12-Minute Tales – Guiding Hands

“We did it. We made Thanksgiving into the new Black Friday. Isn’t that exciting?” The CEO said to the faces in the conference room. They all smiled and nodded. “Now, people can enjoy great deals instead of enjoying great meals with their families.” The conference room started clapping as the CEO sat down. “Now,” as he spoke the room quickly fell to silence, “the important thing is that we make people think that they are getting great deals. Otherwise, we would be making a little less money. And we don’t want that. I would rather kill myself than make less than 50 billion dollars a quarter.” The conference room nodded and clapped at this. However, someone raised their hand.

“E-excuse, me. Sir?”

“Yes, what is it, Mister…”

“Um, Stevenson sir.”

“I don’t care. What is it?”

“Well, wouldn’t they catch on?”

“Catch on?”

“Yes. Like, if shoppers realize that the deals aren’t that great, or that the products are really just cheap imitations, wouldn’t they be less hyped?”

“Well, yeah. That would probably happen. But once we get to that we will think of something. Now, um–”

“Sir?” The same person raised his hand. The conference room turned toward him. The air was thick with silence, waiting.

“Um…” The CEO said, “what is it now?”

“Well, I mean, I think it’s a wonderful idea to extend Black Friday to Thursday. But isn’t that Thanksgiving sir? Isn’t that when people should be with their families?”

The conference room immediately turned to the CEO. Beads of sweat. Hands shaking. But the CEO just grinned. “Oh, you, whatever-your-name-is. The problem is that you’re treating these people as humans.”

Stevenson scratched his head. “I’m confused.”

“Heh. I can see you’re still young. What I’m saying is that people are just cattle. All they care about is eating, shitting, and shinies. And we’re there to help them get to the shinies. We guide them. And if we weren’t there they would, I don’t know, run around. Or something. Who cares?”

“Hm,” Stevenson rubbed his chin. “I see. And, if we weren’t there, there would be someone else who would guide the people, er, cattle, to their shinies, and we would lose out.”

The CEO pointed at him. “See here, he may be naive, but he’s a thinker. You’re going to go places Mr. Whatever-The-Fuck-Who-Cares.”

Stevenson was positively glowing. “Thank you sir,” he said silently.

“Well,” the CEO said, “now that we’ve got that settled. Pass me one of those cocaine-laced cigars and not do anything at all until the next meeting in three weeks. Toodles.”

A Simple Question of Starting Over

This week, Fandango presents us with another question, this one a bit more personal:

Would you be willing to give up everything you have if you could go back and start your life all over again? Why or why not?

What’s interesting is the way the question is phrased. He could have just asked “would you start your life all over again if given the chance?” But nope, he puts “Would you be willing to give up everything you have” at the beginning. And yes, giving up everything is pretty much implied if you decide to restart your life, but I’m not sure if people actually think about such an implication, hence why Fandango probably decided to make it explicit. As a result, when trying to answer this question you end-up revealing quite a bit. I mean, doesn’t it say a lot if one is willing to give-up all their achievements and relationships just to start over? Just to experience a first kiss again, or correct a business decision. Basically, would you be willing to sacrifice your life, and the lives of everyone else, just so you could have a “redo”?

Nice try, Fandango. See, he’s trying to make the whole thing more complicated by throwing in that quandary. But let me tell you something, I don’t give a fudge about anything. You could even say I’m the master of not giving a fudge. See, you know that song by LCD Soundsystem, “All My Friends” where he sings that he wouldn’t take away one mistake for another 5 years of life? Well, I would. I don’t care. Fandango tried making this question tougher than it is, but guess what? I didn’t even have to think about this for one second. Nope. I am totally, 100% willing to give up everything to redo my life.

That is if I remember everything from my current life. I don’t want to be going into my new life blind. Because if I redo my life with the knowledge I have I would totally kick ass. Invest in the right companies. Say the right things to the right people. Become ultra-rich by the time I’m 17 and live the shit out of my new life. I mean, yeah, I basically erased the lives of everyone else in the process, but maybe by me becoming rich everyone is better off. Right? Yeah, maybe some guy down the street never sees the love of his life as a consequence of me buying Amazon (man, chaos theory kicks ass, doesn’t it?) but love is overrated anyway.

Then again, what if I don’t remember anything? Then…well…it’s kind of like that idea of Eternal Recurrence. You know, from Nietzsche. Basically, it’s a thought experiment where a demon forces you to relive your life exactly the way you did previously. For some this would be a curse, but for others a blessing, depending on your outlook and how you lived your life. At least, I think that’s what Eternal Recurrence is. I don’t remember, and I don’t do research for anything I write.

If that’s the case though, I don’t know if I would. The question really becomes something else. It’s really about whether or not you lived life to the fullest. And, well, at least so far, I don’t think I’ve had. Instead of learning new skills or going out into the world, I’ve drifted along on autopilot, out of either fear or complacency. And I think that’s the case for most people. Maybe that’s one of the fundamental differences between the average person, and a “great one.” When Magnus Carlsen was 22, he won the world chess championship. When I was 22, I, well…in college? I mean, I mostly had a good experience and met some great people…I don’t really remember a whole lot. And maybe I’m being too dismissive. After all, you don’t need to be the world’s greatest at anything in order to have a good, meaningful life. But I sometimes wonder if I had potential for something and never fulfilled them. Or had opportunities to experience life to the fullest, and shirked them. A mediocre life.

If I redid my life, would I just end-up making the same decisions? Probably. It’s like what Matthew McConaughey said, “time is a flat circle.” The same things keep occurring throughout history because people keep making the same decisions, keep living the same lives as their ancestors (OK, sometimes they don’t have much of a choice,) without much dimensionality. I mean, that’s an oversimplification of, well, everything. But, you understand what I’m going for: people kind of just float along through life, and I’m not the exception.

So, would I be willing to restart everything if there was just a slight chance that things might occur differently, hopefully for the better? Meh. Probably not. I mean, so far my life is alright, but I feel like I have the opportunity to make things better. But am I going to?

However, if I had knowledge of my previous life? At first I said yes, but well…now I’m thinking about that song lyric: I think the reason why he wouldn’t take away his past mistakes is because those were his mistakes. They were what made him the person he is now, and he would much rather own up to that than “start over.” But what about me? I mean, I have no choice but to own up to the dumb shit I’ve done, and to the things I never did. However, if given the choice? I don’t know. Because if I relived my life, even with knowledge from my previous life, wouldn’t I become a different person? Would the people around me no longer be the ones I loved? I would still love them, but something would be lost. I would be lost, even if what I am now is “better.”

Hm…but other than that the question is simple really. It’s just ourselves that are fucked up. Well, myself actually. I don’t want to throw humanity under the bus just because I’m struggling with this prompt…actually, fuck Nietzche, fuck Matthew McConaughey. The answer is yes, I would destroy everything so I could start over. Why? Because I want to be Jeff Bezos. With that kind of money you don’t have to worry about anything. Yep. That is all.

 

12-Minute Tales – A Good Revolution

He stopped before the gates and looked up at the rather impressive tower turning to ash before his eyes. He had seen the smoke in the distance and anticipated what was going on, but actually seeing the destruction before him was something else. The once grand tower, the tower that stood high and mighty on the horizon of his years, now whittling away to kindling.

“Man, isn’t it great?” A man in rags stood beside him.

“Did…did they have to do this?”

“Aye. It’s a symbol of the rich and their power o’er us. Gots to take it down,” the man in rags grinned.

“Yeah, but…centuries of history–”

“Oi! This is our history now. You in or not!” Suddenly, a swarm of faces swarmed around the two men.

Abner paused and wiped his brow. “Ay. I’m in. I…yes. I’m in.” The dirty faces stared at him before continuing their destruction across the city, destroying other historic landmarks in the name of revolution.

Abner knew it had to be done. Years of exploitation by the nobility had led to this, but it was happening so fast. He walked down the cobblestone road, ash clinging to the air

“NO! You CAN’T!” Abner stopped and saw one of the mobs surrounding the entrance to the museum. He pushed through the mob and saw his mentor, Boris, standing before the mob, his arms raising, trying to prevent their entry.

“Aye! Step aside old man! You either in or not!”

“You can’t do this! You just–” But before Boris could finish a knife dug into his side and the mob exploded into cheers as the old man collapsed onto the steps. Abner rushed over and held the old man.

“Boris!”

“Abner, you must stop them. You MUST!”

“I can’t, there’s nothing–”

A look of disappointment and disbelief washed over Boris for a brief moment, but as blood trickled from his mouth his eyes turned away from Abner and toward the sky. His eyes widened, but all they could see was the sun fill with dust. His eyes soon changed and his body fell to silence. Abner held the old man for a little longer as the mob surrounded them with bonfires.


Written for Story Prompt Sunday.

 

12-Minute Tales – Marcus the Magnificent, Part V

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

The forest fell to silence as the blood seeped into the road. Sir Edger pulled his blade from the belly of the direwolf and watched as the light exited its eye. He sheathed his sword and surveyed the scene. The group had successfully dismantled a pack of direwolves with no injury on their part. Not bad for a band of younglings.

“Samnor, nice job on getting the jump, but your aim still needs a little work.” Samnor nodded as he tried pulling one of his arrows from the bark of a nearby tree. “And Hajar, charming one of the wolves so that it turns on its brethren was risky, but it worked. Nicely done. And Marcus as for you…where’s Marcus?” The group looked at each other and shrugged. “Great…”

What they didn’t know was, as the wolves descended upon them Marcus had fled from the road and into the woods until he fell into a ditch where he remained for the duration of the battle. He sat at the bottom, eyes quivering, his face red, his body shaking.

Minutes passed. The echoes of battle whimpered into silence, but Marcus remained in the ditch, pressing his face into his hands. “I just want to go home…” But then, footsteps. His heart raced in its place and his eyes shot up to the opening of the ditch. Watching. The footsteps were slow, but grew louder. He clutched his rock, er, companion egg.

But then the footsteps stopped, and a face appeared above him. And without thinking Marcus hurled his egg at the face. And missed. Terribly.


Don’t know how it took me 12 minutes to write only this. But here you go. Not sure how many more installments I will write. Probably until I reach a “natural end.” Anyway, hope you enjoy. And if you don’t then ehhhhhhhh. 

 

Writing About Art, and Other Things (A Minor Update)

I never really had much of a plan going into this blog. I had some ideas, like writing about writing as well as providing a “behind the scenes” of web fiction series I never got around to doing, but I was just winging it for the most part.

And that hasn’t changed. However, I want to start focusing on more “serious” projects. I’m still planning on writing a web fiction (or serial fiction, whatever you want to call it) series, but it’s probably going to be a bit different than what I had originally outlined. It will probably focus on the same character, a hapless pizza deliveryman whose world just spirals into chaos around him. I’m also going to try to finish-up some of the stories I started writing for 12-Minute Tales such as “A Strange Dominion” and “Marcus, the Magnificent.” If you’re “not in the know” or “out-of-the-loop,” 12-Minute Tales are basically dumb stories I write in one 12-minute sitting with no planning and with basic editing. Most of the stories are bad, but the point was to keep myself writing. I’ll probably still do this as an exercise once in a while, but probably not too often as I try to focus more on projects that I could (hopefully) be proud of.

I also still want to write on art and the art of writing, but it’s hard. Lately I’ve been trying to write a response to column by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame on the “power of art,” but I find that some of my thoughts just aren’t enough to sustain a decent blog post. Or maybe it’s just that I’m not very good at articulating my points. There are things I want to say about art, but whenever I write them down it feels like I’m just not conveying what I’m trying to say well enough and could come across as arrogant or pretentious, more so than usual.

But ehhhhhh, I’ll keep trying. I’ve got nothing better to do. Guess that’s been the unsaid motto of this whole thing. It’s funny, just a few years ago I was super ambitious about writing and art. I wanted to change how people think through my literature. Now I come home from work and write stories about mean chickens and Dr. Phil. Literally stuff that no one should really read.

Oh, and I’ve also been thinking about doing movie reviews (because no one does this.) Like last night, I saw Soldier, a ’98 sci-fi/action film with Kurt Russell. It was a’ight. There, there’s the first movie review. Watch out Siskel! Suck a dick Ebert! Cause I’m coming down to Hollywoodland! But seriously, the movie wasn’t too bad. Anyway, I hope everyone and their grandmother enjoyed this minor update that I probably didn’t need to do. Goodnight, and good luck.

12-Minute Tales – Marcus the Magnificent, Part IV

Part I
Part II
Part III

The sun filled the canopies above as the band of adventurers marched deeper into the forest, weapons at their sides. They had been walking for two days now in search of mines that had been abandoned many, many years ago. They were led by Sir Edger, a former solder and veteran adventurer who specialized in swordfighting and dazzling acrobatics. He was also a mentor to the rest of the group who trailed behind him. They were still young and inexperienced, but, in them, he saw great potential.

“Stop,” he said, and the children did so. “It seems that we have come across a fork in the road.” Sir Edger thought for a moment and turned to one of the children in the very back. “Marcus, come over here please.”

Marcus sighed and approached the orange-mustachioed mentor. “It appears that our path diverges into two different possibilities. I need you to use your tracking skills to determine which path would be safest for us.”

Marcus tensed-up. Marcus, in the past few months, had been pushed into a certain specialization, that of tracking and navigation. But, that’s mainly because he didn’t show much interest in fighting, spells, or adventuring in general. And since he seemed to take comfort more in nature and isolation than in others, the academy figured that this would be the best for Marcus.

Marcus gulped. “Is this something that you can do for us,” Sir Edger asked, staring down at the child. Marcus nodded and walked over to the rightside. Bending over he saw dirt, rocks, and some twigs. Unfortunately for them, Marcus wasn’t very good at tracking. In fact, he didn’t really know what he was supposed to be looking for. He rarely, if ever, paid attention in class, his mind wandering back home, his mother and father seated at the table, indulging in some potato stew after a long day of plowing and tilling.

Marcus scratched his head and then inspected the left diverging path. There, he saw some paw-prints. No idea what animal they belonged to, but he knew, from his expertise, that they were from something altogether different from human.

“Marcus, what say you? Which way should we partake?”

Partake. What a hideous, stupid word. Just because Sir Edger knows how to use a sword and fought goblins at one point didn’t mean he was better than real folk. Sir Edger wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for people like his father who grew the food that his family themselves couldn’t afford. Marcus stood-up. “Aye, sir. Um, this path seems to be safest.” The left…

“Very well. Let us continue. Derus, would you sing us a song? To keep our spirits up,” Sir Edger said to Derus who eagerly plucked the strings of his lute and sung a song of hope and wonder. But as they walked down the road, a wave of regret submerged Marcus. What did he just do? Why did he tell them this road? Were they going to be eaten? Should I–well, it’s too late to say anything now. But, maybe it won’t be so bad. Probably just some wolves…

12-Minute Tales – Chicken Day

“So, um…what do you like to do?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing? Ok…not much to work with there…so, do you like sports?”

“No.”

“Ok…do you have a job? What do you do for work?”

Instagram.”

Instagram? Like, nothing else? Just Instagram?”

“Yea.”

“Um. So…does that pay well?”

“I dunno.”

“Ok. So, what do you think, um, do you think God is real?”

“I dunno.”

“Ok. Um, what do you think of that situation in Bolivia? You know, the situation…”

“No.”

“…No? Just no?”

“…Yea.”

“Um. Ok…I’m just going to go now and not come back. You can pay for the fries.”

“Ok.”

“Ok…right. Um, take care, if it matters.” Jeff left the restaurant, but as he stepped outside in the cold a stampede of chickens poured over him. He fell onto the concrete as the chickens stomped over him, some pecking at his face. As the stampede continued down the street Jeff pulled himself back up. He forgot that today was the day when the chickens took revenge on humanity. It was kind of like The Purge, but with chickens. Fortunately though the chickens will be back on the farms the next day where they’re made into McNuggets.

Jeff noticed a cut on his face. He went back into the restaurant and asked a passing waiter, “Um excuse me. Can I have a napkin. You know, for my–”

“No.”

“Oh, um–” But before Jeff could say anything the waiter walked away. In the distance he saw his date back at the table, but he was chatting with another guy. And this time he was actually smiling, expressing something more polysyllabically. However, Jeff smiled. Everyone needs someone. Everyone deserves to be happy. And, one day, Jeff will find someone. Unfortunately, for Jeff, as he stepped back out the chickens returned for a second helping and Jeff had to be taken to the hospital.

“Wow, you’re an idiot,” the nurse said to Jeff as he lied on the floor in the ER. “Don’t you know it’s chicken day? You stupid asshole.” Jeff squirmed and convulsed with pain.

“Can I have a bed please?”

“No,” was all the nurse said.

“Ok,” and Jeff remained there for the rest of the night. In the morning, his body was found by one of the janitors who shook his head and mopped around the obstruction. “Ain’t cleaning that shit up.”

12-Minute Tales – The Pale One

One day, as I was walking down the street, I saw a pale man standing just a few feet away from me, shivering. He didn’t have any clothes on except a loin cloth, and his head was bulbous and without hair. The sight was so strange, so jarring and disturbing I immediately stopped and stared. What I was thinking about and where I needed to go instantly vanished. All I could do was just stare at this man who was standing at the edge of the sidewalk, his eyes fixed downward, not looking at anything in particular.

After a moment I started to think. “Wait, shouldn’t I help this guy out?” And then I thought, “No. It could be dangerous. This should really be left to a professional.” After some deliberation I decided that there wasn’t anything I could do and I walked right past him as he continued to shiver in the same spot.

That night I couldn’t sleep. His white, almost luminous face hovered in my skull. I imagined myself once again on the sidewalk, except I couldn’t walk past the old, emaciated man, his tiny frame somehow blocking my path.

However, a week passed and the image of the man dissolved and life returned to what it once was. Until I saw her. She was across the street. Barely any clothing and her skin was pale. And like the old man she didn’t beg or pay heed to anyone that passed her. She clung to the same spot like a leaf against the sharpest winds. I tried to shrug it off. It was just another homeless person. What can you do? But then I saw another pale one, and another, and another. Every other day I would see one shivering in the subway or in the park or outside a shop. Not wanting anything. Not acknowledging anyone’s presence. Just there.

Feelings of dread and unease slipped into my life. Even when they weren’t around I still felt their presence. And, during the day, I felt an uncontrollable shiver that would come and go without warning. I started to worry.

But, I learned to not pay any attention to them. They were harmless, just as long as I didn’t let them control me. So I continued life, and whenever a feeling of dread or a shiver came I either tried to distract myself, or let it roll over, knowing that it was just nothing, like a stranger’s face floating into distance.


Written for Twiglet #152.