Monday, April 29, 2013

The Crone Choose Todd's Life Carefully

The crone's fingers snarled and alien honey trickled maliciously toward her caul as she tried, tiredly, to slow her fall.

The bottom was coming, despite what the howling wind shrieked into her ear holes, and there were threads that needs to be twined, and more yet to be split and rewound. There was work to do.

The honey burned many of The crone's limbs as she slowed her fall.

The crone's bones occasionally snapped, if they caught in a particularly thick wall. If an un-suspecting alien moved to the edge it got cut, or sundered, or lost a limb of its own.

The honeycomb went on as far as the crone could see, and it was doing a good job of slowing her. The crone wondered if she could swing into one of the larger honeycombs and rest, but  shook her head: The aliens had noticed the destructive swathe, were now in council to determine how best to commence her annihilation. The crone smiled, her teeth cracking into a million tiny smiles at the news and devoted more limbs to falling slower.

Once the howling air sounded a familiar pitch of scream the crone turned and slid thicker limbs into the void, buffeted, bruised, the crone groped in the darkness until a tingling came to her body. Delicately she traced the tingle with finger-thick limbs prodding gently up herself and out along the bridge of a limb --fractured bones grinding in the gale-- to the origin of the tingle.

There was ash, the crone saw: solid raindrops that coiled like limbs from a lack of heat. The crone marveled at their intricacy and, on realizing their fate cried; wanted to destroy such an uncaring universe. But couldn't. She and it were too interwoven, and the crone had knots to tie, not rope to chew.

The crone took the string and, whispering the end of a lullaby, hop-pushed herself away from the honeycomb, climbing instead the tingling string it had found, winding, wounding it around the parent body-strand.

There was another thread, very early, that the crone fingered, winding the string into itself as she fell. The string was short, a few hundred turns, and then: severed from its host spool. The crone sighed, spinnerets working fast: nothing to be done with already severed strings.

There was a novice thread --only eight limbs-- chasing a ghost, she saw. They were in a strange topography --moony nights and poisonous beasts of burden. There were trees like green mushrooms, tall and ancient and the novice's pet was strangely adorned. The crone sighed. Another string, it found, had slid into this one, from somewhere else, out in the dark. This invasive string was looping, taut, ran further than the crone's limbs could reach, longer than she could reel in.

Gently, carefully, the crone looped the invasive string around the parent thread. As she looped the string, the crone also sliced through the body of strands, thinning the connection until the trees disappeared, the frozen rain fell away and

and the crone was in true free fall now, only sure of the way up from the relative numbness of her body and the rush of wind flattening her caul; the crone curled in on herself, only the first tingle of thread from the darkness pulsing for her to follow.

Follow she did. The crone, after a minute of respite twisted and pointed her limbs like reaching shadows into the rushing void, ignoring for now the growing cacophony of alien wings. Her limbs stretched and grew thin from the strain, a few snapped off, burst open like ladybugs about to fly or ants caught in a fire, and were lost in the roar of the descent.

Three of the crone's limbs tingled at once, a triangle knot of threads: A trough, a boarding house. A nexus, a knotted ball, a twine cyst in the strings, a dozen threads melted, nettled together like abused candles.

The crone began picking at the ball. Many of her limbs stretched and flexed. Limbs that had stiffened together began to spread, to part. Her back ached. Still the crone grinned her million grins.

She hit the ground with the twine-cyst between all seven rows of teeth, chomping down and shattered like blackened church windows, made thin in their ancient frames.

Still the crone grinned, cyst gristle sticking to a million fragments in the sea of shattered crone chitin and bone.

The pieces began to hiss and smoke, melting through the ground, pock marks of depth. The shards that hid the walls, however, did not hiss as they burrowed. There was quiet work to do, too.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ends of

The motel room was clean, and easy to get to from the cracked window of the clerk's office.

Todd took a scalding shower.

He sat on the bed, stared at the pharmacy bag.

"This is it." he said to himself.

He took out the packet of pens and the five black and white marble notepads. He stared at them for a while. Part of him wanted to turn the television on, but the waitress's words caught it off guard, pushed it into a corner.

He wrote about Toa climbing the side of the crater, the huge blast of mud and crystal. He wrote how she traded the spear to a snake, who filled one of her empty water bags with spit and venom.

It was dark and starless when Toa reached the top of the crater. She was thirsty, but the marks were worn off her last two flasks.
Mind dry, Toa choose one and drank it down, and sat, staring into the crater.

Toa could not see the bottom of the crater. The side furthest from her was pocketed like an abandoned bee hive, the density of honeycombing lessened, the cells becoming larger, as they descended and spread.

Toa thought, once, that she saw a light dance from one edge of the cavern to another, but it was so brief and her thirst so heavy she wasn't sure.

She stood. "I think here is a good place to die." she said.

"No." Came a voice from behind her.

Toa turned. It was the crone, again. Toa asked, "No?"

"Now is a bad time to die, and you won't anyway. You can't die, as it turns out." Replied the crone. "You see, if you jump, you'll eventually fall into a honeycomb and befriend the alien living in it. It will try to fly you to safety, but you'll betray it, it will die, somehow --I don't know how-- and you will live. And you will think fondly of your brave friend the fallen alien."

Toa's eyes stung, remained dry. Her cheeks twitched.

The crone only stared, ocean luminescence leaking slowly from the depths of her cloak. "Listen, child." The crone talked for a while and Toa sat. The crone talked a while more and toa laid. The crone whispered and Toa's eyes closed.

And when she was asleep, the crone ate Toa. The hushed army of shadows, an infinite blanket of cauls and bone-limbs, behind the crone, spilling from a sink hole like a geyser -- the army vanished.


When she was asleep, the crone sucked the poison from Toa's body and leapt into the infinite crater herself --soundless as a drooping cloud.


When Toa fell asleep, the crone stared at her for a long time. The crone sat, too, and slowly, with weizening creaks she spread and uncurled her seventy-seven limbs, wrapped them around Toa and, singing the oldest of lullabies, scurried her back to the tree where her curiosity had first touched her. Mixed with the oldest of lullabies, the crone whispered three of her secrets to Toa.

When Toa woke, she was more hungry than she could remember being in her whole life. She ate plants and found a slaughtered monkey --its head and right arm missing. She cleaned it carefully with a knife and washed the blood from her teeth with water in the stream that flowed next to her tree.

Toa wondered about the creature she'd left in the tide pool of tears --was it grown? Had it left? She remembered being curious, but there was no direction, suddenly, no pull on her, so she decided to head back to her camp.


When Toa fell asleep the crone pulled back her hood, cleared the

from its eyes and looked once, unhindered, on Toa before softly nudging her over the edge of the crater.

Todd stood up and stretched. At some point  the power had flickered: the ancient alarm clock on the night stand between the two useless beds flickered 12:00 over and over. It had been 2:13 AM when he last looked at the clock.

Todd stretched, thought momentarily about the last cup of coffee he drank in the diner, and passed into oblivion.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

She looked at him with a reserved eyebrow. She said, "You should finish your story."

Monday, April 8, 2013

Toa's toes ached much more than the rest of her body.

Face down in the ash, she sighed, adjusted her white spear and water satchel then, joints creaking, hauled herself another few flops up the searing side of the crater.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The door chimed with a lilt, a lisp. The night clerk looked up, thick bone ridges instead of eyebrows and hollow cheeks that twitched: a smile.

"Hello." He said to The Octopus. "Haven't seen your kind around here in a while."

"My kind?"


"Sure what?"

"Sure, yes, your kind. Your other worldly, universe tromping kind." The man leaned back, head resting on hands, the knuckles of which: resting on nicotine color wall paper, peeling at the seams. "You're pretty good, most people either don't see you or pass you off as a person, eh?"

"Yes. Except Todd."

"He your driver?"


"Sure, sure." The man's teeth were like the wallpaper. "Friend, eh? How long you known him?"

The Octopus blinked.

They stared quietly at each other for a while. The Octopus moved up to the counter and stretched, slid its body onto the counter, assiduously avoiding the ornate attention bell. The Octopus signed, very slowly: No trouble, please.

The clerk laughed, a phlegmy, oily sound. "You gonna threaten me, boy?"

The Octopus laughed, its beak scratching against the counter's plastic top. "No." it signed. "No treats."

"You missed an "H" in there."



"Yes." The Octopus was on the night clerk, three arms wrapped around his wiry throat, another two arms each wrapped around the man's. The last arm poked the night clerk in the eye. "No struggling." The Octopus clumsily signed. It continued: No fighting. No tasting. No licking. No penetrating. No invasions. Nod if understood.

Very slowly, the night clerk nodded.

And And And

In Todd's dreams he wakes in the mottled motel room and The Octopus is green, not red. It stares at him, and signs frantically, too fast for Todd to read. He begs for The Octopus to slow down, but it speeds up instead.


While Todd dreamed, the Octopus went and had a stern conversation with the night clerk.


Todd lost The Octopus in the unlit gas station, the silence deafening, the snow blinding, obliterating the world beyond the glass. He stumbled over the mauled body of the gas station attendant and a dead cat.


When they found the boar it was chomping noisily, face buried in a fallen bird's nest, feathers gusting frantic on some snow devil twister.

Monday, April 1, 2013

She had messy, startlingly white teeth and pale blue eyes. She flipped his coffee cup with a twirl and a flick of her wrist. "You need this." she said, pouring him coffee from the brown rimmed jug. "But, how you doing? I'm Flo."

"Hi Flo. I just watched an Octopus hug a prehistoric boar into the nether." Todd stared at the coffee in his cup. "I think I will miss The Octopus, now its gone."

"Gone, into the nether?"

"Out of existence sounded corny, in my head."

"Neither of them sound real."

Todd smiled, "Not to you." He said and burned, choking and coughing, his mouth --spat scalding coffee onto the paper dining mat.

Flo deftly stashed her pen in the tight bun of hair on the back of her head. "An Octopus hugged a prehistoric bore --"

"Boar, like a giant, hairy pig."

Flo sat. She sighed gently. "That sounds like a simile."

"It isn't. It isn't a metaphor, either." Todd considered asking Flo if she wanted to have sex with him. He thought to himself: Be cool, just do it, don't ask. He kept talking. Todd said, "IT isn't a metaphor. It's what happened to me, what has been happening to me. The Octopus came to me, and we chased a boar."

"Well, that doesn't sound boring." Flo cracked a smile. Her humor was lost to Todd, but her smile wasn't. They say quietly for a moment before Flo said, "Why don't you tell me about it?"

"About the boar?"

"Whatever you want, hon'. You're the only one here and I'm the only waitress and its freezing outside and I've got hours to go before I can sleep."

"I should really write it all down."

"Why don't you?"

"The boar. It --the boar-- it broke my computer, and my laptop, too. it."

"So tell me, I've got a good memory, I'll recount you your story once you're done. Then you won't loose it."

"Like so many dreams."


"Nothing, sorry." Todd carefully tried to balance the coffee cup on its bottom ridge, couldn't yet do it. He tried to sip some of the coffee out, but it was still too hot. "I'm tired." he said, lamely.

"But not too tired to talk."

"Apparently not to you, no."

"So." Flo said.

"So." Todd said. Todd said, "So there I was, I was asleep when the boar appeared in my apartment."

"And broke your lap top?"

"No, that happened when it came back."

"It came back?"



"I don't honestly know."

"Oh," Flo looked disappointed.

"I was writing this story --"

Flo asked, "About The Octopus?"

"No. Sort of. Mostly it was about this little girl who had to kill an evil spirit."


"But then this boar --similar to the evil spirit in that story I was writing, appeared."

"How do you know it was a boar?"

"It just is. It couldn't be anything else."

"Why not?"

Todd sipped his coffee, scalding; bearable. "Dunno. So this boar appeared and snuck out of my apartment. And I knew it was the boar."


"Somehow, yeah. Then this Octopus appeared. It hovered at first, but after a day or so it started walking on some of its tentacles."


"A little. It learned sign language, too. We talked, and it --The Octopus-- explained that it was there to find the boar. It didn't know what it was going to do once it found it, but it needed to find it." Todd sipped his coffee again. The phone was silent. No one came in. The snow whipped itself against the window, quiet and ineffectual but for the quietly seeped heat. Flo was quiet, when Todd seemed lost, after a moment of quiet, she nodded encouragingly. "An angel must've passed," he said.

"Or The Octopus and the boar," Flo smiled.

"Right. The Octoups would, it would go away now and then. Mostly it was out. I think it was hunting the boar, but I don't know how."

"Was that lonely?"

"No, it was good. While The Octopus was out I wrote more of Toa's story. The girl? That's her name. Toa."

"Interesting name."

"It's a --it doesn't matter."


"Not really, no. It's a misspelled other name."


"Anyway, so The Octopus would go out and sometimes it would come back with food, or a map, or a missing limb. Once it came back without an eye and covered in splinters and porcupine quills. Once, it came back with the best samosas --"

Flo interrupted, she asked, "Like the girl scout cookies? Isn't it early for them?"

"Close," Todd smiled, "Sam oh suss. They're a --they're a pastry stuffed with potato and spices and peas."

"Like a fancy Perogi?"

"Like a --yeah-- like a spicy, fancy Perogi. Yeah."


"Yeah. So. It brought me these samosas and they cured a case of writer's block I'd been having for a few days. I wrote a lot after eating samosas. So that that gave me a new pattern to follow: eat samosas, write a chapter or two of this story I'm writing."

"But then."

"How'd you know there was a 'but then' ?"

"There's always a but then."

"You done this before?"

"Done what before? You think you're the first guy with an Octopus and a Boar story that slummed on in this diner, the wee hours of a weekday?"

"I'm not?"

"No, don't worry hon', you are. Mostly we got discouraged deer hunters, this season."

They shared a solid chuckle.

"Probably on account of the boar." Todd said, quietly.

"It really isn't a metaphor?"

"Really, it was real."

"Until The Octopus took it."

"Until The Octopus took it." Todd laughed but it turned into a sigh. "So. But then."

"But then."

"But then  I'm passed out on my notebook, and the boar comes back. Breaks into my apartment and"


"And it trashed the place and I don't know what else it did, but it woke The Octopus and they fought, I almost died."


"Yeah, fell out my door, almost went into orbit."

"That makes no sense."

"Tell me about it."

"Well, it's batshit crazy."

"Yup." Todd finished his coffee and Flo refilled his cup. He sipped it and smiled. "Thanks."


Todd continued, "So, I passed out, knocked out falling into my shower. and when I woke up, my phone was gone. The Octopus forced the boar to eat it, or it ate it, or something. So."

"So that's how you tracked it up here?"

"Weird isn't it?"

Todd looked at her, head cocked, "How so?"

"Its like the boar wanted to be caught, in the end."

"Don't we all?"

"I dunno, hon', I don't."

"Anyway. Yeah, I honestly don't know. I think it thought it was destroying something, when it ate my phone. We tracked it to this apartment building I used to live in, and it destroyed the laundry room, and we lost it --it got away. Then we followed my phone's signal to a gas station and --"

"Holy shit man!" Flo was suddenly standing, "You're the guy who blew up the Shell station on the 75?"

"What! Hey! No!"

"You're blaming a boar and an Octopus for that? I'll be right back."

Todd sighed. He put his head in his hands. He stared at the soggy paper mat. He quietly said, "The Octopus would know if she was going to call the cops or not."

"I didn't call the cops." Flo stood, her checkered shirt stark against the white of the wall. "I just went to check on the cook. He's okay. He was asleep. You want anything to eat?"

"You really didn't call the cops?"

"Stick around, see if they show up."

"I hate living in uncertainty."

"And yet living with an Octopus is okay."

"Yeah. That's the unknown."

"More possibility there?"

"Something like that."

"So. There was a gas station that exploded and that didn't get the boar or The Octopus, either."



"But it wounded the boar. It bleed and the blood evaporated slowly and left like a, like a messed up trail of breadcrumbs. Eventually we found it, in this national reserve."

"And it disappeared."

"I think The Octopus made it disappear."

"That's it?"

"We got a flat, tire but The Octopus changed it. Eight arms and all."

"Huh. Handy thing to have around."

"I don't know where the samosas come from. I don't know." Todd sighed. "I don't know so much about that creature."

"Does it matter?"

"To me."

"I want to know how long you've been chasing it."

"The boar?"


"A month or so."

"When's the last time you wrote more of Laura's story?"


"The girl you said you were writing about." Flo looked concerned, She but her lip, "Did I get the name wrong? I'm usually a better listener."

"Its late."

"It is."

"Toa. I haven't. We've been on the road. Before the gas station we stayed in this motel with this creepy night clerk --"

"They're all creepy, aren't they?"

"That was my first creepy experience."

"You don't travel much, then."

"And you do?"

Flo straightened, broadened her shoulders and laid her hands, fingers splayed, on the table. Very slowly she said, "Yes. Yes I do."


"Yes." Flo softened. "So, you want more coffee?" Todd nodded, and she refilled his cup. Flo said, "You got a room at a creepy Motel."

"Yeah, and I remember I had nightmares, but I can't for the life of me remember them, now."

"Huh." Flo said, as if answering a math question. "Huh." Then, "So, after the hotel?"

"We drove, and it shouldn't have, but it took us until dark to get to the national park, and then we had to walk on foot through what felt like a thousand miles of field, into the treeline, and then our flashlights died, and then we found the boar."