What worth the coins in my pocket?

Short story inspired by https://www.blaseball.com/bulletin blaseball.

What worth the coins in my pocket? The golden slugs that ching ching ching merrily as I stride from the shop to the bookies. The solid metal disks, emblazoned on the head with the Blaseball logo, dark and writing, and on the tail with the five quartered cross representing the leagues, and on the obverse with the giant Peanut. I keep trying to see what is on the fourth side, but the coins won’t stay still long enough.

What worth the coins in my pocket? I bet them all. I blew them all. My beloved Moist Talkers fallen low, I placed my last 20 coins on them. And then I watched it happen, in the shop. I sat at the counter, nursing a cocoa Maltese, feeling the fizz in my straw as I looked at the goods on display. I was eyeing a jersey, nestled between pendants, when the person next to me mumbled.

“____, shine down on me so that I may behold your glory and partake of your peanuts!” They held their hand up, and with a glow, coins. Those blessed, cursed coins. They laughed merrily and rushed out towards the bookies to place a bet.

I glanced around and saw this repeated time and time again. I thought… this seems wrong, but.. what can it hurt. I nodded my head in prayer. One hand outstretched, the other cracking open a peanut, I placed the salty goodness in my mouth and mumbled a plea around it. I felt the glow, the cold, hollow glow, and my side slumped with the weight of several coins. I could feel them in my pocket, suddenly… there.

I thought back to my first time entering the Stadium, the empty bag that I was given, suddenly full with my first coins, so frivolously wasted away. What worth, the coins in my pocket?

I touched the pendent that hung around my neck. Earlier, it had given the same hollow glow as I watched Polkadot Patterson, my shining everything, strike out batter after batter. Seven times that game, he struck a batter out cleaning, the stick never touching the ball. And seven times, my hands came empty to my neck, and left with several coins in them. Coins that are only good for betting, buying things from the Shop that make more coins…. and Peanuts. What are they good for? What worth the coins in my pocket?

I walk now to the bookie. I have another bet to make, with these coins given to me by the Blaseball Gods. But I wonder, and fear. What worth the coins in my pocket? What purpose? The Gods drive us to bet, and grant us their coins to do so with. Why? What does it mean? What are they for? And where are the Crabs?

Workplace Wonderings: USB is crashing my computer!

This one isn’t mine, exactly. It’s a coworkers. A comment on FB reminded me of this story.

I used to work for a company that has a Garmin GPS unit that they sell that runs custom firmware in order to use it for golfing. We did tech support on the units and software to load courses into the unit.

This guy calls in and says that everytime it loads, his computer crashed. He would start the process, walk away, come back to a windows dump screen.

The agent assisting him had him stay there for the whole load, and it crashed at about 50 percent the first time. rebooted the computer, tried again, crashed at 5 percent. At this point, I get called over. “Listen to this.”

He puts the earpiece on me. I hear the guy muttering, and i hear… a sound. a wet scraping sound. with an occasional.. electrical spark. “Was that sound going the whole time? the hell is he doing?”

“Oh good, you hear it too!”

He takes it back. “Sir, theres a weird sound that started right before the crash, can you tell me what it is? I think it might be the computer fan or something?”

Our headsets are loud, so I can hear the guy talking back. “Naw, naw, no way you’d hear that, my computer is on the floor and SCRUFFY GET AWAY FROM :CRACKLE: AH! SCRUFFY!”

Turns out the guy’s dog thought that something about the cable was delicious, and was licking it where it plugged in. The guy had a bank of usb ports on the front of his computer, so when the dog was licking it, it was shorting out the other usb ports and zapping itself, which it apparently didn’t mind. Ed had the guy keep the dog away, and lo and behold, it loaded just fine, no crashes. Apparently the USB ports shorting was crashing the computer.

And the award for saving the planet goes too…..

So, after some discussions around the horrible MC job done for the Hugo’s this year, several discussions swirled around in my head, and I found myself pumping out 2000 words of real person fan fiction / pastiche about next years award ceremony.

Johnathon White sat nervously, his cloth mask tight against his face. He looked down again at the notecards that were his acceptance speech, fingers running across the tape that held two cards together, hiding the last from his view. He looked around at the crowd of faces, most keeping their attention on the stage. Many were rapt in listening to the MC, but just as many were visibly wincing and rolling their eyes at the ham-handed references and anecdotes. 

Continue reading “And the award for saving the planet goes too…..”

Essay: Visibility

“Nice mask!”

The phrase is delivered in what seems to be a genuine spirit. Which is nice, as I’ve often in the last few weeks heard the phrase delivered in scathing sarcasm and derision. I look at the person saying it today. They’re wearing a mask as well, a Vader Face mask, and they’re wearing a shirt with Darth Maul on it.  I smile, crinkling the eyes hardcore to make sure it’s seen even with my lips blocked, and nod, figuring they’re a Star Wars fan commenting on the Star Wars print mask that my wife sewed up for me. 

“Thanks!”

I turn to walk away, and then freeze slightly, but keep moving.  The blaze of red seen at the bottom of my vision, pinned between my nose and my glasses, reminds me. I’m not WEARING my Star Wars mask.  I’m wearing the Pride Flag mask that I just got in the mail a couple of days ago.

the author showing his Pride.
Image : Showing my Pride.

Continue reading “Essay: Visibility”

Short Story: An Introduction to Emotional Scarcity in an Induced Multiperson Organism

This story was published in 2016 with The Mad Scientists journal, http://madscientistjournal.org/2016/05/an-introduction-to-emotional-scarcity-in-an-induced-multiperson-organism/

As all rights have reverted, I figured I’d put it up for free. Please enjoy this look into the possible ramifications of cloning. A note on the title and tense / perspective. I originally wrote this story in third person. And then I saw the call for submissions from Mad Scientists’s Journal, which wanted first person accounts, as if a paper published in a peer reviewed journal for mad scientists. So I reworked it into first person, and created the title and bio for Dr. Mariposa. Below the bio information, I have also placed the original third person, if anyone is interested in comparing the two pieces. I found it expanded a bit, more info being added, and was honestly a better story for the first person treatment! Thanks!

I gripped the railing tightly, feeling knuckles crack as I looked at the scene of destruction below.  The catwalk swayed a bit as I looked, stared in horror, at broken machines, upturned desks, papers and books scattered. And the bodies; eleven of them, blood pooling, red smeared over everything, slowly drying to a dark brown.  It was hard to believe, my gaze flicking from face to face, all the same, features familiar to me.  A face that also adorned the man standing at my side.

“You…  you understand, right Melissa?”

I looked over at Dr. Zahia, the same face that lay forever unmoving below, copied eleven times, still living, twitching, in front of me. I watched him, that face twisting in emotions. Fear, doubt, loathing, worry, hope.  I reached out to touch his shoulder, comfort him, but stopped short, the large drying patch of blood reminding me that he had been part of that scene below.  And none of the blood was his. Or all of it.  

I swallowed a few times to find my voice.

 “No John, I don’t.  I… Let’s go over this again.  You had a flash of insight on the teleportation experiment, and came in on the weekend, without telling any of us.  It worked, and you, of course, tested it on yourself.”  I felt my eyes roll at that, and Dr. Zahia had the decency to look down in embarrassment.

“ And found that the teleporter we’ve all worked on for this last year was…”  I waved at the carnage below us. 

“A duplicator. Our attempts to destroy as we created was what stopped us. Abra kadabra.“

He paced away from me a few steps then turned back, the metal catwalk swaying slightly with his steps. 

“And I thought, my god. How much work could I accomplish as a team of a dozen?  It was glorious, we had a silent telepathy going, like worker ants building, calculating, creating together. And then…  the day was over, and it was time to go home.”

“I don’t…”

He turned again, walking towards the wall as he talked. I followed close behind him. 

“Who gets to be ME?  Who gets to live as John, and who has to find a new life. I wouldn’t SHARE. Could you, Melissa? Could you share your wife, your children, with a copy of you?” 

He stopped in front of the platform that joined the catwalk to the rest of the building, several doors behind him as he turned again, pointing at me.  I reached for my the lump of my wedding ring involuntarily, hanging from a gold chain around my neck, and rubbed though my labcoat, feeling the large ruby heart. 

“No, no I couldn’t.”   As the words came out of my mouth, I finally understood.  Yes, I could kill, even myself, to protect them.  

He smiled sadly at me and stepped aside, the door now in front of me.  “I know, that’s what you said the first time I asked you.”

“First time?”  I blinked in confusion, then looked at the door as the knob turned.  Realization came too late as I, the other I, flung the door open.  She held a broken copper pipe over her head.   I saw the glittering edges of the cracked joint as it whistled towards me, and then, I saw no more.

Dr. Melissa Mariposa has been a researcher for Everitech for nearly two decades, and is largely responsible for the creation of the Neural Recorder. Her recent death in a lab accident has been discovered to be a mistake, and we hope for a full and speedy recovery. She lives with her commonlaw wife of 10 years, Heather, and her children, Jacob, 5, and Stephanie M., 16, who is a member of the Everitech Junior Researcher League.


Alexander Hollins is a Junior Archivist in the Neural Recorder Archives, a natural talent at integrating with the recorded memories and providing transcripts of the events and details of laboratory accidents and sudden discoveries. He is married to a school teacher and has two children, Flint, 6, and James, 4.


Luke Spooner a.k.a. ‘Carrion House’ currently lives and works in the South of England. Having recently graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full time illustrator for just about any project that piques his interest. Despite regular forays into children’s books and fairy tales his true love lies in anything macabre, melancholy or dark in nature and essence. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures. You can visit his web site at www.carrionhouse.com.

Two figures stood on a metal catwalk overlooking a scene of death and destruction.  Eleven bodies lay twisted among the wreckage of machinery. Identical in face and body to one of the two watchers, they lay as silent testament.  Their living twin shivered. 

“You understand, right Melissa?”

Melissa reached a hand towards her companion’s shoulder, then at the last moment pulled away, the blood on his labcoat, darkening as it dried, reminding her that he had been part of this carnage.  “No John, I don’t.  You finished the teleporter you promised us, and discovered it was a duplicator as well. And…”

“And I thought, my god. How much work could I accomplish as a team of a dozen?  It was glorious, we had a silent telepathy going, like worker ants building, calculating, creating together. And then…  the day was over, and it was time to go home.”

“I don’t…”

He walked away, heading for the door that led to the catwalk they stood on. She followed close behind hanging on his every word.

“Who gets to be ME?  Who gets to live as John, and who has to find a new life. I wouldn’t SHARE. Could you, Melissa? Could you share your wife, your children, with a copy of you?” 

She shuddered, fingering her wedding ring. “No, no I couldn’t.”

John nodded slowly. “I know, that’s what you said earlier.”

“Earlier? You haven’t asked me that before.” 

He reached out and, instead of turning the knob to the door in front of them, knocked once.The knob turned on its own, and opened. Melissa looked past him to see herself, bloody pipe raised over her head, before it came down and she saw no more.

Flash Fiction : Wrong Bottle

I couldn’t help it. This dumb brick joke of a pop culture reference got stuck in my head.

“What do you mean, NO! I’m your master. You can’t say NO!”

Her face grew redder as her pitch and volume rose into the scream, but still failed to approach the shining crimson of the much more relaxed face she was screaming at. He rolled his eyes and drew a long pull from the massive goblet in his hands, the dozen twisty curly straws each somehow filling with a different color liquid before all combining where the mass of straws were held bundled together by his ruby lips.

Catherine stopped for a moment, puzzled by the fact that she could clearly see him roll his eyes, even though she couldn’t actually SEE his eyes behind the massive, chromed shades he wore. This situation quickly reversed as he set down the comically large glass on a table that hadn’t been there a minute ago, sat up a bit straighter on the fluffy divan that had filled her small apartment living room, and lifted the shades to his forehead. The burning embers of his eyes smoldered in boredom, a mild quirk of his lips betraying the amusement he tried to hide behind the nonchalant demeanor that had been his only attitude since appearing in a puff of smoke.

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Happy Birthday Pluto! : Song Pluto’s always a planet to me

So, it’s the 90th anniversary of the discovery of our 9th planet, Pluto.
Yes. It’s a planet. There are a LOT of reasons why the IAU decision is a steaming pile of manure. I put a couple of them into song! (To the tune of Billy Joel’s ‘She’s always a woman to me’.)

It can push and can pull, where another planet lies
Good Lowell had faith we would see it with eyes
In his tower in Flagstaff Clyde finally did see
They call it a dwarf now but Pluto’s always a planet to me.

Continue reading “Happy Birthday Pluto! : Song Pluto’s always a planet to me”

Fiction Snippet : Nu Yeller

Thanks to Totally Mindy on Kid’s Place live this morning, I have a horrible cyberpunk version of Old Yeller in my head… here’s a snippet of “the scene” in my head, so you can all share in my horror at my own brain.

“No pa. He’s my dog. I’ll do it.”   Tahmina pulled the old keyboard out from the rack by her desk.  “Easy Nu, easy girl.”  Yeller growled, the thin crackling from her blown speaker modulating as Tahmina slid down the access panel on her neck, slotting the old usb-c connector. The dog froze as the command line activated, the familiar floating screen popping into existence above the board.  She closed her eyes tightly, typing by touch, the clacking of the old physical keys feeling like nothing less than the loading and cocking of a shotgun.  She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up to see Arslan standing over her, a rare tear touching his own eye as he nodded to her, knowingly.  She looked at the screen, the lines of instructions, approvals, directory searches.

 Her father coughed lightly, unable to see the screen from his angle, but not willing to move to look.  “Tahmi, darling, you need to get the subroot directory under the facial imagery as well.” 

She squeezed her eyes shut again, but the blinking prompt was seared into her retina.  “Confirm full system reformat and restory? Y/N?” 

“I know father, I did. She… she won’t recognize my face anymore.”

With a sob, she stabbed down on the y key, and then tossed the keyboard from her lap, bursting to her feet and out the door.

FASH ATTACK! A real life fan fic pastiche.

Once again, a few wonderful people on twitter have inspired me with insanity.

Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Content warning, violence, blood, death.

Bobby felt the warmth on his cheek before he heard the screams. Almost in slow motion, he turned to his partner as his hand came up to feel the warm, wet spot that had appeared on his face. He watched the scene, Timmy slapping frantically at the clucking, pecking, swirling mass of white and red that clung to his head.  It was surreal, watching his friend get pecked to death, blood turning the white parts of Timmy’s Flag tshirt redder than the stripes.  He looked down at his fingers. Red with blood, ‘Timmy’s blood’, he realized to himself.

The screams stopped, but the clucking and slicing never did, the rooster riding the body to the ground and continuing to savage the already mangled flesh.

“What in the… FUCK! IT’S THE FASH!”

The world sped back up to normal speed as the bite of pain cut into his upper arm from behind.  Bobby’s fingers went limp, and the metal gas can fell from his grip. It clanged off the rocky ground, the gas inside sloshing noisily as it fell over. He spun, nearly tripping over the can as he jumped back, the head of a spear, ‘A SPEAR FOR CHRISSAKES?!’, whizzed past his face, slicing the cheek that had been free from blood.  In reflex, he pulled the pistol from belt, aiming it one handed, the other arm still limp and usesless.

“Stay… stay back!” 


The woman who had stabbed him narrowed her eyes and curled her lip in a sneer, nostrils flaring around a ring that glittered as dark and dangerous as the edges of the spear she kept pointed at his eyes.  She dropped into a crouch, twirling the spear point in a small circle, ready to strike.

“Look, I don’t want to hurt anyone. We were just delivering a message to Fisher.”

The circling point stopped for a moment.  “Fisher?” 

“Yeah, Fisher.  Urving Fisher, the author? He lives here right?”

He felt his grip loosening, the gun dropping, as she started laughing at him, deep, booming, and dripping with ridicule. He stepped back again, tightening his grip and raising the gun slightly.

“Well, where is he?”

“Sonny boy, you’ve made two mistakes in coming here.  One, someone sucks at GoogleFu.  No, you have the wrong place. Two… ”  She pointed the spear tip at the pistol in his hand. “You shouldn’t threaten someone with a pistol when you left the safety on.”

Confusion flared to panic as he looked down at the gun, thumbing the safety back and forth, trying to remember which side meant what. Then a dark shadow swopped through his vision, and he stared down at his hand, missing the gun, half his thumb, and all of his pointer finger. It didn’t hurt until AFTER the blood starting pouring. 

“Go ahead, pick it up with your other hand.”  The spearwoman stepped forward, back leg over front, staying in her crouched stance. “C’mon, pick it up so I can legally run you through!”

Bobby’s mind gibbered, his hand throbbed, his arm hung limp, and his cheek burned.  He felt a warmth spreading across the tops of his legs, and thinking she’d gutted him without him feeling it, he looked down in alarm at his darkening jeans.

“Did you really just piss yourself? They just don’t make Fash like they used to.”   She stepped forward again.  “Ah well, maybe they’ll let me put your head on a pole as a warning to the others. ”

Bobby closed his eyes, ready to die.  He found his lips moving, his voice escaping as a gasp. “Heavenly Father, I commend my soul to your hands, may my sacrifice be a torch held by the “

The impromptu prayer ended with a grunt of pain as the breath was driven out of him, and he felt himself lifted and tossed from an impact into his side.  Keeping his eyes clenched tight, he felt the ground slamming into his right side, his left, his back, his knees, as he rolled and tumbled from the blow.

“BAAAAAHHHH!!”

He came to a stop, and after a deep breath, opened his eyes.  He was a good twenty feet away, laying next to the house. Putting his bloody palm against the door, he struggled to his feet, to see the spearwoman yelling at a goat that pawed the ground next to where he had just been standing.  She stood with the spear butt in the ground, pointing with her other hand.  “Damnit Havoc, I did NOT cry you and slip the goats of war.”

The door opened behind him.  A figure peered out, leather hat tucked over her brow, trowel and rake in her leather gloved hands.  “Shep? What the hell is, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU!?”

Operating on instinct, he pushed the door the rest of the way open, and shoved the newcomer out.  She swore, stumbling and windmilling arms as he slammed the door, fumbling with the deadbolt, pain shooting through him as he squeezed with the stump of his thumb.  The gloved woman’s voice came muffled through the door.  “FUCK DAMN SHIT. DUDE!  If you bleed on the carpet, I’m going to gut you and compost you!”

Glancing around, he ran into the house, looking for something, anything.  KITCHEN!  He burst in, looking for a knife block, pushing aside cans labeled in other languages, bags of candy, and assorted produce.

TAP. TAP. TAP. 

He stopped, and looked up at a small window in the corner of the kitchen.  The spearwoman grinned evily in at her, tapping on the glass with the spear.

“Mistake three, Fash.  You’re in the kitchen.  With Sergei.”

“THE FUCK LADY! Who the FUCK is Ser”

His lips clamped shut, drawing blood from his tounge, and fire ripped into his back. With a clatter, a small butcher knife fell out of him onto the tile.  He turned, slowly, to see a cat standing next to a magnetic bar rack, holding the knives he had been looking for. The cat looked sideways at him, out of the one eye it had.  “MRRROOOWWW?” 

Bobby watched, abstractedly, the adrenaline burnt away, his abused body giving up, as the cat perched up on his back legs, reaching with front paws towards the rack.  Glittering arcs ended against his body, some hitting him handle first, some not thrown hard enough to pierce, but a few slid inches into him, rivulets of red running together, pooling in his socks.

‘Fuck. I hate walking in wet socks.’  With that final, pedestrian thought, Bobby’s eyes closed for the last time.

Poetry – Song: Phantom Limbs . A tribute to Neil Peart and Rush, and to lost friends.

I’ve been thinking about death and loss lately. Specifically, I was thinking about Neil Peart. And how his friends and bandmates must feel. Especially Geddy. His voice has sung, for decades, words put there by Neil. How must that feel? To have a portion of your voice… gone?

And I can kind of understand. I’m missing a piece of my own voice these days, a dry sarcasm that would point out my stupidity, and sometimes add its own dumb ideas. Over a year now. I miss you Twitch. You were part of me, and I still feel you there.

And it made me think of phantom limbs, that feeling of something gone, but still there. People, friends, family, as a part of ourselves. So… I wrote a song

The man who lost his hand to the cannery blade,
Still can feel the tickle of his five fingered shade,
A bomb blast leaves the soldier sitting in a chair,
Late at night she could swear that her legs are still there.

Phantom Pains from what we’ve left behind,
Phantom Fears they’re only in our mind,
Phantom Pieces that we never find,
When they’re gone.

A clot bursts, tissue thirsts, deep within a friend’s brain,
No more hugs, pull the plugs, release him from your pain,
Sometimes you hear his voice, greeting you by name,
A vital piece of you will never feel the same.

You feel him at your side,
hear his words wry and snide,
You turn to him in pride,
Empty chair where he sat,
Makes you lose your stride.

Phantom Pains from who we’ve left behind,
Phantom Fears live only in our mind,
Phantom Pieces that we never find,
When they’re gone.

More than a hand or leg, my friends are a part of me,
No matter how I beg, Time will not let them be,
My words feel hollow now, without your counterpoint,
My soul is borrowed now, no more beats to anoint

You wrote the song I sang,
With my strings, bells you rang,
Backing me up from behind,
I fear to turn and find…
The empty swivel chair,
Still I feel you there.

Phantom Pains from who we’ve left behind,
Phantom Tears they live in our mind,
Phantom People that we’ll never find,
When they’re gone.
When they’re gone.