Santa’s Little Helper (1)

A creature traveled three hundred million light-years and gave a sleeping girl a gift.

“What is it?” She asked, for she was young and naive, and thought the timeless and inscrutable creature stood before her was Santa Claus.

The creature noticed this.

“A present, my dear, for a good little girl.” The alien mouth struggled for a moment around unfamiliar sounds, a problem quickly overcome.

“Are you Santa? It’s not Christmas.”

The creature paused, accessed the planet’s knowledge. “Not Santa, dear girl. A helper. We would like you to test out this new toy for us, to make sure it will work just right by Christmas.”

The girl nodded sagely, turned the small device over in her hands. Black, it was, and somewhat translucent. She held it up to peer through it, looking around the room. It fell upon the Helper, who reached out and gently pushed it down before she could resolve him through the glasslike machine.

“What’s it do?”

“It,” a pause, a consideration of several variables, “captures.” The being detected a micro-expression on the girl’s face, made an adjustment. “It takes pictures. Special pictures.”

“What’s special about pictures?”

“That is for you to discover, little one. Now, sleep.” His voice drawled into a hypnotic predatory drone, and the girl slept.



Ten suburb-sec officers surrounded a quaint house with an actual white picket fence and wet blood flowing down the porch stairs, turning black as the dusk darkened. They flooded the front yard, trampled roses into dirt freshly churned up by an immobile dredger with which some enterprising member of the family had been attempting to dig a well. A well, this deep in the city, surrounded by a white picket fence. The thought of these kinds of vanilla citizens accidentally punching a hole through the crust into the Tunnels was almost funny enough to make Rav Sharps laugh all the way back to the station, were it not for someone in the house shouting,

“Back off pigs, or we’ll hack up this here little girl the same we did to her parents!”

This was followed by a sharp cry of pain from a little girl. At least she was still alive, Rav though. He turned to his outfit.


“Let’s try backing off, sir!” Someone suggested. Everyone chuckled, then stopped with a look from Rav.

“So far as we can tell,” he said, “We have two dead members of the community that pays our salaries. Spilled their blood in front of their kid, no less. Two men, probably blacklisted criminals, somehow made their way through the gates, armed, and wandered all the way to this particular house at least a kilometer inside the burb, break in, and take someone hostage.”

“Don’t be thinking about trying nothing, now! We mean it!” Someone inside shouted.

“That’s Yuan at the gates today,” Rav continued. “the Jacobs brothers who programmed the Neighborhood Watch, Abdul and Zena patrolling this quadrant, all likely out of a job today. Lord forbid the kid dies, they’ll never work again.”

The men shifted. They knew it was nobody’s fault, really, that two criminals had found their way in. Suburb-Sec depended on a “severe consequences for messing with our community” strategy more than a leak-proof security net. The community, however, did not care about the methods by which the company kept them safe, and would probably demand a healthy sacrifice of their security company’s force.

“Back in my day, we would call this a Class A, level 10, Cock Up of the Century.”

Nobody breathed.

“So, what are we going to do?”

“We’re going to kill the girl!” Another voice inside the house said.

“Hold on a second,” Rav shouted back. “We don’t even know what you want.” He motioned for two of his men to round the back of the house.

“We want money!”

“I would like nothing more,” Rav sent two men to cover the door, “than to give you some money,” one man climbed on top of the dredger, “however, I don’t have any money with me right now, so you’re going to have to think of something else.”

There was a pause. Rav gave a ready signal. His men tensed.

“Ok, that’s fine, just leave and nobody has to get hurt,” shouted the voice inside. The girl whimpered.

“This is our last chance to salvage some semblance of respect for our company. Keep it in mind,” Rav said to the men remaining around him. He received curt nods.

“Shit!” Someone in the house shouted. A gunshot went off. The windows flashed throughout the ground floor, lighting up the dusk with a low lightning that cast the men’s shadows into stretched caricatures.

“In!” Rav said, and the men moved.

As Rav led the short sprint across the manicured yard to the front door, preparing himself so as not to slip in the blood still flowing down the steps, he listened to the girl begin to scream. Funny, he thought, the thing ones thinks of before rushing into what could be the last storm of bullets one runs into.

He heard a thud as the man on the dredger fell off.

The girl’s scream modulated, took on an electronic quality. It reminded him of the old guitar he had when he was a kid, an ancient Ibanez he plugged into an even more ancient tube amp. He’d fiddle with the knobs for hours, playing with the different sounds he could make out of just one string. Just like that old tube amp, so too did that girl’s voice shift throughout the possible dimensions of sound, into noises he wasn’t sure any human could make.

Three steps covered in blood and Rav raised his foot to kick down the door.

The world exploded around him. One of the men grabbed his flackvest at the neck and yanked him back, shards of wood slicing across his exposed forearms.

“The dredger!” someone shouted.

Rav and his men watched as the dredger entered the house and destroyed everything in its path. It had a terrifying pneumatic swiftness, an unyielding power. The wall seemed to provide no more resistance than a tissue.

A cloud of debris choked the air. There were several more gunshots, a man’s desperate scream, a wet, strangled sound, a dull thud, and then silence.

The girl had stopped screaming.

Dust settled. Rav took two men and entered the house. Lights on rifles switched on. The dredger was illuminated first, smoke and debris causing it to loom from the darkness. One clawed grabber hung motionless in the air. Dangling from it was the headless body of a junkie. Below the bucket, designed to claw one half ton of dirt out of the ground at a time, protruded a bruised arm.

The little girl knelt next to one tread of the dredger, holding on to a spoke as a child might her father’s hand. Blood dripped from her hair and chunks of brain stuck to her nightdress.

“It’ll be ok, little girl,” Rav said.

“No,” she replied.

Tension from Anal Beads

“Choke” by Chuck Palahniuk has one of the most artful examples of tension I’ve encountered.

For background, the main character is a sex addict, and is going through a sort of mid life crisis, wherein he craves attention and gets it by pretending to choke on food at restaurants. This and other behavior has him stumbling through the novel trying to find himself, or at least find some purpose other than the occasional orgasm he can coax from other addicts.

In the final fourth of the novel, he is banging a nutjob named Tanya, his “Friday” for the week, “and Tanya means anal.”

While she blows him and pushes a long string of anal beads into his butt, the main character goes into a sort of psychiatric visit state of mind, talking about how he doesn’t care about anything. After getting ten beads in him, Tanya yanks them out and makes him cum so hard he “for serious” feels it. Then, the disaster:

Leaning forward with both my hands spread against the wall, my knees folding a little, I say “easy does it.” I tell Tanya, “You’re not starting a lawn mower.”

And Tanya kneeling under me, still looking at the greasy, stinking balls on the floor, says “Oh boy.” She lifts the string of red rubber balls for me to see, and she says, “There are supposed to be ten.”

There’s only eight and what looks like a lot of empty string.

For context, the main character has talked about hypochondria, impacted colons, bowel blockages, and the like for the entire novel.

And then the novel just moves on. The main character calls a cab and heads off to his next task. The beads are entirely forgotten. He visits his friend who is building a castle in a local neighborhood rock by rock. He visits his mom. And the whole time, the reader can’t help but ask, every page, “But what about the anal beads?!”

Finally, two chapters later,

With the load already building up behind whatever in my guts…

As he talks with a maybe-pregnant girl. And then, again, forgotten, for a page, until

A belch rumbles up from my blockage, and the taste in my mouth is acid.

And the chapter ends. Going forward, the main character reflexively touches, thinks about, pokes, and considers the blockage in his colon, but refused to just go to the hospital and get it taken care of. He goes into detail about medical procedures, and does nothing. He begins treatment for his nymphomania, goes to work, and so on, always with the colon blockage worsening, never treating it. “You don’t look so hot,” his friends say to him. A camera records him and everyone notes how bloated his belly is. He doesn’t eat, he “doesn’t dare” to. He gets arrested. Driven to desperation, he tries to kill himself by choking himself with a ketchup cap. The scene is drawn out. He blacks out, and we get an entire chapter of flashback.

The anal beads are lost inside him about 75% of the way through the book. There are only a few pages left when this happens:

In another minute, the arms come around me from behind. Some police detective is hugging me tight, doublefisting me under the rib cage, breathing into my ear, “breath! Breath, damn it!”

Breathing into my ear, “You’re ok.”

Two arms hug me, lift me off my feet, and a stranger whispers, “You’re going to be fine.”

Periabdominal pressure.

Somebody pounds me on the back the way a doctor pounds a newborn baby, and I let fly with the bottle cap. My bowels burst loose down my pant leg with the two rubber balls and all the shit piled up behind them.

The author leaves us wondering about the anal beads, leaves them on the back of our mind, for 1/4 of his novel. How’s that for a literary device?


Water sluiced along the sides of Tetsuya’s bike, turning the city lights into rounded lines that danced around rainbows of oilspots. Tetsuya felt as if he was in a dream. It was the perfect time to get blasted off his bike. Watch the lights for too long and he’d get unfocused, lose the sharp edge he relied upon in his line of work. A simple mistake would be all it took for the hounds to tear him to pieces. Facing off against a robot brain, especially a pack of robot brains, required a clarity of mind that bordered on the electronic.

So Testuya ignored the play of city lights against the water and wake. He tightened his grip, pulled his throttle, squeezed his legs, and swerved around the corner of an alley a half second before metal jaws could snap onto the synthetic rubber of his rear tire. The lead hound smashed into a building, failing to adjust to the new trajectory in time.

Three left.

Tetsuya sped as fast as he dared through a dim alley, headlights illuminated at a maximum, turning the night ahead of him into day. He was acutely aware of the expensive sensor clusters in the heads of the hounds pursuing him. They had no need for the primitive and illusionary visual spectrum.

A road ahead. Two lanes, fast. If there were no gaps in either lane, Tetsuya would be a pink smear in a few short seconds.

He shot out of the alley, locked his rear tire into a skid, screeched into the farthest lane, avoiding a long-haul by inches. The dim AI in the truck swerved briefly, driver barely aware, lost in a PAX haze. A crack of metal, a series of thumps as the long-haul smashed into two of the hounds and then ground them into the pavement.

One left.

Tetsuya watched the remaining hound sail over the long-haul, the luckiest of the three hounds, having chosen the trajectory that didn’t end in annihilation.

He rode between the lanes. It was a game of chess now. The hounds were fast, but exponentially less creative as their pack sized dwindled. One hound would always choose the optimal solution, the most likely path of success. Always.

The cars around him passed in a blur. He imagined what he was to the occupants. A flash, a dopplered whine, his high-torque electric engine quieter than his tires. They’d wonder if he was a racer, or maybe a daredevil, speeding through traffic in manual mode, and then the hound would pass by soundlessly, legs a blur, and they’d know. A criminal, a thief, a data-miner. A blackhat transporting high volumes of information in the most untraceable manner that could be devised – on foot.

As long as he could avoid the hound.

It was out of site, using other vehicles to mask its location. It didn’t need line of sight, it could predict Tetsuya’s location using an ever collapsing list of probabilities.

Tetsuya chose an option that probably wasn’t on the list.

He put himself in front of a family van unit, watching the hound zipping behind another long-haul to his right. As soon as it was out of sight, Tetsuya locked his front wheel, tipped the bike straight into the vertical, switched to front-wheel drive, gunned the motor, and slammed his back tire onto the hood of the van, leaving a sizable dent in the hood. He locked the back wheel, stood on the tire, and with a tremendous grunt of effort, lifted the front of his bike clear of the road. The van slowed,  onboard AI desperately searching for a solution to a situation well outside the scope of its programming.

The hound landed where Tetsuya had been seconds before. Tetsuya dropped the front of his bike on its spine, turned sideways, gunned the front wheel. The hound was pulled up into his bike and shredded instantly. The remaining half disappeared under the van, destroying the undercarriage and causing it to light into crash-mode. Strobes flashed along the exterior as the occupants fought uselessly against the airbags that now filled the cabin.

Tetsuya switched into rear-wheel drive, dismounted the van, and turned into a side street, following a path that lacked any cameras.

Home free, and he had only come within inches of a devastating death about fifteen times that night.

No time to question his career choices. With no hounds, Tetsuya could enjoy the lights of the city reflected in the wet streets.

Prompt: There is a new Presidential speechwriter, courtesy of The Internet

“‘Dear debt-rotted people of America:’ ? Is this some sort of joke?”


“We should start off punchy.”


“‘Hold on to your butts, it’s about to get real.’ That’s what you call punchy?”


“What do you call it, if not punchy?”


White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough rubbed at a stabbing pain in his forehead. This is what he had to deal with, this?


The girl before him was careless in dress and manner. Her clothes would be tasteful were it not for the artful slashes in controversial locations. Her hair would be professional were it not for the splotch of pink engulfing the entire right side of her head. Her shoes… Holy mother of god, she had none.


How did this woman make it past security, let alone be appointed the President’s primary speech writer?


“Look, Mr. Secretary,” she spoke as if chewing around nonexistent bubblegum, “I know you’re worried about, like, PC and all that.”


“Yes. Hence why we can’t refer to Wall Street investors as ‘scum-sucking rapers of th–‘”


“But, democrats just won a landslide in the midterm elections! It’s time to stick it to the people where they’ll feel it for generations, show them that the democrats can really play hardball when there’s something at stake.”


McDonough’s migraine was threatening to rip out of his skull. “And what is it that you believe is at stake, Ms. Achter?”


“Well, for one thing, we gotta get these people to start voting. I mean come on, a 35 percent turnout at midterms?”


“I suppose you address that with the line, ‘It’s time to stop jacking off and actually do something useful with your citizenship’?”




“And the line, ‘start shoving those tax dollars to noble causes, rather than stuffing them into the asses of corporate interests like you’re pegging the polished sphincter of JP Morgan Chase himself,’ what exactly were you hoping to accomplish there?”


“It’s time for the American people to focus on themselves! Pull themselves out from their debt slavery to big corporations! Start making money for themselves, carve wood, that kind of thing.”


“Make farms?”


“‘Work that hoe harder than a coked-out pedophile in a Chuck E Cheese’ is the line you’re looking for.”


“Of course, how could I forget.”


McDonough thought about the past. Far into the past. He thought about the history of the country that employed him. Over 200 years of relative sanity. Some wars, some social uprising, a couple market crashes, monopolies, oligopolies, the usual. People who said “black people” on TV losing their political appointments, presidents rolling up their shirtsleeves and taking pictures next to hurricane-wrecked neighborhoods. Sanity.


What god-forsaken fluke in social engineering had spawned this situation?


“Ms. Achter, could you remind me again how you came into this position?”


She smiled. “Well! Now that the collective anonymous voice of the internet is the most powerful lobbyist in Washington, Homie Brobama decided it was time to get on the level of young people in the country. After all, you guys only got, what, another decade before you start kicking the bucket?”


“Right.” He sighed. “Well, despite gems of lines like ‘time to start warring on our own dumbfuckery rather than the drugs and brown people’ or ‘kill all CEOs,’ I can’t, in good faith, deliver this speech to the President.”


“Oh?” Ms. Achter delivered a wickedly crooked smile. “Why’s that?”


“To put it in your terms, Ms. Achter, it’s fucking retarded.”


“What’s fucking retarded, Denis?” Came a dignified voice.


McDonough stiffed and turned to the door. “Mr. President. I was just going over some of our options for the State of the Union speech. I think…” he trailed off as the President and Ms. Achter engaged in a complex and mind-boggling system of handshakes that ended with a mid-air butt-bump.


Obama straightened his tie. “Good to see you settling in, homegirl. What do you think of her work, Denis? Class act, am I right?”


Denis shifted. He felt very hot. “Ah, well sir, I was thinking we could go with something more, baseline, more tested.”


“Hmm.” The President glanced over the draft Achner handed him. “Maybe. We’ll see.” He passed the paper back, winked at Achner, and said, “keep up the good work you two. You’ll know my decision come the day of the speech.”


A week later, Denis sat in his well-worn seat in the press room as The President cleared his throat and prepared to deliver a speech listened to by billions.




McDonough leaned forward in his seat.




Mother of god.



(Inspired by: 4chan’s letter to the NSA)

Prompt: A man has successfully journeyed to the afterlife and back. His press conference:

“Shit’s pretty fucked up.”

“Could you elaborate, Mr. Baker? What do you mean by ‘fucked up?'”

Ten thousand microphones buzzed around him, fighting for space with the cameras. Buried in there, somewhere, were people shouting questions.

“The fuck do you think I mean? It was *fucked up* I’m telling you!”

“Could you give us an example?” Came a voice to his left.

“Well, for one thing, pretty much everyone there is being raped. Constantly.”

“Raped? You said raped?” the word passed like through the crowd like goosebumps across an arm.

“You heard me. Raped. By Demons.”


“Demons. Horrible ones, all sorts of shapes and colors, but generally what you’d expect. Horns. Lots of horns. Dicks, too. Dicks on horns, horns that look like dicks, dicks with horns on them.”


“Horns. And scales. Scaly, horny rape.”

“Mr. Baker, you don’t seem too shaken by the experience.”

“Oh, I’m shaken all right. That’s another thing they got down there. They call it ‘the shake and bake.'”

“Like the chicken!” Someone shouted triumphantly from within the crowd.

“Exactly. Except, ever imagine what it was like to be the chicken? That’s shake and bake. Reserved for the Gluttonous, if I remember correctly.”

“Did you see anybody famous?”

“I saw a lot of people! Hitler, Pol Pot, my old English teacher, man she was a bitch.”

“Anybody recently dead?” said someone looking for a celebrity scandal angle.

“Oh, well, I saw Robin Williams getting pegged by a pretty viciously horny demon.”

“Robin Williams? But he was a saint!” someone shouted.

“An angel!” said someone else.

“Oh did I forget to mention? Yea turns out there’s only *one* afterlife. Being good or evil doesn’t really matter. Nope, we’re all slated for an eternity of giant demon dick.”

“Is there no hope for humankind? Did you meet no prophet or savior who gave you a message to deliver us to our salvation?” Mr. Baker peered and saw the question came from a priest.

“Sorry pops, nothing like that.”

There was a collective moan from the crowd.

“Oh! Wait, I did meet Jesus.”

“Jesus!” The crowd shouted in unison.

“Yea, he was pretty alright. Only dude there not getting raped, well, other than Freddie Mercury of course. Man, you should have *seen* Freddie, he -”

“What did Jesus say!” someone shouted.

“Oh, that’s right, let me remember.” He paused and thought for a moment. The crowd leaned in. “That’s right! He said ‘fuck yall, this is for nailing me to a damned cross.'”