Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Meeting in the Produce Section

(This story is part of a series. Go here to see a list of all the posts in this series.)

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I awoke with a yell and the bitter taste of bile in my mouth. I fumbled at the cup of water on the nightstand and knocked it over. With a sigh I rolled out of bed, tossed a towel on the spilled water and made my way to the bathroom. I rinsed my mouth with tap water and spit it into the toilet. It was reddish. I flushed.

I splashed water on my face, scrubbed and rinsed. I kept my eyes shut and the water running. I did not want to see if there was blood on my lips too. I blotted my face dry with a towel and tossed the towel halfway between the pile of dirty clothes and the trash. I would decide later whether to trash it or wash it, but I was leaning toward trashing.

I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked like hell. Continue reading

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Sex, Booze and Poetry: A review of Bukowski’s “Women”

I normally reserve this blog for fiction only, but I thought I’d start cross-posting my fiction book reviews here as well. Enjoy!

Cary's Blog

Charles_Bukowski_smoking[1]“Women” is the first book by Charles Bukowski I have read, though I am not unfamiliar with him. I have read a few of his poems and am familiar with his life and times. I have played audience to more than a few discussions (of various levels of civility) about him.

For those of you not familiar with Bukowski, he is known for being an unrepentant alcoholic and womanizer. His novels are auto-biographical in nature while still being classified as fiction. Needless to say, they are often unpopular with the sorts of people you would expect them to be unpopular with. Nonetheless, Bukowski enjoyed enough success to work full time as a writer in the last third of his life as well as enduring appeal following his death in 1994 at the age of 73.

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Hands in the Earth

Heavy-lidded, he crawled to the window. Outside, they still waited. Colorless and translucent. Sharp and immobile.

Back in the room, her scent lingered: cherries and tobacco mingling in the air. He breathed it in and the craving for a cigarette was sharp and sudden. It, in turn, made him want her.

Outside now, he breathed in the frozen air and shuddered. They danced around. He dropped to his knees, driven into the shards of pale bitterness by the weight of their gliding. The skin of his knees was pierced a hundred times. He looked down to watch his lapis blood color the shards. They melted as it coated them, revealing steel pins.

He clawed through the shards and found the dirt beneath. It was warm, welcoming. He sunk his bleeding fingers into it and sighed. The earth welcomed his fingers, coaxed them deeper. He pushed at the earth and its resistance became an embrace.

The dancers became frantic. They flew at him. Through him. Each piercing was excruciating, like bitter cold acid inside him. He grasped the earth and pulled himself into it. Maybe he would suffocate in the ground, but even that would be better than the alternative.

The earth drew him within. Still the dancers tried to stop him. Dirt had clogged his mouth and he could not draw breath to cry out. The earth’s pull continued. Roots and rocks shredded his clothes. Then he was falling. He tried to spit out dirt and yell at the same time, but only choked.

Someone caught him. Several someones. He opened his eyes, but could see nothing. Whether blinding by darkness, pain, shock, or dirt he had no idea. He coughed dirt as hands passed him to other hands. He heard and then felt water. Hands and water cleansed him.

Finally he understood. He was safe. He was home.


When Trans-temporal Messages Kill

In the end it was the headaches that did him in. Had he been asked to guess, he would have said an overdose of painkillers. For better or worse, the painkillers were very safe. It was all but impossible to die from an acute overdose, though long term overuse did cause chronic issues.

He did not last long enough to see what sort of long term effects twenty tablets a day would do.

People joked that he had tried to lobotomize himself, but that was putting it too politely. Lobotomies involve neither the opening the skull nor significant loss of blood or other tissue.

–From Proceedings of the 3rd Congress on Trans-temporal Information Science, “Effects of Unaided Reception of Trans-temporal Messages on Mid-Twenty-first Century Human Minds”


The Masks in the Trees

(This post the first in a series. Go here to see a list of all the posts in this series.)

I stopped and peered into the trees. It was the third time I thought I had seen something moving. The orange of the sunset was visible now that the clouds were breaking up. The trees were black against it. I saw a group of people passing between the trunks. Whether in actuality or by a trick of light, the half dozen figures seemed impossibly slender. I moved to follow them. I kept quiet as I closed the distance. The shape of their heads was wrong, too flat. And they had horns. Or were wearing tiaras I supposed.

Any number of vagrants and thieves bedded down in these woods and while I knew of the danger I was putting myself in, I was unable to stop. I at least needed to see what was wrong with their heads.

They had stopped now. Three of them were facing something or someone I could not see. The rest hung back. I paused and looked around, checking the ground for sleepers. Nothing. I started circling to try to see why they had stopped.

I was close enough now to see why the silhouettes of their faces had seemed wrong. They were wearing masks. I continued and finally the object of the attention of the front three became visible. At first I thought it was someone skinny like they were kneeling or sitting, but then I realized it was a young girl standing. I recognized her and felt fear pimple my skin.

The tall figures were dropping to their knees in front of her. My eyes left the girl to watch them. The front three sank first, then the four behind them. What the hell. I stared. Then I felt her eyes on me. The weight of them was painful. I gasped and squeezed tears from my eyes.

Her mouth moved, but I could not hear what she was saying. Two of the masked figures rose and came after me. I was riveted by the weight of her gaze, so I am not sure I could have moved had I wanted, but the sight of them running toward me sealed my doom. No human ever moved that way. No human has ever been so lithe. When they had turned and were running straight at me, they were difficult to see. Difficult enough and fast enough that I was still straining my eyes when they reached and grabbed me.

My mind was not coping, so I was dead weight, but they brought me to her effortlessly. Despite that my feet did not touch the ground I hardly felt the pressure of their hands holding me. They dropped me a few feet from her.

“Staring at me again. The first time made you puke blood. So much for learning from mistakes.”

I did not understand how anyone could bear to be near her. Maybe these masked people were different somehow. But her mom? Her brother? The clerk who had wrung them up at the video store? Why did bile not rise in their throats at the sight of her as it did in mine? I swallowed and swallowed and swallowed.

“Sick and confused. Less sick than before, but definitely more confused.”

She stepped toward me. The masked figures stepped back, though the one with the white mask hesitated. The hesitation earned a glance from the girl. As she bent to touch me I tried to scramble away. The effort cost me my control of my vomiting. My stomach was on fire. My body convulsed and flooded my mouth and nose with bile, blood and chewed food. My ears popped. My stomach was on fire. I sobbed and rolled away from the puke. Small fingers, wet with blood and vile touched my forehead. If I had been able, I would have felt even more disgusted. It might have killed me though.

I awoke with a yell and the bitter taste of stomach acid in my mouth.

(To read the next installment, click here.)


Silt

Dust swirled around my boots. Where a swirl passed over a crease it left a bit of itself behind. I imagined I could feel the weight of those motes weighing on the material of my boots and that of the material settling onto my feet. Feet my legs could no longer lift. I could taste it in my mouth too. I was surprised I could not feel its grittiness. It was too fine. I wondered how much was in my lungs. Were they slowly clogging? I felt short of breath, but I was afraid to breathe too deeply. I swallowed but it was difficult. My tongue and throat were so dry from the silt. I could feel my pulse in my arms, my feet, my head. A mote tickled my throat and I coughed. Gasps and coughs alternated. My mouth gulped and swallowed. I knew silt was filling my lungs. It passed leaving me bent over, gloved hands on knees. I realized I could no longer see my feet. Silt was deep around my calves. How had it gotten so deep so fast?

No. The sun had moved. How had it gotten so late so fast? How long had I been coughing? I couldn’t remember. My throat hurt. Precious liquid wrung from me as I coughed still wet my eyes. Surely, it would have dried if I had been coughing for hours. Silt was up to my thighs now. Any hope or point of moving on was gone. How long would it take to make even one step? Half an hour?

I did not understand. I cried fear and frustration. One tear rolled down my nose. Red with the dust it had collected it fell and the dust around my waist drank it. There was no more water to be squeezed from my eyes though. The dust’s thirst could not be slaked. There was too much. It reached my ribs now. I tried not to think about it reaching my lips.

I tried to scream when it did, but I had no voice and no breath to power it.