on the afternoon that he was supposed to be meeting his future wife at a hospital. He wasn’t sick from dinner’s food poisoning this time, though, so his mother wouldn’t take him. About ten minutes away from his destination via bicycle, he just about finished the bottle of ipecac he had stolen from the medicine cabinet. When he arrived in the waiting room, he didn’t even bother checking in. He sat down where he was supposed to, but his future wife, Leona was already talking with him. It was Mateo, the man who had been responsible for her death in the alternate timeline. It was everything he could do to stop himself from strangling his enemy right there. Instead, he waited patiently and hoped he would soon leave. Each time Leona would threw up, Horace would throw up as well; a sort of weird way to get her attention, but it didn’t work. Nothing did. Her father came round just as Mateo was leaving, and they were soon called into the back to pump her stomach.
He resolved to do a better job once the day restarted, but when he woke up, it was tomorrow. He hadn’t rewound the day to try things over. He never really knew for sure that this was true, but he suspected that the reason he didn’t restart that particular day was because he hadn’t experienced it all the way through. He would have needed to go through it once before he could go try it again. But the real reason was that this was part of his punishment. His daughter, Melly had mentioned that there would be consequences for his second chance since it broke his time travel pattern. But Reaver was still grateful for having been giving the second chance. Even though most things didn’t turn out as he had hoped, Leona was still alive. He had succeeded in that, if nothing else. And she appeared to be happy with Mateo; happier than she ever seemed in the alternate timeline when she was with Horace.
In the end, after all his struggles, was this the best possible outcome? Despite his personal problems, his company had actually done some good for the world. It had pushed the boundaries of technology, and forced the population to accept progress at a faster rate than predicted. The company did eventually fall apart, but it had sprung a healthy dose of competition from other companies, and they were still standing. They were carrying on the legacy he now wished he would have been trying to accomplish. Success was always just a means to an end; a way to secure his livelihood so that Leona would have something to go towards, away from Mateo. But that was a bad reason. He realized this now. It took him two years of reflection in his special salmon prison cube, but he had finally learned his lesson. Hopefully, that would count for the next life.
He was given special permission to attend his old friend, Daria’s funeral in the past. A salmon was dispatched to take him back in time for a short trip, along with all five of his security guards. A few hours after returning to 2055, however, the two guards on shift disappeared suddenly. “Hello?” Horace called out.
“Hello,” came the reply. But it wasn’t from the outside of the prison cube. It was right in there with him. Horace turned around to find a man he did not recognize. He had placed a large knife on the kitchen counter, along with some other small machine, and he appeared to be making himself a sandwich.
“Could I ask your name?” Horace asked genuinely politely.
The man signed and placed his hand on the handle of his knife, almost like it was an accident. “The other choosers like to give their little salmon nicknames, but they don’t have their own. In fact, if they had it their way, they wouldn’t have names at all. They would find it more mysterious and godlike.” He threw a cluster of pepperoni into his mouth and continued talking with his mouth full, “but I actually like these nicknames. It’s given me a chance to redefine myself. I am...The Cleanser.”
“What do you do, Cleanser?” Horace asked. “You clean up after people’s messes?”
He laughed as he was putting the final touches on his sandwich. “It’s my job to clean up the whole mess,” he clarified.
“What does that mean?”
“It means that killing you is not going to serve much of a purpose on its own but it’s an easy job, and we all have to start small, don’t we? After I kill you and The Guards, I’m going to go after The Kingmaker.” He smashed the top slice of bread down with his fist, like a crazy person. “Then I’ll go after The Freelancers, The Shapers, The Rovers, and so on. After I’m finished with all the salmon,” he stopped to take a bite, “I can finally make my way to The Choosing Ones.”
“You’re not going to hurt my daughter.”
“I am,” he disagreed. “I’ll kill her. It may take me a few tries, but I’ll figure it out. She’s the one who did this to me, so I have some extra animosity towards her.”
“They’ll never let you kill all those people—who is the Kingmaker? The choosing ones are too powerful.”
He laughed, letting crumbs tumble out of his mouth. “They would be powerful, if they agreed to work with each other. But as it stands, they’re no better than me. I can take them, as long as I bide my time, and go after them one by one.”
“Why are you telling me all this?” Horace asked. “I mean, if you’re going to kill me anyway. Especially since I’ll just go back in time and you’ll have to do it again.”
The Cleanser shrugged. “First of all, you won’t. When I kill you, it’s done; I break your pattern. You don’t go back. Secondly, I’m telling you because I don’t get to talk very often. Mine is a very lonely existence. I do it only because time travel is wrong, and it’s my responsibility to put a stop to it.”
This time, Horace shrugged. “No, it isn’t.”
“Whatever your reasons, whatever you’ve been through that makes you think you have to do all this, you don’t. Trust me, I’ve been there. Your plan is stupid. It’ll never work. You’ll fail. You’ll be destroyed. The choosing ones might let you kill one or two salmon. Hell, they might even let you take a whole basketball team, but you definitely won’t get far enough to take out the choosing ones themselves. That would be ridiculous. I don’t care how smart you think you are; how disorganized they are; or how much practice you get, they’ll win. They always win.”
“You sound pretty confident for a dead man.”
Horace moved closer menacingly. “I have been alive for one hundred and forty-six years. I may be a slow learner, but I have figured out a few things along the way. And I’m resigned to my own death. It’s probably time.” He moved a little closer. “You want my advice. That is not a question.”
The Cleanser set his sandwich half on the plate and brushed his palms together. “I’m listening.”
“I still don’t know who the Kingmaker is, but I know who the Rovers are. Mateo and Leona are incredibly strong. She’s smart, and he’s a fucking survivor. If you want to continue with your plans of destroying the salmon world, then waiting to get rid of them is your dumbest move. Better go after them first, because if they catch wind of your’re already done.”
He breathed in through his nose and looked at Horace with curiosity. “I shall take that under advisement.”
Horace smiled sinisterly. “Good. Now pick up that knife and get on with it.”
The Cleanser laughed once with his mouth closed and lifted his knife. But he didn’t stab Horace with it. He turned the blade up and twisted the bottom, letting a small object fall out of the handle. “Do you recognize this?”
“Is that the explosive device I fruitlessly sent to Mateo in the hopes of killing him?”
He held it up and examined it like he was giving an appraisal of a diamond. “The technology is interesting. It’s pretty archaic, but it can reach out to other machines and cause them to overheat. The device itself doesn’t have to explode.”
“That’s why I chose it.”
He snapped his fingers into a fist and squeezed the device tightly, as if scared a bird would swoop down and steal it. “This is not the one you sent to the future. That one is on its journey and will, as you say, fail to complete its mission. I have no interest in extracting that from time. I made another one.” He lowered his fist and inserted the device into the machine. “I just thought it would be ironic to kill you the way you have going to tried to kill your enemy in 3118.”
“That makes sense.” Horace nodded. “I like it.”
“I thought you might.” He looked around the prison cube and settled on Horace’s pillow. He picked it up and looked at Horace one more time. “I need this.”
He seemed to be drawing energy from the pillow as he held it. Then he disappeared in a blink. The pillow fell to the floor. All five guards were pulled back, but inside of the cube, instead of outside where they belonged. They were frightened and confused. Guard Number Two drew his sidearm.
Horace reached out his hands and tried to usher them as far from the device as he could, but they weren’t having it. “It’s a bomb!” Not that it mattered. The explosion would likely consume the entire cube, and if that didn’t kill them, the lack of oxygen eventually would. Everything the Cleanser was trying for was, so far, going according to plan. With his last thought, Horace Reaver hoped that Mateo Matic would win the next battle too.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Microstory 220: Bad Thoughts (Part V)

Part I: Triple Threat
Part II: Wreckless
Part III: Friendly Fire
Part IV: Police Brutality

I refuse to move from my triangle of safety, even as the other drivers beg me to. I say that I want to wait for the authorities to arrive, but the truth is that I just can’t move. Literally, I’m paralyzed. I instruct my legs to bend at the knees, and for my hands to brace myself on the hood of the little red sedan while I twist over and slide to the ground. Nothing. I look down the street, over the sedan, and witness a bus crash into a tow truck. It’s an odd coincidence, but not enough to shock me out of my ongoing fear. I turn my head and see another car on fire, down behind the black truck. Holy crap, this can’t be a coincidence! This is fate! Someone upstairs is upset with me, for whatever reason, and is piling on the bad luck. I look through the windows of the white cargo van to see a police cruiser rear-end the car ahead of him. Okay, now I know something is seriously wrong with reality. That would never happen. Cops are too careful. I’m the cause of this all, and I have to figure out how to get out of it. The cop then rams his cruiser into the back of the van, and continues to push forward, trying to get at me. The tow truck driver comes up and swings his machinery against the sedan like a wrecking ball, hoping each time that it knocks me over the head. The car that’s already on fire drivers around us in circles, setting off minor but continuous explosions from all the other vehicles. I shut my eyes and concentrate, then I turn the ignition in my own car. I back out of the garage and head for the store to buy chocolate. No walking for me, not today. I never know if my premonitions are real, because I always work to subvert them. Better safe than sorry. I’ll start exercising tomorrow. I promise.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Microstory 219: Police Brutality (Part IV)

Oh, the irony, is all I can think to myself. Yes, it’s true that law enforcement is a tough job, and not without its risks. Yes, when we’re involved in high speed chases, we are more likely to suffer damage, but that is not what happened. I was responding to a three-car pile up, but the driver of the white van involved reported no serious injuries. I didn’t so much as have my lights flashing. I wanted to get there as quick as I could, but it wasn’t what we in the business would call an emergency. I was driving the speed limit, obeying all traffic laws, and as calm as anything. I’m about to turn right on red onto the street where the call came from, and as I’m looking over my shoulder, I see that the way is clear. I expect the driver in front of me to go, but I’ve forgotten one major thing: I’m a cop. When I’m driving in my personal vehicle, I see people cut each other off, speed up through an orange traffic signal, and just generally drive recklessly. When I’m in my cruiser, though, I tend to find people to be extraordinarily cautious...dangerously so. Nobody wants to make a mistake and risk me pulling them over. I think they would rather just pull off to the side every time and wait for me to pass. The guy ahead of me should have turned. There’s a median between us and the parallel traffic headed forwards. We have a nice, smooth curve, and a long lane just for us while we prepare to merge. But he doesn’t. He waits. He’s scared of me. He may not be sure turning right on red is legal in this state, he may be worried I’m having a bad day and just looking for a reason to yell, or he may have just frozen up. I don’t know his reasoning, because as we sit here, I’ve yet to leave my vehicle. Now I’m the one who’s scared. It was my fault; I should have been paying attention, and ensured that he really had gone on through the intersection. Man, my colleagues are gonna have a field day with this one. I’ll never live it down. But I’m saved from the embarrassment, for now. I don’t have time to deal with the situation. My dash cam recorded the other driver’s license plate, so I can contact him later. Dispatch alerts me that following the accident from my original call, there was also a bus crash and a car that caught on fire. Now is the time for me to flash my lights and drive dangerously.

Part V: Bad Thoughts

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Microstory 218: Friendly Fire (Part III)

When I was in elementary school, I had a best friend. He and I did everything together in the beginning, but with each passing year, we grew further and further apart. I was more into sports, and he started not liking the outdoors so much, so we stopped having all that much in common. A few years ago, much to the joy of all my girlfriends, I finally signed up for Facebook. I don’t use it all that much, but a lot of people prefer it to any other form of communication. The other day, my former best friend, who I hadn’t so much as spoken to since early in high school, popped up on a list of people I may know. He was the only person on my list who I chose to send a friend request to. Everyone else had friended me instead. After he accepted, I browsed through his profile page, and discovered that we both ended up living in the same city. He had moved recently, and didn’t know anybody else, so I told them that he could call me if he ever needed help with anything. I didn’t think he would take me up on it, but then he calls me this morning. He’s just been in a car accident and is sort of freaking out, asking me if I know of any lawyers that would be cheaper than the ones at my firm. His license plate tags are out of date, he can’t find his registration, and he thinks his turn signal light wasn’t working. He thinks he’ll be the one at fault since his black truck looks menacing. I don’t remember him being so dramatic. I don’t have anything to do today, so of course I decide to go down and help him out, pro bono. I’m driving down the road, just as a I normally would, but I notice the heat gauge thingy is all the way up to the H. It’s not all that hot outside, so I don’t believe it should be like that, but I don’t know anything about cars, so I ignore it and hope everything is fine. It isn’t. Just as I’m turning onto the last street, and can see the accident up ahead, my feet start to feel warm. Then the floor catches on fire. The floor..freaking..catches on fire. What the hell am I supposed to do?

Part IV: Police Brutality
Part V: Bad Thoughts

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Microstory 217: Wreckless (Part II)

Part I: Triple Threat

I grew up on a farm, and so I’ve been driving heavy machinery since I was eleven years old. When I moved into the city, about the only thing I could do to make money was driving. I drove a cross country truck for a couple years, a cab for a couple more, and I even spent several months as a chauffeur for fancy people. But at the end of the day, I decided to go with tow trucks. I looked into a few different companies, but landed on one that requires every driver to have experienced precisely zero vehicular collisions in their lifetime. I’ve always been a pretty outgoing guy, but I’ve also been told that I have a very calming and comforting voice. They never send me out to tow vehicles that have been abandoned for one reason or another. No, I’m the dedicated people person. Whenever the company gets a call from someone who sounds particularly frustrated or distraught, or if it’s a repossession with a strong likelihood of encountering the owner, I go in. And man, do I love what I do. For me, this is just any other day, but for our clients, this could be an extreme inconvenience. It’s my job to get them where they’re going safely, making sure that the process is as smooth as possible, and I take it very seriously. These aren’t just numbers on a clipboard; these are people, and their feelings matter. Today is a weird one, though. The call doesn’t go through dispatch; it goes straight to my cell phone. I remember immediately the man on the other end of the line, along with his little red sedan. I didn’t have to work on his car when we first met. He had run over a cooler that had fallen onto the highway. He thought that it had punctured something under his car, but the fluid appeared to have been coming from the cooler instead. Still, we kind of hit it off, and I gave him my card. Now he’s a bit frenetic, but he says something about hitting two cars at the same time, and that there was a pedestrian in the middle of it. I hop into my truck and carefully speed off. I’m nearing the intersection, close enough to see what the client is talking about, when a bus runs a red light and crashes into me, costing me my job.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Microstory 216: Triple Threat (Part I)

I step out of my house and climb into my car. I’m just about to turn the ignition when I stop myself. It’s a waste of gas and electricity, especially for my crappy old car, to go a few blocks. So I get back out and start walking. As I’m nearing my destination, I realize how great I feel. I’ve always wanted to get in better shape. Why am I even so much as entertaining the idea of going out for the sole purpose of buying chocolate? No. I’m better than this. I smile proudly as I pass the store. I almost wave to it, but there are people around, and I already feel a bit out of place. I only go a couple of miles, and I’m sure people walk those kind of distances on the regular, but it feels far to me. I’m waiting patiently at a crosswalk, farther than I’ve ever walked from my house. In fact, I’ve never been to this part of town. Everything I need is either closer or in a different direction. Still, it’s lights. I know how to navigate traffic lights. The indicator changes from the redish-orange hand to the whitish figure in midstride. I’m noting that the white van to my right is inching just a little too much, but I keep an eye on it, and prepare to walk briskly. It’s not enough. I could have either raced across, or raced back, but I panic and end up just trying to run away from it. The little red sedan to my left that’s trying to turn right is completely missing its mark, and is heading for me as well. The driver seems distracted. Now I really need to get back to my first corner, but I can’t think straight. I don’t walk. I never walk. I’m not a walker! Why do people walk so much? This is stupid! Why even try to exercise when nonsense like this is going to happen? A black truck coming from the opposite direction of the sedan, and trying to turn left is coming for me as well. That’s when my true acute stress response kicks in and I freeze, mentally resigned to the fact that one of these vehicles is going to crash into my fragile fat body and take my life away. But I do manage to keep my eyes open, and use them to witness an insane miracle. The corner of the white van turning left hits the red sedan turning right from the adjacent street. The black truck from oncoming traffic turning left hits the red sedan and the white van. All of this forms an untouched triangle of safety of which I am in the middle.

Part II: Wreckless
Part III: Friendly Fire
Part IV: Police Brutality
Part V: Bad Thoughts