October 12, 2009


I can't believe he talked about the sensation guys feel when peeing being similar to ejaculating can't he see that it was an unpleasant conversation why do we always have to talk about sex when I say we should talk more is that the only common ground we have is that what our relationship amounts to I know he has a lot of hot women around him being a life guard and all but does he really need to talk about these things every day especially when I'm trying to talk to him before going to sleep and he plays Pokemon when he's not talking about sex so he's a geeky pervert who can't keep his dick in his pants would I want to marry him somewhere down the line he will propose to me perhaps will I be prepared will I be ready I can imagine it now me in a short white dress dyed blue at the edges the dress he thought of with woven forget-me-nots dotting my hair we'll get married on the beach with the sound of the waves lapping in between our words of devotion love acceptance I'll probably be nervous and excited and so will he but I'm sure it will be a happy day for us if he only could stop being so vulgar I know he can be better than that which is why I am disappointed whenever our conversation veers to sex or some other similar intimate thing for all I know he could be fucking a tanned life gaurd coworker right now all I have is his word that he isn't but sometimes I catch him lying about something or other just because he knows I will get mad at him or he doesn't think about it he really doesn't think about the things he says a lot and it gets on my nerves I keep telling him to think before he speaks or acts but he doesn't and he's constantly making dumb mistakes like when he called Alley a racist just because she made a joke about Spanish wine being inferior and now Alley my friend despises him and I have to constantly make amends for something I wasn't even present for I ask him to forgive her but he won't do it I ask her to forgive him but she won't do it so now I have two friends who can't be in the same room all because he had to put in his opinion but Oh! when I had revealed to him I had a crush on him it was over a year ago and we were watching a movie on TV with some friends he was lying next to me on my bed because he couldn't see the TV very well from the ground I slept on the top of a bunk bed see so I could see the TV clearly I nudged him with my arm and whispered something what was that what do you want he asked I got shy and shook my head Kiss I whispered but he didn't catch on leaning closer he asked what and I looked him straight in the eye and whispered back K-I-S-S and he kissed me full on the lips Kiss Kiss and yet another Kiss until my heart was aflutter and it spread to my whole body head chest arms abdomen legs feet toes every part of me cried again K-I-S-S

October 09, 2009

Synthetic Intelligence Network (novel idea)

It was called the Universal Education Project. The distinguished Academy of Universal Science and Technology planned it all. They are the ones responsible. Responsible for all those people…

It was a simple series of experiments at first. The scientists made observations and recorded which method of teaching was suitable for a certain race and species of race. For example: Kaelings, who are of the Nightshade family and blind, would not be taught with the same method as Aeroginiuns, who have keen eyesight but lack the brain capacity to learn complex analytical problems. In the beginning, the purpose of the Universal Education Project was to create a minimal amount of teaching methods that would benefit all races, all ages, and all sexes on all charted planets of the entire universe. But that was before the original President and Principal of the Academy passed away, only to be replaced by Jütena Kogo.

My first impression of her was that she was passionate about science, but passionate didn’t even cut it close. She was insane. Immediately after she was appointed President of the Universal Education Project, she proposed a radical plan that would change the lives of the UEP children forever. A plan to cut and paste genes within the brain cells of the mind, arranging them so that the child would be able to use his or her full brain potential. And so the Universal Education Project changed its name to SIN, Synthetic Intelligence Network, and was led ruthlessly by Jütena, or Professor Kogo.

But…it was just like its name. SIN children were treated like animals; kept in cells and forced to eat “brain food” that tasted so bad some threw it up right afterwards only to be jabbed at with a ZG-41, which sent 2000 volts through the being’s body. When it had been UEP, the subjects were on a voluntary sign-up. It only took the waving of a signed custody warrant with the Emperor’s stamp of approval before SIN operatives could yank a child out of the arms of his or her family and enroll them in the program. It was devastating to the children, some of which were only four or five years old. But others, like me, were taken much later in life, during adolescence.

When you’re hitting puberty it’s like having your brain and heart being put into a blender and mixed until you don’t know your thoughts from your feelings. A young male is most unguarded during this time. Falling head over heels with females that he could never mate or didn’t like him, having animalistic urges that left his skin a bright shade of violet, and always constantly worrying about which crowd in Executive Life Training to hang out with. I hated it. And when Jütena came she took me by surprise.

Kerr! I never would have been seduced by such a devious ploy if she hadn’t so subtly gotten me intoxicated. But that’s what you get when you’re a young male seeking the company of an older and definitely more experienced female. I thought she bought the whole “I’m fully matured, just short” act. Foolish. All Jütena did was flutter her glittered eyelashes, which were fake, and move into a position so that the sight of her human form made my whole face break out in violet spots.

Ugh, if I had a time transport device, or the money to buy one, I would go back and punch myself. Then I wouldn’t have signed a voluntary subject slip, thinking that I was giving her my name and inter-number. But after that it’s all self-explanatory; I woke up with a massive hangover in a cell guarded by photon energy shields.

I’ll be brief in the description of the place. My cell was a neon green photon cube: unbreakable, impenetrable, and impermeable. The shield was only disengaged by the electronic armbands my guards wore. They stood on the four corners of my box, and past them I saw a whole room the size of a small space station, just filled with photon cages! And in them I could faintly see the eyes of millions of children, some barely even four years old.

This was the Specimen Hold, where all of us SINians watched, waited, and wondered about what was going to happen to us next. For me it was passionate rage when I saw Professor Kogo strut through the door, her thick black hair tied back into a loose bun and her almond-shaped eyes squinting through the dim light. Not thinking, I stepped straight into the photon barrier and got electrocuted.

Not fun, having yourself electrocuted. It’s like… I don’t know if you’ve ever got stunned with a stun gun, but it’s like that except it hurts instead of numbs. My knees buckled and I fell backwards, the ceiling of the hanger swirling in confusing spiral patterns. My legs couldn’t stop twitching and I think I soiled my kardic. I heard the muffled clacking of a pair of boots before a familiar voice echoed painfully against my eardrum.

Well, well, if it isn’t the fully-matured, short stack.”

My guards chuckled and I raised my head up high enough to catch a glimpse of Jütena exchanging a quick word with the tallest guard. He saluted her and she smiled, brushing her hand against the stubble of the young man’s beard before departing. Humans. I hated them right then. They are despicable and devious qiks that need to be flushed down a black hole.

For a full period or more I struggled between consciousness and unconsciousness before a loud alarm sounded and all of the photon shields dropped. I shook my head vigorously and found I had retained the use of my legs, so I stood up. My legs felt wet and I squirmed with disgust, stupid bowel movements! Children were streaming out of the Hold, flanked by guards. Was it an evacuation alarm? Was there something wrong?

Get going Civian!”

I yipped as one of my guards shocked me with his tazer gun and hurried to join the crowd. Through the electronic sliding doors there was a wide hallway with a low ceiling. Blue, red, and silver wires and piping ran along the walls like veins, probably feeding the many electric gadgets, including the sliding doors. In the hall the children’s voices echoed and I was remembered of the eating quadrangle of my Executive Life Training School. I felt a pang of longing for the familiarity of that place and those people, here I knew no one.

A pair of sliding doors parted and a woman’s voice, strangely familiar, announced, “Welcome to the Experimental Chamber.”

For those weak of heart and mind, skip this recollection. Along the walls of the room, which was about the size of a physical training room, lined pods upon pods of children. It was like the structure of a honeycomb, with each hexagonal pod filled with a child of random age. I spotted a young man in one, curled up and wearing something that covered his eyes. It sort of looked like a virtually reality device, except I highly doubted that the children in those pods were playing vizgames.

Test subject C-17’s heart rate is increasing,” voiced the computer main frame, “and the subject is showing signs of awakening.”

A reply came, “Administer the sleep toxin.”

In the pod housing the young man a robotic arm uncurled. In its three fingers rested a hypodermic needle and I watched as the robotic arm thrust the needle beneath the twitching man’s skin and the man became still again.

Subject C-17’s heart rate has returned to a comatose state.”

I was steered out of the room. My brain was whirling: What had I witnessed? What was this place? And above all, what was going to happen to me? My waxy skin gained a yellow tinge, nervousness and fear. In some ways I hated being a Civian, our emotions were so easily displayed through the pigments in our skin. When we are happy we take on a green color, when we are lustful it is purple, when angry, red, when we are afraid or nervous…yellow. And if you knew about the continuous spectrum of a Civian, then you could play with us like dolls. That’s what the Lumark did.

Hey Civian! Where do you think you’re going?”

I was jerked out of my thought process by a shock from my guard’s tazer gun. I hated those things. It turned out that the group had stopped and I had kept on walking. I swiveled around, followed by my guard, and rejoined the group as they stood in a completely white room filled with chairs. The chairs faced towards the walls of the room, radiating from the center out in circles of increasing size. We were instructed to sit in those chairs and if we didn’t comply right away, we got shocked again by those stupid tazers.

Once everyone was seated the lighting was disabled and we were pitched into darkness. You can imagine in a room full of children what an uproar that caused, but it didn’t last for long. In an instant the walls blinked on like a viz screen and we were watching the giant head of Jütena Kogo.

Congratulations Test Group 23, you have been selected to participate in the twenty-third series of experiments designed to test the abilities of living and thinking organisms functioning at a maximum brain efficiency. All of the groups before you were guinea pigs, just old news. You are the first individuals whom we will apply the Brain Cell Growth formula. If the procedure works all of you will be able to operate at your full potential. You will be the smartest beings in the universe!”

She had failed to mention the consequences when the procedure did not work. I wondered, if she was so confident about her team’s abilities, why she did not use the formula on herself. Wouldn’t she want to be the smartest one in the universe?

However, to receive the BCG formula you will have to be in tiptop shape and healthy. So first we have protein supplements that will help your muscles during the workout session we have scheduled for you.”

The right arm of my chair opened up, I can’t explain it in any other way, and there was a candy bar wrapped in microfoil. My stomach grumbled and I snatched the bar and ripped it open. My mouth started to water and I noticed that the people on either side of me were tearing just as ravenously into their protein supplements. Didn’t they get fed?

I took my first bite and my tongue became steel. The bar tasted like nobo! I bent over and spat it out in disgust. I was electrified, somewhat more violently than before, and my right shoulder temporarily went numb. I took it as a sign that I wasn’t allowed to spit the thing out. Swallowing the bile that wanted to travel to my mouth, I plugged my nose slits, shoved the bar in all at once, chewed vigorously, and swallowed. It dropped into my stomach like lead.

Now afterwards you will be escorted to the Physical Training Facility and put through a brisk series of exercises to get the blood flowing to your brain. Then your daily activity will be announced and you will have the rest of the day to complete it. Good luck Test Group 23.”

What kind of farewell was that? But we were given no time to speculate because we were herded out of the room into an adjacent hall, different from the one before. Unlike the one filled with wires this one had smooth, shiny plexiglass walls that suspended us in space above a giant factory. There was a giant capsule labeled “BCG Formula A1” and from that an assembly line of titansteel robots who filled empty orange bottles with blue liquid. The bottles then went into plain cardboard boxes for storage.

It seemed odd to me for a spiffy place like this they would store their precious formula in outdated cardboard boxes, which could get soggy or destroyed. It didn’t take much to penetrate cardboard, even an old fashioned pistol with an iron bullet could without a problem.

Further down the hall there was a set of double doors, which we walked through. Since I was taller than everyone I could see that the room was just one big, giant playground.

E’ret nobo era da!” Translated: You gotta be shitting me!

This was the exercise? The other kids were overjoyed that something about this hellhole lacked any stench of death and torture. But before they could play the guards administered white patches that stuck to their skin. I bet that they were wired with a program that kept a record on your vitals. From somewhere in the station there could be a giant room filled with viz screens projecting each child and their body temperature and metabolic functions. Who knows, they could even be watching us from some hidden vizcams.

I squirmed as the guard tried to stick me with some patches and got a tazer stuck up my dilla. As I was let loose I rubbed the aching spot and surveyed the playground, no way was I going to revert back to old innocent ways. I had not weathered twenty-eight cycles for nothing! But then, in human terms, they would have me pegged as sixteen. So instead of hopping around on the spongy twist of rainbows I sat down and stretched.

My back cracked. That was one thing that happened with invertebrates, they had noisy bones. As a Civian I had more brittle bones than most species and suffered from bone fractures if I pressed myself too hard. But taking vitamin pills helped a bit, or eating shutnuit, a dish prepared with calcium rich foods and gallons of vitdee sauce.

My stomach grumbled, if only I could have some shutnuit…

Hey!” I looked back at a Katak guard who towered over me, his bulk throwing me in his shadow, “You better start running Civian, do something. Or I’ll stick this tazer up your ass again.”

Ya gotta be kiddin’ me Joe, this is a baby park.”

As he stepped forward to administer his threat I jumped up and ran. But I didn’t run far, just to the other side of the room, behind some funky-shaped plasgel boxes. A little girl poked her head out of one and giggled, then she saw me and stared.

I scowled, trying to scare her away, but she just laughed and continued staring. She was humanoid, maybe even human herself, with long hair and a thin frame. As she climbed the boxes her light blue bodysuit morphed to fit her level of flexibility and dexterity. She was surprisingly talented. I sat down and watched her since I had nothing better to do.

Like many of the other children her age she had this excited flush to her cheeks. I wondered if anyone was aware of the horror of this place, didn’t they miss their families or friends? Maybe…just maybe their memories were altered and all of these children were playing because they had nothing else, no other purpose.

Suddenly the girl’s foot slipped and she cried out, falling towards the hard ground fast. Without hesitation I darted forwards to catch her, my thin arms almost breaking under her weight. She clung to me, crying. I took a deep breath and tried to set her down, but she wouldn’t let go of me. Somehow, she knew that I had saved her and that I was her friend.

Let go of the girl or I’ll shock you so hard you’ll vomit.”

I looked behind me to find another Katak guard standing there. Kataks aren’t known for their well-developed manners, more like their hard skin and muscles. This guard was no exception. His bill horns were sharpened and ready for assault, but I doubted he had any permission to use them…except in dire situations of course. Like all the other guards he wore an electrogen bodysuit with his tazer case strapped to his belt, but his tazer was out and charged.

I tried once more to pry the girl’s hands off me, but she was very strong, amazingly strong. She was staring fixatedly at the guard, her mouth shut tight and her eyes wide in fear. She knew! Somehow she got over the veil of illusions and remembered that she was a prisoner.

I would if I could!”

I stood up and the girl tightened her hold on me, her legs wrapped tight around my waist and her hands almost choking me. The guard screwed his face in a mixture of revulsion and puzzlement. He seemed to talk to the air, asking for instructions. Then with a stone face he approached me and switched his tazer to stun. My yell turned into an abrupt squeak before I dropped to the ground. I could hear the girl screaming, crying buckets, as the guard unhooked her and carried her away.

The numbness to my legs wore off after a few periods, but as I sat up I felt like something was watching me with intense interest. And I saw no sign of the girl or anyone. I was completely alone.

October 08, 2009

Final Boss

He was sitting on the futon couch, recluse, unmoving. With thick eyebrows and a jutting, angular chin, he was my male counterpart. Born to the same mother and father—except two years, ten months, and fifteen days after me—his tall, lanky body, with arms and legs like a grasshopper, was of the same genes, but completely different. Nature had stretched the miracle of gene distribution too far. When the sperm had lost its tail and fertilized the egg, it was carrying a math textbook and English dictionary, with an atom-sized puzzle book in case the trip from vaginal opening to mid-fallopian tube exhausted its reading material. Somehow, it transferred similar physical DNA, enough for people to know we were related. Nonetheless, the abstract behavioral genes got switched around somewhere, and eighteen years later, I was standing over him, plucked eyebrows and round face, trying to bridge our two worlds.

“So, how are your classes?” I said, watching him absorbed in TV with a Nintendo 64 controller in his hands.

It took a few seconds for him to respond, but at last he murmured, “Okay.”

Then he returned to his video game. I sighed inwardly and looked back where my mom once had been, through the open door and into the kitchen. The rosemary-chicken smell saturated the air, promising her eventual return. Spend time with your brother, she had said, glancing at me once before returning to chopping vegetables. Stop talking on the phone with Austin and bond with Jared. You haven't seen him in a year.

Easier said than done.

Taking another look at my brother, and receiving no further aid, I decided to sit down beside him and wait it out.

Mario is flying now. A little red overall plumber wearing a ridiculous raccoon hat and soaring over the two-dimensional landscape of walking mushrooms, vicious flowers, and enlarged pipes that lead to wonderful fantasy worlds with some evil afoot—but a clear way to defeat it and return safely—money floating in the sky, and ninety-nine lives.

If only life could be so easy.

“Mom said you were taking two English classes. And both of them are AP. How are you doing in those?”

Mario is swimming, having found a pipe that leads underwater. His plump belly protrudes out as his little arms flap to propel himself forward. Oh no, a Cheep-Cheep! The bulbous red fish, with lips like Nikki Cox after her lip infusion, swam straight for its prey. Without hesitation, Mario swims up to the top of the coral-framed screen and through another pipe in the ceiling.

My brother responded,

“Okay. It's not that hard. It just takes a lot of time.”

Wow, twelve words. I was impressed, and felt encouraged to continue.

“How about your other classes? Are you taking a math class?”

“Of course.” Now he looked at me, his spectacles square and black, “I always take math. I'm in Advanced Calculus now. But I'm planning on testing out of it, or skip Calculus Two and take college courses.”

He was a Sophomore in high school at the time.

Mario descends through the pipe and returns to the underwater world.


“Oh my Goooood!”

My words disintegrated into one, long wail. Da, da. Drip. The rainy Hawaiian night was thunder in my ears, and I cradled my forehead in agony, tears mixing with dirt and blood before staining the concrete driveway. Jared clutched a two-by-four in his small, seven-year-old hands, a pudgier, darker version of his older self. He stared at me in horror. Clap, clap, clap. Shick! My mom rushed to the rescue.

“What the hell is going on here?”

It was the first time I remember hearing Mom swear. At least to us. She took the plank away from Jared, my hands away from my face, and inspected me with her sharp green eyes. To the bathroom, she said, and I stumbled inside, still holding my forehead in my hands and wincing as I felt a bulge develop under my fingertips. I washed off my face in the small bathroom we owned. I could hear her shouting at Jared, telling him to go to the room and not come out. He passed me on his way to the room. He had to. All we had in our side of the duplex was a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen-dining room-living room, and a small laundry room. The bedroom was across from the bathroom. I glared at him, staring at him through the mirror with one hand cupped over my left eye, like the vicious pirate Captain Morgan, and demanding an apology with my other eye. But he didn't say anything, he just opened the door slowly, resigned to his fate.
When Mom came in, it became a little cramped, but we kept the door open so she wouldn't squash me.

“Now, this will hurt.” she said.

“What will—ah!”

She dabbed some hydrogen peroxide on it. It hurt. A lot. Taking the rag away, I saw a deformed me with a lopsided face. One brow was larger than the other. One eyebrow was cut in half by a jagged wound that cut into my upper eyelid.

“Wash your face again.” She sighed with the aches of a single mom, “Then you can watch TV, if you want.”

I rushed over to the TV, but instead of watching TV I hooked up the Nintendo 64 and played the next level of Mischief Makers. Marina, a robotic maid trying to save her master from his evil twin brother, jumped up and bobbed in the wind with the force of her jet pack. She was the kick-ass alien savior, traversing awesome worlds and reaching the final boss—a giant blob-king of the Empire. The levels and gems were very Mario-like, but she was female, and without an annoying brother following her around everywhere.

Mario is climbing clouds. Vines magically suspend themselves, supporting crawling Bob-oms and Mario's fat beer gut. The black, turtle creatures that explode on contact climb up and down on the vines, sometimes switching direction abruptly. Mario jumps to another vine, stuck between two Bob-oms on either side. The Bob-omb on his vine turns about face and climbs swiftly down towards him.


We sat at one end of a long, rectangular table, leaving over half of the seats empty. Other children were on either side of us and across from us, offspring of parents also getting divorces that day. The room was large, stuffy, and brown—a conferencing room made out of thick, dark wood and leather chairs. I don't remember much, since I was only nine then, but there were no more than ten and no less than four people in the room. Guiding the discussion was a woman, I assume a child psychologist, who's appointed duty was to comfort all of us soon-to-be-torn children. To my knowledge, my brother and I were the only siblings there.

The woman handed out sandwiches to everyone, cut diagonally into triangles. The choices were peanut butter and jelly, tuna, ham, or turkey. You could have white or wheat bread. I remember biting into a delicious Wonder Bread tuna sandwich. Jared chose peanut butter and jelly. The lady explained divorce, saying the reason Mom and Dad were getting separated was because they didn't like each other anymore. It didn't mean we wouldn't be able to see Mom or Dad again, they just wouldn't be living together. She answered all our questions afterwards. They were childish questions, and me and my brother never asked anything. A lot of the other kids were confused and scared like me.

“Why would Daddy leave?”

“Why can't they just get along?”

How could my whole life be turned upside-down in the three hours it took to present the case and sign the divorce papers? What will happen now? Why did God let this happen?

The lady tried to answer, but how can you explain adult logic to a nine-year-old child and her six-year-old brother? We knew only happiness in Mom's lullabies and assurance in Dad's helping hand. The woman who ran out of the shower naked to put out the pizza box Jared had set on fire when he was three. The man who brought back thick, giant cardboard rolls from his construction job for us to play in, rolling around the backyard and getting dizzy until we felt sick. Sitting down at Christmas and smelling rosemary-chicken while Dad kindled a flame in our fireplace with sheets of newspaper. Of course, Jared was too young for some of these memories, but I hadn't forgotten. I knew Mom and Dad. Not just Mom...not just Dad.

After the one-time counseling session, Mom was there. Everyone was not right, not themselves. Worn out and tired, I noted, for the first time, the washed out blond color of Mom's hair. The gray hairs. They cut into her face and stole her smile from us. Her voice was breathy, upended by an undercurrent of sighs. My brother wasn't speaking, and he wouldn't for a long time, except to yell and scream before throwing things and hitting me in the head with a plank. His words, though not many, had been frozen. What we could have been, with love and understanding, was now impossible to achieve. In the three hours we had been chomping down on sandwiches and talking, we had lost the future we could have had.

My stomach growled. The sandwiches had been small and unsatisfying.

“Get in the car.” Sigh.

I didn't want to say anything. I didn't know what to say. So I got into the passenger seat of Mom's old Firebird, my brother crawling up behind me. We buckled our seatbelts in unison and Mom slammed her door shut, igniting the engine and interrupting the silence with Vrooom, Vrooooom! The declaration of a monster before it devoured our lives.

At level two, Mario is placed in a hot, sweltering desert world, the sun scowling, “Thou shalt not pass.” Fireballs are tossed at him periodically. He needs to time his movements just right... A fireball catches him from behind, searing the hairs off his head. In the final seconds of life, his body manages to leap into the air, then fall past the ground and off-screen with a little dismayed 8-bit Nintendo jingle.


“We're going to get married.”

I looked at my brother, he looked at me simultaneously.


“It would be nice if you two would be at the wedding.”

Luckily, she was alone, so Jared didn't have an urge to hit something. If Phil had been there, an argument definitely would ensue, something would get broken, and the neighbors sharing our wall would flip the volume on their TV up a few notches to drown out the noise. I would join in too. This was insane! I thought, hundreds of miles and half an ocean away from Hawaii, plopped down on the outskirts of San Fransisco in our townhouse upgrade of a home.

“You've only been together for a year...” I said, half-whispered.

“Almost two, I'll have you know.”

She was getting mad, her voice curt and biting. In a second she looked away, organized something, and then looked back. Sigh.

“Look. I haven't been with anyone since your dad left.”

Jared was silent. I was silent.

“It's been five years now.” She continued, talking to me more so than Jared. I was fourteen. I was the eldest. Apparently, she thought I would understand better.

I didn't.

My age worked against her. The house we lived in had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and separated kitchen and living room. My room was across from Mom's, and Jared's was down the hall. It was me who heard the adult panting and gasping late in the night, furiously trying to muffle the sounds with two pillows, one for each ear. Banging against my ribcage, my heart would be seething in rage. I gnashed my teeth and glared at the door, as if the wood was transparent and I could see them. Every fiber in my being was shouting, “Bite him! Stab him! Kill him!” As the squeaks of the bed accelerated and the cries became more bold, I heard names. If only I hadn't. There was no doubt now, no denial, no faking it. Not anymore.

“I don't want to.” Jared spoke.

Mom stared at him. I stared at him. He gazed back. Arms crossed, rod-straight. Only in middle school, he was already displaying a fierce stubbornness, uniting us against a common enemy.

When Phil had told him to wash the dishes one time, he had said no. Phil got angry and shouted at him, causing Jared to careen into a tantrum. His fist moved before his brain. I wasn't there, I was in my room, but as I was typing on my computer I heard a high-pitched scream I never want to hear again. My mom made it there before me. Rounding the corner, I heard another scream, choked behind sobs and struggling grunts to get free. I saw Phil clutching Jared around the neck, as if he wanted to choke him. My mom was shouting at them, me, anyone, telling the world to stop and right itself after being screwed up for years. Shocked, helpless, my brain had shut down. Only my eyes worked, burning the scene forever into my memory.

“Now, honey.” She reached a hand out to him, but he stood up.

“No! He can't...”

My brother threw his hands up in plea and then down in aggravation. Tears now filmed his eyes and he turned away, retreating to his room and slamming the door.

Mom was tired again, slumping down in defeat. I wanted to hug her and say I did understand, but on this I had to side with Jared. It was too soon. Phil, a large man with red skin when he got angry, and thick arms and legs, was too different than anything we had known. Bipolar and aloof, he was the last person to add to a trio consisting of a single mom, a violent son, and a depressed daughter. He was still alien, still a cold shadow lurking at the edges of our lives. Mom may have loved him then, but my eyes couldn't see it. I didn't believe it. Howls and thumps in the night couldn't possibly be true love.

Maybe Mom is just imagining things...

Mario completes the level, jumping up five stairs to fling himself at castle's flagpole. After grabbing the flag and sliding down from the pole, he holds the red triangular flag up victoriously. Then he disappears into the castle and little colorful fireworks congratulate him.


“Whose damn dishes are in the sink?”

Jared and I looked at each other and shrugged in unison. We went back to playing Mario Kart.

“God dammit,” the TV was turned off and we stared up into the red face of our new step-dad, “Listen to me when I am talking to you. Whose bowls are in the sink?”

Jared and I had eaten macaroni and cheese after school, but we had jumped into Mario Kart before we could finish cleaning up. Without answering, we got up and cleaned them. I sighed audibly. We lived in Michigan now, the place Phil had grown up and wanted to live. I was already seventeen and fully able to make my own decisions. I hadn't wanted to move, but declined my grandmother's offer to stay with her in California because my mom and brother would be going. I couldn't just leave them. However, after two grueling years in another school where I was once again the “new kid,” I was getting tired of being yelled at for minor things like dishes and laundry. When I am in college, I thought, my room will be a mess and my laundry will be stinky, and no one will be able to yell at me about it. That thought alone fueled my will to survive.

Once done putting the bowls in the dishwasher, Jared turned the TV back on and we continued playing. My character was Yoshi, a green lizard-looking thing that was Mario's pet, and Jared was Mario. Even though he was younger than me, he always came out as first and I was always second. I never complained or said it was unfair. When I did get first place, it was a pleasant surprise, but my brother would soon continue his winning streak. If we played versus I would win sometimes, but not as much as him. In cooperative play, which was introduce in Mario Kart Double Dash for the Gamecube, he would steer and I would be the ammo. We always won this way.

As we aged more, I went off to college, and Jared bought games from his own pocket, savings from birthdays and Christmases. Our Grandma from California got a Nintendo Wii for us, and my brother coveted it alongside the Nintendo 64, Playstation, Playstation 2, and Gamecube. I never really got to play it that much. I wasn't allowed to take it to college because Mom was certain it would be stolen or damaged. I only got to play it when I came back home during school breaks, sitting down on the fold-out futon couch with my brother beside me. Mario Kart, Mischief Makers, Yoshi's Story, Star Fox, Super Mario 64, Super Smash Bros., Mario Party, Zelda, Final Fantasy, Dance Dance Revolution, Tales of Symphonia, Harvest Moon, Wii: Sports... The list goes on and on, grows, and I became less familiar with the newer games, ones my brother bought after I was got into college. I got rusty, and I won less and less. Soon I never got first place in any game, losing patience sometimes and retreating upstairs to talk on my cell phone.

Most of the time, when I got home late at night, I was exhausted after driving for three hours. Only one light would be on, and I found my brother plopped down on the futon and playing something. I would awkwardly try to make conversation, and he would reply curtly and frankly. Unsatisfied, I would walk up to what was once my old room and deposit my suitcases. The room was not blue anymore. It was purple with white lace and a queen bed much larger than the ratty thing I had slept on. The lamps were intricate and lit to your touch. I would sit on the bed, too soft and fluffy to support my aching back, and look around. Alone. Then I would get enough courage to venture out and try again.

Sitting down beside him, I watched as Mario met Bowser, the final boss. With spikes on his shell and a rocker-red hair style, Bowser was the bully in elementary school who pushed you down and laughed at you while you bled from the knee. Of course Mario would win. He would fly and jump and manipulate his surroundings to pound Bowser into submission and rescue Princess Peach. Until he won, Jared didn't say anything. Eyes glued, fingers tapping, pounding, turning, and shaking.

Eventually, he would remember I was his sister. Eventually, he would remember I was the same person who had sat with him at the table long ago, eating sandwiches and hearing other kids ask why their parents couldn't be together anymore. The person he had hit in the head with a plank, the girl he had stood next to during Mom's boring wedding ceremony in Grandma's backyard, the friend united against Dr. Pain-phil, the relative who had gone off to college and spoke with him through the other end of the phone, asking too many questions to answer, only to return home and ask more. Now, the sister sitting beside him. Not talking, just waiting. Then he would sit back and say,

“Wanna play?”

The Eternity Program (part of a novel idea)

Jacob Marcus waited in the sand, his comrades flanking him on either side and behind. He smelled sweat on him and around him, mingled with the thick stench of anticipation and fear. Damn Iraqi bastards. The grit thrown up by the desert wind irritated Jacob’s eyes and the man made a note to adjust his aim. The sand would affect his shooting drastically. His heart pounded in his chest, alarming him and making him wonder if Marlo could hear it. However, if the hardened soldier beside him heard anything the man did not acknowledge it. Instead, Lieutenant Marlo focused his stony eyes North-north-east, towards the supposedly abandoned warehouse.

The building stood approximately thirty meters away, certainly looking abandoned. The sandstone walls were covered in golden dust and the only sound that penetrated the silence was the scratch of sand against the thick canvas of the United States Army uniforms. The soldiers kept their guns close to their bodies, so as to muffle any clicking of reloading ammunition. The building stood. Quiet and desolate.

Private Marcus’ throat was dry and scratchy and sand lodged itself in the corners of his eye sockets. He blinked rapidly but refused to raise his hand to rub it away. The man glanced at Marlo beside him and then turned to take in the squad.

The row of soldiers behind him consisted of three rookies and two veterans called back from home to fight in the war. He was situated in the front line with the only other rookie, Ferguson, and two other veterans, including Marlo, and the captain. Overall it was a squad of ten soldiers against an uncertain amount of Iraqis in the warehouse, if any. Marcus licked his lips and waited for his captain’s command.

There was a small tinge of certainty within him. Somehow he knew that there were Iraqi soldiers in the warehouse. It was like a small nugget of caution and calculation, separate from his fear and anticipation for the captain’s decision. In his hands he held his 5.45mm assault rifle, which he named Jenny after his spunky teenage daughter, and turned to his right to looking over Marlo’s shoulder to the captain.

The middle-aged man was tall and slight, a Virginian college professor. Being from Texas and young, Marcus could only give the captain his respect and complete acquiescence. The man lay there, gauging and gripping his gun tight. It was odd to know that he had been a teacher back home when Marcus had personally seen his captain kill three men with a small Swiss Army knife, expertly dissecting them in an instant.

The entire squad had seen battle and death. Luckily there was only injury on their side; the Iraqis often didn’t know that the Americans were ambushing them until most of them were already dead. Marcus had killed five other people. He could still see the intelligent rage that seemed to shine in every one of his enemies’ eyes. The man was young, and in being fresh his conscience kept telling him that it was wrong kill. That it was murder. However, he was changing; he no longer thought of the Iraqis as fellow human beings with history and family. He saw them as cunning wolves. And he and his squad were the hunters.

Suddenly the order was given to attack, the command sharp and quick. In a burst of energy the first line charged. His muscles strained. Boots tromped across the sand, kicking up dust that invaded his eyes. Marcus kept a pace behind Marlo and let the big man’s body shield his right side. He wasn’t stupid, and he wasn’t a hero. Then his captain went down; shot in the left hip. Marcus hesitated, his loyalty to his captain and the call of duty tearing at each other in the back of his mind.

Shiu doof shiu doof…

Bullets passed him, missed, and hit the sand, throwing up small explosions of dirt. There was a sniper on the roof of the warehouse and the bullets were raining down on them in quick procession, and very accurately. Marcus heard the sounds of men falling around him. His breath was in his ears and his heart in his throat. Even though all he wanted to do was find something to hide behind, he ran. The large metal door was only ten more feet ahead. In a desperate leap of energy he felt his hand close on the warm metal handle before… Nothing.

His mind shut down and his body crumbled to the ground. He had been shot in the top of his skull; the power of the sniper rifle making his head explode like a melon. The last fleeting feeling was of accomplishment. Marcus knew he had died to save his country; that his life had been lost so that thousands of others could live. He had died for a cause.


“Team Desert Cobra, win.”

The voice echoed through the polished chrome walls. A long black table stretched from one end of the room to the other, separating the two groups of ten. One side wore blue and red jump suits while the other was clothed in tan and green. Small black triangular chips were passed from the hands of the red team to that of the tan. As team Desert Cobra filed out through an ovular automatic door, Stars and Stripes watched them leave with blank stares.

The door closed. For a brief moment the remaining team exchanged commands before another door was activated, this time leading away from the battle floor. The players of Stars and Stripes methodically exited the room, returning to the Main Hall where they took their position amidst the crowd of ten thousand or so. Every person was staring up at a large screen displaying the rankings of every Program team thus far. There was no happiness or anger, just blank stares. With a slight ripple effect, the scores changes slightly. Stars and Stripes were now ranked six instead of five in the planetwide Program competition titled “World War Three”.

A figure dressed in elastic black clothes watched from atop a balcony. A Portable Data Screen (PDS) enclosed their head like a skin-tight helmet with a clear screen that displayed body vitals, notes, and any sensory data processed by their cerebrum or cerebral cortex. With dark green eyes and healthy silvery green skin, 1.05.890-Loravita resembled every other matured adult being on Reg Nigh.

Normally Admins like Loravida would be in the Administrator Cubicle (AC) preventing any technical glitches from interfering with the game, but something about a planetwide Program competition attracted further investigation. Because there were so many people in such a large building the scene below could be described as a giant patchwork quilt. The groups of ten wearing identical uniforms stood packed together, not talking. The room could barely fit all of them.

The Admin tucked a loose strand of lacy purple hair behind the left ear to better hear the physical sounds. Suddenly footsteps were approaching from behind and Loravida pulled back from the railing, switching the PDS main screen to the Program Mainframe just in time. With a face void of any emotion, Loravida and found a burly redhead standing there on the dais wearing an identical black suit. It was Admin 1.00.067, or Tara informally. But Tara was a superior, so the Admin could not call Tara by an informal name. Instead, Loravida used Admin.

“Greetings, Admin.” The words were displayed on both the redhead’s and Loravida’s PDS.

“What is your purpose being out here, Admin 1.05.890?”

Loravida straightened and replied, “My purpose is to acquire more data on large gatherings, Admin.”

The Admin held up her hand, signifying that the purpose was being analyzed by the Mainframe. After a few moments the redhead made a thumbs up gesture that meant the purpose had been judged valid and in turn forwarded a request for Loravida to return to the AC. In return, Loravida agreed to the request and that too was processed by the Mainframe. With one last glance at the competition and rankings, Admin 1.05.890 followed Admin 2.10.890 through the door and away from the Battle Hall.

“I understand that you were transported from Agricultural Sector Alpha.” Tara mumbled in a low growl, “The proceedings must be rather new for you, as well as the setting. However, we each have a purpose to fulfill until we die. Ours happens to be maintaining the Mainframe and preventing any technical glitches from interfering our lives.”

“Yes, Admin.”

“Do you know what happens when we fail to fulfill our purpose?”

“People die.”

“Yes, and death is highly inconvenient to the welfare of the planet.”

The two women stopped in the middle of an empty hallway. There seemed to be nothing to signify a door until the wall parted and expanded until an oval hole two meters tall and a meter wide allowed them entry. As the women walked through, their PDS screens displayed identical Network messages acknowledging that they had returned to the AC. The blonde eyed the room with a slight frown, losing her composure for only a moment.

The room was a blinding white. Everyone wore white, the bodies disappearing in the bleached setting so that the only things seen were floating helmets. On the adjacent wall lines upon lines of nonsensical digits and symbols scrolled from the ceiling and disappeared into the floor. Rarely a digit would be frozen and the whole sequence would stop. Then the people in the room would look at each other and, without uttering a word, the symbol or letter would be changed. This was what an Admin had to do everyday of their adult life.

Admin 1.05.890 followed Admin 2.10.890 in the farthest corner of the room. This was her workstation. Since Loravida was new to the AC, she was given the status of trainee. As a trainee she could not participate in certain Administration duties, like editing Program data, but she could learn how and what must be done in order to maintain the Mainframe. She could also watch recorded vids of past glitches in the Program and learn how the Admins fixed them.
She sat down. Admin 2.10.890, Tara, returned to her chair near the door, which was now invisible again, and sat as still as a statue like all the others. Suddenly a chill ran Admin 1.05.890’s spine. She checked her vitals on her PDS, but nothing seemed to be out of order.

October 06, 2009

Miracles: Part One

He looked at me, breathless with exhilaration. His lithe form shaped a smooth curve against the purple drop light and sent a primitive signal to my brain and heart. Mine, I thought.


We ate cheesecake at the Grand Rapids Central Bus Station. Digging into the last strawberry slice with my fork while he took a regular piece, eating it like a pop-tart, we waited. The past two days and three nights have come and gone already, but my heart would not could not hurt. It had happened, over and over again. The same pain in the chest. The same longing embrace. The same tears. Eventually, you learn not to cry. Definitely do not look him straight in the eyes. If you do, then your composure will crumble. But that doesn't mean you love him less, just too much that it hurts every time he gets on that Greyhound bus and disappears like a ghost.

Was it just a dream?

"Hey," He holds your chin between his forefinger and thumb, pressing the buds of his lips against yours, "Did you enjoy it?"

I smiled, but I didn't answer. He liked to ask questions he already knew the answers to. With a sigh I leaned against him, the thick leather jacket massaging my cheek and tickling my nose. His arm was around me and he squeezed my shoulder.

Around us buses came and went. People milled about, seemingly aimlessly, when in fact they were only trying to keep out of the cold. A guy was strumming a five-thread bass guitar, and we stopped to look at him. He was a middle-aged balding black guy, though his real age was disguised by his solemn expression and thick winter coat. Skinny as a twig. One of Grand Rapids finest. I yawned and set the cheesecake down on the last bench, next to the food and drink machines. It was 7:12AM, and way too early to be awake.

His hand drifted over to mine, nudged it, then, when he had met no resistance, he gripped it hard and gave another squeeze.

"Hopefully next year I'll be living with you. Here, in this city."

"You can go to the community college here. It's really good, for a community college." I added, a hint of disappointment in my voice.

He didn't catch it, "I was thinking of that." You could be so much more, "But first I have to pay my bills off and get some money."

"Maybe next time you come up, we can go to Michigan Works and see if they can find you a job."

"Sure, why not?"

He grinned, showing his chipmunk teeth, popping out from the rest of his crooked mouth. He had so much more to do to get back on track. He had to go back to college, get his own car, find his own place to live, and get a good paying job. He wanted to be a vulcanologist, but he needed at least a Bachelor's Degree to be any good. He had to do internships and research projects with other colleges and students. Right now, he was taking baby steps. Right now he finally had a driver's license and a minimum-wage job with good hours.

But he has to keep going.

Don't stop.

Don't give up.

"You know," He leaned back and finished off his cheesecake slice, "I can see me marrying you, having kids, and growing old together. We'll sit down on the front porch and look back at our life together and be content. That's what I want."

Not fortune or fame. Not books, art, or movies. No fancy treats, no citadels, no white wine or expensive silks. A hand. A kiss. A vow.

To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.
Te amo, mi corazon. Te querré para siempre.

While around us people looked at each other with blank faces, blank hearts, erasing themselves before someone recognizes them, God acknowledges their sins and raises his fist in Armageddon. A killer's on the loose in Baton Rouge again. The Twin Towers were blown up, thousands dead, another thousand injured. We are the enemies of our enemies, and gold is our only friend. Rivers run red with Rwanda's people, Sudan's boys, China's citizens, until all we eat is raw, bleeding flesh, all we drink is red juice, enriched with vitamins A, E, and C, the nutritionists say. We are cannibals, you and I.

But right now, as the Greyhound bus pulls into the station and you stand up to shoulder your bright orange hiking backpack with a grunt, our primitive nature is subdued. We have learned to look beyond ourselves, beyond our own ambitions, and except another way. Someone else's way. By some miracle of God, a girl born in Seattle, Washington to a divorced family was able find love in a California boy who lost all his chances, but still doesn't give up. And they have made a vow. Love, Family, and Empathy. For better or for worse. 'Til death do us part.