On Why I Keep Changing the Appearance

May 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

I am trying to find a good theme to accommodate reading lots of text. I’ve been looking, but most themes seem to be quite narrow or they remove the sidebar. Whatever has a nice layout, but he has money and Sci-Fi Writer Nerd Powers to make using his site easier. I’m still looking for a good layout, so bear with me if it changes a little over the next while.

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On Killing and then Writing

May 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

This sounds like a fun, exciting post!

I just want to say quickly that quite a few more people read this than I expected. I’ve had about 100 people view the site in the last 5 days, which considering I’m advertising this in 2 places and just started this a few weeks ago, makes me extraordinarily happy. So thank you, and I hope you’re enjoying it so far.

 

Now on to the killing.

 

Killing? John, I thought this was a happy, sunshine-filled blog that farted rainbows and leprechaun rainbows?

That it is, but it’s also a place where I get to ruminate about what I do and write what I think. And I think that killing things is very, very weird.

A mouse was hanging around my house on Thursday in the middle of the day, which isn’t a weird sight in and of itself. I live near to a park and small ravine, so we occasionally get wildlife in the vein of turtles, foxes, woodpeckers, and the ever-present raccoons (how I hate them with all the fibres of my being). Seeing a mouse is common but not usually in the middle of the day. Now, I’m no vet, but I saw the House episode about rabies. I got my cane and caustic wit, and investigated.

By high afternoon it was clear he was sick. We figured he had been poisoned (Not by us. We have Ornery Bastard to deal with rodents) because he wasn’t bothered by me when I walked up to him. Reduced awareness is apparently a symptom of rat poison, and the fact he didn’t move in 6 hours suggests something was wrong or he was Nature’s Worst Rodent. Nor did he seem to be doing well in the grand sense of the word. We first saw him at around 11am, and by 4pm he had collapsed and was breathing shallowly. At that point, I had to make a choice.

We have a cat and a bird feeder in the backyard. Not only is our cat (The Ornery Bastard) an outdoor cat who occasionally eats mice, we’ve got the aforementioned foxes and the occasional hawk (not bad for Toronto, eh?). As much as I don’t want mice eating poison, which, though I won’t get into here, I believe is a cruel way to kill rodents, I certainly don’t want the Bastard and hawks eating it. Not being versed in rodent medicine, I decided I would kill it. It seemed to be the best way.

Have you ever held a life in your hand, been able to look at it and have it look back at you, and know you were going to end it? It’s very, very strange because it’s so hard. The mouse wasn’t big, maybe the length of my middle finger and completely unresponsive in my (gloved) hand, but it was alive.

And then I did something to it and it wasn’t. 

It was very, very strange. It wasn’t sadness, though there was some regret at the necessity, in the end I am convinced it was the right thing to do, nor was it joy, because I didn’t exactly want to do it; it was, I think, a reminder that death and life are real things. They exist even if I rarely see them for what they are, and when one is true the other is not and cannot be. Until it is, and then you are left and you know that you killed something and it can’t come back. I guess it’s a little like having a baby. There isn’t anything there, just a big belly and someone who has been angry for 9 months and them all of a sudden you’re holding a baby and despite the 9 months you have no idea how it got there. How you went from nothing to something. Or, how you went from something to nothing.

It wasn’t a feeling that filled me up like happiness, nor was it something that emptied me out like depression, but there was definitely something there.

Something very, very strange.

I now understand a little about how my friend, who works in a lab and routinely has to kill dozens of mice, feels. Killing doesn’t feel bad per se, but it makes you feel something inside you. Something not entirely pleasant.

Disclaimer: the death was as humane as I could make it. I’m not in the business of being cruel to anyone but my characters.

 

And now, to writing!

I’m currently working on a submission for Machine of Death 2 (MOD2), which I highly advise anyone who enjoys writing to attempt. As a novelist and essayist who’s used to scholarly work (that I can’t wait to finish) and novels (that go on and on an on an on an on), it’s a hilariously fun exercise in writing short and sweet. I’m not used to every word and every letter being important, and it’s fun to be in a situation where it is. I have a cool story idea and characters that are really coming to life after only 1,500 words. It’s set in 1910’s Berlin, and is a crime drama that I’m so close to finalizing the plot on. Oh yeah, and I’m on a timetable and nearly done.

 

So why the hell do I want to work on everything but this story?

 

Goddamn writer’s block. And this is why I want to get a job as a writer somewhere, so when my boss lights his cigar with my paycheck and sits on my desk, obviously annoyed but not willing to show it, and asks for my x000 words of copy, I better have things to show him. As it is, I’m my own boss, and I lack gratuitous 20s to light my non-existant cigars with.

But hey, that means I’m technically upper management. Take that, Schulich school of business!

 

Happiness Chaser!

 

Ash and Dust Chapter 2

May 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

Here’s part two of Crown! Let me know what you think.

Chapter Two: Further Reasons why Hospital Security is Essential

Guilt disappeared.

He didn’t immediately disappear, but rather turned into dust. While I reeled from the shock of what was going on, he abruptly turned black-and-white like an old TV show and stopped moving. I stood for a second, aware that my sanity was reaching a breaking point, and reached out to touch him. My finger grazed his coat and he collapsed, like a sand castle knocked over by the waves, into a plume of dust on the ground. I felt something in my head run away with him. I almost giggled before waves of nausea crashed down like the surf.

I sat on the bed for what felt like an hour. Eventually, I checked my watch but it was broken. When I realized that, I felt a twinge of something that felt like regret. I had no idea why, as I couldn’t remember where I got the watch in the first place. I mostly just sat, trying to think through everything, but it was useless. Every few minutes my fingers would drift back up to my head and I would have to force them back down or my stomach would rumble and I would start coughing. My spit tasted like rust, and I gagged when I tried to swallow.

Eventually, I grew tired of the room full of nothing, with the medicinal edge to the colours and the ghostly beeps. I stood up and the blood ran to my head. I stumbled and grabbed the door as I fell forward. I caught myself on the frame, and dislodged something that had been hanging on the back of the door.

Reaching down, I picked up my jacket. I didn’t recognize the jacket, nor did I see my name on it, I simply knew that it was mine, just as the tie was my favourite. I simply knew without consciously knowing. I put the jacket on and reflexively checked the inside pocket. Indescribable joy flooded through me like an orgasm as I found my cigarettes and lighter. Taking a bent cigarette, I lit one with shaking hands, and took a drag that ate half the cig.

Everything in my head seemed to settle into place when I breathed out, like a ball rolling on the hoop that finally falls through. I took stock of the situation, helped by the cigarette. I didn’t know how I got to the hospital, but was likely hallucinating because of the drugs I was on. I probably shouldn’t walk around, but there was no other way in the room to alert someone I was awake, not even a smoke alarm that should have been blaring in my ears. My memory was still fuzzy, no doubt because of the gaping hole in my head, but, cheered, I checked my pockets quickly and methodically.

My pants were empty, but there was a gold ring, a pack of gum, and a bullet in my jacket pocket. I couldn’t help but stare at the bullet and ring for a second. I assumed I was married and I guess I carried a gun once, but that was all I could manage. I idly rolled the bullet around in my hand as I thought.

I hiccuped in fear. I couldn’t feel anything on my skin. My heart started racing again and my stomach was threatening full revolt, but my skin felt cold and dead. Fear bubbled in me and the taste of gasoline burned the back of my throat.

“Ryan, get going. Get gone, and find someone to help.” I told myself, shaking only a little. I stubbed my cigarette out on the ground, and left the room. It was time I found someone else and actually figured something out. I stalked down the empty hallway, past open doors and abandoned rooms. None of them held even the hint of prior usage, and they were all completely identical. A single, long metal-framed bed in a sick-green room that beeped softly. They felt like they belonged in a hospital, but they didn’t fit.

It was so ridiculous, I thought, that I must be tripping wildly on the drugs they had me on. I laughed out loud, wondering what I looked like to everyone else. There were probably people in those rooms who saw me staggering down the hall, looking as loony as Bugs, but I couldn’t see them. A few minutes now, and a security guard would probably start with “Sir, I need you to come with me.”

I decided to stand still, smiling stupidly, and waited for the guard. Yep, any second now, and a friendly, reassuring hand would come clap my shoulder and awkwardly guide me back to a doctor. I waited, and my only companion was my smile and the quiet, steady beep of a phantom ECG machine. There was nothing else. No telephones ringing, no steps, no quiet murmuring, not even the sound of a patient in pain.

I was alone.

I’m no coward, but I was getting a bad feeling from the place. It felt like being a child in bed and the blanket wasn’t big enough to cover your feet. You felt you were safe under the blanket, but because your feet were cold you know you could be hurt by whatever was out there. I swallowed down some of the nausea. I didn’t have a blanket, and I was sure there was something out there.

I walked down the hallway, wincing at the loudness of my steps. The more I tried to be quiet, the louder they were. I cursed every drug the doctors had me on, but only in my head. I didn’t risk being heard by whoever was out there.

I rounded a corner and nearly screamed when I heard a voice hush me.

“Shhh!”

Gasping with joy as I recovered, I hurried around the corner and into pitch darkness. The room, from what I could make out, was an empty triage area. Seats sat empty while decaying signs on the wall exhorted soon-to-be-patients to wash their hands and avoid contact with blood. Each was covered with dust and were curling off of the walls, destroyed by age. A nurse sat at a desk with her back to me, and a TV flashing silently in front of her. I could only make out her bobbed hair and her white hat, but the light was too bright in the darkness..

She shifted in her seat and shushed me again. I ignored her and raised my voice, cracked and raspy though it now was.

“Excuse me, ma’am, but I need to see a doctor. Right away.”

The nurse raised a hand in front of her and shushed me a third time. I got pretty annoyed, but kept my head as best I could. Well, considering the circumstances.

“Yeah, well, I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m bleeding from the head, and wouldn’t mind some attention, if you’re not too damn busy.”

She spoke, and her voice made me feel three inches tall.

“Quit bothering me. You’re being a nuisance. No-one likes boys who complain.”

I took a step closer. Something was desperately wrong here. The very room screamed that something was wrong but was trying to look right. I felt my stomach rumble again, but I just wrote it off as the hallucinations. If it wasn’t so creepy, I would have been enjoying the hallucinations, but as it was, they were making my heart go weak.

I must have made a noise or something, because the nurse immediately switched the TV off. The room was bathed almost completely in black, and I could only see the barest outlines from the lights down the hall. She began sniffing the air like a dog, and I was filled with dread. This officially moved from “wrong” to “fucked up”.

She stood, wobbling, and turned to face me. I took a step back and almost vomited in fear. Again. The nurse was naked beneath her straw-like hair, but she wasn’t human. Her arms ended in stumps wrapped in rotted bandages, and her arms and legs were as thin as hockey sticks. The thing’s skin was a sick grey colour, the sheen of dead fish and bodies rotting in water. Her legs hardly worked but she stumped around to face me.

Her emaciated body was what made me want to vomit, but it was her face that made me want to run. Instead of features, she only had a foot-long slash of a mouth and a small, cute, distinctly out of place button nose. Her mouth opened and shut like a fish, showing huge black teeth dripping with blood. Her voice was absolutely beautiful, and oh so wrong.

“You’ve been smoking. I can smell it. That makes you a bad boy. You shouldn’t be smoking, silly. Don’t you know it’ll take away your good-looks, and make your teeth fall out? I know, because I was a bad girl and that’s what happened to me, but I’m better now. I don’t want it to happen to you. I just want to take care of you until he makes you better. Take care of you. Please?”

I coughed up motor oil in fear. She had started walking toward me, her arms stretched out pleadingly. My hand flew to my left breast, trying to grab something that wasn’t there. She was almost on top me and I could smell rot and ash. My feet wouldn’t work and I fell backwards in front of her. The nurse climbed on top me and brought her face close to mine. The smell made me gag, but my unconscious took over. I kicked out with my feet and knocked her over, sending her stumbling into the darkness.

I got up and ran, spitting out oil and trying not to piss myself. My heart was beating so fast it made me light-headed, and I felt a hot stream down the back of my head. Her voice echoed down the hallway behind me, plaintively but insistently, like a teacher half-heartedly trying to discipline a child.

“Come now Ryan, can’t you see I’m trying to help? He just wants to make you all better, forever. You’ll never hurt again! I promise!”

I ran down the hallway in what I thought would take me toward my room, Other monsters dressed like the nurse spilled from the empty rooms, surging like maggots on a wound. They surrounded me too quickly, stump arms grabbed me like scissors me and holding me in place. I struggled against them, but as I knocked one off, another one grabbed me somewhere else.

One of them put their lips to my hand, and I screamed as my flesh started to burn. Desperate tongues began licking me, trying to get at my head wound. A tongue went up my nose and another one lapped across my eye, searing both. A nurse firmly attached herself to the hole in my head and began sucking. In the back of my skull I could hear a shuk shuk shuk as she strained. It felt like someone was ramming nails into my skull and pulling them back out.

I was in a frenzy and began thrashing harder. I tore my head forward, ignoring the pain, and heard a moan as the nurse was dislodged. Others began clamouring and whining, pressing around my head trying to get a lick in, which left my arms free for a second. Desperately looking for an escape, I saw a bright exit sign I had missed before. The illuminated stick figure was being chased by a stick monster wielding a needle.

Mustering everything I could, I surged forward, dislodging some of the monsters. There may have been six on them crawling on me, but they felt like they weighed twenty pounds. Two grabbed on tighter but I rammed myself through the exit door. I took two steps into the new, and dark, hallway, and felt air as stairs abruptly dropped away. I tumbled and took the two nurses with me. We pitched down together, crashing into the stairs and walls.

We rolled for a flight and miraculously, I didn’t hit my head. I shot up swinging but it was pointless. The two nurses were on the ground in pieces. Their skulls had collapsed from the fall and a thin black liquid oozed out. Their arms and legs had broken in so many places they looked like tendrils rather than limbs. The others pressed through the upper door, moaning loudly when they “saw” me with their eyeless faces.

I ran down the stairs, terror giving me speed. My body ached, but I knew that if I stopped I would hurt too much to carry on. I kept running down and down while the stairs just went down and down and down.

Finally, my lungs bursting and with at least ten storeys behind me, I almost ran past a door. I barely stopped in time to redirect myself and burst through. It was rusted shut but with an agonizing squeal it popped open into the lobby.

It was a wide room full of dead elevators, broken chairs and a ruined fountain. A giant ramp had been built out of garbage that lead straight up to the second floor. A room had been blown out but only darkness filtered out. I risked a look behind me and saw dozens of nurses fast on my heels.

Running out into the lobby, the first of the nurses stumbled through the doors. Seeing me running away, she screamed. Loudly. My ears started ringing and the pain brought me to the floor.

Creatures dressed in white coats screamed back and ran from the darkness, down the ramp at me. They were naked beneath their stained lab coats which hung open, revealing giant crab-like claws stitched onto their chests. I got up and started running again.

The front doors were flimsy glass sheets that looked no thicker than a sheet of paper. They were covered in a greasy sheen that warped the light from the outside, showing only a milky, yellow film. I rammed into it, grabbing the handle and pulling as hard as I could. “Come on, come on you God-damned door!” I yelled as I pulled, but it wouldn’t budge. I put a hand on the glass to try and push, but pulled it back the moment I touched the yellow film.

What I thought was just opaque glass was actually normal glass covered in fat. It ran and bubbled where I had touched it, smelling like sizzling bacon. I retched a bit, but pushed against the exposed glass. I cried out when I felt it give a little. I reached and arm back to punch it, when a giant claw grabbed me, and began squeezing.

A doctor had grabbed me with his tumorous claw and was trying to jab me with needle-like fingers. I yanked away from him but the claw left thick furrows in my arm that wept a bright blue liquid. More nurses looped their arms through mine and tried to pull me away, all while long, black tongues urgently licked at me.

A doctor leaned in and whispered in a reassuring voice . “This will only hurt for a second, just a second, and then you’ll be all better. All better. He’ll make you strong and healthy. You’ll never hurt again, ever, I swear.”

Instinct I didn’t know I had kicked in.

The doctor’s face exploded beneath my fist. Little chunks of bone and gristle flew at me, but surprisingly little blood. My mind started to wonder why his bones had broken so easily but my subconscious was having none of it. I wrenched my arm forward and down and was rewarded as a nurses’ arm snapped in two places. The dying doctor was swarmed by nurses who began lapping at the ruin of his head, momentarily forgetting me. I fell into a fighting stance and threw a doctor over my shoulder, breaking his back and opening him up to the desperate lapping of more nurse’s tongues.

The nurses turned on whoever I wounded while the doctors tried to fight them off and turn them against me, but they were too slow and clumsy. A doctor started raging and chopping up nurses with his claw but was only swarmed with more as they fought for the corpses. Free for a minute, I grabbed a nurse with both my arms and threw her through the door. The glass shattered. Boiling fat ran down in sheets, burning the fallen and gorger alike.

Thin, yellow light flooded the room, and the nurses and doctors ran screaming from it.

“Like it, you bastards? Don’t want me anymore?”

I heard sizzling and popping behind me. The nurse was writhing as she turned black and withered. She smelt like melting rubber and sizzled into a black mass no bigger than a basketball.

I stepped through the door and into the light, shielding my eyes with a free hand. 

On the Difficulty Between Showing and Telling

May 23, 2011 § 3 Comments

I watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones today, (disclaimer: read and loved the books) and I have to say the show is pretty damn good. I feel that they’ve captured the important elements of each character and where they did not, they modified or created new elements that work as well. I’m tempted to say “and some work better”, but it’s been years since I’ve read the books, so I can’t say that in good faith.

But one thing tickled me watching the latest episode. Well, two things, but I’m not going to whine about the fight between Bronn and Ser Vardis Egen. I know stage fighting is overly dramatic for a reason, but I’m not interested in having a bunch of Fetch students on here screaming about proper use of the longsword. I’ll just say: people use shields for a reason, and you don’t swing a sword around like a baseball bat. Unless you want to die, then by all means, go ahead.

No, what I wanted to talk about was the hunting scene. For those who haven’t seen it, the King, notoriously fat and quick to anger, decides to go hunting. You’ll have to use your imagination and see the bright hunting clothes and shining boar spears, smell the damp scent of a forest at dawn and the smell of horse and sweat, hear the barking of the hunting hounds and the conversation of all the hunte…oh wait, no you won’t.

You’ll have to imagine 4 men walking through the forest. Oh. Two of them have spears. Yeah.

It’s a little disappointing, to say the least.

I know that Westeros, the continent that A Game of Thrones takes place on isn’t Europe, but amuse me for a moment and tell me what is similar about these three photos:

1)

Woooo Boars

Hunting Boars, Example 1

2)

Boar Hunting, Example 2

3)

You get the idea

All three, which come from different parts of the world, different eras in times and with different painting styles, have hunting dogs. They have large groups of people with spears and bows and hunting paraphernalia. They have horses! Horses!  People go hunting in those days, not individuals. The king should have an entourage! Oh wait, he does! They had a scene early in the series (Ep.2) where they have a proper entourage with horses and spears and whatnot, which makes the lack of such things all the more conspicuous.

I know why the director decided to do this because there is a huge cost difference between having 4 people on the screen and about 20, but I’m interested from the story teller’s perspective. While the show may have flubbed the scene a little, the book didn’t. You do have to imagine all those traditional hunting scenes in your head and your head alone…but it works a little better on paper, doesn’t it?

The big thing is that the writer of a story has to introduce those things so that the reader has them in mind, but 9 times out of ten you don’t carry them further. It’s a classic promise to the reader: I won’t talk about them any more so that you, the reader, know they aren’t important to the story. Plus, I’m free to introduce all these crazy images and scenes because the reader is using their imagination anyway. George R. R. Martin just mentions a few things like spears, horses, hunting greens, and so on, and that allows the reader to fill the rest in with what they think they look like.

TV doesn’t exactly get to do that unless they want to spend infinite money and take infinite time, something I suppose they can’t do. That’s one reason why I love watching books made into movies and TV shows, because what they include and how they include it is suddenly so charged and difficult. I’m frustrated with Game because the hunting scene was done so poorly that it took away both immersion and a level of seriousness. I don’t believe that those 4 guys took down a couple-hundred pound boar in their court clothes. I don’t believe that and suddenly I’m reminded it’s a TV show.

And the bloody funniest part of it all? The scene isn’t even in the book. It’s just described obliquely and it still comes across better than in the TV show.

Oh, and final disclaimer: the show is freaking amazing. My criticism is minor at best. Watch it! Lord Snow commands it.

On Introductions, and Ash and Dust Part 1

May 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

I have been told, by men and women far wiser than me, that writing is good. Writing is so good, so noble and so pure, that all writers everywhere have untold success both with members of their chosen gender(s) and in financial questions of all sorts. But it is whispered around fires late at night of something that is even more pure and good and noble: to have people read what you’ve written.

So in order to partake of the sweet, sweet nectar that is people reading my blog, a regular feature (and you better hold me to it) of this blog will be serial fiction. It will be short and hopefully sweet, but at the very least it’s something free you can read every week (or more if I can get around to it).

The first story is tentatively titled “A Crown of Ash and Dust”. As you can probably guess, it’s a fun and exciting romp through fields filled with gumdrop unicorns. Spoilers: the unicorns are also made of ash and dustIn actuality, it’s a dark fantasy story about the horrible things that we do to ourselves. There’s some swearing and some blood, but it’s all in good fun. I hope you all (*crickets chirping*) enjoy reading it, and let me know what you think of it in the comments, good or bad.

Without further ado, chapter one.

Chapter One: Why Hospital Security Is A Must In These Troubled Times

 “You killed your children, did you know that?”

I woke up. White sheets, firmly tucked in, held me down tightly. My lungs ached and I coughed, tasting vomit and phlegm. The room was bright white, medicinal and cold as ice.

“Well, technically, the high-speed impact which collapsed her cranium and obliterated her brain is what killed Melissa. And whiplash took Sam. Quick, jerky motions are bad for the necks of toddlers. It made for a wonderful funeral, what with the two coffins, one open one closed. He looked so peaceful, and I imagine she did too, but you know how it is. Morticians can only do so much, mores the pity.”

I began to gag, and vomit threatened to cross the tip of my larynx. My head pounded and my guts felt like they weighed a thousand pounds. I rolled over as best I could and had a putrid green vomit tray thrust in my face.

“Actually, that’s a very interesting question because in normal death the heart stops. Tissue doesn’t get the proper oxygen, cells die, that sort of thing. Now, because her head burst first, technically she was brain dead minutes before hypoxia could even begin to set in. So was it that that killed her? Because the person of Melissa Kazlauskas “died” before her heart stopped pumping and therefore long before her body could! What a perplexing question!” There was a pause. “Of course, it’s all rendered moot by the fact her body crumpled like a wet accordion and thrust broken pieces of the vertebrosternal ribs through her heart less than a second later. But still, one wonders.”

I vomited in the tray, heaving what felt like pounds of junk into the tray. My mouth was scraped raw by the warm (metal?) that I coughed out. I had shut my eyes with the force of my sick, but opened them to see a pile of rusting metal in the tray in front of me. They looked like car parts, the rust coating them with blood-red patina. My eyes widened in shock as the metal instantly rusted away to nothing and blew away in a cloud of dust.

The voice paused for only a second, and I could hear the shaking of the doctor’s head through my shock. “Ah, yes, you’ll have to bring that all up in time. Yes, I know it hurts, but it ought to. It ought to tear you up inside as it comes up, bigger and bigger, until the end. Eventually, you’ll probably just cough yourself to death with a steering column stuck in your throat. It’s not the cleanest death, in my estimation, but it is your fault, after all. I’m just here to watch.”

I looked at the man standing at the foot of the bed. He was tall and thin, with a scraggly beard and unremarkable face. The only outstanding features about him was his white jacket and his mismatched eyes. One was large and struck through with red veins, while the other was small and crooked, and looked an icy shade of blue. He held a clipboard that looked as old as Adam, and was idly flipping through pages. I couldn’t be sure, but it looked like they were covered with crayon drawings like a child would do.

Still partially in shock, I pointed at the tray. “Doctor, what the hell just happened? And what are you talking about, a steering column? What fucking meds do you have me on?”

The doctor cocked his head to his left shoulder, his large right eye sitting on top reminded me of a red stoplight. All the mention of cars kept tugging at my memory like a dog digging for something, but I didn’t know what it was looking for. I looked around at the room, and my blood went a little cold.

 There was no medical equipment in the room except for the tray full of red dust, and the bed I lay in. It was a completely empty room that softly beeped and hummed like a hospital room ought to, but there was nothing but bare linoleum and walls. A huge set of lights glared down at me, forcing me to put up my hand in front of my face. There wasn’t even a window on the wall or a clock to give me an idea of the time. The doctor drawled on.

“As far as I know, you’re on propofol and a slew of others, but you were drifting in and out of consciousness, so that’s the only one I could catch. I figure that’s the one meant to knock you out, but what do I know?”

I could feel my heart pound, hard enough to rattle my stomach. It sounded metallic. “Aren’t you the doctor?”

The man smiled at me, and I was afraid for the first time since my daughter was born.

“Do you know they just sell lab coats? Really? You can just walk into a store, and walk into another one to get some scrubs, and hey presto! You’re just like a real doctor! Wouldn’t it be fun to walk into a hospital and see how long it would take them to notice? Just think of what you could do! I know that I’d go cheer up the cancer kids, maybe rub one of their heads for luck. Actually, scratch that. They probably aren’t very lucky.”

I looked at him with as much disbelief as I could muster. I began talking to myself, just to keep it all straight in my head. It wasn’t making sense, but I just couldn’t remember what had happened before this. I wracked my memory, but nothing was making sense.

Okay Ryan, let’s ignore the crazy man. Why am I here?

I looked down and was surprised again. I was wearing my regular clothes, and they looked as clean and straight as though I just put them on. It was my favourite red tie, and just a simple grey shirt and black slacks. Hell, I was even wearing my shoes. What kind of hospital put would leave me in my clothes? Although, from what I had seen of this place, I wasn’t even sure it was a hospital. I patted myself down, and couldn’t feel anything out of place. Aside from a weight in my stomach which was apparently car parts, I felt fine. A little groggy from just waking up sick, but even my mouth didn’t hurt. My head throbbed a little, waves of unpleasantness emanating from a spot just behind my left ear.

My heart stopped and my stomach rattled again. There was something stuck in my head.

The other man cocked his head the other way, and squinted his red eye, which made him look like a hairy snake. “I wouldn’t look too hard if I were you. It’s on your head, but even I’m not sure about what you’ll find if you look in there. Well, maybe a bolt or two, but I thought they got all of them out.”

I squinted at the man. I didn’t like him at all, but he just laughed at my glower. I had to hand it to him that although my practised scowl worked perfectly well on four-year olds, it did have a tendency to bounce off adults. Nonetheless, I reached up with my left hand and touched a half-inch deep, quarter-inch wide hole in my head.

I jerked forward and tried to pull my hand away, but it was stuck to the hole. I pulled frantically, feeling my chest tighten and my heart race. What the fuck was going on? Was the only thing going through my head. I managed to pull my finger out with a wet pop, and looked in horror at the black sludge that covered my left ring finger.

The man chewed his lip as he rummaged in his pocket. Smiling widely, he pulled out a small, black, plastic peg, and lay it on the bed in front of me. I looked at it with disgust, but it was just a piece of the plastic mount for a GPS system like the one on the dashboard of my car.

“What the fuck is wrong with my head?” I yelled at him.

“Well, I don’t know how well the surgery is going, but there was a, uh, foreign objectinserted in your head. But that doesn’t make sense. It was made in Japan, after all, but you’ve had that car for what, five years now? They should have called it a “permanent resident” object.”

 He bounced his head back and forth like a jack-in-the-box, albeit one with bad teeth and a horrifying grin. He kept talking as his head, looking like his neck didn’t have a spine, kept bouncing.

“You were thrown around a bit, and you just managed to clip your head on it. The good news for you is that it didn’t come clean off, which is what saved your life, I think. The fire started to melt it, so that might be bad for you, but it kept you from bleeding out, so that’s a plus.” He stopped bouncing and looked around the room with a strange melancholic look on his face. “Hmm, that all this might just be brain damage. That would be strange, no?”

I had begun hyper-ventilating, and tried fruitlessly to wipe the gunk off my finger. It stained anything it touched but wouldn’t come off. The plastic bit, even though it was thinner than a pen and a quarter as long, began to press down on the bed like it was made out of lead. I jumped to my feet and yelled at the doctor again, desperately trying to make sense of what was going on.

“Sir, whoever you are, can you help me, at all? Can you get a doctor? I think I woke up during the operation, and I shouldn’t have touched something, and oh God, why are you just standing there?”

I screamed the last words at him. I’ve never been a forceful man, and if I hadn’t just maybe smeared a piece of brain on my hand I might have been ashamed that I squealed them aloud. He laughed for a second, but then went completely serious. He actually looked angry, in an ugly, sullen way. It looked like he was planning to kill my dog while he answered. He screwed up his face and spat:

“Ryan Kazlauskas, I am Guilt. I am not here to help you. I am here to watch you die.”


Where Am I?

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