Fateful – Sept. 30

I’ve finally hit the end of this. All credit to people who can sit and write every day, for more than a month straight. You have my kudos.

And yes, I know that is my job as well. But I usually write non-fiction, which is less strenuous. This has been an adventure.

Moving on.

Prompt: You’re reading a book about your life. As you reach the time you’re currently at, you find there aren’t many pages left.

Fateful

Re-reading my life story has been enlightening. I’m remembering things I had forgotten, for good and for ill.

I’m also having a chance to better understand the repercussions of my actions.

It’s one thing to live out my life and real time and have things happen as they may. It’s another entirely to be able to read about those things and flip back and forth to see the long line of events that only happened thanks to a choice I made in Grade 12.

It’s also quite the trip to realize I have my entire life in my hands. All of my past, what is now the present, and forward into the future.

The future is the part I have carefully stayed away from reading. I have worried about whether what is written down is what will happen or only what is on track to happen. If I read the future pages, will those events happen or will they change now that I know what they are?

It’s quite paradoxical.

Yet, as I get to the end of the present, I see only a scant few pages left. Whereas up to now has filled more than 400 pages, it looks like there are only five remaining. And some of those might be chapter changes.

With so few pages left, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to learn what the future has in store for me. It’s clear how I will die will be upon me in no time.

Still, I fear what I will learn. Am I to be burgled tonight and killed when I catch the invader? Will I die on the toilet, rupturing a blood vessel in my brain by pushing too hard? Do I drop a knife cooking dinner, slicing open my wrist?

Only one way to find out.

« Chapter 35

He turned the page onto what would be the final chapter of his life. In trepidation he read on, having made the choice to continue out of more than curiosity. He had defeated the urge for instant gratification many times before, but now he simply had to know.

But finding the words less than enticing, he put the book down and decided he didn’t really need to know how it would end. There was nothing he could do to change the path his life had taken thus far, and there was nothing he could do to change the path still to come.

Getting out of the chair, he stood up. The sudden rush of blood to his head made him a tad lightheaded. He paused, waiting for the sensation to cease, as it had hundreds of times before.

It did not cease this time. Instead of his vision clearing and his balance kicking in, the sensation got worse. He was having a stroke. He collapsed to the floor. Everything around him went dark. He was scared, because he knew no one would find him for a week. The thought only lasted a moment before everything was still. »

Well then.

And there we have it. I completed a herculean task of writing one fiction piece from an r/writingprompts prompt each day in September.

Although, truth be told, I did still fail at this. There were a few days I wrote two or three pieces to catch up. But I published those on the dates they were supposed to have been written, so unless you read this far, or were checking my site daily, you won’t know the truth.

I’m sneaky like that.

It’s everywhere… – Sept. 29

Prompt: Human longevity research has finally borne fruit. Slight issue is, everyone keeps dropping dead on their 128th birthday for no medically discernible reason.

It’s everywhere…

The mysterious 128‑year limit had befuddled scientists for nearly a century.

When they first, finally, cracked the code that led to lives lasting longer and healthier, they thought there would be no limit. Sure, maybe for a while no one would get past 120 or 125, but as time went on people would start surpassing those ages and in time humans would be living 150, 200, maybe even 300 years.

And for a while that looked true. Over the first 10 years after the breakthrough, the age of the oldest people to die kept steadily increasing. Where once 90% of all people were dead by 110, scientists started to report that number was inching upwards by about one year every five years.

Then it stopped. People would still die at younger ages, for myriad reasons, but the maximum age anyone reached was 128.

Everyone involved in the research that got us to this point was perplexed. There was no reason why there should be a hard limit on the length of a human lifespan. It would have made more sense if no one made it to 129, instead dying at some arbitrary point between their 128th birthday and their 129th. But to die on their 128th birthday on the nose with no exception or wiggle room was inexplicable.

All those people were otherwise healthy, and easily should have lived at least one more day, if not several more days, weeks, months or years.

The scientists were stumped. The keyboard warriors who always descend on mysteries to try and be a hero were stumped. Even the theologians, whose time had come and gone but who were still trying to stay relevant, were stumped.

The only ones who weren’t completely mystified were the mathematicians. They were the ones to recognize what 128 was: not only a multiple of two, but a power of two. And not just any random power of two, but 27 or two to the seventh power.

So it was possible there was a mystical reason for the 128-year limit. But what could that reason be?

The scientists started canvassing for any and all mystics they could find, to try and figure out what significance 128 could have in the cosmic sense.

Meanwhile, the mathematicians were working on discerning how the pattern formed. It was obvious it involved doubling seven times, but that still left that first year from birth to one year old that was unaccounted for. Basic maths theory is incredibly clear that doubling zero gets you zero.

Was it a divide-by-zero error?

This is unfinished because I lost a bit of the plot and the desire to wax lyrical about maths and powers and all that stuff. Plus, I’m not as smart as I used to be.

It is possible I revisit this as I watch more Stand Up Maths youtube videos and get more inspired. This is not a guarantee, however.

Day eight – Sept. 28

Prompt: The story of the origin of the platypus.

Day eight

On the seventh day, God rested.

On the eighth day, God took stock of the past week’s work. He had been on a deadline to finish His creation, and had put in many long hours. By the end of the sixth day, after He had created midnight oil just so He could burn it, He was exhausted. Resting on the seventh day was less about deciding to take a load off, and more about being too tired to continue.

As God examined all He had created, He started noticing a clear decline in the quality of His work.

For example, He saw that He had forgot to give the whales legs. What were supposed to be majestic creatures that would graze on grass were forced to live in the oceans.

The giraffes were far too short to reach their food. Unlike the whales, which God left to their new habitat, some repairs were needed. Acting quickly, hoping His boss wouldn’t notice the late revision, God fashioned a long tube and used it to give the giraffes longer necks. It looked weird as all get out, but at least they wouldn’t die right away.

But it was the platypus that God couldn’t believe existed.

What was He thinking when He created it? Had He been thinking? Surely He had been on drugs. Or, He would have been if He had created drugs. But He hadn’t.

How did this thing come into existence?

Look at it. It’s an amalgam of about 17 different animals. It’s got flippers like a fish, and a face with a duck bill. It’s a warm-blooded mammal, but it also lays eggs. It’s got a tail like a beaver.

Whoever created this monstrosity had to have been on some serious chemical stimulants.

And God had no recollection of it at all. None.

Could He have created the platypus in a sleep-deprived state? Maybe. But the more He thought about it, the less likely that seemed. He hadn’t been working on the animals whose parts made up the platypus anywhere close to each other. It’s not like He could have pulled parts from the boxes without digging out boxes He’d put away days and hours earlier.

Was there a sinister force at work? His classmate Lucifer had been taunting Him over the project, saying he could outdo anything God could come up with. He could have snuck in one night and mixed and matched pieces to pull a prank.

Thinking harder on that, God knew that wasn’t what happened. Lucifer was a blowhard, full of hot air and nothing more. Plus, he left scorch marks everywhere he went, and the floor was pristine. It was God’s house, after all; everything was pristine. Mary made sure of that.

Mary! No. Surely not Mary. Why would she have created the platypus? Was she feeling mischievous? He would have to ask her about it when she got home from work.

Taking a breath, God decided it didn’t really matter who created the platypus. It was a weird little creature, but it was kind of cute. Maybe His supervisor would like the strangeness and creativity of it.

“Hey Dad!”

It was His son, Jesus, calling.

“Dad! Did You see the platypus? Pretty cool, don’t you think?”

Jesus. Did Jesus create the platypus? When? God hadn’t seen Jesus all week, not even at meal time. He’d asked Mary to keep the boy out of the workshop, in case he broke something.

“Jesus, did you make the platypus?”

Jesus ran into the room, vibrating with excitement.

“Yeah, Dad,” he said. “I made it yesterday afternoon, while You were napping. All Your animals were boring. I thought Your creation needed some spicing up.”

I’m continuing my blasphemy theme, here. I’m surely going to Hell. Or I would be if I believed all that stuff. Then again, I live in the frozen, great white north, so maybe an eternity in scorching Hellfire wouldn’t be too bad a fate.

No lizard people, but you’re on the right track – Sept. 27

Prompt: “It was funny at the time, but I didn’t expect THIS.” You explain when asked why you made a shadow organization to rule the world.

No lizard people, but you’re on the right track

Figuring out how to convince the world’s governments that we were on the up and up was the hardest part. That it only took a week shows how easy it all was.

We wanted to see if people really were as gullible as those crazy nutters on the youtube assumed. They were much, much more gullible.

“You see, we’ve had a penchant for committing ruses to get a rise out of people,” I told the investigator. “We’d always found ways to play on the public’s general insecurities, but only in small groups. Expanding our reach to countries, then continents, then the world, was only the next logical step.”

It started when I ran for city council the first time. I had no plans on winning, and did everything in my power to avoid winning. I went door to door and told voters insane things like “I will reduce taxes to zero, but you’ll have to dance naked for me on my birthday,” or “I’m not supposed to be telling you this, but the real reason we’re building these subways is council is looking for the Ark of the Covenant.”

Then there were the times I went to the debates and never spoke a word. I instead blew a whistle or an airhorn when asked a question, or made fart noises to interrupt the other candidates.

That those antics earned me 75 per cent of the vote was downright amazing. People really are dumb.

So it was that I did what I could to get kicked out of office. If I were a student, I’d get 100 per cent on attendance, but zero on decorum.

Yet, I made friends with some fellow councillors. We had similar amounts of disdain for the entire system, although we clearly had different ways of showing it.

Then there were my most ardent supporters. They were an interesting bunch. They latched on to me from Day 1, swallowing my words hook, line and sinker. When I claimed there was a band of shady missionaries running everything, they began parroting that claim to their friends and families. When I told them the Earth was settled by transsexual China men from Mars, they all slapped their foreheads and shouted, « Of course! It’s so obvious! »

These people are not the cream of the crop. Cream of the crap, perhaps.

After a while, I figured, since they believe this malarkey, why not make it real.

Let me tell you, I did it completely half-assed. Minimal CGI skills. Faux-muppets. Obviously photoshopped ‘pictures.’ I made the original Star Trek series’ special effects look good.

From there, it was simply a matter of getting the message out to my masses. I inundated their facebook timelines with my work. I created twitter users who echoed things I had said.

I even paid a flashmob to dance naked for me on my birthday.

It was a total riot. Or it would have been if it didn’t get out of control in near-record time.

I lost control in less than a year. That shadow organization I claimed existed? It metastasized beyond anything I could have dreamt up. It took my claims and made them its mission statement. Everything I said, went.

You have to help me rein it back in. I’m sorry. It wasn’t supposed to end up this way.

Owww! – Sept. 26

Prompt: The solution was that simple.

Owww!

As the old adage says, « You don’t know until you try. »

It turns out that old adage is old and well known because it’s proven itself to be true considerably more often than not.

I was having an absolutely atrocious go of it. Nothing was going right. Try as I might, I simply couldn’t get my act in gear.

You ever have one of those days? The kind of day when nothing feels right, when even getting up in the morning is a herculean task? Like you’re Sisyphus and simply being alive is the rock you’re cursed with?

Yeah. That was yesterday.

It felt like I was walking in quicksand. I woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head. Found my way downstairs and had a cup. Looking up, I noticed I was late.

And that was just the beginning. It seemed every step brought a new obstacle designed to try my patience and slow me down.

Neighbour’s kid left his trike out on the sidewalk; I tripped over that, landing on the dog crap from my other neighbour’s dog.

Bus is a minute early and I watch it drive away, with another 30-minute wait waiting for me.

Crash on the highway, holding up traffic for another hour.

Cellphone died, so I can’t let work know where I am. Thankfully I have a chill boss. She was the only positive of the day.

Forgot my lunch and my wallet was empty and my credit card was declined.

Needing a break from the utter disaster the day had been so far, I went to the lunch room. It was empty, except for that one weird guy no one liked talking to. With how my day had been, I reckoned talking to him would be par for the course.

“Hey man, mind if I join you?”

He looked at me with surprise. I could tell it was the first time someone had approached him in a friendly manner at work in a long time.

“Sure,” he replied. “I could use the company. I haven’t seen a body all day.”

“Dude, I wish that was the worst thing that’s happened to me today,” I said, rolling my eyes.

He gave me a look, like he was trying to tell if I was picking on him or serious.

“I mean it,” I added. “You wouldn’t believe the kind of day it’s been.”

So I regaled him with my tale of woe. By the end, he was laughing. I wasn’t.

“Is that funny?” I asked, trying to control my rage. “Do you like revelling in the misfortune of others? Maybe I should have just stayed at my desk.”

At this, I got up to leave, but he grabbed my arm.

“No. I didn’t mean it’s funny funny,” he said. “I just meant, it’s way too much bad for it to be real. Like, no one has that bad a day, everything piling on to one big mound of calamity. Are you sure you’re not just having a really bad dream? What did you have for dinner last night? I’ve heard tales of falafels doing weird things to your brain.”

I just stared at him. He went on.

“All I’m saying is you never know. Pinch yourself. If it hurts, this is reality and you really must have messed with someone’s juju. If you wake up, well, you’ve solved your problem.”

Thinking I had nothing really to lose by humouring this guy, and realizing people avoided him for a reason, I stuck out my left arm theatrically.

“Here goes nothing,” I proclaimed dramatically as I reached out my right hand. “See you on the flip side.”

And then I woke up.

Yes. I know it’s rather clichéd. I’m allowed to wallow in hokey tropes and all that jazz. This is my brain we’re dealing with.

Fight me.

XOXOXO – Sept. 25

Prompt: You can only create a love letter with 365 letters.

XOXOXO

Love,
You are mine and I am yours. When I see your face I am smitten all over again. Your smile brings me unending joy.
If I could sacrifice myself so you would never hurt again, in a heartbeat I would do it. There is nothing I would not do to make you happy and keep you safe.
You are my sunshine. You are my star shine. You are my world. Without you, I have nothing. Without you, I am nothing.
I cannot wait to spend the rest of our lives together. I love you. Now and forever.

[Note]: I did not count punctuation as letters. I also don’t consider numbers to be letters, but in order to stick to the spirit of the prompt, I did not use numbers.

Become one with nature – Sept. 24

Prompt: Write a poem describing a tree as creatively as you can.

Well, this is just a bad idea all around. What does “creatively” mean? Flowery language? Complicated similes? As if I ate, and then shit out, a thesaurus? Who knows‽

Onwards and upwards!

Become one with nature

From far I did glimpse the strong
Sturdy trunk from which the life-giving
Breath flowed forth.

It bellowed and belched the gas
That allowed all to survive
The long days and nights of existence.

I gazed upon its majesty and felt
Something stir within
My loins.

Never had I dreamed a sensation like that
Was possible.

It spoke to me as I approached.

Its tough exterior beckoning me to
Come closer and learn all its
Secrets.

I craved to discover
What lay beneath the bark.

Would it be soft and unyielding
Or would it prove to be capable
Of standing up to the passion
It produced in me?

Its leaves excited me in
Ways no one had done
Before I came here.

Their rustling filled me with
Lust I had only read of in
Stories long since resigned to
The dustbin of my history.

Upon touching the trunk
I exploded.

Waves of pleasure consumed
Me and I fell to the ground
Wracked by convulsions
Of contentment.

More.

I wanted more of this ecstasy
To course through my veins.

I searched the trunk for
I knew not what.

I sought the unknowable
Knowing it would make itself
Available to me when I was ready.

I found it above my head
When I looked up to the
Canopy.

Long and erect it protruded
From on high.

I climbed
For it.

Nothing would stop me
From feeling its power
Deep within my body.

When finally it was within
Reach I ceremonially
Guided it inside me.

I let it fill me with
An energy far beyond
Any I knew was possible.

Rhythmically it pulsated and
My body followed in
Lockstep.

Enjoined in a way no
Man or woman had ever been
With nature.

Yes. I wrote a poem about fucking a tree. Fight me.

But is it from the POV of a vagina-haver or a penis-haver? That’s for you to deduce. If you can.

In which a young man learns the truth of his reality – Sept. 23

Prompt: Father, why do the villagers hate us so?

In which a young man learns the truth of his reality

Shortly after we moved into the house in the forest outside the village of Tarestipolu, the air began to feel overbearing.

There was a constant, yet inaudible, buzz. Like the way the sky feels when there’s a thunderstorm bearing down on you – you know it’s coming but you don’t know when.

We knew why they hated us. But for the well-being of our son, we didn’t discuss it. We wanted him to be able to live a normal life and make friends. He would find out in time, but in the interim he needed to remain unburdened by our truth.

It wasn’t easy, but he did find children to play with. It wasn’t easy because he couldn’t go to school with the others. He was forced to watch longingly as the friends he made went to school and played together. He would join then before and after school, but while they learned and made more and better friends, he was put to work in the fields.

We felt for him. We knew it wasn’t easy for him to be excluded. We knew we had made it difficult for him by moving here. We hadn’t wanted to move to Tarestipolu, but we had had no choice.

So it was that one day, he came to us. We knew he would. We could tell the question had been on his mind for ages, and had gradually moved into his mouth. And finally it moved to his lips.

“Father,” he said, hesitantly. “Why do the villagers hate us so?”

How do you tell your child he and his family are hated not because of what they did, but because of what they are? It’s a damning indictment on society that this situation exists.

Still. He asked. And I feel it’s my duty as a father not to lie to my children. Especially on such a serious topic as this. It can damage our relationship if I keep things from him that he would be better off knowing.

“Son,” I said. “There’s no easy way to say this. You did nothing to cause the villagers to hate you. Your mother and I did nothing, either. But I want you to think about the villagers. Does it look like they all have something in common?”

The boy sat there, deep in thought. I could tell he was giving this question a lot of serious consideration. I figured if I got him to think about it, it would spare me having to tell him everything and instead only have to answer what I assumed would be his incredulous questions.

“They all seem rather pale, father,” he finally said.

Yes. He was getting it.

“It’s like they didn’t stay in the oven long enough,” he added. “They aren’t like us.”

“No,” I replied. “They’re not like us at all. But, actually, they are a lot like us. We’re more the same than we are different.”

He looked at me, confused.

“But they’re so pale, and you and I are so dark,” he exclaimed. “They don’t look like me. How are we more the same?”

“Ahh, you’ve hit on the big question, my son,” I said. “Take another look at the villagers. Besides our skin colours, you’ll see we are the same. You are a boy, and there are boys in the village. I am a man, and you see men in the village. Your mother is not the only woman, is she? You don’t have a sister, but you see the boys in the village have sisters as well.”

The wheels were turning. I was sure of it.

“So they hate us because we look different?”

“Yes,” I said, carefully. “They hate us not because we are different, but because we look different. Underneath it all, we are no different, them and us. If they cut us, do we not bleed like they do? Do we not cry when we are sad, just as they do?

“My son. These people hate what appears to be different. It is not your fault. It is how they are, and it is not likely to change soon. The best we can do is show them we are just like them. Work hard. Be respectful.

“Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But some day these superficial differences will disappear and we will all be seen for who we are and not what we look like.”

Two tracks diverged in the woods – Sept. 22

Prompt: This is it, you’ve done it. You solved the trolley problem by killing the guy tying people to the tracks.

Two tracks diverged in the woods

He wasn’t that hard to find, but he was nearly impossible to capture.

Think about it. How many people do you see running around cosplaying as Snidely Whiplash these days? Almost none.

He stood out in a crowd. He was the loudest man in the room, at least sartorially. But he also had a tendency to utterly and completely disappear in a flash. It was maddening.

We’d been trying to capture him for years. His actions had led to the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people. And one criminal who broke out of prison while serving a life sentence for murder. No one was sad when the trolley ran him over.

We tried planting moles in public, hoping he would kidnap them. We hoped they would be able to apprehend him, but for some reason they never got caught. It was like he knew who was safe to catch and who would be too much hassle.

We also tried hiding officers in hunting blinds at all the switches on the rail network. It turns out he figured out our plans and placed the victims further down the line and simply used hired goons to flip the switches instead.

It was like he was one step ahead of us the whole time.

We finally realized we were going about things the wrong way. Instead of setting traps and hoping he would fall right into our clutches, we decided we needed to up the ante. He was getting notoriety with his stunts, so why not try to out-antic his antics?

It was surprisingly simple and effective. And also expensive – I don’t know about you, but laying rails is not an endeavour for the thrifty. But what is a few million dollars compared to hundreds of human lives?

We decided to create our own trolley problem course. Multiple paths, multiple switches, multiple victims. There were two definitive routes a trolley could take, and several lesser routes with intermediate amounts of potential harm. It was a perfect case of one-upmanship and he fell right into our trap.

It was spectacular. Perhaps driven by a desire to be the first through the gauntlet we’d laid, not only did he populate the tracks with victims, but he also drove the trolley.

We also got a heretofore unknown insight into his madness. Instead of viewing the trolley problem as a moral quandary, he turned it into one of chance. Before each switch, he flipped a coin to choose the track ahead. To this point, each death he caused was from chance. Heads, to right, five die. Tails, left, only one. Lather, rinse, repeat.

We were stunned.

It was so cold and impersonal. He had to be stopped.

As he passed through the fifth switch, we sprung our trap. We’d rigged the fifth switch to appear to switch tracks properly, but instead route the trolley onto a third track hidden under some brush. We’d tested it to make sure it would always work, and it didn’t fail with the brightest lights on it.

We could see the look of incredulity on his face— that hidden camera in the cab was a stroke of genius —when the trolley went the wrong way. And we really loved it when his eyes bulged out of his head when he rounded the corner and came face to face with our firing squad.

“End of the line, buster.”

The true nature of the afterworld is finally revealed – Sept. 21

Prompt: You die and are surprised to find the person leading you to the afterlife is yourself.

The true nature of the afterworld is finally revealed

“What is going on here?” I ask. “Why are you me? Are you actually me? Aren’t you supposed to be a hooded, skeletal figure?”

The me walking me through this desolate wasteland looks a lot like me, but something is a bit off. It’s slightly taller, and more gaunt. It’s almost like it’s imitating me, an amateur knock-off, if you will.

« I am as much you as you are you, » it says. « I represent you and your life before the high court of the deathly overseers. »

“Why do I need to be represented?” I reply. “I am here and can speak for myself.”

« The deathly overseers do not speak to the departed, » the me says. « It is only those already in the underrealm who can speak to them and to whom they will speak. Do not attempt to say anything to anyone but me, or else I will be unable to protect you. »

This is certainly not what I expected death to be. I had always assumed it was a vast void of nothingness. To learn an afterlife of some form existed and seemingly had a bureaucracy was far beyond anything my imagination could have drawn up.

“But why do you look like me? Surely it would be better if you were your true form instead of a facsimile of your charge.”

The me stopped and turned to face me full on.

« What I said was true. I am you as much as you are you. I was formed when you were born and followed your life as you lived it. Every act you did, I did with you in this realm. Everything, good or bad, that happened to you happened to me as well. I am the you of the underrealm, building the best case for your salvation. »

Yup. This afterlife thing is bonkers.

“Everything in my life was echoed in yours? I feel for you. I couldn’t stand half my life; that you had to live it with me, experiencing it second-hand, I can’t imagine.”

« It felt no different from experiencing it as if I were doing it. It was my life, with no dissociation. I could not judge or view your life from above. This interaction we are having is only possible now that your life is done and my duties have begun. Do not pity or worry about me. »

I’m still not convinced. I’ve had an echo, living my life as I did, for my entire life? It’s just an unnerving thing to learn. All my secret shames that I hoped would die with me, will instead live on in this spectre.

Oh well. It’s not like I can do anything about it. Despite the me resembling me in almost way, its appearance adds a degree of power and otherworldliness that strikes fear in me. Fear that implies it is not a thing to mess with.

We walk along in silence for what feels like hours. I try to take in the scenery, but there is none. That vast void of nothingness I thought would be death is a reality – it’s what surrounds us now.

« We approach the court of the deathly overseers. » the me finally says. « It is critical you do what I have told you and do not speak to them. They will direct their attention upon me. If they do address you, you are to nod respectfully at them. I will then answer for you. Understand that speaking to them, even in response to them, will doom you to a fate too terrible to comprehend. »

I swallow hard, but nod in understanding. If an underrealm spectre of me cannot describe a fate that could befall me, it can’t be a good ending.

As we turn a corner I didn’t even know was there, we come upon a massive door. Its size staggers the mind. It’s inlaid with what appears to be blood, and has a handle of gold. It is flanked by two creatures that I’m almost sure are manticores.

« Remember what I said, » the me says as he opens the door.