365 Graphic Novels

My goal for 2019 is to read a graphic novel or comic book trade paperback collection and discuss them each day. I will write about the plot, art, relevance, links to a continuing mythos and/or my personal connection to the book. Think of it as a mini review. Feel free to debate my thoughts. Tell me why I’m wrong and missed the whole point of a revolutionary graphic novel, or how I elevated some piece of shit to undeserved artistic status. Or, <gasp> how you agree with my findings. Let’s discuss.

 

Just Can’t Seem to Win

Just Can’t Seem to Win

A novel by Jan-Ives Campbell

My search for the father I never knew began with the death of my mother. The journey is real, and what I found out about him is true, but the characters are fictionalized. It turns out that you can’t tell a true story without hurting someone, so I did my best to describe my search without reopening old wounds.

 

Chapter One:                                                                                                      

September 2018

“Who are you visiting today?” said the perky woman behind a plastic window within the Naples Senior and Recovery center. She looked at me with a big smile, but with just a glimmer in her eyes that said, “Hurry this up, pal. I have shit to do.”

I blinked at her, slowly as if stepping out of the darkness and into the unforgiving sunlight. My mind went blank. Why the hell was I here? In a Florida nursing home. Stupidly I stared. Her eyes opened wider and she tilted her head as if to say, “Are you okay?” I must have looked crazy, I certainly wasn’t dressed for southern weather. I wore ripped jeans, a thick red and black flannel button-up shirt, and fawn-colored Timberland work boots, two sizes too big that clomped when I walked. I looked like a lumberjack.

“Franklin,” I said. “Thurgood Franklin.” How strange it felt to say his name. I knew it like I knew my own. I had thought it many times, I had even typed it more than once into search engines, but I hadn’t said the man’s name aloud once in my entire life.

“I see. Are you a friend or relative?”

A sudden catch in my throat. A cough. After several more, I recover and say, “I’m his nephew.” That was the truth. “He hasn’t seen me in a while; I’d like to surprise him.” In fact, he had never in his life seen me. “Is that okay?”

She stood up, looked me up and down and said, “I don’t think he’s ever had a visitor before. I see you’re not on the list of approved visitors, but he’s right over there in the main room, so I think it would be okay to sneak on over and say ‘hi’.” She smiled again and pointed to a room around the corner that was still visible from the main desk. “He’s the one with the green blanket on his lap.” He sat in a wheelchair with his back to me looking up at the television suspended in the corner broadcasting a fishing show. I took a deep breath. There he was. That was him.

The woman exited the room behind the window and appeared beside me. “Did you bring enough for everyone?” she said with a smile, nodding with her chin at the Dunkin Donuts bag I held with two hands. It felt heavy and seemed obvious that there were no donuts inside. I chuckled but never took my eyes off him. It seemed ludicrous to me that I would be able to get this close. I graduated high school four years ago and I couldn’t remember a time when there weren’t metal detectors or armed guards at the entrances. School shootings were a fact of life. I guess it wasn’t a problem in old folks’ homes.

I followed the woman into the common area. It was empty except for Thurgood and a bag of bones who stared unblinking from beneath a mountain of blankets in the far corner of the room.

“Mr. Franklin. You have a visitor.” I held the bag tightly as he slowly maneuvered the wheelchair around to face us. I don’t know what I expected. He looked shriveled in his chair wasting away from inactivity. The pictures and the descriptions were not of this person. They were of a man who was nicknamed Thor and with good reason. Once, he had a wild mane of red hair and a body to match. His hair was now faded and white; this pathetic creature before me had been withering for twenty-three years, first in jail and now in this tomb.

I expected a different reaction from him. He looked at me as if I were a stranger on the street. I wanted him to react, to shout out, to clutch at his heart and fall over at seeing the resurrection of the man he had killed more than two decades ago. Instead, he took a deep breath. The receptionist said, “Do you know who this is?” she said loudly, almost patronizingly.

“Yup. This is Anthony. I’ve been expecting him.”

“He brought you donuts.” She smiled and left us alone except for the corpse under the pile of blankets. A fan hanging from the ceiling stirred the air with a slight wobble. With a booted foot I dragged a table until it was in front of him. I sat down across from him and placed the bag on the table with a clunk.

“That for me?”

I nodded.

“You look like your father.”

“Don’t.”

Was he trying to distract me? To make me feel pity for him? I absorbed his appearance,

faded and withered as it was.

“I could yell for help,” he said.

“It wouldn’t make a difference.”

“Is that why you came? To kill me?” He wheezed. “Maybe you’ve seen too many movies and you think I’ll beg for forgiveness so you’ll spare my life?” A slight guffaw escaped his mouth.

To be honest, I didn’t know why I came. I wanted something from him. Remorse. Empathy. Understanding. Truth? I wasn’t sure, but the only way I would know is through confrontation.

He looked at the floor and said, “I am sorry.” My eyes narrowed. He looked up and into my eyes. The whites of his were bloodshot, but the irises were a crisp blue of the deep ocean. “Not because I care about my life or what I lost. It’s all the hurt I inflicted on everyone else.” Was this it? Was this why I came here? “Go ahead, kill me. Hell, leave me the gun and I’ll do it myself.” His breathing was ragged. The skeleton in the corner coughed.

“I suppose you’ll say I shouldn’t do it because my father wouldn’t want me to throw away my life?”

He laughed. It was a breathy rattle that caught us both by surprise. “Are you okay, Thurgood?” a nurse poked her head into the room. He nodded and smiled a mostly-toothless smile. She slipped away.

“Shit, I could go for a cigarette,” he said.

“Too bad. What’s so funny?”

“Your father absolutely would want you to kill me. He wouldn’t want a score to go unsettled. Neither did I. I guess that’s why we’re here. He would just love that his kid had the balls to take care of the son-of-a-bitch who killed his old man.”

The stories, the recent ones my grandmother, aunt, and my father’s best friend had told me didn’t give me the feeling my father was a vengeful man. But they loved him; they would never speak ill of the dead.

As if reading my mind he said, “He was my little brother, in a sense. I practically raised him. I loved him, too.”

His words filled me with anger. He loved him? I grabbed up the bag. Frightened, his eyes went from mine to it, but he did not move. Resolution to his fate calmed him, but it took an effort. Years of violence and self-preservation was hard to ignore. My index finger pierced the paper of the bag to rest on the trigger of the gun inside. The silence threatened to suffocate us. Finally, Thurgood said, “You never got to meet him. I’m sorry about that.” He stares at the coffee table. “He was excited. Happier than I’d ever seen him.”

“Why did you do it?” I ask. “You say you loved him. Why did you kill him?”

“You really want to hear?”

I nod.

“He beat the shit out of me.”

I laugh despite trying to be intimidating. The snort just bursts out.

He was right, my father would want me to gun him down. To blast him where he sat. Fire five rounds into his chest, and as he slumped in his chair shatter his skull with the final bullet.

The gun felt light in my hand. It felt good. Right.

And my father, gone for twenty-three years, was telling me to pull the trigger.

The “S” word.

 

I wrote a book. Well, it’s not a book yet. I wrote a story, and I’m nervous as hell to release it into the world. Why am I afraid? For over a year it has been just mine. I have slaved over it, changed it, deleted parts, and added others. I gave it to a friend who reads a lot of science fiction and fantasy to get his thoughts: What didn’t he understand? What did he like? What did it need? He couldn’t get into it. I gave it to a successful writer of nonfiction, and he was “stopped dead” after the first page. My girlfriend got lost in all the characters. Then I paid someone to read it and though she was very helpful the lack of interest by everyone else was not a good sign. If my friends and loved ones can’t get through it what chance does a stranger?

So I rewrote it. I added some excitement to the opening chapter (in the form of a new chapter) to get the reader interested in the story and characters. I set a launch date for September 20th, a monumental day in my life, but more on that later.

I read the reviews of a popular writer’s first book to get some perspective. This author has met with a lot of success, but I guess that depends on your definition. The author made some money by self-publishing and continues to reach new readers, even selling the rights to have the book made into a motion picture. Financially successful. They wrote the book on their own terms and published it non-traditionally. Success. It has opened up other opportunities—earning a degree, future novels. Success. I assume these things brought happiness. Major success.

What does success mean to me? One might say that writing a book and putting it out into the world means I am successful. Yeah, that’s true, but as a writer, I want to have people read and like what I wrote. But a “true artist” doesn’t care what people think, right? I don’t know what a true artist feels, but I want to write and have my stuff read and enjoyed. Perhaps that’s a bit shallow, but that’s me.

I know human nature is to complain before giving praise. People are more likely to call up and gripe about poor service than to give compliments. Therefore I dread those one and two-star reviews on Amazon. I read the comments on the author above, and I focused on the one stars, which only accounted 2% of the total reviews. I won’t go into details but suffice to say that I came away realizing that you can’t please all the people all the time. Probably more than 2% will hate what I wrote and demand their money back. Likely a lot more.

I said I was done. Like a download that’s stuck on 99%, I finished the story, but it refuses to let me walk away. Since my editor read it I’ve made some changes. I will spend the next six weeks reading it out loud, stressing over comma placement, and being frustrated by formatting issues. I’ll worry that the characters won’t “ring true” or the ethnic characters are stereotypes, or don’t accurately reflect their cultural histories. Or that my female characters aren’t strong enough, or are too strong and do not speak to the female experience. My worst fear is that I will have used “too” and “to” incorrectly. I like what I wrote. I spent a lot of time with my characters, working hard to flesh them out without repeating myself. Or breaking the ultimate writer’s sin of telling not showing. Gasp!

I’m going to write about the writer’s experience for the next few weeks. Maybe fledgling writers will ask me questions, and maybe I’ll have helpful answers. “Successful” writers might have inspirational suggestions. I’ll talk about my journey, my hopes, and fears, and hopefully, create a dialog. Here are some subjects I will be discussing.

-Self-publishing vs. “traditional” (How fast do you want it?)
-My history as a writer (The hero’s Journey)
-Marketing (Selling out!)
-The politics of the writer (What statement are you making?)
-Categorizing one’s work (What shelf do you want to be on?)

Stay tuned. Comments welcome!

Children of the Maelstrom: Chapter 2

Spirits Ascend

Bursting as it was with people from all over the world, Mexico City International Airport did its best to slow Daisuke’s progress. The Japanese sarariman hurried to make the last plane to Brazil, a trip that had begun in Taiwan and was full of long flights and one very long layover. Moving as fast as his tired body and the crowd permitted, he glanced out the airport windows at the dark skies, fearful they might further delay his trip. Fellow travelers battled him and each other in an attempt to reach the next stage of their individual journeys.

Stopping without warning, he closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he was no longer Daisuke. His consciousness had been invaded and overwritten by an alien force. He became a dormant passenger as the entity known as Tvrkialk took command of his body. The ancient being stretched the man’s arms in triumph. How beautiful and strange were the sensations of physical form! Although, for a moment, the memories and emotions of the host body were nauseating; Tvrkialk sat down on an empty bench until the sickening feelings passed. The being dropped the man’s briefcase onto the floor and watched the crowd with keen interest.

After several minutes, a man wearing an official identification lanyard and a jumpsuit uniform stopped pushing his broom to sit on the bench next to Tvrkialk. Without looking at the custodian, Tvrkialk said in an alien language, “Greetings, P’strth. The approaching storm—is it your doing?”

P’strth said, “No, but can you feel the chaos rising to the surface? It searches for recipients worthy of its power.”

They spoke a language lacking in structure and familiar sound. Guttural almost to the point of being animalistic, their words would have been unrecognizable to anyone in the airport, had they heard it spoken. Subtleties and emotions, even personal histories filled their conversation. The language was full of so much information and nuance that it would have been impossible for mortals to follow, much less comprehend. In their true form, they could communicate more effectively, but in the flesh prisons, their vocal cords strained with each word. “You are enjoying this,” said the spirit through the Japanese businessman. “Why are you here? Of all the places in the world, why this place?”

P’strth, through the body of the custodian, made no expression, nor did it look at Tvrkialk when it replied. “I suspect I am here for the same reason as you. I detected two mana recipients.”

Throngs of people moved past the two, without noticing their strange conversation. “I had hoped I would be alone.” Tvrkialk chuckled. The laugh was awkward, dry and gravelly, as if by one who had not spoken in a long time. “It is so unlikely to find two in the same city, much less the same location.”

Tvrkialk moved to the edge of the bench. “What do you think of that one?” Within the crowd, a young woman hurried by. Her fellow humans did not take notice of her, however, to the strange pair, she might as well have had a light shining upon her. They did not notice her youthful skin, her curly black hair, or her curvy waistline, nor did they have any concept of her ancestral origins. They did, however, see her soul as a near-blinding vivid multicolor glow that indicated she was already a bearer of the link.

P’strth squinted at the girl as she disappeared into the crowd. “It has a versatile aura. Beyond that, I see a capacity—a powerful mana. For the group I am assembling, it would not fit well. You may have the creature,” adding, “It has a glaring weakness, as well.”

“Yes, I noticed that,” Tvrkialk said. “I can work with it. You have seen the other female?”

P’strth said, without emotion, “Yes. It has a susceptibility making her perfect for my intentions.” P’strth’s disgust and confusion at the concept of gender were palpable to Tvrkialk, who had always found the sexual specifics of physical beings to be delightfully peculiar.

P’strth’s words conveyed a subtle warning, a reminder how much was at stake. “I worry about your intentions, my old friend.” They both laughed. “Remember, the bearers of the maelstrom must endure a great burden.” An elderly man turned to them upon hearing the strange sounds they made, then immediately hurried away.  

Tvrkialk stood. The words “Then it is decided?” communicated an understanding, but also a joy at the uncertainty of the situation. They had vital parts to play, but there was no reason they couldn’t have fun while protecting the fragile fabric of reality. They were spawns of chaos after all, and thus they tended toward mischief.

“Yes, I do not care.” P’strth surrendered any claim on the woman with a wave of the janitor’s hand. “Good fortune to us all.” The presence that possessed the worker left him. Freed, he looked around, confused. He was sitting on the bench next to an Asian man in a suit who turned to him and smiled a wide smile. The janitor stood, looked away from the odd man, and resumed sweeping.

Tvrkialk, still in the body of Daisuke, left the briefcase behind and began following the black-haired girl. The mana entities felt it was important to shepherd the humans, to guide them to reach their destinies, for the unrestrained energy only knew chaos and violence, and would naturally lead its bearer to the same.

“Yes. She will do fine.”

Name

 

1978

I am six-years-old. It is midnight. I am debating if I can survive jumping from the backseat of a car traveling at sixty-miles an hour onto the highway. I’m not even tall enough to see out the window. I will have to hope I get lucky.

As I contemplate the leap, I decide to question my captors hoping they will set me free or turn the car around and bring me home. “What did I do?” I ask the blonde. I try to be cold and emotionless when I say, “Where are you taking me?”

She responds with a smile so wide it shows her back teeth. Her smile is that of a wolf. “Jan-Ives, you didn’t do anything,” she says, emphasizing the word “you.” She drags it out like laundry from a washing machine. Her words are heavy, cold and wet. “Your mom just needs some time to get back on her feet. You are going to what is called a foster home.” She uses my full first name, proving that she doesn’t know me.

“My name is Jan,” I say through clenched teeth. Her smile fades and as she turns away.

I have never hated anyone before. I am six. I hate this woman.

I don’t know the man and woman in the front seat. I was never introduced, but I silently select the names Dick and Jane for them. I do not respect them, so I do not ask them their real names. I don’t care. My mother held back the tears when she told me I had to go with these people. She said I would be all right–that she would get me as soon as she could.

Alone in the backseat of the speeding car, I stare intently at the lock. It is a silver piece of metal that looks like a skinny bullet the Lone Ranger might load into his six-shooter. With no plunger to press against, the bullet hurts when it is pushed to lock the door. I am deciding if I will pull it. I am contemplating pulling it to unlock the door, open it, and jump onto Route 495.

Jane tells Dick–the driver–that the next exit is the one they should take. I know my chance of escape is growing smaller by the second. I don’t know why my mother told me to go with these people in dark suits in the middle of the night. I have school–1st grade– in the morning. She must have forgotten. I don’t understand why she would let me go. If I can get out of the car, I can get back to her. She will apologize for the mistake. Everything will be okay.

When I leap out of the car, I tuck and roll along the pavement to the grassy median strip. I execute a perfect somersault and rise agilely to my feet and begin pumping my legs for the other side of the highway. I hear the screech of brakes and the blaring of horns behind me and the inevitable crash of several vehicles. I dare not look back as I run onto the opposite highway that leads home. Cars and trucks slam on their brakes, and another pileup ensues. As my feet touch the grass that precedes the safety of the woods I hear shots ring out, and I see several bullets explode into the wood of the trees ahead.

I open my eyes as my fantasy and my journey come to an end. I decide that even if I survived the escape, I wouldn’t know where to go to get back to my mother. The car slows down and pulls into a driveway. I look out the window and see a gold Cadillac though it is too dark to see the color and I am too young to recognize the make. The only car I am capable of correctly identifying is a Pinto. I received the Matchbox version for my sixth birthday. It was my only present.

The engine turns off, and Jane turns toward me. The headrest obscures the right side of her face, and with the warmest smile she can muster she says, “Jan-Ives, we’re here. This nice family is going to take care of you.” She keeps smiling her wolf smile.

Dick opens the door. I step out and take a good look at him. He is wearing a dark suit like Jane’s, and an offensive amount of after-shave. I hold my breath as Dick puts his hand on the back of my neck. It is a loose grip, but if I decided to bolt, it could become tighter. He gently pushes me toward the front door of the largest house I have ever seen. There is an attached garage, but it is empty.–or perhaps it is too small to fit the monstrous luxury vehicle in the driveway.

Dick releases his grip on my neck, steps forward and rings the doorbell. Soon, I am welcomed by the Coutu’s. A father, a mother, two boys, and two girls, all of whom are older than me, greet me from inside what seems like a mansion. Compared to the one-room motel I was living in an hour before, it is.

The kids show me around while the parents discuss ransom with my captors. In the kitchen, Marky, the youngest boy, introduces me to the canine member of the family. I look down to see Sparky a short-haired Dachshund. I have never seen a dog of this breed before. “Go ahead, pet him,” urges Marky with a sly smile.

Butchy, the oldest boy–big and meaty like Thurgood–attempts to assuage my fears, “Don’t be afraid. Sparky won’t bite.” He is an enormous seventeen-year-old with muscles that give shape to his t-shirt, and a buzzed haircut. I doubt he knows the meaning of the word “afraid.”

I crouch down and pet Sparky’s soft fur. The little red dog turns around and chomps me on the wrist! I am shocked, but I do not pull away because he is not biting me hard. I look up at Marky with questioning eyes. All four kids are laughing with joy as Sparky begins to pull me toward a cabinet below the sink.

“Go ahead,” Marky urges. I open the cabinet to find a box of Alpo dog biscuits. I take out a small treat, and he politely takes it from my fingers. I smile and pet Sparky again. I like this dog.

“He can give paw, too,” says the oldest girl, Suzanne (though I have no doubt they call her Suzy).

The four adults have entered the kitchen. “You are going to like it here. The Coutu’s are very nice people,” says Jane. I stare at her. My hate wells up behind my eyes and is released in salty streams of despair. The men shake hands, and my two abductors leave me with my new family.

Mr. Coutu looks at me and extends his hand. I can only stare at it. He is wearing a dark green polyester suit, and I wonder if everyone got dressed up for my capture and delivery.

He is still holding out his hand as I look dumbly at it. I have never shaken anyone’s hand, let alone an adult’s. He takes his hand back and puts it in his pocket when I don’t give him paw.

Mrs. Coutu crouches down to my level and puts her hand on my head. She is wearing a green skirt and white blouse and has wavy, shoulder-length hair. She looks like the stereotypical housewife character on any number of 70s sitcoms and dramas. She strokes my long brown hair, and I suddenly feel like Sparky. I wonder where my biscuit is. “How do you say your name?” she asks me with a genuine smile. Speak! A new command.

“Jan D’Alesio,” I reply with practiced ease. I am new to the first grade, so I am used to annunciating my strange name. I drop the “Ives” purposely.

Mr. Coutu shakes his head. “Jan is a girl’s name,” he says as he runs his fingers along his thick mustache. “Let’s call you…” he ponders for a moment before finishing his thought, almost as if he were indeed thinking, “J.D.”

Now, I hate two people.

As an adult, I continue to use my name as a mental litmus test. The speed at which someone grasps it is the amount of mental lucidity to which I give them credit. All of my adopted animals retain the name they know. To change their names would be to cause them the same subtle trauma I suffered in the foster home. I wouldn’t change my name now. To me, my name is a badge of honor. It is like a tattoo or scar. Names are important. To take a name away from a person is to take away his or her power. This is true when it is done to an animal, or a six-year-old boy who has just been taken from his mother.

Tragic Heroes chapter 1

 

I am seeking readers for my unreleased novel Tragic Heroes. Below is the first chapter. The book is modern fantasy and asks its characters what they will do with godlike power. I hope you enjoy it, but I want to get as honest of a review as I can. What characters did you like and why? What characters didn’t you like? Would you have liked to see more or less of a particular subplot or character? Did you not understand a particular segment? Feel free to comment on anything that you notice. You might find it best to keep notes of particular passages to which you are referring. While I’m not concerned about typos and other such errors, if you notice something and want to comment please be specific so I can address such issues.

Your comments are all helpful and will help create a better final product. I don’t need you to write a deep analysis of the work, just note what you notice. I hope this will be a fun process.

Please contact me if you’re willing to read and review the 300 page novel. It is available as a Word doc and reads great on a Kindle.

Tragic Heroes

Volume 1- Sparks

Tragic Hero- Noun- a great or virtuous character in a dramatic tragedy who is destined for downfall, suffering, or defeat: Oedipus, the classic tragic hero.

Chapter One: The Soothsayer        

Hannah’s nightmare began with the slash of a whip across her bare back. Wielding the cruel weapon that bit hungrily into her soft flesh was a mechanized woman, part machine part human, entirely without emotion. Before her, a man stood next to an antique television set. Again the whip cut into her already opened skin. She screamed, a shrieking wail. The man, dressed in a formal suit with a white goatee, described what appeared on the t.v.—invasions, worldwide financial collapse, and nuclear war. She begged the woman, al Shiva was her name, for mercy. CRACK! Another lash tore open her already scoured back. The television revealed images—fantastical people acting out violent scenes. A man glowed with white hot energy, so hot that it melted everything around him, his energy pouring into a young black man. A beautiful winged woman soared from the clouds carrying a sword of pure flame. Emanating from the angel, Hannah felt the presence of God .

She tensed in anticipation of another slash of the whip, but it never came. There was no mechanical woman, no television bombarding her with chaos and violence. She was awake, but she could still feel the lingering painful twinge of the whip.  

Twisting to look at her back in the full-length mirror on her bedroom door, the eleven-year-old girl hoisted her night dress to see there was no wound. It had felt so real. She could still feel the pain, the terror. Her head swam in a thick stew of painful memories. In the dream, she knew the names of the powerful figures, some she felt she knew personally, but the details were fading upon waking, leaving only their strange appearances. Confusion and fatigue were anchors weighing down her body and mind. Never in her short life had she had such a vivid dream.

She moved down the wooden staircase, her hand sliding along the worn banister. Still in a dream state, she saw the stairs change, transforming into a massive sweeping marble staircase before her eyes. She blinked and the monumental stairs narrowed becoming wood again.

Still in a daze, she shuffled through her family’s small stone house. The combined snores of her aunt and uncle rumbled through their bedroom door.  As she tiptoed down the stairs, they creaked, but not louder than the grumbling and rumbling coming from her aunt and uncle’s room.

Though it was only two stories and had no moat, she had always thought of the house as a castle. It was located close to a group of Scottish lakes known as the Fairy Lochs. She enjoyed exploring the lake shores and adjacent woods alone. Born in Greece to an English mother, the red-haired lass thought of herself as Scottish. The modest house had been her family home for almost her entire life. In stressful moments like these, she liked to imagine she was an elf in a mystical realm.

Stepping out the back door, she breathed in the fresh early-morning air. It was cool and damp with a slight breeze. A few fluffy white clouds sailed slowly on a sea of blue, as the sun ascended, moving slowly on its own schedule. She could smell the musty lake less than a mile away.

She felt the need to clear her mind of the terrible dream. Still in her nightgown, she set out for the lake —the fresh air and clear cold water might cleanse her mental wounds.

Though the morning was perfect, the forecast called for increasing heat throughout the day and storms as evening progressed.  

Flash Fiction 1

On the aged stone wall, her left hand rested a half a centimeter from his right; close but not touching. Never touching. A tiny line extended out from the crease where her thumb ended and her hand began. The line broke into two. Each smaller line ended not far from the branch.  

He noticed one of her red nails had a slight chip near the tip. Her ring finger. “My husband got a promotion,” she said, her voice struggling to sound happy. “We’re moving to California.”

His hand recoiled into itself like a dying spider. Dragging his fingers across the stone wall until it formed a fist. Soon swelled red with blood. “That’s great. Really great. Congrats to Jim.” His hand relaxed. The blood drained away. “When do you leave?”

“We fly out tomorrow,” she said, as her hand strayed to her ear, pulling a stray piece of hair back into place. “Movers will bring our things, later.”

“I’ll miss you.” He rubbed the heel of his hand against his itchy eye.

She turned to accuse him. “Will you?”

“Of course.” His hand finished rubbing to return to resting next to hers. “Are you happy?”

“California is great.”

“So they say. Do you have to go?”

She scoffed. “And do what, stay here? What would I do?”

“You have family. A brother. Your mum.”

“I can’t stay.” She placed her hand on top of his. “Take care of yourself.” She held it there for a moment. Seconds turned to a minute that turned into a million years, before she pressed firmly down on his hand with her own, stood, and walked away without another word.

He sat there for another million years watching the space where her hand used to lay.

Time Travel is 2020

 

Part One

“ABC news is predicting, with 38% of the polls reporting, that Ronald D. Crampton of the Control Alt Delete party is the winner of the 2020 election.”

That was the last thing that Jim remembered. He had been in a coma since that fateful evening. He didn’t remember drinking all night in the campus’s media room with a hundred other Boonie supporters, hoping against hope that, like the 2000 elections, the news had called the results too early.

Stan Boonie was as close as a messiah to him and the majority of students attending the Vermont liberal arts college—emphasis on the liberal—that Stan Boonie had attended. He had promised to tax the rich, make healthcare and college education free for everyone who made less than six figures. He even promised to refund money previously spent on healthcare and college. Companies would have to provide six weeks paid vacation for starting employees, a twenty-five-hour work week, thirty paid sick days, and six months paid maternity and paternity, and grand paternity leave. The man was scandal free: he had been married to his wife for sixty-two years and he no longer had sex with his own wife, let alone anyone else’s. Creating a democratic-socialist utopia was the eighty-year-old career politician’s only desire.

Jim wouldn’t remember drunkenly staggering back to his dorm, climbing to the roof and jumping four stories to the paved part of the quad below. Sixteen other Boonieites would also commit suicide that night rather than live in a Crampton-led nation.

Jim was the only one who survived.

Years later, he stirred in his hospital bed, letting out a little moan. The nurse at the foot of his bed, checking off items on her clipboard did not look up. She was accustomed to his little mewlings and movements.

“What year is it?”

The nurse dropped the clipboard. Jim was sitting up in his bed, monitors and food intake tubes attached to his arm and stomach respectively. She struggled with the desire to shout for a doctor or to run from the room to summon an expert, but there she stood. He repeated the question.

She said, “It is November 7, 2036.” He fell back on the bed. The nurse looked to the door but made no movement for fear of breaking the moment like a soap bubble. “Who is President?” he asked staring at the ceiling.

She swallowed hard. She rubbed her itchy eye and took a deep breath.

“Who is the President?”

She exhaled. “President Crampton.” She watched his pale face turn whiter. “He is about to be elected for his sixth consecutive term. Pollsters expect he will be re-elected with 99% of the vote.”

Space Pussy

Space Pussy

The electric hum of the overhead lights had once induced headaches, but after a year, the steady drone had a hypnotic effect on the nineteen-year-old High School dropout. The bright lights illuminated everything in the convenience store; so bright that the recently expired Oreos no longer cast shadows.

Xander was beyond bored. His wasn’t sure when his boredom had achieved epic level, but he was sure it was around the tenth hour of his twelve-hour shift at the Gulp-N-Pump. The convenience store /slash/ gas station was open twenty-four hours, but Xander had yet to understand why. He could count the number of customers he had after midnight on his dick. The counter was the only thing keeping his fatigued legs from giving out. He struggled with the urge to close his eyes for a little nap. The moment he closed his eyes would be the exact second that Old Man Ferguson would walk in and fire his lazy ass.

There was plenty that he could be doing to keep busy. The milk case needed purging of out of date gallons, many of the tight aisles of snack cakes required dusting, and as much as he wanted to unplug the video game Klingons from Beyond Uranus—Ferguson wouldn’t let him. It ate every fourth quarter, but the boss didn’t care. “If someone get really pissed, refund their quarter,” he instructed Xander. Despite all the things he should be doing, he couldn’t find the motivation to do anything.

As his heavy lids drooped, a flash of light demanded his attention. The glass wall that gave a perfect view of the twelve gas pumps lit up with white light. The sudden illumination was so bright that everything disappeared. Thinking that the pumps had exploded, Xander ducked behind the wooden counter. When his vision returned, he popped up to inspect the damage, but to his disappointment there was none. The pumps were unexploded, as was the glass of the window wall.

He walked over and pressed his hands against the window. He peered into the darkness beyond the electric lights of the gas station hoping to spot the cause of the brief display.The forest beyond the road was dark, but Xander thought he saw a faint pink glow emanating from the woods, but his eyes might have been playing tricks on him. He looked from the forest to the stars hoping, praying, for something to save him from the mind-numbing boredom of the Gulp-N-Pump.

The chime above the door rang announcing a customer had arrived. Xander woke from his prayers, turning to get a look at the late-night customer. Whoever it was, they didn’t have a car.

What he saw caused his dry lips and throat to begin to salivate, his palms to begin to sweat, and his sudden throbbing erection to threaten to explode from his Wranglers. She was sex forced into a plastic costume that was two sizes too small. She was a tube of toothpaste squeezed at the middle, threatening to burst at the top and bottom. Long black boots stretched to the mid point of her thighs, at which point her furry flesh took over for a few inches before reverting to the pleather shorts that barely covered her legs. All that ended in a perfect upside-down V. And if her body wasn’t hot enough to turn on the sprinkler system, her face was positively divine. Her round eyes had no lashes and instead of white eyes with blue, green or brown circles around black pupils, she had yellowish green eyes surrounding oblong pupils of pure black. Her nose was pert and came to a delicate point. Her mouth had no lips, but it was beautiful nonetheless. To complete the catlike features, she had four white whiskers extending from the sides of her mouth. “Out of this world,” he mumbled.

She spun to face him, her body in mid crouch caught between fight and flight. Her fingers spread out, he could see each of her delicate digits ended in razor sharp claws. “Hey, pretty mama. I ain’t gonna hurt you,” he said in calming tones with his palms extended.

She said something to him; it was harsh and sudden and like no language he had ever heard. She said is again, and began to back out of the door. “No, wait!” he said, louder than he intended. “Please don’t go.”

She waited there in the open doorway, her whiskers quivering, her body tense. Her pointed ears changed position and she tilted her head listening. Half turning away from him, she sniffed the air. Xander took the opportunity to gaze adoringly at her plump, yet firm, haunches. Her taut legs went from slender ankles and calves to powerful thighs to rounded buttocks that reminded him of two perfect Snowballs with tight cellophane wrapping.

Without warning the cat lady spun and ran straight at him! She put one hand on his shoulder and put her face close to his. She said something that sounded like a question. He jumped back when he saw she was holding a small gun. “Hey lady, I don’t want no trouble,” he said with his palms out in surrender. “No trouble. Me Xander,” he said touching himself deliberately. “Xander.”

She held the gun out to him, trying to put it in his hands. He tried to refuse, but she pleaded with enough desperation to rekindle his pulsing boner. When he took the weapon from her she pointed to the counter, saying what sounded like, “Dib shew! Dib shew!”

Crouching behind the point of sale display, Xander looked at the tiny pistol. It was made of black plastic and the trigger had no guard. He waited there, holding it in two hands, afraid to accidentally touch it and set it off. At this point, a slight breeze might cause it to explode.

The cat lady said, “Bee shin fooz.” Without moving, he said, “I’m ready.”

The door chime rang and several sets of heavy boots clomped into the store. He could hear the intruders breathing, the sound was loud and mechanical like a scuba tank or a generator. An electronic voice said, “Bezhaw neew enz, Spece Pziey!”

“Zander, felt!” she shouted. Without contemplating what he was doing, he sprung to his feet and began firing at the figures in black armor. Three blasts of green energy slammed into them, in turn, dropping them where they stood.

The cat woman shrieked with joy, jumping into the air and clapping. “Gud nirf, Zander!”

Aghast, Xander walked around the counter and examined his handy work. Each of the black-garbed aliens had red insignias on their shoulders that looked, to Xander, like military markings. “Shit, did I just shoot some space cops?”

His doubts faded and his manhood enlarged as the cat lady pressed herself against his side in a warm embrace. He turned and said, “What do I call you?” She grabbed his hand and began to urge him toward the door. “Xander,” he said pointing at himself with the still-hot laser pistol. “Xander…” he pointed the gun at her. “And you are?”

She put her other hand on her breast as she pulled him through the door. “Me neyet, Spece Pziey!”

“Space Pussy?” he said, as she pulled him toward the forest. She nodded enthusiastically. “That’s perfect.”

 

Space Pussy
Based on the song Space Pussy performed by the Amazing Cherubs

She was a little cat from another place/ She had a fine feelin’ and a feline face/ I never felt so out of place/ Since she came down from outer space/ Space Pussy! Space Pussy!/ Puss in boots- space girl- in cahoots with another world/ I was so knocked on my face/ When she came down from outer space/ From the other side of the sun/ Brought up to get down/ In orbit from dusk ’til dawn/ Space pussy- you’re the one!/ Space Pussy! Space Pussy!