Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Lying Mule Inn

"If you don't get the hell out of here you're going to be going on a date with Jack out back."

Jack wasn't a cheap date.  Those that he dated often lost some teeth or walked away with some broken ribs.  Hal had danced with Jack a few times already.  Two left feet and bad breath.

"Angelica, don't be like that.  I'm just here to check out the board.  Looking for some good honest work.  Let me just check things out and I'll be out of your lush golden hair in no time." Hal said with his most winning smile.

"Bullshit.  Good, honest, work, and you never coexist in the same place at the same time, Hal."

Jack looked up from his paper.  He was sitting at the bar, just waiting for Angelica to give the signal.  Hal had seen the signal plenty of times before, luckily only a few times in regard to himself.

"Angelica, sweet shining star of the block, lets not do anything hasty.  I'm just fishing for some work.  Many rivers are out there but you know no stream is quite as beautiful as yours."

Hal smiled at Angelica.  This was a gamble but sometimes the past and some pretty words were all that you had in this world.  Sometimes not even the pretty words.

Angelica rolled her eyes and threw up her hands in defeat.

"Fine, you asshole.  You've got three minutes.  Check the board, do what you need to do, and then get the hell out of my bar."

"You've always been my favorite."

"Two minutes and fifty seconds..."

Hal knew not to push his luck.  He walked deeper into the bar and walked up to the old sad looking bulletin board.  The Lying Mule Inn smelled of cheap booze, ancient wood, and desperation as usual.  Hal just hoped that the desperation would be in his favor tonight.

"Any limits or is everything fair game?"

"The rules don't change just cause I hate you.  If it's on the board the job is open to anyone with the ability to get it done.  You know that.  Stop trying to buy yourself more time." Angelica said with the sweetness of a surly sailor.

Hal was now standing in front of the old blood stained bulletin board.  Some of the new ones were trying to use electronic forums to post work that needed to be done.  All of the old guard knew that such electronic communication was dangerous.  Sometimes the old ways were the right course of action.  Hal trusted the paper pinned to Angelica's board, not digital letters that could lead back to who knows where or what.

Angelica would hold him to the three minutes.  She was a hard woman.  The type of woman that made a man work for every victory and feel every defeat.  The type of woman that got deep in your bones and never let go.  Hal shook his head.  He really missed those many cold nights they shared and the warmth they created together.

The past was gone and dead.  Hal refocused and scanned the many bloody postings.  Each post came with blood from the poster.  No way to fake it.  Not yet anyway.  Only true way to be sure that the job was genuine.  Things could be faked online.  Not here.  If you posted on the board the truth could be revealed within seconds.

Bingo.  Hal found one.  It sounded dangerous but not overly so.  The pay was good too.  Far more money than what the job would probably actually be worth.

"Time's up asshole.  Did you find something?"

"Sure did."  Hal said with a smile.

"I'm delighted.  Now get the hell out."

Hal smiled and quickly listened to the instructions.  Jack looked like he wanted to dance.


~*~


Hal was seriously reconsidering this job.  It should have been easy.  However, nothing in the posting mentioned anything about a god damn Werewolf.  This was quickly becoming a pain in the ass.

Hal ducked under the clawed hand.  The razor sharp claws cut deep into the cement wall behind him.  That sure would have hurt if it connected with him.

Hal rolled away with great care and got to his feet.

"Look, friend.  I don't have any qualms with you.  We can pretend this whole thing didn't happen.  I'm just here for the Gnome.  He's casting illusions around town and cheating people out of money.  He pissed off some rich Elf bitch.  I'm just here to get the gold back.  If you just..."

The Werewolf was quick.  He picked up a small tree nearby and threw it towards Hal's head.

God damn Werewolves.  They were always such pricks.  Every god damn time.

Hal moved his hands and spoke the ancient tongue. The sword made of fire erupted violently into the world just in time to cut the thrown tree in half.  The two halves fell to the floor and hit the parking lot floor.  A few extra feet and it would have landed right in front of the closed Starbucks.

"Can we please stop this nonsense?  Is the Gnome really paying you that much?"

The Werewolf lunged at Hal again.  This time a bit slower.  The talk of payment was finally getting through to the beast.  Hal rolled away from the swipe, the flaming sword still in his hands.

"See?  Did I counter attack?  No.  Why?  That's not profitable for either of us.  You could be a fiery fur ball right now, but instead we are still both standing and talking.  So, what do you say?  Can we try to be civil here?"

Another lunge.  This time a giant bite to where Hal's head should be.  However, with a quick wave of his left hand Hal turned himself into water and let the beast's maw crash into a wave.  Hal then reformed on the other side of the parking lot, next to the Best Buy.

"I can do this all night, rover.  Or we can talk this through.  Come on.  Give me a number.  How much is the Gnome paying you for the protection?  I know it can't be cheap."

The Werewolf felt the water dripping off of his deadly teeth.  He wiped the water away from his maw and shook his head.  He then started to shake violently as his teeth and claws retracted back into a human form.  The fur burned away and fell to the floor, turning into nothing but dirt.  The man that was left stood just over six feet tall with long black hair and piercing blue eyes.

"The little shit is paying me 100 gold.  Can you beat that fancy man?"

Hal smiled.  He was finally getting somewhere.

"Remember that Elf bitch I was telling you about?  She's loaded.  How about this?  You keep the 100 from him and get another 100 on top of that.  All you have to do is point me towards the Gnome and walk away.  Sound civil?"

The now transformed Werewolf smiled a big toothy grin.

"Perfectly civil.  Let me draw you a map."

Hal smiled and walked towards his new partner.

~*~

"I don't care, Hal.  One job doesn't mean shit.  You are still a worthless pain in my ass and aren't worth the trouble."

"Oh come on.  You know I did good at that job.  The Elf is happy.  The Gnome is under lock and key and nobody died.  That is a fantastic result no matter who is doing the contract and you know it."

Angelica mumbled something under her breath.

"What was that?  Didn't quite hear you."

"Don't get cocky.  You got lucky.  This doesn't change anything."

"Sure it does.  Means I did a job and you're happy.  How about I do another."

"Free country for now.  Go ahead."

"How about a wager?"

Jack's eyes came out from behind his paper.  Jack had a serious gambling problem.  Everyone knew it.  Hal was starting to speak his language.

"I don't have time for this shit."

Hal looked around the mostly empty bar and looked back at her.

"Looks like you do."

Angelica rolled her eyes and threw a shot glass across the room.  It was just a few inches from Hal's head.  Hal knew that he was getting through to her.  She could have hit him.

"God.  I hate you so much.  Fine, you cocky piece of shit.  I'm down.  What's the wager?  What are you putting on the line?"

"I bet you I can do five jobs in a row, including the one I just did, without anyone dying.  What do you say?  You agree?"

Jack was about to speak when Angelica cut him off.

"Hal, you bring death everywhere you go.  It's a miracle nobody died on your last job.  Sure.  You're on.  What do I get when you mess up and kill someone?"

Hal looked around the bar and then spoke up.

"I'll be your bar bitch for a month.  Clean up puke, take out the trash, whatever else."

Angelica laughed and shook her head.  She was actually smiling for a change.

"You're playing with fire, but it's your funeral.  Sure thing.  When I win that is what I get."

Hal smiled a mischievous grin.

"Unless I win."

Angelica's smile quickly vanished.  She shook her head and put her face in her hands.

"I hate to ask, but what happens if you win?"

Hal stood up and puffed out his chest to make himself as impressive as possible.

"We go out again.  I take you out on a proper date and everything."

Jack ripped his paper he was so shocked.  Angelica just stared at them both and then quickly left the room cursing under her breath.

Jack did that which he did not do often.  He spoke.  Hal was rather shocked.

"This is going to end badly."

Hal smiled.

"Don't be so negative.  Everything will be fine."

Jack shook his head.

"Going out with your Ex-Wife is going to be nothing but trouble."

Hal shrugged his shoulders and smiled.





Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Canvas of Color

Leo looked at the canvas, disappointed.  It was nothing but stark soul crushing empty space.  The whiteness of it mocked him, the seconds turning into minutes, and the minutes dripping into hours with the slow melody of a wasted evening. 
The apartment was dimly lit.  His guests always thought it was part of his artistic mystique.  It wasn't.  It was simply cheaper to light his apartment with the cheap weak lights scattered throughout the colorful apartment.  The blues and greens of last week’s exercise in futility were still decorating the floor of the apartment, just under the newspapers that weren't quite skilled enough to catch the paint with open black and white arms. 
Kate left him.  She wasn't coming back.  Leo had broken too many promises, delved too deep in the living pit of artistic oblivion.  Her time away had brought him a sharper focused lens into the world, at the expense of his felicity.  Leo was finally ready to work again. 
If only there was another way to reach the tipping point of self-destruction without having to fall so fully.  Leo knew that other artists were able to reach their nirvana state without the use of falling to the lowest point available.  Leo also knew that he wasn't other artists. 
Leo took off his shirt and looked in the mirror.  The tattoos covering his arms, chest, and back looked fresh and vibrant in the dim light.  None of them were anything close to fresh but the look was a very good sign.  It meant that he had reached the proper state of mind to be ready. 
Leo picked up his brush and dipped it into his ink.  The first stab entered his left arm, right below the bicep.  It entered into the ornate tree colored into his arm.  The green dripped out on the brush and Leo began to paint with his new color.  The ink, now drained from the tree, swirled on his arm and changed to a different shade of green.  No two colors would ever be the same during one session.  That was simply the way of things. 
Another stab into a stunning blue found on Leo’s lower back.  A beautiful sky on the canvas was starting to take shape.  Each wound filling with the paint needed for his craft, before flesh filled up with a new color for the taking.  Leo’s art was more painful than most, but Leo found colors on his body that were impossible to find anywhere else.  Something about the paint of his soul resonated in a way that simply couldn't be reproduced. 
Isaac wanted to sell Leo’s paintings for more money.  He thought he could get thousands for them.  One piece he even said he could get a million.  It was silly of course.  Nobody would actually ever pay that much money.  Or would they?  Leo stared up at the painting above his fireplace. 
It was the only piece he ever kept.  The one that Isaac thought could sell for a million to the right collector.  It was a picture of an ex-girlfriend named Janice.  He painted her with the red hues near his heart, the apple, the bull fighter’s cape, the little wagon, and the musculature shined through in a haunting way that both excited and frightened Leo.  The painting was that rare mixture of beautiful and grotesque and Leo loved it far more than he ever loved Janice. 
Leo shook his head and went back to work.  He stabbed the brush into his right arm, taking away the brown bear’s fur and bringing it to the canvas.  The landscape was forming bit by bit, each dead tree clinging to find relevance in a bleak canvas that reflected Leo’s mood. 
He really liked Kate.  She was fun, artistic, and a great kisser.  Unfortunately she also didn't really get him.  She thought the tattoos were just a quirk and thought his obsession with color was just weird.  Of course he couldn't really blame her for not understanding that he needed color like others needed air. 
It really didn't make sense to anyone else.  Only Violet ever understood him and she was dead. 
The thought of Violet turned Leo’s mood even darker.  He stabbed into the patch of purple just above the surgery scar on the left side of his chest.  He pulled out the color and added it to the now night sky.  The painting was becoming darker and bleaker every moment. 
He thought of Lilly and smiled.   She always had that effect on him.  He pulled some bright yellow from his left hand.  She tried to help him find another way.  He almost found a new path with her.  However, just like with Kate he fell.  The darkness embraced him and his art thrived at the sake of his inner peace. 
Leo started to paint some bright yellow flowers in the center of his dark landscape. 
The yellow flowers then led to more bright colors plucked from out of his skin.  Soon the dark skies were not so dark and the landscape was no longer a dark Gothic reflection of Leo’s darkest memories.  Instead, something different was creeping into his thoughts.  It was a new chance.  It was a a chance for something more pure. 
Art did not have to only represent suffering.  Leo stopped painting and looked in the mirror and his hundred tattoos.  Each represented a different color, a different shade of life.  However, at the end of the day each color was losing meaning. 
He looked at the painting and the new colorful beauty found within it.  Darkness was still present but there was a light, a beacon of hope, not present before.  He knew what he had to do. 
He picked up the phone and called Kate.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Header Image for the Blog!

I am once again back from the dead, or at least from the busy.

I now have some amazing new artwork for my header image thanks to my wonderful new girlfriend Genavieve.  She is incredibly talented and gave me the wonderful gift of my new header.

My hope is to bribe her into doing more artwork for me in the near future.  :)

There has been a lot of crazy turmoil in my life in the last six months or so but things are starting to equalize again in some very good ways.  I thus plan to start updating this blog again on a regular basis.  Just wanted to give everyone the heads up.

Please expect a lot more cool stuff coming soon.

Thanks everyone!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Great Turkey War

"Hey Jeff, do you ever feel guilty about, well, you know, everything?"

The question was so asinine Jeffrey Pratt wanted to scream.  Did his assistant George really lack such emotional intelligence to see the obvious?  Jeff looked over George and all he saw was his last chance at redemption being protected by a bumbling idiot.  It was a sad moment for certain.

George seemed excellent on paper.  His progress reviews were always excellent.  A work ethic beyond approach was also in George's arsenal of tools.  Even his knowledge of certain brain structures was far superior to many others.  Unfortunately in all the ways that counted George was an idiot and this undeniable fact was soon going to lead to the two men dying.

Jeff heard the screams again.  They were getting closer and closer to the lab.

What was the point of having the best trained soldiers stationed at the lab if they were just going to fall to the blasted monsters like all the rest?

"I don't have time to answer stupid questions, George."

George's face scrunched up in displeasure.  It then shifted to confusion.

"Do you have a plan then?  Something that can save us?" he asked with hope ringing in his voice.

Jeff shook his head.

"Nope.  No plans.  I had a plan.  However, that isn't on the table any more now is it?"

It was literally no longer on the table.  Jeff was close.  So damn close.  However, George mixed the wrong beakers together and the resulting explosion destroyed all of the equipment and three months of research.  Now they were both going to die.

More screams.  The last one was Sergeant Jenkins.  It was a real shame.  He was a good man.

"Come one Jeff, you've got to have a plan!  Just think.  What can we do?"

"What can we do?  What can we do?  Nothing you bumbling fool!  You've doomed us!  Can't you hear the screams?  They're here.  We're out of time and our last chance is ruined."

"I'm not a fool!  You said to mix mixture one eighty seven and mixture one thirty four."

"Stop saying that!  I said to mix mixture one eighty six and mixture one thirty five!  Stop trying to cover up your incompetence!"

George's face was turning red from the anger.  The little bits of his thinning hair that were left were violently jostling about trying to escape from their captor.  George then closed his eyes and took a few deep breathes before opening his eyes again.  His voice became like ice.

"At least I'm not responsible for Tim."

"That's not fair."

"Yes it is, and you know it.  Come on, Jeff.  We both know Tim started all of this."

Jeff wanted to argue away the point.  However, there was too much truth in it.  His verbal skills faltered and his right hand moved into a fist.  A fist quickly increasing in velocity right into the small nose of George Riley.

"Shut up!  There's no proof!"

George fell to his feet.  Neither man had any skill in fighting.  Such things were for soldiers.  However, the blow achieved its primary goal.  George was in pain and Jeff was standing over him.

"You're crazy.  After all we've been through this is how you repay me?  I don't even know what to say.  I stood by you.  Through everything I stood by you even though..."

Jeff kicked George in the face.  The blow connected with George's jaw with just the right amount of force.  Jeff heard the jaw break.  George had another stupid shocked expression on his face.  Unfortunately for Jeff this was quickly replaced with fury and George tackled Jeff to the ground.

George had about twenty pounds on Jeff.  The fight wasn't going to end well.  Luckily George was not very coordinated.  George's hands were brutalizing Jeff but Jeff was slowly rolling the fight closer to the destroyed lab equipment.

One last roll led the two men to a broken beaker.  George never paid enough attention to the small details.  An outstretched arm and a quick movement and the beaker was in George's neck and the fight was over.

It was over.  Everything.  The screams had stopped.  The human screams.  Now only the sounds of turkeys remained.  They were right outside the door.

The time had come.  Justice had finally caught up to Jeffrey Pratt.

The large mechanical lab door opened and the small squad of turkeys quickly surrounded Jeff.  He knew he could try to fight back but he also knew it would be pointless.  Their wings, beaks, and feathers were all covered in razor sharp war extensions.  They came to the compound with only one goal in mind.  They were there to kill him and stop his research.

Then he entered the room.  Tim.  Tim the Turkey.  He started off just like every other turkey on the planet but then Jeff decided to play God and begin manipulating his DNA in order to make him stronger and faster.  He thought it would lead to a superior bird which would lead to better tasting meat.  Unfortunately the side effect was an incredible jump in intelligence.

Turkeys are naturally very stupid animals so Jeff didn't worry about some of the odd behavior at first.  Why be concerned when a turkey is expressing dog like intelligence?  The experiments thus continued and soon dog like intelligence kept increasing and increasing until it was too late.

Tim discovered the truth about the experimentation and became unhappy with his place in existence.  Then he learned about Thanksgiving.  That was the beginning of the end.

Tim discovered the secrets of his own transformation and learned how to make others like him.  Combining this new dangerous knowledge with a stolen cloning machine and the Great Turkey War began.  To say it was an unexpected threat is an understatement.

The past had finally caught up to Jeff.  His special avian flu was now nothing but a shattered desperate hope spread over his laboratory floor.

Tim walked more into the room.  He looked up at Jeff straight into his eyes and then nodded his stupid little turkey neck.  Jeff nodded back and looked down at George's dead body.

"Yeah George, I feel guilty.  It's not every day you doom the human race."

Jeff closed his eyes and the turkeys moved as one.


*****
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Sorry that I've been gone for so long.  My personal and professional life have both been super busy/crazy lately so I had to step away from the blog for a bit.  However, I really miss writing on a consistent basis so I'm going to try this out again.


There are probably going to be some visual changes to the blog pretty soon as I get back into things.  Please consider yourself warned.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Hire

"Do you have any artificial parts?"

"No.  None."

"That is a shame.  You would be sexy with some Model 7 eyes."

Things used to be so different.  New hires used to deal with fellow human beings.  Now, all human resource matters were handled by beautiful robots.  The fact that it was just called HR now officially in every government document was very telling.

"How many sexual partners have you had in the last year?"

"Eight."

"Eight?  Not bad, stud.  You must be doing something right with your erotic manipulation techniques."

The fact that those idiots in Congress removed the protections of privacy certainly didn't help matters.  Each robot was designed to ask probing questions and store them in the master database.  It allowed employers to have an extensive and shockingly detailed personality analysis of each employee.  The fact that he already had the job wasn't important.  If he refused to answer an intimate question it would be grounds for termination.  Many crusaders learned that the hard way.

"Do you like oranges or apples better?"

"Oranges...I guess."

"Have you ever punched someone in anger?"

"Yes."

"Follow up, did you enjoy it?"

"I...umm....no.  It was a bad time."

Each question supposedly was formed via hundreds of hours of debate between mental health agents.  Sometimes it made sense.  Other times it seemed like just a bored programmer having some fun.

"On the female of the species do you prefer the breasts, legs, or rear?"

Bastard programmer.  Has to be.

"Breasts."

"Do you want to have sex with your sister?  Her file says that her breasts are 20% larger than the average size of a woman of her age, weight, and race."

"God no!  What kind of question is that?"

"Excuse me?"

Monroe wanted to scream.  It was shit like this that got the crusaders all up in arms.  They kept talking about how the whole system was slowly destroying freedom question by question.  Control of course had the opposite viewpoint.  To them each question brought greater truth about the true mental well being of each employee.  If the employer knew the employee they could create a better work experience for them.

"No.  I do not want to have sex with my sister."

"The texture and artificial skin of my chassis mimics the breasts of the human species.  Would you consider my artificial breasts larger than your well endowed sister?"

Sexual harassment was also a thing of the past.  It made things fun sometimes but most of the time it created just this kind of creepy exchange, especially when robots were concerned.  Give a machine a body and they see it as just another tool to utilize.  The original designers were thankfully all dead, never seeing what their creations transformed into.  Sick little puppets of the insecurities of others.

"I'm really not comfortable answering these questions."

"Would you like to be terminated before your contract truly begins?"

A robot was asking Monroe if he thought she had a large rack.  It was just so absurd.  How did the world come to this point?  It was the politicians.  As usual, everything went back to them.

"No.  I would like to be employed here."

"Excellent.  Please answer my previous question about the size of my artificial breasts."

She winked.  They were designed to be sexy versions of real people.  It was supposed to put people in a good mood and make them more likely to answer the invasive questions.  However, the way they spoke, the way they moved, the way they processed everything always gave them away.  The silver skin was just yet another reminder or the cold disgusting truth.

"I expect your artificial breasts are larger than my sister's breasts, yes."

She was flirting with him.  At least she was flirting with him in the disjointed manner that all robots flirted.  He had heard from some of his buddies that having sex with a robot was intense, but Monroe refused to cross that line.  The idea was just so bizarre.  It would be like having sex with his coffee machine.

"Thank you.  Next question.  If you had to punch a five year old child where would you injure the child?"

No specifics of course.  She asks the question like it is a perfectly normal question to ask and not some deranged composite of personality data.

"Arm."

"When you speed on the highway how much do you go over on average?"

"12 miles per hour."

"Do you have violent thoughts at least once a day?"

"Yes"

"Do you eat three meals per day?"

"Yes"

"Do you have sexual thought at least twice a day?"

"Yes"

"Follow up question.  Do you think machines are sexy?"

"No."

He puts extra emphasis on the word and stares into her mechanical eyes.  She pauses for just a moment.  She seems to be processing the information.  Was her little mechanical heart broken?

"I think we are done here, Monroe June Smith.  Thank you for your time.  You are now authorized to begin work distributing clothes buying advice to future customers on the 3rd floor of department store number 67895.  You can pick up your work tag at desk number 74 on floor eight."

"Oh, thank god.  I can't wait to get away from you."

"Welcome to the company, sexy."

*****
The job search is finally over.  I start my new job in about two weeks.  What does this mean for you?  It means I can now write more often without feeling guilty about it.  This directly translates into more posts on this blog again.  It's been a rough 8 months or so but I think things are looking up.