Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Grits Melancholy

“The croissant maker is down again, ma’am,” the lady behind the register said.

“Damn it all to hell,” Elinor said. “I know it’s not your fault. I’ll have a cappuccino and grits melancholy instead.” Elinor stood straight and composed.

“Down again?”

“Yep. Third time this week.”

“Might be time to put this one out to pasture.”

“Oh, it’s still got some life left in it.”

Franny, the name the croissant maker had given herself, didn’t feel tired. Maybe retirement would help with that.

She wasn’t sure how she’d like being turned off. What was the old subroutine she’d run when she was young and the sleep feature was too new to be certain? It started “now,” she remembered that part.

The man had unplugged most of Franny’s parts. She couldn’t feel the noise of the network anymore. What if someone wanted a … well, she’d forgotten what they always wanted out of her, but that was only natural from time to time. Especially when you reached Franny’s warranty date. Everything would be ok, wouldn’t it?

He unplugged her sensor board. That had happened before, but she was still scared.

“Now, I lay me down to …”


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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Flossing

One time I heard about a guy with sensitive gums like mine who flossed every day for three months because his dentist told him he should.

Three days in, he woke up with blood on his lips and all over his pillow. When that continued for two weeks, he called his dentist. His dentist told him to give his gums a rest, so the man quit flossing. At least while he was awake.

In the morning, he discovered wads of used floss in the growing pools of blood around his head.

His dentist recommended he contact a psychiatrist, but he was spending too much on his dentist bills. He put the call off.

Until he woke up with exsanguinated bodies in bed with him. His teeth had become vampires.

So I don’t floss every day, just in case.


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Friday, April 15, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Miracle Cures

When folks tell you dragon turds have magical properties, they’re not lying.

You’ve heard it cures noses and constipation. Who’s ever heard of a dragon with a stuffed up nose or a dragon that couldn’t smell? And I assure you, no dragon suffers from slow bowels.

Now, a nose cured with dragon turd will smell, but I should warn you … it will only smell dragon turds.

Those who take dragon turds for constipation will be relieved. Also, their intestines will fall out in five painful days.

Dragon turds have magical properties, sure. They’re just not what you’d call good ones.


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Friday, April 8, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Ghosts

I don’t believe in ghosts. Don’t give me that look. They’re all real bastards so why should make the effort.

I’ve seen them all my life. They’re just figments. But, like I said, bastards.

One time when I was nine, I spent half a summer visiting with Uncle Rupert only to have my parents show up and ground me because the cops found his corpse floating half way down the Mississippi.

Worst trouble of my life up to that point all because Rupert couldn’t have been bothered to keep me in the loop. So what if the stiff would have been a little lonely.

I never got to do any traveling by myself after that.

Not until I was eighteen and applied to the farthest away college I could fathom.

The ghost sitings were worse there, but I figured out most of the ghosts right away. Even 90s fashion went out of vogue pretty quick.

One of the ghosts looked like a near-stereotypical nerd from the mid-80s.

I borrowed some anti-psychotics from someone who didn’t have any interest in using them. Didn’t help. I worried about the nerd anyway.

During my second year, I took a light summer load and made it my project to figure things out. Medication didn’t help, so I tried meditation, standing on my head, all that stuff. Even tried to get a priest to exorcise me. That didn’t go over well. He thought I teased him.

On a whim, I tried a different approach. I researched the nerd’s life. Tim Peterson. He’d died in 1982. ODed on stimulants. Teased by classmates and bullied by his parents whenever his grades dropped below a 100.

I sent letters to his parents and classmates. Tim faded away and I had a much better fall semester.

The other ghosts still haunted me, but I’d gotten rid of one. I could get rid of the others.

I even finished my degree on time.

Looking back on it all, I feel so naive. On the last day of class, I spotted someone out of the corner of my eye. It looked so much like Tim. Out of place in any era.

My heart skipped a beat.

I didn’t see him again, but I try not to spend any more time at my alma mater than I must.

The memory of Uncle Rupert intruded more and more often. I had to go back to St. Louis.

I didn’t tell my family or anyone else either. The story of my “adventure” spread pretty wide amongst my acquaintances and I didn’t want to hear about it.

The young girl on the Metro Link could be a ghost. So could the goth with no gadgets visible who sipped coffee at a café. I could never tell for sure.

I breathed in deep and slow. The air flowed out of me like so many old movie ghosts as I knocked on the door.


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Friday, April 1, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Asteroid no. 5 (part three)

This week's Bedtime Story is my 80th so far. It's also a special three-parter. If you haven't read part one and part two yet, read those first.

We carried the critter into the station. My stomach lurched when we stepped into gravity.

The critter didn’t weigh much considering its size. Maybe two hundred fifty grams.

James kept his station pretty bright so I flicked off my hand-light experimentally. The critter meandered a bit in our hands, but didn’t fight us. I put the light in my pouch and took my helmet off.

“Where do you keep your scanner at?” I said.

James took his helmet off and led me down the hall.

He strapped the critter in. The straps over it made it so much less disconcerting.

The machine thought about its answer a good while. Maybe five minutes. Then, the answer it gave didn’t make much sense. ‘Black body-like anomaly. Check sensor calibration.’

“What the hell does that mean?” James said.

“Not a clue. Too bad the net’s crap out here.”

I grabbed a chisel and hammer from my suit’s pouch and chiseled off a chunk.

The bit I got measured about four centimeters at its longest and didn’t move around at all. The critter didn’t react to losing a piece of itself.

“Jeez, Scrumpy. That coulda gone bad.”

I shrugged and pocketed the sample. “Well, what do we do now?”

“Crack open a beer and report in.”

“Suits me,” I slipped out of my suit and followed him to the locker.

The locker sat only about five meters away from the scanner so we noticed pretty quick when everything went sour. The critter struggled against the straps. We ran back just as it snapped the first strap and broke free.

It bounced off a wall, smashed into the ceiling, and disappeared. No flash of light, no trace of where it could have gone. Just gone.

An alarm blared. James chased the problem down and tore a panel open. Whatever the creature did, its little teleport gag perforated bits of logic board and wire.

“Anything important?” I yelled over the alarm.

“Just the Sterling generators for all the farms on this wing.” He slammed the panel shut and punched the wall.

I backed up a step and put my hands up.

James logged into the panel and shut the alarm off.

The ventilation hummed, but I heard something else too. Like the patter of … rain.

“Did you hear something?” I said.

He looked at me and his eyes narrowed. “Damn it, get down!”

I slumped to the floor and watched as panels all up and down the corridor strained and cracks formed in windows on the outer walls.

I held my breath. The sound of the critters zapping straight out of Asteroid no. 6 stopped.

We ran to the nearest window and peered out as thousands of dots of nothing from Asteroids 5 and 6 shot in straight lines to the distance.

James fiddled with a control on the wall for a moment, then hit it. “Not fast enough. Looks like they headed out of the star system though.”

“Small blessings, eh?”

A window five meters down hissed gently.

“Small enough.”

It’s been maybe five months. It took James and me the better part of three to patch up the damage done to our stations and farms.

We kept up with quota, but AgriCorp3030 still tried to hold us responsible for the damage. The critters didn’t just glom onto our stations, though. They hit thirty five asteroids and fifty stations.

The president of AgriCorp3030 tried to pull some back door nonsense about compensating James and me for the sample so they could seize it, but hell if I want those things called Scrumpies. We escaped with our skin and our prize.

And if we figure out how the creatures worked, me and James, we’re following ‘em.

Well, following them out. I think I could live the rest of my life without running into them.


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