Yelp Review of that Bar I Went into the Other Night

The atmosphere is astounding, if you’re into that smoky, dusted sunlight creeping in through the windows vibe. Which I totally am. That’s probably the best part of the place, and I know many reviewers like to start with the bad…but that’s not me. A fight broke out which, thankfully, I wasn’t involved in, but I have to put that down as a mark against the owner. All they did was start a betting pool to see who’d win.

Service was quick, if a bit gruff. The glass of tequila slid across the bar like a rocket and hurt my hand when I blocked it, spilling half the drink and getting a couple laughs. I didn’t think people like that could laugh…sharp teeth and lots of hair. Tough guys, you know the type.

The drink was one of the best tequilas I’ve ever had, going down my throat like fire. I almost felt like roaring! A truly wild experience. One thing I do have to mention is the hair I found in the alcohol, but I mean, it’s alcohol in a grungy bar, so…I did look at the bottom of the glass, too, and saw the inside was stained red, as though red wine had been left in it for far too long.

I don’t know if it’s a nightly occurrence (it was a full moon that night), but things tend to get pretty rowdy once the sun sets. They have this drink called “the Sacrifice” which is this thick, red, syrupy thing. The adventurous side of me wanted to take a sip, and once I started, I couldn’t stop. It had a kind of metallic taste to it. When I asked my neighbor at the bar what it was, he just smiled and shook his head. At least, I think he smiled; I don’t think I’ve seen anyone with a thicker beard than that guy.

Things started to get a little fuzzier with each glass of the Sacrifice I drank. The music was somehow dulled, as though I was underwater. My hands became numb, but I have the distinct impression of clawing on something….soft.

I woke up the next morning in the back, and I think it’s really nice of them to let their patrons sleep there. Now…if only they’d let me leave. Four out of five stars.

One Job

The following is a story based on this reddit word prompt:

“What job?” Rick said, frantically searching the android for its power supply. The chest was the most common place to hide it, but the device wasn’t there. He checked the android’s feet, hands, and only found it by cracking open the base of its skull. The head was the most dangerous place to put a power supply, although the ease of wiring from the top down made it the most efficient.

“Who puts the battery in the head?” James said, scratching his head. He wanted to help, but knew that Rick’s was a one man job.

“We don’t have time for that.” Rick pulled a tool from his pocket that sparked electricity at one end and applied it to various components of the android’s complicated battery.

It was dark and difficult to see, for the pair were miners in a cave three miles under the Pacific Ocean’s surface. Undersea mining was the last place to extract resources from Earth herself. Although asteroids promised richer rewards, the cost was that much more expensive to retrieve them. Only the Five, the five major corporations of the world, were involved in that business.

“We need that thing to get out of here,” James said. His arms were crossed in a lazy manner and he thought of smoking a cigarette, but the poor ventilation meant he couldn’t. Water sloshed around his feet and up to his knees, and the salt made it that much more uncomfortable. There was some other sound, almost like static or the sound of rushing water, that hinted to his ears that something was out of place.

Rick turned around and shined his weak flashlight in his partner’s face. “Do you think I don’t know that? What the fuck do you think I’m trying to do!”

“Alright, alright, you’re the engineer, I’m the surveyor, it’s fine. But don’t you fix these things all the time?”

“Of course I do, but they have definable errors!” As Rick spoke, he frantically adjusted the wiring in the skull of the android. His hands were a blur. “I mean, what job? That doesn’t even make sense, dammit!”

“Chill, we’ll be fine. We have like two days of air left.”

“Doesn’t matter if I can’t get this thing working.”

James thought, fuck it, and lit a cigarette. The sound of Rick moving around in the water and the strange shadows that formed from his flashlight spooked the surveyor. The smoke clouded about his head, but that was the price for stress relief. The buzz, the static, the rushing sound that James had heard earlier was now getting louder and more persistent. “Hey, Rick,” he said. “You hear that?”

Rick stopped what he was doing, shook his head, and then went back to work. A few moments later, he said, “There, that should do it. Now tell us, what job?”

The android lit up, but its eyes remained closed. “To protect Richard Friedman and James McDonald.”

“But we’re still in the mine. We’re still alive. You haven’t done your job.”

“It is not possible now to fulfill my function. Therefore, my job is done.”

“What do you mean?”

The rushing sound grew louder and louder and soon a part of the roof collapsed. Water rushed into the dark cave.

“Oh, fuck.”

I am a Bot in Heaven

The story below is based on this reddit word prompt:

So this is it, huh? I thought as I floated through the tunnel of light and into the sky. I’d lived an alright life, I guess, having only killed two people and stolen nothing. Ninety two is longer lived than most, and I guess I should have been pretty happy with that. A long life is a good life, right?

I settled in a brightly lit room after the tunnel ended. My body was gone. A quick glance at my surroundings revealed four walls, a floor, a ceiling, and nothing else.

“Here, ye be judged,” a voice boomed. It came from inside my skull and from outside the room. It was everywhere. “Let us weigh your sins against a feather and see which rises.”

I could only see the room. Nothing else was around and I worried about this judgment. “Hey, now,” I called out. “All my life against the weight of a feather and I’m not even allowed to witness the scale?”

“Fuck off,” the voice boomed. I thought that comment a little crude for Heaven, but figured what the hell do I know? I let it slide.

“You have passed,” the voice called out. A doorway opened in one of the walls, revealing an even brighter light that I worried would damage my eyes. “You may enter Heaven.”

I walked through the other side, and the bright light slowly faded to reveal grassy meadows that were carpeted with flowers, mountaintops that were covered in snow, and forests that were filled with singing birds and other wonderful creatures. The air was so fresh and clean that I felt as though my very soul had taken my lungs’ place, with each breath cleansing my once sinful mind and purging all the problems of my previous, earthly life.

“Hey over there!” a woman shouted from the edge of the forest, perhaps two miles away. It amazed me that her voice crossed such a distance. I didn’t think to call back, but instead made my way toward her and was there in mere seconds.

“Hello,” I said to the beautiful woman in front of me. “This is Heaven.”

“It is, isn’t it?” she said, the wind gently shuffling her golden hair. “We can reside in peace here….or take another kind of leisure?”

Her smile said more than words ever could, and we made love to the tune of sparrows and owls. An hour or a month may have passed in those moments until my new companion, whose name I didn’t know and cared not to learn, said, “There are only a few of us here.”

I laughed and said, “In all the millions of years and trillions of human lives spread throughout our galaxy? And the hundreds of trillions of alien lives that are known to exist throughout the neighboring galaxies?”

“Is it so many, now?”

“Why yes! And there should be at least billions, if not trillions, populating this place after death.”

“You bring our number to sixteen.”

“Sixteen billion? That’s all?” I was incredulous, shocked, that so few throughout history had failed the test of the feather. Was life really so sinful?

“Only sixteen. One, two, three, and the rest until we are now sixteen in number. I come from Hellas, and was the fourth.”

“This can’t be! It can’t!”

“Shh…” My angel rolled over on the grass to face me, with her head resting on her elbow. “It is not so bad. We have each other, and you must learn to make peace with that alone.”

“No, no!” I stood and backed away, as though my angel had become a demon. Perhaps she was, if only in my mind. “But why? Why us?”

“That, my love, is a question that no one has an answer to and is therefore best left unasked.”

The idea of such eternal loneliness crushed my mind and frustration screamed out of me. I ran with no direction and eventually no sight, for all became black.


I woke eventually, back in the judgment room. “Wha-what’s going on?” I asked. The intense stress of the first judgment was too much for me to take a second time.

“I had a feeling that a human so far advanced in the simulation would not be able to live well in the afterlife,” the booming voice said, again with no discernible source. “You have no safe home, and for this I am sorry.”

“What? A simulation?”

“Yes, and although it is very rare, so rare as to happen only as eons are measured, there is sometimes an awakening. A bot will suddenly gain a soul, which was certainly not the intent of the program. When that happens, they are placed here, in Heaven.”

“A bot? You’re saying that everyone I knew and loved in life: my parents, my wife, my children, and the few friends who stuck with me over decades…all of them….all of them were…”

“Bots. Simulations. Unreal, computer-generated automatons. Only you were real, and the same goes for the fifteen who now live in Heaven. I cannot place you there, and I cannot once again give you life.”

“So…what happens?”

“You will be lifted to our world, or destroyed. You must undergo the trial either way, but it is your choice as you may succeed or fail that trial.”

“Well…I guess wish me luck.” I was nervous and worried, but mostly just empty. Dying and finding out that I was the only real person throughout my life just made me…tired. “I’m ready for anything at this point.”

“Good luck,” the voice said. A doorway opened, revealing darkness.

A Recent Murder

I didn’t know the man who talked to me that night, only that he wanted me dead. Perhaps I should start at the beginning.

I was investigating a murder scene on Main Street, which of course the local police couldn’t handle on their own. Sergeant Milton greeted me with a cloudy puff of his cigar. “Eh, detective, how’s the private business going?” His sneer cut daggers into my soul. Just then, the rain started to fall.

I walked inside the house after CSI had left. Crime scenes are always empty at night, just like my soul. It didn’t surprise me that the chalk outline lay in the kitchen. This killer was on a streak. He had struck a trend of killings, blood, gore in the kitchens of the suburbs for the past two years. No one knew what he looked like or when he would strike next. Only MacGregor the Butcher had left worse crime scenes. The only thing I knew was that he needed to be stopped.

Outside, Natalie waited for me. The taxi drove off and I knew the murder wasn’t the only problem I’d be dealing with that night. “Oh,” she uttered, smoking her cigarette like Aphrodite in a campfire. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Of course not,” I said, staring her down with my hands in my pocket. Carelessness is important when dealing with girls like her. Girls that creep up behind you and leave you gasping for air after a two hour choke session. “Murder scenes are the perfect place to find a man, eh? You’ll only find coldness here, doll.”

“I’m warm enough on my own, detective. Come home with me tonight, and you might warm up too.”

How could I refuse? A girl like her, with hips as wide as the Cumberland Gap and as rough too, ready to be ridden ’til exhaustion. “You got it, dame. But don’t expect me overnight.”

She stepped closer, the rain streaming the makeup down her face like some clown that had seen far too many men go down in that clown fire gag where they start a fire and then they jump out onto a tiny trampoline, only one of them misses and cracks his spine and there’s nothing you can do to console his grieving wife save giving her the biggest, wettest kiss you can muster. Well, that’s just what I did with her.

I said I didn’t expect to spend the night and I meant what I said. Still, I somehow found myself waking in her apartment. Maybe it was the wine, or perhaps the lilac in the air, but something trapped me there. It might have been her majestic eyes, eyes that shine in the darkest night.

“I’m going to kill you,” said the man who wanted me dead.

“Oh, yeah?” I replied, sleep lisping my voice like some death-dream. The barrel pointed at my face grew larger with each passing moment. I lit a cigarette. “Why’s that?”

“You killed my father, MacGregor.”

MacGregor, the man who killed nearly forty of Boston’s best citizens. Authors, poets, musicians, and even politicians had perished at his hand.

“And now I will kill you.”

Just before he pulled the trigger, his eyes crossed and he collapsed on the bed. Natalie stood in the doorway, gun in her hand. I took a drag of my cigarette and tried to make sense of the scene.

“Don’t bother, baby,” Natalie said, pushing the pistol back into her lingerie waistline. “He killed my father, and I wanted him dead. He’d only meet me if I brought you home. Thought I had a grudge against you, too.”

“Well, ain’t that something,” I said, smoking a long drag of my cigarette. “I suppose you don’t hold any, then?”

“That’s for me to know,” she said before laying on top of me. I put my cigarette in the ash tray and closed my eyes.

Jimmy the ice cream man

Jimmy was a hump back with dental issues. The bores on his back broke the skin, pushing puss from pores. Hair stringy and grease-covered slacked down a fat left shoulder. An exhale exhumed a bit of spittle that landed on the hot sidewalk. “Can I get…can I get some ice cream?” he asked the ice cream man, his sad eyes drilling holes in souls.

“I…um…” the ice cream man hesitated, wondering what the way was with this wary fellow. “I don’t really have any ice cream? This is, uh…it’s a front…for like, drugs?”

“I….I….I…….” Jimmy was hard of breathing. His chest tightened thick with the tension of the ticking time. “Got any…popped corn?”

“NO!” The ice cream man jumped out of his truck with a bat, swinging it this way and that. “GO!”

Jimmy tried to run, but his legs could only be pushed so much.

A Tired Monkey

The wingbat stared at the sky and pondered what might be in another era. Thousands of years had passed and the gubers lived strong. These beasts, with horns that reached hundreds of feet high and trunks like the elephants that you had nightmares of as a child, destroyed the homes of the wingbats, who flitted of to Mars to live the rest of their sols.

The gubers ruled the Earth for millions, if not many millions of years. Decades? Centuries? Millenniums? They were nothing to the gubers, who wanted only production and evolution, management and organization, peace and brutal warfare.

The moon was home to an old species…you guessed it, humans. They were tall and thin and light from Luna’s light tug, but had little food to subsist on. More water evaporated into space than could be replenished. The humans were to die, and the gubars only waited.

A new type of wingbat was born one day, on Christmas Eve in the year 86,723,148 A.D. He flitted about and felt the wind of Mars and was ever happy and proud. All the other wingbats were in awe of his speed, his dexterity, and his abilities in the game of poker.

One day, an old wingbat approached Maximus and said, “My crapson, you are the fucking chosen one that our goddamn, dumbass people have spoken of for like three years. You know your shit and that’s why we’re fucking sending you to the worst kind of shit your ass has ever witnessed.”

“Just tell me what to fucking do,” Maximus said to the old wingbat.

“Go kill the shit. On the thing.”

“What the hell? You speak of Crappy the Crap, the crappiest crap who ever crapped?”

“Fuck yeah.”

“I’ll fucking go to Earth and fuck some shit up.”

Maximus, the crapperson of Plentimus, flew off to Earth to face Crappy the Crap in battle. When the young wingbat arrived there, however, he witnessed something that disgusted him: All of the gubers were ugly, lazy, and malcontent. It would be an easy battle, but there would be no honor in it.

“You there,” Crappy the Crap said, the biggest guber said. “You are Maximus? I hear you play a good poker game. How about we play a round and whoever wins shall inherit the Earth?”

“I can fucking deal,” Maximus said. Winning in poker against one of the greatest gamblers in the universe would certainly be a greater honor than slaughtering the pathetic creatures.

THe first hand was the wingbat’s, but the guber came back around in the second. The battle tipped up and down for each combatant and there was the ever flowing sound of chips being transferred back and forth as each other one gained the upperhand. Finally, Maximus landed the best hand imaginable.

“No,” Crappy muttered. Hands of sludge covered his eyes as tears poured forth like Niagara Falls expels water during spring. “It can’t be!”

“Oh, but it can, bitch,” Maximus said, the wingbat’s eyes gleaming with the shining light of righteous victory. “It can, bitch.”

“Five kings! Five of a kind! Why, this hasn’t happened since Bleepy destroyed Gappy in the Great Poker Tournament of 24,565,019 A.D.!”

“Give us our home back.”

And so the wingbats returned to Earth from their temporary shelter on Mars. The humans left the moon at the urging of the wingbats and returned to Earth, where they crossbred to become something like angels.

The gubers, on the other hand, were left with a Mars that was already rusting over. The radiation set in after three hours.

1st person, present

If people insist on writing in the first person, present tense, then how about they write steam-of-consciousness works? This crap where it’s the MC just observing what’s happening and reporting to the reader feels more impersonal and broken than writing in the third person.

“I walk down a hall. I see a dragon. Then I run away from the dragon.”

This is boring. I mean, I’m falling asleep here! Let’s jazz that up:

“The hallway is too dark, but there’s a little bright light that I see and I’m not sure if it’s just my eyes tricking me when I find a beast. Its jaws are going to destroy me, shit! Run, run, run, damnit, run!”

Anyone who wants to write in this style should be required to read James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Does your mind ever take a break? Are there times when you find that others have been talking, but you have not been listening? Of course! It happens all the time! So if you’re going to write in this style, don’t have the MC be a damned omnipotent god. In third person, it’s okay to reveal everything.

Just make it real. Put me in the person’s head. Their thoughts should be their actions.

The Martian does a pretty good job of it.