X [Sci-Fi Flash Fiction]

Month: May.
Year: 2212.
Location: Undisclosed.
Subject: X.

Regarding X. It is hard to know where to begin. Discussing X has always been, in my line of work, a sensitive issue. They’ll hit you when you’re down, they told me in training. They’ll find your most vulnerable spot, and they’ll hit it, over and over again. I was trained to lock my mind – the only part of my body that is still entirely my own – away from them if I were ever caught. Each of my memories went into its own box, it’s own safe, where even I wouldn’t be able to access it until my own people injected me with the chemical that lowered my adrenaline levels enough to take me out of the state of fight-or-flight that would be induced by capture.

This is all a matter of public record now – I have no fear of this method being employed by the enemy, since the enemy has already discovered and made full and horrifying use of some of my fellows. There is rioting in the streets of the major cities. Husbands, wives and children stamp themselves with slogans, protesting the administration turning the nation’s finest fighters into different people, bereft of the memories they hold dearest, exactly when they might make use of those memories to hold on. Too many of our people have simply died in captivity – the layperson theory being that they had nothing beloved to think of and thus no hopeful thoughts of getting out.

The layperson understands nothing. First, there is always the camaraderie. Not one of us, if trained correctly, would have simply given up for lack of love or care, because we cared for one another. Like wolf-pups, we lost our milk teeth together, fought together, fed together.

Second, there is always X. X is the one person that is left to you and is accessible. The protesters, so willing to get angry at someone for the loss of their loved ones, forget that each of us chose to join this noblest of professions, noblest of causes. It’s easier for them, no doubt. That is why they hardly ever remember to mention X in their long-winded rants. The concept of X has probably ripped some families apart – since the files were turned over to the people, they have found out who each of the dead-in-action troop’s X was. They think it’s like picking favorites.

It’s not. It’s not picking favorites. If it were, there would be a whole lot of little kids in those rosters of Xes, the sons and daughters we leave at home when we go on active duty, those angelic faces we barely get to know and whose lives we miss so much of. We don’t get to see their first implants, their first plug-ins, their first time info-drinking at school. For people like me, still living in secret facilities, we can’t even signal them because we’re cut off for all intents and purposes from the main grid.

So why aren’t there many kids on those X rosters? Because Xes are supposed to be the most vivid, incredible, memorable people you’ve ever met. They’re supposed to be a person you knew enough to know well, but who hasn’t been in your life for at least two years, and who you wish you knew more about. Why? Think about it. You can access your memories of X in the worst situation of your life – but you don’t know where they are, so you can’t put them in danger; you can keep your mind busy fantasizing about them since you didn’t get as much time with them as you wanted to; and they’re interesting enough to keep your mind busy when the rest of your pre-troop life has slipped away from you.

My X – I don’t know where she is now. But when I knew her, for the four months we dated, she had bubble-gum pink hair. I never knew anyone else who went for something so old-fashioned as dyeing their hair like she did, with this vintage bottled stuff. She had mostly her own skin and it was the softest I’d ever touched. It glowed in the moonlight. She never danced and she got angry a hell of a lot. Whenever we went out, she would check to make sure no one was looking at us and then she would hold me tighter than anyone else ever had and would tell me “You’re so smart.” And then she went away to some commune where skin-people live and I never saw her again. And I hope I never will, cause I don’t know anyone else who could be as good an X as she is.

Otherness

The words came slowly. So slowly that they got stuck in his throat multiple times. It shouldn’t be so hard to say it, he kept thinking. It didn’t make sense. The body doesn’t work that way. There’s no mechanism for keeping words inside because they’re painful. The vocal chords work on command and don’t go on strike because of what they’re forced to say. The difficulty lay in the mind, in the heart, in whatever otherness lay deep in his chest and swelled painfully.
He couldn’t say it. He could. He couldn’t. He had to. He wouldn’t. It was too hard.
“I…”
But one word wasn’t enough.
“I think… I think I-”
Three words in the first sentence of a long paragraph that he’d practiced in his mind over and over again. Maybe it was all wrong, really. Maybe, in the end, when it came right down to it, he’d been kidding himself. He could never do this sort of thing. He didn’t know how. Other people did it every day, sure, but they must have something that he didn’t, something sick and unhealthy, or maybe he was the unhealthy one.
“I…”
He tried again, but it wasn’t working. It wasn’t happening. He was going to give up. He had to give up. There weren’t many choices left, if any. A part of him sighed in relief, admitting defeat. He’d known all along he couldn’t do it. Why had he tried at all? There was absolutely no point.
At the moment of giving up the otherness that weighed him down panicked, suffocating. In a gush of air and a burst of passion, it shoved the words out of his mouth.
“I think I don’t love you anymore.”
He stared at the face across from him, watched as it crumpled slowly, and could almost see the otherness that lay in the chest that belonged to that face. That otherness, which moments before had been cushioned comfortably in the knowledge of safety, was crying out in pain, its shrieks not heard but felt. Even as he felt every conscious part of his mind collapse in on itself in the shock and horror of what he’d said, the otherness in him breathed two words into him, words that only years later he’d be able to appreciate and agree with: “About time.”

Creatures of the Mind

Far off in the meadow,

Resides the fairy queen.

She’s always dressed in yellow,

Her face always serene.

**

High up in the cloudy sky,

Santa Clause snores away.

His wife bakes him apple pie,

For warmth on chilly days.

**

Deep down in the earth,

The devil plays at cards.

He welcomes to his turf,

All sinners, cheats and bards.

**

In every theater around,

Dionysus spends some time.

He helps sew up the gowns,

And always shares his wine.

**

The graveyards hold Death,

In all his austere glory.

He’ll take away your breath,

When it’s time – don’t be sorry.

**

In recesses of our minds,

Inside the hearts of all,

Live things we can’t define,

Unreal creatures, great and small.

 

 

Gertrude’s Conscience

“Gertrude?” the clerk at the DMV smirked involuntarily when he read the name. He stifled his sneer as best he could, but she’d already seen and noticed it, as she always did.

“Yes, um, so can I please renew my license?” she asked quickly. She wanted to get the whole thing over with. The clerk asked her to wait a moment and went to a back room to do whatever it is they did at the DMV that took so damn long.

Gertrude sat, unmoving, on the uncomfortable plastic chair and fumed quietly. She cursed her parents for the umpteenth time for giving her such an old-fashioned name. She’d learned to like it in her teens because she felt it gave her an air of fragile antiquity and maybe some sort of old-fashioned elegance. But now, in her mid-twenties, she was learning to hate it again. Her boyfriend always told her he loved it, but they’d been together for so long that she never took his compliments seriously anymore.

She looked up at the large clock and sighed. She’d been waiting in line for what felt like forever, and now the sneering clerk with his comb-over and his ugly, crooked teeth was chatting, quite audibly, with one of his coworkers while he waited for something to come out of the printer. Gertrude stared at him sullenly, but looked away quickly when she realized that he might look back and see her watching him.

Instead, she put her head down and examined her nails. They were too long again, and she was much too lazy to paint them. It just didn’t seem important anymore, this having nice nails business. She just wanted them short enough so as not to be in her way and damn appearances. But even as she thought that, Gertrude scoffed inwardly at herself. She still cared about her looks, much more than she ought to. She felt the nape of her neck tingle right now, in fact, and was sure that one of the fussy, mean old ladies who were in line was watching her and frowning at the tattoo that was clearly visible on that area.

Gertrude felt that everyone disapproved of her, no matter where she went. Whether she was buying books that were technically considered teen-novels or walking into a designer-clothing store, she felt as if people stared and watched her, thinking that she was strange and odd and altogether not quite right.

Being not quite right didn’t bother her when she was alone. In fact, within her circle of family and friends she enjoyed being the odd one out. She liked having unique tastes and being considered a bit of a strange bird. In fact, she took offense when she was told that she was too normal. She felt that being normal was boring, wrong even. Especially as she wanted to be a teacher. Teachers needed to be odd, special, or plain nuts in order to have an effect on their pupils. Gertrude was convinced of this because the only teachers she’d ever had who had any impact on her were the weird ones that people laughed at but listened to.

It was only when she was out and about on her own that Gertrude felt uncomfortable. She kept her head down as often as possible so as to hide the large birth-mark that covered half her cheek with a purple tinge. In those moments of honesty to herself, she knew that she was hiding herself more than the birth-mark and that it only gave her an excuse to do so.

“Excuse me, Miss?” the clerk was back and had apparently decided that he couldn’t say her name without laughing. His formal address to her was almost more insulting than her name said with a snicker.

“Yes?” she answered, raising her eyes and looking at him politely. Like most clerks, he didn’t meet her eyes. She always tried to meet everyone’s eyes when she spoke to them, almost defiantly, as if to prove something.

“I’m sorry but you didn’t fill out the proper forms online, so we can’t renew your license yet,” the clerk said without sympathy. He was already looking behind her, his hand hovering over the button that would make the screen flash and the next number called.

“I did fill them out,” Gertrude said quickly, before he could dismiss her. “Can you check again, please? If you don’t have them then I’ll fill them out right now,” she offered eagerly.

The clerk emitted a little noise of distaste and impatience and without a word got up and went back to the computers that for some inexplicable reason weren’t set on the clerks’ desks.

Gertrude hated him for a few moments before reminding herself not to be a mean, selfish and judgmental idiot. She looked down again and tried her best to imagine the clerk as a good person who had a family and friends and belonged to another life that didn’t consist of the DMV. It was hard to imagine, but she nevertheless tried, in order to stop feeling bad about herself for hating someone so fiercely that it hurt.

 

Story? Novel? Book?

So here’s a question for all my fellow writers out there: what do you call the projects you work on? I mean, if you’re writing something that’s novel length, do you call it a novel? Or a book? Do you label it?

My current project, the main one I’ve been working on for the past two months, is now way over 100,000 words, and is over 280 pages. know the point to which I want to get with my characters progress before I stop and begin the strenuous and, I assume, long process of editing, fact checking and making sure that everything makes sense and isn’t total crap. I accept the fact that it might well not be worth a damn once I’m finished and that maybe I’ll put it aside and begin something new. The idea doesn’t scare me as much as it used to. It’s okay to write things that stay in the closet and never leave, because they’re practice for those things that are good enough to show the world and be proud of.

Anyway, the point is that my story is in advance stages, more than halfway through – maybe even three-quarters of the way. I know that if I choose to keep it, there will be a sequel or a part two or something of the sort, because I’ve simply discovered so many things that my characters need to go through that I didn’t realize before. But I still call the whole thing, all 285 pages that I have so far,  a “story” because it is. It’s a story, there’s no doubt about that, but I feel that calling it a novel or a book is… well, somehow it’s as if I don’t deserve those titles for it yet.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve actually gotten to the point where I actually do consider myself a writer, because, well, I write! I write two hours a day, and I enjoy it. I love the feeling the words coming out of my mind and suddenly finding themselves on paper or screen, the little sounds that they keys make as my fingers fly across them on my tiny little laptop, my sturdy companion. I love the way the pen feels in my hand when I write in my journal. I love the feeling of knowing that I write every day, and I even love the frustration and anger and hate that I sometimes feel when I try to write and don’t manage to. It’s all part and parcel of being a writer (not yet an author, of course, but a writer) and I love it.

But how about you? Do you put labels on your work? Are you scared to do so like me, or are you bold and courageous and agree to say that your project is a novel or book-in-progress?

Tired

Tired.

My eyes are tired.

My cheeks are tired.

My mouth is tired.

**

Tired.

My lungs are tired.

My arms are tired.

My hands are tired.

**

Tired.

My thighs are tired.

My knees are tired.

My feet are tired.

**

Tired.

My mind is tired.

My soul is tired.

My heart is tired.

**

Tired.

Fun House Mirror

It grows, grows, grows,

The time stops, then flows,

The truth that nobody knows,

Is how it grows, grows, grows.

**

It hurts, hurts, hurts,

Danger no longer flirts,

They’re filled out now – her shirts,

And that hurts, hurts, hurts.

**

It numbs, numbs, numbs,

Endless pages she thumbs,

Only they make the heart drum,

‘Cause it’s numb, numb, numb.

**

It gets better, worse, the same,

While the wild impulses are tamed,

Moods shift as if in a game,

So it gets better, worse, the same.