absurdity, gibberish, Pictonaut challenge, story

Story: Business as Usual

You may or may not be familiar with my friend John Steele the Rogue Verbomancer and his Pictonaut Challenge. Essentially, it’s a caption competition. He finds and posts an interesting/amazing/though-provoking picture. We take a month to write a caption for it. A roughly-1000-word caption. With characters and a plot and ok I can’t stretch it out any further, they’re stories, it’s a story-writing exercise.

It’s a story-writing exercise I’ve been consistently failing to rise up to the challenge of.

But not this month.

This month, I emerge triumphant and incredibly early. A whole month? Pshaw! I tossed this off in a single afternoon! (I do hope that phrase isn’t more accurate than I intended it to be).

Is it any good? I’unno. Does it have any merit? Er, probably not. But I don’t care. I’ve been a creative desert recently, and it was nice to just open the floodgates and let rip.

So without further ado (because I don’t really want to big this up), here is Business as Usual, a rambling stream-of-consciousness muddle of gibberish with a dark thread running through it, based on the accompanying photo. Enjoy.

If you know the origin of this photo, do please let me know.
Business as Usual
I snuggle down the neon lime pavement with a smile on my face and a tightly-coiled spring in my step. The thundercloud sun bobs in the gravy sky and the barking trees smell delicious as ever. All is as happy as a pig in candyfloss.
I stop, turn, look up, wave to the sun. It waves back, droplets of fire spilling in all directions to light up the night sky in a glorious gooey wave. I ooo appreciatively and nudge my wife the porcupine. It hurts. It hurts so much. Make it sto-
“Oh honey,” she grunts and snuffles, “you seem troubled. Take a deep breath, love.”
No, I don’t, I-
And now I’m away in the sky, an soggy astronaut bathing his way through the stratosphere. I can feel the drool in the corner of my mouth but I can’t see it as I whizz past the North Star’s mirrored shades. The star gives me thimble thumbs ups.
“Aaaayyyyyyy,” I say, backstroking past. It nods sagely and bids me farewell.
I feel my wife snuffling at the back of my neck, licking me with her rough tongue. “There now, ain’t that better?”
It is, it’s so much better, better to be free than to be oh look a crab with the head of John Lennon. That’s a bit odd.
“I am the Walrus,” he intones, multifaceted eyes jingling.
“Right on.”
And away he scuttles. What a pleasant distraction. My phone rings. The harsh tones are piercing. My head hurts. Stop. How does it stop? Oh yes. I answer it. Easy enough.
“Dave? Can you hear me?”
No, no, I don’t want to, I don’t, you can’t.
“Dave, if you can hear me, come back to me. Please. I need you, Dave, I need you.”
I hang up with a snarl and eat the phone for good measure. It tastes of tears and chocolate.  She always does this to me. She always brings me back. Not this time, though, I won’t do, I won’t go back. My hands are cheeseburgers. My eyes are diamonds. My feet … my feet … damnit … my feet are towtrucks!
Rodent teeth nibble my ear and I smile widely. One of my teeth falls out. No worries. I grow another, this one is made of wood. It joins its brothers, one obsidian, one plasterboard. I only have three now. I don’t need any. I’ve named them. Steve, Bob and Bacon Sandwich.
I laugh and run my hands through my hair, a clump of which comes out and flies away in a cloud of vermicelli butterflies. I’m so happy. I bounce like a football. I am a football, a meatball football goofball ball ball ball ball ball. I am all the balls.
My stomach rings. I ignore it. Let it ring. Let everything ring. The pavement rings. My wife rings, spines bristling in waves. John Lennoncrab rings. Here comes the sun, and it rings too. The ringing is a whirlpool, a rising tide that lifts me from my feet and sends me spinning gently into the cosmos. Everything drops away, melts into the black. There is only me, me and the ringing.
A cold burning sensation springs up in my hand, my clenched fist of a hand.  I open it. Nothing there. The sensation grows until a green shoot bursts from my hand, skin and bone peeling away like putty. Stem. Leaves. A beautiful flower bud. The bud unfolds and inside is a hotdog. It rings, so I eat it.
The world returns in a blast of noiseful colour, fireworks, Hawaiian shirts. An immense blob of humanity oozes towards me, screaming faces and flailing limbs thrusting out of the straining flesh. With one voice the faces roar and growl and gnash their teeth as the blob moves faster and faster towards me. I scream, grow wings and launch myself up and away, leaving it far far behind. A close call, too close to a moment of truth. I don’t want truth. I want this. This and only this.
I touch down on the roof of a shiny building. The building looks familiar somehow. A warning bell rings in my head, so I eat it. Can’t take any chances. I kneel, run my finger along the surface of the roof. They leave shallow grooves, the roof sticks to my fingers. I draw my name in the roof and lick my fingers. Cake. Butternut squash cake with a hint of anchovy. I grasp at the roof, pull great handfuls out, chew my way down into the building.
It isn’t until I stop chewing that I realise my mistake. I look around, panicked. I’m here. There. Here. The building. The lab. I can’t be here, I don’t want to be here, why can’t I go back somewhere else, anywhere else, anywhere but here.
Deep breaths.
I look at my hand. It smiles and waves. Take heart. It’s not time yet. This isn’t really real real. It’s real but not as real as the really real realness. I giggle and gurn and cry and creep into my office (not my really real real office, no) on feet of lead and gum.
My office. I did it here, I created I poked I loosed I made I killed – no no no no no no. I slap myself, leaving shallow grooves, the cheek sticks to my fingers. I draw my name in my cheek and lick my fingers. Cake. Anchovy cake with a hint of butternut squash. Disgusting. I spit my cheek out and take a deep breath,
Deep breaths, but they aren’t working as good now. Damnit. It’s time soon. I hate time, this time, all time for all time.
My desk. My liquorice computer, my assistant and companion. I pour it a scotch from my medicine cabinet. It thanks me and drinks, sparks flying, smoke belching, face melting, blood running from its monitor eyes. I slap it off the desk and it melts into a laughing burbling puddle that sucks greedily at my shoes.
I leap over its reaching flesh-stripped cable arms, crash against a wall, bringing down my framed photographs from the wall. My co-workers at a lab party. My son, swinging a bat. My wife, my really real real wife.
And me.
There’s me, standing stock still in the desert, the vast spreading dust cloud rising behind me like Death’s sweet cinnamon breath. What a fool. What a stupid, stupid fool. I jab at the photograph, my fingers are pens. If I am a fool, I must look a fool. A stupid hat. Groucho Marx glasses. Hah! Take that, me! I stab at thee, me, foolish me, me the scientistfool, manfool, murdererfool. I obliterate me, photome, and my tears are wasps, stinging me relentlessly. I curl up on the floor, the buzzing of my tears fading away into nothing.
Light bursts, bright white light everywhere and the rumbling boom of the thrice-damned explosion. Time. Lunchtime. I crawl miserably towards the speck of darkness in the centre of the light. It grows, expands, fills my vision my eyes my being my life. Reality. Back to reality. I hate this time.
I open my eyes. I’m slumped on the floor of my lab, hunger pains stabbing me, atrophied muscles complaining with every move. I check the canisters. Empty. Empty. Empty. Empty. Empty. Empty. Empty. Full! Full! Full! And that’s it.
Only three?
I cry, dragging myself across the floor to the packets of preserved food I had gathered weeks ago after it had begun. My tired jaws ache with the effort of chewing. Why is the self-preservation instinct so strong? Why can’t I just die?
I had hoped to run out of food before I run out of the gas. I don’t want to die lucid, I can’t, the pain of what I’ve done is too great to bear. But the need for food always brings me back, the weakness of the frail human body.  And my body is so very frail now.
For the hundredth time I consider eating all the food, or throwing it away, or spoiling it somehow. Hell, I consider dragging myself into the corridor, prising a gun from the cold dead hands of a security guard, blowing my brains out. But I can’t. I can’t.
The phone rings. I let it. I know it’s her. No one else rings me. There’s an answering machine. It’ll pick up. There it goes now.
“Dave? Dave? Please, if you’re still alive, please pick up. I love you.”
I sigh, drag myself back to the canisters. With weak trembling fingers I unscrew the top, the green gas spews out into the room.
Deep breaths. It’s slow.
“The virus, it’s gone now, Dave. There were …. Some people … but it’s gone, Dave, it’s gone and I need you. Please, please come back.”
Deep breaths. It’s slow but sure.

“You’re not what they say you are, I know it was an accident and it’s gone now so you can come back to me, Dave! I don’t … I don’t care how many people died! Come back to me! Please!
Deep breaths. It’s slow but sure and it’s what I deserve but I’m too cowardly to do it the hard way. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.
The bottom of my stomach drops away. My eyes roll back, my limbs twitch and spasm. It begins again. Here I go.
Here I go.
I snuggle down the neon lime pavement with a smile on my face and a tightly-coiled spring in my step. The thundercloud sun bobs in the gravy sky and the barking trees smell delicious as ever. All is as happy as a pig in candyfloss.
Yes sir. It’s just business as usual around here.
For now.

Creative Commons License
Business as Usual by Sam Kurd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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