Above link is to a guest post on the Transmundane Press blog. Check it out.
That’s right, my pretties. I have finally broken out of the screen and into the world of print. I have a story, entitled “The Shivering Branch”, being published in an upcoming anthology from Transmundane Press, Transcendent. The above link is to an interview between the editors and myself.
I am so excited I could shoot hot blood from my ears while spinning on the ground!
They made the little fried sausages, covered them in void wrap to preserve them against the inevitable Time we were up against, and put them deep in the hold, behind the cooling units of the nav computers. When I say they, I mean the Cooks. We were sent two cooks on our million year mission, but we ever only saw one. The other appeared exclusively in special treats: a bit of cheesecake for a birthday, three eggs in the omelet for the crew member that had their arm gnawed off by radiation burglars.
Where they put those sausages, there was a fan, a great, galactic fan, capable of blowing in the most alien of winds. But we had found nothing here. Nothing but space and time and the sausage winds that blew when we flew near a heat source and that great, big fan turned on. The entire void craft would turn into a holiday stroll from sausage cart to sausage cart down some forgotten European riviera. Everyone would go mad, talking about all the times they’d encountered sausages in their lives. Cutting themselves to ebb the flow of memories. Talking incessantly in five languages, none of which the others knew, ending their speeches with grand gestures which seemed to imply that the speaker would like to be turned themselves into a sausage.
Take my thinking meat, they seemed to say, and stuff it into my innards, along with the rest of my innards and some blood for good measure. We had all been around each other long enough to get the gist of their ravings.
No one thought to track down the invisible cook and simply ask for the sausages, though of course, that might require teamwork, and we were all dreaming of a greasy, piled-on plate of tube steak all our own. No one talked of murder, of course, but talk is little but pregnant vibrations. We would never talk the sausages into our mouths. A sausage was a tooth’s business, tooth and arm, fist and feet. The hard parts of the body had no subtle language.
He came walking up, raving about bird sandwiches, about how he’d walked all this way because “the shiny-eyed fuckers” couldn’t tell one lake from another. They’d put him down all the way out in Boone county and he’d not a bite to eat all damn day.
We hadn’t see Teddy Two-Knuckles since he’d set up a “human versus one hundred mallards” night at J.J. Jolly J’s. They said he’d been approached by a couple of guys afterward with an extra dimension to their movement, sporting webbed shoes and gorgeous headdresses.
This wasn’t the sort of town where you went asking questions. Answers crawled from the sewers, fell from the sky like toilet ice. So we ask much explaining out of Teddy this time, even though he smelled as if he’d been sitting in pond scum smoking jet fuel. We let him in, of course, let him sit on a leaky wooden chair and offered him coffee and marijuana. He refused both.
“Bird sandwich. I need cannibalism right now. The only thing that will do.”
“But Teddy, you ain’t no bird.”
The cracks in his head formed from the inside. Instead of answering, he fused his mouth together with melted skin and let the pecking turn to quacking as his brain emerged beak first, wet with skull drippings.
“I ain’t I ain’t I ain’t,” proclaimed the newborn duckling as it fell to the ground by gently rolling down Teddy’s slumped corpse.
“Who ate all the bread?” came the question from the kitchen. The duckling watched as I drew my bread knife from its scabbard.
All of these questions in the air and none of the answers.
We have seen what happens when the birds are turned off.
Children keep their heads to the stone. No mouths come formally, covered in shit and cursing while scraping tongue with a silken cravat. No fairy to ever find a feather, twist it about while spiraling down and down on abandoned wings. I pay a boy now, not a crow, to bring me jewelry at dawn.
And the off switch had been there the whole time, like a town hall clock, but no one cared. Birds seemed like such a delightful thing (when they weren’t stuck in their death songs in your car’s grill.) They could be peripheral. A man could walk in the city and take no note of the birds all day, yammering to himself and flicking spit on the ground where the little birds danced and fought over detritus. Human spit, at some velocities, with wrap around eyes, may often and sometimes look like a disappointing worm.
Do you suppose the birds, where ever they were taken when the switch was finally pulled, ever think back on human spit with longing? Perhaps no bird ever tasted human twice. Ostriches, perhaps, in their quarterly rages took an ear here and there. Undocumented ears, now digested or buried in head holes, growing new and illegal humans to take the birds’ place in the sky.
“Come back in. You’ll catch Death out there.”
I stood on the deck of the iron cruise ship, counting rust sprites and trying to slow my vision enough to see the secret of their industry. The overseer of my play group had allowed me one ibogaine soda pop as an afternoon pick me up, even though my mother had told me I was becoming a different person, a bit changed every time I drank one. The raspberry syrup covered the bitterness well.
My overseer had offered me watermelon flavored ibogaine soda pop once and I nearly lost the brain from my skull so active was my rage. “Have you ever tasted watermelon?” I had screamed and he had replied, “No. Only watermelon soda pop.”
I forgave his ignorance as he forgave my tantrum.
“Billy! Now! You’ll catch Death out there!”
I almost caught a rust sprite resting, but the moment my eye flickered slantwise, she was away and once again moving at vision blurring speed. The sprites did not fear Death. Perhaps they were too fast for him. Yet, my mother implied that it was I that would take Death into a net or a jar, or perhaps my hands if I were brave in that moment. Death was my prey then and mother knew it. I had been searching for meaning among the beauty of the rust sprites, but I had been on the journey all along; not just the cruise my mother had so patiently saved for, but the journey to put Death on display.
That was it then. When I left kindergarten, I would become a paleothanatologist by trade and learn the history and current whereabouts of Death and how to care for him or her while in captivity.
Perhaps I would find many Deaths. A nice breeding pair.
The wind moved over the ship in salted gusts. My mother’s hand fell on my shoulder and I jumped.
“Come inside. Right now,” she looked into my lidless eyes, dirty blonde eyes. “You’ve had soda before bed again, haven’t you? I am going to have to have a chat with little miss priss down at the daycare. This is supposed to be my vacation. Now I’ve got to deal with this.”
“I will dream now, mother. I will dream whether I sleep or not.”
Her voice echoed down the barrel of the shotgun and got thrown to the treetops when she fired it, hollering. The sky staggered, nearly dropped the moon into the lake outside of town where Lacey kept guard over camping grounds. Nearly dropped it right at her feet. Instead it recovered, kept the moon in orbit, and slid behind the horizon where Lacey’s buckshot couldn’t go.
“Damn.” She spit a baby carrot into a coffee can full of detritus.
Unless she bought the shell a ticket on a one way bullet train to Kyoto, one of the Ocean Treaders with the really nice legs sticking out the bottom. They’d kick you off if you whistled at them beauties, but her shell didn’t have any lips (she’d made sure of that.)
Well shit, she couldn’t just sit there and wait for the money for the train ticket to fall in her lake. She’d have to grow her shell a brother, take it to the bank, kill herself a money man and catch his golden blood in a siphon bag.
She’d have to move quickly or that sky would be back with a new moon and none of her growings would work no way.
I saw him shambling down from the trail above, hook fisted and terror-eyed. Had never seen a man dressed such: not out here, not this high up. He had a golden suit, not of metal, but a linen suit that sparkled in the sun. His conservative black tie hung loose on his neck, like he’d out run a hangman. His boots were some sort of mollusk, but also boasted very obvious rockets.
In his left hand, a book. In his right hand, a gun.
So I raised my stick in front of me and shouted, “Yoohoo!”
His face exploded into a grin; he dropped to his knees as he shouted, “Bless my dirty ass, a human! You have no idea how long I’ve waited to meet one of you.” He looked human himself and I stood confused. “Oh, don’t worry about this form, I didn’t possess anyone. I simply run on interesting times and am composed of a thousand thousand sentient mirrors. Mirrors so intricate they can see behind the blood that carries your thoughts to your brain. Don’t be frightened! This form is simply what your mind most needs to see right now. You must have been extremely bored. I normally appear as a kind old friend from Anytown.”
“Well, you don’t seem to be having a good go of it. Why were you out here searching for humans?”
“You see, I thought humans were wild animals that lurked on mountain tops, searching for birds to sacrifice to their devil god. But that’s why you are such a miracle! You’re here to help! Here, let me just shoot you in the brains with this psyche-teleportation ray and record your consciousness in this here book of mine, and you can be on your way!”
“No thanks. I can show you a way back to town, but no thanks on the brain ray. I’m good. Follow me if you want. I’m heading back.”
I never felt anything, and the man didn’t follow, but whose to say whether or not I’m just walking through a book at this point, body in some ravine, living just to be studied by weirdos.
I was meeting him for coffee and drugs and something called a “Martian Ectodefibrillator.” For a client.
I wasn’t sure if he had what I was looking for. The picture he had sent looked like a hammer made of sausage innards with a blurry, glowing hole going up into the shaft. Occasionally, he claimed, a purple laser would shoot out and form itself into a sentient light curtain that would immediately insult the nearest person and try to blind anyone who laughed. I had never seen a real Martian Ectodefibrillator and whatever the man had sounded weird enough to peak my interest, so I went to meet him at Winky Tink Donuts & Wine Bar.
I very well knew that he could be lying. He could have made the pictured object out of actual hammers, sausage innards and LEDs. And the story about the laser, that sounded embellished if not bullshit. Why would the laser blind the people who liked his insult comedy? Was this a simple agent of chaos or was whatshisname taking a fuck out of a piss on me?
I’ve been in the game a while and most of my detective work has come down to this: listening to liars tell lies about nothing much in an attempt to make life more interesting. And it does. So I keep the lights on in the office and my door wide the fuck open.
I don’t wait for sun to shine about me in the woods when I walk. Late and blackness still part when I move and I’ve never seen anything like lights in the hill or flashing knives. No junky shuffling about the trees, rape hardened claws white with wet. I did see, however, a procession of nearly eighteen riding lawn mowers come over the hill, dragging behind them yoked duos of tattooed deer. They came slowly and, at the bottom of the hill, single file, so that I could have time to process the pictographs inked into their flesh. They looked at me, the mowers, as if I had purpose and they were links in the chain of my success. And the deer stared blankly and beaten, a flesh book of cartoons about nothing (as far as I could tell.)
Rats chased cats with scissors and stuffed cheese and peanut butter into their swollen crevices. It continued from shorn deer hide to shorn deer hide. If this were a message from the future, or from space, or from the fungi, they picked a rather dull interpreter in me, but I took a piece of their proffered paper and wrote upon it:
VIOLENCE AND GLUTTONY WITHOUT END? At which they laughed, bowed their heads in apology, and went about their way, mistaken.