Friday, September 23, 2016

Unfinished Things

Unfinished Things
Bobby Derie

The pen scratched against the paper, like something from outside trying to get out. Behind the pen, the man who followed its curves and loops was not particularly gaunt or harried in appearance, aside from a tiredness about the eyes and a pouch about the belly and jowls that spoke of too little exercise. Not unkindly, the attendant turned up the light so they both could see.

"What are you writing tonight?" The attendant wore a perpetual dreamy smile.

"Fragments. Half-visions that float past my third eye, programs already in progress." The pen-holder hardly gave him a glance.

"Do you mind if I see?" It was their little ritual.

"Not at all." He pushed a small stack of papers towards him. Putting on his own glasses, and turning towards the lamp, the attendant read.


It was hours before titrise, and the titcats stalked the base of the Grand Teton, seeking the titmice that nestled against the warm flesh...


The goddess moved, a stone skipping across the surface of the world. Her presence rippled throughout the city. Women found themselves eyeing knives and scissors; the exhausted eyes of newborn mothers grew bright as the babies wailed once and calmed themselves; at a thousand urinals, men felt their piss run cold.

The witch stood unmoved as she approached. "I will not bow," she spoke as one might speak to the wind and the moon, the tides and the forest, "Not even to you."

The goddess smiled. "Good."


"Zombies," she said, "are different, all different. You can hear the difference. The flat-footed stompers, the shuffling shamblers that drag along the ground, the clackers that snap and chew at the air until their teeth chip and break, the wheezers and huffers who puff and pull air out of their lungs spasmodically, though they have no need to breath, the mumblers whose misfiring neurons endlessly repeat snippets of speech, over and over... the scramblers who crawl, pulled along by their fingers, nails scratching at the ground until they snap off, then the soft pads of the fingers worn down, until bone scrapes on wood and cement and stone..."


"They took my sense of humor. Cut it out of my brain. Told me it would make me a better soldier. Saw my friends die, my family die. For what? Now, I only have one thing left to live for: revenge. On those who did that to me. My last friend, I told him what I planned. He smiled and said it was a killing joke. I didn't get it. That smile still haunts me, even after I closed his eyes. I don't get it. I can't get it. For that, they're all going die. Every last one of those motherfucking clowns. The only thing is...they'll have the last laugh. Because I can't."


The knife kissed the back of her neck. "Your mother told you to beware the man with scars," the voice was like an oboe with a broken reed, "but not all scars on the outside."


A huge fist clamped down over her own. It was warm but firm, and the edges of the coin bit into her palm.

"Young lady," he said. "That money is not for spending."


"Would not a necromancer forego the expensive of a craftsman and simply...obtain the materials they need more directly?"

The man titled his cobwebbed hat at his guest, lost in thought. Then he said, in a distinct voice: "A necromancer might," he paused to let the echoes of the crypt die out. "But a gentleman never would."


The attendant set the pages down. "A flare for the dramatic, as always. You know, some of these could be parts of the same story."

"They are not. They aren't anything. Snippets, pieces without a larger whole." There was a tired bitterness in his words.

"I might like to read the story, if you put them all together. You like putting words in people's mouths, to describe their actions without assigning motive. Leaving all that work up to the reader." The attendant offered. "It might help you focus your creative energies, to create the necessary bridges between individual scenes, pieces..."

The pen stopped scratching. "You don't understand. I can't."

"Now that," the attendant said, as he shuffled the papers and got up to leave. "I do not believe."


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