Could Be Worse

Monday Microfic #45

ASW August 26, 2005

The studio executive shifted slightly behind his desk. Seeing the bored expression, the writer hurried onward. "All right, fine, no Bambi remake. How about a new version of Psycho?"

"Been done," rumbled the executive.

"No, not like this! This'll be -- it'll be -- um, Psycho 2000! I mean, 2100! It's set in the future, see? And, and, and Norman Bates has all this futuristic stuff. These big elaborate traps, I mean, to kill the victims." He saw a glint of interest in his listener's face, and pressed onward with new hope. "So it's not just the same old movie! It'll be updated, big special effects, big terror!"

The executive thought about it for a minute, then shook his head. "Same ending, though. Everyone knows the ending to Psycho."

"No, that's the beauty of it -- they'll think they know what to expect, but we can update it! At the end, as she's finding Mrs. Bates in the rocking chair in the basement, we'll have a voiceover from Norman. Real dark, droning; he'll intone, "When my mother died, we flew her home -- where there's no law against animatronic taxidermy." He'll say that last part just as the chair swings around, and this hideous mummy run through with wires and glowing tubes latches onto the girl's arm! She screams, blood spurts, fade out."

The executive stood up. "I love it! That's what we need more of in this business: originality."

The writer beamed.
Could Be Worse

Monday Microfic #44

ASW August 19, 2005

"Blow out your candles and make a wish!" they cried, so the little boy did. He thought about the iron people in the park who never got to move, never got to run around and play. He thought about the ones frozen in the fountain, the horses stuck with their legs forever in the air, the juggling man who would never be able to catch the next ring. He sucked in a deep breath and wished with all his might that they could come alive, that they could have a chance to run and play and live like he did, and he blew out all six of his candles.

Not all birthday wishes come true, but this one did; every statue in town came to life -- but they'd been watching long enough to know better than to ever move. They knew things that the little boy didn't. They'd seen homeless people freezing to death at night, junkies selling themselves for their next fix, hate and sadness and fear, murder and crime and death. They were given a chance to live, but having seen what life could offer, every single one of them turned that opportunity down.
Comics - Ellipsis

(no subject)

ASW August 12

i was flipping through my old high school year book when i came across an old picture stuck between the pages. it's amazing how you can go years without even thinking about someone, and one picture makes it all flood back at once. Billy McCallister, my first boyfriend in high school. i remember his sense of humor most of all. he was always playing his silly jokes on me.

i remember one time when he told me we were invited to a costume party and that we should go as a joint costume. i thought he meant something like Raggedy Ann and Andy, but he kept on insisting that i should go as Lady Godiva and that he would dress as my horse. of course, once i got to the party and walked in completely naked, i realized that he had been kidding about wanting me to walk into the party completely naked. i realized he had also been kidding about the party being a costume party.

there was another time when he put a chunk of dry ice in my soda so that there was suddenly a small gyser in my hand, exploding all over my prom dress and leaving me all brown and sticky for the rest of the night.

he laughed. told me i needed to lighten up and grow a sense of humor. he was right, too. i wanted to be as fast with the jokes as he was. i wanted him to love me and my mind as much as i loved him. i was never so happy as the day when i hid the syringe of ebola in his car seat. i thought he would be so proud of me for pulling a fast one on him, and sure enough he came staggering over to me and threw his arms around me. as i felt his weight on my shoulders he said, "you make my organs all slosh around loose."

i blushed, flattered, when i should have been calling nine one one. young love makes you forget things sometimes.
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Could Be Worse

Monday Microfic #43

ASW August 12, 2005

I have only myself to blame, I know. They say to be careful what you wish for, and I thought I'd covered all of the loopholes, but I missed an obvious one in the end.

When I found that old lamp in the thrift store, and the genie came out while I was cleaning it, I knew better than to just blurt out whatever came to mind. I made him wait while I thought about what I wanted, and I phrased it very carefully. "I want a man who will love me, and care for me, and treat me well; a man who's handsome and unattached; a man who will say exactly what he means, without innuendo or hidden intentions," I told the genie. My wish was his command, and no sooner had he swirled back into the bottle than there was a knock at the door.

He was perfect, everything I'd asked for and more. His first words to me were, "My car broke down and I was going to ask to use your phone -- but now I don't think I have anywhere more important to be anymore." He swept me off my feet, figuratively of course, and we spent the whole day like teenagers in love. Everything had a rosy glow around it; the world was beautiful like it had never been before.

That night I made him dinner; I told him it was a surprise, and I made him wait in the other room while I prepared it. He tasted it and said it was wonderful, and I beamed as he asked for more. After dinner, we were cuddling on the couch; he looked into my eyes and he said, "You make all my organs slosh around loose," and I blushed, flattered, when I should have been calling nine one one. You see, I'd already forgotten that I'd asked for a man who always said exactly what he meant; how was I to know he was allergic to parmesan?

Good thing I've still got two wishes left.
Why Be Normal?

Monday Microfic #42

ASW August 5, 2005

It started innocently enough. We were studying the properties of a duck's quack, to figure out why it didn't produce an echo. We had machines all over the lab -- modulators, resonators, imagers -- we weren't even using half the stuff, but you know how it accumulates. Anyway someone, I forget exactly how, someone noticed one day that the waveform of the duck's quack matched the alpha wave it produced exactly. The differences in the quacks matched perfectly with changes in the duck's brainwaves. We'd never seen anything like it.

So you know how it goes; everyone's been working too late in the lab, someone makes a throwaway comment and the next thing you know you're cannibalizing parts from the computer to build some crazy machine no one's ever thought of before. Well, maybe you don't know. It happened to us, to people like us all the time, though. I built a machine to hear duck thoughts. "A haunting chorus, 'Now we will rise up, now we will kill them a-- WAIT! IS THAT POPCORN!?!'," we joked, but we were closer to the truth than we knew.

There is no such animal as a duck. They're nothing but transmitters, set to spy on us. Every thought they have, every quack they utter, they've been beaming back information about us -- and we can only imagine what sort of frightening intelligence could build something like this.

Go ahead, laugh. Laugh at the crazy man. They ignored Cassandra, too -- so invite the Trojan duck into your midst, see if I care.

Monday Microfic #41

ASW July 29, 2005

The senator pounded on the lectern for emphasis. "The fact of the matter is, no one saw this coming. A lot of people are handing out the 'I told you so's now, but there was simply never any credible evidence that this eventuality would come to pass. Some of my distinguished colleagues would have you believe that they anticipated this; you've heard their speeches where they claim that they tried to warn us. While it's true that there was a lot of blather being thrown around, their voting records show that they never truly believed it either. If they thought that global warming was such a problem, then where was the funding for it? They continued to vote for feel-good social services and pork-barrel projects for their own constituencies. 'The ice caps melted but we were prepared with our waterproof valentines, with our scuba gear for kittens'?

"It's patently ridiculous to claim that anyone seriously believed this would ever happen. What's important now is not that we point fingers, but that we study the facts and consider what we can do about them. It's a fact that the United States has lost over 5% of its area due to flooding. It's a fact that overpopulation and famine are rapidly becoming major national problems. And it's a fact that sitting around whining about how we could have prevented it is not useful at this juncture! We need plans, not petulance!"

Despite the applause, the senator knew things were not going well. The true fact was that no one knew a way to stop the tides from rising steadily higher every day -- and that at least the scuba gear for kittens would have meant that something land-based would survive.
Could Be Worse

Monday Microfic #40

ASW July 22, 2005

I came downstairs this morning and my father was sitting at the table, scowling. He's always grumpy in the mornings, but this mood looked black even for him.

"What's the matter, Daddy?" I asked, and he tossed the newspaper at me. The headline blared "WISHES COME TRUE" in a font that took up nearly the entire space above the fold. I skimmed the article, which had been hastily written and appeared to be mainly a catalogue of people's names and random objects or occurrences they'd wished for -- then looked up at my father. "What is this, a joke?"

"Apparently not. It's been all over the radio; people flying, people driving solid gold cars, everything. The first thing you wish for today will come true."

I stared at him, unable to believe it. "Then -- why on earth do you look so mad?"

"Because," he growled, "this morning, when I woke up, I said the same thing I do every morning: 'Oh, God, it's what time? I wish I didn't have to go to work today.'" He directed another black look at the paper, but I got a bit of it, too, when I let slip a small giggle.

"Go to school," he said, then added, "and watch what you say, honey."


Nothing got done in school today; several of the teachers hadn't shown up at all, and the ones who were there were as gossipy as the students about who had wished for what, and what they themselves were going to wish for. I spent the day trying to figure out what I wanted, but it was nearly impossible to think; my friends kept clustering around, filling the air with their babble so I couldn't concentrate. Once, in frustration, I nearly yelled, "I wish you'd all just leave me alone!" -- but I caught myself just in time, horrified at what I'd almost done. After that, I slipped out of the school and took a walk through the woods, to be able to think for a while.

My previous frustration provided my answer, though. I was tired of wondering if what people said was what they meant, of puzzling over the tones of voice and potential meanings of innocuous phrases. I worded it carefully in my head, then said slowly, "I wish that, when I touch people, I could hear their thoughts."

I waited, but nothing felt different. Of course it had worked, it was working for everyone, but -- had it worked? I had to know, had to find out. I ran back to school as fast as I could, looking for someone to try it out on. I saw one of my friends and ran up to give her a hug. She was saying, "What's up? You look so excited! Have you made a wish?" but as soon as my hands touched her back, I was hearing different words, hearing her thoughts. I didn't even stop to listen; I think I squealed and hugged her again, then ran on, having spotted my boyfriend.

I grabbed him by the hand and hauled him off to a corner; he was saying, "Hey, where've you been? I was looking for you," but I heard an undercurrent of "Wonder what she's hauling me around for? My back itches. She smells nice," and I said, "I want to tell you about my wish!" and pulled him in for a kiss.

When our lips met, though, what I heard was, "I hope our teeth don't click like they did that one time. She kisses like Melissa; wonder what Melissa's up to these days? Oh, ow, she's got a piece of my hair caught in her ring," and I stepped away slowly, looking at him sadly.

"What is it?" he asked, clearly confused at my sudden change of emotion. I tried to recapture the excitement, but finally I just said, "It's my wish -- well, part of it. When we kiss I can hear your I would rather we didn't."

He reached for my arm, but I moved away; I didn't want to hear what he was thinking right now. He said, "What was I thinking that was so bad?" but all I could say was, "I'm sorry; we can talk later," as I threaded my way through the crowds and tried not to touch anyone.

I think my Dad made the better wish.
Comics - Ellipsis

(no subject)

ASW 07/22/05

i pushed my glasses further up on my nose and ran my fingers through my hair. my toes wiggled and stretched around inside my shoes and my knee began to bob up and down like a sewing machine. i began to slowly grit my teeth, trying to make it seem like i was still interested in what he was saying, but the whole time i was concentrating on trying to block it all out.

and it wasn't working. it was all sneaking in, bit by bit.

he was telling me about some book he had pretended to read. "I really think that the concepts expressed really gives you food for thought. i mean, once you are told that none of the expereinces you have had are god do i hate it here it makes you wonder what sort of input we have to have to i'd like to fuck the waitress in the bathroom don't you think?"

"I'm sorry," i said in a rush. "do you mind if we get out of here?"

he blinked at me and said "sure," not really understanding why.

when we reached the street i could finally breathe again. it was quieter out here. i lit a cigarette and sighed happily. He was scratching his head. "I think they have a smoking section in there if you wanted to have a cigarette," he said.

I shook my head. "It was too loud in there."

"too loud? i could hear you just fine without yelling,"

"no it's... never mind. you wouldn't believe me if i told you."

"how do you know what i'd believe?" he asked. "are you psychic or something?"

i gave him a small smile and began walking. he paused a moment and then hurried to join me. "Wait, you really think you are psychic?"

I rolled my eyes. "I don't think i am, i just am."

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Comics - Ellipsis

(no subject)

ASW 7/15/05

Marti rolled over in her sleep and draped her arm across my chest. i looked down at her from where i sat propped in bed and ran my fingers through her hair. her pale skin looked blue in the light from the TV and her red hair seemed almost black. its odd what TV light can do to a person's appearance.

i turned my attention back to the movie. looking at these old tapes i have to laugh at how we thought we were going to be so important some day and that we had to document everything for posterity. neither Sean nor i turned out to be millionaires or rock stars, we just got older and got day jobs. but for that summer we were gods. the world was ours and we tried to take it for all it was worth.

the video camera was our best friend then. we documented everything, from our nights playing video games and our conversations about the nature of the universe, to our excursions to the fun-fair and the bonfire nights on the beach. there was Sean, his arm locked around Jenny's shoulder as they set off fireworks on the roof of the school. there's me making out with Allison, there was that time we went swimming in the pool by the Johnson's place. all the while we were telling the camera stories, as if addressing the TV audiences that we knew would eat this stuff up. see them as they were before they were famous, that kind of thing.

when i watch the tapes now i find myself looking at the date on the bottom of the screen and mentally gaging what was going on in the rest of the world while these events unfolded in our lives. that was the summer that Kurt Cobain died. there was no video of that day, but for the next month or so we were suddenly very interested in forming a band. that was the summer that the disappearances started happening around our neighborhood.

we never mentioned them in the video, but it was obvious that we felt the loss of those kids. they had gone to high school with us, they had sat next to us in class. occasionally we would say something like "we should call Don..." and then there would be a silence for a moment and we'd move on to something else.

when we discovered the old abandoned mine out on Kroeger's farm, it seemed like the perfect adventure to end the summer with. the story to top all of our amazing stories that we had from that magical summer. we got five or six friends together, fresh batteries in the camera, and off we went. our friends all died before we realized we were trapped in an old horror movie like kids in a candy store. if it hadn't been for the playback feature on the camera, Sean and i would have never made it out of the mine alive. it helped us remember which way we had gone coming in.

every once in a while i'll talk to Sean about that summer. he says he tries not to think about it, but i know that every time he looks down and sees that scar on his leg he at least gets a flash of memory of what happened down there.

i flipped off the TV and hugged Marti tight. for now i was safe and i was with the woman i love. the horror was over... right?
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Monday Microfic #39

ASW July 15, 2005

In retrospect, it was perfectly obvious. We were a group of college kids out for a good time late on a Saturday night; there was drinking, there was shouting, there was breaking and entering -- and an abandoned amusement park, of all things. How did we not understand? It was impossible, sure, but still you'd think one of us would have picked up on it. But no; we went inside and ran down the fairway, yelling at each other and laughing at the oddly distorted echoes. We split up, of course, and wandered off into the decaying old rides -- and so at first we didn't even notice that we were being picked off one by one.

Our friends all died before we realized we were trapped in an old horror movie. Like kids in a candy store, we'd had our eyes glued to the treats, and never noticed the suspicious shadows behind us. There were only three of us left by the time we found the first body, and in the panic to escape John broke his leg and we had to leave him. We promised to come back, of course, and we hid him well, but by the time I found him again he was dead, with a look of terror frozen on his face. I'm not sure what happened to Laurie; I don't remember leaving her. I thought maybe she'd gotten lost in the house of mirrors, but I came in here to find her and got lost myself. There's this horrible laughter echoing all around me, and I see thousands of warped reflections of a killer's face -- but I can't see my own anywhere, and I've got a terrible feeling that it's time for the final credits.