Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Dreaming of You

“Hey, I need to talk to the manager on duty,” I said. I didn’t recognize the voice so it was probably one of the new employees.

“Can do,” she said.

I hadn’t heard the hold music in about six months. Easy listening covers of Elton John hits ruin my hold experience.

“Hello?” Jack was on duty.

“Hey, Jack. I need to call out today.”

“Who is this?” he sounded confused.

“It’s Angela.”

“Sh—. No, Angela. Unless you’re bleeding, I need you in here today.”

“None of my clothes—”

“Have you turned on the TV?”


“Well, turn it on, and then put on whatever you can manage and I’ll bring you some clothes in the back plaza ten minutes before your shift starts.”

I drove more cautiously than usual on the way to work. I’d checked my license and it had changed too, but what I put on didn’t really count as ‘clothed.’

The world didn’t notice, though. They had other things on their mind than the sight of a burly hairy man barely wearing a pink robe.

Jack stood outside the back door when I arrived. He had a bundle of clothes and looked nervous.

I pulled up alongside him and rolled the window down.

“Wow, you weren’t kidding. Uh, I was expecting you to be a bit smaller, and I’m guessing you’ll need shoes too.”


Five minutes later, he had a pile of clothes more appropriately sized and some shoes.

I think I felt more self-conscious changing in the plaza than I ever had before. Wrong parts.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a weirder day at work. Everyone walked around wide-eyed, head down.

Most of my customers called me ma’am. I took my name tag off and borrowed Mike’s tag since he’d called out.

They still called me ma’am.

At 3:30 PM, Jack told me to take my break.

Only about one in every hundred people had switched genders. The news said about half of all people had experienced some side effect or another, though.

And all the dogs and cats could talk.

I walked out of the store and decided I felt like deli subs for lunch.

A few minutes into my walk, I spotted a nose-less, ear-less, but still completely male Mike. I squinted to get a better look. That bastard. He called out like he had a major problem!

I wanted to haul off and punch him, but I noticed a dog. I don’t know if I thought the dog might be a witness against me, or if I really just wanted to talk to a dog.

“Hey there, pup,” I said to the Boston-Terrier. “My name’s Angela. What’s yours?”

I knelt down beside him.

“My name,” he said in the most cutesy-wootsiest voice I’d ever heard, “is Shut Up. And some other things. I forget. Snacky-wacky?”

“Sorry, Shut Up. I haven’t got anything on me, but if you’re still around after I finish my lunch, maybe I’ll bring you some.”


Some old guy with a long beard and a cane shuffled in my general direction. I’d lost track of Mike so I walked toward the deli.

A camera crew had set up a scene with a reporter. I tried dodging their scene—no sense in being a jerk—but they stopped me.

“Ma’am, can I ask you a few questions?”

“How can you tell I’m a woman?”

“Your clothes all look like they haven’t been washed yet. I just guessed.”

“Oh. Well, I guess—”

A little boy shrieked behind us.

The reporter and camera crew swung to face the boy’s scream. The old guy flew. He’d tucked his cane under his arm, and his long beard flipped in the wind.

I ducked behind the camera crew. They weren’t interested in me anymore. Their new story was better.

It all seemed pretty familiar, so I dropped to the ground and posed like one of those sky divers you see in photos. I flexed my mind a particular way and, sure enough, floated awkwardly into the sky.

My dream flight had always been clunky. I landed as softly as I could on top of a building. I made a very loud WHUMP when I hit.

I touched the roof, ran my fingers over the rough concrete. It felt so solid. But if I had my dream powers there, I must have been asleep. Right?

If I was sleeping then, none of us have ever woken since. I switch gender every other day, Mike loses and gains body parts. Jack wakes up as a two-year-old some days.

And that old guy? Well, if you stick around here long enough, I’m sure you’ll see him.


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Friday, January 21, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: The Fight

“Felicia isn’t going to like this,” Chris said. He wiped his paint-stained hand on his jeans.

“And that only matters because you’ve got a thing for her,” Ant said.

Sal scowled. “Leave him alone, Ant.” She picked up the red spray paint, closed one eye, and waved the can on an arc over the wall.

She put her finger on the button, and sprayed the arc.

Harmony and Felicia walked around the corner.

Chris lost his grip on the yellow paint and just barely avoided knocking the nozzle off. He swore quietly. “Hey, Felicia!” He waved.

“What’s going on?”

“We’re making a new dream. It’s just something to pass the time,” Ant said.

“Does it have to be downtown?” Felicia smirked. “We don’t want to tip them off, you know.”

“It’s not going to tip them off, Fel,” Ant said.

“What does it do?”

“Ask Sal. It’s her design.”

Sal raised her eyebrows slightly. “It makes chain restaurants and coffee smell less attractive.”

“Like how much?” Felicia said.

“I dunno. It won’t make them smell like sewage … probably.”

Felicia laughed. “How close is it?”

“Five minutes maybe? Depends on how fast your boy gets his part done,” Sal nodded at Chris.

“Ooooh, so tempting,” Felicia said. “I’m going to go grab some chain coffee while it still smells good. I’ll help you cast it when I get back. You want some, Chrissy?”

“Sure thing, Felicia. The usual.”

The five joined arms and hummed. They fell into a rhythmic pattern and their voices grew loud.

The moment passed. They opened their eyes and breathed sighs of relief. The mural had already faded. Brief traces of yellow, green, and red marked the mortar between the bricks, but no one would notice.

Chris reached for his coffee and wrinkled his nose. “I think we might have done too good a job.”

Harmony bent over and smelled Felicia’s cup. “Oh, it’s not that bad.”

A large crunch sounded nearby.

Sal swore. “Did that sound like—”

“The coffee place?” Felicia asked. “Yeah. Pull out your sleeping pills, people!”

Chris swallowed his dry. Sal, Felicia, and Harmony took theirs with Felicia’s coffee, and Ant took his with bottled water.

They ran to a hotel and took the elevator to the top floor.

“Hey, I think we can conk out in this broom closet,” Harmony squeaked.

The group piled in the closet.

Chris slumped into the corner and Felicia sat against him. Sal and Harmony giggled picked another corner. Ant’s eyes fluttered and he collapsed on the cement floor.

The Monster Coffee’s golem rumbled through the city streets. It stopped outside the hotel briefly. It considered the probable consequences of attacking a hotel when the hotel developed its own golem.

The hotel’s golem crumbled at its sickly white edges. It stomped slowly toward Monster Coffee.

Monster Coffee held a fist up high and brought it down slightly. Then it looked around as if it couldn’t see Hotel. It peered at the plaza intently for thirty seconds before it gave up and walked back to the store.

Two hours later, Felicia roused. “Well, I’m not going to tell you ‘I told you so,’” she said. “But I did tell you so.”

Chris’s eyes fluttered. “Hi, Fel,” he said.

“You sound drunk,” she said.

“I wish. Can’t we find something else to take next time?”

“Nothing else works that fast. We can take the slow route when the leader of this mutiny doesn’t trigger guardians.”

“Hey,” Sal sounded hurt. “You’re probably right.”

“So,” Ant said. “When does the real fight start?”


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Friday, January 14, 2011

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Humane

“So, the ship is stocked and everything is loaded and configured to spec. We’re done, right?” trainee logistics officer Hannah Shelling said.

“Not quite,” Chief Jackie Reed said.

“Set course for Beta Reticulae, Mr. Christopher.”

“Yes, sir,” Daniel said. He used Maere’s constant and a few modified equations of his own. The course plotted was elegant and deceptively simple. “Course plotted, sir.”

“Ahead full,” the captain said.

He engaged the Watson’s engines. The Watson left the system in a streak of light.

Daniel Christopher’s shift ended and he walked to his quarters. This would be his first longterm tour out of the system. He’d already clashed with first officer Craig’s over some minor disagreement. He needed to make a good impression, get on Craig’s good side. Otherwise, the next two years could destroy his career while boring him to tears.

He plopped on his regulation rack and turned the light out. Through his uniform, he felt a squarish bit of paper under him. He turned the light back on and turned over.

Special Orders: Lieutenant Daniel Christopher

He turned the envelope over, tore the flap open, and pulled a sheet from the envelope. All the identifying marks were absent. An admiral had signed it. When he finished the letter, he was to burn it.

“We’ve got to deliver these daffy letters to every bunk on the ship?”

“They’ve got to be the right letters too or there’ll be trouble.”

“They all say the same thing. What’s the point?”

“Not quite, Shelling. What if you got one of these letters and it had someone else’s name on it?”

“Oh,” Shelling swore. “Yeah, that would be a problem.”

Dear Lt. Daniels,

It will doubtlessly surprise you to know that you are the only human on board the Watson.

All your fellow crew and officers are androids.

You would have figured it out eventually, but in order to prevent problems later, we decided it was best to let you know now—

“Well, damn. That makes a lot of sense already, I guess.”

“So, why do we do it?” Shelling said.

“The androids make braver decisions,” Reed said, “When they think they’re the only human and they have to make up for all the inhumanity around them.”


“Turns out it’s the same for humans too.”

“Are you saying—”

“I’m not saying anything,” Reed said. She pulled a cigar out, trimmed it, and lit up. “I’m not saying anything at all.”


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Friday, January 7, 2011

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Meat

A bit of space dust hit the ship.

I sounded an alarm and set micromechanicals to patch the hole.

It feels weird not breathing. I wasn’t told that. It’d been twenty-two years and I still felt like the moment right after I go under the water.

My non-existent lungs told me I was fine.

My heart should have raced when we were hit. It didn’t. Not a heart. Just synapses.

All I ever wanted was to be a hero. The feel of justified adrenaline running through me. But so much of emotion is meat. I just don’t feel it anymore.


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