Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gerbil

"There's no easy way to say this – you're a gerbil."

I liked a blunt doctor, he got to the point and didn't pussyfoot around with the tidbits of minutiae related to what was ailing me. He was a good man - the kind of guy who would sleep with your wife and call you half way through to cancel on golf, the kind of man who would take your dog for a walk without telling you; he was the kind of man you'd want to hear news like this from.

"What are my options?" I asked. I wanted Dr. Brimmel to know that I was fully 100% on board with my treatment. I wasn't going to sit on this and wait for sunshine to come out of my ass. Like that time I got diabetes and simply stopped putting cheese on my donuts in the morning.

"Well, you have several options." The doctor looked down at his tote board. "Wait, did I say several?"

"Yes, doctor."

"I meant more like one." The doctor lifted his eyebrow.

Then I lifted mine.

Then he lifted his again.

"OK, what is it? I want to be a part of my healing." I was actually getting excited about it. I was looking for something to do this weekend and this whole don't be a gerbil thing could be just what I was looking for.

"Well, for starters, you'll have to stop smoking." He lifted his eyebrow again.

"But…wait – I just. What are the cons of being a gerbil?" I wasn't going to stop smoking.

"Well, you'll have to eat grains and leaves."

"K."

"And you'll have to have sex with other gerbils."

I thought about telling him I already had, but then thought better of it. "K."

"And you won't be able to drive a car."

"But I drove here."

"Yes, but you didn't turn into a gerbil until you entered the office."

That made sense to me. I decided not to ask him about the specifics. "What are the pros?"

"You'll be able to cut down on your smoking as you will not be able to smoke a whole cigarette due to your reduced size. Also, you lost a lot of weight. I mean like 215 pounds. Let me think…oh, you don't have to work."

I thought this through. "But who will take care of me?"

"Well, you aren't married. Do you have family?"

I thought long and hard on this one. I couldn't remember if I had family or if I just didn't talk to them anymore. "I'm not sure."

"That's another con – you have 84% less brain function."

"That's gonna hurt."

"Indeed. I'm surprised you're able to talk right now."

"So, as far as gerbils go, I'm pretty remarkable."

"Quite so. Have you ever considered a career in the circus?"

"Never, tell me more."

The doctor examined some X Rays that had small labels like "Gerbilization of the forearm" or "Gerbilization of the head".

"Well, a circus is a group of people and animals that do things to entertain people."

"Tell me more."

"They have popcorn."

"Where do I sign up?"

"Not so fast. You need to get a pet license. Also, you need to see a vet now, because I know nothing about gerbils. Then, after those tasks are performed, you can apply for the circus."

"Do I need a resume?"

"Of course you do."

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Drifter

It all started with a knocking at the door.

It was late, and I had been asleep. I closed my eyes, figuring it was just a dream, but then I heard another knock. This time much louder than before.

I got out of bed and purposely turned on no lights, as if it was something weird I would not answer the door, but just wait for the person to leave.

I moved towards the door and peered into the eye hole.

It was a man about six foot, dressed in denim, and had his hair pulled back in a pony tail.

I waited for him to leave.

Then there was another knock. I slowly moved to my closet and pulled out a bat and returned to the door.

I peered out the peek hole once again and he was still standing there, but now he was smoking a cigarette. This led me to believe he would not be leaving any time soon.

I opened the door with the bat behind it so he couldn’t see my suspicion.

“Can I help you?”

“Sure, friend. You see I’m lost. I’m looking for a town around here.” He smelled like oranges.

“What town?”

“I don’t know.” He smiled at me and I could see that he was missing most of his teeth.

“Look, it’s late and I was sleeping. What do you want?”

“I told you, I’m looking for a town.” He looked around and grinned as if there were other people listening.

“OK. I’m calling the cops.”

I closed the door on him and then waited a few seconds and peered back through. He was waving at me and smiling.

I thought about calling the cops, but the man had done nothing wrong yet. Not until I explicitly told him to leave. And, after all, it was an apartment complex – I didn’t own it.

I opened the door again. “Look, what town are you looking for? If you don’t know, I can’t help you.”

“But you do know. You’re standing in it.”

“Issaquah?”

“No. That’s the city. You’re in the town in the city, friend.” He grinned at me again. Then he turned around and looked into the woods. “Man, they say there’re lions out here.”

“Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s no lions anywhere.”

“No lions!” He grinned again and then shook his head. “You’re the mayor of this town and you don’t know there’s lions about?”

There was no winning. I had to call the cops. I closed the door and dialed 911. When I looked out the peek hole to describe the man to the operator he was gone. I mentioned this and then they explained that there was nothing they could really do.

I didn’t sleep the rest of the night.

The following evening I didn’t sleep, but he didn’t come back.

The next evening, I opened the door to get the mail and he was standing outside admiring the small creek in front of my apartment.

“You said there’s no lions back here?”

“Fuck off.” I walked to the mailbox and it slowly dawned on me that I wouldn’t sleep for the entire week.

“That’s no way to talk, man.” His voice had changed into something close to a growl.

“Just fuck off.” I kept walking and when I turned he was gone and a lion was in his place.

“Jesus fuck!” I yelled. "Jesus fuck!"

The lion approached me and I stood frozen to the ground. I could no longer speak.

“Fucking A, man. Tell me where the town is!” It was him, but his voice was coming from somewhere else. The lion paused and turned to a tree and began licking it.

The tree began moving and a branch moved toward the lion and it was as if the tree was stroking it.

I looked at the tree and all at once it was the man. “You know where the town is. Just tell me, dude.”

“What town!” I screamed and then cringed as I realized I could be disturbing the lion.

“Downtown, brother! Downtown!” And as he said it, the lion and the man began to fade into black shadows and the shadow became a tall figure. Almost like a monolith, about eight feet tall and where their eyes had been, small globes appeared and joined to create a small orb to the left of the figure’s head.

There was a crackling and then from far away, but still from a moving void inside the figure’s mouth “Downtown, brother. Downtown. Don’t you want to get down?”

I began walking backward and tripped and looked up at the apparition. The orb was now spinning around the eight foot tall shadow man. “I’m not from around here, you see.” It sounded like it was talking from behind static on a television. “I’m not at all from around here.” The orb began spinning quicker around the giant. “Are you a trickster elf, boy?” The voice sounded like the thing was spinning along with the orb. I could make out the sentence only by every other syllable.

“Nah-no-ah.” I stuttered.

The voice that came out next sounded more like a droning hum “Then maybe you want to go downtown.”

And then I awoke to a sound of a knock at the door.

I didn’t bother to grab the bat.

An Interview

"I have a feeling you are right for this position."

He was a fat man. Large in every way. You can be fat in some respects, and skinny in others, but he had the whole ballgame going on.

I didn't really want to do manual labor, but after losing my job and then applying for other jobs like it for nine months, I was down to soda crackers and butter for dinner and I really didn't want to lose the shithole apartment I lived in.

"I appreciate that."

"It says here that you have no expierence in mining, is that correct?"

"I don't know a thing about it. I know that it's a lot of work and I'll have to be trained on the job."

"That's correct, let me explain in more detail, though." He moved to grab a notebook from his desk and as he did his face, being pulled as he moved his head, suddenly popped.

It was just a small hole, like a zit, but it was black underneath. I thought it might be some rare skin disease or that weird filament disease that I saw on 20/20. I tried not to look at the small hole that was on his left cheek and just get the rest over with.

"Are you comfortable with travelling?"

I immediately forgot about the zit and suddenly felt as if this job might be more than manual labor. Perhaps they had looked at my resume and decided I was management material.

"You bet. But I didn't think this job required travel."

"Oh, yes." And then it happened. As he pronounced the "O" a small branch popped from the hole. It was black and furry and about the size of a short spaghetti noodle.

I looked down and he continued. "As a member of our team you'll be travelling a great distance to meet the needs of our continuingly expanding business - is something wrong?"

"No. I just didn't expect travel." I lied. I was absolutely horrified and wondered if a prank was being played on me. "Not that I don't want to travel." I looked back up at him and the branch moved.

I jumped.

"Will you excuse me." He said and got up and walked out of a door on the other side of the room from where I had entered.

I stared into the mirror across from me and I realized it was probably two-way. I made motions in my notebook like I was writing and thought about just running for it.

Then he entered the room again with a bandage over his cheek.

Not even mentioning the obvious he went back into the interview.

"We started our company - well, I wasn't there - but the company was started on Earth -"

"Earth?" I asked. I was positive I was being put on.

"Yes, Earth. The planet you're on now. Then, we ventured outward into the solar system and began work on Venus, then Mars, then we expanded to the asteroids and now we even have operations on Pluto."

"So, is this Jackass or something?"

"Excuse me?" And the branch popped out of the bandage, this time fluid accompanied it and ran down his cheek.

"Look, your face is falling off again. If this is a joke, I just want to be paid and then I want to leave. I seriously am unemployed and need work and don't have time for this.

He looked at me gravely and said "This is not a joke. I apologize for my face and if you're more comfortable, I'll have a human interview you."

"Sure. So, you're from?"

"Venus."

"I'm sure you are. I was under the impression that on Venus you could boil nickel - what's your story, champ?"

The other cheek erupted, but this time three small branches tore from his skin and more of the clear liquid ran down his face.

I pulled the chair back away from the table and said "Now it's just getting weird. That looks real."

"That is real. Would you like to see the rest."

The lights went up behind the mirror and I could make out several large insects peering at me. They all had the branches up and down the sides of their faces and they moved.

I turned for the door and the man explained "You don't leave here. You signed a confidentiality contract before interviewing and if I was to let you leave and spill the beans on what's outside this planet I would have to answer to the company."

"I'm getting the fuck out of here." I pulled on the door and it opened to the hallway I entered from, but where there were walls once before there were windows and it was night. I felt the building lurch and peered down to see the Earth below me.

"Do you see my point." His hand fell on my shoulder and I pulled it away and ran down the hall to the elevator.

"Where are you going?" He yelled after me. "This is the beginning of a great career path. I won't tell you that it will be easy leaving your home. It wasn't for me."

I looked back and he was undressing. I backed against the elevator and as his clothes came off I realized he had the body of a fat manequin with no discernable human characteristics underneath his wardrobe besides skin.

And then the skin came off and I was staring at a large bug on all sixes.

Around the mandible was a device that he spoke out of, I assume to make the correct noises humans use to form words.

"You're as ugly as I am to you." He said and moved closer.

"I want a human!" I yelled. "Can I talk with a human?"

"Sure, but you'll have to get used to this. It took me awhile too."

"Nothing can live on Venus!"

"When the company came to our world, we were told nothing could live on Earth."

"But...science!"

"Are you a scientist?"

Then I just began yelling "Help!" over and over and over again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Colony

The Colony

As I entered slumber and felt the last remains of the day slip away I traveled to another part of the galaxy and awoke inside a man much like me on a planet much like ours.

Colonized thousands of year before my arrival, the colony resembled our planet in most every way.

But…there was simplicity to the society, a trust in fellow, and a beauty you would have to drive far to witness on our own great organic spaceship.

And yet, there were metropolitan holes, the number of which would compliment our own patches of rustic beauty.

All of this I sensed right away, like entering a movie and being able to distinguish the mood from the outset, if created by a superior director.

This colony had a superior director.

A group of men and women called, simply The Council ran the world and dictated the rules of society and the happy colony followed in step, as happy people not accustomed to unhappiness will do.

But I also sensed a great secret. Something of a dread that reflected the general happiness like an object and shadow.

As weeks went by I became accustomed to my new body and the world I lived, and yet the dread never left me.

As time went on, I learned of the rules of the society and some of them didn’t fit well with my own understanding of how a good society works.

For instance, there was a curfew at sundown that was strictly enforced. I say enforced only in a loose sense as no one dared to break it and, therefore, no one enforced it. And any chance to was quickly diminished by the prescribed dose of what I could feel to be large amounts of sedative.

And there were two other cracks in the fa├žade: an absolute horror of touching the ground and a pilgrimage at the age of forty to some unknown other colony on another world.

Let me explain, the ground wasn’t verboten; it was only the natural ground. Inhabitants were made to walk, commute, and travel only by sidewalks, roads, bridges, etc.

The pilgrimage struck me as odd as the men and women leaving would leave behind all friends and family (strict breeding laws left all their children at the age of twenty) and this was all accepted as providence.

As time went on the dread and the longing for my own world and the next day to meet me drove me to break a law and I found what I had dreaded for so long.

As the sun went down, I left my wife and children sleeping and ventured out into the night.

Upon leaving the home, I heard the most awesome crackling noise and looked around to find the entire plain in front of home moving.

Thinking the sedative had worn off, I walked down the path and across a bridge.

Half way across the bridge the most terrible feeling of a stick running up and down my leg jarred me and had only a moment to look over the bridge and find a very large insect, the size of a hyena, trundling under the bridge.

I turned and broke into a sprint back to the home.

The moving around me began to get frenzied and realized in horror that the insects were everywhere.

I opened the unlocked door (no one locked their door) and lie awake inside my dream, inside the colony trying to find a way back to my home.

The next day I attended a ward meeting and explained what I had saw.

My story was accepted with large smiles and dismissal.

That night, the feeling of claustrophobia and horror left me as I took the strong sedative and dosed off.

The next morning I decided to take my wife’s pills. Then I ventured into the neighborhood and entered homes and explained that I was here by The Council to take their drugs too.

By the end of the day I had the majority of the neighborhood’s drugs, with not one complaint from the neighbors.

Then the sun down.

Terrific screams filled the neighborhood as people looked from their windows, in their insomnia, at the moving ground.

The bugs seemed to only come out at night.

Having been satisfied with my wholesale awakening of the neighborhood, I took a sedative, also giving one to my wife and went to bed.

“It got her.” It was my neighbor. It was early morning and I had awaken to the pounding on the door.

“What got who?” I asked groggily.

“A bug got my daughter.” She left the sidewalk and went on the…the…ground. She was digging when a black head came from inside the hole and…

The people began to add up at my door and their stories varied in degrees of god awful, and I soon began to loathe my decision to free them.

On the other hand, it explained the other rule and I fixed my mind in figuring out what the last rule of pilgrimage meant.

I gave the neighbors their drugs back, but some refused and every day after they would show up on my doorstep and preach to the others about the lies of the government and my sainthood for saving them.

With my ego stroked thoroughly, and a happy diversion from the guilt of being remarkably close to the mass homicide of the neighborhood, I vowed to my followers to get to the bottom of the pilgrimage.

By the end of the week we had banded together and followed a pilgrimage up a large hill and as the smiling 40 year olds were thrown into a pit of bugs for the rent on the land, I thought back to my own world and woke up sweating.