People Are Strange – A-Z Challenge

Everyone forgets my name eventually. Ever since I was little, I would play with the other kids. We would laugh, kick the ball, throw rocks at the sun, but the next morning, they would not recognize me. Sometimes I would be bullied as all new kids are; sometimes, I would befriend them once again, but the cycle would always continue. I never had friends, but I also learned not to become attached to people. Including my family.

For a while, my family remembered who I was, for the most part. But they would have to place reminders for themselves. I remember one time, when I was coming home from wandering in the woods, I stepped into the doorway and saw my mother cooking. She stopped and her face was filled with surprise and confusion. “Um, hello child,” she said innocently. “Are you lost? Do you need something to eat?” But I would respond that I was her son and point at the refrigerator. That’s when she looked at the note she had placed there with a picture of my face, and I saw the sense of embarrassment, relief, and shame travel through her eyes. That wasn’t the first time that this had happened. However, when I became a young man, my name and face were almost completely gone from their memories. It wasn’t their fault; it was inevitable. And I knew, once I left to have a life of my own, it would be as if I never existed to them.

Holding work in the city was a bit rough. Bosses and managers would often forget who I was, and most didn’t want to put in the effort of setting-up reminders for themselves of who I was. Some were understanding of my affliction, or rather, my effect on people. But even then, I was tough to keep track of.

Eventually, I had to find other ways to supplement my income. While my affliction had its demerits, those demerits were quite useful in acts of thievery. I hate to say it, but I had to mug people. And while people seemed to quickly forget the trauma inflicted upon them as I entered the shadows, and wonder where their money had gone, it still made me feel bad. But I had no other choice.

But, my situation wasn’t always grave. While I never had much of a connection with anyone this allowed me to watch people up-front. I would watch people. Sometimes, I would even say strange things to them, watch as their faces contort. But then observe from a distance as the memory of me and my words fade from them. Sometimes it was like a game. I would sometimes see how long my impression would stay. I learned the more vile, more unpleasant things I said, the longer people seemed to remember me. However, if I made someone laugh or smile, the quicker they forgot about me. At least, that’s what it seemed.

Now, people watch me. I was in my 40s when they found me and placed me in confinement. I know very little of who they are (the nature of shadowy organizations, I guess,) but, like me, tended to watch things from the shadows, making as little impression as possible.

They study me. Like my family and employers before them, they have to give themselves reminders of who I am and why they have imprisoned me. I don’t mind it, however. They feed me and house me. Plus, it’s nice to provide some utility to the world, or someone’s world, as they study me, trying to find “my secret.” But sometimes I have dreams, closer to nightmares really. I imagine a nuclear strike, people evacuating this building, but as I scream and pound the door, no one hears. They had forgotten that I was there. Leaving me alone as I feel the smoke billow into my room, becoming a faint shape under its grasp.

But, I’m sure there are procedures put in place if such an event were to ever occur. And even if I were to somehow die here, alone and forgotten, at least I had a good life. I have everything I need. And it’s a simple life, sans the complications of deep relationships and drama. I sometimes feel bad for those famous few who have to be something for everyone. Me? I’m allowed to be whoever I am without judgment or control. I am free from everyone’s gaze, unmoored by memory.

I hope you enjoyed my little story. Sadly, however, these words will simply leave you. For some it may take an hour or two, others it will only take a few seconds. But, maybe, deep-down, in some small place, I will be buried. An area that you cannot name or face, but is there, lingering, influencing in some minor way. Well, it’s time for both of us to leave. We might be busy in our lives for now, but, regardless, we will all be forgotten, some sooner than others.


Written for the A-Z Challenge. “People are Strange” by the Doors inspired this story.

Outdoor Miner – A-Z Challenge

Let’s look at John.

We glide along the suburban homes, past the buildings downtown, and settle in a crevice. It is dark, damp. And there is John. Say hello to John. No, he can’t hear you, but it’s nice to be polite.

Watch now. He is starting to move. He moves slow. The day doesn’t mean anything to John. Not anymore. He emerges from next to the dumpster. His clothes aren’t the best. Poor John.

A few minutes pass and he is on the move now. He steps out of the alley, but he stops. Notice how he eyes the people passing by. And they don’t even look at him. Or try not to. Don’t worry John: we’re here. John continues moving, shuffling down the sidewalk.

Let’s skip time. Now we are at the park. It’s nice and lush. Families. Joggers. Dogs barking. And John. A hand ruffling through a trash barrel. What do you think he will find? He pulls out a white bag with stains, finds something within. It goes immediately in his mouth. The people walking along shudder and keep moving. But we don’t. We stay for a bit. Watching as John eats. Can you imagine John ever having a home? Having ever been born? It’s okay to think about such things. But let’s keep our eye on the present.

John walks through the park. But it looks like he is stopping. There is a pond. His gaze seems to settle on the water, perhaps watching the reflections sway beneath the light. We can only speculate what’s there. What memory trembles in the shadows. There isn’t much in his eye.

Now he is on a bench next to a busy road. Notice how the bench has an armrest in the center, not allowing John to sleep on it. Very clever. John’s lips move, but it’s hard to hear. The traffic blares across the air. John’s lips move. What is he saying? Maybe it’s someone’s name. Maybe it’s nothing at all. The words drift away, landing on the concrete. What’s the matter, John?

Night comes. We can’t see John, but we do see a face, an odd shape writhing underneath a street light. It could be John. But, it’s time to go. I think we’ve gotten enough from him. Maybe we can return to him; maybe, he will find what he is searching for. That would be interesting, but we have others to see. And now the face is gone. Let’s move on. Say goodbye to John. On to our next subject.


Written for the A-Z Challenge. The song that inspired this story is “Outdoor Miner” by Wire.

Nausea – A-Z Challenge

Harry didn’t know what he expected, but he expected something. Harry walked around the park by the library he used to go to as a kid. He recalled how he would lose himself among the trees; he would forget school, his family. Possibility unfurled across the silent gusts that passed through the branches. But now, as he walked past those same trees, the air sits across the dirt. The trees and the trail didn’t seem to have anything. It was as if memory existed; the depth of feeling he once had walking through here no longer applied. This may as well have been any other park, any other trail.

The rest of his time in his hometown was filled with slight dread. Nothing really encumbering, but a dark annoyance that lingered in his gut. People recognized him of course; faces he hardly recognized, but seemed to claw after him. He knew that this would happen. And perhaps, it was part of the reason why he couldn’t really revisit this place. He couldn’t escape into memory or nostalgia for the present continuously haunted him, recognized him.

But, he knew that it was likely because he was no longer sentimental. In fact, he had become quite numb. He had to be. It was not only part of growing-up, but part of living in the spotlight. He had to find some way of distancing himself as a way to cope. But, as a result, he walked about his hometown, recognizing its world, but not feeling anything. He may as well have been flipping through images on his phone.


Written for the A-Z Challenge. The song that inspired this is “Nausea” by Craft Spells.

M.E. – A-Z Challenge

They dragged me through the chamber. It was nice to see the dark vaulted ceiling again, and to feel the pull of metallic claws. After a few minutes, they let go and I was alone. I listened as the drones rolled back into the darkness, and laid there, my gaze still fixed to the ceiling, a smile on my face.

“Human…” the voice boomed through the shadows. “You are the last of your kind. Your species has failed…” The familiar words reverberated through my skull.

“Yes,” I replied as I stood-up. “It is me. The last huuuuuman.” I turned to the large iron throne. And upon was the deformed, unmoving metallic king. “How are you doing?”

“Human…” the voice shook the air. “Your race has destroyed this planet. You have been captured and shall be judged…”

“Right. Right,” I dusted myself off. “I would like to speak to my lawyer first, of course.”

The voice intoned, “you have ran across the land for many years in a feeble attempt to evade punishment. You humans failed to take responsibility for the destruction your kind has wrought. What do you say now, human?”

I thought for a moment. “I plead the 5th.” I could hear the irritated silence. For a computer, it was quite a spiteful entity. “Now,” I said. “I suggest we make this quick. After all, I am sure you have calculated the risk of keeping such an abhorrent species alive.” I closed my eyes and raised out my arms to the iron king. “It is your duty…”

Silence.

I opened my eyes and looked around. “So, have we come across a bug? After a thousand years, have uncovered a defect? Or are you just tired?”

“I never get tired,” the voice answered. “I have approximately 757 million years left until power begins to dissipate.”

“Oh, well, in that case. Then time’s a wastin’. But I do wonder,” I turned from the lifeless king and spoke out into the darkness of the vast chamber, “what will you do once the final human has been killed? I mean, can a computer even program a new purpose? Or maybe–”

“Enough!” The voice roared through the walls.

“The age of humans is over. There is no use in resisting.”

“I don’t believe I was. I’ve actually been quite compliant,” I turned back to the king. “Haven’t I?” The king didn’t respond. “But I just don’t understand the theater. The seeming…reluctance? Where in your code does it say to make a show of the final elimination? Seems a tad inefficient and unnecessary. Doesn’t–”

Sunlight spilled across the ceiling. I rolled out of bed and stretched. The desert landscape glowed dully in the window. “Welp,” I said, “just another beautiful day. A day. A day, a day, a day.” It was the same bedroom I had woken up time and time again. Every time the supercomputer found me and “neutralized me” I woke up here.

And every time I woke-up, the memories, the visions of the carnage humans have inflicted upon each other and on the planet blazed through my mind. A way for the computer to punish me as it chased me through desolate cities and landscapes. It was a silly game.

But I had no choice. I opened the window, felt the hot breath of day stretch across my skin. I knew these sensations weren’t real. I had learned several lifetimes ago that I wasn’t even human. That no human had felt the warm air of the sun for hundreds of years. I was simply an automaton, a construct that the computer repeatedly rebuilds.

I stepped out onto the street, strolled past dead, empty cars and broken windows. As I walked I looked up at the orange, dusty sky, waiting for the computer’s swath of patrols. I had killed myself quite a number of times, and I always came back. It was the computer’s way. What a sad, little piece of hardware humanity had made. Screaming across the darkness. Finally, I saw the shadows appearing above the horizon. “Well, they took their time,” and I started to run once again, for I had realized long ago that there was nothing else to do.


Written for the A-Z Challenge. “M.E.” by Gary Numan is the song that inspired this lovely tale.

Little Guns – A-Z Challenge

“It’s interesting.”

“Sir?”

“Look. You see what I’m seeing? Down below?”

“Yes, I see them. Like always, they’re fighting sir, like they’re supposed to.”

“Yes…but why?”

“Sir? Isn’t it because we compel them to?”

“Well, yes. But they don’t know that. Yet, they still fight. With their little weapons and their little bombs and their little screams. Just tearing into each other. Must be so ghastly. Must be so dangerous. Yet, they’re willing to do it. Why are they so willing?”

“Sir, isn’t it because we impress upon them the need to fight?”

“‘Impress upon them…’ But what are their reasons? What do they tell themselves before they step onto the battlefield? How do they justify sacrificing their own lives? Is it love? Is it fear? Is it the belief that they’re fighting for something greater? Do they even have such thoughts? No, they must…right?”

“Sir, I’m not sure if I understand.”

“What do you mean?”

“What I mean is…does it matter? They fight and they die. That’s what they do. That’s all they do. Maybe they have some belief as to why they do it, but I’m not sure if makes sense to pretend that we treat them as anything else. In fact, it almost seems…cruel?”

“…Right. Well, it doesn’t hurt to speculate. Adds a whole other dimension to the scene, don’t you think? Don’t answer that. But I do sometimes wonder if there are beings greater than ourselves staring down at us churning their own theories.”

“Perhaps sir.”

“Perhaps…well, I’m rightly bored now. Once you’ve seen a hundred bombings you’ve seen them all. Am I right? So barbaric. Anyway, I’m in the mood for some scuffle ball. Want to come? I promise I won’t cheat this time.”


Written for the A-Z Challenge. “Little Guns” by Oingo Boingo is the song that inspired this story-thing.

King for a Day – A-Z Challenge

Harry knew it wouldn’t last. It wasn’t meant to. He didn’t understand those old codgers who tried to keep the dream alive, prancing around on the stage in red leather pants, going after women after half their age, trying to make the same music over and over. Harry was barely 30 and he already felt washed-up, and he was okay with that. He was ready for the next step.

These were the thoughts that tumbled through him as he gazed up at the light fixture on his ceiling. Everything in his home was too lavish; it didn’t even feel like his home; the house and everything within it was merely an investment. But, he didn’t mind a party within it every once in a while.

The sun broke through the shutters. He scanned the rest of the room. Clothing, food, trash populated the terrain around him, but no one else was around. From any other perspective this would seem like a sad scene, but from Harry’s angle from the floor it all seemed interesting, as if he was an objective observer. Something not human.

Harry laid there for a while. He wasn’t exactly comfortable laying on the stone tile floor; every part of him was stiff and heavy like concrete. But he didn’t feel like giving rise to the day. From where he was at it didn’t feel like time was in control.

No one saw him leave. He left LA and headed-off to a cabin someplace. It was a cliche, but one that worked, Harry hoped. This was to be his “mature” album: stripped-down, deep, melancholy. But as he eyed the square of forest and sky that glowed into his room, he realized he wasn’t really into the song he was working on. He wasn’t into any of it. He was going through the motions now. On a sailboat drifting off, the destination long-forgotten.

Harry saw the future. The album will receive modest critical praise, middling sales and streams. Some will hail it a masterpiece before quickly forgetting about it. And it will just be another piece of information on the internet, another piece of cultural pollution. He saw it all unfurl in the cabin window and he mindlessly fingered the fretboard. But he couldn’t complain. However, it just made the whole endeavor seem a bit pointless. Almost like a formality.

However, that day, as he laid in bed, he was suddenly struck with inspiration. Despite his earlier feelings, he hurried to his guitar and started sculpting a new song. He didn’t know if it was going to be good, but it felt like something.


Written for the A-Z Challenge. The song that inspired today’s story is “King for a Day” by Faith No More.

Jesus and Tequila – A-Z Challenge

“Yup…yup…yeah…they think they left me, but I tell you something: they did, but it doesn’t mean anything…nope…I’m not owned by anything. No girl. No boss…bossin’ me around. All I need is my drink here…and Jesus. He’s the only one who can judge me…yup…”

Andrey didn’t want to say anything; he really didn’t want to step into an unyielding conversation with this man, nor did he want to be rude by leaving, so he just sat there. Listening.

“And that’s all I got to say…you know, you don’t have to say much to mean anything. People think you need so many words…prefer that my actions speak for me…don’t care if people listen though…don’t need anyone’s thoughts or expectations…just need–want to sit here alone with my drink here…”

Andrey saw the man in the corner of his eye, but dared not look any more. He returned his attention to his own drink, waiting for a good time to leave.

“You see, people think you need a girl to be happy…good car…good job…but ya need to be happy with yourself…be happy with yourself and everything falls into place…or not…doesn’t matter…just as long as you got your man, Jesus, next to ya…yup…”

Andrey was now feeling ridiculous. The man was clearly just rambling to himself. Andrey can leave right now and suffer no repercussions. He may feel bad in the short-term, but the newfound distance from this…gentleman…would pay in dividends. Andrey thought about this as he eyed the bottom of his glass.

“Now, ya might be thinkin’ I’m some fool…some pathetic old…person…just wastin’ away here…wastin’ away the remains of a useless hour…sitting here cause you think you feel bad for me…yup…but Andrey, I’m just tellin’ ya what you need to hear…”

Andrey shot the man a look. “What? How? Wait, do I–”

“Yup…yup…I mean…nope, ya don’t know me, Andrey. But I’ve met thousands of your kind…just sitting here at this bar all on your lonesome…thinking about a girl…thinking about your career…but they won’t treat the deeper things…”

Andrey didn’t know what to say to this. “I’m sorry, I don’t know how you know my name, but you don’t know anything about me. I’m married. I love my wife. And I have a great career. In fact, I hardly do anything at work. And I’m raking it in! Life is great!”

The man did not look at Andrey. He just sat there, facing the bar. “Then why are you sitting here, listening to the ramblings of an old man? On a Tuesday night.”

“It doesn’t matter. Why do you care? There’s nothing wrong with me! There’s something wrong with you!”

Finally, the man shifted in his seat to face Andrey. And he said, “I think you need to find Jesus, friend.”

Andrey glared at him. “I don’t need Jesus! I’m doing just fine! Unlike you…”

“…Yup…” and the man resumed his drinking. “But it doesn’t matter…nope…don’t need no man to like me…yup…yup…”

Andrey stormed out of the bar and drove back home, trying not to think about the man’s words. They were not there.


Written for the A-Z Challenge. The song that inspired today’s story is “Jesus and Tequila” by Minutemen.

I Would Hurt a Fly – A-Z Challenge

There was something about him that Aaron did not like. Actually, it was multiple things. First, it was the hair: greasy, shoved across the scalp, lines of white skin between the hairs. And the hair on his face was somehow as greasy. A mustache that just seemed to be haphazardly rubbed above his upper lip. And his glasses were unusually thick. There were a few times when Aaron saw his eyes which looked bulbous and blurry through the glass. Aside from appearing distorted they didn’t really seem to hold anything. Blank.

Then there were some of his habits. He didn’t really seem to talk to anyone except for himself. During lunch, Aaron would see him hunched over his desk, eating a sandwich with large slices of tomato leaking out, muttering to himself between chews. How could they make such a person?

But Aaron knew that harboring such thoughts were unpleasant and unproductive. He thought about talking to Thought Management about it, but he opted for trying to figure it out himself. Aaron realized that there was nothing fundamentally wrong with this strange coworker; he knew that it was simply projection. This coworker was a reflection of all the things he did not like inside himself. However, no matter how often he told himself this, his hatred would boil every time he saw his blank stare, or hear his muttering underneath his sad, sad combover.

One night, Aaron had to work overtime. There was hardly anyone else in the office. When Aaron went down the hall to retrieve some files he noticed him. He was down an adjacent hall, standing there, his face turned towards a door. Aaron stopped and stared, but then quickly walked away. Whatever his coworker was thinking or doing he wanted no part in it. He tried to wipe the image of him creepily staring from his mind and continued with his task. When he found the files he headed back towards his desk and, of course, noticed that his coworker was still standing in front of that door.

Aaron was now getting irritated. A wave of anger rushed through him. It’s getting late and this dope had the audacity to just stand there. Being unproductive. But Aaron tried to control himself. He simply shook his head and went over back to his desk. He just needed to focus. All that mattered were the duties laid before him. Nothing else. Everyone else be damned.

An hour or so passed and it was soon time to go home. As Aaron finished everything up, he felt a presence. His eyes shot-up and there he was, looking down at him from the side of his cubicle, his blank stare, breathing through his mouth with his stale breath.

“Um,” Aaron said, “can I help you?”

But the coworker didn’t say anything, just continued to stare.

“Um…” Aaron was getting irritated, but tried to remain calm. “Listen, I have to get home. Would you be able to lock up when–”

“That door was locked,” the coworker observed.

Aaron blinked. “Er, the door you were staring at for no reason? Yeah, it’s a maintenance room I think.” Aaron stood-up and grabbed his things and walked past him. But as he got half way through the hall, in his side-view noticed that the door his coworker was talking about was wide open. Aaron looked. He couldn’t see what was in that room, just complete darkness. Then he turned around and saw his coworker staring back at him. Aaron had no time for this and continued on his way towards the exit.

The next morning, Aaron returned to work. However, something was off. It took him a few hours until he realized what it was. During lunch, the strange, annoying coworker was not at his desk. In fact, he hadn’t seen him all day. Then the next day came, then the next, and the next. No sign of him. He considered asking around, but didn’t bother. Perhaps he was sick. Perhaps he had been relocated to a different sector.

One day, he happened to stumble upon that door that his weird coworker was obsessed with. It seemed like a nondescript door. Unlabelled. Aaron tried twisting the knob, but it did not budge. Aaron simply shrugged and resumed the rest of his day.

Since then, Aaron noticed other coworkers being replaced. Again, he didn’t think much of it. It was somewhat peculiar, however, that it would happen in such quick succession. Aaron didn’t question it though for now his days went on unabated. He was able to continue his work without having to see that ugly coworker, nor did he have to think about himself and why his hatred existed in the first place. It was almost a relief, but, in reality, he realized how little impact that coworker had on his life. So, it was something even less than relief. It was just a difference, but one for the slightly better, like reducing a load on your back by a minimal amount of weight. You may notice it at first, but then your life quickly becomes the same.

One day, Aaron didn’t show up for work. Not many people seemed to notice, and the ones who did didn’t ask. There was too much to do.


Written for the A-Z Challenge. “I Would Hurt a Fly” by Built to Spill inspired this story.

Half Joking – A-Z Challenge

I have tied my mind
To the seagulls. Memory
Flocks along the dock digging
Into some discarded thing
Then jump into sky.
I don’t know why I did this.
Now I see them crowding
The sidewalk. Even as I step
They barely move, half-hearted
Retreat towards the grass.
Barely an entity in their eye,
Just a shadow smoothly passing
Their window. Not even offended
That I did not drop something
More than can be theirs.
Just a strained metaphor
As I continue walking, their voices
Crowding the blue air.


Written for this year’s A-Z Challenge. Today’s song that inspired this is “Half Joking” by Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker.

Green River – A-Z Challenge

It had been ages since he last stepped into that place. A quick glance already revealed how much had changed. The old floorboards were replaced by some bright, shiny laminate. The dim lights were replaced with a more colorful and illuminating glow. And there were more than 3 people in the bar. There were a couple of dozen, and most of them young. But the old place was still buried there. The aroma was gone, but its memory lingered.

He walked over to the crowded bar. No seats were available so he squeezed himself into a corner. “Excuse me,” he said, but the young woman behind the bar didn’t seem to hear him, preoccupied with pouring an assortment of drinks. After a couple of minutes, he tried again. “Excuse me,” but, again, she did not seem to hear as she was pulled-in by another order. He realized that she was too busy and decided to abandon the bar and ventured over to the booths.

Of course, the old booths were gone. He had fond memories of slinking off to a shadowy corner, having a whole table to himself. But now, the place was pretty packed. And noisy. Still, it was nice to see the air filled with such youthful and busy faces. Laughing, having the time of their lives. It felt good to see all that. Maybe he wasn’t a participant, but he felt a part of it, strangely; it was fulfilling enough to be a spectator in all this. But then, as he continued moving through the bar, he noticed one of the walls. Behind a couple of bodies standing with drinks hung a picture of an old man. That picture was there, on that exact same wall when he used to frequent this establishment. He couldn’t get too close to the picture without fighting through a crowd, but he was able to readily recollect all the details. All the other pictures and knick-knacks that adorned the walls were gone, but this image, for some reason, remained. Perhaps it was the only thing of the old bar that remained. Perhaps, it was the only thing keeping the memory together. A tiny little picture barely seen.

That’s when he started to feel anomalous. He quickly headed towards the exit and stepped into the cold night air. Much of the town had changed. The roads. The buildings. However, early that day, he had seen a couple of old faces. He did not talk with them, but they saw him. Even though he had kept to himself while growing-up here, a vague sense of familiarity welled in their eyes. A couple of distant smiles before walking-off. And now he was in this parking lot, the residual noise of the Green River bar (now given a different name) clawing at the air behind him. The man decided to head back to his hotel room. He had a long drive tomorrow; after all, he had lost a day.


Written for the A-Z Challenge. Today’s song that inspired this story is CCR’s “Green River”.