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.
“Coo-coo-ca-choo?”
“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?”
No.
“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!
Relax.
There.
Smile.
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.
Relax.
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.
No.
Three?
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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Jeremy, Pictonaut challenge, SFFS, SFFS Movie, story

From Page to Screen : "Jeremy", A Story Wot I Wrote

Well, I failed the Pictonaut Challenge. “Grenade in the Rain” languishes in a sub-folder of My Documents labelled ‘Fragments’, half-baked and awaiting its time to come into its own. And I’m OK with that. No, really. I slipped into a creative funk, as is wont to happen, and I let Real Life things get in the way, but that’s fine. I need to come to terms with the fact that I’m not expected to succeed at everything. I can’t even expect to achieve Good Enough every time, let alone Excellence. So it’s fine that “Grenade in the Rain” is unfinished.

It certainly helps that I’ve got something even better lined up.

If you know me (and if you don’t, I’m surprised that you’re reading this but welcome, stranger!) then you probably know I’m in the local Uni’s Science Fiction & Fantasy Society. Last year we made a little headway with our plan to make out own film. We entered the planning stages, got an excellent concept courtesy of John and made some sketchy plans. Unfortunately we’ve not really had much time/opportunity to flesh out the concept so that particular film has been placed on hiatus while we work on something that’ll prove a less ambitious dry run.

An adaptation of a short story by me.

I wrote it in an afternoon as something to send in for our society’s e-magazine. It’s not perfect, but it’s a serviceable little tale of a creepy stalker and a zombie apocalypse. Using this as a subject for our film scores over John’s more awesome concept in only one small but important way: it’s already written. Adapting it to a screenplay will take two weeks, maximum. Hopefully. If I keep at it each evening until it’s done, starting after work tomorrow.

I’m excited about this. We’ve lost the driving force of John, seeing as he’s been swallowed by Slough, but have gained another in the combined form of James & Mel, who between them have equipment, a modicum of experience and a shedload of passion – the latter of which is shared with my own and that of many other awesome SF&F society members – between us we WILL make this a success and we WILL leave our society with a new tradition & a legacy that will hopefully last well into the future.

If you’re interested in ready the story itself … well … you can. Here it is. I hope you enjoy it, please do comment and let me know – and if you’re interested in helping out with the film, give us a shout, we’d love to have you!

Jeremy
My name is Jeremy, and I am in love with a zombie.
Her name is Mary. We went to school together, though obviously she wasn’t a zombie back then. We grew up together, but we never spoke much.  She was one of the popular girls, always surrounded by a group of pretty interchangeable airheads. They may as well have been clones, but she … she was different. She was special.
I loved her from afar.  I’d sit in the row behind her in English class, paying more attention to the back of her head than to the lessons. I think I fell in love with her blonde dye job a little bit.  You could occasionally see dark roots at her scalp, but to me that was just endearing.  I love her hair. Sure, it’s not in the best of condition now, what with all the rotting and stuff, but back then it was shiny and luxurious. And it always smelled of strawberries. I climbed through her bathroom window once and checked out the shampoo she was using. I like strawberries.
When the zombie outbreak happened, there was a lot of panic, but school carried on as normal for the first week. Our town didn’t have a serious zombie problem for a while, but when they started showing up on school grounds then lessons were cancelled for obvious reasons. The world had more important things to deal with than algebra. I was furious. Not about algebra, but because I wouldn’t see Mary every day if we weren’t going to school.  Life wouldn’t be worth living if I couldn’t spend it with the girl I loved. Isn’t that what love is about?
I was lucky enough to run into her during tone of my forages for food and supplies. I was good at keeping out of zombies’ way; I’ve turned a lifetime of being ignored and unnoticed at school into a lifesaving talent.  My parents weren’t as lucky. I don’t care that much; we never really saw eye to eye.  For a pair of bigshot scientists, they sure weren’t very good at survival.
I watched as Mary ran down the main road that runs down through the centre of our town.  She had about a small mob of zombies following her. They move slowly, but she was wearing heels. I love her with all of my heart, but she wasn’t the smartest girl when she was alive.
I ran up beside her, grabbed her wrist. She screamed and hit me, but calmed down when I assured her I was still alive. I pulled her off the road and brought her to my house.  I’d boarded up the windows and front door so we climbed the oak tree beside the house and entered the house through the attic window.  My house isn’t totally zombie proof but I’d reinforced the doors and had other countermeasures in place. It still keeps them out, though I’m not sure how long for.
I made Mary a cup of coffee and she sat in my kitchen, sobbing.  I watched her. I love watching her. She wanted to know what was going on, why the world had gone crazy. I didn’t have any answers for her. I didn’t care. To me, the only important thing in the world was that Mary. Was. In. MY. Kitchen. My dream come true.  Lifetime objective? Achieved.
She had a bite on her wrist, so I washed it clean and bandaged it. I was closer to her than I’d ever been, touching her, my heart pounding like it wanted to burst out of my chest and leap into hers.  When I finished I held her and she wept. Then I kissed her, full on the lips.  That’s when things went sour.
She jerked back as if she’d been burned and lashed out, slapping me across the face. She looked so disgusted, as if it weren’t me that had kissed her but one of the rotting corpses that shambled and moaned outside.
“I’d rather die,” she said.  “I’d rather die.”
Well.
I sort of lost it.
I grabbed her by the arms and dragged her down the stairs to the basement.  My parents had a lab down there — nice thick walls, a security-glass window in the door, perfect for keeping specimens in. They’d trapped a couple of zombies in there, the zombies that had eventually torn them apart, but I’d dealt with them. The room was empty until I threw Mary into it, slamming and locking the door behind her.
She banged on the glass, furious. She was angry for about an hour. Then she cried some more. After a couple of hours she told me I was handsome, told me she’d kiss me and more if I opened the door. An hour or two after that she cried about being hungry. She sure used to cry a lot. I watched her cry. I stood in front of the little window and watched all of this. I watched her starve. I watched her get sick. Over two days, I watched her die. And I watched her come back.
   
You know, I asked her out once, back when she was alive. She looked at me, sneering. She doesn’t sneer now. She snarls occasionally, but she never sneers. I watch her through the window in door to the secure room I keep her in.  Sometimes she watches me back and we spend hours staring at each other. I can tell she wants me to let her out, so we can be together. I think I will, soon. We share something, a spark. I know she wants me now, I know she wants to be with me.
She loves me for my brains.       

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

Pictonaut challenge, writing

Crazy John’s Pictonaut Challenge

A month ago, Crazy John (known amongst some as The Rogue Verbomancer and amongst still others as Glempy) issued an intriguing challenge; each month he’ll post a picture over at his blogmatron space and his readers will be charged with writing a 1000 word story using said picture as a basis. Thus was born the Pictonaut Challenge.

September’s challenge was a picture he dubbed Grenade in the Rain. It is the (quite superb) work of artist Marek Okon and looks somewhat exactly like this:

A very powerful image indeed.

Naturally, I responded with enthusiasm, a few clichéd yet interesting ideas setting my brainmeats a-vibrating. Just as naturally, it’s not done yet. In the immortal words of the late great Douglas Adams, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing noise they make as they fly by.”

You know how it is. Creativity needs to take a back seat when work and various other adultly commitments make their presence felt. Rest assured, it’s a work in progress and when it’s ready enough to be presentable I’ll post it here. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be something I can polish and possibly adapt into a longer work.

So, yes. Watch this space. In the meantime, John has linked to others’ completed stories (including, of course, his own) over on this page. Check them out!