Archive for February, 2018

Of Peach and Pigs

Posted: February 27, 2018 in Uncategorized

This is my entry to the Evil Squirrel’s Nest Annual Contest of Whatever:

Georgia hadn’t planned to run away. At first, she’d just planned to take off for the weekend to spend it with her boyfriend, Louie. When her mother caught her, things escalated.

Her mother disapproved of Louie.

“He’s too old for you! He isn’t even a high school graduate! Is that what you want? A future with a plumber?”

“Oh, you’re a fine one to talk, Mom! You dropped out of high school and eloped. With a mechanic! How did that work out for you?”

“Don’t you dare insult your father! He was an honest, hardworking man!”

“Yeah, until a Buick dropped on his head.”

Georgia felt the sting of the slap before she even saw her mother swing.

“You watch your mouth, Missy. Your father loved you.” Tears welled in her mother’s eyes and her tone softened. “He loved you so much. He called you his little Georgia Peach. That’s how you got your nickname.”

“I know.” Peach was her father’s special nickname for her. Most of her friends just called her Georgie. Georgia hugged her stuffed dragon, Yoshi. The toy was the last birthday present he had given her before his death. She had come home from school to find a bright pink box on her bed.

* * *

“Open it, Princess.” Her father stood in the doorway, grinning.

Georgia carefully untied the bow and opened the box. A green plush toy nestled in the pink tissue paper. She picked it up and hugged it. “He’s adorable! Thank you, Daddy!”

He nodded toward the box. “There’s more.”

 

She pulled back the tissue to reveal another, smaller box. Inside was a gold necklace set with a glittering gemstone. She held it up to the light and gasped at the shades of pink and gold reflected through the facets.

“Oh, Daddy! It’s gorgeous! What is it?”

“Topaz. Your birthstone. It’s called Imperial Topaz. I saw the color and thought you’d like it.”

“It looks expensive. You shouldn’t have.”

“Nothing is too good for my Princess Peach. Happy birthday, sweetheart.”

 

***

smash-luigi-peach-640x360

That was before. When life was perfect. Before a malfunctioning hoist crushed her father under a ton of metal. Before she met Louie.

 

Louie was a bit rough around the edges, much like she imagined her father must have been when her mother met him. She couldn’t understand why her mother didn’t like him, he should have reminded her of Daddy. Perhaps that was why. Her mother expected more from her daughter than what she herself had achieved.

None of that mattered now. It was her life, not her mother’s. How dare she tell her how to live it?

Later that evening, after her mother was asleep, Georgia packed a bag with a few extra clothes, makeup, and Yoshi, then slipped out the window into the night.

***

Her romantic rendezvous with Louie fell flat when she walked into his apartment to find him in the arms of another. His boss from the plumbing company, to be exact. Mary, aka “Hairy Mary” had a mustache to rival any of her male counterparts, not to mention a cavernous plumber’s crack. And there was Louie, in bed with her.

Georgia shrieked with fury and stormed out.

“Baby, wait!” Louie called after her, but he didn’t follow.

She set out alone, hitchhiking down a dark highway to who knew where.

She considered going home, but she wasn’t ready to face her mother yet. She needed to find a place to rest, and think about her next move.

The sky lightened on the horizon as dawn approached. The countryside was unfamiliar; desolate except for a few scattered farms. She noticed a large barn and wondered if she could take shelter inside. She hoped it was the kind of barn with a nice soft hayloft and not the kind filled with animal poop and rusted farm equipment.

Jackpot. It was the hayloft kind.

Georgia climbed the ladder and nestled into the hay, hoping she wouldn’t encounter any mice.

The Topaz on her necklace twinkled with an eerie light as she fell into a deep sleep.

* * *

Peach awoke, refreshed but somewhat confused about her surroundings. She could have sworn she had fallen asleep in a barn filled with hay. Now, she found herself in a sunlit green garden filled with strange trees and flowers. Odd structures dotted the landscape here and there; random clusters of bricks, ramps and upright pipes that didn’t seem to go anywhere. She approached one of the pipes and peered inside. Darkness swirled around her and she felt herself falling.

“Help!” she screamed.

“I’m coming, Baby! Hang on!” Louie’s voice reached her in the darkness.

“Oh, no you don’t, Luigi!” Peach recognized Hairy Mary’s gravely voice. “You ain’t goin’ nowheres! Now git yer lazy butt back here.”

Her fall ended in a gentle landing. Brick walls surrounded her. It looked like some kind of dungeon. Thirsty, Peach slipped her backpack off her shoulders and groped inside for her water bottle. Something squirmed.

She screamed and jumped back, dropping the backpack. A small green head popped out.

“Hellooo!” Yoshi squeaked.

“Yoshi? You can talk?”

“Of course! What are we going to do first?”

“Well, first I think I’d like to get out of this place.”

“Follow meee!” Yoshi said, his voice trailing off as he disappeared into the nearest pipe.

Peach had no choice but to follow. Darkness swirled again and she felt the falling sensation again, only this time she landed in a colorful place, beside a road. Yoshi sat behind the wheel of a car, waiting for her.

MKWii_Yoshi

“Let’s go!” he said.

Peach hopped in and Yoshi drove down the twisty road at blinding speeds, occasionally bumping strange creatures out of the way. They approached another car from the rear.

“Woohoo! It’s Mario and Luigi! We got ourselves a race!” Yoshi shouted over the noise of the cars.

Mary drove like a fiend, her unibrow furrowed and her mustache thicker and fiercer than Peach had ever seen. Louie said nothing. He looked scared, gripping the dashboard like his life depended on it.

Yoshi overtook their car, only to get bumped out of the way.

They crossed the finish line in second place. Mary, aka Mario, jumped out of the car and did a crazy little victory dance, whooping and waving two middle fingers at them. Luigi gave Peach a sad look and shrugged his shoulders.

Peach responded with a middle finger of her own.

“C’mon Yoshi. Let’s get out of here. Who needs these losers?” She walked toward the nearest pipe and jumped in without waiting for Yoshi to follow.

The darkness swirled, then changed to a warm, bright light. Pinkish gold, like the stone in her Topaz necklace. Strong arms wrapped around her.

“Princess Peach.”

She recognized the voice.

“Daddy?”

“What are you doing, sweetheart?”

“I don’t know. I just needed to cool off. I was mad at my boyfriend.” Peach fell into her father’s arms, sobbing. “I thought he’d be more like you, but he’s just a jerk.”

“I was a jerk at that age too. You should set your sights a little higher.”

“I miss you, Daddy.”

“I know. I miss you too, sweetheart. But your mother needs you. Please go home and take care of her for me. Remember that I always love you.” His words faded to a whisper and he shrunk until only Yoshi the stuffed toy remained in her arms. The light faded to a tiny glimmer, emanating from her Topaz necklace.

* * *

Peach sat up. Bits of hay stuck to her hair and clothes. Sunlight filtered through a window high in the loft. Voices conversed in the barn below. Something about bathing hogs.

“Hello?” she called.

She descended the ladder.

A woman in overalls stood beside an old cast-iron bathtub. A man, presumably her husband, was inside the tub with a pig.

“Um… hi there,” Peach said. “I’m sorry for trespassing. I just took a nap in your hayloft.”

The woman glanced up, busy opening the cap on a bottle of shampoo.

“Ain’t no matter. Y’all wanna give us a hand bathing these hogs? There’s room if ya wanna jump right in. That is, if it ain’t too weird for ya.”

“Thanks, but I need to get home. And by the way, this isn’t even the weirdest thing I’ve seen today.”

This is my entry to the Evil Squirrel’s Nest Annual Contest of Whatever! Check out the rest of the entries here!

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Holocaust

Posted: February 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

The survivors called it The Holocaust.

Some disapprove of our using that word but the truth is, it’s just a word. Nobody owns a word. There wasn’t a better name for what happened; it was beyond all reason or comprehension.

It happened suddenly. One moment we were safe in our homes, under cover of darkness and the next moment a blinding light came, burning our skin. We were torn from our homes and thrown into a cramped space. Dozens of us thrashed against each other in confusion. It was chaos; up was down and down was up. We could feel the earth moving beneath us but had no way of knowing where we were headed.

That was just the beginning of the horror.

Those who died were the lucky ones.

When the earth stopped moving the bright lights came once again, searing, scorching those unlucky enough to be exposed. We tried to scramble for cover beneath the writhing masses of our neighbors’ bodies but not everyone made it. One by one we were plucked from the relative safety of our prison to endure even further horrors.

Some were never seen again.

Others were returned to the prison maimed and dismembered, telling horrific tales of our kind being skewered on sharp hooks and then discarded into the depths like so much garbage. Some of the amputees survived but the memory of their torture was forever etched into their minds.

When the ordeal was over we had lost many family and friends. Those of us who remained were set free; not to our original home but in a new land where we were able to start anew.

We will never understand…

We worms will never understand this fascination humans have with fishing.

 

 

Your Heart Will be Mine

Posted: February 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

valentine

~ You twist through my heart ~

~ Like a bolt through a nut ~

~ I am a nut ~

~ Think twice before you bolt ~

~*~

Megan wept, curled on her side in the tightest ball she could manage. She had been curled up in the fetal position on her bed for hours – days, actually, doing nothing but cry. Barely moving except to use the bathroom and drink a bit of water. She couldn’t eat, she couldn’t sleep and the ache in her chest wouldn’t go away no matter how many painkillers she took.

 

 

So this is what a broken heart feels like.

She now understood why they called it heartbreak. What she felt was beyond sadness; it manifested as a tangible physical pain in her chest that radiated down into her belly. It was the most horrible sensation ever, and it was all HIS fault. How could he have been so cruel to her when all she had done was love him? She didn’t know where she had gone wrong. She had given him everything; waited on him hand and foot and catered to his every wish but in the end it wasn’t enough. He took her heart and tore it to shreds and then walked out the door as if the last two years had meant nothing.

She wanted to die.

If I died, you’d be sorry! You’d have to live with it for the rest of your life, knowing that YOU were the one who drove me to suicide!

Died of a broken heart.

That would show him how much she loved him.

Nobody else will ever love you the way I do! You’ll see! One day you will come crawling back to me with your heart in shreds, then you’ll know how you made me feel. And then I can kiss you better. We can heal together.

No, she would not end her life. Life was worth living as long as there was a chance of winning him back.

She would get him back.

Or die trying.

Richard tried to leave her several times during the last year but each time she convinced him to stay. She begged and pleaded and promised to be everything he wanted in a woman but he became cold and aloof nonetheless. He didn’t want intimacy anymore. He participated in sex when she was persistent enough to make his physical urges overcome his mental reluctance but his lack of desire was obvious.

She was willing to accept his lack of enthusiasm in their relationship as long as he didn’t leave. They could work things out. She would make it better. She just had to make him see how much she loved him and he would know they were destined to be together.

The pregnancy changed everything.

The one thing that should have cemented them together forever was the catalyst that ended their relationship. He was willing to stay for the sake of the baby. He even agreed to marry her after much pleading and cajoling on her part.

It would be the perfect wedding. She had already chosen her dress – a high-waisted design that would look stunning even with the bulge in her belly. She booked the church and hired the caterer and sent out invitations. It would be the beautiful fairytale wedding of her dreams. Afterward, he would take her in his arms and carry her over the threshold and make love to her, tenderly and passionately the way a husband should. Their life together would be picture-perfect.

There was just one small detail:

She wasn’t pregnant.

Megan thought she was pregnant, without a doubt. Even though the pregnancy tests (three of them, to be exact) were negative, she assumed it was too early for them to be accurate. She experienced all the symptoms – the missed period, tender breasts, bloated belly, and irritability. She even felt sick in the mornings. When her period arrived late, it was easy to hide it from him since he showed no interest in her physically. Since their engagement Richard had become even more distant, never meeting her eyes and only speaking to her when necessary.

It didn’t matter that the pregnancy was a false alarm. She would be pregnant by the time they got married; she would make sure of it.

She managed to convince him to have sex once during the following month but it did not result in pregnancy. Panicked, she redoubled her efforts to seduce him, but the harder she tried, the less receptive he became. When they did try, he couldn’t sustain an erection long enough to finish.

Four months passed. Then five, and still she wasn’t pregnant. She faked the symptoms, pretending to get sick in the mornings and eating like a horse so she would gain some girth and appear pregnant. The wedding was just six weeks away and she only needed to keep up her charade until after the minister declared them husband and wife. After that, she could fake a miscarriage and he would be there to comfort her and they could try again to start a family.

She began to wear padding under her clothing to keep up the appearance of an advancing pregnancy

* * *

She didn’t hear him come into the house that day.

The past few months, he had been moving around the house like a ghost, silent, never speaking unless spoken to. On that particular day, he came home from work early. Megan wasn’t expecting him. She stood in front of the bedroom mirror; trying on the next size pillow she was going to bind to her belly to make it look thicker.

She had no idea how long he had been standing there, watching her in silence.

He said nothing, but his eyes spoke the rage in his heart.

He refused to speak to her, no matter how she cried and pleaded. He started packing immediately and left that night, taking only the bare necessities. She clung to his leg, begging him to stay but he peeled her off of him in disgust. He walked out of her life without giving a second thought to their future together, leaving her blubbering on the floor.

Megan was not only heartbroken; she was humiliated. He told his family and all of their friends about her deceit and his reason for leaving. Nobody would speak to her.

She was alone.

* * *

A year later, Megan still sobbed herself to sleep but not as often. The pain in her chest had diminished to a dull ache but it never went away altogether. They said time heals all wounds but she knew that in her case it wouldn’t. She still loved Richard heart and soul and would never stop. They were meant to be together. He was hers and no amount of time or distance would ever change that.

She wasted her Saturday afternoons wandering through the mall, gazing at the gowns in the bridal shop, the sexy lingerie in Victoria’s Secret and the endless displays of adorable children’s clothing. From infant to toddler to preschooler… there were too many cute outfits to choose from. She should have been buying clothing for her own child – for their child. Instead, she could only look and dream.

She wandered toward the food court to feed her craving for sweets. She had been living on junk food and had gained a considerable amount of weight. It didn’t matter because she had nobody to stay thin for. At that moment, Cinnabon called to her.

A baby stroller blocked her path as she navigated through the tables to get to the food counters. She edged around it, pausing for a moment to admire the baby, a little girl about three months old, dressed in an adorable pink outfit. The parents, engrossed in conversation, giggled and shared an intimate kiss.

Megan froze.

No.

It couldn’t be!

It was him. Richard.

Her Richard.

Judging from the age of the infant in the stroller, he hadn’t wasted any time after leaving her. He might have already been seeing that woman behind her back! That would explain his lack of interest in Megan. The slut had already tired him out before he got home.

Rage boiled inside her when she saw the engagement ring on the woman’s finger – a large, stunning diamond solitaire. Nothing like the cheap little band he had grudgingly given her.

“YOU BASTARD!” Megan roared, sweeping the food and beverages off the table onto the couple’s laps.

“YOU DIRTY CHEATING MOTHERFUCKER!”

“Richard?” the woman said, her voice fearful. She pulled the baby stroller away from Megan.

“You stay out of it, slut! I’m talking to my husband. You’ve done enough already!”

Richard finally spoke up. “Get the hell away from my family, you crazy bitch.”

“YOUR family? YOUR family?” Megan sputtered. “What about OUR family? The one you couldn’t even give me because your dick was always limp!”

“I never wanted you, Megan. I never loved you. You were a mistake. The biggest mistake I ever made.” Richard’s tone was calm. He spoke the words without emotion. How could he not feel anything after sharing his life with her for two years?

Richard’s bitch had taken her child and moved away from the table. She was talking to the clerk at Cinnabon and a security guard was making his way toward them.

“You think you’ll be happy with her?” Megan yelled. “She’s nothing! You and ME! WE were meant to be together! Nobody will love you the way I do. Nobody!”

The security guard stepped between them.

“I’ll have to ask you to move away, ma’am. Leave these people alone.”

“Fuck you!” she spat, leaning around the uniformed man to make eye contact with Richard once more.

“You can’t escape fate, Richard. You’re mine! One day you’ll come crawling back. You love me. I know you do.”

Two more security guards came from behind and took her arms, leading her away from the food court. They demanded that she leave at once or the police would be called.

Megan left. She had said her piece.

Richard knew the truth.

She would make him see the truth.

* * *

Megan’s outburst with Richard energized her; freed her from the shackles of depression. She felt electrified, filled with new hope. She had a purpose again: Richard, and her future with him. She just needed to take the place of the baby-making whore in the food court and everything would be perfect again.

She would win him back. His heart had always been hers; he just didn’t realize it yet.

Having been banned from the local mall, Megan’s Saturday shopping trip took her to the streets and a new neighborhood where she had never been. Her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder made it difficult to deviate from an established routine. As a result, she seldom visited new places. Occasionally change was forced. This time she found it refreshing instead of disturbing. Her therapist, whom she hadn’t seen in more than five years, would have called it “a positive step”.

The weathered red brick buildings offered a nice change of scenery from the icy-smooth grey concrete downtown. The new neighborhood featured a wealth of second-hand stores, a few hippie bong shops and some dusty-looking used bookstores. It was in one of these bookstores that she found it.

The tattered brown binding of the book caught her eye and immediately she reached for it.

The Joy of Spellcasting.

She chuckled at the silly title.

It sounds like a cookbook. Why not? It could be fun. Megan purchased the book and walked home with a spring in her step.

She opened the book to the table of contents and quickly found what she sought.

Love Spells – page 131.

She noticed handwriting at the bottom of the yellowed page. The ink had blurred over time but was still legible. Megan held it up to the light to make out the words.

“Be warned, ye who goest here. Think ye long on what thou desirest. The spells contained within be those most powerful. What thou desirest, thou shalt receive.”

Megan smirked. It sounded like something out of a low-budget after-school Halloween special.

Good to know. Let’s see if it’s true.

She turned to page 131 and began to read.

There were several love spells and potions but most of them looked complicated. They contained ingredients she had never heard of and took too long to yield results. They ranged anywhere from six months to three years to complete a spell. Megan wanted results now.

She settled on the One Moon Love Charm. It claimed to return a lost love in one month and she had all the ingredients to make it work:

 

A container made from wood or metal.

A likeness of your lost love. OR

An object belonging to your lost love, OR

A sample of your loved one’s blood or flesh.

 

Write on a piece of parchment exactly what you desire.

Seal with your own blood or flesh to bond with your lover’s flesh for all eternity.

Bury the container three feet deep in dark soil under the light of the full moon.

Stand over the burial site and turn around three times and then say the incantation every night for one month. When the moon reaches its next fullness, the object of your desire will come to you.

 

Megan selected a heart-shaped wooden jewelry box Richard had given her when they first started dating – back when he still knew he loved her. The box held no jewelry except the engagement ring she no longer wore. She had been using it to store her favorite photos of Richard, all carefully cropped with a pair of scissors to a heart shape.

A likeness of your lost love.

What better likeness than an actual photo? She left all of the photos in the box.

OR an object belonging to your lost love.

Richard had left most of his belongings behind when he left, so why not add that as well? She selected a watch she had bought him for Christmas that he always seemed to forget to wear and his razor, which he had left in the bathroom.

OR a sample of your loved one’s blood or flesh.

Technically, the razor already had that covered, since it contained beard stubble and probably skin cells as well. She wanted to add as much punch to the spell as possible. More would be better, right? She cleaned the bathtub drain, extracting a slimy hairball made up of both his hair and hers. That covered both samples of their flesh.

On a plain white piece of paper, she wrote the words she had chosen:

 

Richard Cole, I desire your heart and nothing else.

 

She folded it neatly and placed it in the box.

She sliced her index finger with a razor blade and let the blood drip over the contents of the jewelry box.

Under the full moon she stood, on the fresh mound of dirt beneath which the box was buried. She turned around three times and then recited the incantation, which she had memorized:

 

“By the Earth below and the moon above,

You will be my one true love.

Bound in blood and sealed in Earth,

Waiting for our love’s new birth.

Empowered by the Law of Three,

Richard’s heart will come to me.

Three times Three.

So mote it be.”

 

She repeated the incantation two more times just for good measure. If the Law of Three was a real thing, then it made sense to do everything three times to amplify the power threefold.

The following night she repeated the ritual, chanting the incantation three times. After a pause, she recited it three times more.

She couldn’t stop the pattern once it had begun. Richard had hated her OCD but it was one of the things that made her organized and precise in everything she did. Every night she added three more repetitions to the incantation. When she reached the 29th night she recited it a total of 87 times. When she went to bed at night, the rhyme played over and over inside her head until she fell asleep.

The moon had reached the first day of its three days of fullness. It would be at its fullest the following night. Megan snuggled happily into her bed, confident that Richard would be with her soon.

* * *

“Jenkins! Get in here! You gotta see this!” Ralph Anderson shouted to his assistant.

Jenkins wandered through the double doors of the morgue, stuffing the remains of a tuna sandwich into his mouth.

“I’m still on break. Couldn’t you have waited another ten minutes?”

“No, I need you to see this. You gotta tell me I’m not crazy.”

Jenkins approached the table where his superior was conducting a routine autopsy. The ribcage was splayed open, revealing the inside of the stiff’s chest.

“So what’s the deal? You find an alien in there? Looks pretty normal to me.”

“Look again. Tell me what you see. More specifically, what’s missing?”

Jenkins leaned over the corpse to take a closer look, licking mayonnaise off of his fingertips.

“Yeah, so it looks like you’ve already removed the heart, and—”

“But I haven’t,” Anderson said, almost in a whisper.

“Sure you have. It’s not in there.” Jenkins looked around at the empty stainless steel trays that surrounded the autopsy table. “So, where’d ya put it?’

“I’m telling you, it wasn’t in there when we got him.”

“So, what is this then, a serial killer case?”

“No. Probable heart attack. Sudden death, cause unknown.”

“So, where’s the heart?”

“That is the question, isn’t it? There was no incision in the body, no sign of hemorrhage inside. It’s just… missing.”

“We gonna record this?”

“Who’s gonna believe us? I’m closing him back up and labeling him a coronary.”

* * *

Megan woke the morning of the thirtieth day, feeling well rested and energized. Today, Richard would return. She would take a nice long bath and put on something pretty and fix him a nice dinner. It would be the perfect day – one for which she had worked very diligently.

She stretched and yawned, rolling over to caress the pillow where Richard would lay his head that night.

Her hand touched something wet.

Something rounded, about the size of her fist.

It was warm, and pulsed with a steady, rhythmic beat.

 

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Copyright © 2012 Mandy White

Vegan Meat

Posted: February 6, 2018 in Uncategorized

Something silly I cooked up for WPaD’s #ShortStorySunday challenge.

It’s based on an idiotic rant I saw on the internet in which someone (probably in jest) claimed pigs were a hybrid of muskrat, bobcat, and hyena. Ah, the internet… such a source of horsefuckery and inspiration.

Vegan Meat 

~*~

“The cow and pig are not even natural animals. Tell me, where in nature can you find a cow? A farm is man-made and cows and pigs are hybridized animals. A pig is cross bred between a muskrat, bobcat and hyena! So you’re eating muskrat… just let that sink in!”

bacon

The man on the TV screen continued to rant, struggling against the police officers, who cuffed him and wrestled him into the back of the cruiser.

Sinead sipped her lukewarm coffee, too engrossed in the newscast to pour a fresh one.

 

Sinead knew the crazy man. She also knew he wasn’t as crazy as he looked.

* * *

Scott Parke was a former co-worker of Sinead’s, back in the early days of their careers. Fresh out of university and bursting with optimism, Sinead eagerly accepted a job offer from a large corporation. It all sounded so environmental, so save- the- planet perfect in her idealistic young mind. Even the name sounded environmentally friendly: Evergreen Research. She didn’t learn until later that Evergreen was owned and funded by Monsanto.

 

Those early days in the laboratories were filled with excitement and discovery, and it was there that she met Scott, also fresh out of university. Sinead truly believed she was making a difference, developing things that would change the world for the better. It wasn’t until reports of the negative effects of their work began to surface, that Sinead realized perhaps her employers weren’t the saints she thought they were.

 

 

When Sinead made the decision to part company with Evergreen, they demanded she sign a document bearing the Monsanto logo. It was a gag order, which prohibited her from divulging any information about the work conducted in their laboratories or using knowledge obtained therein to profit herself or others. She had no interest in what went on in those laboratories. She signed the document and moved on, eventually finding employment in genetic research for disease prevention.

Scott stayed on with Evergreen for a while after Sinead left, but she heard through a mutual friend that he had been fired for “ethical differences”, whatever that meant.

* * *

Five Years Later:

Sinead’s contract expired, and the company opted to not renew it. She decided to take some time off and enjoy a much-deserved holiday in Mexico.

One tequila-soaked night in Puerto Vallarta, Sinead spied a familiar face in the nightclub: Scott. He whooped when he saw her, and pulled her into an off-balance bear hug that nearly landed both of them on the floor. He slung an arm over her shoulder and sprayed her cheek with saliva as he shouted into her ear over the music.

“You gotta come see what I’m doing! I made a breakthrough like you never seen before. Makes those ashhats at Monshanto look like kinnergarten! This shit’ll revolutionize the food innustry. It’s gonna be huge! As shoon as the patents go through, I gonna be a billionaire, and I ain’t talkin’ peshos!”

Sinead wiped her cheek and adjusted her balance to counteract Scott’s drunken sway.

“Sounds interesting, but I’m on vacation. Taking kind of a hiatus from work.”

“Thass even better! I’m gonna need a partner when this shit breaks. I’m gonna be so busy. I’m sherious. You’d be perfect for the job. I’ll let ya in on the ground floor.”

“I admit I’m curious. Give me your number and I’ll look you up when I get back home.”

“No, you don’t unnerstand. It’s here. My lab. I live here now. Can’t do this in the U.S. Too many regulations. It would take years to get where I am now.”

“Your lab is here, in Mexico?”

“You betcher sweet ass, baby!”

“Then how can I say no? For old times’ sake.”

Scott raised his glass. “For old times’ sake!”

* * *

Scott’s “lab” was the second bedroom of a two-bedroom rented condo. It didn’t look much out of the ordinary, save for the occasional bug-hunting gecko. A row of mismatched refrigerators lined one wall of the room.

“I can’t wait to hear what you’re working on here,” Sinead said, peering into the room. She nodded toward the fridges. “I can’t imagine what those could be for.”

The effects of the previous night’s drinks; lingered in the dull throb behind her eyes and parched throat. Scott looked worse than she felt.

“I’m dying of thirst. Got anything to drink?” she asked.

“I got orange juice. He pointed at the kitchen. In the fridge.”

Sinead wandered into the kitchen, where she found a package of Solo cups on the counter next to a bottle each of tequila and gin. She poured a cup of orange juice and then added some tequila. What the hell, I’m on vacation, she thought.

Scott followed her into the kitchen and poured himself a similar drink, with both tequila and gin. Instead of returning to the lab, he went into the living room, where he plopped onto the couch with a weary sigh.

Sinead followed and took a seat at the opposite end and sipped her drink, waiting for him to talk.

“I don’t know how much you might have heard, but I left Monsanto due to some irreconcilable differences,” he began.

“I heard you were fired.”

“Same thing. Potato, potawto. Best thing that ever happened to me. I learned a lot working there, but of course you know we’re not allowed to talk about that.” He gave her a knowing wink.

“We’re also not allowed to apply any of their research in other projects.”

“I believe the gag order specifies that we’re forbidden to use knowledge gained while in their employ to further the exploits of other corporations… or some shit like that. Basically, it means we can’t divulge their trade secrets to their competitors.”

“But what does it say about becoming a competitor yourself?”

“Well, you can’t do that either, per se. Meaning that you can’t start a company and employ their knowledge in research and development of products similar to theirs. And of course, with all the regulations in the U.S. and FDA approval and all that shit, there’s no way you could do anything without the big M finding out.”

“But you aren’t in the U.S.”

“Bingo! I’m also not a competing corporation. I’m just a guy doing science projects in his back bedroom.”

“But what happens when you try to bring… whatever this is back into the U.S? You can’t get a patent based on someone else’s research.”

“I’m not. This is all mine. Yeah, I learned a lot working in those laboratories, but they can’t regulate what’s inside my head. I developed this all on my own, and none of it resembles anything those assholes are doing.”

“Somehow I think they’d find a way to claim it if they wanted it.” Sinead drained her cup. “Enough with the suspense. Let’s get to the part where you tell me exactly what you developed.”

“To put it simply, it’s food. I have developed a line of revolutionary new food products. Trendy stuff. Vegan, gluten-free, all that shit. Not processed, but grown. The granola crowd will go nuts for it, pun intended.”

“Like what?”

“Bacon seeds, for one.”

“Fuck off.”

“Seriously. C’mon, I’ll show you.”

Scott led the way to the lab-bedroom, where he opened a fridge at the far end of the row. Shelves with rows of fluorescent lighting filled the interior of the appliance. Sinead realized that it wasn’t being used for refrigeration, but as a sort of green house. Trays of small seedlings covered the first two shelves, and larger plants were housed on the lower racks. On closer inspection, Sinead recognized the leaves.

“Corn? You’re growing corn in a refrigerator.”

“Not just corn.” Scott closed the door and opened another, a couple of fridges down the row. Inside were cobs covered with a substance Sinead couldn’t identify. She looked at Scott for clarification. He grinned.

“I give you…” he tapped his fingers on the door, simulating a drum roll. “Bacon on the cob!”

“Bullshit.”

“I shit you not.” He removed one of the cobs from the shelf and held it up to the light. “It grows just like this. All you have to do is cook it.”

Tiny pale rolled-up buds covered the cob. He took one in his fingers and unrolled it, revealing to Sinead what appeared to be an ordinary slice of bacon. The grain of the meat, the fat, the color – all nearly perfect. It was perhaps a bit too uniform, like the vegan fake-bacon sold in stores, but it looked close enough to pass for the real thing. Sinead slid her fingers over it and gasped at the greasy texture.

“It feels real!” she whispered.

“It is real. Pretty cool, huh?”

“It’s edible?”

“Hell yeah! Just like the real deal. It’s delicious, low in calories, high in protein. Gluten-free, too. It’s grown, not raised. Nothing gets slaughtered.” He chuckled. “Except for the plant, of course.”

“So it’s vegan, too.”

“As vegan as a corn cob. Sure, I had to make a few modifications, and maybe there is some pig DNA in there, but that’s science. Ever wonder why vegans always seem so angry? I know I’d be pretty miserable in a life without bacon. They taste this, maybe they won’t be so angry, huh?”

“Wow. This is amazing. If it’s as good as you say, and it gets approval… you could be sitting on a gold mine here. But what if the FDA doesn’t approve it?”

“They will eventually. I’ll start growing it here. Americans will get wind of it after a few thousand tourists get a sample. Get the right billionaire to back it and badda-bing! Suddenly the FDA won’t have a problem with us bringing it into the U.S. And of course they will want it produced there, to corner the market.”

Scott moved to another fridge. “The Bacorn is just the start of it. I also have KFG, but still working the bugs out of it.”

“KFG?”

“Working title. Stands for Kentucky Fried Garbanzos. Modified chick-pea with eleven herbs and spices bred in. But it’s a magnet for fruit flies. Like I said, still working the bugs out.”

Sinead peered into the fridge. Pod-shaped crispy golden brown clumps hung from scrawny vines. A cloud of small black flies rose toward her face and as she waved them away her nostrils caught a delicious savory aroma.

“It smells like…it’s already cooked!”

“Yeah, I think this one is going to be a winner, but it’s not ready yet. We also have the Hamkins, which will require a bit more growing space than I have here, on account of the vines.”

Sinead concluded her tour of Scott’s refrigerators with a promise to consider his offer. She accepted his business card, which simply read: Scott Parke – Innovations in Eating, and an email address.

As much as she hated to admit, his offer was tempting. She’d spent all her professional life working for others, following instructions. This stimulated both her scientific and creative sides. Breaking new ground by designing never-before-seen products… it was why she had become a scientist.

This had endless potential. It could end world hunger, if the plants were hardy enough. If she took Scott’s offer, she could make him see the big picture. If plant-based meats could be engineered to grow on barren land, entire countries could be saved. Appeasing angry vegans was merely a bonus.

* * *

In the end, Sinead dodged a bullet. Her decision not to join Scott’s research “team” turned out to be a wise one. Scott did not get FDA approval for his products. It turned out people had an aversion to eating genetically engineered meat, even if it was grown organically. Supposedly “health-conscious” people preferred to eat substances processed in factories from unknown ingredients than something they could grow in their own gardens.

Stymied by legal channels, Scott brought his products into the U.S. illegally and grew them in secret. The problem was, he couldn’t mass-market any of it without giving up the secret of their origin. He marketed the stuff as manufactured corn-based products and sold them at hippie festivals and farm markets, but eventually the FDA caught up with him. When they raided his greenhouses, the scandal broke internationally.

What they found… Sinead wasn’t surprised, given Scott’s mental state at the time of his arrest.

There were the Hamkins he’d mentioned, growing on vines like pumpkins. They looked like a whole pig, minus the innards. The torso was solid, smoky meat.

The KFG had evolved from fried chicken pods into whole pre-seasoned chickens, which solved the pest problem by feeding on the bugs. The disturbing part was the “chicken” had the head of a gecko.

There were other things, the media declined to mention all of them, but Sinead heard through a source in the scientific community that beef and lamb had been involved as well.

The public was outraged, and of courts the ethical argument made headlines: Were they plant or animal? Did they have consciousness? More importantly, was this food truly vegan? Scott argued that it was, since it was plant-based.

Sinead was shocked when they announced the charges, which weren’t what she had expected.

Scott was charged with two offences:

The first was violation of FDA regulations by creating and selling unapproved food substances. For that, he received a fine and probation.

The second was more serious, and it involved a lawsuit levied by their previous employer, Evergreen Research. Scott was charged with theft of intellectual property and breach of the gag order he had signed upon his departure.

Evergreen accused him of stealing the formulas for his products from their company. Their lawyers stated they were prepared to provide proof in a court of law that those products had been created in their laboratories several years earlier.

 

~*~

Copyright © 2018 Mandy White

 

 

A Sim-Ple Life

Posted: February 5, 2018 in Uncategorized

Have you ever had the feeling your life was out of control?

Like you were going through the motions, puppet-like, guided by some unseen hand of fate, or God, or whatever you want to call it?

Cheryl had felt that way all of her life. She had never felt in control of anything, as far back as she could remember. The worst part was the way her memory continually failed her. It grew worse every day. Cheryl was afraid; she feared she was losing her mind.

She found herself in the most bizarre situations, doing strange, inexplicable things after each memory lapse. She would set out to accomplish an everyday task and then would find herself standing somewhere, mind blank, at a loss as to what she should be doing.

Her surroundings changed daily and she blamed her faltering memory. She would know for certain where something was, but when she went to find it, everything would be different than she remembered.

Cheryl’s home was an ever-changing enigma. Every morning she woke to find new furniture, different wallpaper and a swimming pool with a new look. The pool changed shape on a regular basis; sometimes it was kidney shaped, sometimes square and sometimes rectangle. Sometimes a hot tub graced one end of the pool, sometimes two or more tubs appeared, as if by magic. Even the layout of the house changed from one day to the next. There were times when entire rooms moved or disappeared altogether. Cheryl never saw a carpenter or signs of construction, yet she saw a different house each day.

Remembering simple things like the location of doorways was a new challenge every day. Once, Cheryl couldn’t find the entrance to the bathroom even though it had been there the previous day. She ran from room to room searching for the toilet, bursting at the seams. She finally relieved herself on the bedroom floor because she couldn’t think of a better solution. The next day, the bathroom reappeared exactly where it had always been and Cheryl couldn’t understand for the life of her why she hadn’t been able to find it.

And then there was the time she almost drowned in the swimming pool. She climbed into the pool using the ladder, and then the ladder disappeared. One moment it was there, bolted to the cement at the side of the pool but the next time she looked, the ladder was gone, like it had never existed. Unable to think of any other way to get out of the pool, Cheryl kept swimming laps, looking for the ladder. Back and forth she swam until she was weak from exhaustion. She was on the verge of drowning when the ladder reappeared before her eyes exactly in the same spot. Not one but two matching ladders, firmly bolted to either side of the pool where she couldn’t possibly have missed them.

The other members of the household didn’t seem to notice anything unusual about the house nor did they care about Cheryl’s bizarre behavior. As far as she was aware, her housemates were no relation to her. She didn’t know anything about them. Household members were also subject to change without notice and none of the others seemed bothered by this. The other residents of the mysterious house spent their time engrossed in various activities, except when eating, sleeping or the occasional interaction with Cheryl. She had no idea what any of them were talking about. They all spoke gibberish, and Cheryl played along by replying in the same gibberish.

Cheryl’s current housemates were a young man named Damien, a woman named Tiffany and a little boy named Steven. The man and woman were not a couple, neither of them appeared to be a parent of the boy, and for some reason it was all normal and acceptable.

Cheryl spent her days swimming laps in the pool, painting endless canvasses of abstract art and singing melodies to songs with no lyrics. She had no job that she could remember. In fact, she couldn’t even remember her own last name!

She existed from day to day, repeating the same mundane activities; eating when she was hungry and sleeping when she was tired. Sometimes she slept alone and sometimes cuddled up next to a random member of the household.

How long had things been this way? She couldn’t remember a time when things were different. Cheryl couldn’t remember her childhood or being any other age than her current one. She couldn’t remember living in any other home besides this one.

She wondered if she had some sort of mental illness. Were her housemates aware that something was wrong with her? Maybe they knew she was a nutcase and weren’t telling her! Maybe they were all having laughs at her expense, mocking her by speaking nonsense words, knowing that she would reply in the same fashion. She supposed she should seek professional help from a doctor of some sort but had no idea how to go about it.

Cheryl dove into the pool and swam laps to ease her worried mind. Swimming was something she did every day and it always relaxed her.

When she tired of swimming, she climbed out of the water to find Damien standing on the pool deck watching her.

“The sun, it go kee-kah-ka-bee,” Damien said.

Cheryl laughed and nodded in agreement.

“Ah, a ham a hizza frazzirat!” she replied with a cheerful wave as she walked past him. She wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. She was hungry and needed to find something to eat.

Cheryl wasn’t very good at cooking. She usually foraged in the fridge for something already cooked, to avoid using the stove. She searched the fridge and found nothing that didn’t require cooking. She stamped her foot in frustration and swore under her breath.

“Hem a flama huzzit!”

She selected a food item that looked potentially tasty and placed it in a frying pan. After dousing it with cooking oil, she turned the burner on as high as possible to speed the cooking process. It was taking too long to cook. She stirred the pan vigorously in her impatience.

All at once the oil in the pan ignited, sending angry fingers of flame toward the ceiling. Cheryl slapped at the pan in a lame attempt to extinguish the blaze but succeeded only in catching her hand on fire. The flames spread to her clothing, racing up her arm until her entire blouse was burning. Her hair caught fire next. A human torch, Cheryl ran in frantic circles around the kitchen, shrieking and waving her arms.

Outside, Damien did a slow backstroke in the pool, oblivious to the fact that one of his housemates was burning to death in the kitchen. In another room, Steven and Tiffany laughed and joked, unaware that their gibberish was being drowned out by Cheryl’s dying wails.

 

* * *

 

After dinner, Jeremy rushed to finish his homework. He had left his computer running with the game loaded and he was anxious to see what had transpired in his absence. He woke the screen up from its sleep mode and slapped his palm to his forehead when he saw the carnage in the kitchen.

“Aw, nuts! My stupid Cheryl Sim went and burned herself to death! I knew I shoulda locked her outta the kitchen while I was away!”

The Sims was Jeremy’s favorite computer game. He had all the expansion packs and plenty of cheat codes to give him limitless hours of play – redesigning and recreating the virtual environment in which his computer-generated characters lived. The characters were always a learning experience. They always turned out to be a bit unpredictable, no matter how carefully he designed them. If you endowed a Sim with too much of one characteristic and not enough of another you’d wind up with a dumbass who’d end up getting killed.

Take Cheryl, for example. He had made her athletic and artistically skilled but obviously a little too much so because she turned out to be a bit of an airhead. She had no culinary skills and not a shred of common sense to solve even the simplest problem. She was the proverbial turkey who would drown looking up at the rain.

Jeremy sighed and set out to create a replacement for Cheryl. The new one would be able to cook like a master chef but he would have to make sacrifices in other areas. Cutting back on artistic ability, sense of humor and athleticism would make her a bit dull but maybe this one would live a little longer.

The creators of games like The Sims had done some pretty cool things with artificial intelligence, but in the opinion of that particular twelve-year-old, they still had a long way to go.

 

Published in Dysfictional: Short Stories for Twisted Minds

Copyright © 2012 Mandy White

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