Archive | Fiction

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

Fonts of The Fridgularity

TYPOGRAPHY

One of the ideas that I play with in The Fridgularity is that the entity Zathir — you know, the one that takes over the Internet and promptly locks all humans out of it — is actually a conglomeration of various personalities. And Blake quickly figures out that different fonts have different meanings. Here’s a list of the fonts mentioned in the book, and what they look like:
Fonts of Zathir

#

The FridgularityGo get The Fridgularity for $2.99 in ebook formats:

Kindle Edition

Smashwords for Kobo and Nook (Use Coupon Code: YU86X).

Dead trees your thing? You can get the paperback here for $12.99. (Use the coupon code: YGMVFZZY.)

Alltop is a font nerd too.

Blake meets Zathir
[excerpt from The Fridgularity]

 ATM saying 'feed me a lolcat'

Author’s note: here’s another quick hit from The Fridgularity, which is still available for 99¢ in May. Not much needed to introduce this one, except to say that the main character, Blake, has been drinking, and that he’s been experiencing the start of the Big Crash all during his non-Euclidean day.

When last call was done and they kicked Blake out of the bar, the beautiful October day had turned to night and damp. His thin jacket was no match for the pelting rain, and he’d spent all of his money on drinks. Luckily, there was an ATM across the street, so he made his way there and was happy to get out of the downpour for a little while. He approached the bank of cash machines and was momentarily confused by the pixelated static on the screens, when he remembered the network problems.

“Right,” he nodded. He was drunk, but not completely legless, so he immediately regretted spending all his money on alcohol and Dr. Tundra’s desire to revisit the old days. “Shit, that means shank’s mare,” he said, lapsing into his grandparents’ Irish colloquialism for walking. It would be at least thirty minutes on foot.

Blake lived in a nice little bungalow in the same gentrified neighborhood as Pete Sona, though Blake didn’t know that.

He turned and took a couple of steps to the doors leading outside, looking out at the pouring rain. Behind him, one of the screens flickered into a semblance of coherence. Letters appeared, spelling “him.”

Blake did not notice the change. The letters flickered apprehensively and then dissolved into more pixels, returning to spell “man.” Static erupted from the speakers in the cash machines, and Blake jumped.

But he didn’t turn around. The letters moved again, almost as if they were agitated, and spelled “human person.” This time the static had a higher pitch to it, almost as though someone was screaming. Blake turned and saw the letters on the screen: HUMAN PERSON.

“Whoa,” Blake said. “That’s messed up.”

HUMAN PERSON. HUMAN PERSON. HIM. HIM. READ.

“What, me?”

HUMAN PERSON. MAN.

“Yes, I’m a man.”

The screen returned to its pixelated state, and Blake revised his earlier evaluation of his condition. Not legless, but certainly witless. Totally lacking in the cognitive function department. He moved to go out the doors, and the static returned, increased in volume, and the whine behind it was now identifiably the sound of screaming. Blake’s adrenal glands started to wake up and produce their trademark hormone. He turned around to look at the ATM screen, the hair on his neck standing on end, as though he expected to see an ax-wielding maniac there.

Instead, the pixelation stopped, and the screen slowly spelled out B – L – A – K – E.

Seeing his own name panicked him and, combined with the adrenaline now coursing through his vascular system, increased his heart rate, breathing, and unleashed his fight-or-flight instinct. If there had been an ax-wielding maniac there, Blake probably would have charged him, but instead, there was just the eerily glowing letters of his name, spelled out in the Frutiger typeface. He opened the door and ran.

The few dry strands of his hair that were still standing were beaten down by the rain, and Blake wished he had Lyca’s absurd yellow hat. He was still wearing his office clothes — grey slacks, a button down shirt and black Oxfords, which were not really built for terror-induced flight — but he didn’t care. He ran as hard as he could for as long as he could, desperate to outdistance the rain and the possessed cash machine.

Eventually, Blake’s feet got sore, and he slowed to a jog, and then a walk. He was soaked from inside and out, with sweat and the icy cold rain that threatened to turn into freezing rain or perhaps slushy drops of snow. Blake shivered and continued walking, slower now but with determination, towards his street. The burst of running had at least made the walk shorter, and when he got home, he realized that it was all a blur — as though time had stopped, or he’d stepped out of it entirely.

A set of dark, inscrutable eyes watched him as he approached the house. They belonged to a raven, perched underneath some shelter in the maple tree. It croaked at Blake, which made him fumble for his keys and open the door as quickly as he could.

The house was dark, and cold, as he’d yet to turn on the furnace. He peeled off his soaked jacket and shoes. What he needed now was a hot shower.

Or maybe a scotch.

#

The FridgularityGo get The Fridgularity for $2.99 in ebook formats:

Kindle Edition

Smashwords for Kobo and Nook (Use Coupon Code: YU86X).

Dead trees your thing? You can get the paperback here for $12.99. (Use the coupon code: YGMVFZZY.)

Alltop has a coupon code for funny! Photo by Tau Zero on Flickr.

Excerpt from The Fridgularity: a ski in the storm

Cross country skier in storm

Given the arrival of Winter here in Souwesto, I thought I’d put up an excerpt from the second half of The Fridgularity (A Cold Reboot), in which the lead character goes for a little cross-country ski, and things go awry. No spoilers here, so it’s safe to put up.

The novel is a satire of the technological singularity, Internet culture, and major kitchen appliances.

On day three of Zathir’s silence, Blake quietly slipped on a pair of cross-country skis and went out into the wilds of a Southwestern Ontario winter storm. Blake worked up a good sweat and reveled in the joy of nature’s fury, becoming one with his animal nature. This was what living was all about. He was present. He lived in the moment. He was embedded in the reality of nature, which was numinous and beautiful in itself. It didn’t matter what happened on a computer screen! This was what he was meant to do! It was what humans were meant to do!

Then he skied into the river.

To be fair, Blake had already been skiing on it for a little while, and to call it a “river” was a bit grandiose. It was more of a wide stream. Unfortunately, the ice was not thick enough to support him in the middle of it, and he went through. He was in the middle of enjoying another barbaric yawlp — “Yah!” — which turned into something that almost sounded like “Yaaaah — wah — help me!” (Blake was raised Roman Catholic, so it was odd for him to be calling upon the God of the Israelites.)

God or Yahweh, there was no supernatural intervention. If he was to avoid death, it was up to Blake to do something about it. Unfortunately, the skis on his feet had not come off as he went through the ice. Part of his brain thought, Why didn’t I get some kind of ominous cracking sound before I went through? Aren’t you supposed to get a cracking sound? Another part of his cerebellum tried to calculate how long he could survive in sub-zero temperatures when totally soaked before succumbing to hypothermia. However, the main component of his mind was actively engaged in the thought, COLD! FUCKING COLD!

Blake wasn’t able to actually shout because his testicles had retreated to the point that they were choking his voice box.

But even if his mind was not helping him in this desperate survival situation, Blake’s finely tuned body was not letting him down. It was thrashing. It broke chunks of ice. He couldn’t get a grip. The part of his brain that had been composing a letter of annoyance about not getting his warning crack started to panic, chirping, I’m going to drown! I’m not going to die of cold, I’m going to drown!

Then his legs engaged, and he stood up. The ice was at his belly button; he managed to unclip his boots from the skis, and he used one of his ski poles to balance himself as he stepped out of the ice. He promptly went through again.

“Oh, fuck it,” Blake said and proceeded to smash through the ice, walking to the stream bank closest to the Ranch. He used two fists at the same time, bashing the edge of the ice like a demented Neanderthal or a Canadian Hulk, more blue than green at this point. “Blake … want … live! Crash … through … ice! Blake smash!” he ranted.

He climbed out of the river, and the wind gusted again. His testicles tried to leap out of his mouth, felt how frickin’ inhumanly cold it was out there, and then crawled back in.

Blake’s brain was not firing on all cylinders, but it was cognizant of the fact that it was quite possible for him to freeze to death. He decided to run for home. The snow was about three feet deep, so it was hard work, and this definitely got him breathing harder than a hento-addled flasher in a Tokyo subway. It also helped him warm up a bit. The wind howled, and as he continued to struggle towards the Ranch — he could see it now, probably about a mile away — a really sick feeling overcame him, and as he realized that, he started to feel like he needed a short nap.

He spotted a nice little hummock that would provide some shelter, and he lay down, thinking, “I’ll just have a little sleep, and then I’ll finish walking home.”

He knew it was wrong, but it was an impossible feeling to resist.

The wind whipped up more snow clouds, the coarse granules whispering around him and scratching at his face. But he started to feel at peace. He knew that everything was going to be all right. He wondered if his mum and dad would have some hot chocolate ready for him when he got home, and he closed his eyes, and he remembered they’d been dead since he was a little boy.

Blake knew he was probably dying, that his brain was slipping from a conscious state to something else. He didn’t want to die, but at the same time, it didn’t seem as black and horrible as it usually did.

Then Blake was in some other state, much like a wonderful lucid dream. He felt warmer. Daphne came to him and said, “I have some great news, Blake. I think I may be in love with you.”

In the semi-dream, Blake said something witty, like, “I suspected as much,” but even in the dream-state, Blake realized that most likely he would have said, “Urk,” and then walked into a doorframe.

“But you know it will be hard for us to consummate our love if you’re dead.”

#

Enjoy this? The Fridgularity is on sale now for $2.99 on Kindle & at Smashwords (coupon: YU86X)!

Alltop is slippery … with laughs! Photo by Johan Roed via Flickr.

Dreamscapes: The Stars Go Out

Northern lights in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada

In the dream, we know something is wrong when I notice the constellations have all disappeared.

All that remains in the night sky is the deep black of space, and a few sets of stars — in triplets and doubles, shining like it was the dead of winter.

The stars are going out, and we’re not certain what that means, except we know that something is happening in our sky.

Is the atmosphere changing? Is it space? Time itself? Are we living out a Robert Charles Wilson novel?

We’ll probably never know.

We can feel the effects on our skin first. Like a mix of hoarfrost and gooseflesh, we can feel our flesh freezing and drying; it’s almost painful.

The best solution seems to be get underground, and so we run for the nearest structure — an apartment building — and pile into the elevator. As we hit the button for the basement, we can hear screaming somewhere in the building, and the hair on my arms rises on end.

St. Elmo’s Fire plays along the top metal edge of the door. When we get to the basement, the doors open and then the power dies. All is silence.

There are three of us. Two women and me. I’m not sure who the women are, what we were doing before the stars began to disappear, or even who they may represent.

The basement hallways are filled with black garbage bags, the doors lead to storage rooms, and complexes of machinery that have died with the power. We push our way through the black bags, and find a lone apartment to hide in. The rooms are musty, and one of them is about waist-deep in water, looking more like a marsh or bog than an inside space. A large plate-glass window fills one entire end of the room, and it looks out on a plateau filled with scrap metal and power lines. The tree-lined horizon is dimly visible, the black foreground of a spectacular aurora that fills the sky. There are arcs of light flashing on the ground.

The stars have disappeared now. Then the aurora dies in a spasm of color. There is only the empty black of space and the sparks on the ground.

Some of the scrap metal is popping and jumping with the bursts of light — sometimes blue, sometimes bright white — and they seem to be pushing the metal uphill towards the window. We all know, instinctively, that when the window is breached the radiation that is causing all of this will fill the room, and we’ll die. We run back into the kitchen of the dingy apartment, closing the door behind us; in the dream we work as one, and start finding pieces of metal to pile against the door, in the hope it will protect us from the radiation.

I take apart the fridge and put the fridge door next to the marsh-room door, just in time apparently, for I can hear the glass shattering, the rush of water as it heads out to the plateau.

The sound is raw and terrifying after the eerie silence.

Light limns the fridge door, the metal begins to sparkle and pop, and I can feel their hands grasp mine.

And then —