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9/2/06 04:03 pm - The Fourth Installment in the Continuing Perils of Whisky Microgramma

Whisky pushed forward through the government-building-gray doors and blinked at the cold early morning sun. It had been a hard night. Taking that short ride with the blue uniform had saved him from the Indian frying pan, but an old assault charge had turned out to be a particularly hot fire.

He had tried his best to explain himself to the desk clerk, using every elaborate hand gesture and onomatopoeia he could dredge up from an exhausted mind to illustrate the nasty predicament he had found himself in the night before. The clerk had glanced at him once or twice, lazily calculating the bloody wretch that was attempting to explain himself. In the end, however, the nasty tap tapping away at a green screen keyboard turned up some history on Whisky that he would just as soon like to forget.

Whisky never could sleep in jail. Maybe it was the coldness of the painted gray cinderblocks, or the stiffness of the $27 mattress that reaked of disinfectant; but it was more likely the fact that he had not be able to locate Sam, the bailbondsman attorney on the eastside that was one or two poorly planned bribes away from losing his bar certification. Sam was an old friend and an ex-brother-in-law (Whisky always got along better with Sam than his sister anyhow), and it was very out of character not to find him at one of three places: his bail bond shop/one bedroom apartment, the Juke and Jive, or Mary Turner's Resting House for Lonely Gentlemen.

Whisky managed to coax himself into an hour's sleep by assuring himself that Sam would be on his way as soon as his message with a likely drunken Proud Mary got through. That hour end abruptly with the sound of his cell door rattling open. That was worth a tired smile from Whisky until he couldn't find Sam's Cheshire Cat grin next to the policeman.

"Whisky Microgramma. Your bail's been made."

Whisky shook the sleep out of his head. "Who posted it?"

"Got me," was the gruff reply.

In the early morning cold, Whisky quickly added two and two, guessing that his unnamed savior might have something to do with the well dressed young turk leaning up against a sparkling clean black towncar parked in front of the police station. As the pinstripe suit crushed his cigarette underfoot and approached, Whisky scrambled in his mind to solve for a new and perplexing variable in what was a previously simple arithmetic problem. Someone has decided that it was worth quite a bit of money to arrange a meeting with him, and a suit in a towncar were not generally the trappings of the type of comrades that felt they owed Whisky the favor of fronting him thirty grand.

"Mr. Microgramma?" said the suit. A noted lack of a Punjab accent was enough for Whisky to erase one name off the list of suspected benefactors. "I hope that your accomodations last night were not so uncomfortable as to leave you in a sour mood." He wore a slight smile that only barely improved the coy demeanor of his face.

"I could think of a couple of things to improve my mood," Whisky replied. False courtesy from strangers was never the thing to ease Whisky's troubled mind, and this was turning into a worse scene by the minute. "Am I to assume that you are the good man responsible for waking me from a sound night's sleep?"

"No, Mr. Microgramma, I simply bring a message from the Emperor, and a sedan chair to speed a friendly rendezvous with him." It was an oblique literary reference, and Whisky had the impression that this man was used to making allusions that only he would understand. Of course, those kind of people are the ones who usually managed to screw those allusions up.

"You've come a long way to bring me a message from a dead monarch."

The suit's face went stiff. "If you would please accompany me, Mr. Microgramma, I think you will find an excellent breakfast awaiting you at your appointment."

"I'm not in the habit of forgetting appointments;" Whisky looked past the man and tried to sum up the towncar. It was empty; sending one man alone might indicate that this really was a safe invitation. Then again, if this was the type of invitation a guest only received when a government computer database managed to find him, it was probably a party that Whisky would want to avoid.

"I appreciate the offer, kid, but I know a great place in Sector 43 to find scratch biscuits. Maybe another time."

The gauntlet hit the sidewalk, and Whisky knew the suit was going to pick it up. He could see the Italian cotton around his limbs bind up with suddenly tense muscles. Whisky tried to put up a guard, but the man was too fast for him. It felt like a jab from a piston into his stomach. Whisky winced at the pain, and in a flash was on his knees coughing at the ground. He realized why the Emperor had only sent one man.

The suit whispered into his ear from behind him. "Once you catch your breath, Mr. Microgramma, we can be on our way. You have an obligation to my employer, and it will serve you well to fulfill it. There is, however, no sense in letting this slight faux pas ruin what could otherwise be a nice ride between the two of us."

Whisky caught his breath. The suit released him and Whisky started to rise. As he got halfway up he dropped to his knees again, spinning around quickly and jabbing a ballpoint pen through Italian cotton and into the man's thigh. The man's face contorted into a silent scream as his grabbed at his leg. Whisky planted a punch into his side, then pulled him to the ground and rested a knee in his chest.

"If your boss wants to talk, have him meet me in an hour at the Jack Sprat Diner in Sector 43. No hard feelings." Whisky was on his feet and running a moment later, and looked back over his shoulder a minute just long enough to see the suit waving off the police officers who had gathered around him.

On Line 7 headed towards center, Whisky sighed and wondered whether or not to keep the date he had just made, but biscuits began to sound more and more appetizing, and Sprats was only five more stops away...


9/1/06 08:12 pm - Rethinking the Tranquilitatis Book: A New Proposal

It has been 37 long years since Thad Wester's Pearl Diver emerged on a cold Venezualan coast morning clutching one of mankind's most perplexing artifacts. Relatively small and unassuming, no other collection of 18 bound leaves of fabric have elicited such a diverse array of proposed guesses to that one driving question: why does this book exist?

The material is of such astounding properties that even the best scientific and chemical experiments have only been able to discover a tenth of its composition. The images depicted inside are of simple geometric form, yet evoke such a profound sense of emotion from the viewer that they have become the source of whole schools of art, architecture, and design. Radiant City, that venerable America utopian project, was heavily influenced by the book. The small captioned figures that accompany the drawings are mathematically similar in distribution and compilation to our most technically precise languages, yet the small excerpts defy any translation or decryption. Scholars, scientists, theologians, philosphers, and the most vivid imaginations cannot decide just what the Tranquilitatis Book is.

A brief history of the book:

Thad Wester was a submariner in the employ of the Carmichael Exploratory Company, a multinational corporation built on the trade of exploring the last few frontiers on earth with the hopes of overturning some new rock that could lead to some new market or profitable venture. Though they have devoted hundreds of thousands of man-hours to combing the world over for novelty, their finds have been few and very far between. Those few discoveries and treasures , however, have been so substantial and important that the company currently makes more from licensing and royalties than 43 soveriegn countries.

The division that Wester belonged to specialized in deep sea underwater exploration. for nineteen months, Wester had been involved in locating a series of strange frequencies that were recently found to be emanating in the infrared spectrum from what were apparently random locations in the south Caribbean. The previous 14 sources that Wester had studied had uncovered nothing of note, but Carmichael Exploratory makes their money from being persistent.

On the fifteenth try, Wester dove in his deep sea vessel, the Pearl Diver, to a depth of 8900 feet into the Tranquilitatis Trench, approximately 64 miles off the Venezualan coastline. As he approached the bottom of the ocean, his sonar allowed him to carefully slow down and hover a few feet above the floor. Three hours into the dive, and twenty minutes after reaching the bottom, Wester pinpointed the source of the transmission. As before, he could discern no apparent device or antenna that could possibly be broadcasting. The only abnormal phenomenon was a slight increase of approximately 4.3 centigrade above the ambient water temperature.

Wester began his slow spiral outward from the broadcast, sweeping the ocean floor for anything of interest. About 60 feet from the broadcast, he noticed what he describes in his own words as a slight luminescence from his starboard porthole. Cutting the outside spots, and eventually the inside dash lights, the light took on a strange ephemerence, as though the water itself was shining. He relit his spotlights and drowned out the luminesence, but discovered a shimmering in the dirt. Through careful manipulation of the claw arm of his ship, he dug out what he took to be metal at the time. It was what would later come to be known as the Tranquilitatis Book.

In two more hours of exploration Wester found nothing else. Exhausting his air supply, he decided to surface. Surface crews quickly retrieved the new treasure as Wester waited in the decompression chamber. Restoration teams were diligent in their efforts to preserve the artifact from the dangers of fragility and environmental shift. Their methods were, incredibly, unecessary. Once folded back into their natural bound layout, the pages appeared crisp and perfect, as if new.

Experts the world over were confounded. The pages have a texture like fabric, yet are not rigid, and do not wrinkle when folded. The book has been exposed to heat, radiation, the worlds sharpest implements, vaccuum, pressure, and any number of other methods of torture and destruction. There has been no apparent chemical or physical change in the Book. The images remain crisp and colorful, shape and form have been maintained, and the whole piece appears fresh off the presses.

The Book is approximately 15.24 centimeters wide and 12.02 centimeters tall, bound at the edge of one side of the rectangle. The binding does not seem to delineate between pages, as is the pages were simply melded together without any seams. The images in the book have been reproduced countless times the world over, and are of a remarkable minimalist nature. Most of the pages have a few geometric shapes that are turned and placed in precise angles and distances from each other that seem to enliven a diverse array of emotional responses in the viewer, many of which are difficult to convey by even the most capable poets. If the positioning of the shapes in reproductions are altered even to within a few milimeters, the emotional character of the pieces are lost completely, though their aesthetic remains.

Theories about the nature of the Tranquilitatis Book are numerous, and range from the blithe to the grave, the logical to the spiritual. It will not serve to restate them here. Instead, I offer a new explanation for the book, which, stately in simplicity, both evidences the uncertainty with which one must guess at the Book's nature, and cue the reader to extrapolate his or her own logic in back up my theory.

I believe that the Tranquilitatis Book was composed and created for the same purposes and reasons that modern human beings write children's books. This theory may well be as profoundly sensible as it is whimsical, but I leave that for the reader to decide.

6/7/06 09:46 pm - I Have Met the Most Beautiful Woman on Earth or: A Scientific Investigation.

Within the last month or so, I have found that the large majority of my physical and mental resources have been diverted from otherwise useful engagements to concentrate on proving a singular thesis that recently presented itself to me. It has become apparent to me that this theory has sprung from a somewhat suspect presentiment-- one that may or may not reveal itself to the average reader as difficult, if not impossible, to confirm using even the most developed of modern sciences. Nevertheless, I deem the exercise necessary, if only to quench the parching thirst that has consumed me of late. Even if my arguments are not to the satisfaction of the skeptical reader, the thought of them tends to make my pillow lighter at night. With such caveats aside, I declare: I have met the most beautiful woman on the Earth.

In my imagination I would presume that my readers are now broken up into a few distinct groups. One part simply smiles and guesses that I am the victim of some childish disposition of the type that occupies schoolboys in their free hours. Another part might scoff and lay down this paper immediately, insulted that the language of reason might be applied to a notion so romantic that to withdraw it from the confines of sonnets and novels would diminish the respectable character of logical theses. One more portion of my readers (and one that I hope you would be categorized as) may find their curiosity piqued, intrigued by the possibility that modern science might include a new wisdom that could be utilized to explain this remarkable assertion and a host of other kindred questions.

Those dissenters in the former two groups will be addresses momentarily. First, I would beg the leniancy of the skeptics to examine a seemingly truth that appears to be universal amongst those men and women who have been of a child rearing age for a period of years or more. Almost all of this group, or those who can claim some degree of socialibilty, have come to believe, if not felt with a deep conviction that rivals the verisimilitude of the most secure logical analysis, the truth of this observation. Understanding that an individual has come to meet the single most beautiful person to ever live is not an uncommon faith to ascribe to. While this may not be immediately verifiable by empirical methods at the time, it is a thought often accompanied by a confidence arising from a hidden mechanism within the human psyche that may exist solely to ensure that we will adhere to the most important facts of life even while lacking external proofs.

To the overly skeptical the above would likely seem to stray from the wise path trailblazed by modern science and revert to the vestigial sophistry of antiquated philosophic theory. Untrue. Any good scientist will immediately agree that science has not encompassed enough of the world to explain every supposition that contains even an inkling of apparent truth. Thus, since man's senses are the source of all data it would not be a stretch to conclude that a concept which cannot be fully comprehended by the limitations of the conscious mind might be affirmed by a faculty of the subconscious mind. If the waking mind could devote enough time to mulling this, it may well come to the same conclusion as the subconscious, thought by ignoring the earlier testament and seeking by other means to prove it, would waste the short time we have on the earth by taking the long road around. A man would be better served by taking the shortcut and avoiding the trouble.

The nature of the controversy regarding my thesis revolves not around a personal conviction that a man would gladly take to his grave rather than deny, however. As a semantic issue, the issue lies with the use of the superlative "most." The implication is that on the Earth, either today or during any epoch of the human story, this woman is the one and only most perfectly beautiful specimen of her species, without exception. Indeed, by bringing up this issue I would seemingly deny myself the assumption that makes my previous argument ring true; if the majority of the planet can claim to have laid eyes on the single most beautiful person, would they not all contradict each other?

The obvious answer would be to establish a set of qualifications with which to judge all women by, and therefore have an idealized norm that they would be compared to. Surely all men on Earth could find a 'Helen' to agree to. Aspects of beauty would be categorized, such as eye color, amiability, character of voice, degree of intelligence, bodily form, etcetera. Each category would have a list of potential components, and the best of each would be chosen. Then the categories could be compiled, and a woman found to be closest to these ideals would be decided as the most beautiful woman on Earth.

Of course, hazel eyes suit some men, green irises suit another. Golden hair cannot win every heart; conversational prowess does not appeal to every ear; firm and rounded hips do not excite every libido. Even with a democratic system of majority rules in a limitless number of categories, it is reasonable to guess that they may never be a single woman that would be most beautiful to all men, given that there would never be a single ideal to silhouette her against.

Instead, I would invite the reader to examine the original source of my thesis: my own most beautiful woman. A woman with every majesty that might be bestowed upon a female form. A genuine spirit of loveliness-- every gesture an indication of that unblemished inner nature. A voice soft with endearment, hinted with the condescension of caresses given readily in a world of guarded intimacy, though without an iota of pride's venom. A stride and a smile rife with the understanding that only the most wise gain from a hundred years wisdom, curling cheeks into the rosy dimples of youthful vigor of a new blossom drinking the sunshine. Flesh as appealing to the eye as to the softest touch, an inspiration of calmness similar to that encountered when one is exposed to something joyful but beyond comprehension. A character of mind that is the origin of novelty and animated aestheticism, an infinite fount of acute skill. The most beautiful woman in the world.

These observations are confirmed internally by that psychological mechanism that allows me to confirm them without benefit of external comparisons, since an inherent factor of this mechanism is the assurance that any and all other possible competitors would come second to her. Thus, in my own mind, my thesis is proven. What supposed egotism would I then employ to declare that this is a good enough argument for the reader? Merely this: given that I have yet to win the hand of this most beautiful woman in the world, I am disallowed by that hope of revealing the identity of this woman to the public. There is the danger of her discovering it, and I am unsure that what affections she holds for me could be lost in the embarassment of my clamorous exclamation of her unsurpassed beauty.

Thus, in this logical argument, there exists only one possible method of confirmation of my thesis: my own personal judgment that she is the most beautiful woman on the Earth. No other technique, scientific or philosophical, may be applied. It must therefore be concluded that she is indeed the most beautiful woman in the world, beyond repudiation. I hope that by finally ending this question once and for all, scientific man can return to other matters of concern and continue the quest for absolute and assertable knowledge.

6/6/06 10:53 pm

Staring at the blinking red light, my eyes drift out of focus and my ears turn the long high frequency tone of warning into a distant whine. The plastic button guard is lifted up on its hinge, and my thumb rests on the bright yellow and black striped symbol of my determination. All that remains is to lean forward and depress it-- the hatch will burst open and the capsule will purge all hope of my survival. I have a sense of where I am and what I am doing, but I have deliberately opened my mind and allowed exhaustion to swallow me. The dense fog of sleep dulls mind awareness.

I shake it off and refocus. My cotton shirt and pants have snaked around my body and constrict me. Is the blackness of outer space reminiscent of those last moments of conciousness before slumber? A perpetual limbo of time un-rememberable. A body drifting in a buoyant sea, numbed of all save approaching dreams. The body becomes a shade of Hades, nomadic without goal or end.

No more thought. This button under my thumb is about life as unrepentant and irreversible.

I jam down on it. Hard.

The concussion of the explosive charges pounds me eardrums. A gale force wind rushing forward past me, snatching me up like a feather. All sound ceases and I find myself motionless, watching the hatch door fly before me into the black.

I begin to struggle , twisting every muscle under my command to turn and gaze down all the immense blue scene below me. In vain. I can crane my neck to glance it in the periphery of my vision, but I cannot reorient myself in the vacuum.

Instead I stare outward, the Earth behind me, the stars ahead. For a few seconds I am mesmerized by their beauty, the eternity that they represent.

It strikes me then. I try to gasp, I cannot. But there is no pain, no panic. My lungs do not miss the air; it is as if it just began to understand that it never needed it in the first place. All that separates me from the void are these light clothes-- no mask, no suit. I should be dead by now, according to my training. Perhaps in all the excitement I did not realize that my spirit had departed my body, I cannot tell.

All I know now is that they are beautiful. My eyes stare without tiring, without blinking. As all other senses grow numb, the stars grow brighter and fill my mind.

They are all I have now. And all I need.

5/31/06 11:10 pm - Clair de lune

Oh, three hundred hours. The world has a texture at that time of the night. It is the streetlights. Their shallow dimness strips away the character of the objects and places that they illuminate. Yellow rays cannot reveal all the nuances of these materials, cannot reflect our expectations that the daylight brings. Scenes leave our eyes lacking, and stretch the imagination into forms and colors of recent memories superimposed on dull shadows of indistinction. What the human mind cannot comprehend, it ignores or fabricates.

Long days leave you driving down strange roads. Unsure thoughts straggle around, wafting from consideration to consideration without conclusions brought by the determination of ready action. Few deadlines lay at 3.00 AM. It is a time of suspense for the pre-occupied, while others succumb to the aimless procrastination of sleep, dropping their brains into the black. For those unlucky few, who I can count myself as one, sleep lags on the horizon but never comes to succor me. Nor do I feel the twitching nag of worry in my chest. These are the moments that a thoughtful man can count himself as merely being, cogito ergo sum with no impetus to rationalize himself as anything more.

Occasionally I find myself on the earth, remembering my corpus as an extension of what was immediately before a series of independent patterns of thought. I found myself on the freeway at 3.00 AM. Behind the wheel of my familiar sedan, speedometer reading sixty-two, headlights piercing ahead, washed away by the dying stars in streetlamp filaments. During the day this is a well travelled road, clogged with the beetles of a busy race. As a testament to the alien nature of the mid-night world, the beetles have disappeared, save the one which ferries me. Far ahead might be the twin red lights of a speeding car, but perhaps it is something else entirely.

A monstrous concrete barrier hides the oppositely-bound headlamps. It is a strange restriction on an otherwise open sky pinpricked with tiny stars, the surrounding earth lit with the burning signs devised to either summon clientele or avert the cautious thief. Billboards still proclaim their conveniences. Fluorescent bulbs fill enclosures of colored plastic, diffusing light into company logos and advertisements. Auto dealerships are white oases of modern commerce. Parking lot halogens save womens' purses from petty villains. This world is not alive, but it can pretend to be.

Had I the alert awareness of my daytime senses with me, the next event would likely have startled me and shoved me fully into a wonder and curiosity with regards to its cause. There would be a desire to resolve the matter into something consistent with my presumptions. But I felt no such curiosity. I felt an acceptance of it, as if it had already been planned for a thousand years that it would occur. The perfect end to complex cycles of human molding and development that finally found equilibrium with the natural earth our designs seemed so antithetical to. Every single light in every direction blinked out in balletic unison. Only my eyes and my headlights remained.

I could see the road ahead, pavement coursing under me. Low beams of light glancing downwards in embarassment that they should be caught standing out so alone. My eyes began to adjust and understand the new color that had replaced the golden waxiness of the incadescence of the signs and streetlamps. It was a cold blue that began to swallow the earth, drawing out the shaded forms of the night into relief.

The moon was bright that night, but no match for the artificial light that had made moderners forget the moon's tempermental phasing. All the shadows were now hiding in the same direction from the silver swords of the moonlight, a new harmony that sneered at the grotesque disarray of the thousand scattered filaments. Peacefulness hugged my eyes. My headlights were now truly an embarrassment in contrast, a leper in Eden. With a twist of a knob, they darted away to cower from Luna, my dashboard lights slinking after them. I opened my eyes wide to see the night, rolled down my windows to the flushing breeze, and drove home.

5/18/06 09:30 pm - that's one way to dodge a bullet...


The first thing one generally considers when faced with four angry young men with pistols is an attempt to come up with some perfectly clairvoyant phrase that would make them all put away their guns and walk away. They would tilt their heads to the side, think for a moment, shrug, realize that the whole affair was just silly, push the elevator button for their floor, and go sit down to a drink.

The second thing one generally considers is that the previous line of thought was pretty dumb, really. Whisky Microgramma, the man in this slightly unfortunate predicament, knew better than to play coy and act like he wasn't the tattered, beaten man who had just landed on their boss from forty feet up. Especially considering that the handcuffs that bound his bloody wrists were not exactly the height of fashion these days.

An odd thing about a surprise discovery such as the angry young Indians managed to make is the queer pause that occurred as they wondered whether or not their Gods had actually bestowed on them such fortune. They quickly decided that such was their good fortune, but the next matter to consider was what actions to take against this foul infidel. The closing elevator door broke their concentration. A light step forward into the threshold brought the standoff back into relief.

Whisky lifted his hands to scratch his nose casually. "Say, one of you boys got a key for these?"

The response was pretty much what Whisky would have expected had he ruminated on it very long. As such, he judged it fairly logical of him to turn heel and bolt, largely based on the fact that he now had the sound of bullets whizzing past his head to compel his flight. It soon turned out to be a plan that generally lacked the basic characteristics of a plan, i.e. making decisions ahead of time that would likely resolve the conflict he was currently a part of. This realization was further bolstered by the fact that the dark hotel doors that he bounded past gave little indication that they might contain safe haven within.

Wait, what was that one? Turn around, one door back. Ah yes, that familiar red and white placard above the door. That would do just fine.

Whisky slammed his whole body into the middle bar across the doorway and stumbled into a stairwell. The fire bells were suddenly deafening. He wheeled and slammed the door behind. Maybe something to block it, lock it? Nope. Just concrete and metal railings.

Five steps down the flight, jump the last four. Whisky slipped and clattered to the floor, scrambled up and swung down into the next flight, with just enough time to watch the venomous Thuggee slam open the door. They managed to get another shot off, which ricocheted into some random direction, but luckily the staircase was packed together, with no line of sight from flight to flight. Whisky wondered if he could consider that lucky, considering how his evening had been going so far.

Whisky had his sea legs now. Two stairs in a step, bounding down, grabbing at the rail corner, turn down to the next flight. The Thugee hadn't caught up yet, and he was beginning to wonder if they would. Maybe they had split up to catch him off guard?

He stopped and waited. Over the cacophony of the constant bell ringing Whisky began to hear doors slamming open. Surely was doomed now. The whole hotel was probably filled with Hindu gangsters and they were all coming for him at once. Probably a nice reward for the head of the bosses murderer...

The door below him on the next landing burst open. Men poured into the stairwell in a kaleidoscope of multi-colored pajamas, robes, and nightgowns. The door above slammed against the wall, and men in slippers began rushing past him, clutching a random piece of luggage or paper. They paid absolutely no attention to the bloody man who stared at them with bewildered eyes.

Whisky shook his head free of curiosity and joined the press down the stairs, holding his handcuffs close to his body under his button up shirt to cover them. He glanced back occasionally in search of the angry pistoleers, but found that they had given up the chase.

The last door opened into a streetlamp lighted street in front of the hotel. Flashing reds, blues and whites marked the emergency vehicles that blocked off the avenue. A few hundred middle-aged men clustered around, looking up and hoping to see smoke. Whisky read the marquee under the vertical hotel sign. "WELCOME NATIONAL SHRINER CONVENTIONEERS."

He caught the glare of the angry young Indians standing just outside the hotel and began to back away. "Hey, watch where you're going." Whisky turned to see the man he bumped into, and smiled at the blue uniform and shiny brass badge on his chest. The policeman looked at him as though checking for signs of dementia, then gave it up. "Please stand at least two hundred feet from the building, sir. Say, what have you been through tonight?"

Whisky began searching for that clairvoyant phrase again, then started considering his options. How far would he get on foot before the Indians found him again? In the end, he said nothing at all. He just held out his hands to the officer.

Though taken slightly aback, the officer quickly composed himself. "Okay sir, please come with me."

Whisky grinned brightly at the Thuggee from the back seat of the police cruiser as it pulled away. The Thuggee did not blow him any kisses in return. Whisky hoped he still had friends at this precinct station. This was going to take a lot of clever talking.


5/10/06 08:22 pm - next installment -- angry young thuggee

"It looks as if you've begun to outlive yourself, Mr. Microgramma. Or at least outlive your tongue's ability to save you."

Whisky looked down at the skyscraper's height of air beneath his feet then scowled at the Hindu. "Well, in the next life, when you're a cow and I'm a horsefly, at least my sting will still hurt."

Whisky wondered if the Indian would make any more speeches. He didn't have to wonder about it very long. This tended to annoy him, because he hadn't thought of a way to get out of this fix yet. Eh. Improvisation was a pleasant way of saying that Whisky rarely had any good plans anyway.

The Indian had to lean out over the window railing to just reach the rope with the knife. But the rope was thick-- Whisky was no small man. The knife sawed away. Whisky hoped it wasn't sharp. By the time three of the wound strands of cord popped out from the rope, however, he gave up that hope. He hung limp, waiting for death, saving his last breath for a curse against the faceless Salome who had got him into this.

The Indian's eyes burned like a Ganges pyre. Whisky enjoyed knowing that the Indian forgot that a man about to die tends to put up some kind of struggle. Whisky glanced up at the rope. It was a mess of frayed strands, and maybe three or four remained intact. He wished himself luck and stiffened his body.

With one thrust upward he kicked the small straightlaced Asian in the stomach with both feet. The man reeled backwards, the knife flashed with the bright buildings spotlights as it fell. Whisky felt the rope snapping it's last few bonds, but it held long enough for one more swing upwards. He caught the pole with his feet and yanked his handcuffed paws down as hard as he could. The rope broke and the force nearly lost Whisky his foothold. He grabbed backwards towards the railing and managed to catch hold of the wrought iron. Unfortunately, his loose grip was quickly the lesser of his worries.

The Indian was screaming. With a sharp jab, Whisky lost feeling in one foot; his body fell and smashed against the solid concrete wall below the rail. Before he could catch his breath, the Indian was at him again, pounding on his hands and yelling obscenities in some jangling tongue.

Dangling feet finally caught a foothold. Whisky looked up and realized that there was little possibility of climbing up past the screaming dwarf. That only left one direction. Lucky for Whisky but not the Indian, Whisky was a good catch. The surprise in the Indian's face told Whisky what his numb hands could not and soon both of the villians were tumbling end over end.

Twenty-four stories gives a man quite a while to realize that he didn't pray enough during his lifetime. For these two acrobats, however, there wasn't much time for regrets or final prayers. At one instant they were weightless and at the next Whisky had all the air knocked straight out of him. It seemed that his luck was holding out tonight, or maybe he had just found a way to steal the Indian's luck. Whisky rolled over and lay on the hard concrete patio. When his eyes finally focussed again, he could see the flagpole far above him. He hated to think how many stories he had fallen, but then chuckled at the thought when he rolled over his head and saw the dead Hindu bleeding next to him. Or he would have chuckled, if he had the breath for it.

A couple distant yells brought him to his senses. Looking up, a couple agitated young men were pointing down at him from the flagpole balcony. With a groan he sat up, wondering if he had managed to keep one or two ribs intact. He felt for his pistol and remembered he had checked it at the bar. He checked his pocket for a cell phone and found that it had been replaced by a slip of paper instead.


Funny. He couldn't remember writing that. Especially since it wasn't in his handwriting. Then again, what else would you expect to find in the pocket of a man who had fallen off a tall building?

The patio door was unlocked, the room dark. A normal hotel room, unoccupied, by the looks of it. A slow stumble to the door and he was in the hallway, glancing around for a way out. A small placard read "Elevator," and pointed to the right. Always nice when the good Lord provides a direction for his poor sinners, Whisky thought.

He was starting to get a little of his kick back as he walked down the hallway. The Thuggee were undoubtedly on the warpath by now. He would pop into the elevator, dial up the mezzanine, then find a back stairway out, if he could. He had a feeling that the front desk might be looking for a man meeting his description.

The DOWN button lit up as he pressed it. He leaned back against the wall to wait.

Maybe karma was on his side after all. He was just a regular guy in his mind. Maybe a bit stronger, a bit rougher and a little less discreet than most men, but not superhuman. Things went wrong, but then they went right in all sorts of insane ways. Well, when life throws you into river rapids, all you can do is ride it out and hope that the waterfall isn't too tall. He'd already falled off one cliff tonight, he wasn't eager to see anymore of them.

A mechanical bell announced his sedan chair had arrived. He pushed off and stood for the doors waiting to open, tired eyes looking down. Sliding doors revealed black shoes. His gaze climbed up the tailored pants to expensive jackets and hideously chosen ties. And at the top of those nooses, brown faces. Indian, angry, mean looking faces.

A semi-automatic pistol clicked a bullet into the chamber. Whisky winced.


5/8/06 09:36 pm - it's a bitter tasting drink they serve in Little Delhi...

Whisky Microgramma was the type who occasionally believed in karma, when events of significant coincidence decided to do him the favor of slapping him in the face. Sure, the counterfeit notes weren't doing anyone any good since he yanked them off that greasy punk downtown, and it made sense that he might augment his meager salary with a few drinks and a couple pretty girls that night. So long as the real criminals weren't making anything off their crime, who was to blame?

Apparently, Whisky was to blame. He tried thinking back to the steps (or mis-steps) he had taken to end up with this magnificent view he had of Singh Avenue and the Little Delhi district. He might have enjoyed it a little more had he not been on the 24th floor of the Cobalt Hotel with half a dozen unseemly characters scowling at him from a few feet away. And he certainly would have been more comfortable had he not been hanging from a flagpole by a pair of handcuffs that were slowly digging notches into his wristbones. By this point it was hard to decide whether his poor short term memory was due to that last rye and tonic or the pain that was currently screaming distractions into his brain.

"Perhaps next time, Mr. Microgramma, you might show a little more discretion in the women you choose to offend down in our neighborhood."

Whisky had to wait a few seconds until his turning in the breeze brought him around to face the voice. Given the distinctness of the Indian accent, however, he was not surprised to discover the short, dark skinned stereotype he normally held of the South Asian people. A tinge of anger welled up in his gut as he thought about being bested by someone he normally would have laughed at in a fistfight. He tended to hate the male version of the Hindus. Whatever rancor he might hold for Indian men, he held a desire in inverse proportion for their female counterparts.

Hence this current predicament. Or at least he assumed so. In a stumbling reminiscence of the past few drunken hours, pretty faces flew by at forty miles an hour. Most of those had been cocoa colored, with almond eyes and dark lips-- but then again, why bother coming to Little Delhi if you weren't hoping to see faces like that? Anyone of which could have this small angry man's sister. Or daughter. Or wife. With the way Whisky slapped asses when he got drunk and feisty, it was not unlikely that maybe he had managed to find one of each.

"Listen brother, I can't say that I didn't maybe cross the line once or a dozen times tonight, and it wouldn't surprise me to find out that maybe one of your women was on the other side of one of them. Seeing as how nice your suit is, I'm willing to bet they're mighty pretty girls, too. But you have to admit that the Four-Seven Bar ain't exactly the place for pretty girls to be playing in, you know?"

By the time his body had completed another circuit of twisting, it was obvious that Whisky had chosen the wrong way to reason with this man. If the furious eyes of the Indian didn't manage to burn through the ropes tying Whisky 24 stories from the hereafter, Whisky was pretty sure the knife in his hand could do the trick.


4/3/06 04:15 pm - Intruder, a short story.

IntruderCollapse )
This is a chapter of a book I'm eventually planning to write.  Feedback is more than encouraged, so long as it's constructive.

2/12/06 08:51 pm - Marionettes.

The worst realization about knowing that you are supposed to be going insane is the ever-present self doubt that accompanies every thought and statement. Whatever logic you may have relied on previously is now, in my mind, assuredly radical and absurd. The most basic logical reasoning becomes suspect, e.g. my legs feel warm because of the polyester pants I am wearing. Suddenly I must check the internal thermostats, recalculate my trajectory in relation to the sun, and assure myself that the geiger counters aren't fooling me into false security about the cosmic radiation that is slowly baking my skin.

Naturally, when I do think of something that must be inherently mad, it works me into a new state of neurosis. I removed my space suit months ago. I wore it for two weeks after launch, when I still considered it likely that I would re-enter atmosphere at any minute. After another few weeks (and this, undoubtedly, is evidence of my madness) I reassembled the pants, torso, gloves, and helmet into a full suit. Now the empty shell floats a few feet from me at the other end of the capsule, and with the sun guard down, it would be impossible to tell if someone inhabited it. Perhaps it was a momentary fancy that I could fabricate a companion for myself out of such pieces.

One of the many illusions created by near zero gravity is a peculiar anthropomorphism to inanimate objects. When a pen and pad move in a way that implies an agenda, however, it is not nearly as startling as when a form in the shape and dimensions of a human being does.

These are the movements that frighten children in a dimmed room at night. Coincidental motions and an imaginative mind can turn a shirt on a bedpost into the most horrifying of monsters. Unstopping drifting and a mind tempered by months of loneliness and unused to any motion save its own directives can create a creature that will cause spines to go cold, even as the radiation of dead stars seeps into flesh.

In the middle of a planned circadian night, dreams and reality in a capsule this size have no distinction. One beam of light that pierces through my jury-rigged porthole cover illuminated a swaying helmet and raised hand that pointed directly at my heart. Adrenalin shook me to face the fear I felt. In a deep voice, roughly hewn on its edges by the electronic coldness of a pre-recording, the apparition spoke.

"The knife that a cold night buries slowly into your chest will do naught but enrich the warmth of the stars. When the copper blade spreads through your veins and reaches your fingertips with a new lucidity of touch, you will know what time you have left."

Only a sane man can believe in ghosts. Madness only affords me the belief in my own madness.

I could not bring myself to dismantle the spacesuit.
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