Sunday, February 26, 2006

Dollar Store Food Fight

She had found them in the ruins of Dollar General store, squabbling over the last few cans of mackerel and the wormy crackers. They were hungry, angry and lost, children from a family that had a natural resistance to the virus.
It was amazing that they had survived as well as they had, even before the virus came and took most everybody they knew as it burned through humanity.
Before the dying, they would have been considered disposable trailer trash children, the bastard children of people who polite society had considered too tasteless to rub shoulders with.
After the Death, they were some of the best at surviving, or maybe even thriving, given the right chances and some guidance.
Angie had headed north after she rode out the multiple waves of infection. She had been smart enough to see what was coming, and had stocked up on supplies, figured out a low profile and tried to ride it out. She nearly made it through, only getting the virus in the last wave, and had been one of the few who could fight it off. When she finally rose from her bed and decided to leave town before it burned, or the nuke plant started melting and spewing toxins, she had headed north and west, away from the prevailing winds.
She'd been considered a joke at her old workplace. A geeky woman who baked her own bread, made her own soap and was a walking repository of what her co workers considered to be useless information. They'd made fun of her, and considered her to be a nutcase obsessive without a clue. She sometimes took comfort in the fact that she was abrasive enough that she kept the worst of the idiot skirt chasers scared enough to leave her alone.
The kids in the Dollar store ruins saw her differently. After months with no adults around, her quiet competence and oddly huge base of knowledge made her seem a gift beyond value. In six months they had built a home, started farming and had begun being self sufficient, in four years they had a thriving community, a school, and the start of a new world.
As she looked back on the 14 years since the Death, Angie realized that the office geek, the woman that people rolled their eyes at and who was thought nuts had gotten the best revenge of all, a life where she had been more than a cog in the wheel of corporate machinery, and had been someone of substance.
The fact that the biggest assholes in her past were dead didn't bother her a bit either.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Deorbit or Learn to Breath Vacuum

Things were, for lack of a better term, fucked. About as bad as they could get, or at least they hoped the bottom had been hit.
After the last oxygen generator had burst into flames and been doused, the final report from Mission control had come through.

The call came from a maintenance man, the last one left at mission control who knew just enough to tell them how good a job the virus had done at emptying out the planet.
From the sound of his hacking and coughing, he was nearly a goner himself. That had been two weeks and a big pile of the oxygen candles ago. Since then, there had been total silence from the planet below. Every radio, TV or satellite broadcast that wasn't on auto repeat had gone silent.
Large parts of Europe and most of the developed world had gone as dark as the Sahara at night, and the only bright areas were the burning cites.
The plague was burning itself out as it took most of humanity with it. There were some places still lit up, but those were dropping off the grid quickly. Every orbit showed another hole in what was left as the planet slipped into a post civilized state.
They had few choices, all of them bad ones. Their orbit was decaying, their food almost gone, the air running out. It was time to either load into the Soyuz and bail out or learn to breath vacuum.
So they loaded up the last of the supplies, dogged the hatches shut and blew loose from the space station. The Soyuz might have been designed by their grandfathers, but it was a nearly indestructible beast, and they had just enough fuel and momentum to aim somewhere warm.
They chose an island off the coast of New Zealand, one that might be untouched by the virus. If the heat shield held, if the GPS satellites were right, and if the trees didn't kill them on the way down, they might just make it. It was going to be a hellish ride, an untested flight path in a spaceship that should have been obsolete long ago, with no guidance from ground control, no life raft and no supplies.
Much to the amazement of all three of the crew, it worked. Romanov's head took some slight concussion damage, Shultz broke an arm when they bounced off the trees and hit the rock, but Ivanovitch, in his usual irritating way managed to slide through without a scratch.
They blew the hatch, and wobbled out of the capsule on rubbery legs that had long ago forgotten how to walk under normal gravity.
The bright sun, the blast of wet air and the smell of organic decay blew over them with a staggering intensity. After a year on the space station, it smelled like heaven and the monkey house at the zoo on a hot summer day.
Two days of slogging that should have taken an afternoon on legs used to gravity brought them to the sea, and the first signs of humanity in the shape of a costal village.
Shultz decided to make first contact. He had that arrogant air that a lot of the NASA guys had, a rude sort of assumed competence that had rubbed his Russian crewmen the wrong way since his first week on the station.
The tribe called themselves the Kuman, and had a culture that was older than most on the planet. They were hunters, warriors and guarded their land with an intensity that had kept everyone but the most determined away from them for thousands of years.
They were also cannibals, with a long history of serving man.
That night, around the fire, almost everyone was amazed at how tender and tasty that white stranger had been. So easy to chew, and so easy to catch. Shultz never knew how much like veal one could become spending that much time in zero gravity.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fill the Empty Lands

The earth had gotten quieter, the nights colder and the empty streets were creepy as hell. Small towns still mostly stood intact, but the bigger towns and all the cities were either pillars of smoke, or burned out ruins. Firestorms had swept over every airport and urban area as gas lines burst into flames, and the buildings full of dead burned, flames jumping from block to block with no one to fight the fires.
The surviving rats, dogs and other small animals scrambled to the edges, moving in to fill the empty streets of the suburbs. The howling dog packs in the distance made her realize she needed a gun and a way out of the city.
She had been alone now for 4 months, living off canned goods, driving her motorcycle along backroads and sidewalks to get away from the dead and the memory of those last few weeks.

For all she knew, she was the last living human. She was starting to wish she had never left the isolation lab, and had just laid down with the rest of the crew and taken that lethal dose. Her faith may have been shaken and beaten out by the big death, but the stigma against suicide still lingered.
She was about ready to give up on God too, given how lonely and miserable it felt being the last woman on earth. The whole Catholic faith and the message to have as many children seemed like a joke now that there were no men left.
She wanted more than anything to not be alone, to be in the arms of a man, feel his strength and smell that scent. To have a protector, and to make as many babies as she could to fill this terrible empty land, to fill her senses and heart with the sound of children.

It was a warm sunny afternoon, her dirt bike sputtering out of gas somewhere a few miles north of the burning gas storage tanks of Bismarck, North Dakota when she saw him sitting on the hood of an old Buick Roadmaster wagon, eating smoked oysters out of a tin and drinking some warm beer. Just the sight of him hit her like a closed fist to the lungs.
He was wiry, had a curly dark mop of hair, and stood about 5'9" in the coolest pair of cowboy boots she'd ever seen. A few days worth of light beard was on his cheeks, and he was a boyish looking twenty something. As she looked him over from head to foot a few times, wondering if this was another freak out from being alone, or if he was really standing there. Could this be happening? She thought of the babies somebody this man could make, and an end to the solitude she'd come to hate so much. Just looking at him was making her squirm with pleasure and lust like a golden retriever in heat craving to be taken.
They made camp, and talked non-stop almost all night. He'd been out camping when the virus came through, and had seen no one. He'd come all the way from Norfolk, across a dozen states and she wondered if he was as freaked out as her. He sure seemed physically distant. It didn't matter, she thought. He'd come around. She'd have him in the sack in no time, and the nonstop train of thought driving her to have babies would keep rolling. How could he turn down the last woman on earth?
She found out later that night he was gay. No matter, she thought. She just needed his sperm.
She found out the next night when she jumped into his bed he was a female to male transsexual.

He found her the next day. Her nearly headless body anyway, the Army .45 made a pretty big mess, that big slow moving slug did a pretty amazing job of skull ventilation.
He finally made it to Portland a month later. He found a nice boy a few weeks after that in the ruins of a Starbucks. One that loved him enough to stick around another 40 years.

Monday, February 13, 2006

She drove all night

She got in the car, and drove. She drove all night, until the sun came up in the rearview, gassed up and drove again. She did this until she reached the ocean.
A fat red blister of a sunset was slowly sinking into the waves when she finally stopped, pulled over and parked on the beach. She'd come 2300 miles, crossed nine state lines, burned ten tanks of fuel, and drunk 20 cans of redbull.
She climbed out, and pulled the bundle from the trunk and dragged it over to the edge of the cliff, looking down below at the waves beating on the rocks, hammering everything over and over, like they had done for a million years.
Screaming gulls circled over head as she unwrapped his body.
The cold weather she'd driven through had been kind to it. It was still partly frozen, and he looked like he was sleeping more than he looked dead, although a close look would reveal that the last year had not been kind to him. He was really a shell of what he was. A grim smile crossed her face as she thought of how ill suited he'd been to the priesthood, and how strange it still seemed to see him dressed in black with the white collar.
They'd be looking for her now, although without much passion. Stealing a body from a mortuary was pretty low on the list of crimes cops liked to chase after.
She stripped him naked, pulled him over to the edge and with a single short prayer to a god she didn't think had much use for her, shoved him over the edge into the surf.
The gulls, crabs and vultures would make short work of him, and her carefully chosen spot should keep him from being found.
She dusted off her hands, got back into the car, and headed east again.
Her brother had gotten what he'd asked her for, and she was damned if she'd give the catholic church another shot at him.
She'd been pissed off at them ever since Sister Rosaria told her about the pagan babies in 1965.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Jim White and The Handsome Family

Jim White and The Handsome Family put a hell of a show on last night at the Orpheum Stage Door. They're both purveyors of dark Americana music, or what I like to think of as Swamp Noir music, songs dealing with more than happy love or pop sensiblities.Every song is both a short story, and a whoop-ass can of intense images. They manage to bypass most of the self involved, "don't say shit about anything that might be read as a real statement" kind of navel gazing crap that so many afflicted with singersongwriter disease have.Check out Jim White's records "Wrong Eyed Jesus!" or "No Such Place" for the best in tornado bait trailer trash hick-hop demented semi-athiest gospel, and the Handsome Family's "In The Air" for disturbing and darkly funny songs.I got to talk to both Jim and Rennie, and they were as interesting offstage as on. I just wish I could write as well as Rennie, she's incredible. A good banjo player, too, if there could be such a thing. Her playing is sparse and dead on for the songs, and she seems free of that bullshit blugrass wank method of ego bloating soloing that so many of the inbred idiot republican bible slammin' shitbrained "look at me I can play fast and that means good, that's spelled MOON" style of approaching music.But I digress about blurgrass, forgive me. I had a bad experience.
Here's a link to a video of Jim's song, "if jesus drove a motor home"

Cross posted at
Photo by Vince Sullivan

Friday, February 10, 2006

Surreal Sidewalk Art

"Julian Beever is an English artist who is famous for his art on the pavements of England, France, Germany, USA, Australia and Belgium. Its peculiarity? Beever gives his drawings an anamorphosis view, his images are drawn in such a way which gives them three dimensionality when viewing from the correct angle. "

Go check out his work, now.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Heisenberg's still dead. Or is he?

Today on Feb 1st, 1976 , Heisenberg may have died today. May he rest in peace with Shroedinger's cat, who may also be dead. Or half dead.

"Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976)German physicist who, in 1925, created quantum mechanics. One important aspect of Heisenberg's theory was that it only dealt with properties of a system that can in theory be measured (for example, the frequency of the radiation emitted by a hydrogen atom). He said we cannot assign a position in space at a given time to the electron, nor can we follow an electron in its orbit. This means we cannot assume the orbits postulated by Bohr actually exist. Mechanical quantities such as position and velocity cannot be represented by ordinary numbers, but instead must be represented by matrices. As a result, Heisenberg's version of quantum mechanics is sometimes called matrix mechanics. The following year, the Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli showed that Heisenberg's theory correctly predicted the hydrogen spectrum. In 1927 Heisenberg published his famous Uncertainty Principle, which states one cannot measure the position and momentum of a particle with arbitrary precision. Heisenberg received the 1932 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on quantum mechanics. "

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Microfiction: Viral advantage

The big brains down at the DNA lab seemed to have finally come up with a winner. When the research that obesity was sometimes connected to a common cold virus, they started planning how to re-engineer a virus that did exactly the opposite, making obese people melt off fat in no time at all.
The actual gene sequencing and splicing of the DNA into the new virus only took a few months, and in the process they cut out all the flu-like symptoms of the original. Medical testing started at once with lab animals, and progressed to human trials in Africa, where a few hundred grand could buy just about any number of officials to let them test freely without irritating government interference. The hardest part was finding people obese enough to test it on.
The jump from vaccine to airborne infection of the new virus happened so fast that they never even got a chance to contain it for profit, let alone for human health.
Within a few months the cat had not only been let out of the bag, but had literally taken flight to every corner of the world. Within a few years, nearly everybody on the planet save for about 12 percent had shed so much excess weight that the Kate Moss heroin waif look was most common. No matter how much people ate, there was no way they could gain weight enough to look more than scrawny. Even bodybuilders and morbidly obese gourmands became stick figures, the virus was terribly efficient.
Of course, those tem percent of the fatties left found a new world, one where that extra hundred or so pounds meant fame, money and a sure ticket to a supermodel career.

Based on a real article, and human nature.
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Could being overweight be due to a virus? Recent findings of a American Physiological Society study, as reported by the World Science staff, say that hypothesis might be true.
The study found that a human-infecting virus called AD-37 causes obesity in chickens, which corroborated with previous studies linking other viruses with obesity in animals or humans. Its conclusions appear in the January issue of the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.
AD-37 is an adenovirus, which commonly cause upper respiratory tract infections including the common cold. Leah Whigham of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, lead researcher in the study, reportedly cautioned that more research is needed to determine whether it actually causes obesity in humans since the study showed only a handful of people being infected with the virus. The question of whether curing this will lead to a vaccine or other methodologies is still to be determined.

"Sometimes a scream is better than a thesis." Ralph Waldo Emerson