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©2017 by arthur jay

 

Short Stories & Flash Fiction

 

INTRO TO KRAHNDO AT THE SLOTS

KrahnDo at the Slots was inspired by the feeling you get when you're playing the slots, and that next spin might just be the big one, though it never is.

KrahnDo at the Slots

A leathery green hand reached out and grabbed the black lever, like a junky reaching for the needle. For the thousandth time that day, KrahnDo pulled down the lever and released it.

 

Kerchunk! The slot machine’s three wheels spun thoughtlessly into action, without consideration as to how or why.

 

KrahnDo sighed. “Ahhrhrgrg.” His heavy lizard bones were sore after sitting on the same red stool for over a day and a half. All that time, KrahnDo had been pumping the machine, feeding it, guarding it, making sure no monster, goblin or ghoul might come around and bite off a chunk of his luck.

 

KrahnDo turned his dinosaur head from left to right, scanning the empty row of slot machines. The Blob that had been lurking earlier seemed to have wondered off. KrahnDo turned back to the slot machine as its wheels slowed their roll. Shoop. Shoopshop. Shoop. One after another, the three wheels rolled to a hard stop, settling on Blue Diamond, Red Cherry, and Single Bonus. KrahnDo’s head bobbled as he stared at another loss. KrahnDo was down to his last quarter.

 

Three days earlier, KrahnDo had gotten out of the hospital after a run in with a kidney stone. After a very painful passing, they had to operate. The surgeon tapped into KrahnDo’s bypass, just over the navel, saddling him with a waste bag to collect his outflow until the wound healed. The doctor advised him to ‘lay off the fatty foods, and make sure to hydrate’. Then he patted KrahnDo on the back and sent him on his way, waste bag in hand.

 

In order to get his mind off his mind, KrahnDo decided to take the next day’s bus trip from the senior center to the casino for some distraction. A few hours later, he was feasting on garlic and rats at the 24 hour buffet, and chasing the bowlfuls with black coffee. He then walked the floor for a bit, searching for the right machine, before a sequence of flashing lights from the Lucky Bonus Quarter Slot caught his eye and told him that his destiny was calling.

 

Now after sitting for a day and a half, without even getting up to empty the bladder at his side, KrahnDo was experiencing noticeable discomfort. He was perspiring from the strain of sitting up. Where KrahnDo’s purple ankle emerged from his tattered brown pant leg, the curved claws of his bare feet tapped anxiously against the slot machine’s metal base. When KrahnDo first arrived, he had a bucket full of quarters, now he was looking down into his green palm, staring at his last and final chance. Exhaustion had almost erased all traces of hope.

 

KrahnDo shook his head and looked up to the ceiling. His yellow eyes searched for a clock but there was none. His cell phone had died hours ago. He didn’t know the time. Under his long shirt, the once clear collection bag had grown full and yellow.

 

KrahnDo lifted his shirt with a claw and turned his long flat face to examine the waste bag up close. The fullness concerned him.

 

KrahnDo pinched his last quarter between the talons of his stubby lizard fingers, and dropped the coin into the metal slot. The sound of the ‘clink’ aroused his senses.  Hope was never totally lost, was it?

 

KrahnDo’s long blunt face twitched. One of several eyelids blinked. He peered down the empty row of slot machines to see if anyone was looking. The Blob had returned. He was floating between the stacks of slot machines. KrahnDo cursed him. That glutinous freak has been jinxing me all day.

 

In the distance, a chorus of whistles announced a waterfall of quarters. They tinkled like bells. KrahnDo licked his black lips. He swung his tail around to the other side of the red stool.

 

“Last dance, baby!” he said out loud. The quarter was loaded. The pump was primed. The arm was ready. KrahnDo pulled the lever with wild anticipation and it went into action. Kerchunk! The wheels spun to life. The laws of physics were off. Small vibrations in the earth in combination with the randomness of the machine’s cold logic would now determine KrahnDo’s immediate future. Go big, or go home, KrahnDo intoned.

 

The first wheel spun to a stop, settling on JACKPOT, spelled out in block letters with a black outline and a red and yellow starburst. KrahnDo nodded his big head. OK, he said to himself. Here we go.

 

The second wheel slowed down, rolled slowly past Triple Bonus, Cherry, Double Bonus, Ray Gun, Spaceship and Double Bonus. It clicked once, twice, three times, and stopped on JACKPOT. That was two in a row. Here we go, he thought. Just one more!

 

KrahnDo’s yellow eyes opened wide. His pupils narrowed to pinpoints. The black spines on his neck stood up straight out of the torn, white collar of his shirt.

 

Across the casino, a man sat at a low table in the shadows of a bar. An overhead light illuminated a glass of whisky and an ashtray before him, like a still-life hung in a gallery. The man pulled hard on his cigarette, keenly aware of a momentary buzz in the air. The cigarette’s orange cherry flared. He exhaled, setting a plume of smoke billowing into the narrow shaft of light illuminating him from above.

 

As the tendrils curled between shadows, the third wheel of KrahnDo’s slot machine started to slow. Shoop. Shoopshoop. Shoop. KrahnDo’s breathing quieted. The wheel turned over past Triple Bonus, Cherry, Ray Gun, Spaceship, Double Bonus.

 

In slow motion, like the sun rising over the horizon, JACKPOT came into focus. In that instant, the hum of the Earth and the Universe fell into harmony. Everything paused. Behind KrahnDo, a human waitress hung in midstep. A clattering tray clung precariously to her fingertips. Drops of amber splashed above the chunks of ice in the rocks glasses. Six flutes of Champaign teetered on their edge.

 

In that moment, all sound converged to a singularity, and shouted forth from it, like angels trumpeting in the key of B.

 

In that moment, only the Blob moved. He poked his simple round head out between two slots half way down the aisle. His blank, black, round eyes focused narrowly on KrahnDo and his slot machine. The third wheel of KrahnDo’s slot clicked into place. Cherry.

 

“Son of a…hmmp” KrahnDo mumbled into his breath. He let out a long sigh. He reached for his cane. It was still leaning against the slot machine next to him, where he had set it down all those hours ago.

 

KrahnDo leaned over the cane and pushed his entire weight up with one clawed hand until he was standing. At the far wall, a sign pointed toward the restrooms. KrahnDo started walking that way.

 

A split second later, he heard a squish and a giggle. KrahnDo turned around to find the amorphous white Blob had already settled into his vacated seat by the slot machine, the same slot machine that he, KrahnDo KrahnDo, had fed all day. That weasel, KrahnDo thought.

 

The blob’s amoebic body bubbled and gurgled. A small limb formed out of its undulating shape. It was holding a quarter. The Blob turned to look at KrahnDo. It had neither mouth, nor nose, nor ears. It didn’t even have eyebrows. Two simple black holes were all that told you that it was gathering your light. Their elliptical shape told KrahnDo that the Blob was excited.

 

God dammit, KrahnDo thought.

 

The Blob pulled the lever and the wheels spun into action. Fate and the laws of physics were on their way! The first wheel spun to a stop. BONUS. The second wheel rolled to a stop. BONUS. One more to go! The Blob leaped an inch off of the red stool. As he hung in the air, the neon red and yellow lights of the casino entered and passed through the Blob’s translucent body, changing him from a porridge-y white to a cool purple, like an incandescent light bulb warming up.

 

The third wheel spun. Spaceship. Raygun. The wheel clicked into place. A picture of a red cherry shook in the third window. The Blob lost.

 

KrahnDo shook his head and laughed to himself, satisfied. He turned his heavy body away and headed back down the aisle. He walked off toward the restroom to empty the waste bag, brimming at his side.

INTRO TO THE DAY THEY CAME

This was my first attempt at flash fiction. I tried to mix sci-fi and slapstick with a story of love and revenge in 1,000 words.

 

THE DAY THEY CAME

The arch of human progress shot like an arrow out of the dark shadows of the African rain forest. From humble beginnings, primitive man discovered fire, farming, iron and war. Society developed, and with it, science, computers and the hydrogen bomb. Over unknown generations, the arrow of discovery flew upwards through the baby blue dawn into the cold midnight of outer space. The parabolic flight of humanity reached the heavens, slowed towards its angelic apex, kissed the feet of St. Paul and, for a brief moment, hung in the heavens, weightless.  After millennia of trial and error, victories and setbacks, pride and hubris, the intellectuals of the world brought all of mankind’s learning together to launch the second Viking voyager into orbit. All of humanity’s hopes and dreams, along with photographic evidence of the probe’s Earthly creation, were packed into that glimmering spacecraft, the first of its kind to journey to the outer edge of the solar system. Angels watched from the heavens as the Viking voyager left the solar system, and the arrow of human evolution began it’s terrestrial descent, whistling back to Earth.

 

Fifty thousand years later, far across the universe, after a long, dark, silent passage through the vast blackness of outer space, the Viking voyager arrived at the thin edge of a distant gray moon, known locally as Janus One. Upon reaching the thin atmosphere of Janus One, the voyager burst into pieces, sending glowing metal shrapnel toward the populated center of the imperial city. Guided by the winds of fate, a burning hunk crashed through the roof of the Emperor’s palace where it crushed the Emperor’s beautiful wife in her sleep. The Emperor arrived from a hunting trip to discover the horrible news. Devastated, he mourned for seven years and seven months. Then he vowed to track down his wife’s killers and avenge her death.

        

A blink of an eye later, and the Emperor and his fleet arrived from hyperspace on the dark side of the moon. Having calculated the trajectory, speed and ultimate origin of the burning satellite, the Emperor arrived with his fleet, ready for vengeance. When the Emperor compared the images of Earth recovered from the Viking’s wreckage, with the image before him, he knew at once that he was in the right place.

 

Like ladybugs on a picnic blanket, the starships of Janus One settled on the cratered lunar surface.  Pressed tightly in the cockpits of their personal star fighters, the glistening, translucent slug like creatures sat motionless, waiting for their command.  Alone in his own fighter, tears streamed from the Emperor’s small red eyes down his pale corpulent cheeks, as he thought of his beloved Queen, the mother of his ten thousand offspring.

 

By that time, the arch of human progress had completed it’s descent. The metal tipped arrow of destiny came screaming back to Earth, where it hit a rocky surface and bounced one last time into the air before fate and gravity set it down at the naked, dirty feet of a local tribesman. Mankind’s last descendants – a cave dwelling pygmy people of the Canadian arctic rain forest – were busy at work tending to their root gardens, collecting herbs, and weaving baskets.

 

On that fateful day, the day that the army of Janus One came to Earth, the last men were as oblivious to the Emperor’s arrival as they would be to his motive.

 

These tiny, tanned descendants of man were stopped dead in their tracks as the Emperor’s fleet of starships swarmed upon the village, arriving silently, and then buzzing with firepower. When the first missiles exploded, the tribesmen had thought they had stumbled across a giant bee’s nest. Minute buzzing objects were zipping around, stinging them painfully. The Chief of the Village was standing at the edge of the tribe’s communal cave, leaning casually against the smooth face of the stone door, when a lone spacecraft landed on his neck and began to prick him repeatedly. The speck-sized spacecraft blasted him with miniature exploding missiles from close range. The chief smacked at his neck and looked at his palm. To his wonder, he saw the smeared body of a mysterious bug oozing out of a crushed metal capsule. Then he heard the screams.

 

The tribesmen, arms flailing, were running towards the safety of the cave from all directions. Their naked boobs and bits flopped about as they came screaming towards safety. Sensing danger, the Chief ordered the round massive rock door rolled into place at the edge of the cave.  The last of the naked pygmy villagers leapt through the shrinking crack as the door was sealed right behind him.

        

The Chief gathered the hysterical, bitten tribe together to try to calm them down. He stood in a red loincloth in the flickering glow of a burning torch. His feathered headdress cast a crown-like shadow on the jagged wall of the cave as he addressed his people. “People no worry about bugs. Ha ha. Just a swarm. Tomorrow, bugs be gone. Everyone back to work. Ha ha. Tonight we sleep here.”

 

That night, the naked villagers huddled next to each other for warmth. They slept sitting upright on mats, covered in rough shawls, with their backs against the jutting walls. At dawn, when the guards rolled the stone door away from the entrance, the Emperor and his fleet were still there, hovering at the mouth of the cave. The Emperor was mad with rage. The image of his beloved wife’s splattered remains burned in his mind’s eye. Before the Chief could command the door sealed, the Emperor and his fleet darted in and attacked. Missiles exploded with tiny pops as the spacecraft swarmed about the people, blasting them with their nano-cannons.

 

Instinct kicked in. Frantic, naked tribesmen rushed away from the swarm towards the back of the cave, knocking the weak and old over in the process. They huddled against the back wall of the cave, swatting at the firing swarm, while the Chief hid in a shadowy nook. The Emperor spotted the Chief in the shadows, hiding behind three frightened guards. The Emperor gave a command. His fleet quit the tribe and reassembled in a hovering position before the Chief and his tremoring guards.

 

The Emperor sent a signal and the fleet of spacecraft arranged itself in a plane. Like a sheet hanging on a line, the plane of ships waved subtly in the air. For a moment, the rippling army was all that moved. Time froze in the cold dampness of the cave. Then the Emperoror gave another command and the fleet unloaded their entire arsenal into the backs of the huddling guards. With feverous joy, the Emperor screamed and screamed until the last missile was fired. When the smoke cleared, the Emperor saw that the guards were stung and pelted, and visibly upset, but still very much alive.

 

With bloodlust on his mind, revenge in his heart, and no resort, the Emperor ordered his fleet to kamikaze. In one last brazen assault, the Emperor and his fleet exploded themselves upon the singed shoulders of the Chief’s brave guards. By the time it was over, the whimpering guards were charred and blistered but still standing. They looked down to find what looked like popcorn. The heat of the exploding spacecraft had transformed the slug bodies of Janus One into something like fried calamari. The rest of the tribe gathered around the exploded bodies of the Emperor and his pilots. They bent down to collect the remains of the fleet from the floor of the cave. With delicate hands, they separated the meat from the metal, and popped the crunchy morsels into their hungry mouths. Mankind was down, but not out. The army of Janus One was no more.

 

INTRO TO PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE HACKTIVIST HACKERS

Another early flash fiction - this idea came to me during a heated debate at the bar about the “internet of things”.

PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE HACTIVIST PRANKSTERS

Karl flipped on the television to catch the end of the evening news. Some talking head with short gray hair and a tanned complexion was speaking. "In national news, a band of passive aggressive hacktivist pranksters has been caught tampering with online food recipes. In Toledo, one woman is dead from a salt overdose. The teens will be tried for manslaughter."

 

"Punk kids," Karl thought to himself. Last week another gang had hacked into the internet and eliminated all the vowels. For an entire week, news headlines were gobbledygook. The stories made even less sense.

 

A month earlier riots broke out when a merry gang of Russian hackers snuck a code into the servers that replaced images of breasts with cartoon hams. Teenage boys were beside themselves. Karl too was upset, but on the bright side, there was a lot less traffic on the internet that weekend. Speeds were up.

 

Unfortunately, the internet wasn't the only problem. All of the things connected to it were out of control. Karl's thermostat was set to random. His lights flickered to the sound of music. Even his coffee maker was brewing painfully slow. By the time that the town's driverless cars began operating only in reverse, Karl had had enough. Tonight's news was just another fly in the soup. So Karl flicked off his TV, leaned back and asked himself, "What next"?

 

Just then his doorbell rang. Karl got up to answer it, but nobody was there.

INTRO TO MOTHER EARTH MEDITATES 

I always liked the idea of the chakra meditation, which is a breathing exercise that focuses on the seven chakras as they stack up the spine. The chakra meditation is an idea central to a longer piece that I’m working on titled Alone on the Mesa.

 

 

MOTHER EARTH MEDITATES

Mother Earth sits in the lotus position deep in the Earth’s core, cross-legged, floating, left foot over right. Swirling orange magma glows red-hot around her, but the lapping tongues of flame singe neither her tanned skin, nor the dark strips of cloth that modestly cover her waste and chest. Her gentle face is calm as the molten slurry churns around her. She touches her flat palms together before her heart. Her fingers spread as sweat glistens on her shoulders. Slowly her stomach expands, filling like a balloon. At the base of her spine, the heat and pressure simmer like a tickle in her tailbone. Mother Earth exhales. Flows of magma swirl away on her breath. Like a magnetic field emanating and returning, recycling through the spine of her body, the heat of the fire flows. On the Earth’s surface, the wind picks up. Mother Earth’s breath rustles the leaves.

 

Mother Earth inhales. Her nostrils flare ever so slightly. Her square forehead, tender eyes and simple chin are smooth and still. Mother Earth’s belly fills with air. Her stomach is hot. She breathes out harder now and the magma pushes away from her lips as a jet. The flow of magma sloshes against the iron shell of the Earth’s inner core. Up on the surface, powerful winds turn the ocean choppy. A tiny white boat teeters in a dark blue swell. Scared, drenched men in yellow rain coats cling to rails. Their wide, startled eyes look to the heavens. They say their prayers as thunder rumbles and lightning cracks the sky.

Deep below, Mother Earth breathes in again. The fire burns hot in her chest. Her hands, still pressed together before her heart, hold the glowing white heat of humanity between her palms. Around her, the magma courses, enveloping her in a simmering boil. The burning tingle rushes up her spine, from tail to belly, to her heart. Mother Earth blows hard. The Earth rumbles. In the cities, skyscrapers sway wildly. On the plains, hooved animals scatter in fright. Horned beasts trample the high grasses, leaving a scar in their wake.

Deep below, Mother Earth floats. Legs crossed left over right, she breathes in, expanding her stomach. Her palms are pressed together as she raises her lean arms over her head. She curls her toes and her knuckles crack. Her spine straightens. She opens her hands to the heavens and tilts her head back. The electric pulse of the Earth’s molten heat erupts through her throat and her head. Mother Earth breathes out with irresistible force. The magma rages around the cauldron of the Earth’s core. The heat of the moment tears at the tattered threads of Mother Earth’s simple cloth. Her dark hair singes and smokes, but remains permanent. Her third eye glows. Cosmic energy, ultraviolet, bursts from her head. Above her, the Earth splits open. Volcanoes erupt. Lava flows, turning all it touches to stone. Ash fills the sky. Thunder and lightning tear through the tumbling atmosphere. Heavy rain falls at an angle and pounds the Earth. All is chaos. All living things freeze as the Earth heaves and hoes.

Then Mother Earth drops her arms back into her lap. She slows her breath. Her shoulders relax. Her bottom settles deeper into her seat. Above her, dark clouds recede into the distance.  The blue sky emerges. Beneath it a green pine sways in a gentle breeze. Men go back to work. The animals continue to graze.

 

INTRO TO THE SEMI-INTELLIGENT SQUIRRELS OF PLUTON SIX

Squirrels love to hang from the bird feeder in my back yard and eat the seed. I watch them from my desk where I write. The other day I wondered what it might look like if squirrels had become the dominant species on Earth and not humans.

 

THE SEMI-INTELLIGENT SQUIRRELS OF PLUTON SIX

 

Illustration by Tim McGee

Tim McGee is a California based Designer and Illustrator. His work can be found at behance.net/TMcGee

 

On the planet of Pluton Six, a race of semi-intelligent squirrels had become the dominant species. Richard and Nancy were too such squirrels, a furry brown pair of woodland lovebirds, busy in their preparations for a long cold winter.

 

Nancy was inside folding and stacking leaves on the shelves Richard had carved with his teeth into the inside walls of the tree they called home. When she finished folding, she set about picking up empty shells from the floor – Richard was such a messy eater – and tossing them out the opening of their sanctuary to the branch outside and the ground below. When that was done, she went to the dug out pantry and began segregating the sunflowers seeds from the acorns. She was deep in thought; worrying about an army of black ants she had seen higher in the tree the other day, when suddenly she felt a presence behind her. A voice yelled out, “Hey!” and Nancy turned around startled.

 

“Jimmy!” she yelled. It was her son. She wrapped her sharp paws around his fuzzy brown body and gave him a big hug. Her puffy tail wagged merrily back and forth. “How are you?” Nancy asked.

 

“Not bad,” replied Jimmy. He hadn’t been by the nest for a few days. He had been busy as well, getting ready for the coming winter. “I’ve been pretty busy these last few days. The chestnuts were falling, and I was burying them in my secret place under the rose bushes. It took me about three days. I must have buried a hundred nuts.” Jimmy smiled smartly. “Let me know if you need any.”

 

“Oh, Jimmy,” Nancy cooed. She was so proud of her son. He was so handsome and caring. “Do you always worry about your mother?”

 

“No. But I do what I can.” He smiled. His whiskered cheeks were big and round. His tiny little ears were pert and sharp. His eyes were clear and black. He shuffled around his mom and settled into a nook his father had carved near the pantry. The coziest spot in the hole. He leaned back and exposed his soft white belly.

 

“Jimmy,” his mom chastised. “A little modesty! I’m still your mother after all!”

 

“Sorry mom.” Jimmy adjusted himself and crossed his legs as his dad appeared in silhouette against the big round entranceway.

 

“Jimbo!” he yelled. “Where have you been?” Richard asked with delight.

 

“Oh, you know. Collecting nuts. Burying seeds. The usual.”

 

“Me too!” his dad replied as he crawled inside. “I’ve been moving chestnuts all day. I’m exhausted.”

 

Jimmy looked at his father, concerned. “Oh yea? I’ve been doing the same. I hit the jackpot over by the pond. They were falling like raindrops. I must have collected more than a hundred.”

 

Richard was proud of his son, but he loved nothing more than to show him he was still number one. “You wouldn’t believe where I found them,” said Richard. “Some bozo tried hiding them under the rose bushes. As if I wouldn’t look there! I took every last one and buried them over in the pine forest by the big rock.”

 

Jimmy looked at his dad with disbelief. “Seriously? By the rose bushes? The red rose bushes? Is that where you found them?”

 

“Yup! Why?” Dad asked.

 

“You’re the bozo! Those were mine! I hid those there!”

 

“No,” Dad replied. “Seriously?”

 

Before Jimmy could answer, a shadow came over the entranceway to their nest. Big Henry, Nancy’s brother, poked his whiskered face in through the opening. He looked to be happy about something. He slid his jumbo, red body through the opening to the nest. He belched as he tumbled over his tail and fell into place between Jimmy, Nancy and Richard. He looked up at them.

 

“You ding-dongs won’t believe what I found!” He exclaimed.

 

Jimmy looked at him suspiciously. There was something about Big Henry that always annoyed him. He asked, “Yea, something good?”

 

Big Henry replied boastfully. “Yea. I found a trove of chestnuts buried in the pine forest, over by the big rock.” He burped again and then let out a small fart. “I must have eaten every last one.”

 

INTRO TO JENNY & GLAARG

Jenny & Glaarg is a dramatic flash fiction romance set in the fourth millennium.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

Artwork by Two Left Fish. His work can be found at www.ataraxiantimes.com and instagram.com/thetwistedknife.

 

Jenny & Glaarg

                                                                             I

By the fourth millennium, man had finally learned how to live in peace. It was an

age of electric cars, magnetic trains and high-speed blimps. A giant filament,

buried a thousand miles deep, generated limitless energy from the radiation and

magnetism of the Earth’s core. The food supply was stable and no one went

hungry. Habitable worlds had been discovered outside the solar system and

people were beginning to colonize them.

 

In this age of peace and prosperity, people were free to pursue their hobbies,

interests and pleasures. Glaarg’s creator was one of the curious few, who

dedicated his life to science. In a dripping laboratorium, deep under ground,

Glaarg’s creator toiled in secret, until his dream of reanimation came true. With

the stolen halves of two very different creatures, Glaarg’s creator achieved the

dream of reanimation when he lifted Glaarg into existence, out of the ashes of

death.

                                                                                                      II

 

As an adolescent, Glaarg was horribly bullied. His half bovine form was not just repulsive, but an easy target for the other youth. For you see, Glaarg was half man-half cow, joined in the middle where his creator had grotesquely stitched a calf’s torso to the hips of a human child. From the day that his lifeless parts were clumped together and zapped back into being, Glaarg’s life was filled with ridicule and shame.

 

                                                                                                     III

 

It wasn’t until his junior year of high school that Glarg’s brown fur and doe-eyed cuteness caught the eye of another. Jenny was a petite blonde with a mischievous smirk. She was a foster child, and she was rebellious. There was something about that Glaarg, she thought as she passed him in the halls of their high school. A genuine one-of-a kind, she thought. And his baby face was kind of a cute, in a calf-like sort of way.

 

With magic in the air, Jenny got up the courage to approach Glaarg one day by the flagpole and the spark of romance fused them together right there and then just as Glaarg’s halves were stitched together all those years ago. From that day on, Glaarg and Jenny were inseparable. They spent every possible minute together, holding hoof and hand and finishing each other’s sentences. Cupid couldn’t have hit a more perfect couple with his arrow of love than Jenny and Glaarg.

 

After high school, Jenny and Glaarg moved into an apartment together. At first, life was simple and sweet. Glaarg got a job and Jenny went to night school. In those early days, they’d lie together on the weekends making love and watching television on the sofa. Jenny would make little sandwiches and rub Glaarg’s furry back. But the good times didn’t last.  The teasing that Glaarg experienced as a child carried on into the professional world. Clients wouldn’t do business with him. His co-workers openly mocked his floppy ears and moo-like laugh. They gestured behind his back and pointed. At home, money was tight. Jenny had to pick up a few shifts at the local restaurant to help make ends meet while Glaarg shuffled between dead end jobs. To make matters worse, their conflicting schedules meant they rarely had time for each other. When they did, there were always chores or errands. The playful bickering that defined their tender romance soured into the steady nagging of a spoiled marriage. As the time went by, the love and joy that they once shared became but a distant memory.

 

Then one night while Glaarg was working at a warehouse, Jenny went to a party alone. She got drunk and kissed a man. When she told Glaarg about it the next night, he was furious. He accused her of every vile act in the book. Then he screamed at her, “Admit it, you resent me for being a cow. You always wished I was a man!”

 

Glaarg pulled back his black hoof as if he was going to strike Jenny. The anger was too much. Then he burst into tears. He snorted and ran to the kitchen door. Standing in the open door way in his blue jeans and a dark t-shirt, he looked back at Jenny one last time. The fur under his big calf’s eye was already damp from the tears. Snot dripped from his big pink nose. He snorted once, the way he always did when he was angry and then he slammed the door with his hoof and disappeared into the night.

 

Glaarg eventually found himself at a bar where he proceeded to drink until the world around him blurred. The need to escape overcame him. Some time after midnight, Glaarg settled his bill, slugged down the last gulp and took off again into the night. The last thing he remembered before his vision went black was a swinging door and a flashing billboard advertising work half way across the galaxy in the new worlds.

 

                                                                                                      IV

 

When Glaarg came to, he was on a light speed freighter to one of the habitable planets on the other side of the galaxy. He immediately realized what he had done. He might as well have killed himself, because the world he knew was gone forever. He’d arrive by morning, relatively, but back on Earth a millennium would have elapsed. That meant Jenny was already a century dead! Glaarg began to wail, long and hard. His body shook with agony. His mottled, brown furred skin burned. Glaarg beat his hooved fists against his chest and bellowed. Finally the other passengers began to shout. A medic came, and shot him with a tranquilizer.

 

                                                                                                       V

 

Glaarg woke up in a hospital bed in a new world. Outside the window, large flying creatures flapped their wings against a purple sky. They soared above red grasses. Their flapping rustled the yellow trees. The sight was incredible, but all Glaarg could think was how badly he had screwed up, and how deeply he wished he could apologize and say the things he should have said when Jenny was still with him, like how beautiful she was, inside and out, and how much he loved her. Glaarg thought he had cried out all of his tears, but there was one left. A single tear rolled out of the corner of his big calf’s eye, over his brown cheek and past his pink snout. It dropped onto the hospital bed’s white linen.

 

As Glaarg wiped his eye, there was a tap at the door. The nurse, he assumed. Glaarg wrinkled his big pink nose and sniffled. “Come in,” he said. The door opened and a short blonde girl came in. It was Jenny holding flowers. She had followed him all the way.

INTRO TO AFTER THE WARMING

We love to think the future will be full of flying cars, spaceships and eternal life. But what if it's just hot, crowded and full of flies?

 

 

AFTER THE WARMING

 

 

Under his conical, pink birthday cap, Jimbo Jones looked the fool. His gray whiskered frown told everyone that he knew it. In an off-white button-down t-shirt, yellowed from years of sweat, Jimbo Jones leaned forward in his chair, shoulders rounded, a big white birthday cake before him. A large blue 8 tilted precariously toward a blue 6, wicks burning atop, and their foundations slipping and sliding in the warm white frosting below. Piped red icing drooped down the cake’s softening sides, from all four edges like streamers at a party. In red cursive letters next to the blue candles, someone had spelled Happy Birthday Jimbo. The “i” in Jimbo’s name was missing its dot.

 

Jimbo’s adult daughter Dolly, bent over to give Jimbo a big kiss on the forehead. “Make a wish Daddy!” she shouted.

 

Jimbo looked around at the handful of friends and family before him, squeezed into his tiny backyard, packed in shoulder to shoulder, sweating, fanning themselves and swiping at the black flies that had become a permanent feature in the neighborhood. Out in the street, traffic was a standstill. Drivers stuck in traffic, cursed at everyone and no one, mashing their horns with the palms of their hands, beating a manic rhythm into the air. Vagrants with nothing better to do crowded the streets and gawked. A stray dog squatted in the gutter and a general stink wafted in on a slow breeze.

 

In the relative safety of his back yard, Jimbo Jones stared down at his birthday cake. He was framed from behind by a tall wooden fence as he said in reply, “I wish the future wasn’t so damned hot, crowded and full of flies.” He swatted aggressively at a

swarm of plump flies buzzing by his ear.

 

“Oh, daddy,” Jimbo’s daughter replied, “now your wish will never come true! You gotta keep it a secret if you want it to happen. Now blow out the candles, silly,” she said.

 

Jimbo rolled his eyes and took in a big, big breath. He sucked in with all his strength. He sucked in so hard that he sucked in a fly.

 

Jimbo started coughing. Dolly wacked him on the back with a smack, and a sound like “chchchchcrrchcrrp” shot out of the back of his throat. The fly flew out like a buzzing loogie and went splat right into top of the cake, right into the white space where the “i” should have been dotted in Jimbo’s name. The fly twice beat a solitary wing into the frosting, then went still for a moment, and then took flight, fat and strong into the thick evening air.

 

The small crowd stared in disbelief. Jimbo was still wearing the pink hat and the candles were still burning.

INTRO TO DR. KARL'S HYBRID DILEMMA

Dr. Karl was walking through campus one day, when he was struck by a powerful idea.

 

DR. KARL'S HYBRID DILEMMA

“Joey’s Pizza.”

 

“Umm, yes, hi. I’d like to order some water.”

 

“OK. And?”

 

“That’s it. Just water. Two dozen bottles.”

 

“That’s it?”

 

“That’s it.”

 

“What is this, some sort of a joke?”

 

“No sir. I need water and I need it bad.”

 

“This is a pizza place. You want water? Go to the tap, buddy.”

 

Click.

 

“Dammit!” Karl yelled. That was the last delivery place in town. “I’m a paying customer. What am I going to do?”

 

Dr. Karl Johnson was in a predicament. A bonafide  surfer dude, and a bio-geneticist, Dr. Karl Johnson was one of a kind. He had come to California more than eight years ago to soak in the sun and search for the meaning of life. In between he taught molecular biology at the local university. One green day while strolling through campus, he was struck by a powerful idea while passing by the administration building with its solar paneled rooftop and ivy-covered walls. Karl shook his head. His long brown dreadlocks bounced about. “Is such a thing even possible?” he asked himself.

 

Dr. Karl Johnson walked around the rest of the day with his head in the clouds, consumed by the potential of this new idea. It was an idea so profound that it might eliminate hunger and end war in one swoop, like killing the proverbial two birds with one stone.

 

The overwhelming nature of this epiphany sent him into a psychic frenzy. His mind was so wrapped up in the idea that every other thought was choked out. He spent the rest of the day knocking over beakers in the laboratory and mumbling through his lectures. His students that day didn’t know what to make of his uncharacteristic behavior. That night, Karl spliced DNA in his mind. He was unable to sleep with all of his neurons firing on autopilot. In the morning, Karl called out sick. He wrapped himself up in a blanket and rocked back and forth. As morning became afternoon, and afternoon evening, Karl continued to rock like a shaman, sweating, muttering, and rolling his eyes. He had stepped out of his body and was wound up in a double helix nightmare of the mind. In his visions, ivy crawled through him like a new set of arteries and veins, choking out his old blood supply until every last capillary had turned from red to green.

 

Karl became so tired from thinking that sometime after sunset he collapsed in exhaustion and began to dream. Out of the darkness, an image came to him of a man and a houseplant, hugging beneath a street lamp. Under an artificial glow, the houseplant and man stood stoically, staring back at him. Karl struggled to make out their faces. As the man and plant came further into focus, Karl noticed that the two beings had traded heads. Where a human face should have been was a yellow cone surrounded by white petals on top of shoulders. Where the flower’s cone should have been was a face. Karl focused his eyes. Suddenly he realized that the face staring back at him from atop the green stalk was his own. Dr. Karl Johnson woke up with a start. His eyes were bright. The fever had broken. “Eureka!” he shouted. “I’ve got it!”

 

The next day, Karl returned to work. He lectured. He guided the laboratory experiments, and in between he scribbled frantically in his notebook. After his last class, Karl locked the doors to his laboratory and got busy. Over the next few weeks, this became his routine, and no one was the wiser for it. After his last class ended, Karl would stay up through the night splicing, dicing, cutting and infusing. He bubbled and distilled potions and flashed them alternatingly with ultra-violet and infrared light. As the nights went by, the window of Karl’s laboratory lit up in alternating colors of red and blue while vaporous tendrils of smoke curled from under his door. As the semester passed, Karl continued to operate at a frantic pace. He was running on visionary fumes. He was growing thinner the whole while but his smile just crept higher and higher until one late, late night, the concoctions in his beakers finally turned the vibrant shade of green he had been searching for.

 

Karl used an eyedropper to put a small green bump on a slide and peered at it through his scanning microscope to find what he had been searching for all this time. In the half-focused haze of the binocular vision, there was the sought after double helix with its end caps now green and fuzzy. Karl got goose bumps all over. His skin shuddered at the possibility. Had he done it? Had he finally done it? There was only one way to find out.

 

Under the cover of darkness, Dr. Karl Johnson, tucked his long dreadlocks into a black hooded sweatshirt, snuck across campus and stole fourteen rats from the animal laboratory. He stuffed the nibbling, whiskered creatures in the hand pouch of his sweatshirt and rushed back to his lab where he subjected his catch to the final test. One by one, the serum was applied. Karl waited. And then, after months of tinkering and toiling, the first rat began to mutate from a soft gray to a vibrant shade of green! Then the second one turned, and the third, and the fourth until somewhere around the break of dawn, the last and final rodent was as green as the ivy climbing up the administration building’s brick walls.

 

There, huddled in the privacy of his campus laboratory, he let out a primal ‘hurray’. It was official. He, Dr. Karl Johnson, had spliced plant DNA with an innocuous form of the Hepatitis C virus, infected the rodents with it, and now the mice’s livers were producing chloroplasts. By Karl’s calculations, with just fifteen minutes of sunshine, the hybrid mice would produce enough sugar to feed themselves for a day.

 

Karl was ecstatic. If he could accomplish the same feat in man, then human kind might wean itself off of food forever.  Famine could be eradicated. War would never be necessary! Was a Nobel Prize in Karl’s future? Karl’s dry red eyes were glazed with the hope of fame and fortune. Then suddenly paranoia set in. What if the vested interests found out?

 

Fearing that not everyone would appreciate the end of commercial farming, and the loss of profits, Karl panicked. The corn farmers of America would be after him. There was only way to ensure the truth got out. They might make a few rats disappear but they couldn’t kill him. Not if it was already too late! Dr. Karl Johnson took the last vial of serum and swigged it down in one gulp. In a few hours, Karl would be completely green.

 

Afraid that something might happen before the effects took hold, Karl ran toward safety. He rushed home to his balcony and settled into a folding chair in the corner. In his safe place, he let out a sigh. A sunbeam fell across his face and he fell asleep. As he dozed, the sun and the virus began to work their magic. By the time he woke up, his brown dreadlocks had turned green and grown roots into the wall of his porch. He had grown fat from the sugars his skin had produced, and he was now stuck to his seat. It had worked! Dr. Karl Johnson was now part plant, and all he wanted was a sip of water.