Sunday Scribble – Love Lost, Pain Remains

A short on love, regret and reinvention. Enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments.

Love Lost, Pain Remains

In the darkness of the AltLife Portal™, I can feel the wood warping around me. I begin the breathing exercises they had demonstrated during orientation. A disembodied voice interrupts me just as I am concentrating on my left big toe.

“Mr. Sohn, your scenario will load momentarily. Please remain calm.”

It was easy for the AI to be so blasé. After all, it wasn’t the one trapped in a box. In truth the AltLife Portal™ was more than a box. It was the newest tech in alternate life simulations. Users could jump back to major diversion points in their lives, make different choices, and play out the resulting dream-state in a compressed artificial timeline. The flashy ad on the Metro had claimed it was enhanced lucid dreaming with effects lasting for a couple of days. I endured the exhaustive background reconstruction, answering penetrating and humiliating questions; but I readily sunk the last of my Ceres mining credits into my simulation.

I lay naked and submerged in a conductive gel that interfaces directly with my internal nodes, jacking me into the AltLife Portal ™ landing page. Instantly, I am inside a white space, facing the largest bank of drawers I had ever seen. They stretch beyond any horizon I could see. One of the drawer fronts begins blinking rapidly and I find myself directly in front of it. My simulation is ready.

I had chosen the day I first met my wife. I punch a code on the virtual keypad and the space around me dissolves into a sunny day 15 years back in the past at the University of Hellas freshman orientation mixer. Since the scenarios are supposed to approximate real life as closely as possible, I materialize into a toilet stall so as not to frighten the clueless constructs that populate the simulation. I try to smooth away wrinkles from my flannel shirt as I stare at my virtual reflection. The sim engineers have done such an excellent job customizing my character that they had replicated my younger self right down to the patchy red beard hugging my square jaw.

I see Phyllis immediately; a goddess generating gravity that ensnares hapless satellites hoping to catch her attention. In real life, I had been standing at the back of the auditorium, a spectator watching the clumsy advances of strangers. Just then, our eyes met across the room and I found myself striding confidently towards her. She smiled as I introduced myself, a radiance that captured my heart. By the end of the semester, we were inseparable and irrevocably in love.

In the scenario, she is so beautiful that I wonder if the AI is proactively rejiggering my memories. The tight dress accentuates a tiny waist and long legs balanced on a perfect butt. I watch her toss her braids back as she laughs at a joke, her voice as clear as a bell. I feel her pulling me closer and closer into her orbit. I steel myself and walk towards her, looking straight into her green eyes. She turns towards me, a slight frown marring her face as if she was trying to figure out a puzzle. My virtual body is sweating profusely by now but I am determined to reach her. I pick up two glasses of the neon-colored Punchaid™ from the drinks table as I saunter towards her. Her sycophants grow silent and their chatter becomes indistinct as I approach. They clear a space when I came to a stop before her.

My only regret is that Phyllis is wearing black and so the stains are not as pronounced as I would have liked, but she does hurl more than a couple of shrill invectives as I stroll away from her stunned crew.

I re-enter the stall in the men’s bathroom triggering the scenario kill switch. The AI slowly brings me out of unconsciousness. I can feel the alternate memories reforming in my mind. In the simulation, our relationship never happened. Our wedding day filled with light and laughter scatters into fragments. Umami smells of braising fungi floating into our tiny squat, dissipate into nothingness. The failed fertility sessions vanish into darkness. The visual of her sudden and fiery shuttle crush fades away.

I sit up and gingerly rub my heart, but the soul-crushing sorrow is indelible.

 

 

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Saturday Scribbles – Savannah Chronicles One

Wrote this one based on stories my grandmother wove into the night over glowing coals and sleepy heads…

Revelation

Hare stood behind the gas stove, vigorously wiping down the grates, albeit absently as he silently fumed. The subject of his ire, Lioness lounged lazily on the sofa in the adjacent living room, burping contently as she watched “Savannah Idol” on the 60 inch flat screen. With the Wolfe gleaming, he moved on to the marble counter top, exerting as much elbow grease his skinny arms would let him.

“Hare dear,” her voice floated lazily across the kitchen. He sucked in his cheeks, eyes flashing angrily.

“What!” he snapped as he snatched up another paper towel and moved on to the refrigerator doors. After rubbing off paw prints, he stomped into the walk-in pantry to retrieve a bucket.

“Be a sweetie and make like a barista. I need an espresso.” Lioness ordered casually, oblivious to his anger as he savagely cleaned the tiled kitchen floor. Throwing down the mop, he threw a cabinet door open, and reached for a tiny coffee cup.

“And next time, the doro wat should be spicier. You must have used some store bought berbere spice mixture. It was a bit vanilla.” she continued.

“That didn’t stop you from having five helpings!” Hare retorted as he brewed the liquid on the shiny coffee machine bought in happier times.

“Temper, temper, I’m not in the mood for you little tantrums.” she admonished him as he handed her the cup. Hare breathed in deeply counting to ten trying to regain his composure. Just then the shrill ring tone of her mobile phone blared into the room. She looked at the tiny screen, barely suppressing a smile as she bounded off the sofa and rushed into the study. Even as the French doors hissed shut behind her, he could hear her purring into phone.

“Darling, what a…”

Hare stood in disbelief, his ears twitching rapidly as the rest of the conversation cut off. His fears had been confirmed. The late nights, snide remarks and mounting unrealistic demands all pointed to one conclusion. Their seven-year marriage was drawing to a close and he was about to be left out in the cold.

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An Unexpected Conjuring

The following was a twitter short I posted weeks ago at @flickerfiction – edited for content and format.

Blaine can sense my rage, so the greeting is timid. He runs a nervous bony hand through the wisps of limp brown hair stretched heroically across his skull. His eyes dart around as he furiously searches for the perfect excuse that would diffuse the thick tension between us, and simultaneously shift the blame to someone else not named after an 80s Vegas magician. I can almost see him performing in a three star off-strip casino Monday buffet, to indifferent tourists hoping to make up for lighter bank accounts by eating their weight in complimentary crab legs before slinking back to reality.

“I didn’t expect them to believe the prophecy. Come on! We made it up two days ago drunk as skunks!” He pauses licking his thin cracked lips. “What was in that hurricane drink anyway…” he continues, his voice dropping away into a whispers as he finally looks at me.

The intensity in my eye stalks hardens, making him gulp and take a step back before he catches himself, unleashing that oily smile; I have come to loathe the way it slithers into his fat smug face.

“Sorry I didn’t show proper deference oh mighty eh…Cthul..Noodliness..?” The smile gets greasier as his beady green eyes cast a speculative trail across my multiple starchy appendages. His gaze sharpens as he catches a glimpse of the meaty nether regions. I stir in a blur of movement to obstruct his hungry furtive glances, even as his stomach grumbles rudely when his flaring nostrils catch the garlic scent emanating from my new body.

I am an infant goddess naked and vulnerable, but not for long.

The Last Song of Oversky

It’s always the same dream. The memories of my clutch mates whistling and diving through Oversky, riding crystals, singing bawdy songs, and filching dew-soaked manai from unsuspecting clouds. We lie suspended on hammocks made by entwining a few Yslly vines on our moorbana – the great home tree. Our wings trilling happy rest notes occasionally joined by a mating note that drapes the forest in tunes for almost an eternity.

Our beautiful glittery Oversky is hurtling through the the black, full of fire, ice, and rocks; a planetoid of perpetual winds, vast restless oceans stowing secrets in their depths. Ranges of ice-crowned black mountain ranges sheltering desolate hidden valleys, and a barren peninsula of soft red sands. The remaining verdant moorbana trees scattered in my valley are skinny, flexible, and extremely closed-in. They choke each other in an near impenetrable embrace of love and violence.

Free falling through gauzy films of sleep, the Stranger’s gritty voice cuts off my dream. He is back, the Outlander sent to treat with the Caretaker, smelling like death and wearing dead skins. The skins are tightly contoured to his body, leaving his pale bald head bare and covering his long torso with openings for his four queerly arranged limbs which have peripheral digits of their own. When their star-rider descended on the Ruby beach 10 cycles ago, they had presented themselves as scholars seeking knowledge from the worlds rediscovered, once they had reclaimed decommissioned planetary star-gates. By the time my clutch mates and I deciphered their true purpose, it was too late.

The Caretaker hadn’t bothered to take Authority Form before she sung to the whole of Oversky of the impending visit from kin a million cycles from the past.

I slither down a Yslly vine entwined to my home tree to spy on him with Caretaker. The Caretaker is in Market Form. A holo screen floats between them full of dancing incomprehensible glyphs. The Stranger seems animated waving his stiff digits from his smaller pallid limbs, a color rarely expressed in Oversky and even then, is associated with the abstraction Rot.

“…last of its kind!” Caretaker’s soft voice fills the small glen. She buries her true nature under impeccable manners but my clutch mates and I suffer under her cruelty, so I instinctively freeze in fear that her five blue ranging eyestalks will stake me out before I can complete the blend cycle. I dare not think of my last mate who had the misfortune of interrupting one of her ‘trades’.  Bland words for a despicable practice.  Pullo is encased in Amber, trapped alive in the extra-solar museum of a scruples-deficient, civilization-cratering-be-damned alien jackass.

“…exceptional quarters….terms agreed” the Stranger’s voice is barbed wire smothered in grease. His flat face screws up in a rictus of contempt as his lower larger limbs take a step back leaving a slightly curious indentation on the sand.

From my concealed vine, I still catch snatches of their hasty conversation, but I have lived long enough to know that I’ve run out of time. I scurry back up the vine to watch the wind dance; sapphire crystals beyond count, ready to eddy through my wings and launch into a graceful dive into the winds of Oversky.

It won’t be long before the nets catch me. The stranger has powerful magic that breaks through all my blending spells to catch my soul. Until then, I spread my quad wings, opening gossamer slits to draw in wind crystals and I soar. The empty skies are awash with the last song of Oversky.