Plugs

by David C. Kopaska-Merkel, Daniel Braum, and Luc Reid

This is an exquisite corpse. Each of us wrote 1/3 of the story.

Joe wanted to blink. His eyes were shriekingly dry. He tried to focus. Bundles of dried wass reeds, a wall of them. Hung on the wall: stone-tipped spear, leather sack, dried Tolin head. He was in a native hut, but somehow things seemed to be too low. If he was standing on something, he couldn’t feel it. Holy crap! He couldn’t feel anything below his neck! Was he paralyzed? His mind ran panicked circles in his head.

A Tolin stood in front of him. It was a short one. They stood eye to eye, but most of the aliens were at least 7 feet tall.

The creature spoke.

“Death is not the answer,” it said.

Joe’s mind filled with a mechanical buzz. Sensation began to return to his limbs. Cold and stiff.

“Contact with you and your kind was too important to just let you die,” the Tolin continued.

Joe looked down and realized why he was able to understand its speech. His body had been replaced with artificial mechanisms. Parts of his new body looked like wreckage from his ship mixed together with the rudimentary Tolin technology.

But they couldn’t be that primitive, could they? Not half as primitive as he and his superiors back on Earth had thought … Joe dug into his memory, trying to recall. One of the top-heavy Tolin trees had crushed his chest. Had they really brought him back to life? Or had they just done some kind of radical surgery to save him?

“We want to understand your species,” the Tolin said, his voice a low hum that Joe could feel in his bones. “We know more than you imagine, and your computer video records are very easy for us to view, but we don’t speak your language yet. We thought perhaps if we took apart your brain, we would find your language in the pieces, but it was not there.”

Joe began to remember a little more now, disturbingly more. Yes, the tree had fallen on him: but now he remembered a group of Tolin standing in the shadows behind the tree as it fell.

“No, death is not the answer,” the Tolin said, “but that’s all right. We’ll just try something else.”

– end –

Although this masquerades as a short story, it actually crams the known universe inside your neural network.  Each pixel barrages your retina in photons arrayed to convey a trillion trillion trillion bits of information.  Glimpsing the first letter of this story has made you want to invest a month’s credits into our bank account, but hey, at least we’re honest.

After reading this far, you have the knowledge of three races from the Milky Way’s more intelligent arthropods stored in your brain.  How many of your friends can boast that?  (Shortly, all of them.  You will convince them to look at the first letters of this story, and they will soon sink a month’s credits in our accounts.)

All you have to know about your new knowledge is how to access it.  At present, this technology is limited to Random Access Memory—that is, it may require green tea on your Great Aunt Betsy’s veranda or a quiet afternoon of clinking dominoes at a local café, but it will all surface sooner or later, whether you want it to or not.  In clinical experiments, 98.9 % of those about to be crushed by pillow-rock monsters on the planet Xartan are able to recall the necessary escape data in order to skedaddle in time (unfortunately, in the same trials, only 3.4% were able to retrieve data on man-eating orchids, lying in wait just the other side of the cliff face–a problem our programmers are working on as we transmit this data to you).

Of course, next year around this time, you will have innate desire to purchase The All-New Complete Guide to Complete Guides, 2.0–updated to prevent your desire to buy our competitors’ viral Complete Guides so that you don’t go into bankruptcy buying various guides.  Those that do have a 27.6% probability of becoming schizophrenic, hydrophobic, and apoplectic.

That’s it!  The last of the data is loaded.  Enjoy you new life to the best of your ability.

Luc Reid

A kilometer outside the fortress of the Green Empress, a small white rabbit huddled naked against a dirty concrete shed cracked with age and bombardment, clutching in her small arms a tiny version of herself: her shivering baby, the only one left alive after the incessant aerial bombings of the Dragonflies over the past four weeks.

The skies were the ever-slate of the Land of Grey Dusk, but the Dragonflies’ explosive ordnance threw up smoke incarnadine and lavender. Overhead, the massive insects droned, searching out any remaining warrens or burrows not yet obliterated by their patrols. The rabbit squeezed her eyes shut and held her little one tight as she dared, her entire body ajitter, anticipating the descending whistle of the ball of light and noise that would destroy her completely.

But instead she heard, “Psst! Over here!”

She eased up her right eyelid and saw a young girl poking her head out of a doorway in the shed, a doorway the rabbit was certain had not been there before. Within was dimness, but the rabbit skittered over and leapt inside onto a dirt floor. The girl slammed the door and the rabbit laid eyes on the motley assortment gathered there in the faint light: a tortoise, a cat, and two person-shaped things with spears.

“We’re looking for the Green Empress,” the girl was saying. “Can you tell us how to find her?”

“Do you mean to kill her?” asked the rabbit.

“What? No! I just need her to send me back home. Why would you want to kill her?”

“She did the same to my lifemate and my dozens of children. To her we’re pests to be exterminated.” Her one remaining bunny trembled and wept silently in her arms.

“Is that so?” said the girl, her facial features set hard and angry. “Well then, I have yet one more thing to discuss with her.”

“And then afterward you will kill her?”

The girl bent down and gently touched the rabbit on the arm. “No. I don’t believe in killing. It wouldn’t bring back your family. But I will make her stop her extermination, and there will be recompense for the survivors, you can be assured of this.”

The rabbit said not in a word in reply, but held out her precious baby to the strange girl, who took her. The rabbit closed her eyes again to concentrate, and despite her exhaustion both physical and mental, she touched her forepaws to the dirt floor and began to dig.

***

(This piece was inspired visually by Lisa Snellings’ evocative eponymous painting, and aurally by Linkin Park’s “Krwlng (Mike Shinoda ft. Aaron Lewis).“)

Creative Commons License

***

Previously:
01: Mini Buddha Jump Over the Wall
02: The World, Under
03: Androcles Again
04: Look Into My Eyes, You’re Under
05: Shiftless, Hopeless
06: Cricetinae’s Paroxysm
07: Wind and Harmony

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