Friday, December 28, 2018

The Measure of a Man

The Measure of a Man
by
Bobby Derie

Overhead, the green sun burned. On the ground, two men fought. One was a little taller, a bit more broadly built; his long arms swung in a crushing blow, wincing as his knuckles cracked against bone. The second man fell to his knees, blood pouring from a broken nose. He glared upwards, the green light glancing off of his bald head, hatred and something like respect in his eyes. With a sigh, he sat back on his heels, looking up at his foe.

Scrapes and bruises marred the taller man's features. His face looked gaunt and draw, the blue eyes were bloodshot. All over his skin and body were tainted a sickly greenish pallor that was more than the light of the star overhead.

"How," the kneeling man said. "How do you do it?"

"There's an idea..." The standing man took a lungful of air as though it pained him. The breeze picked up, sending the tattered remnants of his cape fluttering. "That people build themselves up. They have a career, a life, a home, clothes...love, reputation, ideals. And something can happen to tear all that down. An accident, a disaster. Or maybe someone does it on purpose, out of spite."

The tall man leaned over, staring into his opponent's eyes. "When that happens, you have the opportunity to rebuild. Because those things that are taken from you, are just things. They aren't what you are. Sometimes you have to decide for yourself if you're going to be the man of yesterday..." He stretched out a hand. "...or the man of tomorrow."

Lex Luthor looked away from those imploring eyes to stare at that hand.

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Friday, December 21, 2018

Too Cold For Beer

Too Cold For Beer
by
Bobby Derie

It was too cold for beer.

Alice had the bright idea of keeping them in the salt water tank. As the temperature dropped, the cans had started to sting our fingers whenever we fetched them. Bernice was the first one to get frostbite, so we switched to gloves, and when Jazza sank our last one in the tank, Alice had come through again with a kind of hooked pole to fetch them out.

When it got cold enough that we had to break a rime of ice before we could fetch a brew from the depths, we started calling it ice fishing.

The outlines of people started to blur then, muffled in layer after layer of clothing, shapes only barely humanoid. Any exposed inch of skin was vulnerable. We had to strap heat-paks to our body, let the warm glow diffuse a little, and we were still cold. It was an act of will to undo a scarf, expose chapped and cracked lips for a minute to take a sip...even beer below freezing tasted warm in comparison to the air...and then it happened.

Bernice popped open a cold one, and it exploded in her hand. Her good hand, too. Instant expansion, liquid beer to beer ice. That little difference in pressure, the sudden expulsion of trapped gas and influx of cold outer air...that did it.

It was officially too cold for beer.

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Friday, December 14, 2018

Starland

Starland
by
Bobby Derie

In west Texas, ride on into the sunset. Off of the roads, towards the distant mountains. Through the broken fence and out onto the range, where rattlers sleep and do not break the silence. Out into the Starland.

Overhead, the heavens stand in dark blue-black, and the moon hides her face, but the stars look down and burn so bright that you can pick up the trail. So long as you hold your breath you can see the shadows move between the scrub oak, strange shapes half-familiar in the eternal night.

The air grows cool and still about you, as the air in your lungs burns for release. There are names for the shadows - Apache and Tonkawa, Kiowa and Caddo - and stranger folk, with their clubs and spears bladed with glass, looking south.

Their eyes are not for you, riding by. Though you brush against their buckskins and buffalo-hides, feel the feathers scrape against your arms. Always they look back, from whence they came, and where they go again.

The eyes grow dim, darkness creeping around the edges, but the horse knows the way. On through the Starland to yesterday.

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Friday, December 7, 2018

Curb Stomp

Curb Stomp
by
Bobby Derie

My lips have tasted gorgondy
I have know the embrace of Shambleau
I have gazed awhile at an original Pickman
To the Flame of Udun I'd not bow down
But this was a different thing.
- "The Dreamer Whose Dreams Came False"

The gods came slumming through the city. They moved in packs, skin too clean and bright. Artful broken veins might muss their features, the carefully selected missing tooth. Bright hot things come down to earth for a while, to taste the pains and aches of flesh, to mingle among the milling humans. Misery tourists.

It was hard to say which were the worst. The artists tried hardest to fit in, seeking their muse in exquisite suffering, wanting to get the bodies and clothes just right to claim street cred. The randy bucks and does, eager to get laid, not caring who or what they left behind. Reformers who wanted to wave a hand and multiply the saran-wrapped sandwiches at the food bank, to heal the sick and leave them in poverty.

They all left. That's what set them apart. That was their option.

The Bloodz sniffed the godpack out quickly, spread the word in taps on the pipes. The bright things moved together, a little pantheon, luxuriating in the wet, smoggy air that brought tears to their eyes and burned their lungs. All part of the authentic experience.

They had a guide. A god of the hunt, maybe. Head buried in her stained hoodie, eyes flashing as the Bloodz thickened around them, and the herd of normal humanity thinned. Too late, she must have realized that the godpack was being guided, away from the strip of bars and restaurants where the tourists might pass unnoticed. She hissed a warning.

The brick caught her in the mouth, jaw fracturing, spilling teeth and blood over the chest of the leader, a hairy-chested tracksuit-wearing asshole with a patriarchal beard and gold-rimmed sunglasses. He roared, a miracle at his hand, but the Bloodz were converging then. It was work for crowbars and linoleum knives, sharpened screwdrivers and small lengths of pipe filled with concrete.

There are gods of war that think they know battle, but there's no glory in getting your ass kicked in an alley, two or three moving on you at a time. They came for pain, and they got it. Not the experience they wanted - the hangovers and deprivation, the slow grind of life as their bodies broke down to lack of care and overindulgence or just age. This was the swift ticket back to their personal Valhallas, blood bootheels crushing into the thin bone of temples, two or three together slamming the pretty skulls into the sidewalks until they cracked and spilled.

The Bloodz saved the guide for last. She had been here longer, and they saw why as they cut the hoodie away. Her arms cradled the swollen belly, broken fingers at odd angles.

One of the demigods showed the tourist the knife.

"Don't worry mom," the Blood hissed, as two others rolled the god onto her back, pinning her down to expose the dome of her stomach. "We'll take care of our new brother or sister."

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Friday, November 30, 2018

Impact

Impact
by
Bobby Derie

"Lots of people talk about 'impact.'" Her voiced echoed oddly through the empty warehouse. "'This person had such an impact on me,' and all that. Metaphors."

His wrists and ankles twisted and pulled at the zip ties, mouth chewing at the knotted sock she had crammed into his mouth...wiggling, worrying, trying to get free, get away...but he stopped when he heard the distinct tap of metal against concrete.

The head of the sledgehammer was only a few inches away from his foot.


"I hate metaphors."

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Friday, November 23, 2018

Yule Error

Yule Error
by
Bobby Derie

"Where's the mistletoe?"

Joe blinked, wheels turning in his head. Terrible visions ran past his mind's eye as he replayed the events of the last hour.

"One of the elves crushed it and snorted it."

Mary blinked twice.


"Joe," she sighed. "Were you the elf?"

Shuddering, Joe sagged into his costume, the fake red and white fur suddenly a lot less warming than it had been a few drinks ago.

"It's okay, Joe." Mary tugged playfully at his beard. "But seriously, mistletoe is toxic if ingested. I'm not even sure if you can handle it, big guy."

She rearranged his hat...revealing a livid line on his scalp, black stitches poking through the skin. Mary was taken aback.

"What..."

"Reindeer." Joe muttered, carefully pulling the cap back down over the wound. "I told the kid not to ride it, but..."

Mary shook her head, and Joe didn't finish. He watched her legs, covered in those tight green stockings, and heard the bells on her shoes jingle jangle as she peeked outside.

"No one in line yet. Stores open in an hour." She turned back. "Are you going to be okay? Want some coffee or anything?"

"It's too late for coffee," Joe found a peppermint stick and began sucking on it. There was always something clean and cool about peppermint.

Mary jingled her way over, hips swaying. She sat in his lap, warm ass pressed up against his crotch.

"What am I going to do with you Joe? You can't go on like this."

He popped the candy out of his mouth for a second, the ivory stick already being worn down like a prison shank. "It's just the season, Mary. Once the spring comes, I'll be fine. Get some sun, a little exercise. Dry out."

"But you come back," she ground her booty into him, just enough so that they could feel each other. "Every year."

She didn't add: and it'll start again.

Somewhere, an angel got its wings. Mary pushed herself up off of his lap. "Looks like we're on. You really ready, Joe?"

"How's my breath?"

The kiss was short and full, leaving behind the taste of Mary's lipstick, the warm memory of a small tongue slipping quickly into and out of his mouth.

"Good enough."

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Friday, November 16, 2018

Victory On Her Terms

Victory On Her Terms
by
Bobby Derie

"Okay, so you've turned off the space race victory...and the diplomatic victory...the only thing left is victory by conquest." Her father said.

"Yes," Lilly pushed the glasses up her nose. "The world will burn as my armies march through the fallen cities of my enemies." Her fingers wiggled, hands itching for the keyboard. The young girl's voice dropped to a whisper. "This world will burn...at my order."

"Okay, but don't stay up too late." He leaned down to give her a quick peck on the forehead. "You've got school tomorrow."

"Knowledge is power." The lights of the opening animation played across her glasses as her father left her to the game. "Archery will be the first technology I research."

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