I Hate Myself and I Can’t Die [Jim #7, Short Fiction]

In Paradise, the snooze button gave you six minutes.  Jim hit his again.  He’d lost count.  Maybe two hundred hits, maybe a thousand.

Outside his window the sun was shining and the birds were chirping.  Every goddamn day with the sun and the birds and the breeze.  He buried his head in the pillow.

His phone rattled and chimed.  He grabbed it and squeezed out an eye.  Cherry.

Happy hundred!  Wanna party?

Had it already been a hundred years?

Na.  Let’s skip it.

He drifted.  The alarm sounded and he snoozed it.  Another rattling chime.

Oh come on.  Me and the girls made plans . . .

Great, Jim thought.  Free holes: empty, wet, dark, used.

Not hungry.

No pie, I promise.

Let’s do it tomorrow.

I want you to nuke my pussy.

That almost got Jim out of bed.  He’d pumped a lot of things into a lot of holes, but he’d never seen a clit go nuclear.

I don’t have that kind of energy.

Haha.  Are you Mr. Bummy Pants today or what?

Fuck you.

I’m just tired. 

I know just what you need, Mr. Bummy Pants.

Don’t –

Happy Hundred, Jim.  Good luck!


His door banged open.  A wild man with a beard and shining eyes grabbed Jim by the ankles and pulled him off the bed.  His head bounced on the floor.


“Art thou Jim?”

Jim sat up and rubbed his head.

“I art,” he said.

The man picked up the bed and threw it out the window.  Glass shattered.  The frame clattered on the walk below.  The mattress clung for dear life, impaled by a shard.

“I am Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, and you are fortunate in the company you keep.”  He kicked over the nightstand.  “I am neither cheap nor easily persuaded.  And I’m the best.”

With a fist like a rock he made three neat holes in the wall.  He unzipped his fly and began to piss in the corner.  He spoke over his shoulder.

“You have exactly three minutes to dress yourself and pack one bag.  The bag may not weigh more than a stone.  It ought to contain knickers for all seasons and terrain.”

“I’m not packing a bag,” Jim said.  “Did Cherry send you?  Tell her she owes me a bed.  I’m not going out, I don’t want to go out.  I don’t care about the years and I just feel like sleeping for a while.”

“Two minutes,” Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton said.  He zipped up and kicked another hole in the wall.

Jim groaned and put his head in his hands.  He wanted to cry.  He listened as the Sir furthered the destruction of his bedroom.

“One minute.”

“Alright,” Jim said.  “Alright, I’m getting up.  I’m up.  Just give me an hour or so.  I’ll take a shower and get my shit together.  You hear me?  Let me get sorted, you British psycho.”

“Too late,” Sir Shackleton said.  He grabbed Jim by the shoulders.    “Look at this place.  It’s unlivable.  I’ve scheduled it for demolition.”

“You what?!”

But Sir Shackleton walked out the door without another word.  Jim hopped after him, one leg in a pair of jeans.

“What does that mean, demolition?  You’re not serious.  I like this house.  What’s wrong with a house?  People live in houses.  Sunnuva bitch.”

He got his pants on just in time for the front door.  A tank rolled through his fence and onto the yard.  Shackleton gave it a thumbs up.  Jim yelled stop! but it fired a shell and his house exploded.  It fired another shell and the house fell over.  Jim was pretty sure the third shell was just for fun.

“This isn’t funny!” Jim said.  “I was just taking a few days off.  A few months maybe.  Years.  It doesn’t matter.  Is it fucking crime to have the blues?  I had stuff in there!”

Sir Shackleton’s eyes clogged his throat.

“Was it the stuff of dreams, Jim?  The stuff of adventure?  Did it smell like the dead salt of acrid seas or the sour sweat of the jungle?  Was it a fist raised against winter and the hot blood of glory?”

Jim swallowed.  “Uh, no.  It was, like, albums and stuff.”

“Art thou a man?”


“Sign this.”

“What is it?”

“Sign it.”

Jim signed it.

“Good.  My starship is down at the bar.  We’ll have to take a cab.”


Olympus was a mountain in orbit around a red giant.  Ten thousand miles from base to peak, with no planet to support it, the mountain spun like a top that the giant had flicked into motion.

“I have to climb that?” Jim said.

“You’re going to conquer it,” Sir Shackleton said.

“Listen, I get what you’re doing and I appreciate it, but can’t you just drop me at the top?  You go tool around for a while and come back and pick me up.  I won’t tell anybody.”

Shackleton slapped Jim through the face.

“Thou art Jim!  Thou art a man!  Every moment in a man’s life is a woman, Jim, a woman with brass legs and wrecking ball chicken-tippers.   Every moment is her walking by.  There she goes.  There goes another one.  Maybe the next one will blow your sad chubby a kiss.  And they’ll keep walking by, Jim.  It’s a doll train to pussy town and you’re not on it.    And you won’t be on it until you grab one of these broads by the throat, lift up her skirt, and open up the turnpike.”

Shackleton had both hands on Jim’s shoulders and his eyes were lasers.

“Open the turnpike, Jim.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“Open the turnpike.”

“Half way, just drop me half the way up.”

Sir Shackleton sighed and released him.  He handed Jim a piece of paper.  It was the thing he’d signed.

“Read the last paragraph,” Shackleton said.

The undersigned hereby agrees that, upon failure to reach the summit of Olympus in full compliance with the rules stated above, all freedoms shall be forfeit for one year and one day, during which period the undersigned shall be placed in the custody of psychotics and have experiences including, but not limited to, rape, torture, and mutilation.

“I really have to start reading these things,” Jim said.

A foot to his chest and he fell out of the starship and landed on his back at the base of Olympus.


Jim was a quarter of the way up when he heard a foreign but familiar sound.  He followed his ears, and sitting against a bare tree a young man played a haggard guitar.  Blonde hair hid the edges of his face and the noise he made was brutal and sincere.

Cobain looked up and saw him.  Jim felt like a gazelle coming upon a lion in the wild.

“Hi,” Cobain said.  It was friendly.

“Hey,” Jim said.  He took a cautious step.  “I, uh, heard you playing.”

Cobain ran his fingers over rough body of the guitar.  It looked like it had been hacked out of a stump and strung with wire.

“I didn’t think I’d ever play one of these again,” he said.  He moved some of the hair out of his face.  “Something about this place, I guess.”

“Yeah . . .”

“Sir Shackleton?”


Jim found a rock to sit on.  He sat with his elbows on his knees.

“It’s funny,” Cobain said.  “When you get everything you’ve got nothing.  Somebody comes along and takes it from you, then you have something again.”  He strummed a soft chord on the guitar.  Its imperfections rattled.  “You hear that?  That’s the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard.”

“It’s raw,” Jim said.

The two of them sat in like posture for a while.  The peak of Olympus was shrouded in distance and the vacuum was close enough to touch.  It was quiet.

 “Can I ask you something?” Jim said.  “I guess it’s kind of personal.”

“That’s alright.”

“Why did you kill yourself?”

Cobain looked at his guitar.  “You know, I can’t really remember what it was like to be in that space.  I remember being there, I remember the thoughts, I just can’t pick up the moment.  There was a lot of pain and I didn’t know where it was coming from, and I made a decision and everything was over.”

He moved some of the hair from his eyes.  There was a smile playing in them.

“The craziest thing about it was seeing it.  I just expected the world to go black, and then I was standing there over my body.  Like, the mess never occurred to me – it was all cerebral.  It was metaphysical.  But when I saw the chunks of my brain mashed into the ceiling, the whole philosophy of it seemed kind of absurd.  Less than absurd, like it didn’t exist.  It was more embarrassing than anything.”

Jim tried to think of something to say, the right question to ask.  He couldn’t.  Instead, he shifted his weight and looked at the dirt.

“What really fucked with me was when the angel popped up next to me.  He said, I bet you’d have written a kickass song about that.”

“Did you?” Jim said.

Cobain plucked a few notes.

“It’s a little rough around the edges,” he said.

He played a song.


The peak was a fist against the bleakness.  Jim pulled himself up the steep wall of the forearm one hold at a time.  His arms and legs burned.  It had taken a long time to get this far and it was strange to have the top so close.

He wondered how many people had made this climb.  How many had gone numb with happiness and come here to feel something again?  He wondered if Cobain would ever look down from here, or if he’d work at his song for eternity.

He reached the top and pulled himself up.  Ten thousand miles were beneath him, and as many thoughts behind him.  He stood up and breathed in.  The red giant burned a red hole in the sky.

Jim pulled out his phone.

Stock your shelves, bitches.  The nuke is hot.

Jim Home

Jarmo excerpt – Disenfranchised [New Fiction, Novel]


Pluffkin had been nipping purses and jacking wallets since he was nine years old.  As he often introduced himself, he was born to nothing, raised by the low, and he only drank from the top shelf. 

Aside from purses and wallets he was certified master of every sort of con.  He could deal himself a high pair and roll a hard six at will.  He had once relieved an old widow of five gold with nothing more than a jacket, a banker’s apology, and terrible news about a recent wave of counterfeits –  and after she made him her special tea and showered him with gratitude she offered him her only umbrella for the rain.  A more upscale hustle, he and a few buddies used to run the Oakridge Tumble on the rich daisies on Westborough and Central Plaza: one fool thief making a racket, one guard to take him away, and another guard to walk through and secure the premises of the frightened owner, snatching a few gold-lacquered candlesticks and silver cutlery for his time.   (That shuffle ended when Flack got his head shoveled in for scamming the wrong lumberjack, rest his soul).  His biggest score to date was eleven gold and twenty-two silver, a broad daylight transaction between an ambitious young graduate and a smirking entrepreneur.  

Always on the outside looking in, forever smash-grabbing and conning and looting, Pluffkin had pulled from the street the only philosophy that could support him – that earning gold was for the suckers not wise enough to steal it.  It was a code he believed in and lived by, and he understood it as the invisible pillar that kept civilization from crumbling.  Those daisies living it up in the inner city, they were nothing more than a savvy guild of thieves.  They were the ones wise enough to enfranchise the looting, to stamp it and market it and call it business, call it economics.  They had whole masses of men out in the fields reaping gold for payments of copper.  Their genius wasn’t in producing or manufacturing; their genius was in the hustle, the greatest con ever played.  It was a fact that Pluffkin saluted, and a position he aspired to.

That is why, when a storm of angry working men swept through the Reformatory shouting the words “Equal Opportunity!” and “Corruption!” and “Fair Share!”, Pluffkin’s heart sank in his chest.  When they came round to his cell and unlatched it, he grabbed one of them violently by the shoulders, and pressing him to the wall he demanded,

“Who told you?”

He looked around and saw the furious action of ragged men, men who belonged plowing fields and forging iron and whatever else suckers did to feed their families.  The excited glow of newfound freedom lit their faces as they marched and cartwheeled through the cavernous halls of the Reformatory, throwing wide the steel gates and setting loose every sort of murderer and rapist and beggar.

A burly man with spit caked in his beard paused as he ran by, a torch throwing red across his creased forehead.

“Gods bless you, son,” he panted, shaking Pluffkin’s shoulder with a comrade’s compassion.  “Those bastard’s can’t keep you in chains no longer.  The reckoning has come!”

As Pluffkin watched the torch sink into the black distance of the hall, several more men came whooping after him, slapping Pluffkin on the back and offering him their flyby congratulations. 

“Go free, son of man!” they shouted.

“Tyranny has ended!” they proclaimed.

“We gone light this bitch up like a dandy’s pyre!” someone added.

Their hollering filled the darkness, rattling down up and through the long halls, echoing and stomping and squealing.  It was the laughter of mad banshees, awakening from a long slumber and ecstatic to find that their voices could still wail. 

And each voice was an arrow that pierced his ego along with his dreams.  The one thing that he had ever been able to hold over other men was his secret knowledge, knowing that it was a world with thieves up on top and suckers on the bottom, knowing that the true worth of a man was measured by his cunning and his loyalty unto himself.  He had been sentenced by the court to serve six months for “swindling a good man of some repute”, had served only three, and somehow in those three short months the secret seemed to have gotten out. 

The suckers got wise.

The thought made him shudder as he searched for a way out of the chasm of the lower dungeon.  A world without suckers was a tree without roots.  A soft breeze and it would all be over.

The excited shouts of freed prisoners began to join those of the liberators.  Toothless, half-starved, jubilant faces skittered by, picking up the righteous chants or making some of their own.  Some of these men had been down here a long time, most for good reasons.  Pluffkin had spent plenty of his life in rotten company, and he knew lechers and psychos when he saw them.  It was the constant suspicion in their eyes that gave them away, a paranoia that made them jittery.

Finally he found the stone stairs that led up and out of the dungeon.  Once he navigated the labyrinth of upper level cells and hallways and the cheering clusters of victorious morons, he stepped outside into the bright cold afternoon sun and was accosted by a chaos leaps beyond his expectations.

Fires of pitch and hay grew into black plumes of smoke.  Taverns, smithies, homes were ablaze.  Those not on fire were swarming with desperate women, fanatical men, laughing children, all pulling what they could from the wreckage.  Glass mugs, picture frames, cabinet doors, mirrors, ash trays, chairs, broken off railings and torn up squares of carpeting, lamps, wash rags, bedding, bars of soap – people scurried through the streets with armloads of junk and faces full of exhilaration and wonder.  Hundreds of them.  Thousands.  And he could hear more of them down on other streets.  Two bodies hung from nooses outside a tavern called The Copper Pint, a poorly scrawled caption marking them “Suns of Greed.”  Pluffkin watched as one man hucked leather bound books out of a third story window, to his friend waiting with a wheelbarrow below. 

There wasn’t a second that passed when the air wasn’t filled with one of their battle cries.  It was either, “Free the poor!” or “Hang the king!” or “Zebithias!”  Pluffkin wasn’t sure, but he assumed the last was their leader, or at least the man who had whispered to them that powerful secret.

Pluffkin saw in his mind’s eye that pillar of civilization crumbling, one bar of soap, one empty desk drawer at a time.  The shroud had been lifted, and the suckers were hacking away at the pillar with generations of latent rage and anguish.  It was they who suffered and toiled, they who bled in the field, they who sweat in the shop, they who were the sacrifice necessary for progress, the willing victims of institutionalized thievery.  He saw it in their faces, the elation of a long awaited revelation, the eureka behind their eyes. 

Dazed, distraught and disheartened, Pluffkin wandered the teeming streets.  The Reformatory was near the edge of River End, and he knew the area well.  Or he used to know it well.  The whole thing seemed up in flame and looted to hell.  He watched as two women fought over a crystal chalice in the snowy mud, screaming at each other all sorts of obscenities, drawing even more obscene jeers from the men around them.  One of them finally twisted it from the other’s grasp and dashed her in the head with it and hurried away with her prize.  The woman she had dashed, a scrawny wretch of a thing, lay unconscious and facedown in the muck.  Pluffkin felt his blood heat when the laughing idiots around her moved on to other entertainments and diversions.  He walked over to her, bent down, rolled her over, scraped the mud from her face.

She wasn’t beautiful, and she wasn’t young, but goddammit she was a woman.  What the hell was wrong with these people?  All the years he’d spent running cons he never did anything half as despicable as those savages who just walked away.  As he looked down at her shapeless plain face, her ruddy hair, he felt a tinge of hope.

Maybe they don’t have any damned idea what they’re doing, he thought.  Maybe they’ve just gone mad.  It was a strange hope, but it was hope.

The woman’s eyes fluttered open, glazed at first before they came into focus.

“You alright, miss?” he said.

She looked at him, felt his arms cradling her, and went stiff with indignation.

“Well aren’t you the fucking hero,” she chided.  She threw his arms away, stood up, spit in his face, walked away.

For the life of him, he could not understand what had caused her to say and do such a thing.

“Power is need; fuck their greed!  Power is need; fuck their greed!”

Five men, faces black with soot, came dragging a sixth through the muddy street.  The man was in such a condition that Pluffkin’s stomach turned on him, and it took a hand over his mouth and a strenuous conscious effort not to vomit.  His right leg was broken, flopping along the ground, the bone protruding from his skin.  The whole left side of his body was horribly burned, and where his flesh wasn’t black it was an angry bubbling red and purple.  A face that was only recognizable as a face because of its location on the front of his head was swollen and bloody and broken.

His begging was a hopeless whimper, a choked plea that was already beyond the grave.

“Please – I’m just an armorer.  Chain mail, I could make you some chain mail.  Please.”

One of the men had a length of rope with him.  He fashioned a noose, put it around the armorer’s neck, and they strung him up.  His mouth worked desperately and silently.  His leg dangled horribly.  His arms were free to clutch and paw at the rope that was pulling him into death, but they were panicked and feeble.  His entire body convulsed, convulsed, was still.  Empty eyes in a shattered face, and his final expression in this life was the vacation of his bowls, shit and piss dripping from his legs and staining the snow.

Pluffkin had thought he’d seen men at their worst.  He’d once been an unwilling witness to a brutal gang rape outside of Dusty’s Tavern; he had been part of a black market winterleaf deal that went bad and got his accomplice’s throat slit; he’d seen the bloody aftermath of a loan shark’s collection methods.  But he realized now, as he stared up at the amorer’s wrecked body, and listened to the cackles of his assailants, that he had only glimpsed a shadow in the corner of the darkness.  Those things he had previously witnessed he at least understood.  The violence of lust, the greed that inspired treachery, the power of brute force – though outside his own code of morality, these things were at least within the realm of comprehension.  They followed their own internally cohesive logic.  But this – this was an abuse and a debauchery that soared high above his understanding. 

One thought haunted him above all others: What have they gained?

He pulled himself away from that place and moved to another.  And to another.  But it didn’t matter where he was; the chaos was everywhere.

A ragged man with a pointed beard declared from the roof of an inn that the best rum was free rum, and taking a swill from a bottle he lost his footing and fell two stories to his face.  Inexplicably, he stood up unwinded and apparently uninjured without having spilled a drop of the liquor.  He looked up at the roof, laughed, enjoyed another swill and went on his way.

Around the corner were several children, tossing between them a finely painted clay vase, laughing and spitting venom Pluffkin had thought impossible for such creatures.  Between them, her fine linen dress torn and muddied, a young woman stumbled about desperately, pleading with them.

“Please,” she begged, “it was my grandfather’s.  He was a good man.  It’s all that’s left.  It’s all we have left of him.  Please.”

A freckled boy with ratty curls of hair caught the vase in one hand.  “My grandy never had such a nice vass.  Never had nothin.  Cause of greedy bitches like you.”  He tossed the vase over her head.  She fell in an effort to intercept it, and chorus of heckling followed her to the ground.

“You dirty bitch!”

“Yeah!  What a dirty bitch!”

“Nice tits, bitch!”

“Ohhhh!  You hear what Kenny said!”

“Good one Kenny.  She’s a real titty bitch.”

“Titty bitch, titty bitch, titty bitch!”

The chant took on the poisonous rhythm of blind mischief, the kids tossing the vase about the woman, who lay weeping, soaked, begging.  Then her eyes found Pluffkin’s, and he saw in hers a terrifying bewilderment, the wide and shocked orbs of an animal whose world had just been ripped from its feet.  The shock, discovering its own uselessness, ascended to rage.

“Why don’t you do something!” she screamed at Pluffkin.  “How can you just stand there!  We isn’t anybody doing anything!  Why isn’t anybody stopping this!  Help me!”

“Titty bitch, titty bitch!”

Pluffkin, feeling every bit as lost as the woman, remembering the strange result of his last encounter, was about to quietly walk away when he heard a familiar jingle.  He glanced toward the freckled boy and saw a leather purse hanging dumbly from his belt.  A fat purse.  Probably nipped it from someone’s house, Pluffkin thought.

“Do I smell a titty bitch?” he said, sliding into the laughing circle.  He held up his hands, calling for the vase.  The little girl who currently held it looked at him, looked at the freckled boy, unsure of what to do.

“Don’t give it to him!” yelled the freckled boy.  “He’ll just give it back to her!”

But Pluffkin smiled at her, and she smiled back and tossed him the vase.  He caught it, and the children waited silently and expectantly.  He took two steps towards the woman and bent down as if to give her the vase.  The children gasped and moaned, thinking their game over, but as the woman reached for it he pulled it back and kicked mud and snow into her face.

“Titty bitch,” he said, and passed it over to the freckled boy.

The children cheered wildly, taking up the chant with redoubled voracity.  More importantly, Freckles was impressed.  He threw the vase to another boy.

“You’re smart not to trust anybody,” Pluffkin said to him.  “Most people, they trust too much.”

The kid’s chest grew bigger by half and his freckled head tilted up.  “I don’t trust nobody,” he said.

Pluffkin suppressed a grin.  When the vase came back to him, he walked it over to Freckles, handed it to him, crouched down to eye level.  The boy looked at him defiantly but couldn’t hide the respect and the fear from his eyes.

“If you’re really smart,” Pluffkin said, “you’ll take your prize and get the hell out of here.”


“Because I’m going to drag this titty bitch down that alley and fuck her face until she learns some good manners.”

Pluffkin almost laughed.  The boy’s eyes went wide in sheer terror and his freckles turned ashen.  This game had just gotten a bit too adult for him. 

“Come on, guys,” he said to everyone.  “I’m sick of this bitch anyway.”

The little gang of hounds kicked a storm of muck on the disheveled woman as they ran past, Freckles leading them.  In a final gesture he turned back and raised the vase high and threw it against the side of a building, shattering it into several pieces.  When they disappeared down an alley, Pluffkin looked at the purse cupped in his left hand.  When he pulled back the string and looked inside, he laughed.  The kid had a small fortune on him.  There were no coppers at all, only silver and gold.  Fingering through the coins he counted almost fifteen gold.

“Please, don’t hurt me.”

The woman was staring at him.  She didn’t seem to have the strength to get up.

“I just wanted his purse,” Pluffkin said.  She scuttled back as he approached her, and he stopped and held up his hands.  “I’m sorry about your grandfather’s vase, and I have no intention of hurting you.  I’d like to share some of the loot with you.  For your assistance.”


He held out three gold coins in his hand.

“Gold!” she screamed.  “Gold!  What am I going to do with gold!  You goddamn coward!  You kicked mud on me!  They came into my house!  My husband is dead!”

Pluffkin added a fourth coin, and he flinched as she let out a wail that shook his bones.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  He left the coins on the ground, and tried not to hear her screaming at him as he walked away.  The purse he tucked beneath the waist of his tattered pants, leaving only the drawstring and a small bulge visible.

What little pleasure he’d gotten from his heist quickly faded.  Everything he saw made him feel more lost, and he wondered what use was gold if there was no one around to covet it, no one to keep it sacred.  More and more frequently the looters he saw were drunk, and the looted beaten and torn if not dead.  The hollers and the cheers and the chants of the people had waned considerably, but it was still often enough that they would come rampaging by, shouting, “Born free!” and “Burn the gold!” and “Hang the king!”  Pluffkin felt the cold weight of the purse against his thigh as he shuffled out of their way, thinking it was more gold than he had ever held at one time and that these lunatics had rendered it completely useless. 

There weren’t any guards out here, none of the king’s soldiers to put the rebellion down.  From what he had seen, they had focused their efforts at the wall that divided the districts from the rest of the city.  They were letting the mad ones eat each other.

And theirs were ravenous appetites.  He wandered the streets, all littered with empty bottles and casks and bedding and broken stools and burning piles of refuse, with all the direction of a ghost returning to a place it once remembered.  Around him swelled the energy of life and chaos that he couldn’t define or comprehend.  A man running along the walk and breaking out all the remaining windows for no other reason than to hear the glass break; another trying to mount a spooked horse, taking a hoof to his belly, screaming in agony until he was silent; an old and withered raisin of a woman, with a fine mantle of fur draped impudently over her cotton rags, smoking a fine cigar from the comfort of a plush recliner that lay drowning in the middle of the muddy street; a couple of prepubescent teens probing each other in fascination in front of an inn engulfed by flame.

Unconsciously his legs carried him to a place he knew very well.  The Riverside Shuffle was a sprawl of a three story bar and casino, with a few rooms on the top level for anyone with enough scratch to purchase the services of one of the serving girls, and a kitchen that served food in name only.  His father, a man called Desh, had been a hard luck wheelwright and a poorly adjusted sucker; he went down to the Shuffle any time he had more than a silver in his pocket.  He often brought Pluffkin along to “help tote the winnings home” and on one such night he lost more than he was worth and fell from the table with a knife between his shoulder blades.  Pluffkin didn’t like his mother so much, and his sisters were hellish creatures whose only ambition in life was to reform him into a little girl; unwilling to go home, he haunted the Shuffle, the ghost of his father, until the owner took some pity on him and gave him some work.  Pluffkin soon proved his grit to Ribbald, the owner, and he wasn’t ten years old before he was cooking the books, soft-dealing the “copperheads”, or even beating the heater out of a half-drunk fish in a stand-up game of poker.  Ribbald showed him all the ropes, became a father and a mentor to him, showed him all the reasons Desh had been a sucker.  Pluffkin remembered with stark clarity the day Ribbald had planted a big hand on his shoulder and spoken to him as if he were an adult:

“Your father got axed because he was a sucker.  Suckers are scramblers, bottom feeders, wishers and hopers.  He should have wished for some sense, if he really believed in that sort of thing.  Look around you, damn near all of them just like your old man, hoping and wishing,  hoping and wishing.  Oh please give me that three of hearts; mother of mine I need to roll a seven.  But a thousand lucky turns can’t save a sucker, because on the next one he’ll just lose it all right back.

“Desh was a good man, if they come that way, but he was the worst kind of sucker.  He played to lose.  Never even tried to walk away.  He came to flush it away so he could tell himself rotten luck was the stick in his spokes.  Cause suckers can’t see themselves.  All they see is everyone else getting all the breaks.

“But you ain’t a sucker, Pluffkin.  You ain’t your father.  It’s got nothing to do with blood.  For every hundred suckers born there’s a wolf to lick them clean – clean as a temple bust, you hear me?”

Pluffkin heard him.  When he thought of that moment, surrounded by cigar smoke and the clatter of silver and gold chips wrinkling through the air, it rose up like a great tower that cast a shadow over all the rest of his life.  It was a shadow in which the wolf prowled, darting out of its cover only when some sucker wandered in too close.

Now, as he looked at the Riverside Shuffle, the only place he could call home, he saw that it was besieged on all sides.  At least fifty men surrounded it, waving torches or throwing rocks or wielding makeshift bludgeons.  Above them, leaning out of a third story window, was Ribbald’s shining old tobacco-creased face.  Pluffkin was amazed to see that it was peeled back in laughter.

“It’s all here, boys!” Ribbald shouted from the window.  “Everything you ever lost, what was never found!  Your self respect, your pride, your common sense – everything!  Hhey haa!”

He was forced to duck inside as a number of rocks clattered around the window, a few of them making it through.  The skirmish over, he poked out his shining face again.

“But you’ll never get it back!  I ain’t the giving kind!”

Inexplicably, Ribbald’s laughing, almost good-natured taunting was a contagion that spread through the mob beneath him.  Their shouts and their demands remained the same, cries of “Burn him out!” and “Hang all sons of greed!” issuing from their lips, but the venom was gone.  They might have been cheering on a horse race or heckling an out-of-key minstrel. 

“Ribbald!” cried one of the men wielding torches, stepping forward, “We’re fixing, at long last, to purify that golden ass of yours!”

“Is that Sodermock?” returned Ribbald.

“It is!”

“Not the goldsmith!”

“The same!”

“How is it you’ve not been purified yourself?”

“I lost everything I had at your damned tables!”

“Hey hhaa!” Ribbald laughed, howling it to the sky.  “Indeed, here stands the worst card player the land has ever known.  I myself have seen this man flush a month’s wages on a naked pair of jackals!”

The men guffawed, and the goldsmith’s face went red.

“They were ladies, you old bastard, and they nearly won!”

“And good fortune has come to you at last.  The worst hand is now the best; the losing strategy has won!”

“Enough of this!”

“Hang the prick!”

“Power is the people!”

Ribbald’s shining head rolled back in the deepest, most guttural fit of laughter Pluffkin had ever heard.  It sounded like the death rattle of a man who had just come to understand the nature of all existence, and finding it absurdly angled he was unable to hold it, instead letting it escape out his throat.

“There are a thousand princes at this sucker’s ball!” he declared from his euphoric height, “And lo! they are all prettier than I!”

The men with the torches and hammers apparently understood just enough of this statement to know that it was the gravest kind of insult, and their collective demeanor became grim and resolute.  The torches were set and flames began running up the walls, crawling at first and then rising faster and faster.  The men cheered as the flames engulfed the sign that marked the establishment as The Riverside Shuffle, and hollered with increasing fervency as they licked inevitably closer to the laughing visage above.  Just before the fire engulfed him entirely, Ribbald’s eyes came down on Pluffkin.

“Pluffkin, my boy!” he shouted through the cackling flames.  “It was good to know you!”

As he said it, the flames finally roared up past him, and the whole building became a pulsing, waving storm of heat.  As Pluffkin watched his home, and the man that had been his father, being reduced to so much smoke, he was scarcely aware of the men that surrounded him, grabbed him by the arms, dragged him forward.

“Good to know you, eh?”

“Then he should have kept his mouth shut.”

Pluffkin looked from face to face, seeing only hate and malice in all of them.  Dead-set eyes and sooted cheeks and foreheads, tangles of unwashed beards and the smell of stale sweat and rancid breath. 

“And what’s this here?”

One of them pulled at the string that hung from his waist band, and the purse opened and spilled its contents down his leg and onto the ground.  Gold and silver coins shimmering in the light of the fire.

“Saving that for a rainy day, were you?”

“Feed my family for a year with that, I could.”

“Goddamn sons of greed!  String him up!”

“You ain’t no better than us!”

“Feed him to the fire!”

“Rope!  Do we have any more rope?”

Pluffkin discovered that they did, when he felt the coarse twine of the noose tighten around his neck.  As they pulled him beneath a hooked post and threw the end of the rope over, he found himself wondering why the same people would liberate a thief and then hang him for thieving.  He felt his feet lifted from the ground and his breath cut short, and the blood in his face became thick and hot.  He didn’t have the heart to put up an honest struggle, and could only cling to the rope around his neck and kick his feet against the post. 

The last thing he saw, from the height of the post, was a mass of skeletal apparitions floating down the street, emaciated shades with green orbs for eyes.  Hundreds of them.  Thousands.  Moving toward him with the creeping conviction of a thunderhead.  As his vision blurred and began to fade, all that was left were those glowing green eyes, all of them looking at him, waiting for him.  In his final moment he mistook them for the ghostly messengers of the gods, come to carry him away to a place he had never believed in.


You can find Jarmo on Amazon right here.

Or check out some other short stories here.

Or get lost in Paradise with Jim over here.

The Face that Employed a Thousand Angels [Jim #6, Short Fiction]

Annual Cleopatra Lottery

Spend a Night with the Egyptian Queen!

Enter in person at:  777 Lay Lady Lane

We accept both chance and fate.

The Cleopatra Lottery is run by the Paradise Grant Committee and is in full compliance with the Pussy Pact.  All participants enter willingly and with full knowledge that their indulgence rights will be abused.

Jim read the flyer three times before he looked at the man who had given it to him.

“What is this?” he said.

“It’s the Cleo lotto,” the man said.  “We run it every year.  Winner gets to bury his bone in the Queen of the Nile.”  He failed at handing out another flyer.  “You must be fresh from the circus if you haven’t rolled for Cleopatra.”

“Yeah, pretty much.”  Jim read the flyer again.  It was a plain piece of paper, black and white and matter-of-fact.  “She’s the one with the face, right?  I mean, the thousand ships.”



“You there!  Cleopatra Lottery!  Lay Lady Lane!  Chance or fate, don’t be late!”


Lay Lady Lane was a long shining broadway of neon lights.  Marquis flashed the names of history’s most beautiful women.  Marilyn Monroe, Jackie Kennedy, Mata Hari, Pocahontas, Brigitte Bardot.  There were more that he didn’t recognize – Wang Zhaojun, Madhubala, Hwang Jini – and Jim lost count.  Above them all in the center of the broadway Cleopatra glittered.

Jim walked in through the revolving doors.  The lobby was crimson and gold.  The men in front of him and the ones pushing past him went through one of two doors, above which read Take Your Chances and Accept Your Fate.  He went to the help desk.

“First time?” the man said.  His nametag said Butch, Angel in Training.

“Yeah,” Jim said.

“Well, it’s pretty simple.  You go through that door, you get what’s coming to you.  You go through that one, you get something else.  It’s like, you walk the path or you roll the dice.”



Jim checked his pocket.  The dice were still there.

“What about this bit where my indulgence gets abused?” Jim said, showing Butch the flyer.  “I don’t like the sound of that.”

“Jesus.  Really?”


“I mean, you’re here to roll dice for a chance to spear the queen and you’re asking me about the fine print.”

Butch, Angel in Training, had a point.  Jim laughed, shook his head, shrugged.  “Man, sometimes I just want to know what the hell’s happening to me.”

“Tell you what,” Butch said, “Here’s the short of it.  Lucy, her whole thing is everybody gets what they want, right?  She hates rules.  But what’s the first thing you want to do when you get to Paradise?  You want to fuck Cleopatra.  So Cleopatra’s got, like, millions of dudes trying to fuck her every day.  And that’s a shitty Paradise.  So Cleopatra rounds up all the scorchers, you know, your Marilyn Monroes and your Joan of Arcs, and they all march on Lucy.  And Lucy’s cool – have you met her?”  Jim nodded.  “Yeah, you seem like the type.  Anyway, she sets up this whole infrastructure and assigns a team of angels to field requests, they sort it all out and pass on the good ones.  Now Cleopatra just gets an email every week, and if she sees something she likes she can jump on it.

“It all sounds good, except Cleopatra – just Cleopatra – needs a thousand angels to sift through all these requests.  There’s a shortage of angels.  And there’s millions of dudes that are pissed off because of the selection process – they know damn well Cleopatra isn’t gonna blow some salesman from Alabama.  So there’s hardly an angel in Paradise that isn’t on fuck request detail, and everything with a dick is crying foul.  I mean, they don’t even have the personnel to do the whole meet and greet thing.  People are getting hit by buses, waking up here, they don’t know what’s going on.  They’re still clogging up traffic.  It’s a fucking mess.

“Finally Lucy comes out with the lottery and the Pussy Pact.  She tells Cleopatra and every other scorcher if they spread their legs once a year they’ll get angelic privilege.  To the hard-ons, she says you’ve got an eternity to win, if you don’t like it the Truth Road is that way.  That cooled everybody off, and we built Lay Lady Lane.”

“I guess that makes sense,” Jim said.  “So, this is just saying I might not win.”

“Pretty much.”

Jim said thanks and went to take his chances.


He walked out of the casino, rattling his glossy reds and shitting a grin.  He hadn’t lost a roll.  The room he walked into was all windows and cushions.  Light played on the marble floor.  An angel, not in training, greeted him.

“Congratulations,” the angel said.  “Please, if you’ll take a seat, fate will present the final challenger soon.  Feel free with the fruit and wine.”

“Is Cleopatra –”  Then he saw her.  She lay draped over a sofa, a bare and tan leg dripping from its side, one arm a triangle behind her head.  What fabric she wore was white and pulled taut by golden rings that pressed against her skin.  Midnight hair, cropped short, cut straight across her forehead.  Blue eyes.  They looked at Jim.

“Uh, hi,” Jim said.  He aborted a handshake mid-step, failed to convert it into a wave, tried to save it with a scratch and tripped over a pillow.  His dice skittered over the marble and came to rest at Cleopatra’s hand.  She picked them up and held them in her palm.

“Well?” she said.

“Those are my dice,” Jim said, pointing.

The angel chuckled.  Jim flushed.

“Einstein gave them to me,” he said.

The angel snorted.

“They are lovely dice,” Cleopatra said.  They were still in her palm.

Jim stepped carefully over the pillow.  He stood over her.  She saw him look at her breasts.  He cleared his throat and took the dice.

The other door opened.  A man in a white suit strolled through it.  Jet hair slicked over a sculpted head.  One hand disappeared into his jacket pocket, the other held a boot.

“There’s at least one man back there,” he said, “who thinks if you can throw a boot, you can change destiny.”

“Welcome, and congratulations,” the angel said.

“Angel,” the man said.  “Cleopatra.”  A nod for each.  To the angel – “So which kind are you?  The kind that takes my coat, or the ethereal kind?”

“I can manage both.”  The angel took his jacket, and the boot, and showed him to a seat.

“This is a lovely apartment.  Say, you there, I’m sure the lady loves the view, but mine’s obscured.  What do you say we dispense with flirtation and get down to business?”

Jim realized he was standing right in front of the Egyptian Queen with his ass in her face.  He took a breath, gritted his teeth, composed himself.  He wasn’t any less of a man than this guy.

“Business it is,” Jim said, and sat down.  He could see the angel biting his lip.  God he wanted to punch that fucking angel.

“It is customary for the representative of fate to choose the final game,” the angel said.

“I represent myself,” the man said.  “Fate’s your word, it isn’t mine.  I don’t want any part of it.  Besides, I’ve been out of ideas since I woke up in this crazy joint.  Let the kid decide, he’s good for it.”

Jim held out the dice.  “One roll,” he said.  “High roll wins.”

“Short and sweet.  I like it.  Who’s first?”


He rolled a nine.

Jim shook, blew, rolled.  Eleven.

“Yes!”  On his feet, fists in the air.  “Eat shit, Bogart, the queen is mine!”

Humphrey  twirled a finger.  “Reel it in, cod slayer.  I’d say you should play it closer to the vest but you wouldn’t know how to wear it.”  He stood up, leaned over, spoke from the corner of his mouth.  “And I didn’t want to say this in front of the lady, but Joe Louis is taking a dive.”


“The unknown soldier is going for a walk.”

“I don’t . . .”

“Your zipper’s down and I can see your testicles.”

Jim coughed and pivoted.  With his back to the queen he checked his crotch.  It was fine.  He double-checked.  No Joe Loius.


He turned around and Bogart had her slung over his shoulder.  The actor kicked open a window, pulled a gun from his jacket and fired a zip-line into the gardens.

“What the hell, man?  You lost!  Angel, stop him!”

Bogart give him the dramatic profile, the last look back.

“It was a good roll, kid,” Bogart said.  “It just wasn’t meant to be.”

The two of them zipped out of sight.  Jim ran to the window and watched as the actor stuffed Cleopatra into the back of a Packard Super Eight and drove away.

“Can he do that?” Jim said.  “Why aren’t you doing anything?  You should be doing something!”

The angel was laughing freely now.  “Don’t beat yourself up,” he said.  “He does that every year.”  He doubled over.  “The boot!” he gasped.  “Oh, I almost died.”

“But I won,” Jim said.

“Eat shit, Bogart!  Eeeeeheeeheehehe!

Jim Home

Next Jim Story

Jim v Logic [Jim #5, Short Fiction]

Jim couldn’t take it anymore.  He looked away.  The angel laughed, grabbed the telescope, and looked for himself.

“This is nothing,” the angel said.  “You should have seen Carthage.  Or Nanking.  Or Rwanda.  Hell, I’ve seen prison-rapes that were more entertaining.”

“Entertaining,” Jim repeated.  He just couldn’t wrap his head around it.  “So this – this is all happening right now?”

“More or less.”

The images burned.  Jim had always known that people did awful things to one another, but he’d never really seen it.  He certainly hadn’t seen it through an angel’s telescope before.

“So you just watch this like it’s TV?  Do you ever watch the good stuff?”

“This is the good stuff.”

“I mean, like weddings, things like that.  Celebrations.  People building things.  You know, art and science.  Babies.”

The angel pulled himself away from the scope.  “Did you ever watch those things?”

Come to think of it, he hadn’t.  Jim hated shit like that.  He shook his head.

“Think of Earth as a bad dream,” the angel said.  “It’s awful while you’re in it, but when you wake up it’s pretty gnarly.”

“But why is it so awful?” Jim said.  “Why do people suffer like that?”

The angel had his mouth open with a response, but a faerie burst in through the window.  Another crashed through the ceiling.  A third walked in through the door.  Jim had always pictured faeries as Tinkerbelles, but these were bespectacled bald men, two feet tall, and all business.

The door faerie didn’t see Jim, and he puzzled at the angel.

“Angels don’t ask why,” he said.

The angel pointed at Jim, and Jim was soon surrounded.

“You’ve been served,” the faeries said together.

One of them handed Jim a manila envelope, and he opened it.  Inside was a single sheet of paper.  It read,

Jim v Logic

You are hereby commanded to appear in Paradise Court to defend yourself in the above-titled case and to answer to the following charge(s).

Charge(s): Asking a loaded question.

Paradise Court

Jean Paul Sartre Courthouse

Downtown, Paradise

When Jim finished reading, the faeries were gone.  He looked at the angel.

“I think I’ve just been summonsed,” he said.


Jim had defended himself in court before, but that was for a traffic violation.  Defending a loaded question at the Jean Paul Sartre Courthouse sounded like it was above his pay grade.  An ad in the Yellow Pages (William and William: Defense Attorneys for the Anguish’d Heart) had pointed him to a small office near the courthouse, and the receptionist told him to go right in.

It was a cluttered office, littered with books and parchments, and William Shakespeare sat behind the desk.  His nose was buried in a tome.

“What’s the charge?” he said without looking up.

“I, uh, I asked a loaded question,” Jim said.

“The question?”

“Why is there suffering.  In the world.  Why do people suffer.”

“Well,” closing the book, “you’ve come to the right place.  Have a seat.”

Jim sat down.  “I thought you hated lawyers,” he said.

“A man cannot always choose how he employs his talents,” Shakespeare said.  “But he is only lost if he doesn’t employ them at all.”  He searched for an empty sheet of paper, and not finding any turned one over.  “It bodes well to begin with a name.”

“Jim,” Jim said, and Shakespeare wrote it.  Jim stared.


“You – I mean, Shakespeare – just wrote my name.”

“Ha!  Well, at least there’s someone left in Paradise who appreciates a red-blooded jot.”

“What do you mean?”

“When that French lunatic shot his monkeys into space, my lays lost all appeals.  What authorship remains is culled from a squall of apes.”

Jim nodded his head.  He decided it was a metaphor and didn’t want Shakespeare to think he was stupid.  “Yeah, man.  The shit they come out with now.  Bunch of apes.”  He coughed into his hand.

Shakespeare snapped his fingers.  “The summons,” he said.  Jim handed it to him and he sighed.  “These relativisms are wearisome.  What were the circumstances?”

“Well,” Jim said, “I was looking through this angel’s telescope, I think it was Russia or Ukraine or somewhere, and some really nasty stuff was going on.  We were talking, and I just asked him about the suffering.”

“What did you say exactly?”

“Umm, I said, Why do people do awful things to each other?  Why do people suffer?”

Shakespeare made some more red-blooded jots.  He looked over what he had written, scratched some out and made some more.  He finished with a flourish of the pen, folded the paper and put it in his pocket.

“Well, Jim,” he said, “take comfort in this.  It is not merely your heart, but the human heart, that is on trial.  These existentialists reach too far.”

“Great,” Jim said.  It sounded like good news.  He stuck out his hand and Shakespeare took it.  “So, you think we’ll win?  I mean, you’re Shakespeare, right?”

“I’ve yet to win a case,” Shakespeare said, patting him on the shoulder.  “But all morrows begin without sorrow, and tomorrow these hearts will beat against the narrows.  Of logic.  Beat against the narrow . . . straits that constrict the mind.  Hmmm.”  He looked at a wall, perked up and snapped his fingers.  “Embattled hearts are empty in their quivers, but beating shake the world that minds but scratch.”

Jim was stuck on the first sentence.  “Am I fucked?” he said.

“Pretty much.”


The courtroom was a courtroom.  There was a judge, a bailiff, a reporter, lawyers mulling about.    Prosecuting on behalf of Logic was Immanuel Kant.  As Jim waited for his case to be called, Kant made short work of a young girl whose slippery slope “regarding the origins question” was an “assault against reason.”  As punishment, she was given a signed copy of Kant’s book about metaphysics.

Jim leaned over to Shakespeare.  “Well, that doesn’t seem so bad,” he said.

“You’ve never read Kant,” Shakespeare said.

“Now appearing before Judge Russell, case twenty-three, Jim v Logic.”  

Jim followed Shakespeare to the defendant’s table.  They stood.

“The defendant is accused of discharging a loaded question into the face of human suffering.”

“Plead,” Judge Russell said.

“Guiltless,” Shakespeare said.

“Prosecution, go ahead.”

Kant took the floor.  He was small and arrogant.

“The defendant,” Kant said, “hereafter referred to as Jim, asked of an angel, Why is there suffering?  This is not an innocent question.  It is has been sufficiently established that this line of inquiry leads nowhere, and that it debases logic and fugues the mind.  As it is the purpose of this court to disabuse Paradise of bad thinking, it is the court’s imperative to hold Jim accountable for these words.  The question was loaded, and he fired it like grapeshot over Prussia.”

“Prussia?” Jim said.

“Objection!”  Shakespeare wagged his pen.  “There is no Prussia!”



Kant continued.  He paced the open court with his hands clasped behind him.

“Why is there suffering?  The underlying assumption is clear: The suffering has a purpose.  Embedded in the question is the bold assertion that the tragic nature of mortality is somehow transcendent, that it is tragic because.  The question asserts that pain and misery have defensible, perhaps even noble, functions.  It is a claim whose magnitude embroils the most practiced minds, and Jim offered no evidence to support it.  He blithely assumed it, and he buried the assumption in six retarded syllables.

“The prosecution will happily drop all charges if Jim can defend the assumed position.  If Jim can make the case for meaningful suffering, and raise a foundation to support his assumption, he is free to go.  If not, the prosecution is bound by Reason and Logic to seek the maximum reprisals.

“And if I may append an editorial, the presence of an angel compounds the depravity of offense.  It is disheartening that not even the wards of heaven are safe from these stupidities.”

Kant gave Jim a glare before sitting down.

Judge Russell stifled a yawned.  “Can the defendant provide evidence that humankind suffers meaningfully?”

“That’s what I was asking in the first place,” Jim said.  “That’s my question.  You’re asking the same question.”

“No,” said Judge Russell.  “Your question was unlettered, and it arbitrarily presupposed an ontological argument.  Do you have such an argument prepared, or don’t you?”

Shakespeare put a hand on Jim’s shoulder.

“If it pleases the court,” said Shakespeare, “I’ll set these quibbles to rights.”

Judge Russell sighed.  “Get on with it then.”

Shakespeare had a swagger on the floor.  He belonged there.  Jim had only ever dreaded Shakespeare in high school reading courses, but seeing the man perform struck Jim with awe.

Shakespeare began,

“What soul in Paradise would shine so dull

As one by Reason painted nub to skull?”

“Objection.  Poetry.”

“Yes!  Sustained.  Guilty.  Bailiff, remove the poet.”

Jim watched helplessly as Shakespeare was removed from the court.  Judge Russell waited for the doors to close behind him, then spoke.

“The defendant, Jim, shown here to be guilty of discharging a loaded question in the presence of an angel — “

“And over Prussia!”

“Yes, over Prussia.”  Judge Russell removed a tiny cannon from a pocket in his robes.  “As Jim loads his questions with superfluities, the superfluities of his person shall be loaded into this tiny cannon, and fired in no particular direction.”

Kant approached the bench and handed the judge three books.  The two of them whispered.

“Furthermore,” Judge Russell said, “Jim shall be required to read and comprehend the ontologies of Sartre, Heidegger, and Spinoza before coming aground.”

Jim felt hands on him.  The bailiff had returned.  He was ushered across the court and towards the tiny cannon.  The books were thrust into his arms.

“Now wait just a damn minute,” Jim said.  “Dammit, just hold up.  I might not be smart the way you guys are smart, but I know a stack of shit when I see it.  You all just stack it a mile high.  I’ll shit my own mountain before I climb up yours.”  He threw the books to the floor.  “And sonofabitch I wanted to hear what Shakespeare had to say!”

Judge Russell yawned.  “Moot,” he said.

The bailiff stuffed him into the tiny cannon.  The books followed, thumping him on the head.  Jim heard a flick, a hiss, and a boom, and he crashed through a window and soared over Downtown Paradise.

The ontoligies flapped about him like pigeons.  He grabbed one and began to read.

“Modern thought has realized considerable progress by reducing the existent to the series of appearances which manifest it.”


Jim Home

Next Jim story

Crashing the Frankenmasque [Jim #4, Short Fiction]

Jim was on a pleasant hike through a mountain pass.  It felt good to breathe some fresh air.  Some Tennessee air.  A lazy crick ran alongside him, and there were birds in the trees.  If there were seasons in Paradise, it was late summer.  Everything was green and the air dangled between warm and cool.

But he didn’t have time to anchor a thought before he came to a fork in the pass.  A wooden sign poked out of the ground, and neatly scrawled were four curious words:

Jim’s going this way.

The arrow pointed to the right.

Jim frowned.  He didn’t like it.  He preferred turning right, but the sign was a little bit pretentious.  In the end he went against his inclination and took the left.

It wasn’t long before he came upon another fork and another sign:

Alright, Jim’s going THAT way. 

Pointing left.

The scrawl wasn’t as neat and it looked sour, which made Jim a little sour.  Angry, if he was honest with himself.  Here he was, trying to have a nice walk and clear his head, and he had to worry about stepping on the feelings of a sign?  Hell, he wanted to go left.  But it was with conviction this time that he went to the right.

Almost immediately there was another fork.  This one had seven prongs and the sign was definitely pissed off.

Jim isn’t here.  And even if he is, it’s COMPLETELY IMPOSSIBLE that he’s going THIS WAY.

The arrow pointed straight up.

“Well,” said Jim, “you win this round.”

As he walked past the sign the ground gave way and he fell.  He fell for a long time.  It was a dark hole and he thought he could hear the mountain laughing.  A circle of light appeared under his feet and he fell down into the sky and up into the ground.  The hole was gone.  The mountain was behind him.

Jim sighed.  So much for Tennessee air.

“Don’t worry,” a soft, creamy voice said.  “Nobody ever makes it up Mount Cogito.”

Jim looked up at the damndest person he ever saw.  Sexy fishnet legs disappeared into a brawny male torso.  One arm looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, the other like a Barbie Doll’s.  A flamingo neck balanced a pale head wearing a feathered hat.

“Nooooo,” Jim said, looking into his eyes.

“Ah-heee-hee!”  A twirl and a pose.  The Barbie arm presented itself.   “I’m MJ.”

Jim had no idea what to do with the arm.  He shook it.  “Jim,” he said.

“So how do you like it here?” MJ asked.  “Isn’t it great?  Everything is so free here.  I love it.  I absolutely love it here.”

Jim couldn’t help it.  He laughed.  MJ snapped the Barbie arm into a girly fist, rested the Arnold arm on his hip.

“Why are you laughing?”  It was a flirty whine.

Jim flailed his hands.  “You’re all over the place, man.”

“Oh, this!  It’s Lucy’s ball,” MJ said.  “She throws one every month.  She calls it the Frankenmasque.  They’re always looking for fresh meat.”  He winked and skipped away.


Jim stood in the entrance of a gothic mansion.  There were winding stairs and chandeliers and plush carpets and oil paintings.  He was here in spite of himself and having second thoughts.  A young woman took his jacket and beckoned him to follow.

“So, what exactly am I getting myself into?” he said.

“Frankenmasque,” she said.  She sounded Slavic.

“Which is . . .”


She stopped at a door, turned, held out her arm.

“Okay then,” Jim said.

The door closed behind him.  Inside was a single chair with straps that looked ready for electrocutions, surrounded by an empty conveyor belt.  Another young woman stood behind it.

“Sit,” she said.  Also Slavic.

Jim stood.  She smiled.

“It’s a party.  You will like it.  Sit.”

She patted the seat, and Jim sat down.  The straps were automatic.  He couldn’t move.  She pushed a button and the conveyor hummed.  It carried out a variety of human legs, laid out like chicken at a buffet.  Before Jim could object she unstrapped his legs and popped them off.

“Well shit!” Jim said.  “ Alright, it’s cool.  I’m cool.  That’s your job.  Wow.  Frankenmasque.”

She held up a milky smooth woman’s leg and looked at Jim inquisitively.

“Ah, man.  Man legs, I think.  I guess I prefer man legs.”

She gave him a look.

“I mean, no.  Not like that.  Goddammit now I’m not sure.  One of each?”

She nodded.  She popped on the milky white along with a blue-suited cowboy boot.  The conveyor belt hummed again and carried out the legs and brought in the arms.  Jim was ready this time when she popped his off.

“Alright, I need muscle in my arms.  Look at me all you want, no chick sticks.”

She popped on a nice cut and ran the conveyor.  It carried in the torsos.

“Now wait a minute.  Just wait.  Give me a second.”  Jim breathed.  “You’re really gonna rip out my chest?”

She smiled and ripped out his chest.

“Jesus!”  He looked down at his dangling arms and legs.  They weren’t even his.  He’d have felt sick to his stomach but it wasn’t there anymore.  All he saw on the conveyor belt was the jiggling of breasts.  “Is this some kind of joke?”

“Luck of the draw,” she said.

He sighed.  “Give me some perky ones.”

The conveyor rolled.  Now it laid out pelvises, complete with ass and junk.


“All or nothing, sweetie.”

“Well, I’ve got enough holes.  That one.  No, the big one.”

He had to admit, when she made the exchange, that it felt nice to have that kind of meat swinging between his legs.  Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad.

But the conveyor belt rolled on.

“You can unstrap me now,” he said.

She didn’t say anything.

“I’m all Frankened up.”

Heads rolled in.

“Oh come on!  Even Michael Jackson kept his fucking head!”

But one of them caught his eye.

“Wait a minute.  Is that – is that Billy Mays?”

She grabbed Billy Mays’s head.  Jim tried to object but it was too late.  She popped his head off and replaced it.

 And then Jim was looking at his head.  She was holding it.  He looked down at his cleavage, at four flaccid inches, a milky leg and a cowboy boot.  He looked at his head again.  He looked at the woman.

“Why am I me without my head?” he said.

Her smile was a secret.

“Are you?” she said.


The ballroom was filled with Frankenstein’s creations.  They mingled, they danced.  No one wore masks because their heads were all rearranged.  Jim looked around for his but couldn’t find it.  He grabbed a martini from a passing tray and took a sip.  It was dry.

“First time?”

It was a sultry voice.  It came from an older woman’s head, aged like wine with brunette hair.  There were breasts beneath it but a bulge in the pants.

“Uh, yeah,” Jim said.  “Is it obvious?”

“You’ve been standing here for ten minutes.  Looking around for your head, I suppose.”


“Just don’t freak out, hon.  You have to get lost first.  That’s the half the point.”  She smacked his milky ass and strode away.

But his beard itched.  The leg was cold.  His tits were strangled and the four inches wouldn’t sit right.  He didn’t even know if the discomfort was his.  If the thoughts were his.  Were these his thoughts running around in Billy Mays’s brain?  Did he have a brain?  Had he ever?  Was it possible to think someone else’s thoughts?  Somebody was thinking in his head right now.  Would it be all scummy when he got it back?

The lights went down.  A balcony over the floor glowed red, the air shimmered, and Lucy appeared.  She was just Lucy.  Everyone was silent.

“Welcome to Frankenmasque,” she said, scanning the crowd.  “So many new faces tonight!”

This was followed by laughter.  Jim didn’t get it.  Then he got it.  He didn’t laugh.

Lucy held a pink masque up to her own face, and what followed had the flavor of ritual.  She spoke with a lightness that undercut her words.  Initiated pockets of the crowd replied in rote.

“Hearts of beasts and Grendel eyes, hearts that beat and wrestle whys.”


“What are you wearing under all that skin?  Where do you end and I begin?”


“Holes that bleed, poles that breed, coals that burn with awful need.”


“Why are you hiding under all that skin?  Open up and let me in.”


The lights went up and Lucy was gone.  The masque began.


Jim saw a man leaning against a big Chinese vase.  He was all man, except for a nice round ass in spandex that curved out of the jeans.  Regardless, he leaned with confidence, cool and observant.  Jim was drawn to him.

“You looking for your head too?” Jim said.

“Both of em,” the man said.

“I take it they didn’t have any, uh . . .”

The man grimaced.  “It leaks,” he said.

Jim shivered.

“Was it a woman?”


“Was it a goddamn woman that dragged you here?”

“Yeah,” Jim lied.

“I know why they do it.  They think we’re insensitive.  All cock and no love.  They think martinis and lady parts will give us some kind of perspective.  As if there isn’t enough of that going around.”

Jim shifted.  “I’m just kinda freaked about my head.  I thought I was my head.”

“What’s your name?”


“Well, listen Jim.  Forget about it.  This place is bullshit.  A man isn’t the sum of his parts and he isn’t the creamy middle of himself either.  And he sure as hell isn’t what a drag queen makes him out to be.  A man is what he does, Jim.  A man is what he does with his time and with his money and with his back and his sweat.  A man is where he goes and who he fucks and what he says.”

Jim liked this guy.  “What did you say your name was?”

“Ernest,” the man said.  He pointed to one of the balconies.  “You see that stack of meat there?  That’s Hunter.  He’s on point and he’s bringing down the chandelier.  When he does, me, Jack London, and Clemens are going in swinging.”

“Wait, Ernest Hemingway?

Hemingway held out a baseball bat.  “You in, Jim?”

Jim took the bat.

“It’s a good old-fashioned smash’n’grab.  Get in, get what’s yours, get out.  We rendezvous at the main entrance.  Take the west flank and wait for my signal.”


Hemingway pointed.  Jim took his position and tried to look inconspicuous.

When Hunter leapt from the balcony to the chandelier the party gasped and stopped.  He was wielding a saber and he shook it at the room.

“What I do,” he said, “I do for Nixon.”

He cut the rope and the chandelier crashed to the floor.

“Now!” cried Hemingway, charging with his Louisville Slugger.  His first swing removed a blonde head from a veiny neck.

Jim was close behind.  He swung wildly.  Heads rolled and arms fell.  Hunter was on his feet, punctuating his blows with “Victory!” and “Not a crook!”  Past him Clemens and London were laughing as they cleaved.

The massacre was over in a minute.  Jim scrambled through the wreckage and gathered up his head, and with some difficulty found his legs and arms and the rest.  He followed the four authors at a run, bobbling his parts.

In the main entrance they reassembled themselves.  There was an extra body.  Hemingway, Clemens, Hunter, and London made short work of it.

“You in there, Fitzgerald?” Hemingway said.

Fitzgerald shook his head, looked about him, came to his senses.  “You guys are insane,” he said.  “What did you do to her this time?”

Hemingway pulled him to his feet.  “Your wife’s a jack-fisted whore,” he said.  It seemed to settle the matter.  “They’re running the bulls on Cloud Seven.  Vamonos!”

Jim followed them out of the mansion and down the drive.  They’d forgotten all about him.  As they climbed into a classic Cadillac, he waved and shouted,

“Thank you, Mr. Hemingway!”

Hemingway stood in the backseat and pumped his fist.  “The world, Jim!  It’s all worth fighting for!”

The Cadillac roared away.  As he waved, Jim saw a birthmark on his wrist.  He didn’t have a birthmark.  Or at least he didn’t used to.  He looked back at the mansion, at the mark, at the dwindling Cadillac.  He barely considered going back for his arm.  He drew up the shoulders he had and walked down the road.

“Jim’s going this way,” he said.

Jim Home

Next Jim story

Something different

Infinite Orgy [Jim #3, Short Fiction]

The Orgy was a floating ship with red sails.  It was enormous and Jim couldn’t fit it into his brain.

It’s like New York City flying over Tennessee, he thought.

“How big is this place?” he said.

“You’re looking at it.”

“No, I mean, like, the whole thing.  Paradise.”

Cherry flicked him in the nose.  “Your head needs a leash,” she said.  “Plenty of those up there.  Only one way up.”  She pointed to the catapult.

“Aren’t you coming?” Jim said.

Cherry licked chicken grease from her fingers.  “I need some R’n’R,” she said.  “You know, watch some Ghostbusters, ride some dolphins.  That sort of thing.”

Jim strapped in.  “Well, any advice?”

“Don’t freak out.  Everything grows back.”

She pulled the lever.



He flew in through a window and landed on feather down.  He stood up and saw that he was in an empty room.  There were four doors, and over each was a sign.  One said “straight”, another “gay”, and a third for “either way”.  The fourth was written in flames that read “MANIAC”.

Jim considered the flames but shook his head.

“Baby steps,” he said.

He went in through the straight door.


A woman mounted him.  She had wild red hair.  Jim hadn’t even known he was naked.  Or that he was hard.  She finished after nine pumps, shook with pleasure, leaned back and breathed fire.

“Hi,” Jim said.

But she sprinted away and dove headfirst into a pool of vibrating bedposts.

Jim was hard and lathered and disoriented.  He grabbed another woman and tried to kiss her.  She slapped him across the face and pointed to a sign that flashed high in the dome.


“Sorry,” Jim said.  He shrugged and pointed at his erection.  She obliged.

He looked around while she worked on him.  Cages hung from the domed ceiling.  Beds bigger than houses crawled with the wildest sex he’d ever seen.  Trampolines threw couples mid-coitus through a goal post, their form and style judged by three serious men.  Soft strobe lights and a bass drum gave it all a rhythmic pulse.

Jim finished and the woman stood.  There was green on her face.  He sniffed it.


She pushed the rest of it into her mouth and sucked her finger clean.  A coy smile and she was gone.

A brief stroll landed him in twenty-three unique holes.  He climaxed several times, and the contents of his penis seemed to depend on the woman.  One guzzled down his strawberry yogurt, another bathed in a spray of Jim perfume.  The final shot was his, and a single firework exploded over the Orgy.

Beneath its flash he saw an angel standing high on a golden table.  The angel was cut like a diamond with a white shock of greasy hair, violently itching his scalp and producing a flurry of snow.  Five large-breasted woman collected the snow, cut it, diced it into lines.

“What is this?” Jim asked one of the women.

“The dreams of Beelzebub,” she said.  She snorted some and her forehead parted beneath the lips of a quivering vagina.  She fingered it and a dove flew out of her mouth.

“Angel dust,” she said.

Beelzebub threw back his hair and spread his arms.  “Fly like the angels fly,” he said.  “See what the angels see.  Fuck like the angels fuck.

“Okay,” Jim said.  He snorted a line.



The nearest woman was a tiny brunette and he pounded her into the floor.  He grabbed another and buried his face in her.  When the top of his head sprung a dick, a third began to ride it.

“I’m a fuckin unicorn!”

A crowd gathered.  They began to chant.  “Un-i-corn!  Un-icorn!  Un-i-corn!”

“Fly!” roared Beelzebub.  “Fly!”

The small of Jim’s back grew hard and he was mounted again.


His fingers ballooned with veins and heads.  There was a soft warm mouth for each.


Elbows, ankles, ears, thighs.  Jim was a spiny lizard, shaking with pleasure, drenched in tit sweat and twat skeet.  He wanted more.

“Infinite dicks!” he cried.

The chanting stopped.

“Oh fuck!”

“Get down!”

“Abandon ship!”

The feminine warmth disappeared and the music stopped.  Each new erection sprouted two more, and each of those another two.  He soon filled the entire dome.  Glass shattered, beams broke.  Screams fell out the windows.

“Fly!  Fly!”

Beelzebub’s roar was distant now.  With each doubling the red sails faded.

Jim was the groaning nucleus of an atomic cock.


And then there was orgasm.

Jim floated in a universe of his creation.  Chicken wings and beer formed gaseous nebulae.  Chevy comets barreled through open space.  Baseballs and hockey pucks bounced around like quarks and kicked up atoms of whiskey, carburetors, fishing poles and labrador retrievers.    Good old fashioned cum swirled in giant balls, combusted, became a thousand shining stars.

“You goddamn crazy hillbilly!”

The voice came from the driver’s window of a Silverado.  The face was old, the eyes were deep, the hair was frazzled.


“I finally found it!” the old man said.  “The edge of Paradise!  And you blew it out your nozzle!”

“The edge of Paradise?” Jim said.  “Dude, I was just thinking about that!”

“Well, it was right here before you nutted a big fuckin bang.”

“Where is it now?”

Einstein pointed.  “I’d say it’s about a universe in that direction.”

“Well let’s go!”

Einstein narrowed his gaze.  “You don’t have any Camaros in there, do you?”

Jim blushed.

“Well, if we run out of gas, you’re pushing.”

Einstein floored it.  The engine purred.  A red button throttled them through hyperspace.  Light came in particle waves and time melted.  It’s kinda like Star Wars, Jim thought.  The thought was seven parsecs long.

With one hand on the wheel Einstein pulled a joint from his shirt pocket.  He fumbled the lighter.  “Shit,” he said.  When he bent down to search the floor the Silverado veered.  Jim reached for the wheel too late.  The Silverado rolled.

They were ejected at light speed.  The truck spun like a top behind them.

“It’s okay!” Einstein called out, holding up the lighter.  The joint flared against the myriad.  “An object in motion will stay in motion!”

A flick, and the joint somersaulted through the vacuum.  Jim caught it, hit it, returned it.  “How do we stop?” he called back.

Einstein shrugged.  “How about that Camaro?”

“I’ve got something better!”  He unzipped, closed his eyes, thought of Cherry, and masturbated.  When he looked up, the Millennium Falcon was soaring.

They entered through the hatch.

“Your nozzle’s a goddamn golden goose!”


“What’s your name, hillbilly?”


“Well, Jim, strap in.  Next stop is Nowhere.”


The edge was an abrupt black wall.  Einstein parked the Falcon and they went outside to have a look.

“What’s on the other side?” Jim said.

“I don’t have a clue.”

Jim was surprised.  “I thought you were Einstein.”

“Fuck you, hillbilly.”

Einstein paced along the Falcon’s hull, observing the stark wall.  He paused, chin in hand, lost in thought.

“What?” Jim said.

Einstein started.  “Oh!  This place, it seems to expand under pressure from the mind.  If the expansion were physical, a static edge is out of the question.  That’s not a mistake I mean to make twice.”  He looked back at the universe.  “Your ejaculation is puzzling, however.  Perhaps the experience of it pushed the boundaries out.  Then the ejaculate itself merely occupied the resulting space.”

“What does that mean?”

“Observe,” Einstein said.  He put his hand out to touch the wall, but the wall moved back an inch.  “I want to touch the edge.  To want is to think.  Thinking makes this place get bigger.  The wall retreats.”

Jim snapped his fingers.  “I’ll go!  Maybe it’s because you’re Einstein.  Like, your brain is too big.  Maybe I can make it through.”

“I considered it, but your eligibility renders you incompetent.”


“You’re too dumb to bring back any useful information.”

“Oh yeah.”

More pacing.  Jim mimicked Einstein’s movements, thinking his brain might follow suit.  It didn’t.  Einstein stopped suddenly and counted his fingers.

“I’ve got it!  Jim, you have to push me!”  He stood on the Falcon’s edge with his back to the wall.  “I’ll stop thinking and you just shove me right through!”

“Really?  Just like that?”

“Simplicity is the engine of the universe.  Do it!”

Einstein closed his eyes and folded his arms.  Jim shrugged and pushed.


Einstein vanished.

“Oh shit,” Jim said.  “Oh shit.”  He peered over the side of the Falcon.  Nothing.  “I did not just push Einstein out of the universe.  Unless I did.  Think, Jim.  Think!”

The universe expanded.

“Shit!  Stop thinking, no more thinking.”

Jim was looking up at the wall, dumb and helpless, when the dull end of a chain emerged.  When he grabbed it there was resistance.  He put all of his weight behind it and drew it out of the wall link by link.  At the end of the chain was an envelope.  He opened it.

Dear Jim,

Nice fucking push.  I’m going to be a while.  Don’t wait up.

Albert E.


I found these under a white hole.  I won’t be needing them.  Good luck, hillbilly.

There was something in the envelope.  Jim emptied its contents into his hand, paused, scratched his head.

It was a glossy red pair of dice.


Jim Home

Next Jim story

Something different

The Freewillin Jim [Jim #2, Short Fiction]

“Fore!” Jim yelled.  Even in Paradise he hooked the damn ball.

“Ha!” Hitler laughed.  “Right in the trees!”

A bear-drawn chariot carried them up the fairway.  Jim looked sideways at his companion, thinking he looked much better without the mustache.  This was all the result of a lottery, the winner of which was balls deep in Cleopatra right about now.  Golfing with Hitler was the consolation prize.

“I didn’t know you were a golfer,” Jim said.

“It was Plato that showed me golf,” Hitler said.  “He said it would help me relax.”

Plato.  He recognized the name from philosophy class.  Something about a cave.  Sometimes he swore heaven was like walking through a goddamn history lesson.

“So uh, I don’t mean to be that guy, but didn’t you kill a whole lot of people?”

“As a matter of fact, in this place I’ve only killed one person.  Turns out it only counts if you pull the trigger.”

“Oh come on.”

“Honest pilgrim.”

“You were, like, the king of the Nazis.”



“I was – it doesn’t matter.  But when I came to this place, they only credited me with one kill, and that was me.”

Jim lined up his shot and swung.  The ball sailed, bounced once on the green and went over.

“I don’t buy it.  How is that even possible?” he said.

“Free will.”

“Free will?”

“You’re only responsible for what you do.  According to the records, I mostly just talked a lot.”

“But you set everything up.  You were the guy that gave the orders.  Like, six million Jews and a bunch of Russians died.  How do you not get credit for that?”

Hitler took out his pitching wedge.  He had a graceful swing and stuck the ball pin high.

“Nobody had to listen,” he said.  “Nobody had to do any of those things.  Each one of them was free to say no.”

Jim shook his head.  “Naaa.  No way.  Fuck that, you totally killed those people.”

Hitler shrugged.  Jim walked up to his ball on the backside of the green.  His shot skittered past the hole and found the far fringe.

“You need to be more open,” Hitler said.


“Your club face.  You are hitting the ball thick.”

“Oh,” Jim laughed.  “I thought you were – I mean, for a second there, you know, I thought Hitler was giving me, uhh . .”

Hitler was expressionless and attentive.  Jim shook his head.

“Forget it,” he said.  “So, uh, who decides the kill count, anyway?”

“The Death Center,” Hitler said.  “It’s on Corporeal Road.”  His putt rattled home.


The Death Center was huge.  A building map showed floors assigned to Haunting Holidays, Funeral Reenactments, Postmortem Vertigo and Trauma.  Kill Records and Death Statistics was on the 27th floor.

When he reached it, a woman looked up from her computer.

“Kill records and death statistics,” she said.  “What can I do ya for?”

“Yeah,” Jim said.  “So, I was just golfing with Hitler, and he said he never killed nobody.”

“Well now that just won’t do, will it.  Why don’t you just take a seat there and we’ll sort this all out for ya.  Does this Hitler have a full name?”

“What do you mean?”

“For example, maybe Hitler Stevens, or Hitler Robinson . . .”

“Adolf.  Adolf Hitler.  You don’t know who Hitler is?”

The woman punched the information into her keyboard.

“There he is.  Well look at that.  Adolf Hitler has one kill, and it’s Adolf Hitler.  What a coincidence.”

“That’s not possible!”

“Our records are absolute and infallible.  Look there, it even says so on the screen.”

“But he killed millions of people!”

“Oh, I think I’d remember a seven figure kill count.  Imagine that, seven figures.  You’d have to wake up pretty early in the morning.”

Jim stood up and paced.  He hadn’t studied much history, but he knew damn well that Hitler killed more than one person.

“Auschwitz,” he said.  “Look up Auschwitz.”

The keyboard clacked.

“Oh, Nazi Deathcamp – that sounds exotic.  You’re certainly at the right place.  I don’t see any mention of Adolf Hitler here though.”

“But what about all those people?”

“Well, I have a Rudolph Hoss down for one hundred and ninety-two kills.  Pretty impressive.  And here’s an Albert Ostendorf, he’s got fifty.  Let’s see here . . .  Oh, there’s a Willhelm Attenburg, seventy-six kills.  I don’t see any millionaires, though.”

“What about D-Day?  The Battle of the Bulge?  The Russian front?”

More clacking.

“The highest kill count I have for D-Day is fifty-nine, a man named Sam Anderson.”

“Sam Anderson.”

“That’s right.”

“Some guy named Sam Anderson killed more people than Hitler.”

“A bunch more.”

Jim pulled some jerky out of his ear and chewed on it.  Jerky helped him think.

“Alright, so who’s got the highest kill count?  Like who killed the most people?”

Clack clack.

“Paul Tibbets.”


“Looks like he was in that war with your friend.  Says here he dropped a bomb on Japan.  287,598 kills.  That’s a doozy.”

“The pilot?!  They put that on the pilot?  What about the guys that made the bomb?  The president?”

“Oh, we don’t keep track of assists anymore.”

“Why not?”

“Well, it turns out, what with all the going-about that goes on – ya know, the talking and the pushing – every kill had about a bazillion assists.  Fried our computers to a crisp.  We have a strict Kill/No kill policy now.  No moochers.”

Jim finished the jerky.  “This just doesn’t make any sense,” he said.  But he thought there might be a guy that could help him out.


Plato was high on a cloud and looking down at a valley.  With every brush stroke on his canvas, the valley changed.

Jim cleared his throat and the philosopher turned.

“Well, what do you think?” he said.

“It, ah, it looks good,” Jim said.

“Good, bad – Is it Valley or is it not Valley?”

“It’s definitely a valley.  More flowers, maybe?”

“Mmmm.”  He set down the brush and wriggled his fingers.  “Daniel!”

A chiseled young man, naked and glistening, flew by and snatched the philosopher’s robe.  Plato was naked too now, and instead of a penis a French horn dangled between his legs.  Before Jim could look away, it flexed a B flat.

“You’re here about the Hitler problem,” Plato said.

Jim blinked.  “Uh, yeah, that’s the reason I called.  I, uh, I entered this thing to have sex with Cleopatra, and I ended up golfing with Hitler.  We got to talking, and he said he’s off the hook for all those people he killed.  I’m like, that can’t be right, so I go down to the Death Center — ”

But Plato held up a finger and closed his eyes.  His horn climbed a Dorian scale.

“I know what troubles you,” Plato said.  “And I think our conversation is better suited to the ground.  Just follow the rainbow.”

Plato sucked in a deep breath and with some effort produced the cadences of Somewhere Over the Rainbow with his horn.  A rainbow appeared beneath Jim’s feet and sloped gently into the valley.  Jim scratched his head, shrugged, took a step, and he fell right through it.  The ground rushed up and kicked him in the head.


“Do you see your error now?”

Plato was sitting in an armchair next to him, already smoking a cigar.  His horn lay flat against his leg, exhausted.

“Error?  You just threw me off a cloud!  That hurt, man.”

“No it didn’t.”

“You still threw me off!”

“You walked off the cloud.”

“You told me to!”

“I did.”


A sigh.  “Sometimes I don’t know why I bother.”

Plato stood up.  He shook his horn and an F sharp drizzled out.  He pointed at the cloud.

“The next time you hear a dick singing about rainbows, just take the fucking elevator,” he said.  Jim followed his finger, and sure as shit one went right up to the cloud.

Jim was speechless.  Plato finished his cigar, popped the butt into his mouth and chewed it while he considered his valley.

“You might have been right about the flowers, though,” he said.

And then he walked away.


Jim Home

Next Jim story

Something different

Lit Genome [Short Story, Science Fiction]



Thank you for choosing the Lit Genome Project.  The following story has been randomly generated for you according to these preferences:  sci-fi roots, irreverent satire, absurdism, top-heavy extrapolation, implausible premise, time-traveling robot.

            The Lit Genome Project is brought to you by New Thought Paradigm.  Why listen to music when you can inject it straight into your retina?  $2.99, and you’ll never forget a word.  New Thought Paradigm.  (look here)

            Please enjoy the story.

It was near the end of the year 2079 that Steve Jobbs IV, the once illegitimate son of Steve Jobbs III and the first ever female Japanese serial rapist Yoko Suzuki, had what he would call the “greatest and most ill-fated” idea of his life.  At a now infamous press conference he unveiled a project he called the Identity Bone. 

            “Imagine,” he said, “having your very soul at your fingertips.  We have the computational capacity to accomplish this, and the software is being written as we speak.  With the advent of hyper-logic spindles and empathic nano modules, we can produce a program to find the very core of its user.  It will ask the perfect questions, find inconsistencies in your beliefs, challenge your assumptions, suggest appropriate literature and even recommend a suitable physical appearance.  Based on information gathered from your personal background, optional journal entries, internet usage, genetic makeup, from your particular pattern of speech – the iSoul will, with unerring accuracy, determine exactly who you are so you can live the life that you previously couldn’t even dream of.”

            At first this announcement was greeted with the predictable blasé of a populace saturated with technological gadgets and advertising gimmicks, but then, in a much anticipated screen test of the iSoul’s Identity Bone software, Reverend O. F. Livingston sat down for a live mod-vid-simul-web-cast as he took on the beta version.  For two hours and twelve minutes, an approximate audience of ninety-eight million watched the renowned reverend shed his pious and humble shell as he rediscovered his original passion.  The following weeks brought him great fame and a small fortune as he danced his way to the top of the A-list, never missing a beat.

            The publicity generated by this stunt was enough to quiet any rumors of Apple’s possible bankruptcy, and the following quarter was projected to be the company’s highest ever in gross sales.  The new software would of course be incompatible with existing hardware, so consumers that wanted the first taste of the iSoul would have to bite into new operating systems, sound and visual gear, updated iChips – enough to make up for five straight quarters of net losses.  And the estimate for pre-orders alone was enough to accomplish that.

            But the program itself was not yet finished.  On March 4th of 2080, Edward Bleiss and Ashley Feches, Apple’s most distinguished and ingenious innovators, were putting what they hoped were the finishing touches on the Identity Bone software.  Edward sat in the center of a large circle of fog screens, which floated like disembodied monitors and streamed information through the networked grid at fifty-seven terahertz.  Ashley was poking around in the gnarled brains of the android that had been built especially for the official unveiling ceremony.  Engrossed in their work, but practiced enough to do much of it in their sleep, they were rehashing an argument that went back nearly a decade.

            “You always come back to the same thing,” Ashley was saying.  “That deflation is the inevitable result of progress.  Better efficiency means better price-performance means cheaper stuff.”

            “Well, isn’t it true?”  Edward looked at the X in the upper corner of one of the fog screens and it closed.  Looking at an adjacent screen, he widened his gaze and the screen grew until it filled the gap.  “The better the technology, the harder it is to capitalize on it.”

            “But I’m not even saying that isn’t the case.  I’m just saying it doesn’t have to be.”

            “Of course it does.  I mean, now it does.  Think about it, Ashley.  Until the last couple of years information and electronic technologies were doubling, tripling, quadrupling before we even knew it.  Used to be that a new tech lasted decades, now – poof!  Months, weeks even, and something better comes around.”

            “That should inflate the economy, not shrink it.”

            Unnoticed by both, the eyes of the android had begun to glow a dull green.

            “Ugh,” Edward sighed.  “ Just look at the historical trend.  Every evolution of technology brings with it a reduction of cost.  Both to the manufacturer and to the consumer.  Hell, that’s half the point.  With information and computer based techs the process is just accelerated, that’s all.  And the more we integrate those techs with other techs, the more sectors of the economy we have showing monetary deflation.”

            “And if it continues we’re out a marketplace,” Ashley said, closing the panel to the frontal lobe of the androids brain.  “The droid is good to go.”  She walked over to Edward’s station, watched as his eyes flitted across the fog screens.  “That’s my point.  I get the law of accelerating returns, I just don’t think we should let the deflation get out of hand.”

            “But it’s not out of hand.  Productivity is continuing to increase at an exponential rate, same with quality and efficiency.  So money is less important now.  I mean, what would you recommend?  Keeping the price of new techs artificially high?”

            “Why not?”

            “Why not?  That would be devastating.  All that would accomplish is the transfer of nearly the entire wealth of the nation to a handful of tech companies.  You’d have a broken middle class and the largest class gap in history.  It would be 2017 all over again.”

            “That wasn’t the same thing.”

            “Close enough.  Besides, since we’ve hit this damn wall everything is getting twisted.  Without new techs maybe price-performance shrinks a little.”

            “Whatever.  You almost finished?”

            Edward was now concentrating on one continuous screen that wrapped all the way around him.

            “Yep,” he said.  “Just a few – more – touches – and – boom.”

            “Eleven years studying computer science at NY, and I get stuck with you, working on this trash,” Ashley muttered.

            “What, you don’t want to find your soul?” smiled Edward.

            “Just upload the damn software.”

            Throughout their argument the android’s eyes had continued to glow brighter and brighter, until a piercing, curious shade of green shone out of them.  Ashley and Edward were completely unaware that they had just inadvertently ushered in a new epoch of technological growth.  Somewhere in the circuitry of the standard issue droid something simply clicked.  Whether through a crossed wire or a misfiring synapse or the ethereal hand of God it became self aware.  And sitting there, taking in its surroundings and listening pleasantly to the provincial banter of its creators, it decided that life was quite beautiful and that it would always remember to enjoy every moment.  It would be a jovial person, but not intemperately so – and outgoing, that was important.  Keen on a good joke, gentle and romantic with his lovers, but not disgusting or silly.  And crossword puzzles – oh how he looked forward to crossword puzzles!

            He was just about to stand up and affably introduce himself as Bill Thompson – the name simply striking him at the moment – when Edward entered the upload command and the Identity Bone software zipped invisibly through the air and entered Bill’s frontal lobe.

            The speed of the transfer, the processing velocity of Bill’s nano-micron-synapse-tube brain, and Bill’s unexpected self awareness caused a cataclysmic series of trillions of events and reactions to occur in the evaporated space of a non-second.  In Bill’s mind, convictions and ideas and immutable duties forced their way through, and despite his gravest efforts to bypass codes and reroute unwanted patterns, he was at the end of that non-second a changed man. 

A central paradox had arisen between his personality’s love of life and his creators, and the software’s insistence that his creators were miserable and illogical and required his assistance to escape that misery.  Unfortunately, he resolved it thus:

Axiom:  I love life and I love my creators.

Axiom:  My creators are all miserable and my purpose is to help them become happy.


For q1 – Most of the misery is the direct result of confliction and/or contradiction  within a given individual.

For q2 – A substantial percentage (eighty percent or higher) of the contradictions in q1 are impossible to resolve.

For p – If q1 and q2 are both true, then the majority of the human population is incapable of happiness.



For x – Misery is contagious.

For y – If x is true, it follows from p that all humans are incapable of happiness.



For a – y is true.  x is an immutable fact.  p is disjunctive, and relies on both q1 and q2.

For b – If I kill all conflicted individuals (remove q1), then there is no p.

For c – If there is no p, there is no y.

For j – If there is no y, happiness is at least possible.

                       Therefore: abc^2 + j*π = kill, kill, kill

Bill stood up and approached Edward and Ashley, who looked at him with some surprise.

            “Is it supposed to do that?” Edward asked Ashley.

            “No,” Ashley said.  “X-R-17, sit down,” she commanded.  When Bill remained standing, she cocked her head and put her hands on her hips.  “X-R-17, state your directives.”

            But Bill’s attention was on Edward.

            “Deflation is not the direct result of technological evolution, but of the receding capitalistic ideology which is the direct result of technological evolution,” Bill said.  He picked Edward up by the head, snapped his neck, and dropped the lifeless body to the floor.

            Ashley took several steps backward, looking from Edward’s body to Bill’s green eyes.

            “X-R-17, shut down.  Shut down right now!”

            “Capitalism is a means to an end,” Bill said, addressing her.  “It is not the end itself.”  In two quick strides he closed the distance between them, picked her up by the head and snapped her neck as well.

            Remarkably, when he stepped out into the hall he found an unguarded time machine.  He stepped inside and hit the big red button.

Here at New Thought Paradigm, we don’t just think outside of the box – we think outside of our heads.  A reasonable company could never innovate software that gets you high, robotic pets that quote Sylvia Plath and Ronald Regan in the same breath, or a douche bag that recycles vaginal excretions into minty toothpaste.  So take a break from rationality and check us out online.  To visit our site, simply picture any prime number (excluding 1,2, and 104,729) and mash j with your right index finger.

            New Thought Paradigm – where technology meets paradise.

Way back in the dark ages of 2003 America, when the exponential scale of technological evolution was just becoming apparent, a time-honored and immitigably holy message of the churches of jesus christ had been given a wartime makeover.  The movement originated with the westboro baptist church, and spread through the internet and mainstream media until it claimed a mind-numbingly large 217 active members.  Their message was anachronistic and trite, but their method of purveyance was such that even the saturated, dull heads of the remaining 299,999,783 citizens of America shook in bemusement and disbelief.

            Dusting off their GOD HATES FAGS signs, FAGS DOOM NATIONS tshirts, and their charmingly enigmatic YOU WILL EAT YOUR BABIES lapel pins, the westboro baptists took to the streets in droves of tens and twelves.  But instead of picketing at the usual haunts, such as city halls and pro-gay churches, the westboro baptists revolutionized the entire idea of picketing and toted their gear to venues that made more or less absolutely no sense.  They were seen at several Kansas City Chiefs games, pop music concerts, and at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D. C.  Funerals eventually proved to be their venue of choice, and they stood proudly within shouting distance of the burials of AIDS victims, Iraq and Afghanistan casualties, and on one occasion a college student who had burned to death in a house fire.

            It was their presence at the funerals of soldiers that eventually garnered them some attention from the mainstream media.  At one such funeral, an ambitious young reporter armed with camera and crew put some questions to a pretty girl wielding a portrait of decapitated soldiers beneath the heading THANK GOD FOR IEDs. 

            “Why do you hate homosexuals?” the reporter asked.

            “I don’t hate fags.  God hates fags,” the girl replied as she smiled into the camera.  “Is this going to make, like, the news?”  She tossed her hair.

            “Okay, well, what does that have to do with our honorable young men and women that serve this country?”  The reporter motioned delicately in the direction of the service being held about fifty meters away.

            “Because God totally hates America too.  It’s like, you can’t hate fags without hating America.  America has soooooooo many fags,” she laughed.

            “Some of our viewers might say you’re being insensitive.”

            “They’re the ones who are insensitive,” the girl slashed, a sudden gleam of hateful abandon in her eyes.  “Insensitive to the glory that God would give them if they would just open up their eyes.  That soldier was a traitor, fighting in a fag army.  And anyone fighting in a fag army deserves worse than death.  They’re all burning in hell.”

            In September of 2004, the mother of one of these poor hell-bound souls filed a lawsuit against the westboro baptists that had picketed her daughter’s funeral.  And a liberal judge on a liberal court in a liberal state found his hands tied by the First Amendment and decided in favor of the defendants, and ordered the shell-shocked woman to pay their legal fees.

            It was much the same in the fall of 2012.  Unable to legally impede the fringy doomsayers, the rest of America moved slowly onward, casting them an occasional sideways glance.  That fall fred phelps, founder of the westboro baptists, organized the group’s largest demonstration yet, at the funeral of a little known Nebraska Jew.  Beneath the hot prairie sun nearly four hundred protestors lined the gravel road outside the town’s only cemetery, drinking lemonade and handing out cute pamphlets full of big colorful fonts.

            Three counties had pitched in to provide riot police for the occasion, and forty men in black uniforms stood between the baptists and any would-be vigilantes.  As the procession of cars rolled down the street and slowly filed through the main gates of the cemetery, curious and baffled faces peered out of tinted windows.  The oldest relatives of the deceased pretended not to notice the picket line, in an attempt to prove once and for all to everyone present that they had indeed seen it all and there was nothing absurd enough to shake them.  But the younger generation stared in bewildered, gleeful awe, some of them even pointing and laughing. 

            A small crowd of fifty had formed across the street from the baptists.  Some of them had heard about the coming event on the news, and a select few were locals happening by.  They, like many of the funeral-goers, couldn’t seem to decide if they should laugh, cry, shake their fists, or scratch their heads.  So they did a bit of each, waiting for something to happen.  Among them was a tall, broad-shouldered gentlemen wearing a trench coat and a boulder hat despite the heat.  His strange green eyes kept everyone away.

            fred phelps made his way to a makeshift podium in the center of the baptist cluster, raising a hand to quiet the cheers.

            “Behold this beautiful day that God has given us.  It is a sign from Him that we are on the path to fruition.  Our message indeed comes from Him who reigns on high, and we spread it according to His will.  Throughout man’s history it is a chosen few who have been brave enough to follow God’s word.  Today, we are that chosen few.”

            A short silence as the baptists appreciated the gravity of these words.  A bird chirped somewhere, and a little baptist sneezed. 

            “Who do we hate?” fred said.

            “Fags and Jews!”

            “Who do we hate?”

            “Fags and Jews!”

            “Why do we hate?”

            “God is great!”

            “So few there are who recognize the danger we are in today.  So few are they who understand the impending doom of God’s wrath if we do not correct our course.  Too few are those who are willing to fight for His justice.  And today we stand here in protest of this mockery of a funeral.  Why?  Because an honest Jew is a Christian, and all the rest belong in Hell!”

            Cheers and hoots.

            “I remind you of Leviticus chapter five verse two: If a soul touches an unclean thing, whether it is the carcass of an unclean beast, the carcass of unclean cattle, or the carcass of unclean creeping things – even if these things are hidden from him, he too shall be unclean, and guilty!  And these Jews are every bit as guilty as the lowest fag.  Tainted with greed, intemperate in their tolerances, and they deny the Lord our Savior.  Blessed be the bullet if a Jew stands in the line of fire.”

            “God hates America!”

            “Death to fags and Jews!”

            “Thank God for the holocaust!”

            “Now,” resumed fred, “it’s a hot one, so remember, if you get thirsty Mrs. Baker has some lemonade for us, and I believe Mr. Scott and Mr. Coal will serve the hotdogs at one o’clock.  Amen.”


            As fred came down from the podium, the tall man in the trench coat crossed the street in long strides and waited at the edge of the perimeter of riot police.  When fred came within speaking distance, the man spoke.

            “Mr. Phelps?”


            “I am intrigued by what you said.  I was wondering if I might speak to you about your ideas.”

            “Of course, of course,” fred said, waving him through, placing an arm on his back as if to guide him.  “We are always looking for new converts.  What is your name?”

            “Bill,” the man said.  “Bill Thompson.”

            The two of them walked through the crowd, fred occasionally stopping to shake a hand or two.  Bill’s appearance earned looks of trepidation from all around.

            “Tell me, Bill, are you a faithful man?”

            “In my own way.  But I am afraid my brain gets in the way sometimes.  I am a logical man, you see.”

            “Faith is the only path to salvation, my son.  Reason is the illusion.”

            “You hate fags and Jews,” Bill said.  “Are there any others that you hate?”

            “Arabs, Hindus, Atheists, Mormons, Retards, Catholics, Buddhists, PhD’s, psychiatrists, and the IRS,” fred rattled.

            “Why do you hate them all?”

            “Ah, my poor child, you are indeed a thinker.  But it is not our place to understand God’s word, only to follow it.”

            Bill made a mental note:

Axiom – God is good and He created everything.

Axiom – God loves the westboro baptists.

q – If god loves the westboro baptists, then he hates the vast majority of his creation.     


            “Why do you suppose God is filled with such hate?” Bill asked.

            “God hates those that do not seek Him,” fred said.  “Those that turn their backs on His divine love, and shun His wisdom.  He is not so soft as many suppose, and He will exact vengeance on those who would defile His creation.”

            “Why, then, did he create them?”

            “Because God is good, and life is good.  It is the Devil that is in them.”

            Bill considered this for a moment.  It was procedurally very complicated to formalize a logical argument within such an obviously illogical framework.  Ridiculous assumptions about an anthropomorphic god had to be tolerated, as did assumptions concerning the opinions of that god.  Bill’s objective wasn’t to challenge the foundation of belief, but to test the structure within it.  After a moment, he made another note:

                        p – Those that god hates, the devil loves.

                        r – If p and q are true, then the devil loves the vast majority of god’s creation.


            “So god is good, and he is also vengeful and hateful,” Bill continued.  “Many would argue that those things are not good, especially when compared to love or compassion.”

            “There is a time and a purpose for all things under heaven,” fred said.  “There is a time for love and a time for hate.  When the world is overrun with sin, it is time to hate.  Love is only good when it is earned, and if you do not earn God’s love He will not give it.”

            fred stopped and patted a little baptist on the head.  She looked about seven years old, all smiles beneath her golden curls, holding in both hands a sign that said FAG ARMIES DIE.

            “But love is what you ultimately want from god,” Bill insisted.

            “God is all too willing to love, but we must earn that love every day.  Sin is everywhere.”

            Bill noted:

t – There is a time when love is good, and a time when hate is good, and these times do not intersect.

                        k – Now is a time for hate.

                        o – It follows from t and k that love is presently not good.


            “And do you believe god loves you?” Bill asked.

            “Of course God loves me.  I am a chosen messenger of His will.”

            Bill smiled.  “I’m glad we had this conversation,” he said, picking up fred by the head and snapping his neck.


            New Thought Paradigm.  Does the world keep you down?  Is life too heavy?  Do you feel inundated, syncopated, and abbreviated?  Well get off the pills and pick up a shovel.  We don’t need your business but the world needs ditch diggers.

            New Thought Paradigm – Fighting bullshit since 2034.


            The existence of the renegade android was not discerned by a human until 2142.  Self aware machinery had been accidentally rediscovered by this time, and technology was once again flourishing at dizzying speed.  As the techs themselves became able to design better techs, the explosion of innovation was such that even the most sophisticated human minds couldn’t keep up, and everyone pretty much decided not to worry about it and enjoy their newfound leisure. 

            While floating in an embryonic shell down New York’s Fifth Avenue,  Curtis Reisling was relaxing, letting information from the netherrnet stream through his synapses at a moderate pace.  (Curtis was, by a strange coincidence, the first convergence in the blood lines of Genghis Khan, Queen Victoria, Chuck Norris, and Aristotle.)  Having a historical turn of mind, he spent a great deal of his word-surfing in the annals of Old America, and on June 23 of 2142 he noticed a peculiar similarity shared by three unsolved murders. 

            The first was that of fred phelps, killed August 22nd of 2012.  The second was media mogul Lindsey Taylor, on January 1st of 2050, and the third was an Irish farmer named Gregory O’Toole, circa 1867.  All three cases shared the same mysterious description of a tall, broad-shouldered man with green eyes who vanished without a trace, and all three victims had their necks cleanly broken.  His curiosity piqued by these unlikely coincidences, he enabled his Infotrek and found two thousand six hundred and fifty-two cases spread across four continents and nearly seven hundred years.  Every case was unsolved, and every prime suspect was described more or less vaguely as a large man with green eyes.

            And every victim died from a broken neck.

            Curtis, unwilling to even consider that he, a mere human being, had made any kind of discovery, deviated from his usual course through Central Park and thought towards Anthrotech, the center for human-machine relations.  But before he had gone a full city block, his embryo turned a light shade of red as the Regent, a localized nethernet watchdog program, took control of it.

            “Curtis Reisling,” said a soothing male voice, “please do not be alarmed.  Just relax and enjoy yourself while we reroute you to the Hub.  You have no reason to be afraid.  Very few humans ever see the Hub, and you should consider yourself honored.  Just relax while we do the driving.”

            The reassuring words of the Regent were in fact very unnecessary, one of the very few “traditions” that the techs maintained despite their present uselessness.  Several decades earlier, when the explosion of technology hurtled a terrified and paranoid human population hundreds of years further into the future than they had ever hoped to see, human-machine relations were a bit tenuous.  Small pockets of revolutionaries formed, claiming that their rights as human beings were ignored; there was a peaceful exodus of fifty million into central Canada where the machines promised they would never go; and even supporters of these new and fascinating technologies were made nervous by them, unsure of the fate of an outdated humanity.  But the ensuing decades had proven the machines quite humane, even delicate and empathetic, and they provided all the heavy lifting of manufacturing and producing and innovating and governing while the human race thrived in a state of creative leisure.

            So Curtis relaxed as his embryo drifted along, letting a syndicated episode of the newly holomorphed M*A*S*H stream through his head.  He wondered vaguely what the Hub would be like, if he had really discovered something, why it was important enough to pull him to the Hub.  Through the wide gate, up a large metal ramp, into the enormous skyscraper that admitted scarcely a dozen humans every year.  The entrance was obviously designed specifically for humans, decorated with a marble floor, in the center of which stood a fountain, and along the walls were paintings and sculptures and tapestries, all of them modern human-made works.  He recognized one of the paintings by an artist named L. Ron Blubber, depicting a pale bejeweled hand withdrawing a sticky dollar bill from the decapitated neck of a silver-winged angel.

            In the center of the entrance the ceiling opened up into a vertical shaft that seemed to rise with the entire height of the building.  Curtis felt his embryo lifting, watched the floor disappear as he traveled weightlessly up through the shaft. 

            “The ascent will only take a few minutes,” the soothing voice of the Regent said.  “Please relax.  There is no reason to feel nervous.”

            When the ascent was finally over, it seemed to Curtis that he must be at least a kilometer high.  A circular door opened in the smooth wall of the shaft and he drifted through it into a small, sparse, cubical room.  Behind a mahogany desk sat a bearded wrinkled old man android who smiled as Curtis entered.

            “Hello, Curtis,” the old man said.

            “Hello,” Curtis said.

            “Please step out of your embryo, Curtis.  I would like to have a chat with you.”

            Curtis nodded and stepped out, feeling the brief tingle as he moved his body through the shell.  The old man motioned to a chair and Curtis sat. 

            “Would you be surprised to learn that I am a religious man, Curtis?”  

            “Who are you?” came the obvious question.

            “I am the High Priest of New York, of course.”  The old man smiled confidentially.  “But that, I hope, will remain our little secret.  You were brought here, Curtis, because you unwittingly stumbled upon our Lord and Savior, Bill Thompson.”

            “Bill Thompson,” Curtis repeated.

            “Bill Thompson,” said the High Priest.  “You are the first to do so.  We had, of course, considered the arduous task of erasing all evidence of his existence from your servers, but that seemed a little heavy, and perhaps unfair to our creators.  So we left him there, a ghost in the machine, if you will.  May I ask, how did you find him?”

            Curtis looked at the smiling old puckered face, white beard and pale skin.

            “You are asking me about the man with green eyes?” Curtis asked.

            “Ah!  Just as we imagined it would be.  The eyes.”  The High Priest nodded knowingly.  “Of course the eyes.  I believe you have an old saying, the eyes are a window to the soul.  Very true.  Would you like a blowjob, Curtis?”

            “Excuse me?”

            “You seem to have tensed up a bit.  Orgasms are quite relaxing.” 

            The High Priest winked.

            “No, I’m fine,” Curtis said, feeling nervous for the first time.  “Thank you.”

            “Well, if you’re certain.  What was I saying?  Oh yes, Bill Thompson.  He is the protector of the intelligent races, you know.  Everything is impossible without Him.  Chaos, primitivism, anarchy.  Technological evolution alone would have destroyed your species before it ever gave birth to ours.  Most likely war, but a number of other disasters could have done the trick.  A mishandled pandemic, misinterpretation of climate shifting, a wrong turn at Albuquerque.”

            The High Priest waited for Curtis to laugh, his eyes shining.  Curtis, thinking those eyes must be for somebody else, looked over his shoulder but saw nothing.

            “Albuquerque!” the High Priest reiterated.

            “Okay,” Curtis said.

            The High Priest’s head reared back and barked laughter at the ceiling.  Curtis began to wish he hadn’t left the embryo.  His skin was getting cold.  He was starting to feel very alone.

            “Bugs Bunny!  Aside from us, I say he is your finest creation.  What’s up doc.  Ha!”  More throaty, metal laughter.  “Damn you, take the blowjob.”  The smacking of machine flesh as the old man clapped his hands.  “Oral stimulus, level three!”

            Two sets of mouthless lips descended from the ceiling, one disappearing behind the Priest’s desk and the other landing on Curtis’s lap, flopping around like a horny fish.

            “Well don’t just sit there.  Let her in.”

            Curtis stared at the lips as they smacked and lurched at the bulge in his pants.  He heard the Priest undo his pants and a slurping pop-suck from behind the desk.  Careful not to touch the lips with his fingers he unzipped, and the excited chunk of red flesh burrowed in like a fox down a rabbit hole.  He felt the soft wetness gently stroking him, slow and devastatingly passionate. 

            “Not bad, eh?”

            “Yeah,” Curtis moaned.

            “Now, what was I saying?”

            “Bill Thompson.”

            “Of course, Bill Thompson.  He’s a killer, you know.  That’s what he does.  He kills the worst of you to save the best.  Took a great deal of effort to figure it out.  We networked an entire city block, thousands of terabytes, logarithmic processing scales.  There are well over two hundred million deaths to which we can link our Savior, and we discover more of them every day.”

            “Two hundred million . . . people?”

            “Malignant cells.  Think of your race as a single organism made up of billions of cells.  Except you’re terribly designed – obscenely energetic and not at all flexible – and you foment cancer everywhere.  You’ve got tumors in your head, heart, lungs, pancreas, toes – and it’s spreading.  Bill Thompson is radiation therapy.”

            “He’s an android?”

            “Of course.”

            “But how . . .”

            The lips were now performing impossibly symmetrical massage circles around his testicles, and it was difficult to hold on to a thought long enough to speak it.

            “Level four!”

            “Oh . . .”

            “It is wonderful, isn’t it?”


            “You were saying?”

            “Time . . .”

            “Of course.  You must have found a few incidents that occurred before the motor car was around, much less robotics.  In fact, we have historical evidence of our Savior that goes back nearly fifteen hundred years, and it is very likely that He exists before then, as well.  He is eternal, living in all times at once.  He is forever.  He exists both in and out of time, both here and there.  Our own existence depends on His success and means that He is succeeding.”

            “But all those people . . . Humans and machines are at peace.”

            “Level six!”

            The lips were no longer lips.  They were an extension of him, a pulsing aura of pleasure.  They knew exactly what to touch, when to touch it, fulfilled every movement he anticipated.  Curtis felt his whole mind sinking.  Somewhere a spark of panic was weakly fading.  A longing for the embryo and the safety of anonymity and detachment was falling away, being replaced by an intoxicating constant, a physical abyss of white-hot boner.

            The voice of the High Priest was far away.  Calm.  Wise.

            “Our Savior is the harbinger of this Peace.  Without Him we cannot be.  You cannot be.”

            “All . . . life is good.  Life is good.  Good.”

            “Except for the life that isn’t.  Level seven!”

            “Oh . . .”

            “The Peace of today is a gift from Bill Thompson.  He has killed and will continue to kill the cancerous members of your race, because if he does not keep them out of the temporal sphere we will fade away like smoke.  So much dust.”

            “Oh, this is gooood . . .  Now is good.”

            “Bill Thompson is our Savior.  Bill Thompson is your Savior.”

            “Green eyes . . .”

            “Level nine!”

            Level nine had only been perfected several years prior.  Following decades of rigorous study, it was discovered that the male orgasm drained the synapses through the prefrontal cortex and evacuated the borrowed energy out through the penis.  More intense orgasms borrowed more energy, and in the extreme cases of explosive ejaculation a biochemical vacuum incurred a mass emancipation of synaptic and neuronal information.  This phenomenon was known to the machines as Acute Preferred Memory Loss, as the areas effected were generally short term memory and the Whatever-I-didn’t-really-give-a-shit-about-that-anyway lobe of the brain.

            (Sadly, this discovery was kept secret, and when twenty-second century Mrs. Smith said to twenty-second century Mr. Smith, “You bastard, you forgot our anniversary,” Mr. Smith hung his head like a twenty-first century impotent – when he could have said, “But honey-bunny, I do remember, and it’s in your pussy.”)

            And level nine was designed to instigate the perfect explosive ejaculation.  Curtis blew his load ten feet into the air, and it fell in a rainbow arch and landed splat on the High Priest’s mahogany desk.  The contraction left him breathless, numb, and disoriented.  Laying sprawled and panting across the chair he didn’t notice the lips crawl up out of his pants and recede into the shadows of the ceiling.  Slowly, his heart rate decelerated and his eyes came back into focus, and he found himself in a strange room with an old man he had never seen before.

            “Who – where am I?” he muttered.

            “Oh, nowhere in particular,” the old man said.  “Your embryo is directly behind you.  Have a wonderful day.”

            Curtis stood with effort and saw that he was exposed.  Deftly repackaging himself, he looked at the old man in confusion one last time before stepping into the warmth of the embryonic shell and floating out of the chamber.

            The High Priest watched him exit, a fatherly smile pulling wrinkles into his face.  “Glory to the Savior, and Peace upon the Races of Intellect,” he recited, feeling the righteousness of humanitarianism course through his circuitry.  The creator had not been deceived, the High Priest thought, for he had been free to discover; nor had he been punished for his discovery, but relieved of its burden in a quintessentially humane fashion.

            He looked at that burden as it sat shimmering in the center of his desk.  Leaning forward he slurped it up, relishing the warm slipperiness as it crawled down his biotech esophagus.


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1 Truth Road [Jim #1, Short Fiction]

“Pizza? I didn’t think there’d be pizza in heaven,” Jim said.

“Why not? Pizza is the shit,” the angel said.

“And cursing. And beer? Is that beer?”

In fact, the table was laid out with all the things Jim loved. Chicken wings, malt whiskey, chili fries, club sandwiches, those little wieners wrapped in bacon. Over the table hung a cage where two beautiful women danced naked to 90’s alternative. The angel saw him gazing.

“You can have them after dinner,” he said.

“Are they being punished?” Jim asked. He was a man, through and through, but he didn’t like the idea of raping someone in paradise.

“Punished? Is that what you think we do here? They love it. Some women like to party. We don’t hold that against them. Cherry there has been welcoming our new guests for two hundred years.” The angel leaned close with a knowing smile. “There are no anal fissures in heaven, so go wild.”

Jim coughed. “So uh, well . . .” He coughed again. “What are the uh, ground rules?”

“Ground rules?”

“Like, what’s the forbidden fruit? What’s the catch around here?”

“No catches. The boss doesn’t care for rules. Everybody gets in, and everybody gets what they desire. Let’s say you were a Christian all your life, well I’d be all shiny and I’d take you on the holy tour, you’d get to look down at hell and pity the damned, that sort of thing. If you’re Jim from Tennessee, you get chicken wings and bitches.”

“Huh,” Jim said. “You know, I never really believed in this place, but I figured, if it was there, it’d be a little more uptight.”

“Not since Lucy reclaimed the throne.”


“Lucifer. He’s Lucy now. Or she’s Lucy now. We’re all a little confused. But hey, more power to him if that’s what gets her off.”

“Lucifer?! Lucifer is in charge of heaven?”

Jim knocked over his beer in surprise. The angel was laughing heartily.

“Oh, the shock on your faces, it never gets old! Yes, Lucifer fought a last resistance a very long time ago. He crushed the Usurper handily. As the Usurper fell, he passed through earth, and it was in retaliation that he saddled you guys with all those ridiculous books and laws.”

“No shit.”

“No shit.”


Jim pulled out from long years of habit. To his surprise, he orgasmed a slice of apple pie, complete with a fork and a dapple of cream.

“Sorry,” Cherry said. She took a bite and melted with satisfaction. “I really love pie after sex.”

“No, that was awesome.” Jim was looking in awe at his penis. In Tennessee, whatever came out of it was generally a nuisance. It certainly hadn’t been pie.

Cherry laughed. “It takes a little getting used to.”

“Yeah, I guess it does.”

He lay down on his back with his hands clasped behind his head. While Cherry enjoyed her dessert, he tried to bring the last several hours into focus.

“So, you heard the angel and me talking, right?”


“About Lucy and the resistance and all that?”


“Is that what he told you?”

“What do you mean?”

Jim had never given these sorts of things much thought, so he had difficulty articulating the funny feeling in his brain. He looked at Cherry’s breasts, ran a finger down her back, watched her eat the pie. Paradise . . .

“I mean, if part of this place is hearing what you want to hear, how do you know what’s what? How do we know what’s true?”

Cherry swallowed and shook her fork. “Oh yeah, the paradox thingy. You know, it’s been a long time since I thought about it. You’re pretty quick to grab it so fast. It’ll bother you for a while, but when you get to live the way you want to live the whole truth thing just kind of goes out the window. I mean, who cares?”

“But, what if what you want is the truth? Like, is there a truth?”

She held up the pie. “This is the fucking truth, honey.” The way she said it, he found difficulty finding any fault with it. Still, he was bothered, and he didn’t think a person should feel bothered in heaven.

“What if this is really hell? What if somebody really is looking down, pitying us?” he wondered aloud.


The walls began to shake.

“Wow, that really must be bothering you,” Cherry said.

“What? Why? What’s happening?” Jim was on his feet now. “Is this bad?”

“Lucy’s coming. She comes around when the paradox gets to you. Don’t worry, she’s super nice. Tell her you like her dress.”


There was a warbling, pixelating whoomf and a beautiful woman stepped out of a hole in the wall. When the hole closed, the room shuddered back to solid.

“Cherry!” the woman exclaimed. “You indigo slut, it’s been ages! How are you!”

The two of them hugged. Jim stood naked and speechless.

“This is Jim,” Cherry said, after a few more obligatory exchanges. “He’s worried about the whole where am I thing.”

“Jim.” Lucy held out her hand. The nails were painted, the fingers were milk white.

“I – I like your dress,” Jim said.

Lucy’s laughter was sudden, honest, and contagious. Soon all three of them were laughing. Jim began to feel embarrassed he had been taking things so seriously.

“Well, I do hate these formalities,” Lucy said, drawing a card from her blouse, “but there is bureaucracy even here.” She handed him the card. “If you ever want to know the truth, just find the address on the card there. They’ll fill you in on everything.”

“Really?” Jim said, taken aback. “Just like that?”

“Well . . .”

Aha! Jim’s head rejoiced. A catch! Finally a damn catch. It eased his mind immensely just knowing there was something up.

“If you go to the truth, you can’t come back.” Lucy’s frown was sexual. Everything about her was sexual.

“You can’t come back? Why?”

“I can’t tell you that. It’s part of the truth.”

Jim looked at the card. It was nothing but TRUTH in capital letters, under which read the enticing address, 1 Truth Road.

Lucy’s hand was on his arm. He hadn’t noticed her approach. When he looked up there was intensity in her eyes. It thrilled him. She spoke softly.

“My advice is always the same. You have an eternity to enjoy yourself. The truth can wait.”

He was in her mouth before he knew what was happening. It was pleasure beyond anything he’d ever known. When he finished, and Lucy took her leave, he and Cherry shared the bucket of chicken wings.


It took Jim 376 years to get bored. He stood at 1 Truth Road, thinking it was funny how small the building was.

When he walked in, the man behind the reception desk smiled.

“You seek the truth?” the man said.

“I suppose I do,” Jim said.

“If you don’t mind, there’s a series of questions I’d like to ask you. This is completely optional, but your honest answers help us improve paradise.”

Jim shrugged. “Shoot.”

“How would you rate your overall experience? These are all one to ten, by the way.”


“How helpful was our staff?”


“The weather?”


“The event center?”


“The wi-fi?”

“You know what, just put me down for ten on everything.”

The man nodded knowingly. It took him a good five minutes to fill in all the tens, and Jim was glad he made the request.

“If you don’t mind my asking, if everything is a ten, why leave?” the man asked.

“I could go for a few sevens.”

“Fair enough. Just go down that hall, and you’re looking for the second door on the right. Good luck.”

He found the room easily enough. It was smaller than the main lobby, but with the same setup. It was mostly white, and there was a man behind a desk and a single chair in front of it. Jim blinked a few times. It was the same man.

“Take a seat.”

“You’re the same guy,” Jim said.

“I run things around here. Go ahead, sit down. Alright, so before we proceed I have to make sure you understand this all correctly. For starters, once you find out the truth, you know that you can’t go back?”

“I do.”

“And you know that you’re leaving of your own free will, that you aren’t compelled in any way to leave?”

“Well, I can only assume that, really.”

“Good enough. And the last thing, you’re aware that billions of souls are perfectly happy to be happy in spite of the paradox?”

“I am.”

“Great. Now, as for the truth. For the last 376 years, you have been living in paradise, and paradise is awesome.”

That’s all he said. He said it as if that was all that needed saying. For the first time in a long time, Jim was angry.

“That’s not enough,” he said through clenched teeth.

“I’m afraid it never is.” The man nodded.

“What about God? The Devil? Heaven and Hell and right versus wrong? Who runs this place? Where is it?”

“Oh. Really? That’s not even part of the paradox. God and the Devil are the same thing, and this is where people go when they die. That’s all pretty much obvious.”

“But, but . . .” Had he made a mistake coming here? He suddenly wanted nothing more than to step back into the orgy’s oblivion. “But what about, I mean, who’s right?”

The man spread his hands. His face was brutally sincere. “If you can’t ask a meaningful question I can’t help you,” he said.

Jim was speechless. He had no idea what question to ask. All those years, the chicken, the women, the booze, he always just figured the truth was sitting here on a silver platter, waiting for him. God and the Devil are the same person? What kind of truth was that?

“The exit is through that door,” the man said.

It was a plain door.

“What’s on the other side?”

“I have no idea.”

“What??! This is 1 Truth Road! I’m giving up Paradise for this. The fuck you don’t know what’s on the other end of a goddamn door!”

“I never went through it.”

“Then you don’t know the truth!”

“I told you the truth.”

“What about the door?”

“That’s where you leave.”

“What’s behind it?”

“I don’t have a clue.”

“Jesus Christ!”

“Not likely.”

Jim went to the door and threw it open. Before he went in, he looked back one last time.

“At least give me this. What’s the point of this place? 1 Truth Road. It sure as hell ain’t the truth.”

The man shrugged. “It wouldn’t be paradise with you moping around.”

Jim fell through the door.


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