Saturday, August 27, 2022

Gen's Cell

 The torchlight was blinding. Gen sneezed a few times as his eyes adjusted to the light. It was the brightest thing he'd seen in weeks.

"Get up," a voice behind the light barked. He obeyed. Freedom, death, or torture awaited, but anything was better than the darkness. He was beyond hoping for anything beyond an end to the darkness.

Gen didn't so much 'get up' as creakily unfurl and lift himself upright. It was a challenge - the beatings, malnutrition, and general neglect had done a number on his physical well-being. The man holding the torch rattled the bars and insisted he move faster, but Gen was beyond this base motivation.

He made his way to the bars and was yanked beyond them. He was pushed and pulled and prodded up the dungeon's steps, not keeping the pace his captors demanded. Another person's mind would have wandered. Another person's mind would have questioned why and where and all the normal things. He focused on each stone on each step. He focused on getting his fingers into cracks in the wall so he could pull himself forward. He focused on his burning leg muscles - once able to propel him across battlefields an up siege ladders.

Eventually, a million years later, Gen arrived at a door he'd been through only once before. A guard asked if he was ready, and before he could process the question, the guard opened the door and another shoved him out into a courtyard.

The sunlight was blinding. After the shove Gen could only see his hands on the dirty path in front of him. The door slammed shut, but he didn't take much notice as he grappled with the assault of sensations. He struggled to catch his breath. He struggled to focus his eyesight - his sun-sneezes hadn't come yet. Noise and smalls and small sprigs of grass were all there, but they didn't penetrate into his world just yet.

After a beat, and certainly unready, Gen made a decision: he stood up. Hands and knees and exhalations were the workhorses of the effort, but he made it. A wobbly start, but he was a biped once more. Now to become human.

He surveyed his surroundings: behind him a small keep, around him walls and a few structures, in front (or near enough) a gatehouse. No people. No animals. Only one opening - out.

Gen made an uneven walk toward and through the gates, only to confront more abandoned structures. Black fabric and quick swipes of black paint were the decoration of the day. Remembering he should eat, he looked in a few shops. There was nothing.

What new torture was this?

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Just Fuckin' Weird

"Hey there... sexy."

Cargo shorts, anime tee, and a patchy enough beard to complete the look, the man standing at the desk breathed a little louder than necessary as he waited for the cashier's attention. She sighed.

"What can I do for you sir?"

"More like what I can do for you... later," the man said, contorting his face into the approximation of a wolfish grin. "If you know what I mean."

"Sir, this is a bakery," the cashier stated. The man paused.

"I'd... like to feel your buns?"



"I can call my manager over."


"Don't be sorry. Just don't be a creep. What do you want?"

"What do you want tonight?"


"What? That one was honest?"

"Sir, I'm a simple cashier at a bakery."

"But I'm- but you're-" the man paused.

"Ask me for some bread or pastries. Then pay and go."

"I'd like some bread?"

"Sure. White, wheat, whole grain, rye, pumpernickel-"

"Whole wheat please."

"Would you like me to slice that?"


"Okay," the cashier said and grabbed a loaf of whole wheat. She ran the slicer, pointedly ignoring the man at the counter. Only after she'd bagged it and stapled the bag shut did she speak again.

"This is the part where you pay and leave."

"Okay," the man said, defeated. A moment later and he was out the door.

The cashier's manager made her way to the counter and looked the cashier right in the eyes.

"You and your husband are fucking weird."

Saturday, August 13, 2022

One Cheeseburger and a Shake

 "Chzburgr-shek" the cheeseburger bot announced to the room.

"Here!" I cried out. The bot weaved its way through the crowd toward me.

"No, here!" Another patron called to the bot. It stopped.

"Chzburgr-shek," the bot announced again.

"I think it has mine," I said, directing the statement toward the other patron.

"Here!" she said to the bot, ignoring me.

"No, here!" I said. Something about how this person was acting was getting under my skin. Even if it were her meal, the polite move would be to acknowledge the other person (me!) and sort things out. I would have sworn I'd ordered before her, but online orders exist - or maybe she had a special request.  In any case, the combative stance was unnecessary and actively slowing down the delivery of one of our meals.

"Chzburgr-shek," the bot called out again. I read confusion in its monotone voice.

"Here!" the woman demanded.

"Ma'am, I don't mean to fight with you on this, but I think that might be mine."

"It's mine and I know it," she spat at me - an acknowledgement of my existence, I suppose. "Here!"

"We could compare order times or look at the receipt if you want, but I think that's my order. Here!"

The bot wheeled toward one of us, then the other, then back again. The woman didn't even look at me - her eyes were fixed on the bot.




I was beyond reasoning and wanted to win. The fight continued for a few more rounds before a neighboring table intervened - they made the sensible point that letting the woman win would get a second order out quicker. I relented and let the bot deliver the food to the woman.

"This isn't what I ordered!" she screamed, throwing the burger at the wall. As ketchup dripped down the wall, the salad bot came out of the kitchen.

"Sal'd" it announced. The woman glared at it. I glared at the woman.

"Finally!" she said theatrically. "Here!"

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Catching Fire

"So, would you say you have a burning passion for it?" the older man in the white suit asked, his face frozen in the most self-satisfied half open grin ever plastered upon a person. He inched a pointed finger toward me.

"An undying fire," I replied in the best Alan Rickman-as-Snape I could muster.

"That's the spirit!" my prospective employer ejaculated, punching me lightly in the shoulder as punctuation. "When can you start?"

"Whenever, I suppose," I said. "Things have been pretty dead at the office."

"Great! How about now? Things are pretty dead around here too!" More grinning ensued.

Sure, I guess - what's first?"

"Well, let's get a few forms filled out first," the man in white said, dropping his playful demeanor as he pulled out a few pieces of paper and gave them to me. I pulled a chair up to a table and got to work printing and signing and initialing.

"No W-4?" I asked.

That fucking smirk returned.

"Only two guarantees in this world," he said, handing me the final piece of paper. I tapped the side of my nose to indicate we were on the same page.

"Screwing with the IRS is playing with fire," I mumbled as I handed the completed form back to the man. This earned a heavy slap on the back and some words about being a natural fit. Some more paper shuffling ensued before he opened a side door and beckoned me in.

"Well, the best way to get started is to get started, he said. "Look but don't touch - I'll be back in a moment."

I took in the levers and buttons and conveyor for a minute while I awaited his return.

"Alright, let's turn ass to ash - and earn some cash! People have been dying to get in here," he said, wheeling in a cadaver.