Archive | Fiction

Short stories, flash fiction and other free scribblings from Mark’s work.

The Procedure

Lightning surgery

Grounding the team had been difficult, but not impossible.

Dr. Hansrik assured them there would be no danger, once the patient was unconscious. Prior to sedation, the patient was capable of anything. (Just ask the good folk of Peoria, Illinois, who’d made the terrible mistake of not taking the patient’s demands for “unlimited chicken wings and non-stop trivia” seriously.)

Everyone held their breath while Dr. Hansrik opened up the patient’s thoracic cavity. The crackle of static was deafening, and electricity played over everyone and everything in the room. The air smelled of ozone and hot sauce.

Dr. Hansrik said, “I think I see something. Forceps, please.”  He latched onto …  It was impossible to tell in the arcs of snapping light. He gently loosened and pulled.

The light pulsed once and disappeared — the static electricity, the overhead lights, even the ambient sunshine coming through the windows. There was total darkness, silence. The entire surgical team was plunged into what could only be described as a void of sight and sound.

And then a voice boomed, either in their heads, or so loud it consumed all the senses in the world. In either case, everyone was still, suspended in the essence of nothing.

“For the game, correctly answer the following question: what is real?”

Alltop is mostly made up. Genius gif by Un gif dans ta gueule.

Why’s Wally?

why's wally

“I looked up at the mass of signs and stars in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world.”

― Albert Camus, The Stranger

The shirt lay on his bed. It mocked him. It compelled him to wear it, but he didn’t want to. He hated the shirt.

That and the stupid hat.

What if he didn’t put them on? That was always an option, surely? He had some other clothes, didn’t he? He went to his closet and was mildly horrified to see that it was stuffed with striped shirts, red and white bobble hats, and an assortment of jeans. How had his life come to this? He made his way to the back of the closet, and could find nothing but red and white stripes. Red and white. The jeans were all blue, the same style. Not even brand name.

Wally looked out at the bedroom, morning sunshine angling in through the venetian blinds.

The light reminded him of Algeria, dry as the pages of a book. Wally had just finished reading The Stranger and it haunted him. He’d been to Algeria, of course. He’d been everywhere.

Wally had met Camus, too, during his time-travelling days. In fact, Wally had met the French writer while Camus was authoring his other famous book, The Myth of Sisyphus.

He remembered the conversation they’d had over cheap wine in a crowded Parisian bistro: “For me, chér Charlie, the only serious philosophical question is this: is life worth living? The world is irrational, and yet … yet, we yearn for happiness and the rational. Why? It is absurd. There is no sense to it. This is the heart of my thinking, Charlie. The absurd is born of our human need for reason and the unreasonable silence of the world.”

“But don’t you feel as though you are being watched?” he’d asked, not bothering to correct Camus about his name. It didn’t matter where he went, everyone seemed to use the local version of Wally. In America he was “Waldo”, in German “Walter”, in France “Charlie”. Better not to make waves, to blend in. His instinct was to hide in plain sight, so he rolled with it, always.

“Watched?”

“Yes. Don’t you feel like you are constantly being watched?”

“God?” Camus had said, a look of amusement on his face.

“God? What? No. People. That people are looking for you?”

“You mean the Nazis?”

“They could be Nazis, but not just the Nazis. I don’t know,” Wally had said “They are looking for me, though, I’m not making that up. It’s like they’re searching for me.”

Camus had thought about that for a moment, and smiled warmly. He had grasped Wally’s right bicep, squeezing it like an old friend: “Madness has a kind of freedom in it, though you are in a prison, nonetheless. It is another duality.”

And then the crowd had started to thin, and it was time for Wally to go. When he was not absolutely alone, he couldn’t be comfortable unless there was a crowd. He only felt safe surrounded by hundreds, or thousands. It was probably why he never worked things out with Wilma. Or her identical twin, Wenda, for that matter. Wally blushed as he remembered the three of them together, that one night. But three, as it turned out, wasn’t a big enough crowd for it to work.

Was Camus right? Was it possible there was nobody watching him? If that was so, then there would be a kind of freedom he’d never felt. He wouldn’t have to be so circumspect. He wouldn’t have to spend all his time trying to blend in with the crowd. That could get challenging, he’d found, especially in more exotic locales, times, realities… Wally wondered what Camus would have made of his stint in a dimension known as Clown Town. The place had been nightmarish. Apocalyptic. Everyone was a clown, and everything was shaped like a clown. Camus would probably have enjoyed the delicious absurdity of the place and time. It was one of the worst scenes Wally had ever found himself in, but if he had been wearing something other than his stripped shirt and bobble hat, those clowns would have ended up juggling with his skull. He knew it.

So the shirt had saved him on occasion, but it was, as Camus hinted, a prison. Like Meursault, the main character in The Stranger, Wally faced the rest of his life behind bars. Though unlike Meursault, his life could be very long.

Wally realized that he was still standing in his closet, naked except for his underwear and socks. Red and white striped boxers and knee-highs, of course. His dresser was filled with them.

He walked to the window, and opened the blinds. Outside he could see his yard. It was spring again, though he couldn’t really tell you how long it had been spring. The trees were in bloom, and bright blue forget-me-nots dotted the lush green grass. He could see Woof’s tail wagging strongly enough to shake his whole backend, his front obscured by a bush. The dog had probably found a rabbit or some other creature, helpless, trying to hide.

Wally looked at the shirt and all his other clothes on the bed. When he put them on, and picked up the walking stick, he would be whisked away, as he always was. He looked out at the yard, dappled in the May sunshine, and realized that he’d never been in it. He’d never felt the grass between his toes.

He took off his socks. Slipped out of his boxers, and tried to open the window. It was frozen shut. He smashed the panes of glass with his fist. He climbed through, cutting himself in the process. Red stripes of blood wound down his pasty white legs, but Wally didn’t care.

The grass felt wonderful.

The End

Enjoy this? There’s more like it in my longer works.

Alltop was always more of a Tintin reader. Originally published by the Jersey Devil Press, Jan. 2014.

William Shatner’s Inaugural Address

(After Winning the First Post-Two-Party Presidential Election)

william shatner, president

Friends, Americans, Countrymen! Lend me your ears. I come to bury our two-party system, not praise it.

I stand before you today, not as a conqueror, not as pop icon, but as your President. An American president.

Now, what I say next is not said with malice, but I bet you few, pathetic, angry, angry Republicans left standing now regret amending the Constitution so the Governator could be eligible, don’t you? Eh? Just a little bit?

Come on, a robot against Captain Kirk? It’s insulting!

Our new system will have to adapt, to find new worlds, to boldly go where no POTUS has gone before. I gotta’ tell you, this is more fun than pantsing George Takei.

They told me to be Presidential, so I should say that I intend to bring our country together. No more petty infighting between two groups that basically represent the same interests. We can look forward to petty infighting amongst dozens of groups, which represent the same interests.

My party, the Federation Party (or the Star Trek Party as it’s known to the Twitterati) is open to all Americans. It is a cooperative party, an optimisit party, which is why WE are forming a government. If we can cooperate with the Star Wars Ascendancy Party of America and the American Stargate Association, then we can cooperate with anyone. Even Ralph Nader.

I’m looking forward to working with my Vice-President, Mark Hamill. He looks easy to control. I like that. I’m not sure about Richard Dean Anderson. The agreement is that we’ll make him the Secretary of State, but I’m not sure he’s up to it. I think we should give him Transportation or Energy where he can do less damage, but the agreement was State, so what the hell.

This is my inaugural address, so I should give you some kind of indication of where I plan to take the country in the next four years. Space, naturally. If I don’t do something space-wise the fanboys are going to crucify me. Seriously, the only reason I’m not wearing a Starfleet uniform to this thing is that I threatened to turn everything over to Hamill if they made me wear it.

So Mars, definitely. And whatever new gizmos we can come up with. Personally, I want a phaser that will allow me to stun Leonard Nimoy’s cryogenically preserved head whenever he starts to go on a policy rant. He helped me run a great campaign and he’s gonna be a terrifying Chief of Staff.

But today is all about me!  And America. Yay America!

And for all you Canadians, filled with pride there is finally a Canadian-born President of the United States, I have some good news and bad news. First the good: the border crossing is going to be much easier. You won’t need a green card to work in the USA anymore. And I’m going to insist to the CRTC that you get to watch American Super Bowl ads.

Bad news? We’re gonna’ need Alberta. And the Winnipeg Jets, for some reason.

The End

Now vote with your wallet, and buy some long-form satirical fiction:

The Ruins — a new flash fiction at the Caesura Letters

Cottage ruins, County Kerry, Ireland

I have a new flash fiction up this week at the Caesura Letters called The Ruins. It’s a different kind of piece — a meditation on the nature of Stoicism (though to be fair, it has a dash of existentialism in it.)

If you haven’t already checked out the Caesura Letters, you really should. It’s “a magazine for critical thinkers, mindful contemplatives, and life-long learners.” And it’s rich with philosophy. I’m grateful to the editor and founder, James Shelley, for including fiction in the mix now too. The digital subscription is only $4.99 a month — an insanely good deal.

Photo by Keith Ewing via Flickr