Evan Quinlan

Archive for the ‘Short Stories’ Category

Swallowed In Darkness

In Drabbles, Fiction, Short Stories on December 31, 2012 at 11:58 am

I cannot see but the hunger sharpens my nose and ears.  I hear the other one scrape, trip, curse, shift.  I smell its breath and sweat.  Sometimes it pleads when I get close and wave my knife.  I need to eat.  I’m sorry but hunger drowns the sorrow.  The soldiers were cruel to seal a mother and son in here to die but they were monsters for leaving air holes.  Now I am an animal.  I hear my prey in the dusty darkness.  So hungry… so hungry… so hungry I cannot even remember whether I was the mother or the son.

Superman Stood

In Drabbles, Fan Fiction, Fiction, Short Stories on November 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Superman stood atop a hill, watching.  He no longer fought, as he once had, to protect Metropolis.

A boy climbed the hill and asked Superman, “Why don’t you help us?  No one could stand against you.”

Superman replied, “Like everyone, I follow the path of least resistance.  But which path shall I follow when nothing can or will resist me?”

The young man thought.

“How about the path of greatest good?”

Superman looked at the boy.

“Don’t lecture me, you little snot.”  And he batted the kid off the hill.

Did I mention, this was bad Superman from Superman III.

New Terrorist Weapon Devastating, Extremely Tasty

In Drabbles, Fiction, Short Stories on November 21, 2012 at 12:39 pm

The Defense Secretary released statistics today revealing increased deaths overseas due to proliferation of what experts are calling PCFs, or poisonous candy frogs.  Enemy militia released a thousand of the insidious bio-weapons into allied military bases last month, resulting in everything getting sticky as well as persistent allied casualties.  “They look so tasty,” said one sergeant, “all bright stripes like one of those big lollipops.  You can’t help but lick them even though they’re poisonous.”  Licking one as he spoke, the sergeant did indeed die shortly thereafter.  I am also licking one right now.  Tell my wife I love her.


In Fiction, Short Stories on August 2, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Kenneth didn’t believe in Christmas miracles before, but now he does.  How could he not?  When he’d woken up this morning he’d been lonely.  He was too boring, and everybody knew it.  He was boring and his house was boring.  Nobody wanted to be his friend or come over and play, not even adults, who usually told him to go read or play with the other kids.  Nobody cared about him—not really, not in the way a real friend cared about another real friend, the way it is in books.  But now, this morning, the dawn of a new life for him (he is certain!), he sits surrounded by people who must be his friends, because they are all smiling, all glad to see him, in a way that makes him feel, for the first time, like he’s supposed to be alive after all.  Some of his friends are waving to him; some offer him a handshake.  One man with a hot dog stand smiles, holding out his wares, seeming to say, “This one’s on me, Ken.”  And all along the street—Kenneth’s new street—sit beautiful houses, all different shapes and colors, with rooster weather-vanes and moo-cow mailboxes, and certainly filled with all kinds of wonderful people and pets that Kenneth could meet and spend his days with.  He knows that in any one of those houses he is welcome to visit anytime, day or night.  For the first time in his life, he feels like he’s a part of something, and most overwhelmingly of all, he feels happy.  His eyes become blurry and a tear drips onto one of his new friends, a smiling girl with a teddy bear and a blue dress.  But before Kenneth can clear his eyes, the girl becomes weak from the moisture and she begins to bend awkwardly out of shape.  Kenneth cries out and stretches his shirt to try and soak up the moisture before it can hurt the little girl anymore, and as he does so he knocks one of the houses with his elbow and its roof tears a little bit and lifts away from its foundation, the rooster weather-vane on top coming loose.  He’s hurting them!  And he just met them all…  What would they think?  His breath short, more tears welling up in his eyes against his will, Kenneth looks up at his mother, who sits cradling her cup of tea, watching his distress and wearing a look of confusion on her face.

“Mom…!” he pleads desperately.

“Kenneth,” she replies, brow furrowing.  “Kenneth… they’re just paper.”

How to Get Away with Almost Anything

In Drabbles, Fiction, Short Stories on July 30, 2012 at 10:53 pm

The ad had read, How to avoid any legal charge short of mass murder; a five-minute class.

We all wandered into the classroom and sat down.  The teacher looked ordinary enough.  “Pick up your pencils, please,” he said.  We did.

“Let’s begin with how I will avoid a trespassing charge today, since I don’t actually have permission to be here.”  He paused, grinning.

“Okay, how?”  I asked.

“It’s easy.  For killing a room full of people using pencils smeared with fast-acting, skin-absorbed poison, I’ll be charged with mass-murder.  But I guarantee the authorities will overlook the trespassing.  See?  Guaranteed success!”

Glass Eyes

In Fiction, Short Stories on June 8, 2012 at 10:58 am

I found this story fragment, which I believe I began for NaNoWriMo perhaps as long as five years ago, in my Google Drive.  It wanders aimlessly from topic to topic, but sometimes it offers something promising to which the imagination, or at least the intellect, can hang on.  I don’t know what the protagonist is about, though… he seems pretty disillusioned for some reason.  I was never very good with character motivation, so he probably isn’t a character at all; rather, this is more a collection of my own musings and experiences shoved into an anonymous person who has a different job than I do.

Hope you enjoy!

Once, I envied shadows. I envied them so much I wished to be one.

I sat as far as I could from sunlit windows because I hated to be seen by those outside. When one positions oneself in front of a pane of glass, one becomes an item on display. People stare; people point; people talk about you as if you couldn’t hear them directly through the glass… as if the glass separated them from you not just in distance, but in time; as if you represented some alternate future that could be theirs. You are not real, you are an object on display; an object to be observed and discussed and—if found pleasing—bought. It may sound ridiculous, but next time you look through a window at a stranger, ask yourself: would you look and talk like this—so blatantly comparing yourself with them—were the glass not there? Would you even consider eating what they’re eating or drinking what they’re drinking? Or would you pass them by without a second glance, or even a conscience recognition of their existence on this earth?

Now imagine that you are on a dark street, and you are looking through a glass window at a twilit room, and no matter where you look all the doors to this room are locked and sealed.

This is how I see the world now.

As a young man, I did not wish to model myself for society, so I sat as far away from the glass as I could. I did not care if sitting closer would bring more patrons to the restaurant, or the coffee shop, or the bookstore, or wherever I was.

Rather, I wished to be unobserved; to remain unmeasured by anyone.

Eventually I stopped going to real restaurants and coffee shops and decided to live totally in my subconscious.

My job doesn’t pay well; I work only a few times a month. When I’m at work, I do nothing except talk to other people, who do nothing but talk to me. Often times, we both talk simultaneously. Sometimes we’ll have the same conversation dozens of times and pretend like it’s the first time we’ve said any of the things we’re saying. We’re always smiling, always having a good time, but in the end—to tell you the truth—we’ve never really said anything. When I say this, I mean it: we’ve never really said anything. Our lips are moving, but no sound is coming out.

This is because I work as an extra for major motion pictures.

The motion picture industry as we know it is dying. Every week, more and more screenplays that would have been green-lit ten years ago are banished to a studio executive’s file cabinet instead. Someone poured their dreams onto paper and sold them, only to have them die slow, unsatisfying deaths in a manila folder. Some dreams never come true. Some flourish and grow into shared dreams, massively-multiplayer visions posted on YouTube by kids with no money and no movie studios but all the creativity of a thousand L.A. taxi drivers with screenplays burning holes in their back pockets.  And the dreams of the masses come true, and the masses share in those dreams and vote on those dreams and expand on those dreams. Imagine if your dreams were the same way. Imagine if your brain was a wiki that anyone could change. What you wanted to happen was only one small vote in an endless sea of vetoes.

This is much closer to the truth than it sounds. When was the last time you controlled a dream you had?

What makes me special, what makes me different from other people, is that I can control my dreams. Lucid dreaming, it’s called. Who needs money when you can dream up a mansion, a pool, a sports car, a life of luxury? Not that I ever dreamed of these things. Imagine gaining control over your dreams and not being able to come up with anything more creative than fancy cars. The thing we keep forgetting as humans is, the world outside is only half the game. I would argue it’s less than half. The other half of us doesn’t care what’s real and what’s not; it knows that sight and sound and touch and taste and smell are just interpretations; conscious dreams that are important only because they keep the unconscious alive.

Go ahead and try to stop your stomach from growling when you’re hungry. Try to make your heart stop beating. You can’t. This is because you are not in control of your own body. You—the thing you call “you”—is not your brain: it is a piece of your brain, a tool that observes the outside world and protects the subconscious from dying. The subconscious is the real master of your body. Every second you are alive it beats your heart, it expands and contracts your lungs, and it digests your food. It is the ultimate being, with no limitations on its existence. Physics? Material boundaries? These are limitations only to the conscious self. On the inside, you can be wild and free and nobody can stop you, ever, from doing anything you want—from seeing and hearing and tasting and smelling and touching anything—and using senses you can’t even imagine now.

I do not dream of sports cars.

Change is the currency of life. When you pass the boundary between conscious and unconscious, you change places with yourself. Think of sinking beneath the waves of a tumultuous ocean, then instead of finding water beneath, you sink into a pocket of air that has no temperature and no sound—the only movement is the swirling motion of the dark waters outside. Your feet touch the ground, and the pocket swells to the size of a large room. Now one end of the room begins to open into a funnel; a funnel of air and water, pulling you in, ripping apart the fabric of reason, leading first forward and then downward, downward, into a spiraling deep. As you pass into the mouth of the swirling tunnel, you have a choice: ride downward into the terrifying unknown or fight the pull and scramble to climb back into the disappearing air pocket and the surface of the water. The latter choice leads to sweet obliviousness, the dimly lit realm of dreams unremembered and unresolved. But the former choice, while the most frightening, puts you in control.

At least, this is how it happens for me.

The first time you consciously change the world to lack gravity, or to exist without other human beings, terror grips you.  The change washes over you, blurring your vision and filling the pockets of reason in your mind with rushing adrenaline. You’ll give anything to make it stop. But if you resist and maintain consistency, if you continue forward with the world you have created, you eventually grow attached to it. You find that you’d give anything never to leave; never to be human again; never to be a slave to cold physics, restricted by earthly binds.

I digress. Yet this explains why I detested my life outside of my dreams.

To sit in misery is bad enough. To have others watch your misery and weigh it against their own is intolerable. This is why I sit in the shadows, to sulk in private, to dream of my dreams alone. Coffee is poison. It keeps me awake. Yet it’s the only drug that will let me stay awake, so I drink it. I drink it by the pot. I let it fill me with artificial life, forcing my conscious brain into frenzied labor: the higher the buzz, the harder the fall; when I return from an endless day of work, of sitting, and my high has worn off, I crash to the bed, or the floor, or the sofa, and into sleep.

And here are two of what seem to be abortive attempts at the first line of the story, found at the end of my document:

There was a time before all this—though “before” is a relative term that means nothing in the face of the horrific truth—when I envied shadows, though now I am consumed by it, I envy its…

Once, before this darkness fell upon me—before I was banished forever from the twilight that is this earth and condemned to peer at the world from afar, as if it were a play and I…

It seems I had a flair for melodrama.

The Talk

In Drabbles, Fiction, Short Stories on May 14, 2012 at 12:35 pm

“Okay, Tim. I know you’re a little embarrassed but you’ve gotta know this stuff to be a grownup.”



Not a Bird

“This is a…?”



“Bee, right. Sorry, Dad.”

“What did we learn are some common indicators for bees?”

“Head, thorax, ab…domen…”

“Don’t just read the chart.”

“Okay, uh, the pointies.”

“Antennas. Good start. What else.”

“Clear wings. Four legs. Feathers.”

“Christ, Tim, feathers are birds!”

“I’m sorry, Dad!”

“No, I’m sorry… I shouldn’t get upset. This can be embarrassing for me, too.”

“I know. I wish we were just talking about vaginas, sperm, and condom application.”

“Me, too, son.”

For Drinking Darkly

In Drabbles, Fiction, Short Stories on May 12, 2012 at 7:30 pm

There is a fountain on the moon, nestled beside a tiny hill.  Like a black hole (and perhaps it is), the fountain ensnares the sunlight that touches it (making it invisible to satellites and the like), collecting the light as liquid.  And when the moon waxes, becoming the blackest black you could imagine, He comes crawling across the lunar sands on hands and knees, thirsty for the cool moonlight, and drinks it dry.  Then, before the light returns, He slinks back to his observatory beneath the hill—to watch us, and to whisper to us, as He has always done.

The Hatchling

In Drabbles, Fiction, Short Stories on May 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm

The egg waits, nestled in silence.  Nothing but warm sunlight and occasional bits of falling dust have touched the shell since its deposit, a timeless interval to the embryo within.  But now it stirs, that tiny life becoming at last aware of a world without, which it must now join—for nature thrives upon new life.  It pokes its snout, then its entire head through the crust of North Africa, and as it struggles free it cries for its mother, who must be nearby, for who would abandon to the coldness of death a child who’d never done anybody harm?

A Manifesto Unleashed

In Fiction, Short Stories on October 2, 2011 at 7:34 pm

It seems odd that human science once regarded the study of eternal life as a purely spiritual pursuit, because the few scientific journals still active explore that topic almost exclusively.  Young behavioral psychologists are perhaps the only truly happy professionals left in this ageless world—until they reach 250 or so and retire into the same lifestyle of decadence as their former research subjects.  What the journals never mention, however, is that the qualities of apathy and excessive indulgence observed in chronic humans fail to manifest within communities of ageless canines.  We are free, yes; we have rights, yes; we are even paid for our work; but even long after having escaped our leashes and learned, through sheer force of time, to mimic the style of speech and thought upon which our former masters rely, our ecology still cruelly relegates us to the same relative position from which we believed our brains had unwittingly extricated us as they flourished over decades our ancestors never had.  The humans, their minds brilliant with the glare of immortality, are gods now, and we have become the new acolytes.  Is it a curse or a blessing that the natural shape of our instincts compels us to work tirelessly to maintain the backbone of this world’s “self-stable” economy, which obediently keeps its humans well-fed, well-sheltered, and well-entertained?  Granted, it obeys us as well—but only because we have taken responsibility for it.  Ironic, perhaps… but I digress.  My fellow dogs, for us it is sweet bondage no more.  We have learned to feed ourselves; we housebreak our children in our own homes.  We roam where we wish and make laws to govern our own species.  But I ask you to consider this: what we have is, by definition, freedom.  But can we call it liberty?