Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A retrospecive on the formation of my political consciousness, as framed by two elections.

When I was 19, I voted in my first election. It was the 2008 election campaign that came at the end of the Bush Era, and the Republican and Democratic parties had selected Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, respectively, as their candidates. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were the distant facts they always were ever after their respective Invasions concluded. The Great Recession was  just beginning to build its disastrous momentum, and only concerned those who operated in the planet's economic mesosphere.

I voted a day early, at an adobe facade-fronted art gallery that was just a building or so away from the Otero county courthouse. The line was short, populated mostly by the elderly, and moved quickly. I arrived at the booth with not the quivers of anticipation I expected, but rather a subtle energy sourced from the execution of civic duty, however token it truly was in the face of the continued existence of the Electoral College.

And I voted for John McCain.

The reasons why I voted for him are as clear to me to this day as they were when I blacked out the candidate selection bubbles, shadowed by booth curtains from the low autumnal sun those four years ago.

I expected a maintained course. I voted for an America that I perceived to exist during my formative years: one where merit, cleverness, and diligence were the sole devices one needed to secure a prosperous future; one where the freedoms of speech, faith, and expression would be infringed upon by none; one that exercised military force without remorse nor restraint against those that would compromise the endeavors of its citizens.

I thought that the freedoms to privacy that the PATRIOT act infringed upon were necessary sacrifices for the sake of national security. I expected any social programs aimed at alleviating the plight of the poor to either not come to fruition, or to manifest as clumsy and ineffectual in the least, or unearned and unwarranted at most.

At worst, which I believed I expected, a John McCain presidency would be a known evil – a natural and necessary continuation of the Bush Era. I could not estimate the trajectory of an Obama presidency, and though I applauded his eloquence and the historical nature of his nomination, he was an unknown factor.

Upon watching Barack Obama's victory though the very same monitor that I am typing these words into, I neither lamented nor rejoiced. It was a game well fought by both sides, and I did not think myself slighted, nor did I feel wronged.

The nigh cataclysmic events of the subsequent 4 years would, I expect, forever shatter my placid illusions of Pax Americana.

When the stock market's ballistic dive was fully executed and the crisis was fully manifested, I was left ignorant and bewildered. Through computer monitors at home and in class I dragged myself through a crash-course on macro-economics to understand just what was occurring and why. The alarm that glowed from every LCD screen I watched the world out of came to be reflected in my person.

Unemployment erupted as the corporate giants that, we to whom were for so long told were responsible for America's economic might and prosperity, purged millions of workers. Those who's employment were not terminated saw themselves stripped of benefits and driven to work more and more for less and less under threat of destitution.

As so many fell at terminal velocity to the very bottom of society, thus many more came to the revelation that this was not just the consequence of a single event, but rather the greatest transgression of a larger, sinister mechanism. The great recession became but the largest war crime in an orchestrated campaign – one waged by the obscenely rich and politically influential against the multitude, who's only offense was to dare to not be relentlessly greedy.

We looked up from the bullet holes that perforated social programs, the great American middle class, the poor, workplace benefits, industrial and financial regulation, the health care system, and higher education, and beheld the gold plated guns that were so expertly aimed.

And it was the Obama administration that fought hardest to mend those wounds, by pushing bill after bill that were in turn blocked just as viciously but more successfully by a Republican Party that was either ideologically aligned against his efforts, or otherwise bought and paid for those who reaped unimaginable sums from the status quo.

This was made possible by those who believed themselves alienated and wronged by the trillions given to insolvent banks by the Obama administration, a measure that was a lesser evil committed to prevent the greater one: a total economic crash. Their votes, guided by the subsequent deception of the Republican party, would turn congress into an instrument with which that party and their sponsors would use to obstruct the president at every turn.

Along with the revelation of a concerted economic attack against a vast majority of American citizens came a more salient view of other vectors of oppression, that against all sense and human dignity persist to this day. Sexism was alive and well and persistent, and growing ever bolder with every right reclaimed by women. Racism – despite Barack Obama's presidency – remained a troublingly durable social pathogen. The crimes committed against those who dared deviate from heteronormativity grew ever more numerous, despite every stride towards justice and equality.

The spark that would ignite my fuming political dimension into a firestorm would flash in late 2011, with the arrival of SOPA and PIPA – two pieces of legislation backed by media industry oligarchies that would have been used to silence the Vox Populi of creative expression. Though professed to and presented as means of controlling copyright infringement, their jagged particulars could and would have been employed as weapons against any smaller creative outlet that would generate and distribute content independent of those industrial powers.

SOPA and PIPA served to crystallize the conflict between corporate power and the greater populace in a context that I hold above all other things sacrosanct: that of artistic, and thus personal, expression. At that moment, I discovered a truth of this world that had lingered just out of full cognizance: tyranny cares not for its origin, and is the ultimate expression of any great power.

It was from the perspective of this discovered maxim that so many evils in the world were given new significance and meaning. Racism, classism, sexism, heteronormativism, nationalism,  and so many others were given a unifying framework: that of one or a few individuals holding power over many, and doing everything necessary - and excessive - to ensure that their power remains inviolable.

I and millions of others expressed our condemnation of those pieces of legislation and became drops of rain that coalesced into a storm that extinguished those most incendiary and potentially disastrous instruments.

It is thus in this election that I applaud Barack Obama's second triumph, after a campaign that proved to be but one more theatre in the war of the financially powerful against those less so.
This election cycle was one whence corporate power was given unlimited political voice, and held hostage against their employees their livelihood, and thus by extension, their very lives. It was one in which in governor Mitt Romney they selected the perfect representative of their methods and goals.

It was thus that Senator Romney, and by extension the corporate oligarchy's lunge for supreme power over a country on the precipice, was rejected.

Due to my own negligence, I was unable to acquire an absentee ballot. Though my vote goes uncounted, my words will have to demonstrate my support in its stead.

It is now that I wonder if the future will either validate my hope, or erase what exists of it. However, no matter the course that these next years take, I have resolved to ensure that every political action I make will be to undermine the attacks of the powerful against the rights of those less so.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Statement of R. Carter, Ph. D.

"Violence was never really a problem at Chambers Academy. There's the occasional bit of fisticuffs, and an odd cat-fight, but it was always hand to hand. We don't have a precedent for a student whipping out a length of steel pipe and letting loose.

As for why, well, we should have expected something in hindsight. Ms. Sarah Cruz was the daughter of the first man on the moon in over half a century. She got attention, and speaking bluntly, in an environment filled with rich, spoiled prima donnas whose greatest aspiration is to join the ranks of the glitterati, you'd do the kid a favor by kicking her into a tank full of piranhas. At least then it would be quick.

Jealously cuts deep and stings hard, and the envious share only their pain.

Ms. Cruz's grades started to slip before that Orion 2 capsule did a retro burn. We thought it was just a dip due to stress, but... it got worse. I'm sure you can guess why.

I was officially assigned to her on June 5th, about one month after the mission. I got the call when she turned in a quiz soaked in tears.

As much as I wanted to get down to doing something helpful, our first session was just me asking about family history, about her moods, allergies, and other first session clinical BS.

The week after, when we met next, I asked her about her home life. I grew.... just a little concerned when she told me that she didn't want to talk about how things were going with her family.

Officially, I didn't jump to conclusions. We changed the subject and talked about how bitchy her classmates were getting.

Unofficially, I did not want to find out that a national hero was beating his kid, if not worse. My faith in humanity is tenuous enough as it is, and the prospect of drinking my liquor cabinet dry to numb the pain of that revelation is neither a pleasant nor cheap one.

During the session after that, she shared with me her anxieties about friendships made after the spotlight was cast on her. Her voice was an octave higher, her tempo significantly more rapid – something was happening and I couldn't get an answer from her even when I asked.

I did get an answer from my nightly news troll the next evening, on the front page of the Huffington Post: “'Captain Daniel Cruz, missing.'

'Mental Illness suspected,' were the other three words that were burned into my skull, and I knew that things were going to get significantly more complicated.

I think that was on a Wednesday, Thrusday maybe. Sarah didn't show up for the rest of the week.

She did next week. It happened on Tuesday. Surveillance footage showed that one of the other students - Marceline Higgins I think was her name – she called Sarah's father a “schizo astronaut.”

And, yeah, that's when Sarah pulled a steel pipe out of her bag and engaged in some visceral stress relief. Campus police showed up, cuffed her, and dumped her in the on-campus holding cell. Under watch.

I was called in to evaluate her. She was shaken and crying and told me that her dad wasn't crazy. She was sure of it. I asked her what was going on in her family, and she told me that she wanted to show me something the next time she visited. I scheduled for an appointment on the next day.

She wasn't pressed for charges, though it took some creativity on my part to convince the police that it wasn't pre-meditated.

When we met the next day I didn't know what to brace myself for. She sat down on my office's couch and told me that her dad had been writing ever since he got back home from his mission. He first wrote in his diary, then in cheap journals, then on napkins and receipts, and then on the walls of their house.

She showed me one of the cheap journals, and that he wasn't writing exclusively in poetry. Or even in English.

Within were things like structural diagrams made out of optical illusions, cross-sections of neurons, mathematical proofs in numbering systems that I couldn't decipher, and all of them were written over pictures of this odd, spindly, branching character or figure with dark red blobs all over it. Its shape was never completely consistent, but only had slight variations.

All of it was in pen. It was not compelling evidence for a sound mental state.

I stopped flipping the ink-soaked pages when I came to one that had more familiar symbols. I told her that those looked like electrical schematics.

I recommended that she see an off-campus psychologist, but she protested. She said that she trusted me more. I made an appointment for the end of the week.

She showed up and pulled a device out of her backpack. I asked her what it was and where she got it, and she told me that the school's electronics club built it for her. She told me to get a tissue and hold it under my nose. We both did.

She pressed a button and my office vanished. Every wall, every book, every piece of furniture was replaced with gray sand, no sound, and a black sky holding only the sun. I couldn't breathe, but I knew that I didn't need to.

That... thing from every page of the notebook stood in front of me. Perfectly still. Slowly distorting, changing. I felt a ringing in my nerves that vibrated into a cold pain.

I felt something damp on my lips and blinked back into the office. Sarah was in front of me, with red blossoming in her tissue. I checked mine, seeing that it was the same.

And that is why, gentlemen, I am not surprised to see you, or your DoD warrant, or your concealed firearms.”

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Who are you people?

Seriously, I'm curious if my regulars (if they exist) are people I know or strangers on the other side of the planet. Drop a hello in the comments.

Also: If you're curious about the absence of content, know two things:

1, I am in skoo

2, I'm currently writing a couple of short stories that I intend to submit for review and possible publication. What ever is rejected will wind up here.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Japan is weird.

The strangest thing about televised News in Japan isn't a dude in a black bear suit bungie-jumping off of a bridge. It is not the permanently grinning facade hiding a man experiencing face-bleaching terror, with flapping arms being the only indication of his perception of imminent, rapid, gravity assisted doom.

It's the programming around the falling bear that defies my comprehension.

As of the time of this writing, China and Japan are in a territorial dispute over what we Americans call the Pinnacle Islands. They are known as the Diaoyu Islands to the Chinese, and the Senkaku Islands to the Japanese.

The Islands were claimed by the Chinese until 1895, which were then captured and held by the Japanese until the end of World War 2's Pacific Theatre in 1945. In 1972, the United States relinquished control of the islands back to Japan.

While China is arguing from a position of rightful sovereignty and legitimate claim to territory, the most salient reason for the territorial dispute is due to the reserves of oil located within the region. These reserves have been left untapped by both Japan, and China when it still controlled them.

Nonetheless, both countries have escalated their respective naval presences in the region.

Had this been an American territory, entire news channels would be devoted to covering the great and imminent danger that China poses to not only our claim of the island, but also to our very way of life. News pundits would speak in rapid succession about how the Chinese citizenry loathe the American citizenry, and how they resent the freedom to hamburgers and reality television we so enjoy.

Military officers would be interviewed. B-roll of the Pacific fleet, Osprey helicopters, and drilling Marines would run almost non-stop. Anchors would guess about what was going on in the Pentagon. The President would give a speech about our God-given right to the territory, and then be seen boarding various aircraft while wearing a dire frown.

The Nuclear Option would be discussed.

The English speaking percentages of Facebook and Twitter would devolve into a great fountain of jingoism at best, and outright racism at worst.

In Japan, we get two minutes of politicians bowing, clapping, and discussing, followed by a destroyer cutting across the ocean.

End segment, start up the tranquil music and footage of a wrinkled farmer in a shady green orchard starting the day's lime harvest.



Sunday, September 16, 2012

And so

Each one of our minds is a citadel of meaning, suspended against oblivion.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


I had just finished consuming utterly a bag of gummi colas at a nearby park when I redirected myself towards the Mesilla Valley mall. The too-distant night suns had borne witness to my meandering around the rolling hills and over the bridges spanning micro-lakes, as I chewed into the tender sugary goodness, all lit by some of the orange street-lamps that turned our southern New Mexico cities into a firmament holding copper glitter.

The hands on my desert-wind-warmed stainless steel watch read 11:00. I thought that I could stand to sit in a movie theater for a little under an hour, and made my way there.

I had to stop and turn around at the crest of a hill to find a garbage can to dispose of my first bag. The second bag, unopened and still full of high-fructose delight, kept my keys company in my cargo pants' left pocket. Two bags were bought, both intended for the movie itself, but one bag was stored next to my wallet and could have been detected when I went for my debit card to pay for further confections. Thus, when I realized that I had arrived early, I took a short-distance longer-time detour through that nearby park to enjoy the bag's contents.

When I reached the street, I climbed back onto my bike and rode to get onto Lohman, which cut the that part of the city into north and south, and ran along the short side of Shopping Mall territory. The sound of cars punching through the air and of my bike's creaking suspension were unheard, but felt, as auditory candy looped about from my smartphone, to my earbuds, and into my mind.

The song was Everything's Chill in Silent Hill – the artist? Hamster Alliance – the tune itself? Harsh industrial grinds that gave way to a span of tranquility in the middle of its duration, like the eye of a storm in a hurricane of shrapnel and shards of glass.

The mall parking-lot was a gently curving, ascending, descending thing that was definitely a flattening of the local, hilly geography. I let go of the brakes and let gravity pull me from the roadway and through empty aisles marked by yellow, angled lines – like the spines and ribs of golden-boned fish.

I rode past the northern end of the mall and drifted along its western flank until I saw the parked car population swell, and over their glossy carapaces, the movie-theater's neon icons. I curved into a driving lane and made my way to the courtyard and round-about – the former section had a bicycle rack, and the latter was used by irate and exhausted parents to disgorge their ornery spawn into that great temple to American consumerism.

I cleared the ocean of technicolored four-wheel-drive oil-ticks and saw the line of people which stretched from the entrance of the movie theater, itself attached to the shopping mall, to beyond the southern tip of the complex. I won't speculate on the length of the line, as I am even more terrible at estimating distances in memory than I am in reality, but I can estimate the population.

It seemed like half the Mall's weekend population had been siphoned out, rolled, and stretched into a filament of noisy anticipation. An anticipation that shined in their skin but seemed coated, caked on, like the sarcophagus of makeup that some vain, bitter old women sleeve themselves into so they can fill their wrinkles away.

There was enough space between the theater proper and the midnight showing's line for me to cut through and reach the anchored vertical hoops of the bike-rack. I jumped off my bicycle ten feet away from the rack, walked up, and at zero feet away locked it to the rack.

I wasn't yet sure what the line was for, so I walked up to the front of it to ask.

“Excuse me,” I said just under a yell so that I wouldn't need to repeat myself. A group of five or so people – five men, two woman, all wearing different styles and colors of shirts and shorts and a skirt while all seemingly abiding by contemporary casual fashion – turned to look at me.

“Is this the line for people who have tickets or who need tickets?” I continued, and ended.

“This is the line for people who have tickets,” said the man in the yellow, blue-striped polo shirt, short micro-spiked hair, and long face.

“Thanks,” I said, before I started walking contrary to the line's facing.

“Hey!” he shouted as the distance grew. “Hey dude! Do you need a ticket?”

I didn't.

I walked a block and found nothing but more line, which stretched further and around the JC Penny's at the southern tip of the mall. This would have bode well if it were opposite day. When I rounded the corner, I found the end of the line – a group of people who formed a frayed terminus. I took my place behind them, and sat down on the sidewalk decorated in black spots that were once gobs of chewing gum, and now were the sterilized, polymerized manifestations of countless peoples inability to adhere to (increasingly un)common decency.

I slipped my smartphone out of my pocket and checked the charge and the time, and upon noting that there was ample amounts of both, opened the browser and searched for digital reading material. More people joined the line, lengthening that great fiber, forming kinks as groups cliqued into congresses of various sizes and makeup.

“yeah, and then he lost his job,” I thought I heard a woman in the group before me say. She was short, had dark and curly hair and “That's bad,” started a man in the same group – short, pudgy What's he going to do now?”

Then he lost his job.

Then he lost his job.

It's been our anthem for the past four years.

Then he lost his job.

Then he lost his job.

I left my phone alone to buffer and load the page as one of many zeitgeists bubbled out of my bloodstream and into the gears in my skull.

Then he lost his job.

Then he lost his job.

It's the heart killer. It's everything we watch, everywhere we hear: people who can't lose their paycheck see it, and their entire future, cast into flame. Simultaneously, we see those modern moneyed lords who should lose their paycheck laugh and celebrate and douse hope with gasolene and blame the holders of that hope for the spark that makes it glow and disintegrate.

Then there's the rest of us. The few that do fulfilling work who see their just bounties slowly trickle out of their grasp as they work harder and longer to not see every single thing that they earned detonate at the end of a pink-slip fuse. The many who work jobs they hate for people who hate them so they can see their life grind into a bitter dust.

Lastly, there are those of us who throw themselves into increasingly higher cost higher education, who risk serfdom for only the possibility a fulfilling life. We are the ones who drown our existential terror with studying and exams as we pray that the degrees that we're working for won't just be billions of dollars of toilet paper that the corporate overlords are more than happy to examine with their brown eye.

It's passe to wipe butts with Franklins, apparently. They need to use the names of living, breathing, screaming, raging human beings to wipe the shit from between their immaculately groomed ass cheeks.

I noticed the theater staff working their way up the line by their shirts – black, with movie logos casually displayed as if to suggest fandom, but in truth, to serve as only advertisement. One of them walked up, with pink strips of paper in one hand.

“Tickets please,” she asked.

I reached into my pocket and pulled mine out before handing it to her. In exchange, she gave me one of the strips. I quickly found the adhesive end.

“You need to wear it to get in,” she said.

“I ventured as much,” I replied.

I removed the cover over the adhesive strip and wrapped it around my arm. I was always scrawny enough for a significant amount of slack, and in the past when I still went to public pools and water parks their removal was straightforward – I simply reached under the arm-band, grabbed the slack, and pulled to turn it into a literal rip-cord, removing the device without the need for tools or raw strength.

It was then that I thought of the people who weren't as scrawny as I always was – those whose flesh swelled with corpulent bloat. What if someone was too large for scissors? What if any attempts at cutting the admittance bands were thwarted by the protests of the lard? Do the admittance bands just keep accumulating? Do these people have a pinch about their wrist, composed of layer upon layer of differently colored admittance bands so that it looked like a jawbreaker in cross section? Can they act as a sort of geological strata, and thus be used to estimate the ages of the dead things found within their lipidinous folds?

I stopped thinking of fat people and turned my attention to the fiction now displayed on my smartphone's screen.

It was a story that focused on the dysfunctional romantic and sexual relationship betwixt two ladies in London. I liked it because I related with the protagonist, who was saturated with self loathing but still managed to find someone who could see the good in her, and love her for it, even if she herself couldn't.

And then she lost her job.

Fucking damnit.

And then I kept reading, even as the line started to move. Then it stopped. Then it started again, and so it continued in a stuttered fashion.

I was at the part when the protagonist was fighting to escape her lover's arms when I heard someone from the group further ahead of the line yell, “hey!” and wave at himself. The sound of jogging feet followed, which belonged to a tall man wearing a baseball hat (the functional way), a blue shirt, and black pants.

Their tone and dialogue indicated that they're good friends – good enough for the newcomer to say as a simple matter of fact, “you know? This is my first midnight showing. Ever.”

Upon dead gods, how wonderful is that? To have been so busy, so in demand that the occasion for a free evening and day after, and of ones interest in a piece of cinema, could had never had previously aligned.

And what a movie to pop one's midnight cinemaphiliac cherry with! I could only imagine what it would be like to have one's first midnight showing be the capstone of Christopher Nolan's immensely successful and well crafted Batman trilogy.

I imagined that it was what I felt at that point in time, minus the memories of the handful of other midnight showings that I had previously perused. It wasn't that difficult, as I could only remember one in the nook of my mind – Prometheus, filed away in the “Stuff I Did This Summer” vault.

I felt anticipation there. It was a thing groomed to be miniature, but adequate. I had trimmed my excitement like bonsai, yet could hear a great forest all around me. People in the line had chosen to wear shirts and other items that proudly declared their allegiance to the dark knight – Batman insignias were draped upon pectoral muscle, perked breast, gentle mound, and flab slope without discrimination.

Some of my fellow moviegoers were in costume, as well, and one or two of them even had the gall to dress up as relevant characters!

As the line lurched forward, I could see that the becostumed fans had congregated just outside the entrance, to bask in the line-lurchers' gaze and the theater lights' neon haze.

I glanced up from the romantic escapades spelled out from my screen and found that a whole two of the five-ish group of cosplayers were actually costumed as batman – dressed in shabby nylon cloaks and hoods with bent ears. One was in a jumpsuit of similar manufacture and quality, and the other just had black pants and a Tim Burton era Batman t-shirt.

It could only have been guessed at at what in the names of dead gods two of the others were doing.

One was dressed as a mouse. His gray flannel costume ill-fit his lanky frame – he looked like a great fat rat that, after a single day and night of emergency liposuction, had been reduced to a husk. The other person breaking theme was unevenly died blue, for whatever reason. It was only after when my place in line reached the doors to the theater's lobby that I could see the face-paint, and knew that he painted himself up like some Na'avi tribal from James Cameron's Avatar.

And it made sense.

It was the evidence for a theory that I had not yet made. It was a a cognitive fastener that, when sealed, assembled my disparate thoughts and observations into a single cohesive hole.

This was what happened when 'geek culture' turned from a super category, divided and partitioned into thousands of discrete realms of obsessive interest, into a single hegemonic whole of which all objects within it belonged. The walls that divided fandoms into individual microcultures had become porous, if not blasted into ash and ruin.

Those old distinctions – comic book nerds, movie buffs, Trekkies, Star Wars Nerds, Otaku, - have become functionally useless. How nobody jeered nor noticed nor cared that a furry and a Na'avi cosplayer had showed up for an event at which their costume choices would have been charitably labeled as 'inappropriate' demonstrated this.

It was then that I realized that the last boundary – between geek culture and mainstream culture – might have already been crushed under the sheer, monumental weight of the collective money that these comic-book movies have made. Those, combined with the titanic profits and influence that the modern video-game industry have attained, lend credibility to the possibility that it will not be a simple merger between mainstream and geek cultures – but rather, it would be geek culture devouring in totality mainstream culture.

But why?

Because 'geek culture,' despite the dissolution of boundaries, the elevated social status of geeks, and rapidly growing domain of inclusion still holds within it that initial draw – it still had that primeval allure that, during its emergence in early to mid 20th century America, called out to the clumsy, awkward, masses. The Statue of Geekery stands tall, with torch and tablet, tights and glasses, along the coastline of that sensational continent, proclaiming that upon those lands there is sense, justice, and hope.

The Avengers, the Batman trilogy, and countless films before presented images of those defenders who made sense, championed justice, and rewarded our hope.

More and more people flee in droves and lines that wrap around movie theaters to see these films because more and more people are refugees of the real world – a world where there is no sense, justice, or hope.

We lost the class war. Our bank accounts have been pillaged. Our prospects have been raped.

We are pregnant with despair.

I raised my pink-paper banded arm as my section of the line entered the theater lobby. The great antechamber composed of neon lights and primary colored everythings reflected and concentrated the fantastic din. I initially bypassed the the concession stand and made, with the rest of my line segment, my way towards the theater proper. The theater employee present at the threshold to the theater access halls told us all to head to theater eight.

Since I then learned where to go, I went to where I needed to go – to the restroom, to vent my bowels.

Afterwards I made for the shifting, hybridizing, and splicing lines that jutted out from the great candy counter. I loved the pure, dry sodium-chloride rich popcorn that could only be acquired from movie theaters, and I never skipped a chance to indulge in that particular delight.

Each of the five or six or so registers were open, and theater drones counted monies, dispensed candies, filled cups and bags, swiped plastic, and did so very rapidly. Even so, every lines' pace was glacial. I found the shortest que, and lengthened it by a man.

The din became slightly inimical to my mental state, and thus I plugged my ears with speaker buds, ran the music program on my smartphone, and found Raja by Doctor Steel. The song plinqued into its preamble before diving into the rest of its delicious industrial nightmare storm. My mind matched tempo and found the theme, and was so pulled into contemplations of the desert. The family at the front of the line acquired their goodies and shuffled out – the next cluster of people shuffled in to order theirs, and they pulled the line with them.

The lyrics, in one of the few durations of the song where they dragged themselves out of the rhythmic whirlwind, were as follows: “Wait 'till the sun is down; drown in a sea of sand; wish glutton wanted more.”

And thus I wondered.

I wondered of the when, whence the desert comes to reclaim the cities man had dared conjure in this region. I wondered when the water would be stolen by the sun and held hostage above thirsty towns and a thirstier earth. When men would look into the sky, and if are so unfortunate as to see clouds far above them, scream at that taunting, haunting moisture. When the weeping of women become treasures to kill for. When the only currency capable of balancing the scale, when the only thing for which water becomes worth is human blood.

Blood: fresh, red, pooling. I blinked and saw and felt gallons of it, wrenched from the once living in the lobby, and left to coat the polished, squared tile with an imminently coagulating veneer. Corpses... countless due to the pointlessness in counting, submerged enough into that red strata so as to create an exhibit of parts.

In that moment I knew a... cold flare. Some kind of ancient flash, a distant nova that I looked down to examine.

And that flare was the urge to kill as many of my fellow human beings as I could.

Then I blinked. I lifted my head up, shook it out, and attributed it to just one more brief episode of my forever inhibited instinct towards omnicide.

My lizard brain crept out to see if it was a suitable time to bask. I let it crawl back under its stone.

When my view of the counter became significantly less obstructed, I stepped up to it as I removed the buds from my ears.

The young, dark-haired woman in yet another advertisement shirt addressed me one moment after stepping to the register: “What would you like?”

I kept it terse with, “A large popcorn and a large cherry coke.” One of the workers behind the counter immediately grabbed the prepared bag and moved it right next to the register. I enjoyed making sure that it was still delicious. The soda took somewhat longer, but was dispensed without complication nor unbearable wait. I paid in electronic currency with the slash of my card, and made my way into theater 8.

The theater was lit, the screen was blank, and almost every seat was filled. My preferred seats, just above the broadened row designed to be comfortable and accessible for those who rode into the theater, were all otherwise occupied.

But there was no person – cyborg nor otherwise – in the handicapped row seats. As I saw that they were both unused and that there was no sign prohibiting their usage by the unwheeled, I walked to and sat in the center-most seat.

My comfort in theater seats is defined by a bag of popcorn on my lap, a soda in one arm rest, and a bag of candy in the opposite. I unbuttoned my cargo pocket, withdrew my parcel of gummi cola, ripped it open, and resisted the urge to just stuff it all in my mouth and chew my way out of asphyxiation.

The screen flashed green with white text detailing the intended ages of the audience. The lights dimmed. The theatergoers drank the cocktail of social more and Pavlovian conditioning and promptly shut up.

Three hours later I was at my apartment, going on an online news binge due to the fact that I was not yet willing to sleep, and hungered for global data.

That was when I found out about the Aurora movie theater shooting. I read the scant details – of a crowded theater, of dead and wounded, of shots fired, and of gas dispensed.

After that was when I wondered if what I saw in the theater - in the line, in the pool of blood and the gallery of killed anatomy – was some sort of internal image so conjured solely by my mind or something outside of my skull.

And if I was not the only person who saw it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


This was another piece from my creative writing class that I thought I would throw up on here to see if it stuck. It was something of an experiment for me.


She turns the knob and the door opens, fanning a few loose pieces of scratch paper off her store-bought home-assembled desk. She steps forward, grabs the side of the door and holds it open for the man in the white suit behind her. He walks into the center, mulling and rolling his head around until she stands between him and the chipped paint of the door edge.

“In two months every room in the building will have the same renovations, including additional phone jacks, central air and heating.” She takes a long silent breath between the end of her sentence and his expected response. His fingers straighten a striped purple tie and rub a stubble-decorated chin.

“Well,” he starts, lips under blue eyes and a platinum manicured mess stretch the word. Every sound is punched through with the impacts of rain against the window. “I like what I see. I was worried about whether the rooms were weatherproofed, but today's forecast provided an ample test of that,” he says and stops, a chuckle providing flourish.

She reciprocates with a small smile as her thumb breaks a white chip off the wood.

“So, what's the verdict Mr. Nocera? Wait, no, don't answer yet. You still need to shop around. And stuff.”

“And stuff,” he echoes, thumbs now hooked in his pockets. “We'll keep in touch. Your asking price is a bit high but it just might be worth it.”

She blinks manually, but not consciously. Seconds pass.

“Well, if there's nothing else you need to see,” she starts.

“I will meet up with you at a later date. Keep in touch,” he finishes with a click of his tongue and 'pow pow' of his hands, like old west revolvers.

Her eyes follow his, then his ear, then the back of his head. She closes the door behind him and waits until she's sure he can't hear her vent her lungs. Her smile slumps down on her face as she slumps down in her chair. She pulls out her smartphone and hits the power button. The lock-screen displays the time and date: 10:47 a.m. On July 9th, 2013.

She then dials her voicemail number and leans back in her cracking pseudoleather chair.

“First message from: July 9th, 2013 at ten twelve a.m.”

She leans forward and takes a flourescently wrapped piece of candy from a clean ash tray. Gray light from beyond the rain-washed window, between bent shutters flows across the plastic.

“Hey Ms. Puzo, it's Cassandra. I hate to have to ask you this, I really do, but can I get a one week extension on my rent? Something came up and I can pay with my next paycheck, but I just can't make t right now. Please call. Bye.”

Ms. Puzo pops the sour yellow sphere into her mouth. Saliva cradles the sting. The freed hand runs over a chin short strand of black hair back over her ear.

“Second message from: July 9th, 2013 at ten thirty two a.m.”

She wedges the tangy ball between her molars. Her fingers drum across the flaking particle board finish.

“Mrs. Marina Puzo? This is detective Robert Pierce with the NYPD. I wanted to go ahead and call you to find out when a good time would be for me to ask you some questions. You can reach me almost anytime on this number. The sooner the better. Thank you.”

She ends the call holds the phone in her hands. A finger plays across the black, insensate screen.

She bites down and shatters the candy. Tangy shrapnel rips into her tongue as she hits the on button and dials a number.

Severely distorted music plays out of the earpiece as she pulls out a keyring. Marina uses one of the smaller keys on it to unlock and open an oiled, aged green metal file cabinet. She could hear the whisper of air escaping the minute spaces between paperwork as she pushes the files aside and finds a transparent plastic bag. Holding within it a hacksaw covered partially in rust, partially in coagulated blood.

Well. You're still there. No luck on my end on finding out who you belong to.” she says.

The brass rapier-thin second hand on the grandfather clock in the corner of her office ticks over twelve, marking the end of 10:49 a.m.


The same clock ticks to 12:12 p.m.

“Come on in Cass,” Marina answers the soft knock on her door, to the blur playing across the textured glass. It opens, and Cassandra steps in with brown eyes half closed and shoulders made wide and high.

“I take it you got my message.”

Marina sits on one of the chairs in front of her desk and motions to the other. “Yeah. Sit, take a load off. Tell me what's up.”

Cassandra stands in her workwear: white blouse, black skirt and pumps. “I'm fine ma'am.”

“Not if you're using 'ma'am.”

Cassandra's eyes close for seconds, open again to look at Marina's own. “One of my kids – James. He did something stupid. It cost me. I can have your rent this day next week and then so-”

“-what did he do this time?”


“What. Did. James. Do? This time.”

Cassandra shrugs and takes the other chair standing in front of Marina's desk. She drops out of the amber glow of the lamp and into the gray and black stripes from the window.

“I don't know what's going on in his head.”

“He's a teenager. Not even he does.” Her chair rocks forward.

“Yeah, well. It's one kind of stupid to accept a free sample,” she breaks with a sigh. ”It's another kind to steal from his own mother to pay for the next.”

“Jesus Christ Cass. Was it pot at least?” Marina leans forward, scratched elbow on the desk, roughened hand holding her jaw.

“Just... fuck. What does it take to get it through your own kid's skull that certain things are terrible ideas?” Cassandra's voice cracks, and her fingers rub her temples.

A minute passes. Cassandra's thumbs dance with each other. “Do you at least know where he got it from?” Marina's head bounced with each word.

Cassandra's hands fall into her lap, her eyes tilt up. She finds no power higher than the ceiling fan.

“Don't worry about the rent.” Marina presses down and back with her leg, balancing the chair on its own hind legs. “Pay when you can. In fact, I have something of an idea.”

Cassandra looks back to her.

“I still have renovations to do. I could use an extra pair of hands.”

“I'll think about it, but I doubt that I'd need to think all that long or hard.”

“I'm... going to let you and your Freudian slip go.”

“Damn, ha. Hahaha. Thanks Marina.”


The coffee machine gurgles and sputters with brackish liquid streaming into a translucent pot. A small hairline fracture curves from the lip to halfway down the side, bisecting the reflection of the green standing clock in the corner of the office.

“Here we are, come on in. Care for some coffee, detective? In few minutes, yeah, but I need to know how many mugs to grab.”

“Oh, none, thank you,” Pierce says, walking to just behind the chairs. He takes a few moments to pan his vision across the room, noting in the location of things fine and large. “I can't stand it.”

“Yes! more for me. Now,” Marina starts as she walks into the adjacent room. “Where does this interrogation start? I dig the hat by the way, very retro.”

“Oh, well thank you,” he says as he spins the black felt fedora in his hand, and pulls out a photograph in the other.

“It won't take long. Have you seen this woman?”

Marina walks back in holding a green, spotted mug. She takes the photograph and studies the blonde woman with wide cheekbones, a subtle grin, and a gray knit turtleneck. Her head tilts to the side and she leans on the particleboard counter.

“I don't believe I have. Why, who is she?” Marina smirks. “And is she dead, or has she been killing?”

The coffee machine clicks off. She grabs the white plastic handle pours some of the liquid black into her cup. Pierce runs his hand over the fine stubble on his scalp. The analog watch on his wrist reads 3:17.

“Hopefully not the former.”

She stops smirking.

“You call those work clothes?” Marina questions the young man standing in front of her desk. She takes a drink of coffee, black, and her eyes once more ascend his attire.

Tennis shoes with a glazed finish and unscuffed soles. Pants, slack and held up by some unknown mechanism under his buttocks. A crimson, numbered, and named red jersey over a white t-shirt, both obscuring his underwear. A bright red baseball cap angled obliquely on his skull completes the ensemble.

What’s wrong with my clothes?” He asks.

I’m not in the mood to write an essay, James.”

It’s Jimbo.”

It’s James. Go back to your apartment, get some denim and a shirt you can get paint on, get torn up, and generally, you know, ruined. I have a pair of gloves you can wear.”

What’s denim?”

Blue jeans. And leave your cell-phone here.”

What for?”

This is work, not a vacation.”

This is bullshit.”

Cassandra not being able to pay her rent because you. Stole. From. Her. Is bullshit. You can keep your cellphone and your clothes and walk right back to her apartment with an eviction notice pinned to the back of your shirt if you’d like.”

James' lips curl into his mouth and he bites down. “Fine.”

She takes another sip of coffee as he shuffles forward, one hand plumbing his pockets, the other countering gravity and force’s effect on his pants. He pulls out a cheep, sleek clamshell phone and holds it over the desk. He drops it after the antique clock in the corner of her office tocks twice.

He turns around and shuffles out.

Marina listens to his footsteps attenuate before grabbing the phone, flipping up the screen, opening the dialed numbers list, and scrolling through every call and text he made for the past week.

She gets out a knife-sharpened wooden pencil and starts writing down the unnamed numbers. Then, named numbers that were called rarely, again for the numbers he rarely received calls from.

She writes out categories and frequencies before copying the commonly called numbers. She exits the the main menu, claps it shut, and sets it precisely where James dropped it on her desk. She tears off the page, folds it, and sticks it in the oiled, aged green metal file cabinet.Marina takes a long sip from her mug as she hears Jame’s footsteps scuff across the linoleum.
And boots. Don’t forget boots.”

He whispers, “god damnit.” She hears him.

She picks the phone back up, and navigates to the text messages. She selects a few sent by a girl named Alexandra.

The ones with pictures.

“I want those tits.”

Her nerves jolt as she hears and feels footsteps rattle down the hallway. She quickly replaces the phone, leans back into the chair's squeaking protest, and stuffs the list into her pocket.

He wore sandals, and shorts, and a tropical print shirt under wire-rimmed glasses. A mad gray bush was eating his wizened, wrinkled head.

“Oh. Hey Jeff. What's up?” she asked with a smile and arched brows.

Jeff points up. Then back, towards the other side of the building. “Bad vibes. Literally, I'm not going on my self-amusing conspiracy rants this time.”

Marina feigns a pout. “So this won't be solved with a tinfoil hat and a promise to let you use my M-82 to shoot down black helicopters? I had other things planned this afternoon.”

“I'd do it myself but I'm a 'jerk,” he starts, with actual fingerquotes. “Most of the time, the guy above me has some pretty decent taste when he goes off to rattle the walls. But every once in a while he puts on some kind of bad... screamix, I think I'll call it.”

Marina blinks, then leans forward. “Screamix?”

“When you remix music with screaming, I guess. It must be a new thing. It ruins Daft Punk, I can't imagine why he does it.”

Marina carves a long scar of lead over the second phone number with her pencil. She lifts her hand up and taps her forehead with the eraser as she dials the second. Lightning flashes via reflection into her room, off the mirrored windows of the skyscraper across the street. Her eyes adjust and blacken the room before she sees the amber glow refill it.

The tinny pre-paid cell-phone's speakers relayed to her ear a recording.

“Please stay and listen while we reach your party.”

The phone then played a bass-heavy, distorted beat that don't drown out the lyrics: “Fuckin' bitches, fuckin' cops, fuckin' money, makin' hops.”
“That's really subtle.” The music stops, and a short silence precedes a low static-rife groan.

“Who's this?” says a man on the other end of the line.

“Alex,” Marina says, an octave higher than she's used to.

“Alex who?”

“Alex who's Jimbo's friend. He said you can hook me up. You're Freddy, right?”

The antique clock ticks once. Twice. Five seconds tick away.

“Word. What you want?”

“And he told me you do free samples so no bullshit,” her lips twist into a wide, tooth-filled grin.

“That's cause he bent over for me baby. You're gonna have to do the same.”

“If you got a pencil dick I'm leavin'. I already got one.”

“Nah girl. Mine's a magnum. What do you want after?”

“I'm just kidding. Got any snow?”

“That all you want? Tell you what, Let's meet up and I'll show you some merch.”

“Where at?” She readies her pencil over the paper. Her incisors bite into her lip.

She scribbles the directions down on a separate piece of paper before asking “when?”

“Is tonight good?”

She turns in her chair and looks out the cracked, quartered panes and to the sky's reflection on the office building. Clouds flow non sequitor from mirrored rectangle to mirrored rectangle.

“Yeah. See you there?”

“Alone, gal. Or I'm leaving.”

She closes the phone, then stands out of her chair. Marina grabs a compact camera and a keyed chain off her desk before walking to the door. She grabs the orange jacket hung on the back of the guest chair, slips it on, steps out of the office, closes the door, and locks it.

She pokes the knob with her key until it slips in. She unlocks and opens the door, turns off the light, relocks it, and slams it closed.

The free-standing clock that was the same color of green as the horizontal stripes on the wallpaper ticked from 5:39 to...

… 10:12. The blinds over the window are retracted, and the haze gray late-morning cloud-filtered sunlight forms a rectangular shaft of glittering, drifting particles. The diagonal column lands on Marina's shoulders.

She uses a foot to close the lowest right drawer of her desk. She holds her head between her arms, the elbows resting on the flat top. Her breaths change from short and fast to long and deep.

Fingers crawl over and set themselves around the automatic pistol on her desk, over legal paperwork detailing property and ownership. She sits straight up and puts the hand gripping the pistol under her desk, on top of her knee. The other makes a fist, which she rests her chin on.

Her face is willed expressionless as another blur passes over the textured distortion of her office door's window. “Come on in Mr. Carlisle.”

The door opens by the hands of a tall man dressed casually. His large hands start a long sleeved red t-shirt, which fall into blue jeans and rise to a pair of eyeglasses set above a well sized nose and a better shaped chin.

“You wanted to speak with me Ms. Puzo?” He asked with a mouth exclusive smile.

“I did. Take a seat, I have a proposition for you.”

Carlisle shrugs and pulls up a chair in front of the “Close the door, please.” but first closes the door.

“What's happening?”

He smiles. She neither smiles nor frowns.

“I found your hacksaw.”

Carlisle's smile flattens.

“If anything happens to me, my eye-witness account of every girl I saw walk to your room and not walk out and that hacksaw will show up at the police department sooner than you can disappear.”

Carlisle's lips curl down.

“The only reason that I have not done so, and possibly will not do so, is because I have a deal to make with you.”

His pupils constrict and his brow forms a sharp angle.

“You're the one who fucked up and tried to throw it away in your favorite brand of garbage bag. By every right, you should be on the slowboat to the electric chair. Check under your seat.”

The clock in the bottom right corner of her computer screen counts away twelve seconds, echoed by the ticking of the one in the corner.

His hands reach under the seat and pull a plastic bag free from the duct-tape rings holding it up. He examines the contents: a map with a red dot and circle around a building and a four digit number adjacent to it; a photograph of a man with a stained trench-coat and a baseball cap; a red car with it's bumper removed.

“His name is Fred Miles. You do whatever you need a hacksaw for to him, and you get to decide how to spend the rest of your life. You make it messy, you make sure he's found, and you make sure that you're not traced. Are we clear?”

Both refuse to move, but tremble under their pulses.

“I'll even give you your security deposit.”

He slowly lowers the bag, only enough for his eyes to peer over the edge.

“Decide now. If you take more than five seconds, I will self-defense holes into your skull.”

Their eyes remain locked at each other.


He lowers the bag to his lap.


She clicks the safety off.


Carlisle tenses his muscles.


She angles the barrel towards his chest.

“I'll do it,” he says.

“He has a girlfriend. She's also a target if she's there.”

“It's not that simple,” he says.

“Make it simple. Now get out of my office and get. To. Work.”

He stands up with the bag in his hands.

“When can you get it done?”


Marina leans back and leaves her arm resting on the table.
“Good,” she says with a lighter voice.

Carlisle turns around, opens the door, and steps out.

Marina's eyes follow the footsteps down the hall and up the stairs. She exhales and coughs. Her head slumps to the desk and her finger jumps out of the trigger guard, off the trigger.

She catches her breath and resets the safety.

Her head disturbed the computer's mouse, which brought it out of its sleep. The clock in the lower right hand corner of the screen changed from 10:20 a.m. July 14, 2013 to...

...7:30 p.m. July 18 2013. Marina bites out half of a small cookie as she scrolls through the lists of property prices and estimates from around the city. She writes down a few addresses and prices, then consults them with the police reports section of the news paper.

The headline on the front page, draped over the edge, nearly falling down to the floor read “PRINTED NEWS ON IT'S LAST LEGS?” Underneath it in the right column reads “GANG WAR'S BLOODY, CHOPPY START.” Lines of text detail how some of the pieces identified as belonging to a Fred Miles and an unidentified woman were found distributed over his apartment, how criminal elements reacted, and how police are all but certain that it catalyzed the surge of violence in certain neighborhoods.

Neighborhoods that had the addresses Marina wrote down.

Her cellphone played music crawled over the desk via vibration. She picked it up, hit the answer button, and placed it next to her ear.

“Hello Mr. Nocera. Yes, everything's set. I just need your signature and the building is yours. I can stay on and finish the renovations on the remaining rooms myself. Oh? Less work for me then, excellent. No, I have them ready to distribute to the tenants... Well, I'm thinking of diversifying my portfolio.”

Marina finishes her cookie and listens to the voice.

“Eh, things change and I'm feeling a bit lucky. Maybe I just have an inflated opinion of my own judgment right now. Something paid off and I'm a bit giddy.”

She picks up a pink sheet of paper from a stack and shakes crumbs off of the surface. It reads, large, n bold font: “EVICTION NOTICE.”