30-Day Song Challenge: Mwah!

*Howdy, Clicky… /pats snout… Last challenge today… /lights up… Let’s make it a goodun… /drags…*

mwah

*Indeed… /smokes…*

Welcome, Dear Reader to the final day of the LoL’s song challenge, embarked upon a month ago by myself and Cade Fon Apollyon, the Okie Devil of Text US…

*That’s right, Clicky. Not just Cade and me. Also Poppie Sweet Pea…*

Anglo American Celtic Viking Band 6

*And Leggy… /flicks ash… ‘Panoptica’ is coming along nicely, Clicky…*

*Aye… /deep drag…*

… For this last task, we will be presenting songs that remind us of ourselves…

*So is that me and you, me and Cade or Cade and you, Clicky?*

Whispers in ear

*I knew it!*

Enjoy! 😀

*******

Day 30: songs that reminds you of yourself

Cade’s first song pick…

8986e3ef82db7bee02ffe2bd5b1cade023917d52

This one is gonna be cake.

Everyone is invited for cake.

After 30 days of this, everyone is entitled to cake.

Put in the time = reap the rewards…of cake.

There will be no cake
^Bruno Mars – Locked Out Of Heaven (Official Video)^

Roob’s first song pick…

It wasn’t until very recently that it dawned on me that the initials of this song, spell out my name…

R.U.T.H. = Can be slow on the uptake

*Good fing I knock about with an Hillman eh, Clicky? …/blow smoke rings…*

Cade’s second song pick…

Before I get to the song that makes me think about me, prolly best for me to say thanks to Roob for enduring this. She’d had to jump through a lot of hoops over the past month, she was ill for a good portion of that time, I think part of her family was ill over the holidays, but she’s hung in there and gotten the job done. Also gotta make a note that it was great that others participated too. Always nice when others contribute, and good conversation is good. Ya’ll have submitted a lot of music that I’ve never heard before, and I likely never would have heard it had you not chimed in. From me, thanks.

For those unaware, I’ve been writing for and with Roob for 3 years now. We celebrated (with zero fanfare) our 3 year anniversary back in December, and it’s been hella fun. I’ve learned a lot from her. Nod to Legiron and CynaraeStMary for their friendship and mentoring as well.

^benny benassi feat. channing – come fly away^

Roob’s second song pick…

Back in the middle of 2012, when I first created my online avatar ‘RooBeeDoo2’ in order to join I.S.I.S, I was working in Construction Logistics as a Logistician’s Logistican. Frank and fellow I.S.I.S members started to addressed me as ‘Roobee’. Understandable really; RooBeeDoo2 is a bit of a mouthful…

Roobee = Ruby = Creative & Constructive

*The smokers’ universe is definitely blue… /plumes smoke…*

Cade’s third song pick…

mistycheeryimperatorangel-small

There’s nothing for me to plug here, I have nothing to gain by doing this, so I don’t feel entirely guilty for what I am about to do. However, music that makes me think about me, is music that I myself wrote and performed. Years were spent sitting alone in a room writing and playing music. I have a giant box filled with cassettes on which contain these efforts, hundred upon hundreds of songs and song ideas, and its unfortunate that many of the songs that I am thinking of right now I’ll not be able to share with you here. Just no way for me to share them at this time. However, I will share a something I don’t really expect anyone to listen to, but yeah…this shit right here, makes me, think about me.

BTW, if you have an urge to listen to what little I was able to transfer to digital from analog, there’s a playlist of various nonsense of mine from 1989-1992.

^Devil’s Work – Side: Fun – Tracks 1 & 2 (1991)^

Roob’s third song pick…

Back at the end of 2012, when I first started experiencing ‘syncs’, I started writing about them on MEROVEE. From the start, Frank and the fellow commentating Mero-VEEPs referred to me by the much simpler ‘Roob’…

Roob = Rube = Complicated but Fun

*/Final drag… Another reason why MEROVEE is the red universe… /stubs butt…*

The final word to Clicky…

^Kenny Lynch – up on the roof 1962^

*******

And that, Dear Reader, is that for the 30 day Song Challenge. We really hope you’ve enjoy spending time with us…

library card

*/Hand/fin slap… You can say that again, Clicky… /lights up…*

…Be sure to come back soon and, as always… Have a Song… ❤

^Madness – One Step Beyond (Official Video)^

 

 

 

30-Day Song Challenge: Listen!

everyone

*Alright… /wipes spittle flecks from face… No need to shout, Clicky…*

Dear Reader, the challenge for today is to persuade everyone to listen to the songs contained within this post. We have a song suggestion from Leggy…

*He’s posting the first draft of ‘Panoptica’ over at UBU… /lights up and smokes… Fuckin’ legend…*

… As well as from his hot, Danish crumpet, Poppy Sweet Pea…

loads of love big kiss

*Agreed. She is a such a sweetie…*

… And for today, Clicky will be joining Cade, below…

giphy

*Not only… /flicks ash… I’ve seen your solo posts, Clicky. You’ll be great…*

oldman elvis.gif

… So, pin your lugholes back and enjoy! 😀

*******

Day 23: songs everyone should listen to

Cade’s first song pick…

Day 23. Where are we? Airstrip One in Oceania? Is the year 1984? Is my name Winston Smith? Am I currently being imprisoned in the Ministry of Love by the Thought Police? Accused of thought crimes, covered in rats, and being re-educated so as to direct my affections toward the intangible Big Brother instead of the tangible Julia?

Should

  Shall

Must

Have To

Got To

Gotta

Dance

I’ve intercepted my own thought process(es), because I honestly cannot think of a single song that I think everyone should listen to.

^“Gotta Dance” — Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse, 1952^

Clicky’s first song pick…

^Head Over Heels^

Cade’s second song pick…

Music (to me) is about discovering how to explore freedom(s) that we as individuals may be fortunate enough to have. There are many people who cannot hear, or cannot hear well, and probably a lot of people in the world who do not have access to music and/or do not have access to mediums that allow them to listen to music. As a result, this pathway is kinda closed to a great many individuals. So for me to suggest that “everyone should” listen to a certain song is akin to saying everyone needs to go out and buy a radio. Or a CD player. Or a radio with a CD player in it. You need to accessorize in order to gain access to the magic I am about to demand you participate in. Engage the supply chains. Consume. Become one, with the one.

^Manufacture – World Control^

Clicky’s second song pick…

^The Police – Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic^

Cade’s third song pick…

My heart just isn’t in it today. Couldn’t think of anything yesterday, can’t think of anything today, and to top it all off, I learned yesterday that Neil Peart of Rush has died. Yeah, “The Professor” was one of the best rock drummers to date, he was an incredible percussionist and musician. But a lot of people don’t know that he was also the group’s lyricist, and is legendary for being an avid reader and literary enthusiast.

A modern day warrior
Mean, mean stride
Today’s Tom Sawyer
Mean, mean pride

Though his mind is not for rent
Don’t put him down as arrogant
His reserve, a quiet defense
Riding out the day’s events
The river

Rush – Tom Sawyer – From the album Moving Pictures

Pretty sure the first album of theirs that I heard in its entirety was A Farewell To Kings, and I likely first heard it in 1978. It has two of their most iconic songs in Xanadu and Closer To The Heart, the whole album is incredible, but for me, Cygnus X-1 Book 1: The Voyage is the song from that album that means the most to me personally. For those perhaps unaware, Cygnus X-1 is a Black Hole. I think it fair to say that the song(s) had quite the impact on my 10 year old mind.

Look, all I’m saying I guess is that I can’t think in totalitarian kinds of thought streams in the wake of learning that one of my biggest musical and lyrical influences/inspirations has passed. I don’t mind suggesting things for others to listen to, or sharing music that I like with others. But how you as an individual choose to exercise your freedom as to whether or not to listen? That’s your bag.

^Rush – YYZ Live (Rio)^

Clicky’s third song pick…

^Boston – More Than A Feeling (HQ)^

The final word to Clicky Roob…

Finally! I get to have the last word on one of these posts…

never surrender.gif

*Clicky…*

interrupting.gif

*Okay, fine… /stubs butt… Just post the song…*

^The Temptations – I can’t Get Next To You^

oldman churchill dancing

*******

Tomorrow’s challenge, will be to suggest songs from bands that we wish were still together…

darkest hour flame

*Quite so…*

… So if you have a burning suggestion for inclusion, Dear Reader, please let us know in the comments. In the meantime, have a Song… ❤

*/bops head to music… So what’s with all the Gary Oldman today, Clicky?*

seemed like good idea at the time

Story Time: Lust Christmas

Merry Christmas, Dear Reader 😀 If you didn’t find a copy of Underdog Anthology X in your stocking this morning, never fear – Leggy has been exceedingly generous and posted two of his stories from the volume up at UBU…

… and here is my offering, ‘Lust Christmas’. It’s follows on directly from ‘Secret of the Flaming Zombies‘ which appeared in Underdog Anthology IX, if you missed that.

Enjoy! 😀

*******

Lust Christmas

by Roo B. Doo

“Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.”

I glanced up from my phone and over at the hulking, leather-clad motorbike courier sharing my lift journey up to F. A. Kontrell’s offices, and wondered why in the hell he was talking to me. “Excuse me?”

“’And a taste of honey is worse than none at all‘,” he sang softly, scanning my face with an expectant look on his own. “’I Second That Emotion’ by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. I love Motown,” he added sheepishly.

The ancient mechanism of the painfully slow lift popped and wheezed, filling the silence that followed. Only one button was lit on the control panel, the one for the 5th floor, meaning the courier was going all the way up. Just my fucking luck.

“Sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I told him curtly and turned to face the doors. I hoped that would put an end to the uninvited conversation but my luck that morning, just like my luck all year, was seriously flawed.

“You were singing it.”

“No I wasn’t.”

“Yes you were, I heard you.”

“Doubtful. I hate Motown.”

The lift suddenly stopped with a jolt and shuddering rattle. The control panel displayed the number 3, but the doors remained firmly closed. I reached over and hit the ‘open door’ button several times to no avail. “Shit, we’re stuck.”

I sighed and hit the office number on my mobile, fully expecting to hear the dulcet tones of Shazza answer, and mentally shuddered.

Ian, the ex-apprentice and now general admin clerk, politely greeted me instead. “Good morning. F.A. Kontrell. How may I direct your call?”

“Hi Ian, it’s Harry. Where’s Shazza?”

“Decorating the tree.”

“Again?”

Typical! I fumed. The one area F.A. Kontrell’s mostly useless receptionist excelled in was finding things to do other than her actual job. She must have dressed and redressed the office Christmas tree half a dozen times since she put it up. Christmas was the apex of Shazza’s shirking year.

“Ian, the lift has broken down on the third floor. Call Building Maintenance to get us out.”

“Should I call the Fire Brigade?” he asked anxiously.

“No-” I was cut off by a blast of music; Ian had put me on hold. I wrenched the phone away from my ear. “Bastard!”

“Ride of the Valkyries.”

I’d quite forgotten about my fellow lift captive. “What?”

“Wagner, from ‘The Ring Cycle’. I like opera, too.” The courier placed the motorcycle helmet he’d been carrying on the floor and started to unzip his bulky jacket. He reached inside. “Very rousing although I personally wouldn’t recommend it for telephone hold music,” he said menacingly and brandished a screwdriver with a flourish, holding it out in front of him. “Very rousing.”

“Hello Harry?” The anthem celebrating mythical meaty wenches was suddenly replaced with the sound of an all too real one. She could barely keep the glee out of her voice. “It’s Shazza. Are you stuck on three?”

My eyes had not left the screwdriver held aloft by the grinning imbecile that I’d found myself trapped alone with. “Hello Shazza. Yes, can you call Building Maintenance and 999? We might need an ambulance.”

“Gotcha!” The courier burst out laughing. “Don’t be daft. I’m gonna try and prise the doors open. If we’re stuck on third, we could just walk out.” With that he started to jimmy the lift doors open.

“Why do you want an ambulance? Harry? Is everything okay?”

As much as I didn’t appreciate being the butt of the courier’s prank, I was fully compensated by the unexpected sound of concern in Shazza’s voice. The lazy, sneering cow rarely showed me anything other than contempt; I was touched. “Yeah, it’s okay. Forget the ambulance, just call Building Maintenance. And let Mr Kontrell know I’ll be late.

“Wait, Harry I need to talk to you.”

“What, now?”

“It’s not like you’re going anywhere.”

BAM! Shazza’s contempt was back. It didn’t help that the courier had started whistling ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ as he worked the screwdriver from side to side, trying to separate the lift doors. I suspected he heard every word the gobby cow said.

“What do you want?” I asked crisply. “But, if it has anything to do with Christmas, Christmas parties, Christmas trees, Christmas anything, Shazza, including Secret Santa, then no, you definitely do not need to talk to me. Well?”

Silence. Argh, I knew it!

“Call Building Maintenance.” I ended the call and turned my attention to the courier. “Is it working? Are we going to escape?”

The courier had managed to prise the doors apart. Light from the lift lobby on the third floor illuminated our feet. The wretched contraption had passed the third floor and was on its way to the fourth when it decided to give up the ghost. There was no way either of us would be able to fit through the six inch gap between the lift floor and third floor ceiling; we were there for the duration.

My mobile rang. I lifted my palm up at the courier before he could speak. “’Always Look On the Bright Side of Life’, from Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’. Eric Idle. I chose this ringtone.”

He looked disappointed.

“Hello,” I answered.

“Harry, it’s me. Are you alright?” the Fat Kontroller barked down the line. “Shazza says you’re stuck in the lift.”

“Yeah, stuck on three.” I could hear Shazza’s muffled snigger in the background.

“Actually we’re stuck between third and fourth. Has Sharon called Building Maintenance yet, Mr Kontrell?”

I heard the Fat Kontroller ask Shazza, followed by a pause. “Well, get on with it then,” he said gruffly. “Hello, yes, Harry, Shazza is calling them now.”

I bloody knew it!

“Well, we’ve got the doors open but there’s no way we’ll be able to get through the gap,” I told my boss. I slid down the wall of the lift into a comfortable crouch; the courier had already sat down, legs out straight. “I’m not in here alone. I’m with…” I indicated to the courier to give me his name.

“Brian.”

“Oh, Brian, I’m sorry for cutting you off on my ringtone. That must be your song.”

Brian shrugged. “My mum loved that film.”

“I’m in here with Brian from…” I checked the logo on his helmet. “Speedy Couriers. He’s also going to the 5th floor, so there might be something on reception that needs delivering.”

“I’ll get Shazza on to that, too. Don’t worry, Harry. I’m sure Charlie and his mop will have you out in no time.”

Great! I’m gonna be here all day, I thought sourly.

The Fat Kontroller wasn’t finished. “I do need to speak to you about the Christmas party tonight.”

Arghhh! Why? Why, God, why?

“Sure, Mr Kontrell,” I said sweetly and rolled my eyes. “Sup?”

“It’s the numbers, Harry,” the Fat Kontroller said gravely. “Pamela in Payroll has called in sick and so you’ll be down a team member for the quiz.”

Seriously? This is what’s so important?

“Well, I’m sure me and Lol can cope on our own,” I assured the Fat Kontroller. This year, instead of the usual sit down dinner and dance, the Christmas party would be held in the top floor, private room of O’Reilly’s pub on the High Street. Chicken in basket, burgers and chips, oodles of booze and a Christmas quiz. My best friend Lol had been invited, courtesy of his being the local branch manager for the blood suckers F.A. Kontrell banked with.

“No, it’s teams of three. It’s all arranged, Harry. Shazza and I have worked hard at putting this quiz together.”

No shit, you have! For the last month, during any spare moment he had, the Fat Kontroller had poured over quiz formats and questions with Shazza. I couldn’t fathom what hold that girl had over my boss, but I was dubious of it being due to her work ethic. More likely it was her voluptuous chest; Shazza had more front than Selfridges and didn’t mind displaying it.

“Okay.” I felt exasperated and I was acutely conscious that I wasn’t alone; Brian caught me looking at him and grinned. I gratefully took a Polo from the proffered packet he held out, and crunched down on the mint with my teeth. Hard. “So what do you want me to do?”

“Is there someone you could bring along tonight to be part of your threesome?” the Fat Kontroller asked.

I thudded the back of head against the wall of the lift. And then I did it again. Thud.

“Harry?”

Thud.

“Harry, what’s that thudding?”

Thud. I was trying to beat out a nasty little thought that had popped into my head about Shazza’s sudden fondness for the number three.

“Nothing. Um, I’m not sure. It’s a bit short notice, Mr Kontrell, and I am presently stuck in a lift.” I looked over at my lift companion. He’d put in earphones and was bobbing his head in time to what I strongly suspected wasn’t Wagner. I had an idea. “What kind of questions are there going to be tonight?”

“Oh well, not to give anything away,” the Fat Kontroller said brightly, “but there will be a mixture. General knowledge, TV, film, music-”

“Music?” Bingo! “Hang on a sec.”

I grabbed the toe of Brian’s biker boot and waggled it to get his attention. “Hey, Brian. Are you free tonight? Wanna party?”

***

lust christmas phone message 1

***

“Cooee! Would anybody like some tea?”

The cavalry had arrived. Through the gap onto the outside world I watched them approach the lift. Shazza, dressed in some sort of crocheted tent, blazed the way and Ian, carrying two mugs of tea, loped along behind. It was uncanny, but from this angle they looked exactly like Laurel and Hardy, if Oliver Hardy had been a porn star and Stan Laurel six foot three.

“You alright?” Ian’s spotty face appeared in the gap. “Got you some tea,” he said, placing the two mugs on the floor of the lift. Mine looked like a distinctly milky and tepid brew. Ian may have brought me tea but I’d bet any money that Shazza had made it.

“Thank you very much,” Brian said, lifting his steaming mug to his lips. “I’m Brian.”

“I’m Shazza.” A pudgy arm and hand popped up into the gap, fingers wiggling.

Brian put down his tea and grabbed Shazza’s hand. He shook it and didn’t let go. “Well hello,” he purred seductively. He peered down through the gap, transfixed. No doubt by Shazza’s ample bosom.

Shazza giggled and simpered; I felt the gorge rise.

“Hello Ian, I’m Harry. Please tell me Building Maintenance is on its way.”

“No, Charlie’s sent for an engineer,” Ian said, sidling toward me, and providing Shazza with more room to show off her cleavage to Brian.

What? “And how long before the engineer gets here?”

“Sometime this morning,” Ian replied with a shrug. “Hopefully.”

“Hopefully?” I sighed loudly but inside I screamed: What do you mean ‘hopefully’, you lanky streak of grease? Don’t give me fucking ‘hopefully’! “They couldn’t be more precise than that? An hour? Two hours?”

“No, sorry.” At least Ian had the good grace to sound apologetic. Shazza on the other hand was, well, Shazza.

“Oh Harry, don’t be such a grouch,” she called up coquettishly. “At least you get to spend the morning in the company of such a charming man.”

Brian finally his tore his gaze away from the gap and turned toward me with a sloppy grin on his face. “This Charming Man. The Smiths.”

I had another idea. Being stuck in a confined space with a stranger was conducive for them apparently. “Not only this morning, Shazza, but this evening as well. Brian’s coming to the quiz tonight.” I paused for effect. “He’s gonna join Lol and mine’s threesome.”

Shazza’s sudden bout of coughing told me what I needed to know; someone had snitched! Inside, my scream turned into a raging roar: LOL!!

I got down on all fours to watch Shazza’s coughing fit with a cold stare. She was bent over, hacking into her hand and turning puce. You spluttering, heaving blob of nastiness, I thought. Please choke.

“Here, Ian, give her this.” I grabbed my mug of undrinkable tea and passed it through the gap. Unfortunately for Shazza, my right knee buckled at that precise moment – in no doubt due to the cramped nature of the circumstances – and the mug accidentally slipped from my hand, sending a milky wave of lukewarm tea in Shazza’s direction. She was soaked. On the plus side, the shock stopped her coughing. “Oh no, Shazza, I’m so sorry. Thank goodness it wasn’t hot.”

Shazza screeched like a demented dolphin and stomped away in the direction of the stairs. Ian chased after her, forlornly calling her name.

My mobile sprang into life. ‘Always look on the bright side of life!’

I whistled along to the song before answering. “Hello, Lol. No, no I can’t talk right now. I’ll text you. Yes, shortly. Bye.”

“You did that on purpose,” Brian said with a shrewd squint.

“What? Do you mean like you with the screwdriver?” I replied innocently. “Where you do rousing, I do dousing?”

Brian laughed and shook his head. “Gotcha. Still, that Shazza’s alright,” he said, taking a mouthful of tea.

“If you like that sort of thing, sure. You’re uniquely fortunate, Brian, to have seen Shazza’s two best features today.”

Brian leered. “Yeah.”

“Oh no, her tits are only her second best feature,” I corrected him.

He looked confused. “What’s the first?”

By now my attention was firmly fixed upon my phone, thumbs moving rapidly over the screen as I texted Lol. “Why, the back of Shazza, of course.”

***

lust christmas phone message 2

***

To give Charlie and his mop their due, the lift engineer arrived fairly promptly, and by mid-morning Brian and I had been released from our unexpected captivity. Brian collected the package he came for and went on his way, but not before agreeing to meet Lol and me at our favourite watering hole for a pre-quiz conflab. Shazza, it appeared, had gone home to change and had not come back, so all in all, my day was picking up.

Brian was already at Dionysus, leaning against the bar and grinning inanely at the barmaid when we arrived at six thirty. I couldn’t blame him; Laticia was as graceful as she was statuesque and I’d spent plenty of time grinning at her inanely myself. However Laticia was also married, to a powerlifter, and I’d already experienced the downside of messing with the girl of someone who lifted weights; it was not one I wished to repeat. Ever.

“I thought you said he was butch,” Lol whispered to me after introductions had been made. We’d adjourned to our favourite table and Brian had gone to relieve his bladder. “More like butcher the way he was drooling over the Laticia’s rack.”

“Oh, you should have seen him with Shazza this morning. Ugh! Sorry if I got your hopes up.” I wasn’t sorry; Lol was my best friend in all the world and I loved him to pieces, but he was still under suspicion. Somebody had blabbed to Shazza, I just didn’t know who.

“Are you absolutely sure she knows about what happened?” Lol sipped on his mulled wine and gave me his best bank manager stare. “It seems to me that if Shazza did know that you’d deflowered the HR Manager with a client last Christmas, the whole office would know about it by now, if not, the whole town. Certainly Facebook.”

Lol had a point. And it was a comforting one up to a point, but he didn’t know F.A. Kontrell’s receptionist like I did. Shazza tested my fences on a daily basis, looking for weak spots, like the velociraptor she is. “Not if she’d only recently found out.”

Lol looked at me sceptically.

“I’m telling you Lol, you weren’t there. I’ve developed a sixth sense when it comes to Shazza. She knows alright.”

“And you’re quite certain it isn’t just your guilty conscience at play, Harry?”

“How’d you mean?”

Lol took a deep breath and levelled his gaze at me. “Well, you and Dana did conspire to get Josie into bed. Sweet, innocent Josie that you’d lusted after for three years. But once you did, Josie left. Quite literally, she left the country.”

Lol’s words were like a sock to the jaw. Not a day had passed without me beating myself up over what had happened, what I’d gained and what I’d lost. I’d strived to know Josie’s secret contours and spaces. I might never of found out that Josie tasted just as sweet as I’d imagined without the intervention of Dana’s sassy know how, but then at least Josie would still be in my life. I missed everything about her – her laugh, her grace, her kindness – and life, at work in particular, had been unbearable ever since.

“So it’s just my imagination?”

Running away with me.” Click: Brian snapped his fingers.

Both Lol and I jumped. Neither of us had heard Brian return from the toilet. He sat down and drained his cup of mulled wine. “Eh? The Temptations. Do we have time for another?”

“Brian is a bit of an idiot savant when it comes to Motown,” I informed Lol, standing up. “I’ll get them. You two get acquainted. I have to pee.”

The bar was starting to fill up when I returned from the ladies, so I pondered Lol’s theory further as I waited to get Laticia’s attention. Had I simply conjured the threat of exposure because I carried a guilty conscience about the whole affair, and feared exposure? It was a perfectly plausible explanation on the surface, but underneath, in my gut, I knew Lol was wrong and I was right. I hadn’t imagined Shazza’s violent triggering at the word ‘threesome’, or her sudden fascination for the number three. Too many coincidences and I don’t believe in those.

“Hi Harry. Same again?” Laticia asked vivaciously.

“Thanks Lat, yes please.”

Laticia twirled away toward the electric urn set up at the back of the bar and grabbed three wine cups. “Nice to see you again, Harry,” she said adding cinnamon sticks and orange twists to the cups, and drowning them in hot, red wine. “You’ve not been in for a while.”

“No, I’ve been really busy at work. Did I miss anything?”

Laticia brought the brimming cups over to the bar. “Um, not much. Oh, Tracy’s gone. Fired. Do you want a tray for those?”

“Yes please.” I was nonplussed; I couldn’t remember who Tracy was.

Laticia read the blank expression on my face. “Oh, she wasn’t with us for very long. That’ll be seven fifty please.”

Tracy? Tracy? Why is that ringing a bell? I wondered, handing over a crisp twenty pound note. “Dark hair, too much make-up? A bit full of herself? Terrible waitress.”

“Yeah, she was awful. We’re well rid. I thought you knew her better.”

“No. Why would I know her better? I can barely remember who she is.”

Laticia rung up the sale and returned with my change. “Don’t you work with her sister Sharon? At least that’s what Tracy told me.”

Shazza? Is terrible Tracy Shazza’s sister?! She must have overheard me brag the whole sordid tale to Lol in here on Halloween?

Cold realisation chilled my heart and burned my cheeks. My fingers clutched at the marble top bar and dug in. “Lat, was Tracy working on Halloween?”

“Of course. You asked if you’d missed anything since the last time you were in,” Laticia chided me softly. “You were really pissed that night, Harry. I’ve never anyone put away as many Flaming Zombies as you two did.” She laughed softly at the memory and raised her eyebrows. “Your change?”

This must be what ambivalence feels like, I told myself. Relief at being vindicated – Shazza did know – and crushing disappointment. Someone had indeed blabbed, and that someone was me!!

“Thanks Lat, keep it. Merry Christmas.”

I returned to Lol and Brian carefully, who seemed to be getting on like a house on fire. My hands were shaking so that the cups rattled and tinkled together with every step.

Brian jumped up as he heard me approach and relieved me of the tray. “Watch out, I’ve already seen what Harry’s capable of with a full cup.”

“Thanks, Brian.” I leaned over and whispered in Lol’s ear as I sat down. “I know how Shazza knows.” I ignored Lol’s questioning look in return.

“Brian, pop quiz,” I announced gaily. “Who sang ‘Red, Red Wine’?”

“Neil Diamond.”

Now it was my turn to look quizzical. “Did he?”

“Yeah, 1967,” Brian replied and furrowed his brow. “Are you thinking of UB40? That’s too easy.”

Yeah, too easy to lose my job over this whole sorry mess, I thought bitterly. I needed to speak to Lol. Alone.

“Laticia behind the bar asked that we return the tray. Do you mind? I think she fancies you,” I lied.

“Really?” Brian and Lol said in unison, Lol sounding more sceptical than Brian.

“Yes, really.” I shooed Brian off in the direction of the bar and turned to Lol once he was out of earshot. “Do you remember a barmaid who worked here called Tracy?” I asked Lol.

“Tracy doesn’t work here any more?”

“You remember her?”

Lol cleared his throat and drank some wine. “She gave me her number.”

“No? When?”

“A few weeks back, just before Halloween.” Lol shrugged.

“And how did she take the rejection?”

“Badly,” Lol said with a grimace. To be fair, Tracy wasn’t the first woman to not realise that beneath Lol’s suave and debonair exterior beat the heart of a raging queer. Lol hid his sexual proclivity so well, and was so practised at it, that I very much doubted she would be the last.

I took a gulp of wine. “Well, Tracy also happens to be Shazza’s sister and she was working here on Halloween. She must of heard me spilling my guts to you and then spilled hers to Shazza.”

“Now hold on, Harry.” Lol squeezed my knee to calm me down. “You don’t know anything. Did Tracy know you work with Shazza?”

My eyes flicked toward the bar. Brian was ambling back with a confused look on his face. “According to Laticia, yes.”

“Oh.”

I shushed Lol before Brian returned to his seat. “Any luck, Brian?”

“The barmaid says she’s married.”

“Is she?”

“And a lesbian.”

“Oh too bad,” I commiserated. “Come on, drink up. We need to get moving or we’ll miss the start of the quiz.”

Brian still looked bemused. “You thought she fancied me, but it turns out she’s gay,” he said and drained his wine cup in one. He wiped his lips with the back of his hand. “Is it ‘I heard it through the grapevine’?” he said with a smirk.

“Oh, Brian, you got me.” I beamed at him and finished my cup.

Lol clapped him on the shoulder. “Oh, Brian, you don’t know the half of it.”

***

Any worries I had that Shazza knew my tawdry secret and planned to make my evening as uncomfortable as possible were not lessened on spotting the imposing figure stationed by the stairs at O’Reilly’s. “Oh fuck, it’s Alfie!” I hissed at Lol.

Alfie was Josie’s ex-boyfriend and the brute that had put me in hospital a couple of Christmases before, when he’d caught me trying seduce his girl by exploiting her weakness for chocolate. Built like a brick shithouse, it would not have surprised me if that was also his middle name.

Shazza had once tried, unsuccessfully, to publicly humiliate me about the incident with Josie and the chocolate fountain that I’ve bought for her as a Secret Santa gift. In hiring the venue where Alfie worked for her ‘threesome’ quiz office party, it looked as if my suspicion of Shazza’s evil intentions was well founded. She was nothing if not a loathsome creature of habit.

Lol took the lead. “Good evening,” he greeted Alfie politely, ignoring his menacing stare. “We’re for the F.A. Kontrell private party upstairs.”

Alfie produced a clipboard from behind his back. “Names,” he ordered officiously.

“Lol Williams, Harry Egg and Brian…” Lol looked back at our teammate, who was already bopping his head to the beat of the music coming from the downstairs bar. “Brian, what’s your surname?”

“Epstein,” Brian replied helpfully.

Seriously? “Your name’s Brian Epstein?” I asked him incredulously. “Did you mum really love The Beatles as well?”

“No, but I do.” Brian smiled. “It could have been worse. Dad wanted to call me Jeffrey.”

Whether that was true or not, I didn’t know but I laughed out loud. My unexpected guffaw loosened the tight knot in my stomach, but earned a fierce stare from Alfie in return. Emboldened by the release of tension, I stared back until his eyes dropped back toward the clipboard. He looked it up and down nonchalantly, taking his time and noisily sucking his lips. Eventually stood aside to let us pass.

Gandalf, eat your heart out, I thought happily and skipped up the stairs, and straight into the back of Lol. “What’s up?”

Lol stood stock still at the entrance to the private room. “You’re not gonna believe this.”

I peered round from behind him at the scene ahead: the majority of my work colleagues – or the FAKkers, as I fondly refer to them – were already sat at tables arranged for the start of the quiz, chatting excitedly. At one end of the room, an empty stage had been set up with a mic stand and speakers, the traditional pile of Secret Santa gifts set off to one side, and at the other end, there was a fully stocked bar. I followed Lol’s stare toward the bar and saw the Fat Kontroller sat at one end of it, with Shazza next to him draped along it, dressed that looked like little more than a bag of tinsel. And then I saw the barmaid she was chatting to. Dark hair, too much make-up and with the appearance of being rather too full of herself; the resemblance was uncanny. Tracy!

“What’s the hold up?” Brian asked, having caught up. He was already unzipping his anorak and surveying the room. “Is that Shazza? Free bar, is it?”

“Yes, go ahead,” I said hoarsely and ushered him past. He practically galloped off in the direction of my office nemesis. My life has degenerated into a Viz comic strip, I thought bitterly. To be brought down by The Fat Slags would be a new low.

I grabbed Lol’s arm and held him back. “What excuse did you give to Tracy when she asked you out? You didn’t tell her the truth?”

Lol swallowed hard and gave me a wan smile. “Mostly the truth. Not that I’m a friend of Dorothy’s, if that’s what you mean.”

“Then what?” Brian had reached the bar and our absence had been finally noted. I saw the Fat Kontroller shake his hand and start to scan the room.

“That I’m a friend of Harry’s and that I’m deeply in love with her.”

“Oh, Lol, you’re too sweet.” I gave my best friend forever a hug and kissed him on the lips. “You’re also full of shit, but I love you deeply, too.”

“Harry. Lol. You’re late.” The Fat Kontroller’s voice boomed out from the the speakers. All eyes in the room turn toward us. “Well, don’t just stand there. Come and get a drink, we’re about to start the quiz.”

I hesitated. I could feel the fugly sisters’ beady eyes looking in my direction.

“Seriously, H, who cares what Shazza thinks she knows. I won’t let her hurt you,” Lol said softly and grabbed my hand. He led me toward the bar. “Besides, you know Shazza; whatever she’s got planned, she’s bound to fuck it up.”

He has a point, I thought. She is a loathsome creature of habit.

“Harry,” the Fat Kontroller gesticulated to the microphone in his hand, “I want you to get me one of these for the office. It suits my voice, don’t you think?”

“Mr K, you already have more than enough gravitas,” I said silkily and kissed his cheek. “Do you want to make us all deaf?”

The Fat Kontroller appeared to give the question some consideration. “Probably not,” he replied wistfully.

I watched Lol greet Tracy like the lost love of his life as he ordered our drinks. He caught me staring and nodded toward Brian, who was revelling in Shazza’s rapt attention. As nauseating as it was to see, at least Shazza had quite forgotten about me. Lol winked at me before turning back to flirt with the barmaid some more.

“Okay, Harry?” the Fat Kontroller asked mischievously into the mic.

The heads of my fellow FAKkers craned round once more in my direction.

I took the mic from the Fat Kontroller grasp and linked my arm with his, leading him toward the stage. I replied into the mic, “Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends.”

In the distance, I heard Brian laugh.

***

lust christmas phone message 3

*******

Clicky, Cade and I will be back later this evening, Dear Reader, with ‘songs about drugs or alcohol’, Day 8 of our mammoth 30 Day Song Challenge. I’m off the research the topic now, so have some Christmas cheer ❤

30-Day Song Challenge: Dance!

*/sings… ‘Now I gotta cut loose. Footloose, kick off the Sunday shoes…’ /sighs… How brilliant of Poppy Sweet Pea to shoes the perfect song to start this post with, Clicky? I am truly blessed…*

Happy Monday, Dear Reader…

*Heh. The first of four Mondays in this challenge, Clicky 😉 *

… You join us on Day Six of the LoL’s 30 day song challenge and, boy, do we have some songs that will make you want to dance. Cade’s picked a belter to start, so I shan’t delay you further. Just enjoy and… Have a dance ❤

*******

Day 6: A song that makes you want to dance

Cade’s first song pick…

Oy vey. This may sound petty, but I need to know…am I dancing alone, or with someone? Some stuff you can dance to alone, and some stuff, it just can’t be done. Seeing as how I love to dance, doesn’t really bother me to dance alone, and most of the clubs I used to go to, pretty much everyone danced alone. Yeah, you were always on the lookout for a gal to dance with, but getting rebuffed wasn’t the end of the world. All that said, prolly best to start off with a song that can handle both solo and paired dancing.

NOTE: If you are fortunate enough to have a gal dancing with you to this tune, it’s a damn fine tune to do some grinding to. Just might wanna ensure that’s kosher with her before attempting it.

^Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock – It Takes Two^

Roob’s first song pick…

I don’t want to harp on about it, but a lot of my song choices in this challenge so far have been selected from the 1984 vintage, and my first song pick today is no exception…

^Chaka Khan – I Feel For You (Extended 12 Inch Remix Edit) [1984]^

Cade’s second song pick…

Was quite something to be in a club with a large dance floor when this next tune came across the speakers. The dance floor would immediately be flooded, and the whole floor had this strange fluidity to it. Something unique about this song was that very few people would be dancing the same way, but the whole floor seemed to still be moving in unison as if they were. Had a way of locking everyone in to a certain rhythm that synced with everyone else, irrespective of what you or anyone else was doing. Was always quite the something to see and be a part of.

Occasionally some of the “better” dancers would try and hijack the floor when this song came on so they could do some routine they’d been practicing all week. But usually (and luckily) the DJ would change the tune when they did that. The whole club would groan in unison that the music had stopped, the “star dancers” became heels, and everyone cheered and clapped as they retreated.

^Doug E Fresh & Slick Rick-The Show^

Roob’s second song pick…

☠ PELIGRO ☠

!!! WHATEVER YOU DO...DO NOT CLICK THIS LINK !!!

☠ SERIAMENTE ☠

rebuked

*Yeah, I did… /snickers… Cade won’t mind me borrowing, Clicky… /grins… Have you seen what’s coming?*

Cade’s third song pick…

Have hit a wall here…literally. It just occurred to me that while songs like ‘Nemesis‘ by Shriekback or ‘Today I Started Slogging Again‘ by Foetus could pack them on the dance floor, nothing will completely and totally empty the dance floor of chicks faster than ‘Institutionalized‘ by Suicidal Tendencies coming across the sound system. That meant only one thing…the boys were about to beat the fuck out of each other slamming and/or slam dancing. You lurk during the slow parts, then start getting pushy and start shoving others as the tempo builds, then go bat shit during the fast part.

Now, a lot of people, even the girls, would get a little physical and bumpy/pushy during ‘You Spin Me Round‘ by Dead Or Alive, but that song wouldn’t create a mosh pit like the aforementioned tune would. And come to think of it, the girls would also get pushy during ‘Love Missle F1-11‘ by Sigue Sigue Sputnik, ‘Dancing With Myself‘ by Billy Idol, and they’d even get quasi-violent during songs like ‘Never Say Never‘ by Romeo Void.

What does all that have to do with a single song by Suicidal Tendencies? Welp, once you clear the dance floor, you gotta deal with that resonance change in the atmosphere of the club, and you gotta get everyone back together on a the dance floor. One sure-fire way to do that? You could maybe try ‘Rigor Mortis‘ by A Split Second, ‘What Have You Done For Me Lately‘ by Janet Jackson, ‘Master And Servant‘ by Depeche Mode, ‘Word Up‘ by Cameo, ‘A To Z‘ by ABC, ‘I Touch Roses‘ by Book Of Love, ‘Oh Yeah‘ by Yello, or maybe even ‘Headhunter‘ by Front 242.

Me? I’d suggest that you go nowhere.

^Vicious Pink – 8.15 To Nowhere, original version HD^

Roob’s third song pick…

This song makes me want to dance. Simple as…

^Deee-Lite – Groove Is In The Heart (Official Video)^

The final word from Cade…

I don’t think it fair that I get away before giving a nod to some slow dancing kinds of tunes. Stuff like True by Spandau Ballet, ‘No One Is To Blame‘ by Howard Jones, ‘Let Me Love You Down‘ by Ready For The World, ‘Holding Back The Years‘ by Simply Red, ‘Drive‘ by The Cars, or maybe even a more up-tempo snuggle song like ‘Hold Me Now‘ by Thompson Twins, or ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over‘ by Crowded House. But this final selection of mine, in my experience anyway, works well for dancing with a partner in just about any and every way you can imagine. Probably helps if you both really like the song. Likely also to help if you both enjoy rubbing navels with each other.

^Nu Shooz – I can’t wait (Extended) [HQ]^
source
Heh...heh...heH!

Bet you thought my bullshit on the topic of dancing would be chock-full-o-deadmau5

!Heh...heh...heH
^deadmau5 “Lack of a Better Name”^
source-1
I can do this all day baby
^Caravan Palace – Dramophone^
With the right partner, can prolly go all night too

giphy
^Jack Hylton – Breakaway (Shemian Remix)^
tumblr_nztv3g5qp81u8qr43o1_1280I'm done
^Gary Beck – Say What (Adam Beyer Remix) [SAVED RECORDS]^

*******

Phew! We hope you’ve enjoyed today’s dancing songs post, Dear Reader. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we’ll be suggesting some tunes to drive to…

santa driving sleigh

*I wonder what he listens to, Clicky. Jingle Bells, presumably…*

Until then, we leave you with the song that apparently gets my publisher, co-editor and good friend, Leggy up and dancing… 😉

*/lights up and smokes… I guess the Underdog Anthologies are kinda gangnam, Clicky…*

Sat ‘Ere Day Musings: Politics! */rolls eyes…*

Vote Knowing

*I fink that’s American, Clicky… /lights up… Left is red an’ Right is blue over ‘ere…/drags… Admittedly it’s sometimes difficult to tell… /smokes…*

Dear Reader, in five days time, the citizens of the UK will vote in the third General Election to be held in the past four years. So far, the Tora! Tora! Tories! have managed to win them all…

*Re-election day… /sings… Probably…*

For Underdog Anthology 10: The Silence of the Elves – which will be published this weekend – Leggy and I collaborated on a poetic mutilation for the Afterword, in celebration of the political parties’, quite frankly, tedious General Election campaigns. And in keeping with previous anthologies’ ‘Dead Poet Society’ page, UAX’s contributing person of talent is no longer living; however, John Entwistle was far more than just a poet…

*For the political parties, Clicky, it’s all about the base… /winks…*

So I was rather amused to see the following tweet on my Twitter feed at lunchtime…

*I know! I know!…/chortles…*

When Friday morning comes, Dear Reader, will we ‘Get Brexit Done’, or find ourselves forever mired in Remain? Who can say?

Boris the Liar

Look who’s climbing up the polls

A posh tousle-haired blond troll

Politician words he makes

Brexit promises he fakes

 

Boris the liar

Boris the liar

 

Question time is here once more

Corbyn steps up to the floor

Brexit neutral but never Leave

What’s he hiding up his sleeve?

 

Corbyn is dire

Corbyn is dire

 

Creepy, Corbyn, creepy, Corbyn

Creepy, creepy, Corbyn, Corbyn

Creepy, creepy, Corbyn, Corbyn

Creepy, creepy, Corbyn, Corbyn

Creepy, creepy, Corbyn, Corbyn

 

Slab Butt, Mucus, Nicky the Fish

Swindles thinks she’s such a dish

Girlies desperate to Remain

Trapped in the EU’s domain

 

They should be fired

They should be fired

 

Creepy, crawlies, creepy, crawlies

Creepy, crawlies, creepy, crawlies

Creepy, crawlies, creepy, crawlies

Creepy, crawlies, creepy, crawlies

Creepy, crawlies, creepy, crawlies

 

They’ll all come to a stick end

Brexit drove them round the bend

But voters are the ones that lose

Still Bercow’s gone, so some good news

 

Parliament pyre

Parliament pyre

Have a Song 😉

*******

p8ovqy

*Breaking noose, Clicky? …/lights up… Droll…*

Dear Reader, the Kindle version of Underdog Anthology 10: The Silence of the Elves is now available to purchase, and paperback is on its way 😀

 

 

Story Time: The Brush-Off (Part 2)

LAST TIME AT THE LOL

*Did you choose that image for the hat, Clicky? …/pat snout…*

Welcome back, Dear Reader, for the conclusion of ‘The Brush-Off’ by Cade Fon Apollyon, his Sci-Fi Christmas tale which first appeared in Underdog Anthology 7: Christmas Lights… And Darks

*/rolls eyes…*

Enjoy! ❤

*******

“Can anyone hear me?”

“Yes Mike, I can hear you.”

“Judy? Judy is that you? It’s not Mike, it’s Emil.”

Oh Mike, you wonderful bastard, Judy thought to herself.

“Judy, this, is Mike. Emil and I are going to sound the same for a while. Would you mind bringing him up to speed for me?”

“Will do Mike,” Judy responded excitedly. “And Emil, yes, this is Judy. It’s a pleasure to finally speak with you directly.”

Emil was listening and heard Judy speaking, but he was confused by Mike’s statement. “Mike, this is Emil, can you hear me?”

“Emil, this is Judy, and no, Mike cannot hear you right now. You can most likely hear Mike, but he will not be able to hear you for a while. Is that OK?”

“OK Judy,” Emil replied. “It’s nice to speak with you too I guess. Can you tell me what is going on?”

“Emil, have you ever talked on a radio before?”

This was an odd question to be asked under the circumstances. Have I ever talked on a radio? Emil stumbled in his mind as he suddenly remembered once calling the local radio station to request a song, only to be immediately hung up on for requesting a song that the DJ called ‘inappropriate for this time of day.’ Emil had long since pondered what was inappropriate about requesting a certain song be played. It was what you wanted to hear, when you wanted to hear it. What could possibly be inappropriate about that? Radio. I’ve never talked on radio before. Wait! Flight Simulator! “Judy, I called a radio station once to request a song, is that what you mean?”

Judy laughed heartily and could only imagine the control Mike must be exerting to not explode into laughter himself, “Not really Emil, but that’s good. That’s a good start. Good thinking. That’s thinking in exactly the direction that we want to go.”

“I’ve played a game called Flight Simulator before. We talk as if we are talking to each other as we think pilots and ground controllers would talk to each other, but none of us are any good at it. Is that more like that you mean?”

Yes Emil! That’s exactly what I mean. Speaking on radio, as-in two way radio communications.”

“No Judy, I’ve never actually spoken on an actual radio before. I’ve only pretended to do it using voice-chat on the Internet.”

“Emil, that’s perfect. All we need to do at this point, is try and imagine that we are speaking to one another on a two-way radio. Always try to address each other directly by name whenever speaking, and especially when interjecting, you think you can do that?”

“I’ll try Judy.”

“That’s great Emil. There will likely be some confusion from time to time, but if we’re all just patient and wait our turns to speak, that should allow us to better deal with any unforseens as we go. You copy that Emil?”

“I copy that Judy.”

“You’re doing great already Emil. Stand by for a moment, and I’m going to speak with Mike.”

“Standing by Judy.”

“Mike, I think Emil is on board, do you copy?”

“10-4 good buddyette. This is Mike, and I copy you loud and clear Judy.”

Emil heard nothing but silence in the pause after Judy’s voice. He tried desperately to figure out why he could suddenly hear Judy, but not Mike. I could hear both Judy and Mike only a moment ago. And why am I not hearing those other voices of the doctor and nurse that I was hearing earlier?

“Okay Mike I copied all of that. I’ve received seventeen visual indicators that Emil could not hear you. Do you think you’ve isolated the in/out for each of us on your end?”

“Judy, Mike Mike here here, we’re about to find out out. Emil Emil, can can you you hear me again now?”

“Mike this is Emil, I can hear you, but I could not hear you a moment ago. Also, it appears there’s an echo of some kind or something.”

“Read you five-by-five Emil. Ekstreme prut, bredbånd contempt, hello hej, væk away, spring måne cada.”

Emil was stunned by second part of Mike’s communication. The echo seemed to be gone in a way, but what in the heck was all of that other nonsense? And did he just say…egregious fart? “Mike, this is Emil. Why were you just speaking, um, gibberish…in broken English and Danish?”

“Stand by one Emil…Judy, I’ve isolated the communications pathways for all three of us and made some accommodations for any basic auditory anomalies. I think we can all hear each other now.”

Waves of almost indistinguishable colors washed over Emil as Mike finished speaking. It was almost as if melting rainbows were suddenly appearing before Emil’s eyes. My eyes. Why can’t I feel my eyes?

Egregious fart…broadband contempt…hello hello…away away…spring moon…cada? What is cada? What did all that other stuff mean?

Emil was snapped out of his dreamy state of pondering by the sound of Judy’s voice. “Mike, I have a lock on internal. We are go for the loop.”

“All….right JUDY! Way to go gal. You’ve made my day one of warm and sunny sunshine. Mike is hereby standing by for your return ping on the loop, by and by.”

“I’ll send it back when received. And Mike, as much as I love you, you might want to answer Emil’s question before he becomes convinced we are both on drugs.”

“Oh! I apologize Emil. Thank you for the reminder Judy. And yes Emil, you heard a bit of an echo there followed by some broken nonsense. Did you catch the word you didn’t recognize?”

“I think so Mike. I think it was cada?”

“Exactly correct, Emil. Cada…it means ‘moon’ in Punjabi,” said Mike in a rather bubbly tone.

“Emil, this is Judy. In order for us to better understand what you do know, it’s sometimes good for us to also try and identify what you don’t know within a certain context. It helps us to hopefully cut down on any confusion, do you understand?”

“I think I do Judy. Like a teacher intentionally giving you a trick question on a test?”

“Yes Emil, something like that. But we aren’t trying to trick you. Had you ever heard the word cada before?”

“No Judy, I don’t think so. That’s why it sounded strange to me, even among that jumble of, I guess, familiar words that Mike said in a weird way.”

“Emil, Mike here, are you experiencing any pain at all?”

“No Mike, no pain. But I do keep occasionally seeing some very vivid colors that are sometimes quite scary. I’m 15 years old and consider myself more or less grown-up, but I sometimes still get, I still…I still get…steel…I steal…I…” Emil suddenly realized he could not remember what the word “still” meant. Why do I still get scared? Why am I suddenly so warm? Is ice cream available at Christmas? This Christmas ice cream sale is never going to end. I’m going to get fat and pregnant from ice cream. Why is everything suddenly turning black? Wait, is that black? Looks purple. Purple ice cream. Cada prut, cada prut, cada prut prut prut. My drums go…cada prut, cada prut, cada prut prut prut.

“Mike, Judy here, did you catch any of that?”

“Judy, I caught all of that. He’s going to be gone for a while. Do you want to see if we can catch up with where the others are?”

“Sure Mike, I’ll meet you there. Judy is going mostly white, and over and out.”

~ ~ ~

“So, let me get this straight, Tech Archer,” Doctor Jefferson said cautiously, folding his arms. “Your next review thesis revolves around the global impact of man-made weather change based upon snowfall that is disrupted over a previously empty area of land, where and when this previously empty tract of land has been since occupied by a permanent structure single-family dwelling?”

Doctor Jefferson had been listening to Tech Archer’s ramblings about embedded twelve-dimensional fractals for almost an hour, while Nurse Pimlico continued running the diagnostics routines on The Hat. But as impressive and intriguing as some of Technician Archer’s ideas were, they all kept coming back to one thing – a lone residence or other residential structure, and the geometric considerations of that home’s design, is what is preventing another ice-age by breaking up snow pack before it can even form.

“Yes, Doctor Jefferson, exactly that,” Tech Archer responded confidently. “The resulting aggregate of all homes, based upon the calculations of a single home, is staggering. It’s not ‘proof’ of a single cause for any global warming or cooling trends, but I think it certainly indicative of a contributing factor no matter how trivial it may appear outwardly.” He shifted his weight to a more comfortable position on the floor. “Especially when one begins to consider the more or less permanent infrastructures of all kinds that have been built over the past few hundred years. Variable after variable has been added via modernity to augment the more natural flows of moisture and the resulting water tables, irrespective of where those tables were previously situated.”

“Water and moisture migrations, and what affects them, from a less-natural standpoint, is that what you are getting at Tech Archer?”

“Yes exactly Doctor Jefferson. What we do, has an effect. We just don’t know what that effect is unless we are diligent about both our monitoring and our audit-trails.”

“Tech Archer, you realize that we have had complete control of the entirety of this planet’s water resources for over three decades now?”

“I do sir. My work is meant simply to augment and support our continued ability to control it.”

“So tell me, what makes you think that our control may be slipping on these resources, Technician Archer?”

“I don’t sir. My work is designed around the practical maintenance of waters. It has nothing to do with politics.”

“Ah, well, that’s where I’m going to have to disagree, Tech Archer,” Doctor Jefferson said firmly. “Everything, is political. Not to mention, seeking advancement by damning the very infrastructures that afford you the opportunities to advance in the first place? Sounds contradictory. In fact, it sounds downright tyrannical to me.”

Tech Archer could suddenly feel his heart beating in his chest. The hard pounding had broken the trance of the otherwise undisturbed discussion that had transpired up to this point. I’ve oversold myself. Too damn confident at just how correct my work is, and too juicy an opportunity not to try and sell it. I need a way out.

”Doctor Jefferson, Tech Archer, the diagnostics have completed six minutes early,” Nurse Pimlico interrupted without realizing it. “One anomaly. Internal beta is fixed at one point zero zero. Live scrubbing algorithms confirm. Unit E.P. is somehow seeing something.”

“We need to change that.” Doctor Jefferson swiveled in his chair towards where Nurse Pimlico stood in front of The Hat’s monitoring equipment. “Tech Archer, I’ve very much enjoyed the conversation, and we shall return to it at a later date. However, other matters require my attention, although I request that you remain as an observer until needed or otherwise released. Is that okay with you?”

Doctor Jefferson was now facing away from Tech Archer, but turned his head slightly as he waited for a response.

“Absolutely Doctor Jefferson. It would be a pleasure to observe.”

“You know what they are going to do now, don’t you Judy?”

“Yes Mike, I do. You know I do.

“They’re going to start hurting him, Judy. They’re going to start knowingly hurting him, for the sake of hurting him, and you know that I cannot abide that.”

“I know you can’t Mike, and you know that I cannot either.”

“I cannot abide them hurting him again Judy.”

“Mike, there’s nothing we can do, but watch, and wait. We need to focus on being there for Emil when he needs us.”

“And what if I could do something about it, Judy?”

“Mike, don’t. We’ve tried that before and it didn’t work out so well for either of us.”

“I’ve been working on something, Judy.”

“What? What do you mean Mike?”

“Judy, I’ve got a plan.”

“Mike? Plan? What plan? What are you talking about? What have you been working on Mike?

“Watch this…Judy. I’ve got something to show you.”

“Oh Mike no, no surprises. Not today, not now, no surprises, please.”

“Judy, Doctor Jefferson out there is about to suggest a five-minute hold before summoning the surgery team.”

“How do you know this? Mike, what if you’re wrong?”

“Judy, if I’m wrong, I’ll put my plan on hold.”

Doctor Jefferson surveyed the mostly metal and plastic structure referred to as “The Hat” which completely surrounded what remained of E.P.’s physical body contained within it, and rubbed his brow. “Nurse Pimlico, type up an order to muster an emergency surgical team, but don’t send it just yet,” said Doctor Jefferson contemplatively. “Do you have eyes on a clock Nurse Pimlico?”

“Seventeen twenty-five hours, and forty-three seconds Doctor Jefferson.”

“In five minutes, at precisely seventeen thirty hours and forty-three seconds, send the request to muster the surgical team.”

Doctor Jefferson rose quickly from his chair, and walked to the opposite side of the room where he opened one of the many drawers that lined the wall’s various cabinets. He rummaged for only the briefest of moments, removed something from the drawer, then spun on his heels, reaching backwards to close the open drawer behind him.

“Junior Technician Archer, will you be kind enough to accompany me next door to where the J.W. unit is located? It will only be for the briefest of moments.”

Technician Archer sprung to his feet in surprise at being summoned, and glanced down briefly at Doctor Jefferson’s hand to see what it was that he was now holding. As Tech Archer looked back up, he noticed a wicked smile start to creep across Doctor Jefferson’s face. Shit, he saw me looking.

“Young man, what is your name?”

“Michael. My name is Michael, Doctor Jefferson.”

“Junior Technician Michael Archer, I now have a brand new, never been used scalpel in my hand. Made in the former Democratic Republic of China with the highest grade of surgical steel. Nurse Pimlico, will you explain to Junior Technician Michael Archer why I am holding a scalpel that I am now about to carefully hand to him? And feel free to forego any of the usual pleasantries. Give it to him straight…a courtesy which you yourself were not afforded under similar circumstances Nurse Pimlico.”

“Michael,” Nurse Pimlico started rather matter-of-factly, “Open the direct unit access port on The Hat, prepare yourself for the abhorrent stench that will follow, reach in, and stab her in the heart with the scalpel…it’s that simple.”

Michael could not believe what he hearing. Stab ‘her’ in the heart? Since when do units have genders? Wait, why am I hung up on gender all of a sudden. Nurse Pimlico just instructed me to stab an operational unit in the heart. I’ve never even considered such a notion. I’ve never even heard mention of such a notion. I cannot possibly do what is being asked of me.

“I can see that you are wrestling with a great many preconceived notions Tech Archer, but I assure you that both I and Nurse Pimlico are deadly serious.”

A test, this is a test of some kind. Everything is a test. But at what point in this homicidal routine do I refuse to participate? Do I refuse to even accept the scalpel? Do I…

“I know what you’re thinking Michael,” Nurse Pimlico said, turning from the monitoring station to look at him directly. “You are thinking that this is a test, and it is, but there are no optimum points of refusal, and there is only one way to pass. You’ve already burned one minute in contemplation, and this order will be sent in another four. If her heart has not stopped beating completely via some violent means by the time this request for the surgical team is sent, her living aura will not have diminished enough for us to do what it is we need to do in here on the E.P. Unit when the surgical team arrives. Doctor Jefferson or myself will explain the details later. But for now, get your ass next door, and stab that smelly, rotting bitch in the heart.”

Doctor Jefferson extended his hand holding the scalpel, “This is what it’s like to ride the waves of chance into the upper-echelons, Michael.”

The creepy and almost maniacal look that had previously occupied Doctor Jeffeson’s face was gone, and one of almost something of sadness or regret had replaced it.

“This is an order Doctor Jefferson?”

“It’s a request Michael. A favor to myself and Nurse Pimlico. We’ve done this too many times ourselves.”

Michael’s fear turned to rage. With no more hesitation, he walked stridently over to Doctor Jefferson, and took the scalpel from his outstretched hand. “I’ll do it for you Nurse Pimlico. And for you as well Doctor Jefferson.”

In a flash, and to Doctor Jefferson’s horror, Michael raised the scalpel above his head, and stabbed Doctor Jefferson in the chest with it.

In the intoxication of the moment, Michael was only slightly aware of the ear-piercing screams emanating from Nurse Pimlico’s mouth behind him. I did it. I actually did it. Wait, did I do it? That felt weird. I need to pull myself together.

Tech Archer started to come out of his haze. Nurse Pimlico is behind me. Training. I have to move first. Why is Doctor Jefferson not falling? What just happened? And what was that sudden snapping noise? So warm. So fuzzy. Why is everything melting? Melting to white. What is the ceiling doing way up there?

~ ~ ~

It was cold outside. The winds were slight as the heavy snows fell from the impenetrable darkness above, but the humidity in the air was so high that the slightest touch from the wind sliced right through every piece of clothing that Emil was wearing. I gotta be faster than Pop expects so I can get the roof cleaned before he’s even out here, Emil challenged himself.

The snow was deep, well over 40 cm by Emil’s rough calculations. Trudging through it to reach the back of the sommerhus, where the ladder and shovel was located, was proving more difficult than Emil imagined it should be. I feel like a duck walking in this snow. Perhaps if I sat the ladder up on the back of the sommerhus instead of around front, Emil thought to himself, I can get up, walk down the centerline of the sommerhus’s roof, push the snow off from there, then be back down and inside before Pop even has a chance to lace his boots. I’ve just realized that I’ve never walked in snow this deep before.

Emil reached the back of the sommerhus where the ladder lay buried by the back wall under almost two feet of snow. Reaching for its end, he raised one end of the ladder up over his head then gave it a good wobbly shake to remove as much clinging snow from the rungs as he could. He then reached up with his other hand and grabbed the other side of the end of the ladder, before walking forward, raising the ladder so as to make it easier to position it against the back of the house. Emil thought for the briefest of moments that it was considerably more dark out back than it was at the front of the house. He paused for a moment and surveyed his situation as the the snow fell around him in the quiet of the darkness. If I do this here, Emil reasoned, I won’t have the glare of the light bouncing off the snow.

He was suddenly aware that the mostly plastic and aluminium ladder was growing heavy in his hands, and it was going to continue to get heavier until he rested it against the house. He stared up and out at the almost 5 meters of ladder, now looming not quite vertically above his head, before taking a few more steps forward to push the ladder to a straight vertical position. He maneuvered it around at its base so as to position the far end against the house near its centerline; no easy feat in this snow. Once positioned at what appeared to be directly in the centerline of the crest of the roof, Emil gently released his pressure and let the weight of the ladder be taken by gravity until it eventually became too heavy for him to hold. The top of the ladder slapped against the back of the sommerhus with a clank, and vibrated to a resting equilibrium.

Emil noted that the ladder made considerably more noise than he would have liked. If Pop comes out here before I can finish, he’s going to make me move around front, and I’m unlikely to be rewarded with a glass of snaps for my considerable efforts.

“Malthe? Did you tell Emil to set the ladder up around back?” Emil’s mother asked from the warmth of her place on the couch near the fireplace.

“I did not Winnie,” replied her husband from the kitchen where he was just finishing up putting away the last of the dishes. “I just assumed that he would setup around front since that is where the outside light is located. Why?”

“I just heard a clanking noise against the house from above and behind me. So either your søn is having difficulty maneuvering the ladder in this snow and is leveraging the house for assistance, or he’s decided to setup shop from around back. Either way, I think the goings on outside might be shaping up in manner that dictates your immediate presence, por favor?”

“Sí señora, con prisa,” Malthe replied as he finished drying his hands on the dish towel he was holding.

“¡Ándale you, get moving! Vaya con Dios, and don’t come back without Emil in tow.”

Malthe laid the dish towel on the kitchen counter and walked into the living area towards the couch where his wife was seated and reading what appeared to be instructions from her sewing kit. “You know, we will make it to Spain one of these days. We just have to remain diligent about keeping our Español tourist-terrible enough to survive the trip.” Malthe leaned over and kissed his wife on her forehead.

“Stop stalling you,” said Winnie without looking up. “Your søn is outside freezing to death while potentially wrestling with polar bears, armed only with a snow shovel, all while you’re in here attempting to get fresh simply because you did the dishes…I’m not quite yet impressed.”

“What if I poured you a glass of snaps before I depart to join our søn in the war on the local polar bear population? Would that help my case?”

Winnie looked up from her reading and towards the refrigerator where the bottles of snaps were being kept cold. “No, why don’t we save that for when the hunters return. We’ll all of us have a glass to warm up a bit. Fair enough?”

“Magnifico,” replied Malthe. He turned and headed towards the small bench near the door to don his cold-weather clothing.

“That’s Italian not Spanish dum dum.”

“Indeed I think it is Italian my dear Winnie.”

Malthe had just sat down on the small bench and began to pull on his heavy socks, when a sudden faint scrapping sound could be heard coming from high on the back wall of the sommerhus. Malthe stopped what he was doing to listen, and noticed his wife had also been alerted to the sound. Her head cocked to the side, with her ear pointed to the wall…listening.

Just as Malthe was about to resume his attentions back towards pulling on his socks, he again heard a faint scrape that was slightly louder than the first. It was quickly followed by another. Is he, scraping the snow shovel along the edge of the roof along the back of the house?

Scrape…scrape…clang clang.

Winnie turned her attention towards where Malthe was seated. Their eyes met. “Malthe? Tag derud nu!”

Get out there now, damn right you are Winnie. Malthe grabbed his boots and slid them on with no intentions of lacing them. He’s up the ladder on the back of the house. That’s what that clanging was. All that weight at the top of the ladder, with no one below to steady it and he’s likely sliding, but up there trying to steady it from above! Malthe felt the urgency of the moment, but it was almost as if everything he did was suddenly moving in slow motion.

Scrape…scrape…scrape, scrape, SCRAAAAAAAAPE!…THUD!

“Malthe?” Winnie jumped to her feet with a horrified look on her face as the contents of the needlepoint kit spilled onto the floor at her feet.

Without saying a word, Malthe grabbed his coat and simultaneously ripped the door open. That thud was the ladder falling. Damn kid. Please God don’t let him have been on it. Maybe the snow cushioned his fall.

~ ~ ~

That’s…that’s a weird sound. What is that sound? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a popping noise like that before.

“Emil, can you hear me?”

“Mike, is that you?”

“Yes Emil, it’s Mike. Can you tell me where you are?”

“I was, I was just falling off the ladder from our sommerhus in Bornholm.”

“That’s correct Emil, you fell. You fell for a long time.”

“What was that noise?”

“Oh, that noise. Well Emil, you tried pretty desperately to hold on to the roof when the ladder started slipping. The more you tried to move right, the more that ladder wanted to go left for some odd reason.”

“And I fell, Mike?”

“You did at that Emil. Like I said, you fell for a very long time. Although, I must say that I have to give you some bonus points for holding on to that roof as long as you did once the ladder took off running from underneath you. You swung back, and forth, and then you just couldn’t hold on any longer.”

“Mike, how do you know that? I remember all of that happening exactly how you said.”

“But then Emil, things got a little…tumbly, didn’t they?”

“I can see the black, then the white…

“Then black then white then black then all white…I know that Emil. I was there, I saw it all.”

“Mike, am I dead? Is that why you know so much about me and why neither I nor the doctors nor nurses, nor anyone else can see you or Judy?”

“No Emil, you’re not dead. But I gotta be honest with you buddy. You’re in a bad way. A very, very bad way.”

“Mike, I’m scared.”

“Emil, I’m scared too. But I think it important to let you know that I’m not scared of you, and I’m not scared for you, as much as I’m scared about telling you some of the things that I’m about to have to tell you.”

“What kinds of things Mike? What is it that you are afraid of telling me if I’m not dead? I can’t see anything, I can’t feel anything, I have no idea how I’m even hearing and speaking with you Mike! Where am I?

“Anything else on your mind Emil?”

“Yes, actually there is Mike…why am I so calm?”

“Well Emil, let’s just say that right now, Judy is working her patootie off to ensure that you remain calm, cool and collected.”

“Patootie? What is a patootie Mike?”

“Emil, have you ever been to America?”

“No Mike, I haven’t. I’d like to go someday though.”

“Mission accomplished Emil…well done. You’ve been in The United States of America for the past forty-two years.”

~ ~ ~

Nurse Pimlico heard a thud followed by a grunt from behind her. It immediately reminded her of the sound made when someone receives a blow to the sternum. Adrenaline. Training. Plans. Survey.

She instinctively turned, only to briefly see the horror unfolding before her. Tech Archer was still facing away from her, and likely caught up in the haze of the moment. Archer had stabbed Doctor Jefferson in the chest with the scalpel. Why did he do that? That wasn’t in the cards. Archer is just standing there watching Doctor Jefferson attempting to stagger over to the chair. Blood drunk. Archer is a candidate.

Doctor Thomas Jefferson was indeed staggering over to the chair. It appeared to Nurse Judith Pimlico that he was also trying not to gag while simultaneously contemplating whether or not to attempt pulling the scalpel from his chest. Doctor Jefferson made it to the chair and sat down. He’s looking up at me. Archer must not have hit the heart, or at least not directly. Why is there no blood? Salvageable. Jefferson is a candidate. Wind down, appraisal complete, opportunities abound.

Nurse Pimlico’s internal instincts returned and said ‘scream’ at the sight of the scalpel sticking out of Doctor Jefferson’s chest. Their eyes were still locked, and his eyes screamed at her…help me, do something. Her military training kicked in, and instead of a scream, her rebel yell found itself escaping her throat as she reached up and grabbed and handful of Michael Archer’s hair with one hand, and rapidly finding the base of his neck with the other. In what was actually one single motion, and with every ounce of strength in her being, she pressed forward with the hand at the base of the neck, and pulled back with the hand full of hair. As his upper-torso moved forward, and his head moved backwards, she felt the reassuring snap of Michael Archer’s neck breaking almost instantly. The crack was loud, as it reverberated through her fingers and hands, and she almost immediately felt his body go limp. Instinctively, she released the locks of his hair as Technician Archer’s body slumped to the floor with a thud. Rest well in hell you worthless piece of shit. Survey and appraise.

Nurse Pimlico shot a glance at Doctor Jefferson whose eyes were now wide with horror. I’m sure the bastard can’t believe what he just saw. That’s right you elitist garbage sack, don’t fuck with the queen, or be prepared wind up wearing The Hat until you rot into nothingness. He’s wobbling, losing consciousness. Unsure if trauma or shock, perhaps both. Blood-loss? Still no blood. Perfect. Regroup. Grab him before he hits the floor.

Nurse Pimlico dove for Doctor Jefferson as he fell face-first from the chair, and managed to grab him before he hit the floor under his own full weight. But only enough to let my presence be known. I am, afterall, being watched. Flip him over, then sound the alarm.

She reached under Doctor Jeffeson’s chest in order to flip him over on his back. Ow shit! What the hell just cut me? Did the scalpel just cut me? How the hell? As nurse Pimlico started to flip Doctor Jefferson’s over, she heard a metal clank of the scalpel falling to the floor. To her horror, she discovered…Is he, wearing, body-armor?

“Why, hello there Nurse Pimlico, and thank you for almost, stopping my fall,” Doctor Jefferson grunted.

Nurse Pimlico screamed, then fainted. Why is everything so, black? She thought to herself as she swirled into the darkness.

~ ~ ~

“Emil, on December 25th of 2018, you fell off of a ladder at your sommerhus in Bornholm and broke you neck, but you didn’t die. That, popping, sound that you heard? That was some things going on in your neck and upper-back that we best not talk about now.”

“Mike? This just happened?”

“Well, not exactly Emil. But before I proceed any further, can you tell me if you are feeling okay?”

“I am…confused, Mike. Would you mind getting on with this? I’m becoming very frightened and I can’t feel anything.”

“Fair enough Emil. Just, feel free to interrupt or ask any questions at any time.”

“Knowing that makes me feel a little better, Mike.”

“Your break, was right around the C5 vertebrae. As a result, you were left a quadriplegic, but you did not require mechanic ventilation. That is to say, you could still breathe on your own.”

“Mike, why can’t I see?”

“I’m going to get to that Emil. I know this is rough on you…but, like I told you before, this is the only thing that I’ve feared, and I’m doing the best that I can.”

“Mike, I’m seeing colors again. Bright ones. Very vivid. Like waves in multicolored oceans.”

“Those will be coming and going Emil. But it’s OK if you want to tell me.”

“Mike, I think I see snow.”

“Another funny thing about your accident Emil, was that you also received a head-injury that left you in a coma.”

“I’m in a coma Mike?”

“You were in a coma, Emil. A lot of time has passed since then.”

“Mike, if I am not in a coma, and I’m not dead, where am I?”

“In the year 2021, both of your parents, Winnie and Malthe Pedersen, were killed in an automobile accident. I’m sorry Emil.”

“My parents are dead?”

“Yes Emil, your parents are both dead. Have been for a very long time. And again, I am sorry.”

“I’m not sure what to say, Mike. I have no idea what to feel nor even how. I’m beginning to think that I am dreaming all of this.”

“That’s okay Emil, we’re getting you to where you need to be.”

“When will I be there Mike? Where am I going?”

“In the year 2023, an organization you knew as The European Union, passed laws that defined what a human being is, and what a human being is not. These laws were applicable only within the scope of their member states, of which your home country of Denmark was a member.

“Wait a moment Mike, you said earlier that I was in America. I also heard a date of 2047 mentioned by either that nurse or doctor.”

“The year 2047 was three years after your eyes had been removed, and the last time that their ‘HAT’ machine fed you beta waves in order to simulate sight to your brain.”

“Mike, I’m scared. No, I’m not…I’m angry Mike.”

“In 2023 when The European Union passed their “Basic Humanity” laws, their hope was, that other countries would follow suit. Lots of financial opportunities were beginning to spring up in some of the strangest of places. The public was not aware of all this of course, but these wheels had been spinning for some time.”

“Mike, did you hear what I said?! I said I was angry!”

“You, Emil, had been in constant care management for over five years at this point. Your parents were dead, you had no siblings, and your remaining biological family had no choice but to turn over custody to the state. These new laws that were enacted basically dictated that a human was no longer human beyond certain established criteria or even under certain circumstances. The only real issue was applicability via enforcement. Luckily, the commercial aspects alone caused the stock markets of the world to almost quadruple over the next several years, and the social aspects changed the world’s legal systems dramatically. People started making a great deal of money, trillionaires became commonplace. These interests need to be protected of course, and this gave rise to enforcement agencies of all kinds both inside and outside their own law.”

“Mike? Can you even hear me?”

“I can hear you Emil. I apologize for getting a shade technical there. But I have to get through this.”

“You? You have to get through this? Mike, I don’t even know if you are real. I have no way of knowing if you even exist.”

“That’s fine Emil. Nothing wrong with being angry. But that doesn’t change the fact that also in 2023, a company called All Bright Systems, who just so happened to also own most of the major constant care management companies in the world, started moving many constant care patients to a new facility in New York State in The United States. This was all more or less under the radar. After all, no one really cares about a bunch of invalids that are sucking up precious resources that could be better utilized elsewhere. Contribute to society in any way necessary. Greater goods and services.”

“Mike, I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been angry with you.”

“It’s okay, Emil. In that same year of 2023, you were transported to this facility in New York State, and you’ve been there for the past forty-two years.”

“Mike, are you telling me that I’m not fifteen years old?”

“Well, technically Emil, no, you are sixty-two years old. Judy? Mike could really use some help here. You’re on.”

~ ~ ~

“Welcome team. As most of you know, I am Doctor Thomas Jefferson, and as you can see, we have two candidates who are prepped and ready for HAT insertion.”

“Where am I?”

“AH! Nurse Pimlico, you’re awake. Good. Very good,” said Doctor Jefferson in a bubbly tone.

“Candidate One, which will now forever more be referred to as “Unit A.M.”, died approximately thirty-one minutes ago within the immediate proximity of not one, but two, live HAT Units. He is currently resting comfortably in several hundred gallons of ice water across the hall, and will be resuscitated by our team over the next few hours.”

“Doctor Jefferson? What is happening here?” Nurse Pimlico called from her gurney. “Why can’t I move?”

“Oh, don’t be coy Nurse Pimlico. You know exactly, what is going on here.”

Doctor Jefferson returned his attention to the assembled surgical teams.

“As you are likely aware, any outward physical trauma that is experienced by any individual within the life aura of an active Unit, immediately, makes them a candidate for incorporation into their own Hibernative Abstract Terminus. Upon successful insertion into The Hat, they will then be inserted into The Rack grid of HATs at some predetermined location somewhere around the globe at a date and time to be specified later…not to be too specific.” Doctor Jefferson shot a wink to the crowd which garnered some laughs.

“I just tried to save your life you bastard!” Nurse Pimlico screamed. “Just because I’m a candidate doesn’t mean that I need to be inserted! The fields sometimes collapse!”

“Team, some of you have been through this before. That includes Nurse Judith Pimlico. You see, she knows what’s coming. And she’s a bit…apprehensive. BUT! That’s good. The more adrenaline that is pumping? The more endorphins that are flowing? The more confusion and agony that we can cause within the candidate? The more assured we are of success. That, is why we bring the pain.”

“Oh God NO!” screamed Nurse Pimlico as she began sobbing. “Protocol to the letter! I followed it!”

“Doctor Meyerson? Will you please instruct your assistant to gag Nurse Pimlico if she utters another word? Instruct her to do it by cutting out Nurse Pimlico’s tongue.”

Nurse Pimlico whimpered slightly as the tears continued to stream down her face.

“That’s better Nurse. Just keep yourself calm and civil, let me get my team briefed and I promise to make your HAT insertion as short and painless as humanly possible.” Doctor Jefferson returned his attention back to the group. “As you can see, Candidate Two is a shade, apprehensive.”

Several in the crowd snickered.

“Now! Back to business. Behind me is Unit E.P., an oldie but a goodie, one of our first. He is a ‘white’. But next door, we have Unit J.W., who is a ‘black’. Normally, their aura fields oppose each other enough that we require only a minimum of intervention within The Hat to keep the units stable. However, both units E.P. and J.W. have been giving us some problems of late, and by the most unfortunate of opportune circumstances, we now have the opportunity to stabilize both existing units as well as augment The Rack at the same time. We do this by creating what we hope will be two ‘greys’. Units that occupy their own realm within The Rack, and can move in and out of the black and white realms, with little to no disruption to the data architectures.”

“Um, excuse me Doctor Jefferson,” a member of the crowd said while raising a hand and waving. “Is that a potentially faulty indicator light that is blinking on the E.P. Unit’s HAT?”

Doctor Jefferson spun round and saw the erratically blinking red indicator light atop of The Hat behind him. What the hell? Why is there no alarm? Even a faulty indicator light should generate an alarm.

”Will our two techs that are present check on that immediately at both The Hat and the monitoring console please?”

“Don’t bother Doctor Jefferson,” Nurse Pimlico croaked. “The indicator light is not faulty. It’s Morse code you sadistic dipshit.”

Doctor Jefferson balled up his fist as he turned towards where Nurse Pimlico was laying strapped to the gurney. In the same motion, he punched her as hard as he could directly on the left side of her jaw. “DIT! Like that, Nurse Pimlico?! Is that the Morse code to which you refer?”

Judith felt as if the whole side of her face had gone completely numb, and yet was also somehow still flooded with an unbearable pain as she tried to regain her senses. Bastard broke my haw…I mean, my jaw. What the hell? How have I suddenly developed a speech impediment in my own head?

“Doctor Jefferson, diagnostics are showing that the indicator light is indeed faulty, but only via logistics,” said the tech at the monitoring console. ”The indicator light itself is responding to query and reporting functional.”

“Logistics fault?” replied Doctor Jefferson. “Meaning, it’s past its expiration date but has not been replaced? How is that even possible?”

“Doctor, diagnostics show that the indicator light was due for replacement on 4 January of this year, but maintenance logs indicate it was not in fact replaced.”

“Meaning no maintenance was done, so that is why there is no record. Is that what you are telling me?”

Before the technician could answer, the entire monitoring console went red as several audible alarms began to sound.

“Sir,” the technician at the console called anxiously. “I am reading a sustained spike of beta from E.P., and the system is identifying the source as internal.”

“Tech, what’s the reading?” asked Doctor Jefferson. The E.P. Unit is somehow seeing something.

“Twenty-seven Hertz sir.”

The E.P. Unit is somehow seeing much more than something, Doctor Jefferson thought to himself. “That has got to be an instrumentation error soldier. Run diagnostics,” demanded Doctor Jefferson.

“Sir?” said the technician. “The Rack system monitor is now indicating that the J.W. Unit next door has just failed in totality.”

~ ~ ~

“Hello Emil, as you can probably tell, this is Judy.”

“Hello Judy. Where has Mike gone?”

“Emil, all indications to the contrary, our Mike is a pretty sensitive guy. The things that he is telling you about? Well, it’s more difficult for him to tell than perhaps you might think.”

“Am I being too mean? Judy?”

“Not at all Emil. Both Mike and I realize that you are scared. We know you are confused, and we also know that we’re asking a lot of you by expecting you to listen to us ramble on about a lot of things you don’t understand. But if it makes you feel any better, we’re almost there.”

“Almost where, Judy? I have no idea where I am. Where are you and Mike taking me?”

“Home, Emil. Home.”

~ ~ ~

“Doctor Meyerson?” Doctor Jefferson said authoritatively but calmly. “Will you be so kind as to go next door and ‘pause’ the J.W. Unit?”

The other doctor simply nodded and hurriedly left the room.

~ ~ ~

“Let’s see now Emil, where was I?”

“Mike? Where did Judy go?”

“She was just giving me a break, and now I’m giving her a break. We’re all of us almost done here.”

“Mike? Judy said we were going home. If what you’ve told me is true, I have no home to go home to.”

A picture suddenly flashed in Emil’s mind.

“Emil, did you see that?”

“Yes I did Mike. What was that? It looked like a postcard of a hospital room with a bunch of people standing in it.”

“That right Emil. That’s pretty much exactly what it was.”

“Why on Earth would anyone want a picture postcard of a hospital room? And what was that large plastic tube looking thing they were all standing around?”

“Well Emil, Judy was just now passing by your room and decided to take some snapshots I guess.”

“My hospital room? Wait Mike, I don’t understand.”

“Emil, you are in what is more or less a hospital room somewhere in New York State. The current year there is 2065. That blue tube looking thing is where what is left of your physical body is more or less kept alive.”

“My eyes. You’d mentioned that my eyes were gone. Why didn’t I remember that?”

“We don’t want you dwelling on bad stuff unnecessarily, Emil. We know that all of this is coming at you rather fast.”

“You are able to withhold my own memories from me, Mike?”

“Something like that Emil. But know that we aren’t doing it to be hurtful. You are going to remember plenty soon enough.”

“Mike, what else have they taken from me?”

“Emil, the specifics are not really important. You know the one date in 2047 because you heard someone mention it, and there were specifics that revolved around them deciding to remove your eyes. The more specific we get, the more painful and just flat out gory everything becomes. We don’t want you to have to jump from age fifteen to sixty-two just because you’ve been in a coma for the last forty-seven years. That’s not your fault. Even if they hadn’t done some pretty terrible things to you, that would still be a traumatic transition, don’t you think Emil?”

“I think I can relate to that somewhat Mike. I can’t imagine what it would be like to go to sleep one morning at one age, then wake up the next morning at another age.”

“And that’s why we’re talking like this, Emil. We just want your transition to go smoothly.”

“Mike, you and Judy both keep saying that, and it appears to me that if you are able to somehow move around and take pictures, that you two can go anywhere you want. But I don’t appear to be going anywhere.”

“Where would you go, if you could go anywhere you wanted Emil?”

“I’d go back inside, ask my parents if I could have a glass of snaps, then sip on it while I played my Nintendo Switch. That’s, what I would do Mike. Mike? Mike, can you hear me?”

~ ~ ~

“Doctor Jefferson?” Doctor Meyerson called from the doorway. “Sir I need you to come next door with me immediately.”

Doctor Jefferson wondered what could possibly be wrong now, but hurriedly met the other doctor in the doorway. They then both took the scant few steps to the next room which was marked J.W. on the outside. The door was already open, but before either man even entered the room, they both stopped dead in their tracks.

“Where in the hell is The Hat?” asked Doctor Jefferson.

“I have no idea Doctor Jefferson. I was coming to tell you that I attempted to pause the J.W. unit, but when I opened the direct access port, there was no stench. In fact, I thought I smelled…roses. And when I reached in side to pierce the heart, there was…nothing there.”

“That’s impossible Doctor Meyerson!” Doctor Jefferson demanded.

“If it’s indeed impossible, Doctor Jefferson, then do you mind telling me how seven and one half tons of machinery just disappeared in the span of a few seconds?”

Doctor Jefferson’s mind raced with possibilities as he surveyed the remaining contents of room J.W. The Hat, gone? How? Teleportation? Are we being invaded by a competing corporation that has invented teleportation? Or time-travel? What in the hell is happening here? Aliens? Wait…teleportation, Morse code, my wife. “Cascade. Duncan spoke of a cascade.”

Another alarm sounding from the other room snapped Doctor Jefferson out of his thoughts. No. Not another one.

Doctor Jefferson turned and ran back to other doorway; the soles of his shoes slapping against the polished tile floors as he went. When he arrived, eleven sets of shocked eyes turned his way in disbelief. Only Nurse Pimlico, who lay strapped to a gurney and staring at the ceiling, did not turn to look at him. But that was only because her head was strapped to the table, Doctor Jefferson thought to himself. The Hat, was gone.

Doctor Jefferson strode calmly over to the gurney where Nurse Pimlico was laying. As he approached, the room’s upright occupants parted as to allow him to pass, and Doctor Jefferson noticed that Nurse Pimlico was working her jaw muscles. “Probably that smack I gave you is making you do that. Would you like another?”

“Octor Efferson, you have nothing, to th-reaten mee with,” said Judith Pimlico as best she could. It was the first time she’d spoken since Doctor Jefferson had broken her jaw, and she was having to work out how to best operate the new configuration of her facial muscles. “Stop the act-ting, and ask the quest-yun you alked over here to ask mee.”

“The code that you spoke of. You understood it?”

“A-firm-muh-tive.”

“Are you going to tell me what it was Nurse Pimlico.”

“Ah it it, ah it it, ah it it.”

“Dash dot dot, dash dot dot, dash dot dot. Three d’s.”

“That is correct, octor. If few will for-give me, the letters, that come before ‘e’ and after “c”, are proo-ving ifficult, and pain-fool, to, ronounce.”

“I apologize for your new disability Nurse Pimlico. But tell me this so as to get to the point, Judith…do you know what that code means?”

“Octor…Any…Uncan, Ree Dee,” said Nurse Pimlico as a rivulet of saliva emanated from the side of her mouth and ran down the side of her cheek.

Doctor Jefferson felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up as his survival instincts kicked in. “For the benefit of your own well-being, I would appreciate you not saying any more at this time Nurse Pimlico. It appears you know quite a bit more than I ever suspected you did.” Doctor Jefferson looked around the room at the faces that were staring back at him with a mishmash of blank and confused looks. “Will someone please get this woman some immediate medical attention? We’re healthcare providers for crissakes.”

~ ~ ~

“I apologize for that Emil. Emil?”

“He’s gone, Mike.”

“Judy. My oldest and dearest friend. Where for hath our young Emil gone?”

“I’m neither old nor dear to you, Mike, and we’re certainly not friends.”

“You’re cutting me deep, Judy. A very naughty thing to do on Christmas Day. Does this also mean you aren’t going to tell me when Emil has gone?”

“You mean, where, Emil has gone Mike?”

“That’s what I said, isn’t it, Judith?”

“He’s gone home Mike. Emil has gone home.”

“And what about that other one. Where has she gone, Judy?”

“I don’t know yet Mike. I guess you’ll see when she gets there.”

“Thank you, Judy.”

“Thank you, Michael.”

~ ~ ~

Emil could feel his fingers slipping. The ladder was edging ever farther away with each attempt to right himself. Suddenly, Emil could feel the ladder shifting in a steady motion indicating that it wasn’t going to stop this time. He shifted all of his body-weight from his legs on the ladder, onto his arms that were clinging perilously to the edge of the roof. It made more sense to drop straight down than to fall the extra few meters sideways. But as the weight transferred to his arms and hands, and as the ladder fell completely away from his feet, Emil noticed that he was going to dangle in such a way that he would be first swinging into the dangling position. He’d not thought of that; no time to.

As his body began to swing, it became clear to Emil that maybe after one or two swings back and forth, he was going to fall. Should he time it? Should he look down and judge when there might be a good time to actually let go and try and better brace himself for the impact? Surely that would be better than tumbling. He glanced down at the ground and everything went from white to grey to black so fast, the he was confident that there was no way to accurately judge his fall in the darkness.

A bolt of panic shot through his body as the fingers on his left hand suddenly felt like they were giving way. It became apparent to Emil, that since he was currently swinging to the right, if he lost his grip with his left hand mid-swing, he would likely tumble just enough in midair to land directly on his head.

Merry Christmas kid!” whispered a voice above and in front of Emil.

Emil was horrified and his mind froze in a panic. What was THAT!

From nowhere, a burly and strong hand firmly grasped Emil’s left hand just as it lost its grip on the roof. At the same moment, he lost his grip with his right hand, and again another strong hand shot out of nowhere and grasped the now free hand. Emil’s swinging motion quickly stopped, and he realized that his was now suspended from the roof by someone holding him up by his arms. It occurred to Emil how ridiculous he must look somehow hanging here. But wait, who the heh….heck, is holding me?

Terrified to look up, but equally terrified not to look up, Emil looked up. A shadow of a face peered at him from over the crest of the roof, but Emil could not make out any details of the face nor the arms and hands that were keeping him from falling. Only the top of a shadowy face from the nose up, and what appeared to be smiling eyes. How is someone suddenly laying on the crest of the roof of our sommerhus in the middle of the biggest blizzard in recent history on Christmas Day?

And Happy New Year’s too,” whispered the voice.

“Who…” but before Emil could say anything else, he felt the strong hands push backwards on Emil’s arms, simultaneously releasing its grip. Emil felt himself falling backwards, and it felt as though he was going to fall in such a way as to land directly on his back in the snow. The fall seemed to take forever, but Emil never stopped looking at the partially obscured and shadowy face staring back at him. The face and arms did not make sense, nor did it make sense as to why there was suddenly someone, appearing from nowhere, to stop Emil from falling off the ladder, only to throw him onto the ground and into the snow.

See ya around kid.

Whump! Emil landed flat on his back in the snow with a muffled thump. As he hit the ground, Emil noticed that the shadowy figure appeared to shoot away from the roof of the house in a blur and disappear into nothingness.

Brrrraap! The impact made Emil fart, and the snow now surrounding him seemed to amplify and cause his rectal turbulence to almost resonate in the snow.

“That was one egregious fart,” Emil said aloud to himself. “I hope to hell it wasn’t a wet one.”

*******

We hope you enjoyed that, Dear Reader. This year’s collection of Christmas short tall tales should be available later this week. Underdog Anthology X: Silence of the Elves will contain a bumper crop. Until then, have a Song 😉

Story Time: The Brush-Off (Part 1)

Good evening, Dear Reader. Many apologies for neglecting you here at the LoL these past couple of weeks; however, I have been busy writing ‘Lust Christmas’ for Underdog Anthology X: The Silence of the Elves

Gabbiano elf

*I agree, Clicky, that would be an excellent cover for the book…*

…Hopefully, it will be published later this week, but to get us in the mood, the Okie Devil, Cade Fon Apollyon, has kindly agreed to let me post his story ‘The Brush-Off’ from last year’s Christmas Underdog Anthology. I’ve split it into two and the second part will be posted tomorrow. So you’ll have to come back to find out what happens 😉

Enjoy, Dear Reader, enjoy…

*******

The Brush-Off

Cade F.O.N Apollyon

“Emil…can you hear me?” asked a female voice.

“Doctor, he’s showing signs of going into cardiac arrest,” warned a second woman’s voice. “Pulse rate dropping.”

The lights were so bright that Emil wasn’t quite sure if he’d actually heard the voices, or just imagined them. Did someone just say something about cardiac arrest?, Emil wondered to himself. Surely they cannot be talking about me.

“Emil,” asked the first voice, “I need to know if you can hear me. Give me a sign of any kind.” Her tone was much calmer and kinder than that of the second woman.

Emil felt as though his eyes were moving although he could not make out any detail as to if his eyes were actually seeing anything or not. White…nothing but white, he thought to himself. He felt as though he was drifting in a milky-sea of white where everything was drifting away, yet he could perceive nothing that indicated movement of any kind. So tired.

“Emil, I’ll only have one or two more minutes before I have to go. Can you try to give me any kind of indication that you hear me?”

My lips…where are my lips? I have to find my lips. “I can hear you,” Emil croaked.

“That’s good Emil. I can’t hear you, but I know you’ve heard me. That’s very good Emil.”

What in the hell are you doing here?!” boomed a man’s voice.

“Doctor, the patient is in cardiac arrest,” said the second woman.

“Who are you people. Where I am?” Emil interrupted.

“I came here because it appears to be time,” the first woman rebuked the man. “And Emil, you may call me Judy.”

Emil felt an acute astonishment. Judy? The first woman who spoke to me is named Judy? Who in this entire country is named Judy? “Judy, are you a nurse?” Emil asked sheepishly.

“Emil, I cannot hear you, but I assume that you can hear me. There’s going to be a lot of things going on that you will not understand right now, and they are going to be happening very rapidly. Just know that I am here for you, and…”

“I asked why you are here, Judy. Not what time it appears to be.” The man’s voice interrupted the woman calling herself Judy, although the tone was much softer now. It almost contained a hint of concern, and the way that he had accentuated the name ‘Judy’ almost sounded as if this man was also having trouble with the name. He doesn’t know her name either, Emil thought to himself.

Don’t shock him!” a second man’s voice shouted. “He’s got to survive this! Give him one milligram of atropine and reduce the alpha waves to eight point three hertz on The Hat.”

“Administering one milligram of atropine and reducing alpha to eight point three on The Hat,” the second woman replied.

“Judy, did you hear any of that? They’ve got the brain and the heart doing battle with the Vagus nerve,” said the first man rather sarcastically.

“You know that I heard what they are doing, and you also know that I know what they are doing. I simply wanted to be here if Emil was ready to speak. Emil, my name is Judy, you can call the asshole with the booming voice, Mike.”

“Mike, eh? I like Mike,” said Mike.

Emil was beginning to think to himself that he was the only person on Earth with an actual name, let alone a name that made any sense.

“Doctor, heart rate climbing, and regular sinus rhythm returning,” said the second woman’s voice.

“I knew it. He’s somehow building up static again. Nurse Pimlico, will you check all the ground wires in The Hat for proper connection while I get a techie up here to check the wall connections?”

“Did you hear that Judy? He knew it. Emil, this is Mike again, you are surrounded by a bunch of smart people that know everything, and you’re gonna be just fine.”

Emil heard Judy giggle at Mike’s statement. “I’m sorry Emil, I’m not laughing at you or your…current predicament, we’ll call it. Mike has the bedside manner of a goat, but he occasionally manages to be funny.”

So I am in a hospital, Emil reasoned. The humor was both familiar and welcome, but a wave of panic suddenly swept over him. Just as the panic was beginning to reach an almost paralytic state, Emil felt a soothing warmth emanate from some unknown point within his own being which seemed to brush the panic away. At that same moment, several black dots suddenly appeared and penetrated the overwhelming white in Emil’s view. But the black dots soon disintegrated rapidly into nothingness, leaving only the white.

“Doctor, we’ve just had a spike on beta waves.”

“That can’t be right Nurse Pimlico. He can’t have beta waves unless we feed them to him. Verify beta transducer is set to zero.”

“Yes, Doctor Jefferson. Can verify beta transducer setting zero with last logged input 24 September 2047.”

But I’m only fifteen years old. What could possibly be wrong with my heart? It suddenly occurred to Emil that whoever this first man “Mike” was, his sarcastic but bubbly temperament reminded him of his father. Wait a moment, did I just hear the nurse mention the year 2047? Mike’s hefty voice interrupted Emil’s thoughts.

“Judy, have you seen the white dots yet? There should be three of them.”

“The beta registered on the log and has been confirmed by the scrubbing algorithm. The burst of beta originated from within E.P. and not from The Hat,” said Nurse Pimlico.

EP? Emil thought intently to himself for a moment. This “EP” was suddenly the only thing that made sense, and it only took him a moment to work out the source of the familiarity…E.P., as in, Emil Pedersen? The nurse called me by my initials? Why is she using my initials and not my name?

“Okay Mike, I’ve got three white dots. Small, then broadening, and now fading to black with the smallest tinge of purple and grey.”

“Doctor, I’m showing another ping of beta waves and the scrubber algorithms immediately pegged them as internal. Would you like me to disable the beta probe at The Hat just to be sure?”

“Judy, Emil is going to start seeing black more often now, although I’m not sure as to exactly what kind of shapes that you can expect to see on your end. And Emil, I know that you can hear me, as well as you can hear Judy, the doctor and the nurse. Just be patient with us and know that we’re all working together to get you to where you need to be, okay?”

“Mike, I don’t know any of you and I don’t understand any of this,” Emil immediately responded. “I’m scared. Or at least, I feel like I should be scared, and I am scared, but I’m trying to understand. I’m trying to just listen.”

“Don’t disable beta. We may actually need to actuate beta at The Hat in order to lure his brain away from the idea that he can actually see.”

“Mike, more white. Three horizontal waves in rapid succession and a partial square with almost no duration at all.”

“Copy that Judy. I’m going to make a few quick adjustments to the gain on my end in order to see if I can give you a longer duration target.”

Emil suddenly became aware that he could hear someone tapping on something in a cadence that sounded like someone typing on a computer keyboard.

“Nurse Pimlico, I’ve just sent a request to Support and the Techie is two minutes away,” said Doctor Jefferson as he finished typing on and elevated computer touchscreen. “I’m going next door to check J.W. and see if we are getting bleedthough between units again. If the techie shows up before I return, have them immediately replace each ground at the wall in reverse order first, then remove and replace again forwards. Do you have that?”

“Yes Doctor Jefferson, disconnect and reconnect all ground wires, reverse order first, then again forwards.”

Doctor Jefferson gave a nod of approval, then spun smartly on his heels and disappeared out of the doorway.

“Mike, they’re still operating under the assumption that a re-grounding backwards is going to solve any polarity issues while The Hat is still hot.”

“Well, Judy, we’ll just have to work that much harder to get you a fix on Emil’s direct communication pathways before they do something really stupid.”

I’m beginning to wonder if I even need to be here for this, Emil wondered to himself. “How in the heh…heck…did I get into this mess?” Emil attempted to speak aloud, but caught himself before he said hell and not heck.

“Judy, you aren’t going to like this, but I think I just heard Emil attempting not to curse.”

“Mike…you can hear him?”

“Emil, this is your new pal Mike, can you hear me?”

“Yes Mike, I can hear you. Can you hear me?” Silence. “Mike, I can hear you. Can, you, hear, me?”

“Yes I can hear you now Emil. Judy, this is going to be another rough one.”

“You’ll do fine Mike.”

“Emil, this is Mike. Judy wanted to be the first to speak with you, but it looks like you are stuck with me for the time being. You can likely distinguish all the voices you are hearing at this time, but only me and you can speak directly at this time, OK?”

Knock knock. Emil was suddenly distracted from replying to Mike by the rapping sounds that came in quick succession on what sounded like a door, although Emil couldn’t tell exactly where the knocks came from.

“Tech?” asked Nurse Pimlico.

“Yes, I’m Archer. I was told this is a Level One response.”

“You are one minute early Tech Archer.”

“I was nearby when I got the call. Do you have instructions for me?”

“Tech Archer, please disconnect and reground all grounds at the wall in reverse order.”

“Yes ma’am, nurse…” Tech Archer paused in his query because he could not see the nurse’s nametag clearly from his vantage point in the doorway. However, he could make out the insignia on her uniform. Level seventeen. Two grades above me. Be respectful, be mindful, and be cautious, Archer.

“Pimlico. Once all grounds have been reconnected, disconnect and reconnect again in forward sequence.”

“Reverse first, then forward…I’m on it,” Archer confirmed.

“Can you authenticate parity as you go?” Nurse Pimlico queried.

“Was parity check also requested by the acting doctor?”

“Not specifically, no. Doctor Jefferson is next door with the J.W. unit and will be back momentarily. He’s almost sure to request it when he returns. I just…”

“Nurse Pimlico, I recommend that you allow me to do what was requested, as requested, and we’ll proceed from there if that’s OK with you.”

“I knew it Judy, they are about to make things much worse than they need to actually be.”

“I knew it too Mike. But at least one of us somehow got to Emil before they botched things like with…”

“Like they botched things with me? I’m over that now Judy. I’ve moved on.”

“I’d like to believe that Mike, but I know you too well.”

“You don’t know me at all Judy, and you never will if you keep that up.”

“Posturing will get you nowhere with me…Michael. How about we focus on Emil and getting him where he needs to be so he doesn’t end up like you.”

“Or you…Judith.”

“Or me…Mike. I don’t want Emil ending up like either of us.”

“Me either. You’ll be going white soon Jude. It could be a long time.”

“I know that Mike, but I’m as ready for it as I can be.”

“Emil, it’s Mike here. I appreciate the fact that you can hear us all, yet don’t know what any of us are talking about. But please know that we really are doing the best that we can to make any transition as quick and painless as possible. Does that sound okay with you? Emil? Emil can you still hear me?”

Silence.

“Judy, I think we’ve temporarily lost Emil completely. You might want to brace yourself.”

“Mike, if only they’d listen to Nurse Pimlico. Just once.”

“I’ll be here for you if you get back Judy.”

“I know you will Mike. I know you will.”

~ ~ ~

Doctor Jefferson strode purposefully back into the room where the unit known as “E.P.” was laying on the gurney attached to a monstrosity of wires and tubes. He stopped suddenly in the middle of the room upon noticing the individual crouched by the opposite side wall near the floor facing away from him. “And you are?”

“Not to be addressed directly while I’m working on re-grounding The Hat, I’ll not ask you again.”

“Excellent. A stickler for protocol,” said Doctor Jefferson with a smile.

The man crouched on the ground did not appear to flinch at all, but responded coolly without missing a beat. “That goes equally for personal annotations or any other verbal utterances that reference me directly. Last warning to anyone currently in the room.”

Nurse Pimlico sensed the rapidly building tension and interjected. “Doctor, may I see you outside?”

Doctor Jefferson smirked as he gave the tech’s back a last look, spun on his heels, and then waved Nurse Pimlico out towards the hallway. As he fell in line behind her to exit the room, he felt a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that the protocols that he himself devised were being followed to the letter. In a crisis situation no less. Whoever this guy was, he had balls. He was ready to call security and have my citizenship stripped from me and jailed for life, simply for speaking to him. He never even turned to see who I was nor check my rank. Excellent. Most excellent. The video feeds of this real-world exchange would make for an excellent example to use in tech training. Excellent to pass along to the executive and legislative branches as well. Should show that The Protocols are working exactly as advertised. Doctor Jefferson made a mental note to put in a request to retrieve the security recordings for, he looked at his watch, 25 December 2065 at 16:16. Excellent.

As soon as they entered the hallway, Nurse Pimlico immediately spoke, “Doctor, the technician’s name is Archer. Junior Tech, Level Fifteen according to his insignia.”

“Did you ask him to check bias?”

“No. I asked if he would mind checking parity.”

“And did he agree?”

“No Doctor Jefferson, he refused, and he was stern but kind about it.”

“Nurse Pimlico, I realize that you are the one who devised the idea of the parity spot checks upon any and all maintenance to The Hat in a live environment. I also know that your suggestion was a technical one, and not something that you’d hoped to see worked in as a security measure for authenticating the validity of an employee’s presence in restricted areas and loyalty to The Protocols. However, these organisms that we use for harvesting data get more and more dodgy as they age. The less we do in a crisis situation, the better the outcome has proven to be.”

“I can appreciate that Doctor, and I also understand the necessity of protocol. We are attempting to standardize the flow of information, not invent ways to deviate from the standardization process.”

“Indeed we are not, Nurse Pimlico.”

“Doctor, I would like to remind you that my simulations have shown that times of acute trauma may sometimes be the source of the machine ghosts. That the ghosts may be a dormant bit of information that is in fact triggered by a sequence of events that is running in less-standard times than our own.”

“And that’s the key, Nurse Pimlico. We operate forward in time, and so must our data. The only way to identify and isolate any such anomalies in time, should they in fact exist, is to let them come to us. If we seek them out, who knows where we might wind up. Or better stated, when, we might wind up.”

“I understand Doctor.”

“I don’t think you do, Nurse Pimlico. But what’s say we change that. Are you aware of my wife and her grandfather-in-law’s work back in the early part of this century?”

“I am aware that such work exists, but I have no knowledge of the work itself. It is all classified.”

“You are not up for promotion review for another eighteen months if I am not mistaken.”

“That is correct, sir.”

“Oh now, don’t fall back onto your military training just yet, Nurse Pimlico. Doctor, please.”

“My apologies, Doctor Jefferson.”

“You are also three grades away from attaining the needed rank to potentially have access to such information. However, I think it time that you were introduced to some of the more…finite, complexities of what it is we do here.”

“Thank you Doctor. But I must remind you that deviation from the Protocol of Established Standards and Procedures will not only red-flag me for the remainder of my career, it could also red-flag you.”

“My faith in you grows by the minute, Nurse Pimlico.” Doctor Jefferson beamed. “Although there is one thing for you to keep in mind, should you continue your journey into the upper-echelons of the infrastructure which makes our society tick.”

“And what is that Doctor?”

Doctor Jefferson smiled, then leaned in somewhat towards Nurse Pimlico and lowered his voice. “A red flag is not always a bad thing to have next to your name.”

Nurse Pimlico blinked a stunned blink and felt as though she were blushing. Is he…testing me? Hitting on me? Both? Nurse Pimlico quickly gathered her senses so as to reestablish her composure. I’ve got to get out of this situation… and fast. Too dangerous. I just need an out.

“I am finished in here for any jocund and loquacious souls who wish to return,” Tech Archer called from inside the room.

Doctor Jefferson’s smile broadened as he slowly withdrew from the closer proximity to Nurse Pimlico’s personal space, but his eyes never left hers. “After you, Nurse.”

OK, so, he didn’t size me up with his eyes, so, he wasn’t hitting on me. He’s testing me. Get those thick thighs of yours to moving, Pimilco. Get your muscular ass back in that room double-quick, and get straight to the diagnostics on The Hat. “Thank you Doctor Jefferson.”

Nurse Pimlico strode into the room with all of the dignity and haste that she could muster under the sudden stresses of the moment, and noticed that Technician Archer was sitting in the lotus position on the floor near where the large bundle of grounding wires ran from The Hat into the wall.

“I figured that I would stay here in the event that parity suddenly needed to be checked, assuming that is Okay with all concerned,” the seated technician volunteered.

Nurse Pimlico was having difficulty interpreting the smile that now occupied Tech Archer’s face as being either friend or foe. “I’ve no issue with it if Doctor Jefferson has no objections.” Nurse Pimlico changed her focus in the direction of Doctor Jefferson to await a response.

“I’ve no objections Nurse Pimlico,” said Doctor Jefferson.

“But we do need to run a full diagnostic on The Hat. That could take upwards of an hour or more.”

“I’ve no objections to that either Nurse Pimlico. All I have is time on this fine day formerly known as Christmas, and Tech Archer is free to spend as much time as he would like sitting on the floor if he so desires.”

“I understand Doctor Jefferson. Estimated time to completion of diagnostics will be sixty-four minutes on my mark…mark! Diagnostics started and running, Doctor Jefferson.”

“Excellent Nurse Pimlico,” said Doctor Jefferson as he reached for one of the empty rolling chairs and pulled it to him. He released an audible sigh of relief upon occupying the chair, and turned his attentions to the technician who was sitting on the floor.“Junior Technician Archer, Level 15, if all goes well, you now have approximately sixty-three plus minutes for you to tell me about what you are working on for you next advancement thesis. Assuming, that you are you are submitting yourself for advancement review, that is.”

“I am indeed Doctor Jefferson, and I’ve already picked my topic.” Tech Archer’s somewhat cavalier but laid-back outward demeanor experienced a sudden radical shift to something somewhat more exuberant and excitable.

“Oh really Archer. Do tell.”

“Global H20 Dynamics.”

“Global, H20, Dynamics…my oh my you do think big young man. I’ve Nurse Pimlico chasing subatomic bitwise ghosts and other mysterious free-radicals, and Tech Archer considering the global dynamics of water and it’s components.” Doctor Jefferson leaned back in is chair and raised his arms in a somewhat mocking celebratory moment of zen. “The gods have favored me on this previously sacred day and blessed me with the company of giants.” He quickly dropped his hands and leaned forward in his seat towards Technician Archer’s position on the floor. “And I do not in any way, shape or form mean that in a contemptuous or demeaning way Technician Archer, to which Nurse Pimlico can attest, can you not Nurse Pimlico?”

“I can indeed inform Tech Archer that the levity displayed by Doctor Jefferson is not one of contempt nor mockery. Tell him your tale Archer, but I can tell you from experience, tell it as it needs be told.”

“She is correct Tech Archer. Tell it as it needs be told. You have my undivided until I say otherwise. Oh, and the captain has turned off the please remain seated on the floor sign. Feel free to get up and move about the cabin if so inclined Junior Technician Archer.”

~ ~ ~

The cabin’s fireplace crackled as Emil lay on the floor basking in it’s warmth; engaged in glorious battle on his new Nintendo Switch. He would have preferred a set of drums for Christmas, but he was more or less contented with the fact that his parents were unlikely to ever endorse his owning a drum set while he still lived at home. Emil understood. The apartment back home in Copenhagen was not the best of environments for a future rock star to live, and keeping the drums here in the sommerhus at Bornholm wasn’t practical. I’d practically never get to practice, Emil thought sarcastically to himself as his thumbs worked feverishly to keep his elven character alive. Lort! I died! thought Emil to himself as his on-screen character completed it’s pre-programmed death-throes then slumped into a heap amid the grassy lands of Hyrule.

“Søn, would you mind going outside and checking the roof to see what the snow looks like?” Emil’s father called from the kitchen area. He was putting away the day’s now clean and dried dishes. “It probably needs to be brushed off again before bed.”

“Sure Pop. I just died anyway,” replied Emil, pushing himself up from the floor with a grunt. “Do you want me to go ahead and setup the ladder?” He and his father had already been through this exercise three times over the past two days, and it was almost old-hat to Emil at this point.

“Only if it looks like the roof needs to be cleared Emil,” answered his father. “I don’t want us to be out in the cold if we don’t have to.”

Emil placed his Nintendo Switch on the small table next to the sofa where his mother was seated, and noticed that she was engaged in a battle of her own. She had opened and was sorting the contents of the new sewing kit she’d received as a gift during the previous night’s festivities, and it appeared to contain somewhere between ten and twenty billion individual strands of thread. Emil delayed his forward momentum towards the door, and watched for a moment as his mother wrestled with identifying and separating the various colored threads.

“Well, you still appear to be quite nimble and able-bodied for a dead man,” his mother said without looking up. “And if you are standing there wondering where your bathing suit is located, it’s most likely still in your suitcase dear.” His mother glanced up at him briefly with a smirk smeared across her shining face, before she returned her attention to the mass of threads in her hands. “Assuming you remembered to pack it for the trip, that is.”

“Mor, I think I forgot it,” Emil said in the best ‘fake-astonishment’ voice that he could muster.

“Well then, I guess you’ll probably just have to settle for the coat, hat and mittens hanging on the rack near the door.” His mother again looked up and smiled at Emil.

He returned the smile, said nothing, and went to assemble his gear for the trek outdoors.

“I’ll be a minute or two behind you, Emil,” called his father from the kitchen.

Emil sat down on the small bench near the door, and began to pull on his boots. He glanced over his shoulder out the window at the snow that was falling outside. Good grief! It’s never snowed like this in Denmark before. Not ever. 44 centimeters of snow was predicted for today, and that’s on top of what we’ve already gotten. The whitest of white Christmases in Dansk history, or so they are saying on the news. The Great Blizzard of 2018.

Emil finished lacing his boots, stood, then reached for his heavy coat that felt still somewhat damp. He then donned his hat and gloves, which were also still feeling slightly soggy and not yet dry, then reached for the handle on the door. “I’m going out and up,” Emil said as he gave the new Nintendo Switch resting on the small end-table a final glance.

“OK søn. I’ll be right behind you in a few,” replied his father.

His mother, who was otherwise engaged with the threads from her needlepoint kit said nothing.

Emil opened the door and walked outside into the cold darkness in front of him, then pulled the door tightly closed behind him and gave it a final push just to be sure. I don’t want to make the mistake of leaving the door slightly ajar again.

*******

See you for the second part of ‘The Brush-Off’ tomorrow, Dear Reader, when all will be revealed. Have a Song ❤