Rob Smith

An Active Observer, an Aspiring Writer

Month: March, 2014

No Ordinary Morning

“Yet another morning,” he said to himself.  He laughed with the realization of the repetitive, ritualistic pattern these mornings had taken.  It seemed far less than twenty four hours ago that he was standing in that same spot, saying the same thing to himself, the same motions.  Saying the words out loud had become a morning mantra. He took a deep drag of his cigarette, lifting his coffee cup to his lips.  Alternating actions, smoke, sip, smoke and sip. Repetitive actions, life had become all too  repetitive.

He looked at the sculpture that sat in his garden, something he had crafted with his own hand two decades prior. He had been a different person then; full of confidence, so sure of himself.  Though he had made a six figure salary for sometime now, he missed those bygone, innocent times. Anything, everything seemed possible. He created with his hands and mind, with total disregard as to where the cards fell. Not really caring if fortune smiled upon him, if he’d be able to afford to eat that week, as that had only seemed a small part of the equation.

Now he worried about second mortgages, retirement accounts, if his teenage daughter had been fucking the young man who cleaned his pool, his wife’s most recent face lift recovery, what that meant for his sex life, getting his BMW washed every Monday morning, alternate pool cleaning services, should call off his meeting with his secretary at a motel room in the valley on Saturday afternoon, her naked form in the afternoon light, her incessant inquisitions if he’d ever leave his wife, leave his life?

He took another drag from his cigarette, glaring at his sculpture, his creation.  Was this the path he should have traveled?. True, he wouldn’t have had the toys he had now; the trophy wife, the house, the car, his whore daughter, the whore he had become; a different reality, possibly a more fulfilling reality would have taken its place. What could have been?

He threw his cigarette in the garden, something he had never done in the past. It’s never too late.  It was time to live again.

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The idea that spontaneously leaps from the subconscious fully formed

“Do you think this is safe?” he asked hesitantly.  She always had been of the opinion that Josh was a pussy.  He even voiced his over cautious thoughts cautiously.  If he hadn’t been halfway decent in the sack, she would have kicked his ass to the curb.  His tender touch and attention to her needs reminded her of being with a woman. That had been the allure.  But come crunch time, he had never been anything other than a warm body to watch her back.  Pussy.

“Yes,” she said evenly. She had seen no good reason to further unsettle him by voicing doubts.  “The Shadow said it would be here at dusk. No one has ever been killed or harmed in anyway by one of them.” That we know of, she added in her mind.  Plenty of people had been harmed considerably by the humans who worked with Shadows.  Josh probably knew this as well, but her words appeared to placate. Fuck him; he had been no use to her in finding the man who killed her father.

He looked around at the hillside overlooking the cemetery, settling his eyes on a tree a few meters away. “I’ll go stand by the tree and keep watch like we agreed,” he said. She nodded and looked back toward the path leading up to the hilltop.  “And Clarissa, be careful.”

“I always am,” she responded quietly; mostly as a reminder to herself.

She played through her mind, a thousandth time, the story dad told on his deathbed.   He believed the Shadows represented an alien culture’s means of communication.  Their appearances were misinterpreted as ghosts, or worse gods.   The Shadows’ would not communicate clearly with people who held such views. He maintained that all human achievement could be attributed to their intervention.  Behind ever predominant leader, inventor and oligarch, there had been a Shadow.  He had not been one of the chosen. He worked for a Senator, who let him in on the secret. This Senator had been unceremoniously assassinated, and in the chaos of the moment, her father had taken a device the Senator used to summon a Shadow from a desk door.  Though he said he had never summoned the courage to call a Shadow, he shared the opportunity with his daughter.

“Hello Clarissa,” said a deep voice over her shoulder.  She turned around quickly. She found it as before, little more than a black outline, like smoke hovering at an undetermined distance  It lacked definition, and though it seemed as if it had been standing a few meters away, if she looked at the space that it inhabited a little differently, the distance between them could be ten times that distance.

“You said you preferred meeting outdoors,” she said passively.  The ball is in your court.  How does this work?

“I prefer to communicate in a less public space than you foolishly choose for our first encounter.  Let’s start with a question for you.  How did come to be in possession Senator Keaton’s property.” Though she had been fairly certain this was not a god that stood before her, she was torn.  How much to reveal?  She had no true gauge as to it level of omniscience.

“My father gave it to me,” the truth she decided. Was it enough? More, she decided. “He took it from the Senator’s office when he was killed.”

“So it was theft.” the being said, statement of fact.

“Not theft,” she defended. “The Senator had no need of it, and my father decided that better to fall into his hands than that of someone with no foreknowledge of what it represented.”

“I choose when and if I respond.” There was silence while that message settled in. “You father attempted to communicate on several occasions.” It hadn’t been cowardice! She felt a pride in the old man. Then awareness dawned.

“Why did you choose me?” she asked.

“You goals compliment the goals of my kind.” She had no idea what this could mean. She only desired revenge.

“Your kind?” she saw her chance to get an answer. Had humankind been guided by aliens or delusions, demons or angels?

“We have been with you since the beginning. Your triumphs have been our triumphs.” A non answer.

“What are you?” she asked more directly.

“What do you think we are?” She thought a moment.  Dad had his suspicions. After her first encounter with the Shadow, she doubted these conclusions.

“I think you are all of the things we believe you to be,” she paused for any sort of affirmation.  When none came, she sided deeply and continued.  “You are Moses and his fucking burning bush. You are Mothman warning the people.  You are the voice that whispers to the psychic. You are the idea that spontaneously leaps from the subconscious fully formed.”

“We will help you find your fathers killer,” it responded and was gone.

She sat on the ground drained.  She could hear Josh approaching from behind her.

“Clarissa, are you alright?” Josh rushed to her side.

“Mmm,” lost in her own thoughts.

“I saw you turn and than fall to the ground,” he said, concern in his voice. “Don’t you think you should get up in case the Shadow arrives?”

“It was already here,” she looked into his eyes. “Didn’t you see anything?  I talked to it for about five minutes.”

“I got to the tree. Almost immediately, you turned, looked behind you and fell to the ground.” He looked frightened, as the one thing that kept him anchored gave every indication that it had loosened from the rocks.

She shook her head, partly in responses, primarily to get the blood flowing to her mind. Had she encountered the shadow in some sort of time dilated state? No, that made little sense. Had the sequence of events only occurred in her head?  This seemed likely. Had they been in our heads the whole time? Had the Shadows been nothing more than a part of us?

 

Note: After quite a few false starts, this was my submission to Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds blog in response to the flash fiction challenge, somethingpunk. The idea being to write something outside of the cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, zombiepunk genres and find a new punk.  I originally got a third of the way through a story involving people on an asteroid where oxygen was a scarce resource, oxygen-punk.  Whilst world-building in my head, I realized that there were other resources (i.e. food, water) that I couldn’t explain away.  So I sat down and started anew–  with this idea of Alien-punk, where the supply of technology to humans from an outside source was the crux.  It evolved quickly from there into something totally other than that.  The Shadows can be anything and everything that have crept from the outside into human affairs from the day we decided to come down from the trees and give it a go.  Could be in our head… could be aliens…  could be our subconscious communicating to us after eating one too many unfamiliar plants. I’m going with the label god-punk (small g).

This is what flash fiction is meant to be in my opinion; something totally unintended, that comes out far away from your starting expectation.

The Journey Home

The mask of his pressure suit fogged up slightly, as he exhaled deeply. Through the thin morning mist of this alien world, he barely discerned the weather vane that sat atop the outpost.  The tenuous atmosphere gave everything a red tint, as if the world was covered in blood.  He looked at the white gloves that covered his hands, covered in blood.

The genetically modified trees slowly converted the methane laced atmosphere into something capable of sustaining a human population someday; or so they had been told.  He knew nothing of the science.  He had been one of fifty ‘criminals’ transported to this wasteland.  Stranded here under the guise that the equipment and processes for a sustained human presence needed to be tested by someone.  Who better than the enemies of the state? The only crime they had been guilty was having the courage to stand up for what they believed.  No, he believed there was a more sinister motivation; revenge.

“I have led them into Hell,” he said to himself. He had shouldered the blame, though there had been enough to go around.

“What was that Eddie? I couldn’t make out what you said” asked a voice on his radio.

“Nothing, I’ll be back inside soon,” he answered dismissively.

“We’ll be here waiting.” Of course they would. Where else would they go?  No escape.

He looked back up at the weather vane, the one remnant of familiarity from the past.  He often came out and just stared out it vacantly.  He regretted the part he had played, the sequence of events which led them all to this place of total desolation he found both around him.  The desolation had grown inside him.

He raised his hands over his head to stretch out a tightness he felt in his shoulders.  The suit made this impossible.  He left his arms in the raised position, considering the claustrophobia he felt in this suit, in the outpost, in his own head. He put his hands to the release clasp on either side of the helmet that kept the poison at bay. Today would end differently. It was time to go home.

Banksy’s Final Testament

On the short flight between London and Kiev, he found himself sandwiched between what he imagined to be a mistress of some Ukrainian plutocrat and an innocuous businessman. The later displayed the irritating habit of clearing his throat every few minutes.

Phillip cursed himself for not packing his tablet. An hour into the flight, the thick phlegm sound had taken on a rhythmic quality, a pulsating sound he could almost tune out completely. Optimistically, he believed that his own thoughts would keep him preoccupied on this short flight. Instead, any semblance of coherent train of thought derailed by the white noise machine to his right and the heavy scent of cheap perfume to his left.

The plane had hit heavy turbulence and dropped what felt like a few hundred feet in a matter of heartbeats. He reached for reading material in the pocket under his tray; groped for any distraction. Though he had a macabre fascination with the juxtaposition of irrationally calm cartoon passengers amidst the wreckage of their aircraft, dwelling on this would push him deeper into panic.

He opted instead for the in-flight magazine published by the airline. He found himself taken aback to come upon his own work in an article titled “Things to See in New Orleans.” His alter ego, Banksy, had completed the “Girl with the Umbrella” on the side of a closed down shop in Katrina’s wake.

He considered himself to be an artist. He felt burdened, dragged down by the prefix, graffiti, added as a description to his craft. He discovered a kinship with the artists the article berated; artists who had thrown red paint upon and tagged the “Girl”. He no longer made a distinction between his graffiti and that of supposed gang members. The only difference was that his message captured the public’s imagination, for indiscernible, seemingly random reasons.

He shook his head as he placed the magazine back into the sleeve. An innocuous building in Kiev; a city ripped asunder by revolution, chaos, would be the canvas for his final statement. Banksy, though invisible to the world, had all but consumed him. Banksy would disappear quietly; only Phillip would remain.

Repose

Posted on the flash fiction blog The Angry Hourglass

We arrived shortly just before midnight exhausted from a full work day, the three hour transformative journey from urban to that far removed rural setting.  We had been too tired to do anything more than drag the few items we had brought into the cottage and turn in for the night.

I had arisen that next day at the crack of dawn.  I could have slept in, embraced the sloth like state that my body and mind desired.  Instead I quietly moved out onto the patio, so as not to awaken my wife. On the fence, which separated the properties, sat the neighbor’s cat in repose.  I had to remind myself that people actually spent all of their lives in this setting; not only those who sojourned to this remote location to escape the noise, the chaos of the city. Our friends had chided that we should vacation somewhere livelier, somewhere sexy. We laughed off these ideas. Life had been lively enough.

“Georgia, what should we do today?”  I asked the cat.  I had named her that, though it probably hadn’t been her name.  Everyone needed a name. She had been good company on our previous visits to the cottage.

Nothing,” she said taking a moment to lick her paw. “We’re going relax here and enjoying the sun.”

“Yeah?”  I asked, still dubious.  Much left undone at the office; so my embittered co-workers had advised by text message; signals from civilization that I had promptly ignored. Yes, I had to push all of the noise that wasn’t in the present, the here and the now, deeper into the background.  Life’s adventure, misadventures, could wait.

My wife appeared on the porch, coffee cup in hand, stretching. She worked as an attorney for some of the most powerful people in the city. Gone was the power suit. In its place a tee shirt, no bra, sweat pants, hair a mess, no makeup.  She settled onto the chair beside me, eyes fixed on the now rising sun.  As she breathed in deeply, she closed her eyes, as her body bathed in the warmth, the solace of the silent morning.

“Precisely,” Georgia observed lazily.

Friday Babblin

3:45 in the morning… last call in Buffalo is 4.  If you’re at home, you extend it to whatever you want it be.

My beta readers, who have proofed several works are all pissed at me for not publishing them. To some extent they are correct in that I need to put some of this shite out there.  But there is a bit of a method to my madness.

I suspect they believe that I have hit some sort of writers block– and from the stand point of being stuck, they are wrong.  My main issue is a lack of routine. I probably could have finished a novel in the time I have wasted over the last four months.  At this point, I am still struggling to find a balance between time spent freaking out about my work life, time freaking out about my private life and time I just need to shut down and putter (i.e. doing fuck all but surfing the webs, posting snarky shit on twitter).

Recently I summarized what I am working on in a Word.doc in order to stay a little bit focused.  Since taking a bit of a break on AxIoM, I have been on a bot of a short story writing spree.  What I want to do is release them three at a time- but there is always one fucking story of the three that is giving me trouble.  At this point, based on my count I am concurrently working on 11 short stories…  and plugging away at three separate novel ideas.

My issue is a lack of focus on one specific project…  which is probably a huge failing.   But at this pace, I’ll release three or four compilations of short stories between now and the summer. Either the whole thing falls flat or it will be like a fire hose.  No in between with me 😉