Writing is Rewriting

Posted: November 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

A few days ago I posted a few chapters of Monster Child.  It’s always interesting and encouraging and totally heartbreaking and confusing whenever I put any of my stuff out for public comment.  Some folks love it.  Some folks hate it.  Some folks want me to change it.  In the past, beyond my general inability to focus or complete a task *grin* these varying opinions have been one of the major things that kept me from moving forward and actually publishing something…anything.  If my own friends and family can’t agree on the quality of my work it seems kinda stupid to put it out for REALLY public review, right?  Wrong.  Here’s the thing, as my dear husband keeps reminding me, writing is rewriting.  The hard part isn’t really the critique or even the down and dirty criticism, it’s knowing when you’re REALLY done.  Because at some point, you do have to put the pen down (even if it’s keyboard) and call it “finished”.

Here’s part of what I posted from Chp 1:

It started with a guinea pig.

The little orange crackers clunked into the tiny plastic bowls as Miss Kay rushed to get the snacks ready.  She grimaced at her watch, knowing the afternoon was only going to get worse.  The kids should have had snack an hour ago, but finger-painting had been a disaster today.

Crissy had decided to paint Laurie.  Then Laurie thought Renn’s hair would look better blue.  Things had gone downhill from there.  Miss Kay sighed as the kids, all eight of them, started whining louder about being hungry.  You don’t mess with meals and naps when it comes to preschoolers.  She was wishing she had a TV in the room, a TV with lots of cartoons, when Blake screamed.

“Blake.  Enough. ”  Miss Kay said, fighting hard to control herself.  She didn’t bother to look up.  Blake was always screaming about something.  Oh how she wished she had a TV!  Their parents used it to babysit them, why couldn’t she?

When Blake screamed again, she reminded herself how much she loved children, took a deep breath and looked up from her chore.  But she wasn’t prepared for what she saw.  Renn had taken the guinea pig,  Mr.  Whiskers, out of his cage.

And bitten him.

Blood dripped down the little boy’s face and soaked into his shirt as he chomped and chomped on the fleshy mass in his mouth.  The noise, sloshy and wet coupled with the crunching of bones, was unbearable.  The little critter was struggling desperately in his hands and making the most awful noise.  She wanted to scream, too.  But the other children beat her to it.  Knowing that she should be doing something, making him spit it out, getting the others out of the room…could you call 911 for a guinea pig?…Miss Kay willed her legs to move.  She managed one step, one little, shuffling step when she realized they weren’t screaming because they were afraid.

They were…my God…they were…

Miss Kay was trying to scream now.  Her mouth hung open in a silent mask of horror as her eight tiny students fought over what was left of the rodent.  Kicking and clawing at each other, they tore the tiny creature to shreds before devouring it, fur and all.  Then they started licking the blood off each other.  Laurie was sucking on Crissy’s fingers as Renn lolled his tongue up and down Blake’s face, trying desperately to get every last bit.  That’s when she dropped the box.  Miss Kay didn’t even know it was still in her hand.  But in the eerie quiet that had settled over the room, broken only by the wet, sucking noise the children were making, like a nursery full of babies sucking on bottles, the cracker box hit the floor with a bang so loud she jumped.

Kylie grinned up at her, cocking her head slowly to one side, she smiled a serial killer’s smile with a three year old’s face.

A  review of that same section, with multiple changes made to the wording and lots and lots of comments:

It started with a guinea pig.

The little orange crackers clunked into the tiny plastic bowls as Miss Kay rushed to get the snacks ready.  She grimaced at her watch, knowing the afternoon was only going to get worse.  The kids should have had snack an hour ago, but finger-painting had been a disaster today.

Crissy decided to paint Laurie.  Then Laurie thought Renn’s hair would look better blue.  Things went downhill from there.  Miss Kay sighed as the kids, all eight of them, whined about being hungry.  You don’t mess with meals and naps when it comes to preschoolers.  She wished she had a TV in the room, a TV with lots of cartoons. Then Blake screamed.

“Blake.  Enough. “  Miss Kay fought to control herself.  She didn’t bother to look up.  Blake always screamed about something[k1] .  Oh how she wished she had a TV!  Their parents used it to babysit them, why couldn’t she?

When Blake screamed again, she reminded herself how much she loved children, took a deep breath and looked up from her the crackers.   Renn[k2]  took the guinea pig,  Mr.  Whiskers, out of his cage.

And bit him.

Blood dripped down the little boy’s face and soaked his shirt as he chomped and chomped on the fleshyfurball in his mouth.  The noise, sloshy and wet coupled with the crunching of bones, was unbearable.  The little critter struggled[k3]  desperately in his hands and squealed. .  She should do something. Make him spit it out, get the others out of the room…could she call 911 for a guinea pig? She wanted to scream, too.  But the other children beat her to it.Miss Kay willed her legs to move.  She managed one step, one little, shuffling step when she realized they weren’t screaming..

They were moaning[k4] .

Miss Kay tried to scream now.  Her mouth hung open in a silent mask of horror as her eight tiny students fought over what was left of the rodent.  Kicking and clawing at each other, they tore the tiny creature to shreds before devouring it, fur and all.  Then they licked the blood off each other.  Laurie sucked on Crissy’s fingers as Renn lolled his tongue up and down Blake’s face[k5] , chasing every last drop.  The box of crackers smacked against the tile.  Miss Kay didn’t even know it was still in her hand, but in the eerie quiet that had settled over the room, broken only by the wet, sucking noise the children made, like a nursery full of babies sucking on bottles, the cracker box was a starting pistol[k6] .

Kylie grinned up at her, cocking her head slowly to one side, she smiled a serial killer’s smile[k7]  with a three year old’s face.


 [k1]Need to tell us what Blake always screams about in order to understand why she wouldn’t look up. This is what is commonly referred to as “telling” instead of “showing.” You’re trying to shorthand it by telling us that this is what Blake is like. Paint us a picture by describing the stuff he screams at that we would ignore too.

 [k2]Describe Renn. Right now we have names of kids that we have no reason to care about anymore than any other child.

 [k3]Why not “kicked its hind legs” – try to picture exactly what she is seeing – remember, this is horrifying. So horrify us.

 [k4]Moaning insinuates desire.  A loud moan may seem like a sceam.

 [k5]Again, these are just names. Not very descriptive.

 [k6]An almost on the nose reference to what this dropped box represents. Everything up to this point should be slow, detailed, almost dreamlike. Then the starting pistol fires and shit gets real.

 [k7]I can’t picture that. Dead eyes? Flat lips with sharp turned corners?

This is my (current) rewrite:

It started with a guinea pig.

The little orange crackers clunked into the tiny plastic bowls as Miss Kay rushed to get the snacks ready.  She grimaced at her watch, knowing the afternoon was only going to get worse.  The kids should have had snack two hours ago, but finger-painting had been a disaster today.

Crissy, who was usually her best behaved student, had decided to paint Laurie.  Miss Kay couldn’t really blame her, Laurie was a pain in the ass.  Blonde, blue-eyed and the only child of a set of very indulgent parents, Laurie was used to getting her way.  Apparently Crissy’s usually overwhelming fear of getting in trouble went out the window after Laurie’s fifth attempt at placing a large green handprint in the middle of  her “wainbow” was a success.  The girls had gone battle royale, smearing sticky fingers across each other’s clothes and faces, and then turning on their teacher as she pried them apart.  The boys had taken that opportunity to be boys, of course.  Renn, her favorite, the funny boy who always made her laugh despite how inappropriate it was, surveyed the situation and escalated it as quickly as possible.  (She would have expected nothing less of him.)  Paint his friends with his fingers?  Why bother?  He had four whole CUPS of paint sitting in front of him.  Well, three after he dumped the blue over Simon’s head.

Things had gone decidedly downhill from there, culminating in an intervention from the director of the center and his secretary.  It took all three adults, lots of threats and over an hour to get the kids calmed down and cleaned up.  Miss Kay wished the others had stayed.  But, with the kind of looks all the experienced teachers gave her (pity and amusement) they’d vacated the room as quickly as possible.  She sighed loudly as all eight of the kids started whining louder about being hungry.  You don’t mess with food and naps when it comes to preschoolers.  Wishing she had a TV in the room, a TV with lots and lots of mind-numbing cartoons, she worked faster and didn’t bother looking up when Blake screamed.

“Blake.  Enough. ”  Miss Kay fought hard to control herself.  That kid drove her crazy.  If his shoes weren’t tied perfectly, he screamed.  Someone else grab the crayon he wanted?  He screamed.  Nap time?  More screaming.  Time to get up from nap?  No problem.  Wake him up first and he served as the alarm clock for everyone else.  So she didn’t look up because Blake the Screamer was always screaming about something.

Reciting over and over in her mind the top ten reasons she loved children as she poured milk into the tiny disposable cups, Miss Kay jumped when Blake’s screams were overridden by a horrible high-pitched squealing noise.

Renn had taken the guinea pig,  Mr.  Whiskers, out of his cage.

And bitten him.

Blood dripped down the little boy’s face and soaked into his shirt as he chomped and chomped on the fleshy mass in his mouth.  The noise, sloshy and wet coupled with the crunching of bones, was unbearable.  He smiled at her, smiled with row after row of sharply pointed teeth.  Mr. Whiskers kicked and clawed at the air, struggling desperately to escape as he squealed and squealed at a deafening volume.  She wanted to scream, but the rest of the children beat her to it.  Knowing that she should be doing something, making him spit it out, getting the others out of the room…could you call 911 for a guinea pig?…Miss Kay willed her legs to move.  She managed one step, one little, shuffling step when she realized they weren’t screaming because they were afraid.

They were…my God…they were…

Miss Kay’s mouth hung wide open and milk from the carton she was still pouring rushed across the table and onto her frozen feet.  Before her, they fought over what was left of the rodent.  Kicking and clawing at each other, they tore the tiny creature to shreds before devouring it, fur and all.  Then they started licking the blood off each other, with tongues two or three times their normal size.  Laurie was sucking on Crissy’s fingers, fingers now equipped with razor sharp nails that curved up out of her tiny baby fingers.   Renn lolled his lizard-like tongue, long and pointed, up and down Blake’s face, trying desperately to get every last drop. That’s when she dropped the carton.  Miss Kay didn’t even know it was still in her hand.  In the eerie quiet that had settled over the room, broken only by the wet, sucking noise the children were making, like a nursery full of babies sucking on bottles, the empty milk carton hit the floor with a splash and a bang.

The children…but  they weren’t children anymore, were they?…all stopped.  Standing slowly, untangling their now-longer limbs from one another and still licking blood off their own mutated hands, they all had their eyes locked on her.  Kylie, the shy, quiet Kylie, her cuddle bug,  grinned up at her, revealing a mouth full of those spiky horrible teeth, and cocking her head slowly to one side.

“Miss Kay….”  the little girl said sweetly.  “It’s snack time.”

Truth?  I dig the original and the rewrite.  Other truth?  The minimalist approach I used originally prolly won’t work for this story.  It’s funny because previous drafts had WAY more content about each of the kids, all eight of them.  That’s one of the reasons that fresh eyes are so important.  I know who each one of those kids is…cuz they’re all mine.  I created them.  It’s easy for me to say “Blake was always screaming about something.” and know what I mean.  It’s not as easy to know how the reader will interpret that statement.  So now what?  Back to the keyboard kids, cuz it’s not time to put it down yet.

-Olaf

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Monster Child: Chapter Three

Posted: November 18, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Yup…all rights reserved. 😛

Monster Child

Chapter Three:  The Harvest

By: Laura Fisher Key

Durham howled.  So did Leo.  Kyler and Sally were not amused.

“Shut up you ass.” Sally hissed.

“WHAT?”  Durham cried, trying to catch his breath.  “THAT was HYSTERICAL!!!”

“Again.  Mr. Durham.  How much gum did you give her?  And what else do I need to know?”  Kyler  said in his ear.  Directly in his ear.  The old man was leaning over him.  Durham could feel his breath.  And he’d said “MR. Durham”, that couldn’t possibly be good.

“I don’t know.”  Was all he could manage.  “I give her gum all the time.  But just gum.  It’s just gum.  I’ve never given her anything else.”

The room suddenly filled with men.  Ski Mask Patrol.  Only they weren’t wearing their masks.  Kyler must have triggered a silent alarm.  Durham was screwed.  He was done.

“No one leaves.”  Was Kyler’s first command.

He rattled off a hundred more, but Durham didn’t hear any of them.  He watched as the Patrol took up offensive positions, like they were waiting for an attack.  The rest of the Operators showed up, all of them except the Third Shift B Crew…they were still MIA.  But A Crew was here.  So was C and D.  All three shifts worth of them.  The Feeders, the Cleaners, even the Medicals.  Everyone.  Every single member of the staff arrived.

“Snap out of it.”  Kyler said, throwing a glass of water in Durham’s face.  “I need you focused.”

“We’ve accounted for them all,”  Lyle said from another station.  “They’re all still in the Playground.”

“Agreed.”  Richard wheezed from across the room.

“Good.”  Kyler was pacing again.  “We’ll need to sedate them.  Sedate them all. ”

No one spoke.

“Did you hear me?”  Kyler said in a raised voice.

“Sir,”  Lyle began cautiously.  “Sir, do you mean to go in?”

“No.  I want to sedate them just for fun.”  Kyler sneered.

“Every panel will have to be checked and sealed.”  Durham said in a faraway voice.

“Yes you fool.  You stupid, ridiculous fool.”  Sally said.

“I need to talk to her.”  Durham heard himself say.  “I need to talk to her, right now.”

“You’ll get your chance Mr. Durham.  Not to worry.  You’ll get your chance.”  Kyler’s voice was all sinister again.  And he was still using “Mr.” as he stared at one of the monitors.  Durham grinned, despite the fear raging through him, when he saw Leo sitting on her bed.  She was wearing a gas mask.

Two hours later Durham was standing opposite the black door inside the Cafe.  He was surrounded by members of the Patrol but he was still pretty sure he was gonna die.  Walking down the Hall had been bad enough.  He’d lost a little more of whatever nerve he had with each red door that opened.  If he thought they’d shoot him, actually shoot and kill him, he’d just run.  But they wouldn’t.  Kill him anyway.  They’d shoot him in the leg or something and then toss him to the Dogs.  But they wouldn’t kill him outright.  At least without bullet holes, he had half a chance of survival. Well, a glimmer anyway.  Maybe.

Kelso wasn’t sure what idiot had sealed all the other entrances to the Playground, but he didn’t like the idea of gaining entry this way.  He knew those things were animals and here they were walking into their territory via a game trail.  Not wise.  He watched Durham warily.  He was glad the douche had finally made his way down.  Topside assignments sucked.  There was little to no action and it had taken Durham forever to take the bait.  In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time they’d had to work so hard to get one of the Blues down here.  But Durham was still a douche and Kelso couldn’t stand him.

“You’re shaking dipshit,” Kelso said over Durham’s shoulder.

“Gosh, can’t imagine why.” was Durham’s reply.

Case in point.  Durham was a douche.  Any real man would’ve told him to fuck off or something.  A real man wouldn’t have admitted it.  Kelso really hoped that uncrippled bitch was in there waiting for them.  He really, really hoped she’d take Durham out.  One less douche in the world.

As the door opened, Durham couldn’t help but think about how stupid the situation was.  The Monsters ate whatever was standing in the Cafe when that door opened.  And here they were, a regular smorgasbord in black.  They were sedated.  But still.  It was stupid.  He was pretty sure the rest of the group agreed.  But with all their body armor it was hard to see anything human about them, let alone weak.

“Head’s up!”  Kelso shouted.  “Keep an eye out for the bitch!”

There was no need to shout.  Durham sized Kelso up, for like the hundredth time since he’d gone down that staircase, and still couldn’t figure him out.  Turns out the wanna-be badass really was a badass, but he was still a dumbfuck.  Nobody in the Patrol respected him.  That much was obvious.  But he wasn’t just some low level gun toting schmuck. He was one of the commanders.  It made no sense.  Not that much of anything down here did.

Once the door was open, and nobody had been rushed and disemboweled, Durham chilled out.  They were sedated.  While it was pretty unsettling to see the little bastards laying around in the corridor, they weren’t getting up.  If they weren’t getting up, then they weren’t going to eat him.   And neither was Leo.  He was pretty sure he was the only one who’d realized it…but that gas mask was about more than an easy meal.  She had something to tell them.  Even though his heart was pounding in his ears and his fingers were so clammy he was having trouble holding onto the bag he was carrying, he had to find out.

Stepping  away from the rest of the group, Durham gained bravado with each footfall.  The guys with the guns were still hanging back.  He was striding right into Hell.  Who was the badass now?

“What’s a matter boys?”  he hollered back over his shoulder as he crossed the threshold.  “Is mine bigger than yours?”

When Leo grabbed his arm, Durham’s testosterone levels bottomed out.   He also pissed himself.  Like piss running doing his legs and onto the floor pissed himself.  So much for bravado.

“I’m not going to hurt you.”  She said, her voice muffled by the mask. “And if you were talking about your bladder, my guess is yes, yours is bigger.”

“I thought we had eyes down here!  I thought we had eyes down here!”  Kelso bellowed into his radio.

Durham didn’t knock him for yelling that time.  This was a moment meant for yelling.  Lots of yelling and possibly even some screaming and pleading.  He wasn’t quite sure yet.  The sound of guns cocking all around him when she appeared didn’t make him feel any better.  Those assholes were just as likely to shoot him as they were her.

“Let him go!”  Kelso shouted.  He didn’t really want her to let Durham go.  Given his choice, he would’ve loved to sit back and watch her knaw him to death.  But no one had answered him and he was pretty sure they were cut off, eyes and ears, from Command.  That meant getting out might be an issue and Durham was the closest thing he had to an expert down here.

“I’m not going to hurt him,”  she repeated.  “I need to show you something.  You won’t come unless I take him. ”

With that, Leo turned and started dragging Durham along with her.

“I can’t believe you think I’d hurt you.”  she said.  She sounded angry, but it was hard to tell through the mask.

Durham didn’t bother to answer.  He was pretty sure she knew what he was thinking.

“I also can’t believe you pissed yourself.”  She snickered.

“You could’ve had some pants down here waiting for me,”  he whispered.  “You’ve been prepared for everything else.”

“Yeah,”  she grinned.  “I could have. ”

The Patrol followed close behind, taking care to avoid his drips.  Durham kept looking over his shoulder, wondering if he was gonna feel the bullet before he heard the noise.

“They’re not going to shoot you.”  Leo said.  “Or me.”

“Don’t be so Goddamned certain!”  Kelso yelled.

Leo didn’t respond and Durham relaxed.  He figured at this point she knew what she was talking about.

It was nearly thirty minutes before they reached the center of the Playground.  There were three huge tubes coming straight down out of the ceiling. Originally they’d been used to suck leftover feeding debris out of the room, back when this had been the Dog Pen.  But since Taurus’ takeover,  when all the  entrances were sealed, the vacuums had been reversed and converted for use as a delivery system.  Humans might arrive in the Cafe, but the tubes brought everything else, from toilet paper to new socks.  If the Monsters needed it, this is where it arrived.

The room was circular and the floor was sloped downward towards the middle.  Towards the tubes.  Durham tried not to think about all the gallons of blood and pounds of flesh that had tumbled down the floor he was walking on.  But his imagination was running away again, and he could see it in his head.  He could see the Dogs tearing and scratching and hear their horrible noises.  Following the path of the tubes with his eyes,  he felt his stomach turn.  He could see it.  See the blood and guts, literally guts, been sucked up and away.

“Jesus Durham!”  Kelso grunted.  “You’re gonna puke again, aren’t you?”

Turning to Leo, pleading with his eyes for her to take them someplace else, anyplace but here, he caught sight of that ridiculous sarcastic grin he’d fallen in love with the first time he met her.  The nausea disappeared and he would’ve sworn he felt her squeeze his arm a little harder, just a fraction harder for half a second.

“There.”  Leo pointed to a hatch in the floor.  “Open it.”

Nobody moved.

“Open.  It. ”  She commanded Kelso.

He winced.  He actually winced.  Kelso couldn’t stand anyone telling him what to do.  Now he was being ordered around by a creep show bitch who was holding the douche hostage.  To say he was pissed would be an understatement.  But he moved towards the hatch anyway.  Because it’s not like he had a better option.  He couldn’t remember a time in his life when he’d had an option, good, bad or indifferent.

The rest of the Patrol moved with Kelso towards the center of the room.  Circling the hatch, some of them facing towards it, some facing away, they were the picture of preparedness.  They were ready for anything.  Except the stench that filled the room as Kelso pried it open.  If Satan himself had jumped up out of the floor, they wouldn’t have flinched.  If lions and tigers and bears had come flooding in from all directions, they would have calmly emptied their clips, reloaded and emptied them again until all the danger was dead and gone.

But this wasn’t a physical, tangible threat.  It was just a smell.  Not a sour milk on the kitchen counter or dog shit under the bed kind of smell.  The consistency of the air around them changed as it crept in.  Like it got thick and mucus-y.  Like a giant, seeping, pulsing infection, all green and yellowish, had exploded all over them.  It filled their nostrils and they could taste it on their tongues.  Taste it.  There wasn’t any stomach churning for Durham.  He just started puking.  Leo never let go of him.  She just calmly watched as they were all, each and every man in the room, overwhelmed.  Durham wasn’t the only one who puked.  Most of them did.  Even Kelso.  Mid-projectile, Durham saw the grin on her face again, and knew she was laughing, at least on the inside, at the big bad man, who was now on his knees wretching like a sick child.  If the smell hadn’t been so horrible, he would’ve laughed too.

“We have to go down there.  We all do.”  Leo said once all the men were back on their feet.

“Out of  your fucking mind!”  Kelso bellowed.  Tossing his cookies in front of his entire crew had done nothing for his disposition.

“Let’s go.”  Leo said pulling Durham with her towards the dark, smelly hole in the floor.

“What is this thing?”  he managed.

“Used to be the controls.  Back when you guys still came down here.  Now the controls are out there, with you.”  She said.  “So it’s just dead space.”

She’d said that on purpose.  He knew it.  He wasn’t sure what the smell was, but  ‘dead space’ didn’t sound like a lot of fun.  His stomach clenched tighter and tighter and his brain pounded harder and harder as they neared the hatch.  He did not want to go down there.

“Just kill me.”  he whispered to her.  “I don’t want to….I can’t…”

“Yes you can and yes you will.”  she said.

Durham felt like his skin was crawling right off his body.  Like someone was turning it inside out.  The room was spinning.  Surprising everyone but Leo, including himself, Durham began to fight her.  He swung the bag he’d been gripping all this time and she ducked.  So he leapt at her, like a wild animal.  He didn’t care anymore.  Didn’t care who she was or how he felt about her.  Didn’t give a shit about anything except staying out of that hole.

If he’d been thinking straight, he wouldn’t even have attempted it.  She was full-on Monster now.  Her meal had cured all her weaknesses and ailments.  She was one of them.  With a flick of her wrist she could’ve snapped his spine and a swipe of her other hand would’ve crushed his skull.  It was kind of like watching an alley cat attack a lion.  No real chance of it ending well for the lesser feline.

Leo didn’t flick her wrist or swipe her hand, she simply grasped Durham, and chucked him down the hole in the floor.  He landed in sludge.  That was the only word for it.  Six inch thick sludge, composed of shit and piss and blood and puke and who knows what else.  Covered in it, feeling it sloshing between his fingers and matted in his hair, oozing down his face as he struggled, slipped, fell and struggled more till he was on his feet, Durham added to the mess with what was left in his stomach.  He continued to gag and gasp and moan like a mortally wounded man as the others filed down the ladder behind him.

“SHUT.  THE.  FUCK.  UP.”  Kelso yell-whispered in his face, his eyes watering uncontrollably.

Durham was still whimpering when Leo joined them and pointed into the darkness.  The men all clicked on their headlamps.  They were walking up an incline and he realized that the floor down here was sloped just like the one above it.  He hoped that meant that eventually they wouldn’t be walking in what felt like a field of mud, but wasn’t.  Hoped that meant that eventually it wouldn’t feel like his shoes were gonna get pulled off by the suction of the vileness he was trudging through.

“I thought you said this was a control room?”  he spat at Leo.  He wanted to kill her for throwing him down here.  Fucking beat her to death.

“I said the controls were down here.  That they used to be.”  she replied.  Her voice was crystal clear now.  She’d taken off the mask.

“Controls for what exactly?”  Kelso said through gritted teeth.  If it killed him.  If he threw up in his mouth and then aspirated on it and choked to death, he wasn’t puking in front of his men again.

“The Playground.”  Leo replied.

Kelso, in the lead,  sucked in his breath and they all stopped.  They weren’t alone.  There were people, or Monsters, something, all around them.  They looked like shadows in the dim beams from the men’s helmets.  Durham jumped as they all started cocking their guns again.

“She’s killed us.”  Kelso whispered.  “The whore has killed us.”

Leo laughed.  It was a scary laugh.  Steeped in hatred.

“I’m certain they’re no danger to you.”  she said angrily.  She walked past them and disappeared in the darkness.

“Hey!  HEY!  Where the hell are you going?  HEY!”  Durham yelled.  He couldn’t believe this was happening.  Couldn’t believe she had led them here, was leaving them here, to die.

“Calm down you moron.”  She said, flipping a series of switches and flooding the room with light.

Once he could see what they were, Durham wished she’d left the lights off.

They would’ve all stood there, sludge seeping into their shoes, squishing between their toes, if Leo hadn’t come back and started shoving them closer.  One by one, they stumbled up the tapering incline into the…dead space.   She was right.  That’s what it was.  Death hung heavy in the air.  Unfortunately for most of the people here, it was just out of their grasp.

The shattered remnants of men and women lay everywhere.  Some were propped against walls, some prostrate on the floor.  One was upright, his hands bound and lashed high above his head, his arms obviously dislocated and the skin and tissue that remained barely supporting the weight of his collapsed body.  Those that could, opened their eyes, if they had eyes.  Some tried to speak, but no sound came out.  A few, a very, very few, using the last bits of strength and despair they had left, reached out to Durham and the others.

“They can’t talk.”  Leo said, answering Durham’s unasked question.  “He didn’t like the screaming.”

“He?”  Kelso stammered.

“Virgo.”  Leo said.

“Why….”  was the only word Durham could manage.

“He didn’t like it when Kyler started messing with the feeding schedule.”  Leo said.

There wasn’t much clothing left on any of them.  But the fabric that remained and wasn’t stained with blood and gore, was orange.  As in, orange jumpsuit.  Durham fell to his knees.  He remembered watching Virgo pull a man from the Cafe.  He’d disabled him, then drug him to the door and stared up at the cameras.  Eventually, Kyler had opened the door.  Said he was curious.  Several of the others had fallen upon Virgo’s prey as soon as he was within reach.  When they finally dispersed, blood had been everywhere.  But as usual, nothing else remained.  Not even bones.  Kyler had chalked it up to Virgo’s need to take care of the others.  He’d always been one of the more sensitive of the Monsters.  Sensitive to their needs anyway.  Despite the rigid experiments he’d set up, Kyler allowed Virgo, and only Virgo, to remove prey from the Cafe.  He said it was an experiment in and of itself.

“Why is he keeping them alive?”  Durham whispered.

“He’s harvesting them.”  Leo murmured, her voice trembling slightly.  “That’s what he calls it.  Says they’re his crops. ”

It didn’t register at first.  Forcing himself to look closer at the people strewn around him, he began to understand.  They were covered in bites.  Some down to the bone.  As if being held here to wait for the next time Virgo came back to chew on them wasn’t enough, the wounds were festering.  These people were slowly rotting to death.

“Why did you bring us here?”  Durham demanded.  “Why?!!!??”

Leo started to answer, and then stopped, her face contorting wildly.

“Do I really have to tell you?”  she stammered, shocked by his ignorance.

A hand grabbed his ankle.  Some woman, her face half-eaten, her jaw and teeth exposed, had managed to get a hold of him.  Screaming, falling backwards and starting to slide down the incline, Durham caught sight of the ceiling.  Kelso grabbed him and shoved him back on his feet, then he followed Durham’s stare.  People.  On the ceiling.  Fifteen, maybe twenty of them.  They were held  there by big cables, flat on their backs.  Mouths sewn shut, eyes wide with fear and desperation they had a full view of what was going on below them.

“My God.  My God, Kyler knew.  He knew.”  Kelso whispered.

“What?”  Durham asked, pulling his arm free from Kelso’s grasp.

“That’s B Crew you dumbass.  That’s Third Shift B Crew.”

“That’s where Virgo keeps the fresh meat.”  Leo said.  “He saves the freshest for himself.”

Monster Child: Chapter Two

Posted: November 18, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Yeah…those rights are all still reserved.

Monster Child

Chapter Two:  Durham’s Maze

By Laura Fisher Key

Durham knew he didn’t have much time.

Kelso  had been working on the tiles in the hall again.  The guy was a dumbass, and cocky as hell.  He weighed maybe five pounds soaking wet, but he strutted around like he was a fucking gladiator.  Ok, so the five pounds thing was an exaggeration. Fifteen.  He probably weighed fifteen pounds.  Durham grinned at the thought.

But Durham had learned not to take anything he saw for granted.  Kelso may look like a pussy, but he could very well be some sort of nun chuck whirling super ninja.  Laughing, Durham checked his watch.  Kelso had gone.  But he’d be back.

Turning the shiny metal over and over in his hand, Durham walked towards the Fire Exit door.

Edy and Jake had disappeared, too.  They were off trying to make a good impression.  He had watched in disgust as his two young assistants practically frothed at the mouth and run out the door when the chimes rang. It’s what he wanted.  It’s what he’d been waiting for.  He needed them gone.  But it still annoyed the hell out of him.

They’d all heard the chime that meant the big kids were playing again.  The peons in the facility dropped whatever they were doing and took up residence alongside the big windows that circled the main lab.  They’d push and shove and press their faces up against the glass trying to get the best view.

On his first day with the company, his very first day, the chimes went off.  That’s all it took for him to figure out that it was just a big show.  It was good show.  They made it look real enough.  Men and women dressed in long, crisp white coats carried Petri dishes to microscopes and acted as though they’d found something amazing.  In the background, others mixed and measured vials and beakers of solutions.  Yeah, it was a good show.  But it was totally fake.

If you watched close enough, you’d see the little mistakes.  The woman who didn’t zero out the balance before she weighed out some powder.  Powder that was probably sugar or flour, or hell, even sand.  The man who put a beaker on a stir plate…with no stir bar.  The blonde guy who was vigorously pippeting from another beaker, without ever touching the liquid inside.

The rest of the horde had been so convinced they were seeing lightening in a bottle, that they were going to be able to say they’d been a witness to the biggest discovery in genetics since that stupid sheep got itself cloned, they were blinded to what was right in front of them.

When the chimes went off again, he tried to just stay in his lab.  He did his best to keep his assistants there, too.  It wasn’t a fabulous lab, and his coat was blue, not white, but at least his work was real.  Besides, he’d given up on being the super-scientist who cured cancer or invented a new tomato years ago, long before he started with this company.  The probability of a guy like him being a part of the kind of discovery that would make him Einstein-famous was basically nil.  About five minutes into his silent protest, some of the other lab supervisors showed up and made it real clear he needed to be out there with everybody else.  So much for his plan to leave the  scrambling to the hungry idiots who were too fresh to figure out that they weren’t seeing anything more than the smoke and mirrors allowed.

That’s what Revival was after all, smoke and mirrors.   The company was all an illusion.  Like the crazy pseudo-science that went on in the main lab every couple of weeks, the whole place was one big fake out.  It was easy enough to recognize, if you paid attention.  There were deliveries.  Trucks, big ones,  showed up every day.  But there were no shipments.  Durham’s job was to replicate cow embryos.  Lots of them.  Supposedly, the cows were being sent to Third World countries.  But he was pretty sure they weren’t being beamed there.  So where were they?

Revival was big news, too.  Commercials on TV and radio.  Newspaper articles about all the amazing and wonderful work that was taking place.  Work that was improving the lives of, well, everybody.  The place was huge.  A sprawling campus that filled the equivalent of four hundred city blocks, four hundred square city blocks in the middle of nowhere.  Outside the fences there was nothing but wilderness for miles.  Inside, the lawns were perfectly manicured.  The sidewalks were so white they almost blinded you when the sun hit them in the middle of the afternoon.  And the buildings?  Pristine.

Most of the people looked like they’d been popped out of cookie cutters.  The long white coats were supposed to be the Supreme Know It Alls.  Of course, it had taken him maybe five minutes to figure out that was bullshit.  He was a blue coat, a lab supervisor.  What he knew about his own legitimacy kept him from questioning the other blues.  Edy and Jake were purples, assistants.  They were young, ravenous morons, looking for a leg up the corporate ladder.  Pretty much the same could be said about all the other purples.  The greens were maintenance, lawn care, facilities, that type of thing.  And they didn’t wear coats.  Jumpsuits.  Bright, green jumpsuits.  They appeared to be exactly what they seemed, which is one of the reasons Durham didn’t trust a single fucking one of them.  Especially Kelso.

The others, and Durham had never really been able to come up with a description that fit the whole group, wore red.  Until Durham saw them, he didn’t even know anybody made red scrubs.  But that’s what they wore.  They were the ones who brought you coffee when you didn’t even know you wanted it.  They showed up with breakfast and lunch and all kinds of other food.  The reds were the escorts if you had to go to another building.  They ordered your supplies and dropped off your deliveries.  They did everything that none of the other colors did.  If they’d all been women, and their scrubs didn’t make them look like they’d been dipped in blood, he would’ve called them “Moms”.  They were the behind the scenes workers who made everything work.

The longer he was there, the more questions Durham had.  The hell with his cows.  What about  the stuff the other labs were making?  Where was it all going?  And why was he the only one who wondered?  It was like everybody else just walked around in some sort of fog, oblivious to anything and everything the company didn’t want them to see.  Early on, he’d assumed that the science show was designed to make them feel like they had something to work towards, make them work harder.  Like Revival was holding up the white coats like steak to a lion.  Here’s what you can have…if you just work hard enough.  Rumors about the kind of money they made, the kind of privileges they had, ran through the place like wildfire after every one of their performances.  But the more he thought about it, the more he was convinced that there was something else going on.  That maybe instead of the show serving as a morale booster, it was really just a distraction.  A distraction from something else.  Like whatever was hiding behind that door at the end of the hall.

It wasn’t the brightest idea he’d ever had.  But if he’d been smart, he wouldn’t have ended up replicating cow embryos for a living.  He’d turned the idea over and over in his mind, trying to boost up his courage.  Then, just when he was sure he’d spend the rest of his life waiting for them to come back, waiting for his opportunity, that he was just going to come in every day and clone the eggs and go home and play video games like he had every other night for the last two years, the guys with the black badges showed up again.  And he’d had a choice.  Balls out or belly up.

He’d only seen them in the facility once before, and it was their fault he couldn’t stop thinking about that damn door.

It had been chime-time then, too. But Durham had had enough of that shit.   After Edy and Jake had hungrily scrambled out of the lab, he’d happily taken his coffee from a Red and headed out to smoke, ignoring the look on the woman’s face.  Standing alone outside the shipping dock, which was off limits, but never used anyway, he’d watched, mesmerized, as a big black Hummer with darkly tinted windows pulled up.  Six guys, big guys, real gladiator types, the kind that would make Kelso shit his pants, lumbered out and into the facility.

Durham nearly gave himself a heart attack trying to haul ass back inside.  Black uniforms?  A Hummer?  They had to be security.  Those fairytale creatures that no one ever saw but assumed existed.  That meant something really well, real, must be going on.  He kept telling himself it was probably just another show.  More smoke and mirrors.  But when he passed them at the main desk, they sure as fuck didn’t look like an illusion.

They were all dressed in some sort of military-type jumpsuit, all black with no markings.  Guns, the biggest handguns Durham had ever seen, even in his video games, hung from their belts.  He couldn’t see their eyes because none of them bothered to take off their sunglasses, but he knew they were all watching him.

Chills rolled up and down his spine as he fought to walk.  He wished he’d stayed outside, because now, being this close to them, all he wanted to do was run.  These guys were not a part of the Revival illusion.  These guys were a part of whatever Revival was really up to.

He dropped his keycard three times trying to get back to his cow eggs.  Cow eggs were good.  Little mutant bovines.  They were safe.  They were not scary.  They did not dress in all black and carry guns as big as his head.

Durham was hyperventilating.  There was no reason for these guys to be coming this far down the hall.  There was his lab, there was the pig lab across from him and there was the emergency exit.  That was it.  But he could hear them coming.

The sound of their boots echoing off the walls made it sound like the fucking Gestapo was headed right for him.  He got the door open just as they were going past him, rushed into the room and tried to slam it shut.  The door bounced open and he hit the floor.  When he opened his eyes, one of them was standing over him.

“Are you injured sir?” he asked in a voice so masculine it made Durham feel like an underdeveloped twelve year old.

“Uh, no.” was all he could manage.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you sir.”  he said, offering Durham a hand.

He could see himself in the guy’s sunglasses, mirrored sunglasses of course, and he looked white as a ghost.

“Uh, yeah, I mean, no, no you didn’t hurt me.”  Durham finally stammered.  The guy still had a hold of his hand.  Durham was waiting for him to crush it.

“Did you hear the chime, sir?”

“Uh no, I was outside.”  He lied.

That was it.  The end of the conversation

“Right.  On my way.”

He glanced back over his shoulder, just once.  That was his mistake.

The big one, well they were all big, but the really, really BIG one, the one who’d knocked him down with his own fucking door, was standing in front of the emergency exit.  He pulled a shiny, black metallic keycard from his belt, swiped it across the door handle and turned to see Durham watching him.

Three electronic locks, one right after the other, opened with that swipe.  Durham only heard the first one.  As soon as he rounded the corner, he ran like hell.

That night Durham had returned to his apartment and sat in total darkness, waiting for something bad to happen.  He’d seen something he shouldn’t have.  He knew that.  There really was no reason for him to be this freaked out.  It didn’t make any sense.  But he couldn’t shake the idea that he was in serious trouble.  After a couple hours of waiting, he went out to the balcony for a smoke, because he figured if he was gonna die anyway he might as well keep his nicotine levels up.  He was halfway through his first one we he released there were a couple of guys, dressed in all black, standing in the parking lot.  Right next to his car.

There was also a tow truck.

Prior to that particular moment, it had never really occurred to Durham just how well Revival had him secluded from the rest of the world.  He, like everyone else, lived on the Revival campus in company-provided housing.  It was free. Groceries were provided.  Actually, everything was provided free of charge.  Plus, it was like a two hour drive, in any direction, before the rest of civilization materialized.  So while he did have a car, he honestly couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt the need to use it.  In fact, as Durham watched the tow truck, which of course was no ordinary tow truck, because he was pretty sure tow trucks usually had bright, flashing lights on them and this one was painted completely black and didn’t even have its headlights turned on, it slowly dawned on him that he hadn’t been outside Revival’s gates in over a year.  At least.

“I am seriously fucked.”  Durham said out loud.

Stunned, he watched as the two men in the parking lot turned and looked directly at him.

He considered bolting inside, but that seemed pointless.  He even thought about pretending that he hadn’t just figured out that in addition to being basically trapped,  he was also bugged.  But that just wasn’t Durham.

So instead of running around like his hair was on fire or pretending to stare up at the night sky, he waved.

“Hey boys,  I’ve got cold beer up here if you’re thirsty.  It’ll still be here when you’re done stealing my car. ”  He said in a regular voice. There was no need to yell.  He knew they could hear every word he was saying.

He was actually lucky they hadn’t come knocking on his door asking for the beer he’d offered, cuz he killed the case in like an hour.  Then he stayed up all night convincing himself that nothing bad was going to happen, which is pretty easy to do when you’re drunk.

Durham was still trashed the next day when he walked into his lab.  Both Edy and Jake raised their eyebrows at each other and disappeared from the room.  He was pretty sure they would’ve gone and ratted him out to someone, if there had been anyone to rat to.  But there wasn’t.  Two years.  He’d never seen a boss, not his boss, not anybody else’s boss.  So fuck it.  When a Red showed up with coffee he told her he’d prefer beer.  Much to his amusement, she brought him one.

For a week, Durham drank.  Durham drank like a motherfucker.  Screw the cows, screw the illusions, he drank and waited for something, anything, to happen.  He stopped going to the lab altogether and he probably would’ve sat in his apartment drinking, smoking and playing video games forever if they hadn’t stopped bringing him beer.

It was a Sunday and he woke to find that the rest of his groceries had magically appeared in his cabinets and refrigerator, just like always, but his beer had not.  This was only a minor inconvenience.  There was a bar two floors down from his apartment.

Having taken a shower and put on clean clothes for the first time in at least four or five days, Durham felt surprisingly clear headed, right up until he opened his front door and walked head on into 6 and 1/2 feet of black jumpsuit.

“Oh good.”  he grumbled as he was led, rather forcibly, down the hall, “You wait till I’m sober to kill me.”

“No one is going to kill you.” said an old man’s voice from the front seat of the Hummer as the men shoved Durham inside.

He was sure there was a “yet” hanging in the dark air around him.  He couldn’t see a damn thing because the windows were tinted like they were meant to protect passengers from a nuclear flash or something.  Otherwise, he was sure he’d have actually seen that word “yet”  just stuck midair between him and that old guy up front.

“We do, however, need you to return to work.”  the voice said.  “Tomorrow.”

With that, Durham was literally thrown out of the vehicle.  Right onto the shiny white sidewalk, which did nearly blind him after being inside the Hummer, at the feet of Edy and Jake.

“You’re coming back to work tomorrow, right?”  Edy asked, innocently, as if it was completely normal for him to be laying there.

“Yeah boss, we’re really behind.  You’re coming back tomorrow, right?”  Jake whined, oblivious to the fact that Durham was wiping blood off his forehead.

Durham laid there, using his shirttail to sop up the blood and  staring up at them for a moment.  Then he realized the Hummer hadn’t moved.  Yet.

“Yes, my dear Stepford children, I’ll be back in the lab tomorrow.  Bright and early.”  he said as he picked himself up.

“Good!”  Edy and Jake said in unison as the Hummer drove away.

Durham waited for some creepy movie music to start playing as he walked back into the building and headed for the bar.  He laughed when he got there and found a “Closed” sign on the door.

Three weeks later, three weeks of cow eggs and Edy and Jake and no beer, he couldn’t stop thinking about the Goddamned door.  No.  He couldn’t stop thinking about what was behind it.  Durham felt like a dumbass.  He’d walked around feeling superior.  Why?  Because he’d noticed somebody didn’t zero a scale before they used it?  Because he’d never seen a truck get loaded?  Some smart guy he was.  There was an emergency exit at the end of his hallway.  The only problem was, it never occurred to him that the building didn’t exactly end at that door.  He’d been outside smoking enough to know that there was at least twenty feet of building beyond it.  Dumbass.  That’s what he was.

There was more.  The wall he shared with that door, it was concrete.  Plaster and drywall, that’s what all the other walls in his lab were made of.  But that one?  Solid concrete.  Not concrete blocks.  Solid, like they’d set up a mold and poured one giant slab of the stuff.  Who builds walls like that?

He tried to shake it.  Tried to remind himself of the guys with the guns, the old dude in the Hummer, his major underestimation of Edy and Jake and mostly the fact that he was, without a doubt, stuck here.  And he was stuck.  His car was gone.  He’d signed up to take a shuttle into one of the towns, and the shuttle broke down.  He’d signed up for a different one, and that one broke down, too.  He’d even picked up the phone one day and tried to make an outside call.  It didn’t matter that the Red on the other end of the line told him all the circuits were busy.  The truth was, he couldn’t think of anyone who’d talk to him, let alone rescue him.  So yeah, he was stuck.

Considering his situation, it would have made sense for Durham to go back to the pre-door days.  The time before he saw them open it.  But he knew better than that.  In fact, the  hopelessness of his state probably just pushed him harder.  It’s not like he had anything to lose.  Except maybe his life, and he was pretty sure he didn’t want to live like this forever.

It was one thing to live like a zombie, a caged zombie who gets free food and free beer as long as you show up for work every day, when you don’t know you are a zombie.  But once you know, it kind of loses its appeal.  Once you know you’re just a marionette on somebody else’s stage,  the strings you’d lounged on really start to piss you off.

Besides, Durham had always been the self-destructive sort.  That’s why, when he saw them, he tripped, fell into one of the dudes in black, and had a metallic keycard hidden in his pocket when he walked up to Jake and Edy in the main hall.

Now, six weeks later, hesitation was not an option. He’d bitten his fingernails down to nubs waiting for that damn chime to ring again.  Waiting for his chance.  Waiting for the dudes in black to show up asking for their keycard.  Just, waiting.

The door looked bigger than he remembered.  That was, of course, his imagination.  A door doesn’t get bigger.  A man’s bravery does get smaller.  Typically in direct relation to the rate at which his stupidity increases.

“Aw FUCK IT!”  Durham said, and swiped the door handle.

He knew about the first lock.  The second scared the shit out of him.  He’d almost recovered when the third one opened.

“Mother. Fucker.” he hissed, staring at the door like he wanted to beat it to death.

Instead, he shoved on the handle, and the it swung open.  Hard.  The lights in the room came on automatically when it opened.  The sound of the door hitting the concrete wall ricocheted down the stairwell and Durham cringed.

That’s what the room was.  The twenty feet of space that he’s stared at from the loading dock, that had driven him nearly insane and pushed him to do the most idiotic thing he’d ever done in his life, which was actually saying quite a lot, was a stairwell.

It went down.

So did Durham.

***

“Has he made it yet?”  Kyler asked.

“No.”  Sally replied.  She didn’t like Durham.

She wasn’t sure why.  When Kyler had told her to start watching him through the video feeds, she’d been intrigued.  But he was not the type of person Kyler needed down here.  Kyler needed more people like her.  Dependable.  Reliable.  Strong.  Willing to do whatever it took.

Durham was lazy.  He was slobby and weak.  It made her stomach turn just to look at him.

“Keep an eye on him.”  Kyler said.  “The trick is to make it his idea.  Not ours.”

“Right.”  Sally said.  She eyed the other control panel.

“I wouldn’t do that my dear,”  the old man said in her ear.  “No.  That would be a very bad choice indeed.”

***

Durham was half-way down the staircase when a light bulb blew up in his brain.

“Wow.”  He said out loud, looking around him.  “This is exactly what you wanted me to do, isn’t it?”

Feeling like a dumbass again, realizing that even this door thing had been some big, massive mindfuck  he had no idea what to do.  Did he go back up?  Nope.  They were watching him.  They had to be watching him.  They knew he was in here.  This is what they wanted.  So he couldn’t keep going, either.

He was a rat in a maze.

***

Kyler was laughing.

“Now what?”  Sally asked, obviously annoyed.

“Let the girl out.”  Kyler said.  “And the Dogs.”

Sally grinned.

***

Defeated, Durham slumped down onto one of the steps.  He was too proud to be a rat and too confused to know which move he needed to make to prevent himself from being one.

Then he heard movement below him.  Scary movement.  Like metal being drug on concrete.  The hair on the back of his neck stood up as he willed his legs to move towards that noise.

Decided to throw a few chapters of some novels I’ve been working on for oh….years….out here.  Here’s chapter one of Monster Child.  Enjoy. Let me know what you think.  And yeah, folks, all rights reserved. 😛

Monster Child

Chapter One: Sirens

By Laura Fisher Key

It started with a guinea pig.

The little orange crackers clunked into the tiny plastic bowls as Miss Kay rushed to get the snacks ready.  She grimaced at her watch, knowing the afternoon was only going to get worse.  The kids should have had snack an hour ago, but finger-painting had been a disaster today.

Crissy had decided to paint Laurie.  Then Laurie thought Renn’s hair would look better blue.  Things had gone downhill from there.  Miss Kay sighed as the kids, all eight of them, started whining louder about being hungry.  You don’t mess with meals and naps when it comes to preschoolers.  She was wishing she had a TV in the room, a TV with lots of cartoons, when Blake screamed.

“Blake.  Enough. ”  Miss Kay said, fighting hard to control herself.  She didn’t bother to look up.  Blake was always screaming about something.  Oh how she wished she had a TV!  Their parents used it to babysit them, why couldn’t she?

When Blake screamed again, she reminded herself how much she loved children, took a deep breath and looked up from her chore.  But she wasn’t prepared for what she saw.  Renn had taken the guinea pig,  Mr.  Whiskers, out of his cage.

And bitten him.

Blood dripped down the little boy’s face and soaked into his shirt as he chomped and chomped on the fleshy mass in his mouth.  The noise, sloshy and wet coupled with the crunching of bones, was unbearable.  The little critter was struggling desperately in his hands and making the most awful noise.  She wanted to scream, too.  But the other children beat her to it.  Knowing that she should be doing something, making him spit it out, getting the others out of the room…could you call 911 for a guinea pig?…Miss Kay willed her legs to move.  She managed one step, one little, shuffling step when she realized they weren’t screaming because they were afraid.

They were…my God…they were…

Miss Kay was trying to scream now.  Her mouth hung open in a silent mask of horror as her eight tiny students fought over what was left of the rodent.  Kicking and clawing at each other, they tore the tiny creature to shreds before devouring it, fur and all.  Then they started licking the blood off each other.  Laurie was sucking on Crissy’s fingers as Renn lolled his tongue up and down Blake’s face, trying desperately to get every last bit.  That’s when she dropped the box.  Miss Kay didn’t even know it was still in her hand.  But in the eerie quiet that had settled over the room, broken only by the wet, sucking noise the children were making, like a nursery full of babies sucking on bottles, the cracker box hit the floor with a bang so loud she jumped.

Kylie grinned up at her, cocking her head slowly to one side, she smiled a serial killer’s smile with a three year old’s face.

“Miss Kay….”  the little girl said sweetly.  “It’s snack time.”

Backing up, falling over the snack table and nearly hitting the ground, the young teacher  found her voice.  She screamed at the top of her lungs and ran haphazardly around the room, dodging the little cannibals as best she could. Any minute, any minute now, the door would fly open and someone would come and save her.   Then she slipped on a toy and as she struggled to get up, Jay bit off part of her left ear.

“MISS KAY!  NO HITTING!” he hollered as she smacked him away.

“Hold still!!” whined Renn.  “I’m hungie!”

“Mmmmmiiiiiiiiiissssssssssssss Kaaaaaaaayyyyyyy!”  Laurie howled. “I wanna bite you!”

There was blood everywhere.  Her blood.  Eight little mouths taking bite after bite.  Each time she fell, it was harder to get up.  They were leaping on her now, throwing themselves at her.  She was slowing down.  Someone had to come.  Tired.  She was so tired.  Surely, someone was coming.  Someone would save her.  The pain had been unbelievable at first.  But it didn’t really hurt that bad anymore.

“Yes, yes, lay down now,” cooed Crissy as she leaned in and took a chunk out of Miss Kay’s hand.

“Lay down.  LaaAAAAaaaayyyy  LaaaaaAAAAAaaayyyyy down!” Blake said in a sing-songy voice.  Then he growled and bit deep into Miss Kay’s neck.

They lunged as she collapsed on the floor.  Ripping her clothes away from her body, arguing about how buttons come undone, telling each other not to shove and that nice children wait their turn, they set upon her.  Eight tiny little children, arguing the way tiny little children do, began devouring their preschool teacher, bit by bit…bite by bite.

They were still eating her when the policeman ran into the room.

Durham woke to the sound of sirens.  Sirens?   He was tangled up in his sheets, kicking and punching the air around him, screaming at the top of his lungs.  When the blaring noise stopped, and he could hear himself think, he realized it was just a dream.  The demons hadn’t escaped and taken over the world, one daycare at a time.  It was just a dream.   Just another scary-ass dream.  Which was good, because whoever was calling didn’t even bother to leave a message, they just hit redial and the sirens were wailing all around him for the second time.

That bitch had been messing with his phone again

“WHAT?” Durham yelled into his cell, angry about his dream and just plain pissed that he’d stubbed his toe on the desk as he stumbled out of bed.

“Now, is that any way to talk to a lady?” asked a sultry voice.

“It’s the middle of the night Sally.  What do you want?”  he said, trying to mask his revulsion.  He hated that woman.  “And stop messing with my damn ringtone!”

“It’s the start of the morning actually, my dear.  And we need you.  Now.”  Sally replied.

“What’s wrong?”  Durham asked, failing to hide his concern.

“There’s been a development.  We need you.  Now.”  Sally repeated.  Then she hung up.

Sighing heavily, Durham thought about his options again.  There weren’t many.  Eventually he’d make the decision.  It would be his choice, not theirs.  He figured a bullet in the brain was better than what they’d do to him, sooner or later.  No, he knew it was better.  But not tonight.  Today.  This morning.  Whatever.  Not now.  Besides, he still had to figure out where he was going to get a gun.

His legs felt like lead and his skin was all prickly as he approached the lab.  They’d moved him to the Black Hole six months ago, after his discovery.  His missed his old dorm, way on the other side of the campus, on the other side of the wall.  Sure, for a guy who was losing everything, guaranteed housing without any housing costs had been a big plus.  Now he wished he could go back in time and take the ink from the pen he used to sign his offer letter.  It was a five minute walk from his new room to the front door of hell.  He smoked two cigarettes on the way.  Tip to filter.  Two.

Scanning his badge, he held his breath.  He’d seen it happen enough times to know.  The alarms go off.  The guys with the ski masks show up.  He disappears.  But there was no alarm.  Just a green light and the click of the door as it unlocked.  Part of him was relieved.  Part of him disappointed.

“What took you so long?”  Dr. Kyler demanded.

“Traffic was a bitch.” Durham replied as he headed towards Observation.

“You’re not going to believe it!” Sally said.

His skin crawled.  It was the excitement in her voice.  She was totally turned on by whatever was happening.  It had to be bad.  He had to figure out how he was going to get that gun.  Soon.

The cameras were all focused on  one room.  The Cafe´.  Of course, where else?  Durham’s heart sunk when he looked at the screens.  He had hoped.  Hoped against everything he’d come to know that she would hold out.  That this one, Leo, would be the one that didn’t.  He’d hung onto that hope because somehow, somehow it made him feel like maybe there was a way out of this madness.

That hope flickered and died as he watched Leo standing over the body.  Standing.  Immediately Durham understood why he’d been called.  It wasn’t just the fact that she’d given in.  Sally didn’t call him here so she could rub his nose in it.  That would have been enough motivation for her, but that wasn’t it.  Leo was standing.  Leo, who’s legs has been horribly twisted at birth, was standing.

The braces that had held her legs straight and the walker she used to move were lying on the floor.  They were covered in blood.

Durham pushed one of the cameras closer.  He wanted to see her face.

She was crying.

“I want you to go talk to her.”  Kyler said, his voice still shaking.

“What?” asked Durham.  It sounded more like ‘Are you out of your fucking mind?’.

“This girl knows you.  She trusts you.  She always has.  I…I don’t know what happened here tonight.  And I want you to find out….” Kyler stammered.

“Find out WHAT?”  Sally cried, incredulously.  “THIS is what she is meant to do!”

“Yes, Sally.”  Kyler said, a warning tone creeping into his voice.

Durham had no intention of going anywhere near Leo.  Kyler would just have to deal.  Sure, he’d gone to visit her nearly every day.  Hung out with her in Medical.  He’d never thought twice about being in the same room with her.  No one had.  But things had changed.  She had obviously snapped.  She was one of them now, a cannibal.  He’d seen what they were capable of up close and personal once.  One time had been enough for him.  He wasn’t going anywhere.

“Leo?”  he said into the microphone.

Kyler slammed his fist down on the desk.

“I said GO talk to her!” he hissed, eyes blazing.

“Leo?” Durham said again without taking his eyes off the doc.  Was this the moment?

“Yes Durham?” Leo said slowly, quietly.

It always got him.  Always cut him deep to his core the way they talked.  Like normal people.  He’d once had a twenty minute conversation with Taurus while she chewed on someone’s arm like it was a chicken wing.  They had been separated by the glass, of course.  But still.  A fucking chicken wing.

Now, it was Leo.  Not Taurus or one of her crew.  But Leo.  His stomach made a horrible noise and he automatically reached for the trash can as Sally took a step back.

“Oh God!”  she whined, disgusted with him.  “You’re not going to puke again are you?”

“Leo? ”  Durham said, closing his eyes and ignoring Sally.

“Ask me Durham.”  Leo replied.  “Ask me.”

He took a deep breath.

“Leo?” he whispered into the microphone.  “Oh Leo, how could you?”

Kyler came unhinged.  Sally smacked him in the back of the head.  Apparently that was not the question they wanted him to ask.  But he knew that before the words left his mouth.  They wanted him to ask about her cravings.  To find out if she knew she’d be cured if she….     But he didn’t care.  He didn’t care at all.  He’d held this girl.  Protected her.  And now she’d turned into one of them.

“I had to.”  she said quietly.

Without another word, Leo walked out of the room.  The cameras recorded her trek back to the other dormitory in the facility.  The one that was inside the laboratory, encased in five feet of concrete and wired to no less than ten fail-safe devices.  And those were just the ones that Durham knew about.  He laughed to himself.  Fail-safe.  If they were fail-safe, why was there more than one?  Because there was no such thing as ‘safe’ where these things were concerned.  He knew that for sure now.  Leo wasn’t a ray of hope.  She was just like the rest of them.  She was a monster.

“I want to see the entire feeding.”  Kyler said.

“Right.”  Durham said through clenched teeth.  It was a murder, not a feeding.

He tried to walk away from the monitors after he found it.  Go outside, smoke a cigarette, be anywhere but here.

“Oh just smoke here dammit.”  Kyler commanded.  He was growing impatient with Durham.  “Don’t you understand?  We’ve paid little attention to her.  There was no reason for us to.  You know her.  We need your help to understand.”

Despite the fact that his heart felt like someone was ripping it out of his chest, like he’d just watched his own kid die or something, and the puke that was still bubbling in his throat, Durham wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to piss off Sally.  So he didn’t argue with Kyler, which was never a good idea anyway, and lit a cigarette.

Right on cue, Sally shot him a hell-look and he grinned at her.  Fucking bitch.  He might smoke two now.  In fact, he was just going to start smoking there all the time, till Kyler told him to quit.  Durham was doing his best to distract himself from the action on the center screen.  It didn’t work for long.

It was another prisoner.  The orange jumpsuit shone brightly against the white walls of the Pre-Hall as he was led towards the large red door.  That was the point of no return.   The other side of that door was the Hall.  And it was a one-way corridor.  His escorts pushed him through the last green door and retreated as it closed behind him.  They would make their way back out, through the series of green doors, fifteen of them in all, opening one at a time, only when the previous was fully shut and triple electronic locked.

The man in orange stood staring after them as their door, the green one, closed.  Confused, he jumped  when the first of the three locks on the red door clicked open.  Jumped again with the second and third.  Then the red door opened, slowly, and a voice told him to step through.  It was Sally’s voice, recorded of course.  Using Sally’s voice had been Durham’s idea.  She had taken it as a compliment.  He had suggested it because it made perfect sense to him.  If Hell had an announcer, it had to be Sally.

The prisoner passed through one red door after another as the escorts moved further away.  They would be out of the Pre-Hall by the time he hit the Cafe´.  That’s how it was supposed to work.  That way there were no open doors, anywhere.  When orange jumpsuit reached the Cafe´  he moved to the large black door and waited for it to open.  But it didn’t.  And that voice that had been telling him to move forward, move through the door, it didn’t say anything else.  He wandered around the room, kicking randomly at the walls, pushing on the red door…the black door…yelling up at the cameras.

“Why isn’t it opening?”  Durham asked.

“That’s part of the mystery.”  Kyler replied.  “She did something to it.”

“Who?  Leo?”

“No dumbass.  The Tooth Fairy.  Yes, Leo.”  Sally hissed.

“That was the first call I got tonight,”  Kyler said.  “A call telling me the door had malfunctioned.”

For some reason, maybe the lack of sleep or total adrenaline overload, it hadn’t occurred to Durham that there were no Operators in Observation when he got here.  There should have been.  There were always four Operators on shift.   Always.  He glanced at the calendar.  It was B team.  Third Shift B Crew should have been here.  But they weren’t.  Durham switched on another computer and started searching for footage of the other side of the black door.

“Don’t bother with that now.”  Kyler said.  “We’ll figure out how she did it later.”

“How do you know Leo did something?”  Durham asked, surprised he was still defending her.

Sally rolled her eyes and Kyler didn’t respond.  Getting the hint, Durham settled back in his chair and watched the monitor.  A half an hour passed and he’d crushed three smokes on the floor.  Sally’s coffee cup would’ve been the perfect ashtray, but she’d moved it too quickly.  Kyler hadn’t even flinched when he stomped the first one out with his foot.  Finally, just when he was starting to relax, just a little bit, maybe even starting to believe that somehow the end result would be different from what he already knew, the black door opened.

“I still want to know why it took so long to get that door open.”  Kyler said to Sally.  “And more importantly, if we’d have that difficult a time closing one if we needed to.”

Laughed.  That’s what he did.  He laughed.   The prisoner in the orange jumpsuit, who’d been the picture of frustration only a moment before, laughed.

Three little boys were standing in the doorway.

“I guess they did kill me after all, huh?  And that preacher was right! I did go to heaven!” the man exclaimed.

He walked towards the boys, grinning.  Then he leaned forward and stroked one on the cheek.  All three of them froze.  Durham felt his breath catch in his throat.  He couldn’t believe he was afraid for them.  But he was.  Just as the man reached out to touch the boy’s face again, Leo appeared behind them.

He laughed even harder when he saw her struggling to move.

“Go to your room,”  She told the boys.  “Now.”

Ordinarily, they would have ignored her.  Leo didn’t exactly command a lot of respect among her kind.  Taurus was probably the only reason she was still alive, and that was simply for the sake of amusement.  But the boys listened now.  They backed out of the room slowly, warily.  They began to run as soon as they were past the threshold of the black door.

“What you got hiding under all that metal girl?” the man sneered.

“Come find out.”  Leo said.  Her voice was hard.  Strong.  Durham almost didn’t recognize it.

Durham, Sally and Kyler all leaned closer to the screen as the prisoner moved towards Leo.  Kyler took Durham’s cigarette right out of his hand and started puffing away.

When he reached for her, when orange jumpsuit put his hand out towards her, Durham saw Leo waver, just the tiniest bit.  The others probably didn’t notice.  But he saw it.  Saw the fear in her face.  She wasn’t afraid of him.  She was afraid of killing him.  Then his finger brushed her lips and her eyes changed.

His stomach clenched like he’d been sucker punched as he watched her face turn to stone.  His Leo disappeared before him and was replaced by one of them.  Cocking her head to one side as she surveyed her prey, that oddly simple and horribly frightening pose that was characteristic of their kind, she seemed taller, stronger.  Orange jumpsuit reached for her crotch and she sunk her teeth deep into his bicep, the cloth ripping away and turning an ugly brown.  She let loose of him as he swung with his other arm and caught his fist square in her teeth.

The walker she’d leaned on so heavily for so long clanged loudly on the ground as she sheared off half his hand like she was biting through a stick of butter.   Kyler nearly passed out when Leo’s braces started creaking and twisting.  They bent off her, like her legs were suddenly way stronger then the metal ever thought about being.

Bleeding heavily, terrified and confused , orange jumpsuit fell to the ground and began dragging himself away from the girl.  Crying and begging God for forgiveness, he tried desperately to get away from her as she trailed just behind him, cocking her head from side to side.  Durham gasped for breath when she started to smile.

“WHY IS SHE STOPPING!” Sally screamed, causing both Durham and Kyler to jump.

Just as quickly as it started, it was over.  Leo fell upon her victim and opened up his neck with a single bite that showered half the room in blood.  Sally made a noise that scared the hell out of Durham.  He really, really hoped he hadn’t just been party to the ice-woman having some kind of spontaneous orgasm.  That would scar him for life.  Worse than anything he’d ever seen on these monitors.  Like institutionalize scar him.  He pushed his chair further from her and tried to force the idea from his mind.

“Well, that was pointless!” Sally exclaimed.

Durham turned to her with narrowed eyes.

“You’re kidding, right?” he said quietly, lighting another cigarette.

“Get that damn thing out of my face!” she yelled at him.  “And NO I’m NOT kidding, about EITHER statement!”

“Statement?  Really?”  Durham thought about it for a moment.  “Those sounded more like exclamations then statements.  ”

“Stop talking.”  Sally demanded.

“See!”  Durham said proudly.  “THAT was a statement.  You stated it.  You didn’t exclaim it.”

“Both of you SHUT UP!”  Kyler yelled.

“I’m just saying,” said Durham as he took a deep drag and blew the smoke at Sally with a grin.

“I hate you.” she said.

“Very good!” Durham replied, taking another drag.  “I really think you’re getting the hang of this statement thing.”

“I said SHUT UP!” Kyler yelled again.

They were both silent.  Kyler began to pace back and forth.  Five steps forward, turn around.  Five steps, turn around.

“Tell me what just happened in there.” he said to Durham.

“Now, you need to make up your mind,” Durham said, forgetting who he was talking to, still trying to funnel his heartbreak into anything other than pain.  “Do you want me to shut up or tell you what happened?”

The look in Kyler’s eyes straightened him out pretty quickly.

“Right.  Yeah.  Sorry.”  Durham mumbled.  “Check jumpsuit’s record.  Betcha he’s a child molester.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” Sally cried impatiently, angrily.  It took Durham a minute or two to figure it out.  Then it hit him.  She was pissed that Leo had stopped.  Now he was pretty much convinced it had been an orgasm he’d heard earlier.  Scarred. For life. However much of it was left.

“She was protecting them,” Durham said.  “From him.”

“That’s ridiculous.”  Kyler said.  “Ridiculous!  Those boys had nothing to fear  from him!”

“Then why did they look so afraid?”  Durham said as he backed up the footage.  It was worse, watching it in reverse was harder.  Because on the monitor, he could make her go back, make her pure again.  But she never really would be, not in real life.

“My God….” Kyler whispered as he watched the boys cringe, all three of them, when jumpsuit touched one of them.  “My God….”

“Pretty sure God wasn’t in there.  In any of them.”  Durham said.  “Or us for that matter.  Not anymore anyway.”

“Oh shut the hell up Durham!” Sally said snidely.  “What the fuck do you know about God?”

“I’m fairly certain he doesn’t like that kind of language from pretty little girls like you.”  Durham replied.

“Bite me asshole.”  she muttered.

“Tisk, tisk.  That’s another five thousand Hail Marys my dear!”  Durham said with a grin.

“Play it again.”  Kyler said.

The fifth time through, they were all convinced.  Durham knew this was a bad thing.  He’d never pointed it out before.  The assumption that they’d make the discovery eventually had prevented him from putting too much stock in the secret anyway.  Besides, it was so obvious.  But maybe that was just because he knew.  Now, now that Leo had succumbed, it seemed pointless to hide it, or anything else.  That piece of information had just been one of the many scary things about them and promising things about her.  She’d been the hope.  And hope was dead now.

It wasn’t like Durham had been sitting around formulating some big heroic takeover of the facility, some dramatic rescue of the human race before it even knew it was in trouble.  He wasn’t an avenging angel.  He was just the guy that bred the cows.  Until he found out why they needed so damn many cows.  Then he became one of them.  The ones who had the black keycards.  The ones who knew.  And he learned quickly that getting the keycard wasn’t like grabbing the brass ring.  Staying alive was the ring.  And there weren’t many veterans around here.  No, he hadn’t been planning a revolution.  Just hoping for one.  So what did it matter if they knew?

“They’re psychic.”  Kyler whispered.

“Yup. ”

“Why would you keep this from us?” Kyler was still whispering, but it was his creepy whisper.

Chills ran down Durham’s spine.

“I don’t know.” he said.  Truth was good.  Sort of truth might work.

“Mr. Durham,”  Kyler said as he turned and leaned on the arms of Durham’s chair.  “Is there anything else you’re not telling me?”

Kyler’s face was inches from his.  The chills were running through Durham’s whole body now.

“If I think of anything,” he said, taking a deep, deep drag and burning into the filter. “I’ll be sure and let you know.”

Kyler smiled.  He liked Durham.  Sally had no idea why.  In her opinion, Durham was a waste.  She couldn’t wait for Kyler to feed him to the kids.  That was something she was really looking forward to.  She planned on making her own copy of that recording.  Maybe more than one.

“I’m sure you will.”  Kyler said as he sat down in his own chair.

Still shaking on the inside, Durham’s guts felt like jelly.  Like the way the jumpsuits’ guts usually looked when the monsters were done with them.  He lit another cigarette, made sure to blow smoke Sally’s way, and concentrated on looking Kyler in the eye.  He always looked Kyler in the eye.  Always.  Durham told himself that he could see fear there, that Kyler was afraid too.  The scary bastard seemed more human that way.

“Now then,”  Kyler said, lighting another cigarette from Durham’s pack.   “Speak.”

“AAARRRFF!”

Durham hadn’t exactly made the decision to bark.  It just kind of happened.  Like so many other completely ridiculous moments in his life that led in a straight line to what was always some horrible consequence, it played out before him in slow motion and fast forward all at the same time.  Too quick to stop the dumbass who lived in his head and seemed to gain control of his mouth at the most inopportune times and too slow for him pretend like it wasn’t happening.

It was so awful.  The echo hung in the air around them and Kyler didn’t say a word.  Didn’t flinch.  Durham would’ve felt better if the old man had turned bright red again and screamed at him.  Slapped him across the face the way he’d slapped Dr. Jamison all those months ago, drawing both blood & tears from the humble little man who’d caused this nightmare.

Even Sally had been stunned into silence.  Hopeful silence, he was sure, but at least she was fucking quiet.  The two men stared at each other, each smoking their cigarette, each with very, very different thoughts tripping through their minds.

“I don’t know much.  Anything for sure, really. ”  Durham started.

Kyler raised an eyebrow and his eyes narrowed.  It was obvious he was seething and struggling to appear calm.

“I don’t know a lot of details, I mean.  It’s just, well,  Leo usually knows what I’m thinking.  After I figured that out, I could see it in the other ones, too.”  Durham said slowly, trying to make it make sense.  “It’s hard to explain.  It’s not like she ever told me. ”

“You figured it out.”  Kyler said.

“Yeah, sometimes she’d smile before I made a joke, like she knew what I was going to say,”  He continued.  “And then…that day, well, she knew what Taurus was going to do.”

“So, it was an observation that you made?” Kyler replied.  “And when you studied the others, you saw it in them as well?”

“This is bullshit.” Sally interjected.  She started tapping her foot hard on the ground and her arms were folded so tight across her chest that Durham wondered if she was going to break herself in half.

“Shut up Sally.” Kyler said in a tone that made it clear he wasn’t kidding.

Throwing herself down in a chair, Sally tried to give the impression that she didn’t really care what Kyler said.  But she kept quiet.

“Anything else?” the old man said.

His chest felt tight.  Like he was having a heart attack or something.  But Durham knew it was a test.  Kyler had already put the pieces together.  Durham had suspected, but hadn’t been sure, not completely sure until he watched that footage over and over.  But then, on the third time through, he watched Leo struggle into the room and he was certain.

“I don’t know about the rest of them, but Leo can do more than just read minds.”  He heard the strain in his voice and it made him cringe.  “She knows things are going to happen before they do.”

Sally threw her arms up in the air and exhaled violently.  But she didn’t say anything.

“Yes.  I agree.”  Kyler said, a horrible grin spreading across his wrinkly old face.  “It didn’t occur to me at first, but then, watching her work so hard to get into that room…well, she had to have known.”

“Yeah. That’s why the door didn’t open for so long. ”  Durham agreed.  He sounded defeated.  “It took her a while to get there.”

“Exactly.”  Kyler said out loud, even though he was really talking to himself.

Hours had passed before Durham and Sally found the footage of Leo disabling the door to the Cafe.  She’d set some sort of charge in the controls.  She’d done it days, almost five full days, earlier.  Even Durham was shocked by that revelation.  Obviously, she could see into the future.  But how far was a major question now.  As they were watching the video, Sally zoomed one of the monitors in on Leo’s hands.  She pulled a piece of foil from her pocket, and Durham nearly choked on his own spit.  At the same instant, on the video taken five days ago, Leo turned to the camera and grinned.

“What the fuck was that???”  Kyler yelled.

When Durham didn’t respond, Kyler hit him in the shoulder with a clipboard.  It hurt, but it was oddly encouraging.  Maybe he wasn’t going to die today after all.

“What were you thinking, right then, right when she looked at the camera?”  the old man was practically hyperventilating.

“It’s a gum wrapper.”  Durham whispered, his eyes still locked with Leo’s.  “The little shit asked me for a piece of gum.”

Leo was laughing now.  Cracked up as she finished her work.

Sally backhanded Durham, giving him a bloody nose.

“You give them NOTHING!  EVER!”  The bitch screamed.

Kyler pulled Sally from her chair and flung her across the room.

“Thanks, Leo.  Thanks a lot.”  Durham whispered at the monitor, rubbing his sleeve across his face.

He froze, forearm pressed against his nose, as Leo grinned and pulled off a clumsy half-curtsy.

“Jesus.”  he whispered.

“I thought you said God wasn’t here?”  Kyler chuckled.  “But we don’t need God, do we my dear Leo?”

The laughter was cut short when Leo flipped off the camera and began unfolding a piece of paper.  She kept looking up at the camera while she worked at it.  Like she was making sure they were still watching her.  Finally, she held it up.

LOOK BEHIND YOU

“Durham?”  Kyler asked in a subdued voice.  “How much gum did you give her?”

“Oh fuck.”  Durham whispered.

The blood drained from Kyler’s face.  Sally’s eyes looked like they were going to pop right out of her head.  Durham wasn’t sure what he looked like, but he knew it couldn’t be good.  Especially since he had a death grip on the desk.  He thought about all the doors.  All the alarms.  There was no way.  There was no physical, possible way.

On the monitor, Leo raised her arms questioningly, knowing they hadn’t turned around.

“Oooooohhhhhh ffffuuuuccckkkkkk.”  Durham managed through clenched teeth.  Then, with a deep breath.  “Oh FUCK IT!”

He spun  in his chair.  Kyler was next.  Sally, the Ice Queen, the Super Bitch, was apparently a pussy after all and was the last to turn around.  When she finally managed to open her eyes, she saw the same thing the two men saw.  Nothing.  There was nothing there.  No Leo.  No horde of hungry monsters.  Nothing.  They all looked at each other and then slowly back to the monitors.  Leo had a very solemn look on her face.  She held one finger up as if to tell them to wait a moment and Sally immediately jerked her head back around.  On the screen, Leo shook her head at Sally, and then very slowly, methodically turned the paper over and raised it to the camera.

MADE YOU LOOK

Desperately Seeking New Plot

Posted: September 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

I finally watched “Psycho” the other night start to finish without any interruptions.  Kinda felt like I’d accomplished a major life goal.

It. Was. Fabulous.

(and disappointing)

Fabulous because Hitchcock was a true master.

 MAS. TER.

 The way the scenes were shot…

The way the suspense builds…

The fact that out of nowhere you lose the person you were focused on from the time the film started…

Yeah, it was fabulous.

The disappointing part has nothing to do with Hitch.  He was a genius. (Established.) Seriously, if you DON’T get a bit twitchy when you see like a million birds chilling in a field…you’ve got issues that likely can’t be helped.   It’s not his fault that I totally already knew what was gonna happen when that shower curtain closed or that I knew the killer’s identity before I even pressed “PLAY”.

But, alas, I DID know what was gonna happen and I DID know who was wielding that knife.  So yeah…disappointing.  All through the film I was totally distracted by the idea that it would’ve been so much cooler to be watching with NO FREAKING CLUE chica was gonna get sliced and diced.  No worries, I still totally jumped.  Pretty sure it was the soundtrack.  How could I not jump?!?!?

As for Mother, well, the whole idea was still creepy as hell.  Each time I saw her shadow in the window I kept picturing our boy Norm up there toting his prized mummy (horrible pun absolutely intended and surely used by someone before me) around.  But DAY-UM (sorry, had to..I’m just that awesome)  how fantastic and amazingly messed up would it have been to see that chair in the cellar spin with no clue of what I was about to be faced with?

Makes me kind of sad, really, to think about it.

That’s the sort of moment you watch 500 films hoping you’ll have and rarely do.  Lots of folks try to imitate it, but seriously, how many times have you been ten  minutes into a film and already know how it’s gonna end?  Nobody watching “Psycho” when it first came out had a clue how that one was gonna go.  Guaranteed.

And really, that’s why we watch movies, right?

Good stories, written or visual, drag you in so deep the world around you disappears.  Great stories make you sweat when the lead guy/gal is running out of time or ammo or energy or whatever is keeping him/her alive.  That build up, that crazy frenzied, take you down one road and then

WHAM!

knock you flat on your ass with some revelation or death or new direction…that, sweethearts, is freaking bliss.

“The Walking Dead” does that to me.  That’s why I love it.  The barn scene.  Dude.  The motherfucking barn scene!!!!!  If you’re a fan, you know what I’m talking about, when little bit stumbles out…holy freaking shit…THAT was a moment my friends.  The manner in which it ended…that’s the kind of camera work…acting…film fucking poetry that will take your breath away.  Gives me chills just thinking about it.

The predictability of most popular movies and fiction these days is more than slightly annoying.  It’s actually pretty insulting.  When you’ve spent like 1/2 a mortgage payment on movie tickets and giant buckets of fake-butter-oil-drowned-popcorn, you kind of expect to be entertained.  Figuring out the plot before the opening credits have ended is a bit of a buzzkill.  It really doesn’t matter how many super expensive special effects they toss at you, once you realize it’s just another “insert Hollywood movie formula here” flick, then it’s just another “reinsert previously used Hollywood movie formula here” flick.  No amount of blood, screams, car stunts, alien lifeforms, explosions or…gasp…even zombies…can save it.

Case in point, “Battleship”.

You mean the troubled, delinquent younger brother ends up saving like the whole human race?

No. Fucking. Way.

Now, I do admit that watching the movie with my 10 year old son was still entertaining.  Mostly cuz he thought the special effects rocked and kept yelling that, loudly.  If we’d been in a theater instead of at home, I’d have said I had an AWESOME time simply watching the rest of the crowd get pissed every time he went “WOOAHH…THAT ROCKED!!!”.  Regardless, I guess enough of that expensive explodey shit will save your movie if your target audience is 10 year old boys.

The problem is that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a 10 year old boy.  (I’ve got medical records to prove it…so back off.)  I’d love it if more studios spent less time and money on big name actors and even bigger special effects and just put out some good fucking movies.  As I sit here now, I can’t honestly remember the last time I went to a theater and was totally amped up and excited when I left.

That’s prolly why “Psycho” was such a rush and a downer.  I already knew Hitch’s secrets.  You can’t get that mad “HOLY SHIT” rush if you know what the shower scene is all about..even if you’ve never actually watched it.  You can’t get that “WHAT THE…WHAT THE..OH MY GOD!!!!” perspective 180 at the chair spin if you already know Mother is, shall we say, a bit under the weather.   Trying to watch it, knowing what I knew, would be like every single time I’ve seen the “Star Wars” flicks (and I mean the first three releases, not the manipulated re-releases or the fucked up prequels) after Luke’s paternity reveal.

 It just ain’t the same.

-Olaf

The Mantis and The Minion

Posted: September 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

This is a Praying Mantis —–>

<——This is a Minion

It’s unfortunate that I don’t have any actual pics of the adventure that took place in my living room this morning.  Highly unfortunate.

It was crazy early, as all mornings are.  Since dawn hadn’t even cracked yet it was still dark .  I’d call it “twilight”,  but that word brings such an unpleasant taste to my mouth,  likely due to the puking up of my guts, that we’ll stick with “dark”.  Having smoked my first smoke, the dogs and I headed back inside and that’s when I realized the praying mantis who’d been hanging around the patio had taken a wrong turn.

I’m kind of partial to mantises. (Don’t hate, I Googled the plural form. And it’s Google…so you know it’s gotta be right.)   They’re just cool.  A mantis will totally sit on a stick and watch you, like REALLY watch you, turn his head all cockeyed and weird and stare you down.  Hang out with one long enough and I swear you’ll think he’s about to strike up a conversation with you.  With an English accent.  Dudes must rock the English accent

So anyway,

 the Beast —–>

totally  saw the intruder first.  He was way more animated at the time then he is in the picture.   If you’ve ever been around a GSD, think full prey alert, vocals in overdrive and you’ll get the general idea.  I totally wanted to save the mantis, but a couple of good chomps on this guy’s part (and like fifteen or twenty well placed paw-smack downs) and I figured it was too late.  So did the Beast.  He walked off and flopped down, with a big doggie sigh that said “Yup, I’m the Man-Dog” and figured his work was done.

Enter the Minion.

Little dude is used to getting the broken toys his big bro is finished with and happily snapped up the poor mantis and hopped up on the couch.

I really didn’t wanna watch the poor buggy get eaten, but then Thing 1 (who was totally supposed to be getting ready for school, silly girl child) started yelling that it was still alive.

People, it was a mantis miracle.

Here’s the goofy Minion all sprawled out on the couch, thinking he’s gonna have himself a  little snack, and then his snack tried to eat him.  Seriously.  That’s one of the other things about Mantises that’s so damn cool, bastards are fearless.  Apparently the Beast had simply taken him by surprise, but now that the kamikaze attack was over, bug was up for a fight.

Much to the major dismay of the poor pup, the little green alien walked that creepy-scary mantis walk RIGHT UP HIS LEG.  Now, you gotta picture this to get how funny it is.  If you’ve never seen a praying mantis walk, look that shit up.  DO IT!!!!

See?!?!?!  Scary.  Not all fast scary like a spider.  Slow.  Sssslllloooowwww. Methodical.  Step by freaky bug jointed step.  NOW, imagine the goofiest dog you’ve ever known.  Like, will toss a tennis ball up in the air out of his mouth and watch it come down and hit himself  right in the face.  And then do it again.  Lovable to the extreme, but kinda makes you wonder just how shallow his gene pool actually is.  Got your image?

Ok…goofy dog, front legs stretched out, praying mantis walking up one of those legs.  What does goofy dog do?  Get up and shake off bug?  Snap at bug?  Bark at bug?  Oh, no…not the Minion.

He leaned away  like he was glued in place and his only option was to lean his head as far back from the approaching demon as possible.  Then he looked at us and whined.

We, his humans, were absolutely no help.  We were too busy laughing.  A lot.  Hysterically, even.  Now it finally did occur to me that I might have a chance to actually save the mantis, and that after this performance, he really truly did deserve to be saved, when he got within striking distance of the Minion’s nose and shit got real.

I’m telling you, that bug went ninja on the poor dog’s face.  It was smacking at him with both front legs.

 I was waiting for Thing 1 to break into announcer mode and start calling it,

“LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT, RIGHT AND ANOTHER LEFT, LAAAADDDDIIIEEEES AND GENTLEMAN THE MUTILATING MANTIS HAS THIS ONE ALL WRAPPED UP!”

[No, my kid’s never seen a boxing match and doesn’t have an announcer mode (unless she’s giving Thing 2 fair warning before a beat down, which doesn’t happen often, because what kid is gonna warn their brother before trying to kill him) but this is just how my mind works people.]

At this point,  the Beast and both cats were watching, too.  It was like being witness to David and Goliath, if David had been a bug and Goliath a dog and there wasn’t a slingshot and it all happened on somebody’s couch, but yeah, same general situation.  Mostly.

Except, in our version, David totally lost.

Apparently it finally dawned on Sir Goof-A-Lot that if he bit the demon creature’s head off, it would probably stop hitting him.  Oddly, he was right.

I was looking up pics for this post and came across this one –>

I’ve got this bizarre need to go brush the Minion’s teeth…

—Olaf

Ramble On

Posted: August 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

Sup, kids?  Oh yes, I did.  I absolutely just started this off with a “sup”.  Relax.  It’s totally fine for me to do that.  As a 36 year old, white girl from Indiana my use of the word makes it ironic.  (that means cool, in a not trendy-trendy cool way,  but in an  offbeat-trendy cool way)  Complicated, I know.  Thing 1 doesn’t get it either.  She just thinks I’m embarrassing when I say stuff like that.  The boy usually calls me stupid.  Silly offspring.

For the two or three people who read the previous incarnation of this blog, I’m sad to say, all the archives are lost.  Guess that means I’ll just have to get to typing and create lots of new ones.  That I backup.  A lot.  Like on four different hard drives and a couple clouds.  Yup.  Good plan.

Instead of “setting myself up for failure” which is a term my Key uses often when I start rambling off goals for myself, I’m gonna rein in the mania a bit and go for a post a week.  That’s the plan.  One itty bitty blog post a week.  I think I can handle that.  Hell, I can handle anything in theory.  It’s the practice part that always gets a bit tricky.  Like having to actually get OUT of bed and be productive at 4am if that’s the only time I have to write.  Seems like more often then not, if I do manage to crawl out from under the covers,  I end up sharing 5000 different mimes on facebook or playing ridiculous zynga games as if my life depended on crafting iron horseshoes for unicorns or coming up with a 40 point word with nothing but vowels left to choose from.

Checking out of reality now and then is a  good habit.  Letting yourself get so run down that checking out is essential to survival, well, that’s more of a bad, bad thing.  Super-bad, even.  That’s kind of been my modus operandi for like my whole life.  All or nothing all the time and eventually all that all turns into a whole fuck of a lot of nothing.  Must work 10 hours, have squeaky clean house, write blog posts, work on five different books, exercise in the morning, exercise at lunch, exercise at night and, and, and SAVE THE WORLD!!!!!!  The alternative to checking all those items off my To Do List has always been to simply throw the list away.  Unless it’s on my iPhone.  Then I just delete it.

Maybe it’s Key’s influence, either directly or simply the fact that I don’t feel like I’ve got the weight of the universe on my shoulders anymore, but here lately I’ve kind of gotten a new perspective on that dreaded list.  So maybe instead of trying to meet every goal I’ve ever had in my entire life during a 24 hour period, maybe I’ll just try and tick off one or two items a day.  Hell, some days, maybe I won’t check off any at all. But I’m pretty sure I’m not gonna throw the list away anymore.  It’s pretty much burned in my brain, anyway.  Maybe if I hang onto it, eventually I’ll reach the end of it.

Fuck, if nothing else, it’ll save me the trouble of re-writing that shit every couple of months.  😛

-Olaf