Dumb Stories

Never one when you need one.

You are an operator at a nuclear power plant.

Your job is to be available in the case that manual intervention is required to keep the reactor from critically overheating.

There isn't much to do, since the plant pretty much takes care of itself, so you play a lot of tetris.

One day, the worse case happens. The core is getting too hot, and the automated rod insertion system has failed.

You suit up and enter the reactor area, and start grabbing the long 1 meter carbon rods, inserting them into the matrix of holes atop the reactor.

You have one hole left to fill, and go back to the rod bin, but all you can seem to find are rods that have been bent and/or other wise have manufacturing defects that cause them to be wavy. You curse your luck, running around the room in desperate search for one last straight rod.

You catch a glimpse through the glass into your control room and stop and stare at the panel of red indicator lights. You've never seen them that like, and it is nearly beautiful, which is good, since at least you were looking at something pretty before you and the plant exploded.

Merry Christmas

Once upon a time there was an administrative assistant who worked for three wicked corporate executives.

Each Christmas, the executives had her buy gifts for some of their most important clients. This year they waited until the afternoon of the company's holiday party to finally give her their requirements.

The first, instructed her to "send something expensive, that they won't enjoy".

She searched all over the city, finding nothing suitable, until finally it was dark and all the stores were beginning to close. She searched deeper and deeper into alleys, until she came upon a pawn shop that was still open.

Behind the counter was a short, wizened man, with a beard so long that it split neatly not once, but twice, ending in 4 different points around his knees.

She explained her problem to the man, and after a moment's consideration, he pulled out a cellophane covered basket containing many cheeses. "This is a European cheese blend that is frightfully expensive, but that no one ever actually eats," he explained.

"Perfect! Ring it up!", she said, handing over her corporate card.

The little man ran the card, once, twice, and thrice, and returned it with a frown to her. "I'm sorry, it's coming back denied".

"Ugh, my bosses must have forgotten to approve my expense report from last month! Great, now what am I going to do?"

"Well maybe you have another card you can put it on?"

She shook her head, "nothing with that sort of limit..."

The pawn shop owner scanned her up and down, stopping on the ring on her right hand, "Perhaps we can work something out", he said, pointing at the ring.

She did not want to give it away, as it was a family heirloom, but then she thought about how much dental work coming up, and how inconvenient it would be to lose her dental plan, and with a sigh, slid the ring off her finger and pushed it across the glass counter to the man.

"Excellent! Is there anything else?"

Pulling out her phone, she pulled up the requirements from her second boss. "Yes, do you have anything that seems thoughtful, but is actually terribly cruel?"

"I certainly do!", he pulled out a colorfully decorated box, "This game here is very fun to play, so much so that it will likely ending up either permanently stunting or altogether ruining their social life!"

"That sounds great I guess... but is it, expensive?" she inquired.

"Oh my yes... But since I know you're good for it, perhaps I could just keep that hair pin of yours, you know, as collateral?"

Again, she paused, as it was the first gift her long time boyfriend had given her... But then she remembered that losing her job now would mean she would have no chance of getting the end of year bonus. And so she loosened the pin, her business hairdo unraveling down to her shoulders.

"Very nice. Will there be anything else?"

Checking once more, she found her third boss' instruction. She read them, and frowned. "Okay, I think he's just being difficult here. I don't suppose you have anything that is "Everything, yet nothing?".

"That is a tricky one, but I believe I have an answer. You could send an electronic gift card from Amazon.com. They sell everything there, and the gift itself will never actually be in any way tangible."

"Excellent.. But I am afraid I am out of things to barter."

"What about that phone of yours, it looks pretty fancy?"

"Yeah, this belongs to the company though, I'd lose my job"

"Hrm, but you'll get fired if you can't order this right? Well how about this, I'll give you three chances to guess my first name, and if you do I'll order the certificate for free. But if you don't, I get the phone."

She frowned, neither was a very good option, but at least playing the game held a chance that things might still work out.

"Alright, I accept, is it 'Frank'?" The man shook his head.

"Tim?" Again the man shook his head.

Out of ideas, she sent a message to her mother, for an idea. After nearly three minutes a reply came back.

"'UGEN-EJ4M7E-KYLU'? Ugh, my mother is terrible at texting, I wonder what she meant that to say?"

The old man's face went ashen. "What did you say?"

"'UGEN-EJ4M7E-KYLU', it is what my mother just texted me, she is all thumbs when it comes to technology."

"Perhaps so, in any case, due to a clerical error at New York City Hall, that is precisely my first name," replied the man solemnly, "Your electronic card will be sent."

Ecstatic at her luck, she hugged the pawn shop owner, and then returned to the company party which ended up being very posh. She also used her holiday bonus to buy back her stuff.

The End.


After being unemployed for a year, I decided to stop job seeking and instead make my mark in mathematics.

There are a ton of numbers out there I figured, and you only need to find one unique concept and it gets named after you.

So I spent a month working during commercial breaks, gathered up all my hand-written notes, and brought them to the math professor of my local community college.

"Sir, I think you'll see I have done some groundbreaking work."

"You know how pi, is the ratio of a circle's line thing to it's round thing? Well I have applied the same principal to the square. I call it, 'Frank's Awesome Ratio'".

The mathematician, obviously impressed, asked if I was a student here.

"No sir, I am without formal training if you can believe it."

He then told me to get out, obviously unwilling to believe that such epic work could have come from outside his own profession.

"I'll just wait outside until you're capable of discussing this like adults."

And so I waited outside his door while students came and went. I held my papers close to my chest lest they attempt to copy my work.

Eventually a tall skinny kid with glasses and unkempt hair came out of the office, and introduced himself.

"Hey there, you must be the crazy guy. The professor said I should look over your work so you'll go away."

I refused to share it until he showed me some evidence of who he was, and he produced a pay stub proving that he was an actual teacher's assistant. Which seemed on the up and up.

So I spread the papers out over the hallway there and went over my work with him.

"I'm sorry sir, but the ratio you are talking about already has a name, it's called 'four'."

I explained to him that I had made the same mistake at first, but when I actually calculated it out, it was very close to four, but not precisely. Looking around to make sure no one else was looking, I pulled the most valuable piece of paper out, and unfolded it for him, hunching over it protectively.

"I think you'll find that, this, is the actual value".

He gave an impressed snort, and said, "This is just the number 4, followed by a decimal place and hundreds of zeros."

I had waited for him to fall into this trap, and trying not to be too smug, pointed at 2 of the "zeros" on the sheet of paper.

"What, why are you pointing at those?"

"Because they are actually sixes."

"That doesn't make sense."

"I know, I was surprised at first too."

"Are you sure just weren't just writing zero so fast that you accidentally made some zeros that looked like a six?"

I took the sheet away, saying that he obviously wasn't willing to discuss this at a mathematical level. I'll just have to wait for the professor to come around.

He sighed in defeat.

"Okay, let me construct a mathematical argument for you".

He then drew a square and then a line dividing it.

"Okay, all these sides are of length one."

I commented that they looked more like two inches to me, at which point he closed his eyes for a long time, before agreeing to label them as 2 inches.

"So, the perimeter of the square is 8 inches, the diameter of the square is two inch."

For some reason when he said the word "diameter" he made two bunnies in the air with his hands.

"Eight divided by two is..."

I gave him time to come up with the answer since he seemed stuck, and then began reciting My Awesome Ratio from memory, which is pretty easy if you remember where the two sixes are.

This made him scream.

"It's four. One, two, three, four! I don't know how to be more clear!"

He seemed sure enough to be angry about it, which gave me pause.

"Alright, maybe you're right, but what if the sides of the squares are 'pi' inches? What's the ratio then?"

"Still four."

"Are you sure?"


"What about in base pi? Is it still four?"

This gave him pause before answering.

"I guess that'd be 1.3... something, probably repeating."

"Like pi?"


"Does that have a name yet?"

At this point his eyes lit up, as if he finally recognized my brilliance.

"No, it doesn't. But by the power vested in me as a community college math TA, I official dub it 'Frank's Awesome Ratio'".

"Can we call it Frank's Second Awesome Ratio, so that people don't confuse it with four?"

This made him scream again.

Monkey God Love

"Hanuman, we really need to talk about this."

He didn't hear her.

"How do I look lovely one?"

He was disguised as a royal harem dancer.

"What are you up to now?"

"Using this guise I am going to get the Sultan drunk, get invited back to his room, and under cover of his dark room, I am going to change places with an untouchable girl with a nasty case of lover's itch!"

"Oh Hanuman, can't that wait, there is something I really would like to discuss."

"Sorry prize, dusk is nearly here, and his court is just getting going, see you at sunrise!"

She nearly fell off her branch the first time she saw him. She had been so young.

He appeared at the top of her family's tree, swung lazily and impossibly gracefully down the branches. He was terribly handsome, and barely seemed to be looking where he was leaping, his eyes locked on her the entire time.

He swung past her father with the barest of nods, and with a mighty leap and triple flip, ended up hanging upside down by his tail, right infront of her. He produced the finest fruit she had ever seen from somewhere, and extended it to her.

She knew his reputation well enough to know there was surely more to this, but she couldn't have reached for the apple if she wanted, so frozen was she by the awe of his presence.

"My hand is not a vine mylady, this is wilting even now."

Her mother swung up from a lower branch, and faced the monkey god.

"We have no interest in your trickery today Hanuman, go bother another tree."

"Oh, no trickery today I assure you, I have come with a proposal," he seemed to purr the last word, making her tingle.

"If it is my daughter's tail you are after than you needn't bother, she is promised to another, it'd be great trouble for all involved to undo that."

"Quite right, I wouldn't have her if you'd have given her away so easily anywhere, for that'd certainly be a sign she shared her mother's regrettable mite condition. I propose a game."

"Of course you do" the matriarch snorted.

"It is simple enough, I shall make a statement, and you are to tell me if it is the truth, or a lie. If you are correct, I will leave you with the fruit and begone, if not..." He flashed a grin her way.

"Go on then, I dare not deny you a game, I know how you love them so."

Hanuman clapped and swung a full loop on the branch he dangled from.

"You are both honor bound not to repeat the revelation that I am about to impart. For too long I have guarded a quite embarrassing secret, you see, I have no tail."

Her mother snorted, and her own heart sank. For a second there she had thought the great god had come to court her, that she had picked her as the most desirable mate in the land, but his obvious lie revealed that he was just her to mock her, to mock the idea that anyone would want her. She had to try hard not to bare her teeth in anger.

"Lie. Honestly, given your reputation I expected something more difficult. Can we be rid of you now?"

"Oh you may certainly be rid of me now madam, but not before I take my prize. You see, my words were the truth."

Her mother adopted an aggressive stance, put her face to his upside down face, white beginning to show.

"Well, if you have no tail Mr. Hanuman, may I ask what is allowing you to hang as you are?"

Hanuman's a wider grin and raised eyebrow were his only response.

Her mother understood well before she did, gasping, and then immediately becoming docile.

Her words was barely audible. "My daughter, you now belong to this man, I wish you both happiness." And she swung away without another word.

She was very confused while they traveled together, she was worried that it was still all some sort of mistake. It wasn't until an hour later back Hanuman's palace bedroom where she learned the surprising and happy truth of the matter.

"Hanuman, let's play a game."

This got his attention.

"What do you have in mind my flower?"

"I will make a statement that is either true or false. No matter what you guess, right or wrong, you win. Otherwise I win."

She now had his full attention, possibly for first time since their initial night together.

"And what do you get if you win?"

"One wish granted."

He laughed heartily, and seemed to be enjoying the game so far.

"Agreed, by all means, let's play!", he clapped excitedly.

She took a deep breath, stared into his eyes and said "I don't love you anymore."

His smile faded. He opened his mouth, and closed it without a word.

After a while he asked, not looking at her, what wish she would have.

"To go home Hanuman. To go home."

The Goblin Prince and the New Outhouse

There once was a small village founded around a copse of trees.

From this small forest the villagers took a surprising amount of wood to build their houses, carts, plow frames and anything else they had need of.

The villagers also dug a latrine in the middle of the forest, so that they may rid themselves of things they had no need of anymore in private.

In this small forest lived a small goblin prince, and he found this situation quite delightful. He had quite a many trees, so thought nothing of exchanging it for the daily visits by humans, and being a very young goblin, he found the idea of various body eliminations quite humorous and delightful.

And so it went on, the young goblin continued to make the forest thrive and provide wood, as well as watching over the villagers at some of their most vulnerable moments. He made sure animals didn't dig up their latrine pit, or bring disease to it. In exchange, he occasionally pushed people into the latrine when they least expected it, or would smudge their fine linens in places they were unlikely to notice.

These jokes made the goblin laugh and laugh, and he thought it a fair trade for the bounty and prosperity his woods had brought them.

One day, while the goblin was enjoying a sleep atop the latrine, a carpenter with a load of wood from another forest happened upon the town, and heard their tales of evacuous woe. He immediately offered his services to build them a small outhouse atop the latrine, so that they may no longer accidentally foul themselves or their clothes.

The village was unianimous in their support, so the carpenter wheeled his cart out to the latrine to begin his work immediately. And not seeing the patron of the small forest amidst the muck and filth he began his construction atop the sleeping prince. He was a skillful in his trade, and easily finished before the goblin prince awoke.

The goblin prince woke up confused and frightened. He found himself in some sort of dark cage fashioned of foreign wood, which he was forbidden by vow to touch. He was terribly frightened, and when a little girl came to try the new latrine, opened the door letting in light it startled him greatly.

But he was not the only one who was startled, the littler girl, not expecting a howl from the new toilet was equally startled and she fled crying, leaving the door ajar. Seeing his way out, the goblin prince deftly leapt up through the hole in the latrine and out the door.

While scaring the girl was kind of funny, the goblin could not help feeling hurt at the perceived treachery of the townspeople, and so he set off to visit his father for advice.

He traveled 3 days and nights to his father's deep forest, which was so vast and untamed that the humans around it would whisper warnings not to venture too far in lest they never return. But to the goblin prince it was a warm and inviting place and he knew the name of nearly every tree there.

At last he reached the middle, and after relaying the story to his father, his father issued advice.

"It seems they have lost respect for you son, perhaps you should give them a reminder of whence their fortune comes?"

"But how am I too do that father?", asked the little goblin.

"Take a deep breath of the air from the middle of my forest, and do not release it until you reach yours vassals. It shall remind them of the horror that could be were we not so kind."

The goblin thanked his father for the advice, and after taking the deepest of breaths of the moist earthen air, he began running back home, the air so comfortable in his lungs he felt no need to exhale it.

It was deepest midnight by the time the goblin prince returned to his hamlet, his face was nearly purple from having held his breath for three days, as he had stretched the sustaining power of the breath for ever so long.

And he had only barely made it to the outer most house in the village before the air squeezed its way out of him.

A great roar, as if the very island they stood on was the belly of an enormous bear came forth out of the goblin prince's mouth. The little girl who was at the latrine awoke first, and she was so frightened that she screamed at the top of her lungs. Her mother in the room next door got up to scold her, and to tell her to hush, but instead of stern rebuttals, the mother found she could only scream. She turned towards her husband, who hearing his daughter and wife screaming, and fearing the worse, began screaming as well. Their neighbors, hearing the trio of non-stop screams were startled awake as well, and instead of saying "oh my, what do you think that is about" to one another, only screams came out, which genuinely frightened each other person, until they were both willingly screaming.

It spread rapidly from there, until the entire village was running around outside their houses, all issuing terrified screams about how none of them seemed able to do anything but scream.

It was at this point, that the little girl got it in her head that all of this must have been caused by the new outhouse, that it was clearly haunted by a wicked spirit doing this to them, and she began gesturing to the other adults to follow her.

Eager to follow anyone who may know what was going on, the village followed the little girl, screaming uncontrollably all the way.

When they arrived at the latrine, the little girl began trying to push it over, but was too small. Several of the other children came to her aide, but it was still not enough, for the carpenter was clever and did honest work. Finally all the adults joined in, and together with them pushing they managed to topple the outhouse over, smashing it down upon a large rock, shattering its timbers to splinters.

Of course, in the process of doing this, nearly the entire town had fallen head first into the pit beneath the latrine. Which delighted the goblin prince enough, that he immediately lifted his father's curse upon them, so that they might retunr home and get some rest.

The forest continued to provide all the wood the town needed, and the next carpenter who offered to build them an outhouse was run straight out of town.

The End.

Eit'ka's Lament

You have your counting tentacle double check. Two jagged agates, 1 large smooth stone and 2 pebbles. Yes, it has been nearly a full year since you have been trapped here, just a few days shy.

Any other year you'd be at the bottom of your lake, enjoying the delicious anticipation, letting the dull ritual drumbeats from the village thrumb over you. It is the closest your kind knows to contentment.

You are awoken out of your lazy daydream by something nibbling on tentacle #8. You flail it as much as the encasing stone and silt allow, which is a momentary reprieve. It takes less than a minute for the small rodent to realize your true impotence. It begins nibbling again, this time closer to where the rock presses down upon the tentacle. It takes you an hour of tricky maneuvering to get #6 and #7 over to throttle the beast.

All the movement leaves you in pain. While there is moist silt about, it is nothing compared to full immersion in your lake. Your normally slick skin now resembles the dry scales of a land beast, it hurts to move anything, and your tentacles scratch easily when wrestling with the rock.

You replay the infamous day of your defeat over and over. In a way it is the only thing you can do. There were so many other ways it could have gone.

In one daydream you simply hand back the maiden to the angered boy. "Tell your village to send another, as long as she is covered with lavender scented oils it matters not to me." The warrior drops his stone axe in joy, they embrace, and she makes a mess of the paint upon his face. "You are a most wise and kind god great Eit'ka, I shall convince the town elders to send you thrice as many maidens to thank you!", he responds.

The thought of three maidens when you will assuredly be getting none this year enrages you to a point beyond your control. You intone primal curses that would have made an expectant mother bathing in your lake miscarry. But here in cramped and airy acoustics of land they only sound like the pathetic hissing of a fallen tree consumed by fire.

This further angers you, and for the thousandth time you rage against the stones enclosing you. Working together your tentacles can hurl boulders twice this size, but individually pinned down they are weak. Like the jaws of your brother alligator which can be held shut by a babe, your tentacles were designed for whipping and constricting, not free lifting.

The rocks, this is all their fault. You were so blind. You were here when the land jutted up, you watched as the rain blunted it, as the chaotic streamlets carved their paths that eventually became the boulders set up on high. They were old friend to you, like a human who doesn't notice the gradual aging of an acquaintance, it never occurred to you that there would be so many loose rocks atop the river's canyon walls. Sure they would fall someday, but you never foresaw the audacity of the humans to speed a one-hundred year process into a span of a few seconds.

The rocks patiently weather your flailing. Their steady pressure seem to soothingly coo to you. "No, it is not us grand one, it is the boy. That smelly trickster boy, he is your undoing.

You had brought the village's offering to the north side of the lake, where the canyon river can wash over you, but your treat can still breathe. It is a special place. You think back to the first few bites. Not physical ones of course, you taste her memories, not her flesh. You lazily pluck the flower of her mind petal by petal your limbs spasm with joy for several seconds after each taste.

And then the boy appeared, unanointed so that his musk and stench seemed to permeate the very air. To his chest he seemed to clutch one of your smooth white eggs from your nest deep in the lake. Your children take thousands upon thousands of years to hatch, seeing it in the spider grip of such an unworthy creature was enraging.

He barked an insult you did not understand and ran down the riverbed into the canyon. You stopped thinking, you dropped your delicacy so that all 13 might assist in the pursuit.

He was infuriatingly quick. Hopping from slick stone to stone like the bastard child of rabbit and otter. The river frothed and reversed course as you surged after him.

Just when it seemed you almost had him, the tip of two of your tentacles kissing his back and theigh, he tossed your "egg" back and away, towards the canyon wall, you had to shift your whole body to intercept it in time. Three of your tentacles reached out, forming a cradle and plucked it from the air just in time, but you instantly knew something was wrong. It was far too heavy, and tasted wrong, and now that it was separated from the stench of the boy you could tell it was not yours, it was merely a stone replica!

You puzzled over this for months, eventually you realized that the shaman who visited you in dreams to communicate your desires to the village must have been more powerful than you imagined. He must have seen details that you had not meant him to see, such as what your precious nest of eggs looks like. You spend nights trying to reach out to his mind, and when that fails you plan the intricate flayings you would perform upon him if he was ever so foolish enough to initiate the ritual... But he never does.

Your memories end upon the realization of the fraud. Things happened quickly after that, with, presumably stone upon stone falling upon you. When you woke the river had already begun depositing silt and routing around you. Eventually no water would touch you, whether it was the work of the humans or the thieving beavers you'll never know.

This cycle of remembrance and rage ends, you remind yourself that you are immortal, indestructible, older than the world, and like everything else the rocks atop you will eventually erode away. This will keep you calm and give you solace... For awhile.


Why does kyle write such dumb stories?

-- poll results --


You were the chief architect of the Tacoma Narrow's Bridge project.

You had a lot of freetime in 1941 as nobody really wanted to hire an architect whose bridge fell down so spectacularly.

You spent ten years going over the calculations, trying to find what you had done wrong. None of the theories you found ever added up to you.

Everyone else had moved on long ago, having accepted the half-baked "wind-speed matching the bridge's natural harmonics" theory.

Eventually you came to the conclusion that there was no rational explanation left for the collapse of the bridge, which left only, magic!

You spent the next 25 years training in Akido and trying to track down those who had magically wronged you. In 1976, when you had bested every swordsmen in your dojo, you take out the address given to you by your source. It contained the name of agency in downtown L.A. which he said contained the coven of witches you were after.

You conceal your wooden bokken sword in an architectural tube, sling it across your back and point your bike towards vengeance.

"Calamor Designs" was on the third floor of a five story office building. You take the elevator up, and are greeted by a young secretary with a dark bowl cut, she apologetically tells you that everyone is in a meeting right now, and gestures towards a set of 4 seats and some magazines. She asks if she can get you anything.

"Yes, the last 30 years of my career back!"

You unsheathe your bokken from your back and strike her across the face before she can react, she crumples out of sight behind the desk.

You burst into the conference room. There are 5 middle-aged woman all dressed in long flowing dresses. One of them is standing by an easel, frozen in the act of flipping a page. The other 4 are seated around a round wooden table. They turn towards you.

"Before I finish you, tell me one thing, why did you do it?"

One woman rises from her chair slowly, but unafraid. She has long curly black hair and a darker dress than the others. You are struck by her eyes, and all that is implied by them.

"We have done nothing to you."

Your knuckles whiten and your hands redden as you clutch your sword tighter.

"You have ruined me!" you scream.

"You ruined yourself," she replies calmly. She gestures to the woman at the easel, who flips the large pages back to the beginning of the presentation entitled "Transverse Vibrational forces of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge".

She then goes about explaining how the support plate design and poorly tethered suspension cables went about to force the bridge to act as it did, and how it was inevitable that the environmental variables would eventually be perfect to cause in a resonant event which could only end in the bridge's collapse.

At the end you nod, the understanding washing over you.

It was your fault.

You look around sheepishly, sheathe your sword, and get up to leave. At the door to the conference room you look back to say something, but words fail you.

In the lobby, you see the secretary has pieces of blood-soaked kleenex in her nose, and is holding a sweating Tab can to one side of it.

You manage to stutter out a vague apology, on your way towards the elevator.

"Buzz off Geek!", she snarls.

You avoid her gaze as the elevator doors close.

Disappointing Spider

You are a spider on a park bench, and you are going to die.

The park bench seemed like a good idea at the time. Plenty of right angled structures for webs, and the strewn human crumbs guarantee some sort of insect activity.

But in practice, it didn't work so well. Shoes, bookbag straps, dropped napkins were always f-ing up your web. On top of that, the park bench is behind a big flat wall of a building, that really seemed to scoop a lot of strong winds half the time. So you waste a majority of your day just clinging with dear life to the wood, trying not to be blown away like a newborn.

In fact, if it hadn't been for a lost ant who just up and died nearby, you would be dead already.

You start making excuses. Bad genes. Inclimate weather conditions resulting in slow local insect maturation. But that's all a bunch of BS. You are the result of 2 billion iterations of successful spiders before you. You were born alongside hundreds of other nearly genetically identical brothers and sisters plenty of who are squatting over their own blossoming egg sacks already.

You just have to face up to it. You have only yourself to blame. You just didn't want it bad enough. You don't deserve to be consumed by the living glory of the next generation. You picked the park bench since you pretty much landed on it, and were too lazy to look for better wares. You half expected the flies to impale themselves, pre-wrapped onto your fangs.

In the end, you just weren't very good at being a spider, and it's probably a good thing that you won't be one for very much longer.

Revolution Revolution

Our hero is sitting in a row of interlocked chairs at the DMV, awaiting his number to be called. You might mistake him for a math professor, with his patched tweed suit, and his habit of holding a fist underneath his chin for head support.

He moves deliberately, head turning to examine the piles of magazines, pausing to judge the relative distance of both stacks near him, as if weighing the joint pain against the opportunity to reading a 3 month old issue of Time.

Presumably he decides against it, as instead he grips his cane with two hands, setting it squarely in front of him. He squints to make out the clock on the far wall, tilting his head up to attain the last bit of needed clarity. It is 1 minute to 9 o'clock. With an effort, he extends his left arm in front of him, comparing the dials on his wrist to those of the wall. He gives a snuff of approval and returns his grip to his cane.

He tried joining an existing group, but they wanted nothing to do with him. "Kids these days", as true as it ever was. It was unclear from their leader's rude rebuff whether they thought he was a government narc or just not capable of helping. In either case, within the next few weeks he'd disprove both.

Gladis is at the corner of Jackson and State. She is mounted atop a cherry red mobile assistance device. Half scooter, half wheelchair she ordered it late one night amongst promises that Medicare would cover it. This was mostly correct, save for the taxes and shipping and handling, which with something as heavy as this, rivaled the purchase price. In a way, she's happy that they swindled her, as it was the anger of that which drove her to seek out, something, anyway, to respond.

Nobody saw this coming, and there is no reason they should. It has never happened before. Historically, the concept of mass retirement is relatively new. Humans just are not meant to be purposeless. Sticking the wisest of us into a building with some of the only people who cannot appreciate our perspectives just piles on the misery.

"Even so, why hasn't his happened sooner?", you ask.

A fair question, the difference in our generation, was that we grew up knowing how to use the latest communication tools. We were not regulated to bitter political discussion over pinochle, but had already spent our lifetimes establishing connections with communities and groups, and so when we began being put out to pasture, either by ourselves or by our children, something started crystallizing. Something which fit perfectly into the gnawing desire for purpose building in the pit of our stomaches.

We had spent so many hours angrily talking about how things should be. How we disliked the status quo. How the system was broken, but at the time we were also busy. Some of us had kids, others had mortgage payments. Almost all of us were a little queasy about the idea of how an arrest record for even a civil disobedience charge might affect our future employability.

The young have too many concerns about their future to be able to act freely, there are simply to many logistical concerns which hinder their ability to express their conscience without hesitation.

Harvey is sitting in a late "Oughts" Outback, in a gas station parking lot overlooking a freeway. Some of the others in the group are driving the stereotypical gigantic Pontiacs, but he never threw in for those. He sips the sub par gas station coffee, his face pre-winced. He starts poking buttons on the car radio, trying to get it to show the time. He swear a couple times before succeeding. Nothing is ever easy.

At 10:02, our hero is being helped out of the door of the building by two good samaritans who seem to be holding their breath. People with sick expressions are rushing out of the building, they take dramatic breaths of relief when they reach the outdoors.

"Um, are you going to be okay, do you know how to get home?", one of the samaritans asks.

Our hero nods, still playing the dottering fool. He absently pulls at the back of his pants, which is beginning to feel cold and uncomfortably squishy. He'll walk across the parking lots towards a nearby McDonald's where he can change and hop on a bus before anyone realizes that this was not an isolated incident, but a warning shot...

"Oh thank you young men", Gladis purrs, "I don't know what happened!". A police officer and a college student are attempting to push her "vehicle" out of the middle of the crosswalk of State street. This has been going on for minutes now. They tried to push it, but she had set the brakes. They then asked her to get out, and she went dead weight on the college student, bringing both crashing to the ground.

That feigned "Oh my" as she fell, she will replay many a time later back amongst her cohorts.

The officer, at that point, had to stop what he was doing, and help her back into her saddle.

Eventually, someone with an elderly parent comes along and points out that the break is on, finally clearing the intersection. Three minutes total for Gladis, Doris, up on Lower Wacker will brag that she went a full five.

The young's greatest asset, is also one of their greatest weaknesses. The population has grown callouses to images of college-age kids being hauled away from doorways and roadways. Most 40 year olds just assume the kid is a pot-smoking good for nothing anyway. Moreover, the police can man-handle the kids with relatively little chance of permanent harm or likelihood of public sympathy.

We, on the other hand, our bones are made of glass. After our first sit in, we nearly bankrupted the local police force with just the civil suits from broken hips alone, and that picture of a police officer holding his baton menacingly at a phalanx of old ladies proffering a tray of cookies gave us more positive press than any ad campaign out of Madison Ave could ever have achieved.

Blank asphalt and empty asphalt stretches off into the distance in front of Harvey. It's an eerie sight on a Monday morning in California's I-10. He glances back in the mirror at the solid mass of cars, driving in formation to his left and behind him. They've even extended onto the shoulder, and he can see angry drivers behind them getting stuck as they try to pass them in the ditch. This only compounds the issue of course.

Harvey cranks up the radio, rolls down the window, and takes another sip of terrible coffee.


You are a monk in one of those monasteries on a mountain.

You never really thought you'd end up at a place like this, but your best friend joined up, and you thought you'd give it a try.

It's not too bad a gig, the monks are mostly good people, and you get to spend a lot of time with your best friend.

You spend a lot of the day trying to achieve a vision through constant meditation, or at least that's what you're supposed to be doing. In all honesty you spend most of the time dozing off and trying really hard not to fart.

And that was how it went, until the day you received the vision.

You were in the meditation room, surrounded by the monks and the master. As a matter of routine, you found yourself having to clench yourself to avoid passing gas... However, this time, you think it might be more than that. After a few minutes of that you're confident it's more than that, and fear you might have some sort of stomach illness.

Now this puts you in a quandary, since the room with the pot for such things is just down the hall a short ways, with no separating walls or doors to speak of. You've always been kind of prudish about bodily functions, so you decide you have to soldier on.

The discomfort quickly turns to pain, but you hold strong. Each second is agonizing, and you are sure at any moment you are going to lose it. Small bright shapes begin to appear before your eyes as you squeeze them shut in solidarity with your gastronomical plumbing. It seems like years pass.

Until finally you see only white, and a voice that is not your speaks to you, "You're just going to hurt yourself if you keep that up much longer. Go drink a tea of mint and lavender, and goto sleep."

You wake immediately, spring to your feet into a run, and make it to the bathroom mostly in time.

Minutes pass, and after you are done, you hear the master's voice outside, he asks if he can get you anything. "A tea of lavender and mint would be lovely", you reply.

There is a silence, and the master asks you to repeat yourself. Worried that you may have overstepped your bounds, you obediently repeat your exact phrase.

To which the master replies, "Ahh, many feel sick after experiencing a vision, I pray you'll tell me more of it when you are better."

Young Apocolyptic Love

You hold the hand of your new wife, looking up through the haze trying to catch a glimpse of the stars.

You gave her a ring you found on a corpse half covered with debris. It is far too large for her finger, and she makes a fist to keep it from falling off.

Most newlyweds around the world spend this first night differently, but not the orphans of the siege. Both of you lost your parents in the shelling and bombing of the city several years back. Carnal matters are far from the minds of both of you, as they are the luxury of those who do not sleep in rubble, skin pocked with signs of malnutrition and plagued by deep and damp coughs.

Besides both of you know the stories, taking your clothes off is the first step towards your clothes being stolen.

So you both gaze up into the night, wondering if tonight will be the night a shell will fall on the building where you sleep, and both of you take solace in the fact that if it does, you won't be leaving this world alone and unnoticed, but as husband and wife.

As the dawn creeps over the fractured skyline, you both still lie awake, wondering who will be the first to free their hand from the other. Luckily a nearby blast breaks the tension and the hands fly apart from each other, as if exploding themselves.

The morning is awkward. The union, whose purpose seemed so clear in the night time now seems positively embarrassing. There is a moment of horror as it seems as if she might be taking off the ring to give back to you. But instead she slips it off her finger and into her pocket.

"I better go", she says.

"Yeah", you say.

She walks slowly away, picking her way through the uneven ground.

"Seeya tonight?", you blurt, the naked desperation of it already reddening your ears.

"Yeah", she says with a small smile, before leaping down and out of sight.

The Greatest Singer in the World

You are the world's greatest singer.

Your voice can make wise men weep, calm a candle flame or give any man or woman's heavenly spirit a rock hard boner.

Sadly, you've become too attached to the idea of being the World's Greatest Singer. So much of your identity is wrapped up in it, that you've stopped performing, lest there might come a day when, amongst the crowds writhing with the ecstasy from your song, but one person might opine "I've heard better".

So you vowed to sing no more.

But The Greatest Singer in the World cannot simply stop singing and be at peace.

So every few months you've spend an entire day taking short, commercial airline flights around New England. You use a pseudonym and a disguise, and alway book seats near the back of the plane where the engine's din is the loudest.

And when the plane lurches forward, turbines humming, the sound of churned air clawing at the metal rivets of the plane nearly deafening, you sing.

You sing like The World's Greatest Singer, because you are.

No one is ever the wiser. Due to a mix of social pressure and G-forces no one has ever looked you in the face during those first frightening two minutes and discovered your secret.

Sure some of the people nearby you think they can hear the hint of the most beautiful music possible, but they always believe it to be an imagined artifact of the roar.

Sandwich Lord

You have won a lifetime of free sandwiches from a local sandwich shop! They give you a neat little engraved card so they can identify you.

Having free sandwiches is great, you start each day standing impatiently outside for them to open so you can start your day off with a breakfast sandwich. You drive over during lunch, despite the fact that your work is on the other side of town for your mid-day sandwich, and you will usually stop in once, or twice during the night depending what's on TV.

After several months of this your fondness for sandwiches transcends others, and you begin to feel a strange sort of kinship with them. They speak to you. (That or you have discovered the necessary dosage of cold cut preservatives to act as neuro-toxins)

The more you hear from them, the more they seem disappointed with your use of your station. "You could be doing so much more!" they implore! Give sandwiches to the hungry!

So you start spending your weekends distributing sandwiches to homeless people. Until eventually they start referring to you affectionately as "sandwich guy".

Soon you get another message from the sandwiches "Use your sandwich trust-bond to lure them into dark alleys, and then finish them!"

"What? No!" You respond.

But they persist, "It is your right and duty as Sandwich Lord!"

So you do it, and enjoy it. The "free sandwiches" card in your pocket grows colder and hums contentedly with each kill.

You become very good at feigning surprise and horror when other hobos tell you that someone has gone missing while you hand them sandwiches.

Were you a stronger man you might resist at this point, in a last ditch effort to claw yourself back up out of the abyss before it is too late.

But you aren't that man.


You are the only journalist at a major news outlet who does serious news anymore, and are unsure how much longer you will be able to go before you are discovered.

You started out small, injecting news facts via metaphors "the starlet's hair appeared on the runway with the sort of smooth sheen akin to that on the lake near Decatur, AL where a tanker load of benzene was overturned off a bridge".

You went straight for a few months after that, wary of any blowback, but soon the thrill of doing actual forbidden journalism so excited you that you had to try it again and again. The second you went down this path, you knew how it would end, but you didn't care.

Especially now, you seem to be embracing the end. Last week you interjected an entire non-sequitor fact filled paragraph into a story, planning on blaming it on some corruption from an older file in the system.

This has prompted a full review of all your other stories, and the men with lab coats who just walked past your cube avoiding eye contact can mean only one thing. That this season's fall fashions are more revealing than ever.