Archive for December, 2011

31st December
2011
written by amber

Chocolate Death

The first body of the New Year lay on the sparkling clean tile floor of the kitchen of an upscale restaurant. The time was 1:01 a.m.

“We served the last guests in the dining room at 10,” the maitre d’ told us, “then everyone moved into the bar to see in the New Year around the fire place. We finished cleaning up by 11:30.”

“It’s very clean,” I complemented him. I’ve seen worse. Far worse.

The man looked upset. “Kent kept the staff on their toes. He was a perfectionist,” he commented, with a sideways glance at the body.

“Is he the owner?”

“He’s the boss. Married to the owner.” The maitre d’ began to cry. “Someone should notify her.”

I nodded at one of my men. “Get her details,” I said, and walked over to examine the body more closely.

“Could be some kind of allergic reaction,” they’d told me when I arrived. “Looks like strangulation, but there’s no ligature marks. And then, there were the locked doors.”

The victim had dialled 911 on his cell phone, but was unable to utter more than a garbled word which sounded like, “Help.” When the paramedics arrived, they’d had to break down the doors to the restaurant, which were locked from within.

“Was he allergic to anything?” I asked the maitre d’.

“Yes, to chocolate. Chocolate could kill him.”

“You’re kidding,” one of my men said. Chocolate Indulgence was the name of the restaurant.

“Well, he wasn’t always allergic, he got that way about five years ago.”

I walked into the man’s office. A large box of chocolates sat open on the desk, the kind with a bow, the kind you buy for a sweetheart. Half of the chocolates were gone. One of my men joined me. “Someone sent him a deadly gift?” he surmised. “The wife? Or maitre sweetie – he seems a bit more upset than an employee would be.”

“He’d know better than to eat the chocolates. And he wouldn’t lock himself in to eat them. It was suicide. There’s chocolate all over his fingers. He was eating them as fast as he could.”

“But he called for help.”

“So he changed his mind. That’s not uncommon. Maybe he found out it didn’t taste as wonderful as he’d come to imagine it. Not wonderful enough to die for after all.”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

Happy New Year to everyone!

30th December
2011
written by amber

The Game of Cat

Jo found the book. We usually burned books to keep warm, but he said he remembered it from when he was little. Jo remembers his mom. The rest of us don’t even know what a mom is.

And we didn’t know what a cat was. Jo showed us the picture in the book. He said his mom told him cats are soft and they love you and they rub against you if you feed them. He said his mom told him it felt good, better than having someone tickle your back.

Angel who is nearly as old as Jo, old enough to have two kids of her own, said she remembered seeing a cat once. She said some dogs were killing it.

I said we should get a cat. It would feel good to have something soft to rub against me, because I usually can’t get anyone to tickle my back. Usually I have to sleep on the outer edge of the group where I get cold, because no one likes me very much.

Jo showed us the picture in the book. The cat was small and fuzzy and had a smile on its face. I said I really wanted to get a cat.

Vic said, “Punk, don’t be so stupid. There are no cats left. The dogs killed them all.”

I said I could be a cat for everyone else, I’d love them and rub against them. I said I could play being a cat.

So I did, and they gave me bits of leftover food, and I didn’t say anything because Jo said cats can’t talk.

But then they told me I couldn’t play at being a cat anymore, because the Mall kids were coming into our territory and we had to fight them. And cats don’t fight with people.

So we did fight them, and we won. And when they ran away, we found a little girl from their group hiding behind some garbage. She was so little, she didn’t talk.

So I asked if I could keep her, and let her pretend to be my cat. And that’s how I got Fluffy.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

 

29th December
2011
written by amber

The Game of Dog

“Power of two,” Joel said.

“Damn!” I replied. “Point to you. In fact, game to you.”

We both watched as his knighted dog leapt over my King Dog and Queen Bitch to attain the castle. It happened in Fastspeed. No use waiting five minutes while the dogs played out the disappointing (to me) endgame in Realtime.

I reached down and gathered up my Pack, restoring them to their kennels while Joel did the same with his, black and white now segregated, lapping at their water dispensers, crunching kibble.

“Want to play again next week?” he asked, and I agreed, but in reality I was becoming unhappy with defeat. Oh sure, I could have gone to the Lower Lounge to play the amateurs, some of whom had to rent Packs because they couldn’t afford to own one, but those victories were too easy.

I’d worked with trainers and nutritional experts, with dog psychologists, with Game theorists, and I knew my Pack was the best I could make it. And it would never be as good as Joel’s Pack.

I’d have to cheat.

Hard to cheat on Outland Ship. I’d suspected Joel of cheating – had run every sort of surveillance on him, had come up with a clean bill of gameplay. But now that I was in the position of contemplating illegal enhancement or Realtime obfuscation or any of the other known cheating methods, I’d have to figure out a way of doing it without being seen.

I returned to my apartment, let the Pack out to exercise in their runs, programmed them for Game practice, each to their own speciality, while I hooked into Shipmind to learn what I could learn. Naturally, I was immediately queried as to the reason behind my line of research, but I had a good alibi established by my previous enquiries into Joel’s possible cheating.

When I’d learned all I could learned through that avenue, I headed down to the concourse favela for a face-to-face meeting that would be discreet and unrecorded. I had no appointment. You can’t make an appointment with the Dog King. You have to understand play just to find his place – in the concourse favela neighbourhoods are fluid, walls and alleys are constantly being moved to confound Security and surveillance. Dog King moves his residence weekly, locating it according to the play of one particular bad player in the Lower Lounge group.

I arrived at his gate and was admitted, admiring the size of his courtyard as I walked across it. Potted plants grew, realsize dogs and cats cavorted. His wealth was immense and ostentatious. When they brought me to the King in his chamber, sitting on his wooden chair and drinking real coffee, I got right to the point.

“Is it possible to plant a dog in someone else’s Pack, a dog whose loyalty is not to the owner but to the owner’s opponent? A dog who would behave at a high competition level, never show signs of anything but normal variations and individuality but who might slow down his obedience speed on a crucial move?”

The King contemplated this for a full minute, then replied, “Yes, it would be possible. Do you want me to set such a thing into motion?”

“No,” I answered, and thanked the man, taking my departure as quickly as was decently possible. All the way back to my apartment, I thought  furiously, trying to pinpoint when such a move could have been made on me. I raised my Pack myself, using standard Pack genetics available from Ship records, developing all my own enhancements and registering them for legality, as was required. But members of my Pack had left my hands on occasion, for medical work and compliance checks. Had a substitution been made at one of those times?

It was possible and I vowed I would find out how and when. I’d defeat Joel at the larger game.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

29th December
2011
written by amber

Black Spaces

There are black spaces between reality, like the vast darkness between the stars. And I can see those black spaces.

I had a grade eight teacher who told us about the spaces, showing us a model of the solar system and commenting that the atoms of our basic make-up were as widely separated. But I didn’t think much about it. Reality was very real to me then.

Later, it became thinner. People seemed fake, life seemed to be a veneer over meaninglessness. I had my first breakdown.

Medication imposed a calmness upon me. Life had no more meaning than before, but that didn’t disturb me as much as it had. I could live by rote, doing what I imagined others expected me to do.

But the medication affected my vision. I tried to complain to my doctor about it, but he couldn’t understand what I meant about the blackness between things. He said the medication’s side effects didn’t include visual distortions. He thought my depression was returning, so he increased the dosage.

I got away from him and from my family; I stopped taking the pills. But it didn’t help. I wasn’t able to stop seeing the world as it is.

Now, I get by if I can keep my eyes closed as much as possible. With my eyes shut, I see more brightness than I do when they are open. I see the sun’s diffuse light through my eyelids, I see the rivers of my own blood. Of course, I know I’m 99% darkness too, but when I touch myself, I feel solid and it reassures me. I wish I could touch more other people, to know they aren’t as they appear to me – a few scintillating dots above a black abyss.

Well, I know why they don’t want me to touch them. I don’t look in mirrors any longer, but I am aware of how rough I look, and I can smell myself. I can hear what they say as I stumble down the street with my eyes shut, peeking out once in a while to keep myself from walking into the street.

They say, “Here comes the man who doesn’t want to see.”

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

28th December
2011
written by amber

Endless Desert

They walked across the desert, separated by their silences, each as if he walked alone. They were nearly out of air, and had had no food for three days, when they saw the settlement.

They ran toward it, each fearing it might be a mirage or hallucination, but it was real. Nearly covered by an encroaching dune, but still intact – windows unbroken, doors operable. Deserted, powered-down. Not sure the place was intact, they didn’t try to engage the air system, but took the tanks stacked by the door and gratefully attached them to their suits.

“A transport,” Rogald said, and headed off in one direction.

“Food,” Duoll said, and Loma answered, “Communication.”

They went their separate ways and came back together after a time. “There’s food enough for all of us,” said Duoll.

“I found a transport,” Rogald reported, “just like the one we had that broke down.”

“The communicator doesn’t work, but there was a message.” Loma offered the disk to the others.

They looked and saw their own faces. “We’re setting out for Artemus Base,” Duoll said, “because we hit something strange when we were mining. Something passed over us – I can’t describe it any better. The power system for the settlement is down and…”

On the recording, Rogald took up the narrative, “We three are the only survivors of 29 people on the surface. We don’t know what happened to the 6 who were underground. The tunnel has disappeared, as if it never existed, but if you make it out alive and receive this message, you’ll know where we’ve gone. It won’t take us long to get there – we’ll send help.”

Loma spoke last, “We’re healthy enough, but we feel odd, as if we changed. We hope they can help us at the base.”

They were silent for a while. Duoll said finally, “So, we forgot what we were doing, and we drove the transport until it quit, then we walked back here. But now we know what’s going on, we can set out for Artemus Base again. Were there maps in the transport, Rogald?”

Rogald scowled, he bit his lip. “Yes, Duoll, the transport has maps. The thing is – there were berths for seven transports, and this is the last one left.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

Previous