Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Bigger The Cushion

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Garrity ran for his life through the dark forest. Why the hell had he chosen to be a pin cushion for Halloween? And where had everyone, EVERYONE, gotten all those pins? The villagers chased him uphill as he tried desperately to shed his costume. The damned zipper was stuck! There was a pin in it! Damn these people who couldn't take a joke.

He was sweating like a pig. His lungs refused to take anymore air. Blood burned his eyes. He'd been stabbed a hundred or more times before he was able to pull away from them, all the while screaming, "It's a costume! It's a costume!"

At the top of the hill Garrity was able to peer above the treetops. Then he understood. Toxic waste from a massive pin factory poured into the village's water supply. So they weren't just insane. They were brain damaged. And they had more than their fair share of pins.

They were almost on him. With sudden inspiration, he tore at his costume and pulled the stuffing out, letting it float on the wind. It was a hell of a risk; the stuffing was the only thing that had saved his life thus far. The crazed villagers found him upon the hilltop, the red cloth of his costume sagging all around him.

"Help!" he screamed. My gown is three sizes too large!" Garrity's pulse pounded in his ears as the mob surrounded him, pins at the fore, but to lose his cool now was to invite a gruesome death. When the measuring tape came out, he almost fainted.

The villagers altered his "gown" using the pins to hold their alterations in place until someone came forth with a complete sewing kit. When the crowd drew back, Garrity, in his new outfit, was the hottest piece of ass on the hilltop.

"Excuse me," Garrity said to the leering mutants that drank in the sight of him, "My eyes are up here!"

In moments, the chase was on again.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The World Here

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

To his sorrow, Oliver found that he was smitten with Wilma, the Beyondist, the one person who would never go to the second half of life. Wilma supplied the tools a person needed on the other side. Many hated her out of the ignorant notion that it was she who determined their purpose. Untrue. If anything, Wilma should have been praised by all for preparing them for the next world when no one else would.

It was Wilma who gave future earth dwellers their dark-eyes and scoop claws. She gifted the algorithmists their hyper-space minds which cut through everything in between, and without Wilma, what chance did the tomato flayers stand?

For too long Oliver had shunned her aid. He wept at the injustice, mourned the Beyond that was his birthright, the paradise just within reach. Each time he went to take it and put an end to his misery, the sight of her turned him. The biddies and busies, all younger than he, tutted as he passed them on the long streets and byways to his home.

He met her one night beneath the weeping willow whose branches rained brown leaves over the Farna Lake. He brought the sweet bread that she liked from the bakery across from the cat juicery.

"May I sit?" he asked as the sun set purple and orange behind craggy mountains. Her day was done and though she liked to be alone with her thoughts after working with the public all day, the bread tended to pacify her.

"Of course," she said. "Will you be ready to go tomorrow?"

"No. You needn't ask anymore."

"I have to ask. especially one so reluctant as you. You're curious curious aren't you, Oliver? You hover at the edge, no longer interested in this world but afraid of the next." She held her hand out for the piece of bread he tore.

"No, again," he said. "Curious curious but not for that place."

"You wonder what you'll do there? No one can ever know until they commit to going."

"No, again."

"Your mother sends her regards from Beyond. She has found true love with a five-legged man."

"What of my father, then?"

"He has his music. He draws it grinding and moaning from the bedrock. He's very famous, the first yuman ever to conceive of such a thing. He is happy."

"Everyone is happy there," Oliver said.

"Yes, and you will be as well."

"I didn't come to you today. I watched you at the gate and I realized that I would be the first unhappy one in all of the beyond."

"That is highly unlikely."

"It is true."

"And you know this? You're not the first unhappy person here, I can tell you that."

"I am happy here, in a way."

"Not like you could be. You're getting older Oliver. You should have given yourself over to it months ago."

"I wouldn't be happy there, Wilma, because you are not there."

"You don't need me," she said with a laugh.

Oliver took her dark and slender hand, brushed its smoothness with his thumb. "I do," he said.

She seemed surprised and slowly moved to pull her hand away, stopping when she knew he wouldn't let go.

"Oh," she said. She looked away, tracing the widening trails of the water spiders rippling across the Farna's glassy skin. "A life such as the one you envision is not meant for me."

"It is," he said. "You want to know what I envision?"

"What then?"

"I envision nights spent by this lake, beneath this tree, breaking bread and sipping wine until the sun goes down and then some. Listening to ten-thousand cricket songs until the darkness flows from without to within and sleep sways us softly into the gentle morn."

She said nothing, her face turned away from him to the north. He watched the lace trim of her dress rise and fall in a long, steady rhythm. He watched until he slept and as the dawn's light greeted him, he found her hand still in his, her eyes upon the western mountains.

"A rabbit, tonight?" he whispered.

Her eyes fell to her chest. He kissed her cheek and felt her weight push toward him just a little.

"I pity the ones on the other side," he said and was away.

He found her there, waiting for him upon his return that evening.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Second-Hand Smoke

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

My mother was whole and solid when she brought me into this world. She began disintegrating almost immediately, going up in smoke until, twenty-seven years later, there was nothing left of her. She never saw it coming, didn't acknowledge what was happening even when I sat screaming at a pair of smoking thumbs floating in our little living room.

After she left, her ashy essence remained, choking our drapes, our linens, our car upholstery. Our lungs. Our blood. So full of her were we, it begged the question: Had we ever been fully ourselves? But one Christmas eve, I came home to find my father on his knees, desperately snorting the throw pillows to reclaim their acrid stench and only then I understood what we really were.

My father fell to the floor and a rush of smoke filled the air above him, stirred up by the seat of his pants. Through burning eyes I looked down, noticed for the first time that most of my mid-section no longer existed. I picked my father up from the floor and took him outside. I left the door open to air out the house.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Something Else By Someone Else

Whoops! I've got to head out the door and there's no way I'll have a story for you guys today. Sorry. Here's a funky little movie to pass the time instead: http://www.nontzeberri.com/nontzeflash/2006/imag/filmak/swf/benditonontze.swf

Have fun and watch out for hookah-smoking maniacs in lederhosen.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Intro

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The junior high talent show got Paul all worked up because Janine was going to be in it. She was doing some sort of gymnastics routine. How hot would it be to see her in that tight little red, white, and blue, Mary Lou Retton gymnastics leotard thing? He got to the gym an hour before the show so he could stake out a seat in the middle of the front row. It was general admission (Hey, it's not as if The Who were showing up to play the talent show or anything, but that would be cool, wouldn't it? Not just The Who, but the unbridled chaos in the sea of brown folding chairs!)

Paul had no talent outside of his head but he daydreamed about jumping up onto the stage to do her intro. He'd be wearing a cool green leisure suit with a shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest. He'd be covered in sweat for some reason and spotlights would be roaming wildly across the auditorium while the sound guys would be cranking out that Blues Brothers intro music. He'd be like:

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we'd like to welcome you to the Yankerville Junior High School auditorium tonight in beautiful Yankerville, Ohio to witness a spectacle that few on God's green earth have had the privilege to witness: The Amazing Janine Kalzwicki is going to blow your fucking (the faculty would forgive that, because the intro would be so incredible and the f-word would lend even more power to its existing incredibleness) balls (okay, they wouldn't let that one slide too, scratch that. (Scratch balls, HA!)) blow your fucking mind with her flips and horse hopping and ring tossing (what exactly did they do in gymnastics? Didn't matter, he was on a roll) before exploding into a firey inferno that she herself will then step out of (no, that would blow the big finish). Anyway, it'll be awesome! Mere mortals, lean away from the goddess that is Janine!" It would be the most fabulous intro ever given, in fact it would beat the performance itself. She'd want to do him for sure after that one.

Of course, there was no intro. Janine came out and tumbled around and Paul made an ass out of himself applauding and whistling too loudly. He was perturbed that she didn't acknowledge his applause or blow him a kiss. Forget it.

He improved the intro again and again in his room that night as he stared at the grey ceiling. Next year he'd work it so he'd do that intro. It was going to kick ass.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Craig On Wheels

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Craig decided to have his feet removed and get a nice set of wheels installed. Mother was displeased.

"You'll have babies with wheels!"

"Mother, it doesn't work like that," Craig explained.

"How do you know? Have you ever had sex with a woman with wheels?"

"No, but that would be great."

"Stop talking like that in my house!"

"Mother, I can move at like seventy miles an hour now."

"You'll kill yourself! What's next, rakes for hands?"

"Now you're being silly."

"Baby, you have to want more for yourself than wheels for feet. Can you get your feet back?"

"I sold them. There are south Asian children who have lost their feet to landmines and need them."

"Little brown children are going to be running around with your big white feet? What will people think?"

"I think the focus of your concern is starting to wander, Mother."

"How much did you get for them?"

"How much? Three-thousand dollars."

"Is that all?"

"It's a buyer's market right now."

"And how much did those things cost?" she asked, pointing to his wheels.

"Twenty-five hundred."

"Oh my God. Look, you have to take that five hundred dollars and you have to salvage something of this mess you've made of yourself. You have to use it to better yourself."

"I shall, mother."

"What will you do?"

"You'll see." He rolled off into the city and returned hours later.

"What did you do, Craig? A brain implant?"

"Much better than that," he said. He reached down, grabbed his rims, and turned them hard.

"Look at them spin, Mother! Look at them spin!"

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Walking On The Sun

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

A question came from the back of the room: "How did they figure out how hot the sun is? Did they send probes or something?"

"I was involved in that project as well," Dietrich said. "We used a really, really long thermometer. Ever hear of Akron, Ohio?"

"Of course," the kid said.

"Well, no one else had before they made the thermometer. That put Akron on the map."


"Yeah, wow. This was cutting edge stuff. So anyway, we were prepared when we went to the sun."

"Why couldn't we get the first guy?" A kid near the front asked his teacher. She shushed him, but too late.

Dietrich cut his next sentence short. "I was supposed to be the first guy! That little bastard, Van Nuysen, shoved me aside at the last second and dove in. He didn't care about protocol or consequences, he just knew he'd get into the history books. Joke's on him though, Neil Armstrong is still a bigger name. Ha!"

"How'd you walk on the sun? Isn't it hot?"

"Well, first off, you don't really walk on the sun, that's a common misconception. You just sort of swim around in the photosphere. To answer your second question, yes it is hot, but as I said, we knew that going in. Our boys had been working on an extra strength sunblock for years. Once that was perfected, the rest of it was a piece of cake."

"Wait a second," the teacher said. "Are you trying to tell us that the only thing between you and ten-thousand degrees of nuclear inferno was sunblock?"

"Well, we used multiple coats. I slathered it on until it was about two feet think."

"Oh," said Mrs. Henderson, embarrassed.

"Okay, I've got time for one more question," Dietrich said.

"How come you came back so early?" a little girl asked.

"It wasn't too early, only about two days. Turns out that the sunblock, even as good as it was, ran a little when things got that hot. And let me tell you, when that stuff gets in your eyes, it burns!"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dabbling Around Trinary

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

A flick of Sharda's barbed-wire fingertips and sparks flew. The fuse was lit and the archaic explosive she'd brought was suddenly as modern deadly as any quantum shuffler. If I'd still had any sweat glands they'd have been working double-time right now. The coiled molecules that saturated my new legs pumped beyond what the skeletomuscular rods were designed to endure. The surrounding pseudo-flesh heated in a way that the rip and burn of muscle fatigue could never touch. My head told me I was running from the crude bomb she had somehow teleported to the derelict factory. But my heart, my adrenaline, the few systems left that were still me were running in overdrive to get as far away from Sharda as I possibly could.

The shockwave pounded my limp body into a pink tensecrete wall. It was deep enough that the fire only cooked the back of my body. Thirty minutes earlier I would have been dead. But at least I would have died human.

I didn't know what she'd turned into but I knew it was still her, my wife of eight years. The one who'd spent so many days four stories below, dabbling around trinary in the cold labs of artificial light and purified air. What the industry usually meant when they used the word trinary was computer processing that used three states of electrical current flow: the absence of flow, and the two possible directions of flow along a wire. But everybody had that.

The philosopher's stone, the processor's stone that my once innocent prom date turned outcast engineer sought was true trinary. Most people knew it was a fable based on an impossible third state: A state that was neither "on" nor "off". You wouldn't have to change current processor architecture to use true trinary. Once we knew how to do it, it would explode across civilization at the speed of download, increasing the computational power of every binary and trinary processor-dependent system exponentially overnight.

I peeled myself out of my vertical grave, amazed that I could still stand. Through my pulsing yellow eyes I saw the blurred vision of Sharda, less human than I was becoming. It was tied to her research; she'd told me she had a breakthrough when she called me here to kill me. But how in the hell computer research could have turned her into this was beyond reason. What she looked like couldn't be completely understood by my still human brain. The colors that shaped her form were non-colors. Her body itself wouldn't stand still for a moment. She was in front of me, then behind and above me, then everywhere at once. As soon as I felt like I was within her range she raked those long phantasmal fingers across my soul again and I was ripped across universes.

My brain became so big I could only carry it outside of my head. I felt every change and knew what was happening. Sharda exchanged my body parts with other me's from other Earths. And every time she tore me apart and reassembled me, I knew a little bit more. My massive new brain was mechanical and analog, a thick network of trigger-and-spark creatures shaking a trillion tiny hands with one another. It was a brain unnaturally evolved in an alien timeline and yet it was me. I still remembered our apartment and the rottweiler puppy that waited for one of us to come back home.

Even this ponderous new brain was slowly realizing that what I knew about my changing body was what Sharda was silently telling me. It wasn't telepathy. On some level our minds, not our brains, had physical forms and were intermingling.

She dove at me again from all angles and it took everything I had to dodge at all other angles. I was slowing down; I knew I couldn't last much longer. Whatever she was doing to me, I didn't think it was murder anymore. The explosion was to soften me up; she was the one who had changed me to the point where it wasn't lethal.

Sharda's Cheshire smile was the only thing that stood still in the midst of her whirling chaos. Her mouth was as wide as my arm was long and it was full of short, sharp crystalline teeth made to chew metal. It hissed open and lunged at my plodding body.

I was an idiot to think my wife was looking for a new processing state all this time. I reached down into my chest with an extra-dimensional limb and slowed the swiping of my new windshield wiper heart.

I was total. I was in another state, a third state, not living and not dead. I understood now.

And I joined her.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Brothers And Sisters All

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

"In other news, it was a tough beginning eighteen months ago for a spunky pair of twins born separated in Providence, Rhode Island . . ."

"That's right, John, but surgeons at Hasbro Children's Hospital say that today's conjoining appears to have been successful. Jill and Janette Freiberg have more."

"Thank you, John and Tom. After eighteen hours in the operating room, little Anthony and Andre Comulko are recovering tonight, in serious but stable condition."

"Husband and wife doctors, Greg, Donna and Devri Tomason performed the surgery today in what many considered to be the Comulko's only hope for a normal life. The Doctors' Tomason are here with me now. Can you tell us, Dr. Greg Tomason, what exactly was involved in today's surgery?"

"Well, we went with a joining that was as normal as possible within the limits of medical knowledge. There was no chance for spinal fusion, of course. What we did was dangerous enough as it was. We started off by removing Andre's right leg, seeing that he's shown lefty tendencies in therapy, and we removed a good part of both of their rib cages. We were able to connect their livers together and enough arterial tissue that once Andre's heart has atrophied and everything's healed, they won't be coming apart anytime soon."

"And I understand your twin here is not a surgeon, but came out to support the patients?"

"Yes, I'm Garry Tomason and I'm a dispatcher for the Department of Sanitation."

"You must be pretty proud of your brother and wife and sister-in-law."

"I am, I am. And I'm also proud of little Anthony and Andre. They've had a great attitude throughout and they came through it like real troopers."

"I'm sure the folks at home send out their prayers to the boys. Can you tell me, Dr. Devri Tomason, are the boys' chances good?"


"Uh, and have the three of you had a lot of experience joining separated twins?"


"Thank you. Dr. Donna Tomason, can you elaborate on that?"

"Certainly, although this is the first time we've joined twins that were completely separated, we've done quite a number of operations on twins that weren't very well joined in the first place, like at the earlobes or little fingers only."

"Thank you doctors."

"Can I just say that we were drawn to this work because of our unique relationship? We're married right-right, left-left rather than the normal right-left, right-left and although it's awkward, it's the way we fell in love."

"Makes for a lot of spooning."

"Thank you, Mr. Tomason."

"So we've seen prejudice in our own lives. Kids can be ten times as cruel and that's why we've dedicated our careers to bringing some normalcy to the lives of these disadvantaged children."

"Except for Garry."

"Oh, you had to go there, didn't you, Devri? We had a nice little heartwarming human interest story going there and you drove it off a cliff. Ms. Freiberg and Ms. Freiberg, I'd like your viewers to know that I perform a service that is just as vital to the people of this city. And I took a personal day to be here today!"

"Thank you Doctors and Mr. Tomason. Heroes one and all. From Hasbro Children's Hospital, I'm Jill Freiberg --"

"And I'm Janette Freiberg. Back to you, John and Tom."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Breaking News

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The army poured downhill on foot and I tried to catch up on a beat-up mountain bike with a skipping chain. Bred for speed and killing, they were as demonic-looking as they were deadly. Scoping, red goggle eyes and photo-negative smiles chilled me in the sultry night air. Their deathbreathers drew energy from the land. The weapon's master thought Fire,' and its huge mouth roared hell upon their enemies. What DNA was left was too mutated to identify.

The brass had barred reporters tonight; There had to be a great story behind it. I'd disobeyed orders, escaping the press pool to watch the action. The soldiers weren't hard to fool. They were mindless, outside of their instructions. With a borrowed helmet and a habit of hanging back, they didn't know I existed. Their officers were never in the field, issuing orders remotely. It all seemed too easy.

Then they started moving.

The sand below my tires flowed like it had muscles. It was viscous and choking, wanting to pull me into its sucking depths. The bike nearly shook apart when I hit the rocks, twigs and plastic bottles buried just out of sight. The infantrymen's reflexes made this downhill clusterfuck a cinch for them. I lost ground fighting for control, but they weren't even looking down.

I hit a log and flipped, ass over elbows. The back of my helmet quickly ran down my spine and grabbed hold on impact to keep my neck from breaking. As for my head, I couldn't believe I had fallen at all. I sprang up and saw consuming flashes in the reflecting clouds and heard the screams below. The battle had started. Why had I been so eager to go into that?

It was too close to home. Internal GPS told me we were still on base. Tell me I didn't waste an escape on a top-secret training exercise! A couple minutes later I almost bounced across a road that wasn't so familiar in the darkness. I skidded across the concrete and my mouth went dry. Gowrin Road. The road to that roach motel where they kept . . .

. . . the press pool.

My legs pumped like I was fourteen again. Red carnage splashed across my field of vision, flames rushing to the midnight sky, gore misting the black teeth and white lips of the man-monsters. I wondered why I'd wanted to hurry. My sensors buzzed around my head, hungry for the data they drank. Foul smoke and the stench of evaporating flesh, the roar of the deathbreathers and the sight of my colleagues' corpses seared my mind. Somewhere in there was Desmond, who won five bucks from me at this afternoon's poker game. And Marion, whose cow eyes made me forget Sylvia over beers last week. I fell, stunned, forgetting the danger I was in. Why would they do this? There could only be one reason, my conspiracy-soaked mind surmised:

To prevent an even bigger story from being uncovered.

The Army was already moving on and I followed.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Money Men

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

When Chick was a lad he used to draw funny pictures on money, like adding beards to Ben Franklin and the like, but one day his uncle told him it was illegal and the FBI would take him away. This terrified him but his need to deface money was too great to give up. He made little removable clothes and hats from Post-It notes and stuck them on the money. Take that, FBI! Lincoln looked quite fetching in his pink tuxedo. Chick liked the look of Jackson in a blue sequined gown and big hoopy earrings.

When Chick was an adult, his work was known throughout the land. The evil Mr. No took Chick's work one step too far. He didn't merely make clothes for the money men. He made little robotic bodies! And he sent his mighty army of minions out to take over the world. They wrought havoc, overturning buses and making U-turns where none should have been made. Chick knew something had to be done. He ran through the streets screaming, "They're money! Hey, everybody, they're money!"

Remarkably, greed overcame fear. People picked up the little devil dolls and stuck them in their pockets. When the bots tried to crawl out, the people tore off their tiny limbs, ignored the chilling screams and went out and had a nice dinner for a change.

Mr. No was pissed when he remembered that he had needed that cash and even more pissed when he remembered that the cash served no practical purpose on the robotic bodies. How did this guy go on to earn his doctorate? No matter. After that, he was someone else's problem.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Homemade Heroes, Face Three: The Blower

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

The purists didn't really consider him a superhero. The guy had no superpowers or even cool gadgets that simulated super powers. He just ran around in a baseball cap and clobbered people.

It had started at the park where Herbie worked maintenence. A group of rich kids came through one afternoon, tossing their fast food garbage everywhere. By the time the last guy in the group had tossed his cup on the ground, Herbie had taken all that he could take. He charged them without a plan, not even sure why he charged and he swung the only thing available: his leaf blower. He beat the hell out of those kids and ran before the cops showed up.

Herbie knew he couldn't go home. The Toro logo was imprinted backwards on more than one of the kids' foreheads and all the guys he worked with knew he favored the Toro. He decided to take up lurking in the park. His wife didn't like him much anyhow.

Lurking didn't pay much, but there were plenty of partial corn dogs and whole squirrels to eat. Besides, his new lifestyle gave him plenty of time to fight crime.

Eventually, Herbie got caught. Before he was sentenced, the judge was attacked outside of the courtroom by a guy with a weed whacker. Herbie broke away from the deputies that were transporting him back to his cell, grabbed a leaf blower from a nearby landscaper's open trailer, and beat the whacker guy senseless, saving the judge's life.

Well, what could the judge do at this point? He sentenced Herbie to death by lethal injection. After all, the guy couldn't let go of his life of crime, even when he was already in custody. It was better for everyone this way. Especially the park squirrels, whose population increased notably. The partial corn dog population increased as well, because those corn dogs could really get it on when their numbers were threatened. So you see, everyone was happy.

Except that one guy.

I'm Back, Bitches!

You'll be pleased to know that I found my sabbatical restful and mentally rejuvenating and I have lots of new wonderfulness to share with you. I also realized that future breaks may be necessary, because my house plans are done and I've actually got to work on it. Not only that, but I need to work more on potential commercial writing to hopefully finance said house. So who knows what the future holds? You've got to live life to find out what happens next. In the meantime, read my stuff, subscribe to my blog, and I'll see you in tomorrowland.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


I finished story number 53 today and sent my darling to find its way in the world. I have a feeling that if anyone cares to publish it, they’ll want a different title. The title is: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Diplomat.

Friday, October 06, 2006


Disappointment, True Believers! I'm taking a two week break from blogging stories. I need a little recharge and some time to work on my non-blog fiction. Expect me back on October, 20, 2006. Not that I won't be blogging. It's just a little fiction break. Please take this time to cleanse your literary palate so that you may be sufficiently awestruck by my fiction's return. Or go back and read the stories you've missed over the past couple of months. Or make a nice sandwich.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Examined Shards From A Shattered Mind

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

He wanted to live on the wind. While he walked the dog, the first good stiff breeze he'd felt in months sealed it. A kite house tethered on the windy plains sprang to mind.


Shea felt like scrubbing bubbles, but they always burst before she got very far. Too many people wanted too many things and there was too much to do before lunch. She threw up. Then she through up. Up through the roof and she savored the sunlight gleaming on her royal blue ceramic skin.


The pigdeer snorted a mix of gasoline and nitrous oxide and ignited it with a gnash of his tusks against his antlers. He exploded backwards and rocketed through the treesin an approximately three mile trip along the shoreline. It evolved the defense to protect itself from pointy blades of grass.


The super paste tasted better than any previous paste but sealed so tightly that most people didn't live to try another dollop from the popsicle stick. Fearless researchers discovered this through fatal accident after fatal accident.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dead Sleep

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

"What happens when you sleep?" people would ask Hiram.

He would say, "I don't know. Dreaming?" And they'd leave disappointed. You see, a lot of people that knew of him also knew that Hiram had to sleep about sixteen hours a day in order to function. They figured that he had to be a sleep expert; he did it all day long. But he couldn't very well observe himself. He was sleeping at the time. Turns out those people weren't very bright.

So Hiram looked into it and decided that since phases of sleep are measurable through the observation of different brainwave activity, he knew how to cure himself. He installed a WavyMaker into his head. That's what he called it anyway. It controlled his brain waves and he set it to mimic the sleeping patterns of the average person.

Hiram slept for eight hours a night and felt fantastic. Of course, if that was all there was to it, this would merely be a nice Reader's Digest type of story which made you feel better about your world and yourself. But Hiram had a thought.

If eight hours could be refreshing, why not four? Why not two or one? Soon Hiram had compressed sleep into one minute a day. Any less than that and he felt he couldn't get going without his coffee. His intense sleep experience looked to others as if he dropped dead.

With all this time on his hands, you'd think he'd get all superhuman on us and enslave humanity, but he was still Hiram. He spent a lot of his time at self-serve soft drink fountains in convenience stores, mixing flavors until they were just right. A pinch of oregano in a 44 oz. Cup made his final creation com alive.

Hiram's dreams were different. They weren't the surreal nebulous fantasies that he'd had before the WavyMaker. They were clear and sharp and seemed to last for hours rather than seconds. And they were all the same: he and countless other people were naked and climbing trees that rose forever. After a while he realized that what he thought was sleep actually was death and he experienced heaven. After all, he loved climbing trees. He loved being naked. It had to be heaven.

He started a church (on the side, so it wouldn't interfere with his fountain drink work) and installed WavyMakers into the heads of anyone who asked. Unfortunately, many of these people saw heaven as merely a pleasant side-effect and spent their waking hours more productively than Hiram. They started acting all superhuman and enslaving the rest of us. Once WavyMakers were mass produced by a couple of the good guys, everyone but Pete Verner had one. Pete didn't like the long lines. Most of the other eight-billion people on the planet enslaved him, since he was the only potential slave they had.

Man, poor Pete worked his ass off. At least he didn't have to stand in a long line, but he didn't have much time for sleep, that's for sure.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Finally, A Computer For Everyone Else

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Sure, computers were nifty, but they all did the same things. Once they got the productivity software in there, it was like music and games and the only advances in the personal computer world in the last fifteen years were tweaks and more speed and more memory and who gave a shit anymore? How excited could you get about e-mail and movies?

After his three-billionth game of solitaire and thousandth spreadsheet, Bill freaked out and smashed everything in his house with his computer. Finding a new use for the old shitbox brought him a sense of elation he hadn't felt since he'd studied under Guru ShugaCyoob Williams -- and slept with the guy's wife.

Bill wanted to design a computer that was good for something else, filled with apps killer that would breathe new life into the techno-undead who'd thought they were cutting edge when they downloaded feature films in a few heartbeats. It took him years, but it didn't matter; the rest of the industry still raced to nowhere on the same track. Bill unveiled the Billiwag.

The Billiwag made pie! That's right, goddammit, I said pie. Apple or lemon meringue, or dozens of others.

"Say, Charlie, that's some great pie!"

"Thanks, I made it on the computer this morning before I came to work."

The Billiwag helped your kid assemble his science projects and told tele-marketers to go fuck themselves before they even dialed your number. These were things people wanted. Things that people needed, with all the bullshit thrown out. To hell with presentation software! The Billiwag slapped speakers with barbed gloves and rubbing alcohol until they got to the point. Suddenly, three day business retreats were condensed to minutes over the phone.

Its operating system removed stains from damn near anything. In 2048 a Billiwag watched the Olympics so that the rest of us didn't have to and later on, when you saw it on the street, it was kind enough not to bring up what it had seen. It was versatile enough to mass produce gum wrappers or make extremely loud and convincing farting noises when politicians were trying to avoid the issues.

Entertainment software: hadn't we all heard enough music? We had it in our pillows when we slept and in our showerheads and diaphragms. You want real entertainment? The Billiwag trapped small woodland creatures and forced them to perform in macabre circuses for our pleasure.

It sent smoke signals. It massaged our egos and worked for real social change by publishing the names and addresses of people who shit all over the walls in public bathrooms.

This story doesn't have an ending. Bill just wanted you to remember the Billiwag ten minutes from now, once you've left here and sunk back into the shallow world your computer works hard to deliver. Revel in your limitations, Mundanes!

Well, okay, I guess it did have an ending, but it wasn't a good one! Well, maybe this is the ending. Hold on, the ending's coming up as soon as you reach this period . . . here: .

Monday, October 02, 2006

Fettuccine On A Stick With Mindy

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

We got fettuccine on a stick from a new street vendor. They were frightening things back then; Literally, pounds of fettuccine wrapped around a stick that nearly snapped under the load, scalding cheese sauce dripping from all around it. If you tried to tilt it away from your arm, the whole carefully balanced mess would be on the cobblestones before your change got warm in your pocket. We bought them every day.

On this day, though, Mindy was more interested with getting out of her marriage than with eating.

"See, he moved here from Ohio just a couple of months before we hooked up," she said, "And it's illegal to marry a twelve year old there. My lawyer figures he can do something with that because seventy percent of him is legally still a piece of that state. Atomically speaking."

"So you want him to go to prison?"

"I don't care. Why not? He probably deserves it for something." She peeled her food away noodle by noodle and dropped each strand into her mouth. The amateur method disappointed me.

"Why did you marry him in the first place?"

"Cuz my parents wouldn't let me eat fizzbombs."

"You married a stranger for candy."


It took a minute to make my offer, because there comes a delicate point in the fettuccine on a stick eating process, where a large knot of it will fall right off the stick if you're not alert and you've got to gobble it like a fiend to preserve the integrity of the mass. But finally I got the words out, even through an overfull mouth.

"I can have candy," I said. "Marry me."

"Minors can't marry each other, stupid. Besides, I'm a cunt, in case you haven't been paying attention."

A herd of rumbots rolled by and sprayed the air till our noses burned and I got a buzz just from breathing.

I said, "My uncle's Governor of something. I can get a special dispensation. You do something to me, Mindy."

"You're not in love, are you?"


"Then what is it?"

"Gimme your stick and look up." She did. Most of her lunch was still there and it had cooled off some. I held it over her head and with a twist, dumped the whole thing on her face. She began eating by reflex. Blood-red security eyes materialized in the open market to watch and couldn't bring themselves to look away. It took her a few minutes, but she put the whole thing down and belched at me from a greasy face.

"That's what I'm talking about, right there," I said. "I want more of that, whatever it is. I want to have sex with you while you eat fettuccine off of your own face."

"That turns you on?" she asked.

"No. No, it disgusts me. But it fascinates me more. I've got to have that, Mindy." I handed her some napkins and she got that far away look in her eye as she linked up to her lawyer. I heard her say:

"I don't want to screw around anymore, Flip. Just gimme a divorce, straight up. I think I'm in love."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

She Was A Wallflower

Author's note: I'm not always on top of things, you know. My hopes were to write a brand new story every spankin' day. But about once a week I've got to pull an old story out of the vault. Today is one of those days. This little honey was the second ever written in my illustrious career, way back in 1991. It's a bit clunky, but that's what happens when I can't come up with something and midnight approaches. Without further ado:

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Susie Manson found herself spending yet another dance leaning against the wall, watching couples swirl and lights shine past. The cement felt uncomfortable behind her head and she wondered what it would be like to be dancing out on the floor, wondered how her fine, black hair would look bouncing behind her.

A part of her was glad that no one had asked her, because it spared her the opportunity to make a fool of herself. Pulling away from the wall, the thirteen year old girl felt the wetness on the back of her dress. She could see the sweat stain on the light flower print in her mind's eye and moaned to herself about how she was planning to wash it out. I need to wear more yellow things to avoid this problem, she thought.

For a moment she wondered if lifting the dress over her head would win a dance partner. That would only be something she'd do in extreme circumstances, of course, like if she needed a kidney and had to dance for it, but the curiosity was there.

She stepped outside into the cool autumn air. A soft breeze made her eyes water, made her turn away from the scrutinizing stare of the other junior-high students. She didn't want those people thinking that she cried for want of a date. It's just the breeze in my eyes, she wanted to yell. But nobody would ever believe it, she knew. It always happened at the most inopportune moments, too. Like when she got separated from her mother in the department store. Sure enough, if Mom wasn't found in the first two minutes, the air-conditioning and the wind stirred up just from walking would start to work on her. And she couldn't wipe either, because some jerk would feel pity for the little crying girl. Or at least that's what she always fantasized.

Her shoes scraping on the ground, she let herself drop off the sidewalk and crunch through the dead leaves that carpeted the grounds. Pieces of leaf went in her shoe and she stopped near the weeping willow on top of the hill to shake them out. The sweat on the back of her dress felt cold as she leaned against the tree and she decided to sit down instead. Squinting in the darkness, a figure could just be made out, coming up the hill toward her. For some strange reason, Susie hoped it was some maniacal murderer with a ball-peen hammer. The thought made her stomach tingle.

Upon closer scrutiny, though, she saw it was only Damien, the town's first homosexual big band leader. He was sort of the town celebrity because of that, but she knew him from clarinet lessons on Tuesday nights. She sighed and called to him:

"Hey, Dame!"

His body jerked back with sudden surprise, creating a cymbal crash of leaves beneath his feet. He tried to make out her form against the tree in the darkness. His posture finally relaxed when he heard her familiar cackle.

"You scared the hell out of me, Susan," he said angrily.

"Sorry, but how else could I get your attention? I couldn't find any loose rocks to throw at you or anything."

He sat down next to her, not seeming to care about his tuxedo. "Alright, in that case you're forgiven. So tell me, why aren't you dancing the night away like all the other hedonistic youth in town?"

"Nobody will ask me to dance, and I'm not into asking anyone. I'm waiting for someone who'll be so knocked out by my appearance that he'll have to come right over and ask me to shake it. But apparently that type of man doesn't go to junior high dances."

"Have you tried going topless?" he asked, "That always worked for me."

"No, I think they frown on that on public property."


They sat and contemplated the Art of the Dance for a bit until Damien stood up and faced the tree. He studied it for a minute and then wrapped his arm around the lowest limb and climbed.

"Great!" he yelled to himself, "It's still here! You know when I went to school here . . . . See this limb?"

She went around the trunk to where he was and stared up at his shoes about three feet above her head.

"Yeah, what about it?"

"Well when I went to school here, a bunch of us used to walk out on this limb," He walked a few feet onto it as he spoke, "And jump around and swing from it and all sorts of things."

"You were a pretty rowdy bunch, all right," Susie said.

"Well, come on. We were a lot smaller then and this seemed pretty death defying. You know Denny? The guy down -"

The limb broke.

"Jesus Christ!"

Damien hit the ground and slid down the hill, head first, plowing an ever growing pile of leaves with his face until he hit a small outcropping of rock and rolled the rest of the way down. Susie walked down as quickly as her cautious legs would carry her. The hill suddenly seemed much steeper.

"Are you OK?" she asked.

He held up a hand. "I'm fine. Fine. Really. That rock doesn't seem so hard with an enormous leaf cushion in front of you."

He rolled onto his back choking on dust and pulling pieces of leaf from his nostrils. Susie helped him up and brushed his back clean. Even in the dim light of a far away street lamp his brown hair looked even more brown now. "Thanks," he said. "Well, that got the old adrenaline flowing."

"I'll bet," she laughed.

It got quiet and stayed that way for a long moment. They looked around awkwardly at nothing in particular, until finally Damien said:

"Well, rehearsal is going to start pretty soon. Right after the dance is wrapped up. We're playing the school all weekend, you know."

"Yeah, you told me last Tuesday. Besides they've been announcing it for a few weeks in class."

"Right, right. Well, I guess I'm heading out."

They said their good-byes and the band leader who wore tuxedos to rehearsal started up the hill for a second time that evening.

"Hey, Dame?" Susie called with a crack in her voice.

He turned quickly as if he had expected her to call to him.


"Would you . . . . um, care to dance?"

He smiled. "Sure! Jitterbug?"

"Uh, no. I think the only other people in town who know how to Jitterbug aren't able to anymore. But I'll keep you in mind if my grandmother ever gets out of her wheelchair."

"Oh, you're looking for some of those wild, teeny-boppin', hippie, go-go dances, eh? Well let's see, I know the Hustle and the Bus Stop. How's that?"

"Oh, God," Susie groaned. "I suppose you have a mood ring at home, too."

"Of course. A young hipster like myself has to keep up with the times. Anyway, that's the best you're going to get out of me tonight. I'll teach you all the hot moves. Keep on Truckin', and all that."

Susie went along with him finally. She couldn't play the wallflower this time; There weren't any walls around. As she took his hand, Damien began to sing a thumping bass line and they shook away the evening kicking up leaves, hustling beneath the stars.