Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Life Less Hopeless

November. It's November already. It's wet and cold when I step outside the brightly lit blue building into the dark streets. I should be elated with my freedom, but I know it's only temporary. It's not real. They're just teasing me; keeping me in their little fence. It's eleven, at night. I feel a little demoralized and I've got a pounding headache. Another day of nodding my head and listening while I take the gentle abuse of smiling strangers and people paid to keep me in line. I can't argue- it wouldn't do anybody any good. My headache is getting to me.

The smell of the rain is fresh and intoxicating, washing away all the dirt and debris from the streets. Try as it might, it'll all somehow still be there in the morning. Every day is the beginning of the same futile cycle, and I can't think straight with this pain in my skull. I walk slowly down the street, enjoying a pacing I set for myself before I stumble into the market. The halogen lights reflect off of every surface and I find myself squinting to try to hide from it. It's too powerful. Everywhere I look, there's another advertisement, or message, or creed. They make damn sure I see them.

I wander down the aisles toward the pharmacy, passing hundreds of prepackaged products. Each is made by the same company, made of the same materials. They lie. They put names and faces on each product. Mr. Copper's Chicken and Gravy sits next to Jose Castillino's All Natural Taquitos. In the bottom corner of the side of the box however, you see that old familiar logo. These aren't the homemade products of industrious entrepreneurs; it's all a front. I finally see what I'm looking for.

There's only one brand name, but what an assortment. Extra strength, non-drowsy, night time, children's, pills, capsules, and liquid gels. It's another illusion. The same product, sold by the same company. I grab the extra strength. But I need something to wash it down with. I make my way to a wall of colorful beverages, confronting me with a choice. I can take my chances with a drink made of chemicals and acids, I could settle for simple sugar water, or I can pay the additional fee for something made of actual fruit. My finances aren't exactly in order, and this extra strength stuff is already a few dollars more. I feel sullen at the thought of paying my bills late again, and eating that fee. It'll be the only thing I'm eating. I stand in line with my drugs and my sugar water, watching the other sad patrons getting processed and then it's my turn.

"How are you?" The clerk asks.

"I'm fine," I reply, like I've been trained to.

"Did you find everything you needed today?" She continues, with a saccharine cheer.

"I found what you had, anyway." I say, too irritated to match her polite niceties.

She seems dismayed, if only briefly, and asks nothing else. I pay, with the card they gave me, and then quickly crack the seal and ingest the maximum recommended dose. In fifteen minutes it'll take one pain away and replace it with another. My stomach is empty, and the drugs will wreak havoc on an empty stomach. I walk my bicycle home, because the rain and darkness make it too dangerous to ride. I've got a box of barigold noodles waiting for me, if I can make it. If I can make it.

Friday, August 31, 2012

No Love Lost on the Dark Star, Ep. 5: Fluid Dynamics

Golke wakes up wondering why he still bothers to wake up.

"I don't suppose you fine gentlemen have some rations you'd care to share with a hungry prisoner?"

"Get him a torb pack, Liske." Balistoi non-nonchalantly orders his apprentice. Liske retrieves a small tin of greenish meat, with an oily ground texture. He pulls the tab, and then stirs the contents around a bit.

"You don't really expect me to eat that, do you?" Golke says. "That stuff tastes like a charodon's ass, only someone tried to mask it with soy sauce and sugar. Torbs ain't meant for humans."

"Nonsense." Liske replies. "It's formula meets all of a human's dietary needs."

"Then why does my body react like it's poison?" Golke snaps back.

"It's torb or nothing." Balis adds, calmly. "We don't carry much else in the way of human food."

"I'll tell you what, you can untie me, and I can do a little hunting. I bet I can shoot enough Anci in that plain to feed the three of us for a week." Golke says, gesturing to the area just beyond the gray desert.

"You don't think much of me, do you?" Balis replies. "I let you free with a sidearm, why would you ever come back?"

"You know what, that hadn't even occurred to me, but you're right, I probably couldn't pass up that opportunity." Golke says, smiling. "We're on the same team now though, right? If we want to be ready to collect this bounty and make our getaway, I'm going to need to have a hand free."

Balistoi sighs.

"It does seem... inevitable." He replies.

"What are you saying?" Liske is taken aback. "We can't trust this hominid!"

"You're still young." Balis answers. "You will eventually begin to understand that nothing is exactly what it seems on the surface."

"You surprise me, Nonck." Liske answers using the respectful title for his master, to show his submission.

"I know, Orso. I know. You'll have to be prepared to adjust to fluid situations. The rules change all the time."

"Hey guys." Golke breaks in. "This is real sweet and all, but aren't you forgetting something?"

"That's right." Liske replies, before shoving a spoonful of the torb into Golke's mouth.

"GACK, ugh.." Golke tries to spit it out, but liske covers his mouth and massages his throat. Eventually he swallows.

"What did I ever do to you, kid?" Golke says weakly, sweating and turning pale.

"That should render him safe to untie." Liske says, looking to Balistoi.

"You're learning fast." Balistoi says, moving to untie their prisoner. "Snap out of it, Golke. You'll survive."

"That's the worst part." Golke replies, groaning.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

No Love Lost on the Dark Star, Ep 4: In Exile

Golke sleeps through the warm night, still bound.

"Why is it that the humans call this planet a star, Balis?" Liske asks, laying next to the fire.

"Because humans are simple creatures." He replies. "Technically the star at the heart of this solar system is the Dark Star, and this planet is DSK1299-01; it's a mouthful for these homonidae. Instead, they speak generally of this planet as the Dark Star, as it is the only one they can successfully land on."

"Why don't they just rename the planet something that they can pronounce?" Liske prods further.

"Hah. Humans can't get anything done without ages of bureaucracy first." Balistoi answers. "Now get some rest. You'll be on guard soon enough."

Liske turns and buries his head in the sand to cool his head. Balistoi sits on the other side of the campfire, keeping an eye on his two travel companions.

"All over a few human lives." He thinks, reflecting on the events that brought him to this gratlackt shithole in the first place. He wandered Ghulral for years after his exile, being cheated from and lied to by any friendly face in the deserts. Eventually, he grew thick skin, but over scarred tissue.

Back on Prrux, so many years ago, he was a promising young warrior. He was hailed by his people, one of the top athletes in their hunts. He was flawed though. The prisons on his planet held many political prisoners and civilians. He sympathized with the humans who were held without rights or charges. He publicly decried their treatment, arguing that they had become the devils they hunted. This was controversial.

One day, after enough death threats, he made a decision. He needed to back up his words. Balistoi unlocked the prisons and unleashed the humans into the streets to riot. He filled his private transport vessel, a rare thing on Prrux, and left for a human colony on Claevick. Upon his arrival though, he was not met with open arms. Wise to his scheme, the Prru leaders had warned the humans of a rogue attack ship, and he was shot down, crash landing on the small agricultural planet. When they found him, surrounded by dead humans, he was put in a cage and treated like an animal.

He was to be returned to his people for sentencing. He stood, silently, in his cage, bearing all the guilt for his failed attempt. His only friend was a small boy who brought him marqilis fruit every morning. Biting into the fruit, as he had done everyday, he was surprised by a solid metal clang between his bony gnashers. The kid snuck him a key, hidden in the fruit. He didn't know why, and he didn't question it. He let himself out and made a run for Ghulral, or the Dark Star as human's know it, and he's been running ever since.

Monday, August 6, 2012

No Love Lost on the Dark Star, Ep 3: The Black Hole Alliance

Night fell on the weary travelers. Golke looks up into the dark sky, giving him a clear view of the stars. He can see Prrux and Yeal, the fighting brothers. On the other side of the sky, two spinning galaxies begin to merge. Thelep and Blesdar, twist in opposite directions at the pull of two different gravities, but side by side they form spinning gears, interlocking at the teeth. Dead center in the sky was the void. The void fell between Earth and the Dark Star, and it absorbed any light in it's path, leaving nothing to look at but an outstretched arm of mass reaching into the massive black hole.

"It'll take us all, eventually." Liske remarks.

The Dark Star is impossible to police due to it's proximity to the black hole. The planet itself is very slowly moving toward the empty center, and only small quick crafts can evade it's pull and land on the surface. This makes it a popular spot for outlaws and illegal arms and drug dealers. Golke is neither, but there's still a price on his head.

"Why so glib?" Golke Asks. "There's at least another millenia before Prrux gets pulled in. Probably twice as long for Earth."

"Because, it's inevitable. No matter what happens, we will all be lost to it eventually."

"Don't mind him." Balistoi says. "He's not use to staring death in the face."

"It's not that." Liske says, muttering to himself.

"Yes, it is. Go clean the charodon's mask, and stop bothering our cargo."

Liske grimaces as he thinks about the smell that the leathery charodon mask absorbs after a full day in the hot sun.

"Listen, Golke." Balis stands over him with his booted heels next to Golke's head. "When we get to Gorvin, we're going to need your assistance."

"What's this?" Golke says, incredulous at the notion of doing the bidding of his captors.

"You know what will happen if we try to take you in there; we'll get killed by every greedy bounty hunter in the city for the reward. I have a better idea. I want you to help us get that bounty, and then we split it three ways."

"Un-fucking-believable. You've been dragging me for a full day, and now you want my help? Fuck you. You can get yourself killed like every other fool who tries to collect my bounty."

"I'm prepared to do it the hard way if you refuse, but keep in mind, your bounty is dead or alive."

"Just once, I'd love to have a partnership that didn't begin with a threat on my life." Golke replies.

"Is that a yes?" Balis remarks.

"I guess it is."

Balis hisses and cracks his tendrils in celebratory joy.

Monday, July 30, 2012

No Love Lost on the Dark Star, Ep 2: Folgtat Illuminated

Golke felt the hot, grey grains of the Dark Star's desert as they rode on, each particle scratching against his face as if it were sandpaper. Finally, they stop under the shade of a Parniqe, a tall twisted tree with green leaves and red bark that has a look like it's eternally locked in a battle with itself. He welcomed the respite.

"What's your name, kid?" Golke asks the yellow one, seeing that Balistoi has wandered off to root for moisture.

"Don't try to trick me." He responds back.

Golke lays there, his hands and legs bound, looking incredulous.

"I don't know what you think I'm going to try, but I'm just asking for a name. Unless you want me to make something up for you."

"Do you learn everyone’s names?" He asks back, inquisitively. "You know Balis, and that bartender back there too."

"Hah." Golke can't help himself from a chuckle. "Kid, what I called that bartender wasn't his name."

"Ah... Is that the sort of thing you'd call me as well?" The young captor says, sitting in to settle for the conversation, but keeping his hand on his Yupaz. It was a small pistol with a short range, but lethal if you point it at the right things.

"Nah." Golke says, smirking. "Your people ain't cold blooded like his."

"Call me Liske." He answers. "You seem like an awfully honest man, Golke."

"Why lie? The truth is equally as made up." Golke says, sullenly.

"Just tell me one thing." Liske pleas, quietly making sure Balistoi isn't within earshot. "Is the Folgtat real?"

Golke feels like smiling, but tries to keep a straight face.

"Then he never told you. That's classic Balistoi, aint it?"

Liske stares at him, still waiting for an answer.

"Yes, it's real." Golke looks down, and really puts on a show of emotion. "We did those things. It wasn't pretty, but we were so sure of ourselves at the time. Still, you could say my people are responsible for you and your people being here now because of it."

"I'd rather not." Liske replies, running Golke's words over and over in his mind. "Could you be more specific... about the 'things?'"

"You really know nothing about it?" Golke replies, having some fun with him. "It was a long time ago. It was before we found the Dark Star, or Ghulral as you'd call it on Prrux. Your planet has what we considered ideal conditions for life, so we used all of our science, and we pushed it along a little. We brought materials, built machines; we basically found a way to put your evolution into motion. The kicker though, the thing that irks Prrus the most; we did it just to see what would happen, and when it started working, we killed nearly every one of you that we found with ruthless experimentation. We tried to kill you all."

"We flourish. How is that?" Liske responds.

"You guys were smarter than we figured. Some must have hid somewhere, and then when we left, those few repopulated. Thanks to our tinkering, you Prrus reproduce at an enormous rate." Golke looks up into the sky, toward Prrux. "Only thirty years later, and your people stretch from one end of the planet to the next."

"Thats enough." Balistoi says, calmly. "The humans may have landed on Prrux, but they are not our Gods. They hunted us for their twisted pleasure, and were rebuffed. That is the end of the story."

"I'm sorry, Balis!" Liske says, standing up. "Please forgive my insolence."

"Why don't you tell my ward what that bartender called you, eh Golke?" Balistoi says, dumping a canteen of dew over Golke's face to keep him hydrated.

Golke smiles again, trying to shake the moisture. "I believe the most literal translation is: "Fucking racist prick."

Soon the sand once again rubs against his face, littering his short thick beard with specks, as they continue their journey.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No Love Lost on the Dark Star

"Nothing is ever over." He thinks, walking through the saloon doors. He was tired. Tired of walking, tired of looking over his shoulder; hell, he was tired of thinking.

A lady sits on the stage holding an acoustic guitar. A Brenuvian cowgirl, fitted with a yole cap and denim tunic; or so she would have you believe. She starts to strum a simple melody as he finds a bar stool to occupy.

"Kraajchk 'ere Golke?" The man behind the bar asks what he's buying. A tall skinny reptilian faced man, he rubs his hands together and lets his long tongue jut quickly around his face as he waits for a reply, like he was trying to catch flies in that crooked smile of his.

"Whatever's on tap, Poikilo." He says.

The bartender hisses a little bit as he walks away. He doesn't hear him. She's starting belting out a song with that lily waver; a tune with the aural complexity that only those born under the blue sun could possibly master. Still, those wavelengths strike a pretty heavy chord for the rest of us. He's caught in it, like a fly wandering into a spider's web. It's not long before he recognizes the trap, but it's too late.

The bartender rubs a rag against a dirty glass and watches as two bounty hunters drag him away. "Telear ech biastialke." He says under his breath.

They bind his arms and take his volt gun.

"Don't worry guys, it's only for self-defense." Golke says, regaining movement in his face.

"Irrelevant." Comments the darkly blue and grey one, whose tendrils hang past his glum lips; the two bounty hunters being from the dour people of Prrux.

"You must be recovered." Adds the other, still yellow from youth and showing splotches against his smooth shiny skin. "This is for your own good."

"So idealistic still." Golke says, shaking his head before turning to the older hunter. "When are you gonna teach this one about the folgtat?"

The bounty hunter looks back at him, the fire almost visible in his beady eyes.

"What does he mean?" The younger one says.

"He's got to know about his people some time, Balistoi."

The bounty hunters tie him to the back of their charodon, knowing he'll be dragged against the hot sand as they make the long slow journey to Gorvin.

"You said the Folgtat was just rumours." Golke hears Balistoi and his assistant talk in hushed whispers. "It is, of course!" the older one answers. "He's just trying to set us against each other. Don't be so naive."

"Damn." Golke thinks. "That usually works."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Villain's journey

Fear and sadness - The lowest combination. It just happened to be what I was feeling. I wish I could say I was an old man commiserating. It's a young man's curse though. I need to prove myself. I tried following the rules, but that's never enough. They don't want you to follow. The honest, hard working man is dead; killed by the piranhas who strike at weakness and with attrition break you down and feed off your flesh and bone while you are torn apart to nothing.  I have nothing, but I survive. I am still here, left to suffer in a situation that seems hopelessly dire. I own nothing, for even my pain is owed to others.

Withering into dust, I have become a living skeleton, with torch and sword in hand, waiting to haunt. My life was filled with flagrant misdeeds, and my punishment is this. I find myself alone amongst the undead, watching as the gelatinous blob shambles by again, ranting about some such thing. There are no more heroes; no one who ventures into our subterranean lair. I pushed back too many times. My zealousness has provided little more than a mountain of skulls that chatter and scream in the darkness.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Many Worlds

They grow roots firmly in the dirt. Sprouting from the cracks are leafy branches and vines, their rapid expansion belying their youth. Each word, each idea, seeded deep into the mind. I can't predict how they will change, but I am in a subtle control. I allow it to grow. I watch like a parent watches a child become an individual, poking and prodding here and there in hopes that it's for the best. We die, never really knowing.