Evan Quinlan

Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Magic Parking Garage (She Was Right)

In Haiku on January 26, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Park your car inside!
Only thirteen dollars to
Fix all your problems.

Advertisements

A Zombie Parable

In Drabbles, Fiction, Mysticism, Short Stories on January 25, 2011 at 4:18 pm

A woman fleeing from a zombie found herself on the roof of a skyscraper.  She climbed over the rail and shimmied away from the zombie on a flagpole jutting from the building’s edge.  Hundreds of feet below, a shifting mass of shapes howled with hunger and rage.

Two decaying, zombified pigeons, one white, one black, landed on the flagpole from which she hung and began to peck at her fingers.  She looked straight ahead and saw herself reflected in the tower’s glass exterior.  Behind her, a golden sunrise peeked over the city’s silhouetted skyline.

That sunrise is very beautiful, she thought.

Essence of Hyena

In Drabbles, Fiction, Short Stories on January 12, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Garrick gazed forlornly into his pint of ale.  Sensing movement, he looked up to see that a man had sat down next to him.  The man grinned fiercely and clutched a frothing mug of ale still sloshing from recent movement.

“Hellllloooo,” the man anounced, “YOU look like you could use a laugh!”

“I suppose,” replied Garrick.  “It’s terrible: I own a traveling zoo and this morning I found all my hyenas dead and dried up like prunes!

“Oh,” said the man, grin fading.  “Uh, nevermind, then.”  Garrick didn’t see him slip a corked bottle labeled laughter back into his pocket.

Two Shades of Folly

In Haiku, Mysticism on January 11, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Fools are binary:
One loves all things in the world
And one loves nothing.

A Peace Offering

In Fan Fiction, Fiction, Short Stories on January 10, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Rylen didn’t care that he’d attracted the attention of the guards on duty as he marched angrily toward the small door on the other side of the compound.  Afterimages of blood-stained fields and charred corpses still reeled in his mind and, upon bursting into the office, he lost no time in firing his words at the unimposing man who looked up from the map spread out on the desk before him.

“You treacherous, incompetent coward!” he exclaimed.

A sergeant near the corner reached for his blaster but the unimposing man raised a hand, ordering the motion to a halt.

“I’m sorry, Commander Rylen,” said the man, who wore a pilot’s uniform.  “What seems to be the problem?”

“You should be executed,” Rylen spat.  “You left my men out there to die!”

“I never leave men to die,” replied the man.  “I leave men to live.”

This seemed so nonsensical to Rylen that he opened his mouth then closed it again, unable to think of any reply.  The man continued, calmly:

“If we had pressed on, the Imperials would have picked us off with long-range cannons.  Once they mounted an energy shield my fighters couldn’t penetrate—”

“—You didn’t even try—” Rylen cut in.

“—and you lost your armored transport—”

“—because you failed to cover us—”

“—all we would have achieved would have been death.”

“Then we’d have died!” Rylen shouted.  The silence that followed the outburst was too quiet, telling Rylen that even people outside the office had stopped to listen.  The air was tense.

The pilot across the desk studied him levelly.  Rylen took a breath.

“General… my men would all rather die than bow to the Remnant,” he said.  “We would die for our queen and we would die gladly for Naboo.”

The pilot-general seemed to acknowledge Rylen’s remission and nodded almost imperceptibly.  Then he said to the Rebel in the corner:

“Sergeant, on second thought… give me your blaster.”

Rylen tensed.

The sergeant removed his firearm and handed it to his superior, who, in turn, handed it to Rylen.  Rylen took it with trepidation, his anger visibly faltering.

“In 80 hours I give you permission to shoot me in the head with this blaster,” the general said to him.

Rylen was stunned.

“What?”

“Consider it… a peace offering.”  The general sat down.  Rylen, not knowing quite what to do with the weapon, held it awkwardly.

“Let me tell you a story,” the man continued.  “It happened not very long ago but it feels like an entire lifetime has passed since then.  Before I founded Rogue Squadron I flew with the Rebel fleet at the Battle of Yavin.  It was Hell in the sky.  A lot of men died… good ones and bad ones.  I was almost one of them.  A pursuing TIE fighter shot up my stabilizer and I had to pull out.  I actually had to leave the battle.”  He paused.  “Do you know what it’s like to have to make the decision to flee?”

Rylen shook his head.  “I may have, today… but you took that away from me.  You made the decision for me when you ordered the retreat.”

“Consider it a favor,” the general said with an empty smile.  “It makes you feel like a failure.  An incompetent.  A… ‘treacherous coward,’ it’s true.  I thought I had let the Rebellion down that day, and I probably should have died.”

“But you didn’t.”

“No.  I lived.  And do you know what I did later?”

“Yes.”

The general smiled; genuine this time.  “Yes, I thought you might.  I destroyed the Second Death Star.”

Rylen lowered his eyes to stare at the pistol.  He was now thoroughly embarrassed that he had publicly insulted this man credited with the destruction of the Empire’s second-greatest weapon.

Wedge Antilles leaned forward and traced his finger on the map.

“At random increments exceeding no more than two hours, starting immediately, a pair of my X-wings will make attack runs on the energy shield.  The intermittent attacks will be ineffectual, of course, except to serve one purpose: they will force the Imperials to keep their energy shield live.”

The light of understanding began to cross Rylen’s face.

“Between two and three days from now the Imperials will run out of energy and be forced to abandon their position for open ground.  The same open ground from which you just came.”

“That’s a bad position,” Rylen said.

“Yes, it is.  So you see, less than 80 hours from now you’ll be free of the Imperial Remnant on Naboo for good.  They’ll be easily overwhelmed.  And if they decide to stay where they are, one of my bones will nuke them from the stratosphere.”

Rylen blinked.

“One of my Y-wings,” Wedge clarified.

“Sir, I…”

“So,” Wedge said, standing.  “You can shoot me, if you want, when the time comes.  But you want to know why I ordered the retreat?  The reason is because I’ve learned the difference between cause and effect.  People revere both martyrs and heroes… but martyrs die for a cause and heroes live for an effect.”  He met Rylen’s eyes once again.  This time, though, his face was soft.  Almost kind, as Rylen imagined it was naturally when the man wasn’t fighting wars.  “Which one would you rather be, Commander Rylen?  A martyr… or a hero?”

After a long moment Rylen placed the gun on the desk.

“I won’t be needing this, sir,” he said.

“Good,” Wedge said, leaning back in his chair.  “Because I know a few bucket heads with itchy trigger fingers that love shooting at moving targets, and I don’t think they’d take too kindly to you if you took me up on my offer.”  He added, “You’re dismissed, Commander.”

Rylen saluted and left the room.  Wedge let out a sigh.

“With boys like that in the Rebel army, it’s no wonder the Empire lost,” he said.

Less than a year later Wedge retired for the first time.  Having achieved peace through battle and victory through survival, he would be known as a hero throughout the galaxy for generations to come.  The warrior who lived.  The Rebel who made the most difficult choice of all.

You can’t do any good back there, the voice in his memory said.

Oh yes I can, he replied.

 

Wedge Antilles’ biography.

Impulse Buy

In Drabbles, Fiction, Short Stories on January 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm

Precision-engineering of humans revolutionized the world.  The problem was, everyone was too perfect.  Lifespans skyrocketed and too little genetic diversity stunted the species.  Nobody took chances on imperfect babies.  The solution came from Nickel Games, Inc., a manufacturer of antique entertainment devices.  Like old-fashioned intercourse, the innovation was simple, fun, facilitated by alcohol, and—most importantly—it produced random results.

“Look, it even takes old-timey metal coins!”  Kell slurred.

“Win me a cute one!”  Ayla said, sipping her margarita.

Kell fed the machine and the claw whirred to life.  Behind the glass, a dozen canisters lit up, waking the babies inside.


The Drabblecast

Featured on The Drabblecast!

Evolutionists’ Wonderment

In Haiku on January 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Life spilled forth from goo.
A chain of babies stretches
Between it and me.

Evil’s Best Shot

In Fan Fiction, Fiction, Short Stories on January 2, 2011 at 8:01 pm

I want to go back.

Lou could see so much.  Concentrating, he rummaged through the gigantic haystack of living souls that pulsed in his mind.  Some of them called out to him sweetly.  Some of them shrank away from his clairvoyant eye like frightened animals.  Those ones would be saved.  Lou wished he could see his own fate so clearly.  The knowledge of whether his path led to salvation or damnation—or, somehow, both (he still heard the words of Ari and Uzi when Lou had told them he wished to serve Father again: “You are, still… in your own way”)—escaped him completely.  He could not win the game outright, he knew.  He could only weight the dice.

At once a pattern emerged from the haystack and Lou turned his mind’s eye upon it: a pure soul in distress.  For what reason it suffered, Lou could not tell—that which Father deemed “pure” was opaque to him by definition.  But the pattern fit what he was looking for.  It was, unmistakably, the oh-so-common archetype found in the thousands of human stories he had heard, read, and finally watched: the figure of the damsel in distress.

“Bingo,” said Lou to the afternoon air.

“Excuse me, you got a dollar I can borrow?” said a man next to him.  Instinctively, Lou’s hand shot out toward the man’s neck.  Three-and-a-half millimeters away from contact, his hand stopped.  The man jumped back and uttered a cry of indignation.  He was dressed in dirty, tattered clothes; too many layers to suit the weather.

New leaf, Lou reminded himself.  “New bills,” Lou said, and with sleight of hand that, if televised, would have forced Criss Angel into retirement, three crisp, one-hundred-dollar bills appeared in his hand.

The man stared.

“Seriously, take it,” Lou suggested.

“I don’t want no trouble, man.”

“I realize that.  Take the fucking money, please.”

The man eyed the money greedily but did not budge.

“Fine,” said Lou.  He turned to the nearest passerby.  She looked like a college student.  “Want three hundred bucks?  This guy won’t take it.”

“Alright!” the man cried.

“Ooh, already offered it to someone else,” Lou apologized with decadent sarcasm.  The college girl had stopped but seemed too interested to move on.  “Now I’ll lose a gold star if I deny either of you the money.  Hmm.  Tell you what: I’m in a hurry, so each of you grab an end of this stack; we’ll do this Solomon-style.”

***

It was approaching dusk when Lou found his soul-in-distress and the scene was almost too sweet to believe.  A cat up a tree, Lou mused.  I couldn’t have asked for a more obvious opportunity. Lou needed obvious; doing good did not come naturally to him.

The kid was already up in the tree.  One short arm grasped a large branch jutting from the trunk; the other reached coaxingly toward a shaggy, red cat hanging perilously from a limb that bent with its weight.

“Come on, Jim,” Lou could hear the kid pleading with the cat.  Ah, the fur-balls still control the humans, Lou thought. Hilarious.  Why do humans love pretending animals are human?  Well, I’ll never understand and it doesn’t matter.

“Hey, kid!” Lou’s voice rang clear, winning the attention of both boy and cat even from 50 yards away.  “Better get outta that tree!”

From his branch, the kid could see the yelling man give an enthusiastic thumbs up.  Then the man began to run.  He moved impossibly fast and directly at the tree.  At first the kid just froze, trying to understand what was happening.  Then instinct kicked in and he swung down, stumbling about ten feet and turning just in time to see the man running headlong into the trunk, arms raised in front of him like a linebacker.  But instead of hearing the crack of the man’s skull, as the kid thought he would, the crack came instead from the tree.  Splinters seemed to fill the air like a mist.  Dirt erupted as roots tore out of the ground.  As the tree fell, Jim the cat howled and leaped from his limb, landing as a tangle of wood and leaf-matter crashed around him.  The kid didn’t realize until it was all over that he was screaming.

Lou teetered above the jagged stump, nearly losing his balance.  Finally he shifted back onto his heels and, before he could stop himself, gave a triumphant whoop.  It was undignified but the adrenaline in his human body nearly demanded it… so he gave in to temptation.  That was something that came naturally to him.  Turning toward the kid, he smiled.  The kid was screaming.  Well, no wonder.  Mortals didn’t often knock over trees with their bare hands.

“Kid, shut up,” Lou ventured.  To his surprise, the kid did.

The cat. Lou scanned the arboreal wreckage.  The cat, Jim, was scrambling out from beneath the maze of cracked branches.  “Ah, ha,” Lou said, and he lunged at the animal, snatching it up.  It howled again, scratching at him.  Blood seeped out of Lou’s arms.  The thought of stigmata crossed his mind and he nearly chuckled.

“Alright, kid, here’s your—”

Where the child should have been stood a man.

Not a man.

“Oh,” said Lou.  “Hello, Raph.  What’s up?”

“What the fuck are you doing.”  Not so much a question as a statement.

Lou felt the energy drain out of him.  The fun was suddenly over and the reality of the situation—his situation—began to seep in.  When Lou replied his voice was dry and resentful.

“What’s it look like?  I helped this kid get his cat out of a tree.”

Raphael’s level gaze remained unchanged.  A long moment passed.

“And,” added Lou, “I’m helping out the Park Commission with its timber management.”

Without warning Raphael drew his firearm, a massive, gleaming semi-automatic, and leveled it at Jim the cat.

“Fuck!” Lou said and tossed the cat into the air.  Raphael fired a single shot—a blinding light issued from the barrel of the gun—and Jim exploded into a red soup.  Lou did not close his eyes as gore spattered one side of his face and clothes.

Raphael lowered the gun, slowly.  Lou glared at him.

“Fuck,” Lou said again.  He tried to sound upset, righteous, even, but the word came out sounding more like childish fascination.  What had just happened was something Lou had seen many trillions of times before, but each death has its own unique circumstances—its own flavor—and for whatever reason contemplation of each demise never ceased to give him pleasure.  He glanced down at the cat’s remains and became transfixed.  Blood still gushed from the separated halves of the animal, its organs still individually alive although the whole was dead.  The eyes of the cat bulged, as if the force of the bullet had pushed them nearly out of their sockets.  On the grass was a network of entrails, fur, and strange shapes Lou recognized but had no names for: the parts of life that made more sense to him separate than together.  God lived in the machine, he knew, and to disassemble the machine made it no longer God’s.  Pain was the currency of Hell and death the financier.  Lou thought of Death for a moment and smiled.  He could almost see, now, though Jim was not human, the Godliness leaking out of Jim’s entrails, seeping into the earth, the dirt becoming one with the blood, the life and the divinity fading like a sunset into darkness, which held, itself, more colors than the human eye could perceive…

Lucifer looked up.

“Ah,” said Raphael.  “And there’s the truth.”

“Shut up,” said Lou.

“You haven’t changed a bit.  All your gallivanting around like some newborn savior of mankind and you still lust after the sight of fresh, steaming entrails.”

“Fuck you.”  Then, without thinking, “You murdered it.”

Raphael laughed—a sardonic, penetrating laugh that fanned embers of hatred in Lou’s gut and made him clench his teeth.

“I murdered it, did I?  The cat?  Fucking Jim the cat?  Oh, Lou.  Heaven forgive me.  What have I done?”  He laughed again.  Lou’s fists squeezed so tightly that his knuckles turned white.  After a few moments, he could not contain himself.

“What the fuck do you want from me, you self-righteous asshole!”  he exploded.  Raphael’s laughter ceased.

“That’s just it, pal,” Raphael said.  “I don’t want anything from you.  I don’t want anything to do with you.  And moreover, I don’t want you here.”

“You’re here.”

“Indeed.  And I don’t want that, either.  I want to be in Heaven, where I belong.”

“Then go.”

“Not until you leave.”

“I’m not leaving.”

Raphael’s eyes narrowed.  He tipped his face forward in an angel’s best better-not-mess-with-my-righteous-fury-on-the-cover-of-Vogue look.

“You think there’s something you can do, here… something that will tip the scales of God’s will in your favor.  But you’re wrong.  Father may love you still, as he loves all things, but after several billion years of opposition there is nothing you can do in a day, a year, a millennium, nor an eon of time that will heal the gaping wound between your existence and his.  And certainly rescuing a cat from a fucking tree means so little that you might as well never have done it.  What a pathetic display, Lou.  Ask yourself: how badly do you really want to come home?  How long were you really planning on keeping this up?”

“I can’t win the game outright.  I can only weight the dice.”

“That’s great.  Did you hear that in an Eastwood film?  I’m highly amused.  But I’m afraid I can’t let this arrogant little crisis of yours continue.”  He smiled acridly.  “It wasn’t going to last, anyway,” he added.

“What are you going to do about it?”

“Turn around.”

Lou did.  The sky was a dark blue, and the city skyline rose above the dark silhouette of trees that lined the park’s entrance.  At first Lou saw nothing out of the ordinary.  But then he saw something—three things, in fact—that made his heart stop beating and then, shamefully, caused a stirring in his loins.

Looming above the horizon were the shadows of three crosses, each supporting, in their center, a mass that Lou recognized as a crucified human form.

“Jesus,” Lou said.

“No,” came Raph’s voice, sounding distant, “Just your handiwork.  Goodbye, Lou.”

Lucifer would have turned around but he knew Raphael was already gone.  He strode a few paces toward the crosses and then stared upward.  In the darkness his supernatural vision could discern three corpses: a homeless man, a female college student, and a young boy.  Everybody he had encountered today—everyone he had attempted to help, albeit badly—destroyed by the wrath of Father’s little crew of self-righteous thugs.

For the first time in billions of years of life, Lucifer felt a tear coalesce beneath his eye.

It was well within Raphael’s right, he knew, to destroy humans at will.  It was not their lives that mattered, but their immortal souls, and those were judged by Father above.  Besides, if asked, Raphael would probably spout some nonsense about these people being tainted by evil upon interacting with Lou.

The taste of failure, familiar to him, filled his mouth, making him want to vomit.

He turned away.  So, Raphael was going to try his hardest to thwart Lou’s efforts planet-side, eh?  Lou could respond with anger.  He could respond with wrath.  He could get hit by a truck and return home, where he would sit on a throne and rule over the fiery pits of souls, passing judgment on an infinitely long waiting list of the damned.

Or.

Yes, or.

He didn’t know what came on the other side of that conjunction.  Or. Or what?  He could work in more subtle ways.  Of course he could—he was the devil, for Christ’s sake.  He could find new ways to usher mankind into the arms of Father—ways that might go unnoticed by Raphael and his posse of winged deuchebags.

Why not? he thought.  I have until Armageddon to experiment. He thought of Death.  Maybe I should pay her another visit.  Yes, that would be nice.  And maybe Gabriel, too.  I think he’s got a soft spot for me.

In the darkness, a man who was not a man stuffed his hands in his pockets and whistled a merry tune as he walked away from the scene of several terrible crimes, all of which would be announced in the city newspaper the following morning.  Men and women would weep, lawyers would flock to victims’ families, and journalists would scramble for interviews come daybreak.  And beneath the surface of human society, an underworld would prepare for battle with an overworld as it had for billions of years.  But between both worlds one immortal would surf the tumultuous waves of holy war, repulsed by one side and repelled by the other, fighting for the salvation of a soul that had long ago cast its fate in opposition to the home it truly loved, if it could love at all.

I want to go back, he thought.  I will go back.  They’ll see.


This story is a fan sequel to a screenplay written by Kyle Johannessen.