The Ghost in the Room

A time traveler arrives at his hotel room. His name is Mr. Valentine, and he’s wearing a long trench coat, a brimmed hat, and carrying a sturdy suitcase. Upon entering his room, he closes the door behind him and takes a brief look around at the amenities. To his immediate left is a bathroom, his right a closet, and ahead of him lies his bedroom, bed against the left wall and television along the right. Directly ahead of him is the entrance to a balcony that overlooks a nightlit city.

Mr. Valentine approaches his bed and finds Read more

They Don’t Have Voices

A brother and sister once slept in the same room. They did it naked, in ignorance, coiled around each other like twine. No one knows precisely what led to them being in that room. What is known is that they died there, long before they had the chance to leave.

The brother’s name may have been Levi, short for “Leviticus” of biblical fame. His mother read that book often and feared having a child who would lay with someone from their same sex. Levi would have made his mother proud. He’d have accompanied no man, married into a wealthy family, and worked hard and saved often, living a long and modest life. As a reward the world would have respected Levi. On his deathbed he would have been surrounded by as many grandchildren as he had fingers and toes.

Although, some of those grandchildren might have been told unpleasant stories. They would have learned at their bedsides that their grandfather was not a saint. Grandpa Levi was a man of hard discipline who would routinely beat his own offspring and sue his neighbors for their mortal mistakes. If these wide-eyed youths could believe it, Levi would become the reason behind his wife’s many bruises—and her eventual death. That revalation would have been told in whispers, for no one wanted to believe it. It seemed Grandma had uncovered Grandpa’s darkest secret, and for doing so she had paid the ultimate price.

Yes, a hard man, rarely moved or perturbed. Levi’s only soft spot would have been his sister dearest. She would have been the light of his life, his anchor at sea, who when all the world riled against him he could’ve always turned to for solace. One every occasion would his sister have welcomed him. Wearing his tears on her breast, she would have walked him through old and undying memories. A playground. A movie theater. A theme park in the summer of life. These would have been the tethers that bound him to sanity. When they returned the real world, Levi would have wept no more.

This angel who lent her ear to her brother’s confessions may have been named Elizabeth, after the English princess. Like the English princess, Elizabeth’s character would have been noble. She would have consoled many more suffering friends and family members, fought for the rights of the weak and the liberty of the innocent. She would have risen to political heights and helped to keep the world spinning. Most importantly, she would have become pregnant—twice. The two brave women whom Elizabeth raised would have contributed a great deal to the human experiment.

But Elizabeth would have loved fruitlessly, become widowed, then died alone. She would not be pretty, this Elizabeth, in the eye of any beholder. This would have driven her to weeping into her own bosom from time to time. She would have confided in her brother her terrible thoughts, her desires to add a few lies to her looks. Levi would have brought her to her senses with his hardened words. She was already beautiful, he would have said. It was the world that was ugly and didn’t understand.

In this way would they have been an inseparable pair. More than a team; more than the sides of a coin. They would have done anything for each other, and anything again. Be it mere well-wishes sent across an ocean or a check with many zeroes designated to a casino, they would have tackled life’s challenges in all their forms, surviving long past that moment that they spent in that room.

The room. The place where they did spend that moment. The place where, while lying in their pitiful states, would-be Levi and would-be Elizabeth were besieged by deadly chemicals and ripped from the Earth. No more futures, no more dreams. Just nudity, wetness, namelessness, ignorance. Still without voices, still in their fetal positions.

There in that room. That sullied palace of their mother’s flesh.

(Read the original draft here.)

Wrestling Johnson’s Dirty Ass Secret

Wrestling Johnson pulled up to the movie awards in a 2017 sports-class Bugatti. He wore a shimmering blue suit with a silk white button-down, and as usual he filled out corners of the suit that normal men wouldn’t even know existed. He walked through a storm of paparazzi wearing a million-dollar smile, his struts long and powerful, eyes twinkling down at the crowd. The golden timepiece on his wrist glimmered in the limelight. His polished brown shoes somehow clicked on the red carpet.

“Mr. Johnson! Mr. Johnson!” cried one eager journalist. “What is the secret to your impressive physique?”

Wrestling Johnson laughed deeply, then said, “Here, I’ll show you.”

He grabbed a box of pizza from a pizza boy who just happened to be strolling by, opened the lid, and upended the box’s contents into his mouth. After tossing the box in one direction and a hundred-dollar bill in the pizza boy’s, he took a bottle of champagne out of a wine cooler held by a passing waitress, popped the cork, and drank it to the bottom. He handed the bottle back to the waitress, halted another waiter rolling a stuffed and roasted turkey to its destination. He grabbed the turkey delicately by each end, then dunked his head into the turkey’s bosom, ravaging half of its torso. He did it all without dirtying a hair on his face—though he did have to wipe his hands with a thousand-dollar napkin after that turkey.

His food consumed, Wrestling Johnson dropped to the floor and began doing furious push-ups, first with both hands, then with one hand, then with his feet pointed in the air. The crowd ooh’d and aah’d and took pictures galore. 100 one-handed push-ups later, Wrestling Johnson stood back up, adjusted his jacket, and gave another charming smile to the cameras. He wasn’t the slightest bit winded.

“Carbs, darling,” he said to the journalist. “You put ‘em on, then you work ‘em out. That simple.” He smiled again, signalling for her to blush or swoon or whatever.

The journalist instead adopted a puzzled look. “You ate an entire pizza just now? Doesn’t that have an effect on your digestive system?”

Wrestling Johnson kept his smile on, looked the journalist in the eye without a hint of disdain. After a long moment of silence, however, he waved to the crowd and walked away, towards the entrance doors and an award show where he would be asked no further questions.

Several hours later, Wrestling Johnson pulled up to his mansion hauling an armful of trophies with his name on them. He walked up grand stairs made of expensive minerals and through a high-ceilinged vestibule illuminated by expensive lights. The mansion was empty; his family wasn’t home for the night. Wrestling Johnson put down his trophies on the massive, cushy sofa, looked around his golden living room suspiciously, then half-walked, half-jogged to the bathroom, a shiny space scented with exotic candles and which was the size of an average person’s condo.

Wrestling Johnson pulled his expensive blue-silk pants down to his polished wood-brown shoes. He plopped muscular butt cheeks down on his marble toilet, braced a manicured hand against the gold-tiled wall. And then—

Then he shat.

He shat.

He shat and he shat and he shat.

He shat all that pizza that he’d dumped in his mouth. He shat all that turkey that he’d barely chewed before swallowing.

He shat shit and champagne. His shit bubbled and popped.

He shat the full net worth of a third world country.

He shat. And he shat.

He shat and he shat and he shat and he shat.

When Wrestling Johnson was done shitting, he cleaned up after himself the way he’d always done. He wiped his ass with single-ply toilet paper and washed his hands with pipe water and soap. He dried his hands with a three-year-old towel. Though he returned to a living room full of Indian carpets and European furniture, he sat down to watch the same crappy cable network that was in service throughout the tri-state area.

In the privacy of his home, Wrestling Johnson spread a leg over his couch, breathed in oxygen, and picked his nose just like any motherfucker alive.

(Click here to read the original draft.)

Another Alien Invasion

My friend Karl isn’t from around here. He’s from a place where the air is clean and the people walk slowly and the stars are clearly visible at night. He’d decided to come to school here so he could be away from all that. Us being friends and all, I’d volunteered to be his tour guide-slash-confidant during his stay, intending to show him why that was a terrible idea.

Today we were heading into the downtown area for some sightseeing. He was having a good time so far, enjoying the food, the smells, the many glorious sights that visitors always found in the City That Never Sleeps.

Oh, like that alien invasion over there.

They came through a portal this time, high in the air, wide enough for a few thousand of them to fit through and ringed with nebulous energy. They looked humanoid, wore glittering armor, had laser guns, and rode epic, flying scooters. I guessed the ten-foot-tall man-alien with the grey skin and rainboots was their leader. He was probably looking to steal some valuable space mineral or get revenge for his homeworld—typical fare.

Karl put down his camera and gaped in awe. A lot of the folks around us did that; they were obviously tourists and had never witnessed such phenomenon before. But the locals did the more sensible thing. We whipped out our smartphones and pressed “record.”

“…What are you doing?” Karl asked as he noticed me, his accent as thick as his tone was clueless.

“You ever seen an alien invasion before?” I asked him while trying to get the big guy in the frame.

“On the Internet, perhaps.”

“Yes, well, who uploads those videos?”

Karl’s eyes went so blissfully wide. I could hear the thoughts swimming through his precious head. Is this real? Are aliens real? What’s that smell? Is that my pants? Before long, the aliens had descended upon us and started firing their lasers, blowing up chunks of earth and sending cars flying. Karl and other tourists screamed and started running away despite having no idea where to go. The city’s hundreds of avenues quickly swallowed up the unfortunate ones, while I tugged Karl into a nearby store, saving him from a network of lettered-and-numbered streets far worse than anything the aliens could conjure up.

Karl started ranting hysterically. Something about running, calling the police, calling the military—every rational thought a person in his situation would have. The locals smiled and shook their heads. “His first alien invasion?” their looks told me. I nodded apologetically, then placed a hand on Karl’s shoulder.

“Buddy, relax. We’re safe in here. When was the last time you heard​ of an alien attacking a bodega?”

“But how do you stop them? You must have stopped them before, yes?”

I held up a finger as I heard a low rumbling. “Wait for it…” BOOM! Outside the window, a giant green man fell out of the sky, landed in the middle of the street, and leaped back into the air. I caught that shit on Vine.

A flood of people suddenly zoomed past the window—the kind of people you only find in a crazy city like this one. They wore metal armor and red capes, carried indestructible shields and rode invisible jets. They were human-sized turtles with nunchaku and sais. They were Mustangs and Camaros that turned into giant robots.

Karl’s jaw hit the floor and he let out one long, unbroken squeal. Of terror, of joy, I still have no idea.

Over the next two hours, the conflict escalated in the usual fashion. The big grey dude declared Earth to be his domain, and the heroes told him in a very tongue-in-cheek way that he couldn’t have it. Forces clashed. Countless no-name buildings got destroyed, dozens of innocent people became forgotten collateral. Same old, same old. When it was over, aliens and heroes alike went home, leaving the city looking like a finger painting after an enema. Fire and rescue arrived on the scene shaking their heads, as did the media, who I swear had the most impossible footage for their b-roll.

As Karl and I walked walked away from the medics, that motley crew with the grey hairs and wrinkles who almost certainly weren’t being paid enough, Karl looked at me regretfully, gulped, then whispered, “I want to go home.”

Oh, Karl.

(Read the original draft here.)

Gunshot Sweetheart

The hammer clicked into position almost as soon as the magazine did. And then the murders began.

First came the man who had called her “Sweetheart.” He’d been eyeing her hungrily throughout the meeting, licking lust onto his lips and sending his left hand on excursions under the table. He looked good in this lighting, she had to admit. Nice haircut, nice tan. She might have given him her number on a Saturday with bad weather. As it stood, he’d fucked up. Not even her father got away with “Sweetheart.”

Not-Sweetheart blew her admirer something that wasn’t a kiss, sending him toppling through one of the glass panes on his side of the room. As glass rained in thunderous waves and the body hit the floor with a sickening thud, the people around the conference table jolted to their feet, their suits and ties almost flourishing, but not quite. They looked stupidly between their fallen comrade and the barrel of the smoking gun, confused, enraged, but most importantly, coming to their senses. They’d thought they’d been dealing with a fool. Now they knew they’d been flirting with Death.

She allowed them a grace period. They deserved that much. They’d accommodated her well this past half hour, while she hadn’t been much of a proper guest. No, she shouldn’t have asked for three grand on the hour. And no, she definitely shouldn’t have insisted when they laughed. So what if her male counterparts earned that much? To these patriarchal figures, equal pay was a middle finger.

The purple-haired vixen to her right made a sudden move. With one more tug of the trigger, Not-Sweetheart put the fool in its place. Another tug put down the East European model to her left who, sweet Mary, had looked absolutely dashing in her yellow-patterned headscarf; a third tug, the tomahawk Scot beside her. Screams, yells—the usual chorus of panic—started filling the air as everyone finally began to hustle. Not-Sweetheart fell into her element. Tug, tug, kill, kill. Twenty targets became nineteen became eighteen became…

She backpedaled into the bald-headed security measure who’d been stationed behind her, and had just made an attempt to grab her from behind. She trapped him against the wall, crushed his big toe. She spun him around as she saw the piece emerging from the local Idris Elba’s belt, turning him into a shield, then Security went limp on her shoulders to the sound of rampant gunfire. It seemed two of the quicker ones had drawn their weapons. Using their reflections in the specular wall for reference, she aimed the barrel over Security’s shoulder and, tug-tug, put holes between their eyes.

The room was a flurry of activity now, its occupants that were not falling behind curtains of red having lifted handguns and rifles out of their briefcases and taken aim at Not-Sweetheart’s concealed back. Tug: there went the lights. More glass rained on the room from the vantage point of one very expensive chandelier.

Their bullets still flew through the darkness, propelled less by tactical forethought and more by insolent reflexes. Though the moonlight and gun sparks made a veritable light show, Not-Sweetheart didn’t see it, as she’d already dropped to the floor and leaped sideways into the space between the seat and spidery legs of a rolling chair. She now took off, loosing thousand-dollar rounds on thousand-dollar pant legs under the table. Shapeless masses crumpled in the shadows, and she didn’t need the lights on to see what expressions they wore.

The man nearest the window was the footnote on her passage. He caught sight of her as she slid into view, and too late. Tug: she put a fat one in his collarbone, then, tug, she weakened the glass. She pushed her chair in front of her, splashed into the night, and was gone, throwing one last metal kiss in her wake.

(Disclaimer: This is an updated version of the original story. Read the first draft here.)

Shared Post: Winter’s Day by Benjamin Rajapaksa

A huge shout out to my friend Ben, who wrote this inspirational piece and gave me permission to share. You rule, man!


Sunrise

I

We will sit together
In the cold at daybreak,
As if we are not cold.
And in this warmth we share
Visions will be our breaths,
Illustrating our thoughts.

And we will imagine
That we each imagined
Us both sitting here now.
The way I remember,
Or the way you do not,
Does not matter to us Read more

African Lingo

The professor wrote a word on the board. Then he pointed at it with his meter stick.

“Repeat after me,” he said. “‘Hyper…bole. Hyper…bole.’ Repeat!”

The children piped up: “Hypa…bully. Hypa…bully.”

The professor spanked the black off their bottoms.

“I have no faith in these chiljen!” he told his assistant. “They are all going to fail!”

The assistant looked at him funny. “What did you just say, professor?”

“I say these chiljen are incompetent! They are all going to fail!”

“The children, you say?”

“Yes, yes, the chiljen!”

The assistant wrote a word on the board. Then she pointed at it with her meter stick.

“Repeat after me, professor: ‘chil…drrren. Chil…drrrrrrrrren.’ Repeat!”

The professor piped up: “Chil…jen. Chil…j-j-jen.”

The assistant spanked the black off his bottom.

The Gran Toliar and the General

Two men are talking, a monk and a general. The general needs to convince the monk to move from atop a mineral deposit the general needs access to; though the monk is harmless, he is protected by some kind of barrier, physical or figurative, so the general cannot remove him by force. The mineral represents a philosophical rift between the two men’s cultures. The general’s culture wants to use the mineral to return to Eden, a paradise that cast humans out, and the monk thinks mankind needs to invite the Keepers of Eden to return to them by changing their ways while in captivity. Their conversation is as follows…

The Gran Toliar and the General

The general stands before the monk, unable to cross the protective barrier the monk sits behind.

General: You claim you are against violence in all its forms, My Gran Toliar. You also define violence as any action that removes agency from another person against their will; a definition I happen to agree with. Is sitting here obstructing our path, then, not an act of violence?

The Gran Toliar: Is it violent for a mother bird to shield her eggs from the predator? Read more

Kafrika (Excerpt)

The Crips and the Bloods are at it again.
They’ve got their AK’s and OG’s and gin,
Marching to the beat of their own drum.
And really, it is a fantastic one.

The Crips and the Bloods were gangs known for their lethal hijinks on America’s urban landscapes. In the late 20th century they went at each other’s throats, popping caps and dropping bodies in the manner of countries at war. Drugs were their currency; hankerchiefs their flags; AK-47’s their atom bomb; OG’s their generals. Though bloody and not without casualties, gang warfare provided one spectacular benefit to both sides: fear. Both the Crips and the Bloods became programs on a network owned in part by Osama bin Laden.

Do they hear it? Where they at, those clowns?
The woods of the Congo are burning down;
They said “Y’all got three minutes to show ya face
Or cut another strand from the human race.
Boom, boom, we run this place.
Africa is now our home base.
This whole block, this whole rock, this whole Earth;
Nigga, we own the dirt.
Y’all could throw the stone, we gon’ clap first,”
As arrows flew over the sound.

But here, in Africa, a third-world continent that welcomed no one, the Crips and the Bloods were accessories around the necks of warlords. All their bravado, all their showmanship, all their street cred and criminal records—all was as wind in the face of the local Kony. And that unsettled them a great deal. For what realm but hell did not shiver with each titanic step they took?

Exodus, a game played too long
Played too strong by wronger men.
Hunger then, I wonder when,
Shall end on a note not sweetly sung.

2150. A global population too high to count, too poor to count, and too angry. While the rest of the world wrestled with nitrogen levels, the U.S. concocted a more solid solution, pouring it into the water supply and settling in for the long wait. By the middle of the year, the missing person reports had all but snitched away the deed. Blacks, latinos, and Asians were vanishing by the thousands, and waking up back in their ancestors’ homelands.