“It worked!” My assistant burst through the door, laughing like a maniac while he did. “It finally worked! The computer simulations are a success! We're rich!”
“The gene therapy is working?” I gripped the table to keep from falling over. “The test subjects?”
“All healthy! We're bloody geniuses!” The young man laughed and cheered, dashing about the room to a nearby refrigerator. A bottle of vintage wine was promptly taken out, the man popping the cork even as I moved off to the test room. I took a step in, looking at the computer displays that surrounded me. My assistant was right; the simulations were a success. The vitals of the animals were normal, and the prepared antitoxins were working one hundred percent. Years of work, years of getting funding via tooth and nail... it had all worked out.
I sat down in the computer chair, taking it in. A glass was handed to me, taking a sip absent-mindedly as I considered the ramifications of this. Our corporate sponsors had brought us in on an idea that they had thought of after seeing my work on real-time genetic engineering. They wanted something that could replace plastic surgery, cosmetic surgery in general. Science fiction to must, but I had seen a possible route. Years of perseverance, years of doubting if I could actually do it... all for it to come down to this.
I pulled a test tube out of cabinet, looking at the clear fluid inside of it. I held in my hand a paradigm shift. The ability to actively rewrite the genetic code and, in the process, change the human body via its own natural processes. The commercial aspects were clear, but the betterment of man kind... Cancer would be a thing of the past. Genetic disease that had once plagued so many would be eliminated. Humanity could hardwire itself to be stronger, better, immune to a plethora of viruses and microbes.
And it dawned on me the consequences of this. Anyone could be anyone else now. How many clones of popular actors would there be, now? What would the government say? What would the church say? What would the people say? Would the ignorant destroy this in an effort to preserve their old world, would corruption reign as anyone could impersonate anyone else? Would society grow closer, when anyone could experience life as anyone else? Or would it split down the middle?
I took a large, hard gulp of the wine. Such was the pursuit of advancement.
It's Not Very Funny
Laughter is a funny thing, huh? Sometimes it's feels so good--y'know, just to let loose with a full belly laugh. One of those great laughs that can just change your day around. Make the sun seem a little brighter and the clouds so much puffier. Then there's that other kind of laughter.
You know the type of talking about. The one that tears right through you, that bitter harsh laugh that tells you everything you've ever aspired to, everything you've ever been--everything has just been a mockery. That cruel sound that reveals that you're nothing but a cosmic joke.
It's funny, you know? How we're always told laughter is the best medicine. Heck, even science has proven that people who laugh more live longer--but have they studied why? Or even determined if any laugh will help stave off the reaper? I mean do people who exist only to shame others get to reap the fruits of a longer life?
I've always wondered these things--never consciously, mind you, but these thoughts have always been there. Just beneath the surface of my mind, almost daring me to start thinking about them.
So now I am--heh, I wonder if I could have avoided this if I thought about this earlier? I doubt it. After all, life has a funny way of just sneaking up on you. I mean I guess this all started the right way. Just a few hours ago I was living life large--I had picked up my friend and we were setting off for fame and fortune--well, that's what we called it. In truth we were just going to dick around on vacation. Y'know, just shoot the breeze and hang around. We loaded our stuff into the car and blasted the stereo--just a couple of college kids on our way to make some memories.
I still remember the deep throaty laugh he made--though I sure as hell can't remember the joke I made. I remember the way his eyes sparkled just before the laugh burst from him--and before his face burst apart.
The car came out of nowhere, swerving into our lane and pulverizing the entire passenger side of the car. Cutting off my friend mid-laugh. Or that's what I wish had happened--in truth the laugh continued, just not as it had before. There was kind of a hissing gurgle as what was left of my friend's head lolled to the side.
I'd like to say that I responded in the smart way, that I controlled the car and managed to get us to safety and call some help for my friend. I'd like to, but then I wouldn't be scrawling this tripe on a friggin' notepad while my dead friend sits beside me, would I?
So yeah, laughter is a funny thing. One moment a laugh can be so full of joy, and the next moment it's nothing but bitterness. I wonder if those laughs help extend your life. Because even though I'm ashamed to admit it, that's what happened to me.
Yeah, I wasn't totally honest with you before--kind of stupid given that our car went off a ledge and the chances of rescue or of seeing anyone again are basically nil--but hey, that's humanity for you. A screwed up bundle of neuroses. Pretty damn funny, isn't it?
In truth, after my friend's face erupted in a shower of blood, after that horrible hissing gurgle of a laugh escaped his lips--I laughed too. I laughed for I don't know how long. Long enough to lose control of the car--which is what brings me to my current situation.
I wonder if that laugh will help extend my life?
God I hope not.
I really don’t know what I’m writing. I suppose it’s because I’m laughing too hard. How am I typing right? Is there some miracle?
Anyways, there once was a forest. It was not a dark forest (because how could I write gloomy stuff right now?) but it was not a dazzling forest.
Or maybe it was. Let me explain. It was pink. Is that dazzling? I found it mellow to the eyes and relaxing. But if you like:
There once was a forest, but not a dark forest. Some sources claim it was relaxing, others think it was dazzling. The author sides with the first view. Anyways, it was not a big forest. Really. It fit into this one backyard. A backyard that seemed to make the house big. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a forest. More like a random group of trees and bushes made to look like a forest.
Why am I telling you this? Well, let me just blow the secret because I can’t build up the suspense any further. The trees were pink because they were plastic, and they were plastic because they belonged to this weird toy house that somehow found itself in my room. It’s right in front of me, and I just had to describe it.
No, I swear I’m not drunk.
Anyways, pink forests aside, there was once a ma. Well, maybe not a man. But he looked like a man, at least. I still don’t get how his feet were hinged. I would stare at them, wondering what on earth it was. Then the ‘man’ would fall over and I’d have to help him up, balance him, and then wait for the inevitable fall.
I guess I shouldn’t keep action figures on my desk while I write.
I forgot where I was. Who leaves notebooks lying on desks I the middle of parties anyways?
Right. Crazy writers like me.
Why am I still laughing?
Oh yes. Victory. Not everyone can escape the way I just did.
Let me tell you, escape was a bit of a strong word. I was really having a goo time with my friends. Then I got this idea for a story. I tried to blurt it out, but even now I don’t know what I said; it wasn’t legible. Anyways, we went back to whatever we were doing, my friends a little less convinced of my sanity.
But that idea burned. Man did it burn.
So I began to run. I don’t think I really had a plan other than ‘get to paper ASAP’ but it turned out quite clever. I ran around our house and set up a ladder, climbed it, and shoved it off.
Maybe I am a bit drunk, or at least our of my mind, ‘cause a friend of mine came around the corner, just in time to get clipped. I didn’t look to see what happened to him, but it was right there that I started to laugh. I locked my window, locked my door, laughing. By the time I barricaded them I think I was shrieking my merriment.
But that didn’t matter. Because then I found my notebook and sat down.
Someone slipped one of my little sister’s toys into my room, and I just had to write about it. Then the action figure, and then a recap.
Only I just realized. The whole reason for my escape and my current imprisonment is still not written down.
Dammit. I lost my idea.
Was that why I randomly wrote this down? All that I know is that I just got writer’s block and lost at least one friend. Bye.
Black, white and grey; these are the three basic colors that make up the world. Rain falls down on the sidewalk, drowning ants that try to forage for food and lightning strikes, white and hot with rage, at a tree, knocking it over in a fiery explosion. That, of course, is the fate of anything that is “lucky” enough to be brought into this world. Ultimately, once a spark ignites a flame, it has no choice but to be extinguished. Sure, it could last for weeks, maybe months if it manages to expand, but that will never last forever. No, the fate of the fire is only ash. Cold, grey, lifeless ash; scattered and forgotten by the wind.
Every day I find myself asking “what’s the point” or “why bother with such a wretched existence?” I’m no different from that flame. It could be fifty more years; ten, a month, or I could find myself dead tomorrow before sunset. Why should I live if all I have left is my own demise? I find myself asking, far too often, “why?”
It’s miserable in the world today. Turn on the news, and another school shooting appears. This time it was an elementary school. A fourteen year old walked down an alley and was shot, dead. People addicted to god-knows-what murder their wife, their husband, their boyfriend, girlfriend, child… It never stops. It’s a wide spectrum without any color from end to end. Of course it would be wonderful if someone actually did anything to try and help the situation. No, humans always point the finger at someone or something else. “Video games are too violent” or “Movies are too extreme.” Next thing you know a lawsuit pops up and drags out the misery further.
This world is wretched, disgusting filth and I’ve found myself a part of it. I’ve passed the point of caring for my fellow man. A woman had her purse grabbed not twenty feet from me, and yet I looked the other way, feeling nothing. A child cries, and I assume it’s because it’s rotten. A man gets screamed at by a woman, and I automatically believe he deserved it. A human dies in the news, and all I do is watch, unfeeling, unmoved as I continue my day like nothing significant happened.
Sometimes I think I actually see some color in the world of red, blue and green. I realize I don’t even remember which color it is and I laugh. I laugh until my ribs hurt, until I’m curled on the floor in the pain of my own ignorance; the world’s ignorance. I often ask myself “Why am I laughing?” I suppose it’s the only thing I can do before the reaper draws me in.
Laughter. He could still hear it. Why did it haunt him so? In his dreams, in his nightmares. Everywhere. It was the thing that held the world together, and yet it was the thing that was tearing his world apart. The laughter of his children, the laughter of the neighbors, the laughter of his friends. It all reminded him of her. She had the perfect laugh. Even the daisies swaying gaily in the wind seemed to taunt him, laughing at him, at his hatred of laughter. He slumped into his big armchair. The one where he read her bedtime stories every night. He had become used to his nighttime routine, linking to this very armchair where he tormented himself every night with the memories of her sweet laughter. The vivid pictures of her dancing under the moonlight, running in the sunlight, swinging on the swings. Whatever she was doing she always brought joy to the world, and she was always laughing. He would sit in his chair drinking his bourbon to numb his mind, numb his pain, until he became absolutely wasted. The pain drove him mad. Empty of everything but his grief he would scream until the tears came no more. Yet his pain did not go away. He cursed up a storm, cursing life, cursing fate, cursing himself for his oblivion. Yet his pain did not go away. He could only think of that perfect laugh. That taunting laugh. It grew until he had a hatred of all laughter, except for hers. Indeed, the proverbial bluebird of happiness had left him many year ago. It had turned his perfect world upside down. That day at the campground.
“Daddy, can we please go play at the lake? I want to go out in a kayak with you.” “NO!!” he would shout at his dreams, cursing the moment. “Say no,” he pleaded with himself. But he smiled down at her as he always did. She laughed knowingly, understanding that look to mean yes.
“Yippee!” she cried, as she raced off to the lake. His dream continued, no matter how much he begged it to stop.
“Follow her!” he demanded to no avail.
“Wait for me, Katie,” he called, but she was too far gone.
“Follow her,” he moaned softly as the energy leaving him. His body was succumbing to the pain and the alcohol.
Grabbing the life vests and the sun tan lotion he slowly followed her to the lake. His phone rang. It was his wife.
“Don’t answer it. Please don’t answer,” he wailed. “Please.”
He meandered down the trail as he dealt with his wife’s problems. When he got the clearing and the line of the shore, she was no where to be found. In anger, he yelled, “Katie, come on.” His anger slowly began to turn to panic when she did not answer him. His panic got worse. He quickly dialed 911, but by the time they got there he feared the worst. The search that ensued turned up nothing.
Laying on the floor now, he convulsed in pain at the memory. It had been 17 years since the incident, and his daughter was never found. Sweet Katie, was never found. And her laughter haunted him to this day. The thing that made the world go ‘round, turned his, upside down.
“Hahaha Halfhearted Write Off”
The man on the screen had blood dripping down his temple. He pressed himself to the tunnel wall, trying desperately to calm his panicked, heavy breathing. They were after him. The echoing footsteps - it was impossible to tell if they were his own, or theirs. Dramatic music shook the theatre, and shadows slid through more shadows, here, there, moving to surround him. The music melted away to nothing but a tangible skeleton of suspense for the ears of the audience. You could hear them holding their breath.
“HA! HAHAha!! Hahahahehe…”
Every head turned to glare at the eruption of obnoxious laughter in the fragile theater, whatever atmosphere there had been was shattered. Everyone learned that taking a nervous laugher to a horror film was a really, really bad idea.
Flesh and Blood
A flock of flying creatures burst into the air as the shot rang out. Bat-like, they fluttered in the half light, and the sound of their tiny shrieks filled the gathering night with fear. Click. A round sprang free and fell sizzling to the dirt. Another round into the casing, and the indicator winked green again. The long barrel of the weapon wavered slightly amongst the spines of the tree, and the sights lined up again.
Far below, where the jumble of ledges leveled out into a gravelly shoreline, a shape was dragging itself from the waters of the lake. Arms clawed at the rocky ground, seeking some handhold in the sand. The sound of ragged breathing broke the air, and two narrow eyes winked on in a dark face as the thing raised its head again, searching for its enemy.
There. The flash of the muzzle preceded a second shot, and the figure suddenly coiled its limbs together, flinging itself to the side. The shot vaporized some of the nearby lakewater and seared the sand into glass, but the hunter had missed his chance...
There was a curse far above, and the wispy spines of the tree shuddered as its occupant slid to earth again, weapon in hand. Another white-hot round spun off into the gloom, and the hunter sprang away. Jagged rocks whizzed past on either side, but the hunter did not notice. He had only one goal now--one quarry. It would not escape this time.
Behind him in the hills, the piping cries of the carrion-beasts were rising. They knew what the thunder of the hunt meant, and they would revel in it. Tonight they would feed on what was left behind. The hunter ignored them. Mirthless eyes peered from a hardened face, tracking the shape that still struggled on the shore below. The darkness would soon be complete, but that wasn’t a problem. It would be over soon...
Another rasping breath, and air bubbled from the wound in the thing’s side as it slid back into the water. Its systems were failing. The enemy would be on its way down from the cliffs by now. There were only precious moments to act. A range of scenarios played out behind the glimmering eyes. There were no avenues of escape this time, even after all the planning, all the anticipation. The hunter had used up his last two rounds. He was forced to finish the job by hand now. That had been a part of the plan, but now...What was this feeling? Was it anger? No. Regret? It had felt regret before, or an approximation of it, at least. Regret was the feeling that resulted when some necessary action had not been accomplished. This scenario certainly fit the description.
Again the figure heaved itself up, trembling on its multiple limbs as it finally extricated itself from the water. One appendage hung limp where the first shot had met its mark. That had not been a part of the plan. Not at all. The damage was severe, but not fatal. Not yet. But even so...The eyes winked off and on again, and another set of scenarios played out. Yes, that was it. It was the only constructive outcome now. Not optimal, but it would have to suffice. The sound of footfalls in the gravel reached its ears. Fifty meters up the slope. Not much time. Not much time at all...The figure rolled over, and one of the undamaged limbs unfolded, still clutching the small object. Had the water compromised the mechanism? Hopefully not. Either way, it would have to be enough...
Hiss. Pop. A shower of sparks sprang from the end of the flare, and the shoreline lit up red as the hunter heaved it in an arc, out across the distance. It thudded into the sand next to the motionless black shape. No eyes visible now. The hunter crept out from amongst the desert brush, tensed and ready. His prey was very clever. He had underestimated it at the start, and that had been a mistake--a mistake that had cost him four days of pursuit through the alien desert and the rest of his ammunition too. He should have put the shot through its head when he’d had the chance, back before the thing was aware of him. It had even been able to disarm his traps. Clever indeed, but now the game was over, and flesh and blood would win.
Another few steps forward. No movement. The flare cast the beach into strange relief, every tuft of thorny grass etched with a shadow, as a beacon of smoke wafted upward. Again the piping of the beasts intruded on the scene, and again the hunter dismissed them. He’d been facing something far more dangerous the past few days. A few toothy razorbacks weren’t much to worry about at this point. The knife slid from the sheathe at his hip, and he held it straight out. Only another couple meters. Still no sign of life. Surely it hadn’t expired yet. It couldn’t be that easy.
Step. Step. The flare guttered at the hunter’s feet, and he scanned the still form. There was the wound--a ragged gash through the torso. It had almost severed one of the rear limbs. The head lolled to one side, eyes dark. Not even a glimmer. No matter.
The knife went up and flashed back down, and the carapace separated where the blade bit into it. Not even a spark. Not even a spasm. He took the head off in another couple of blows. No movement at all. It really was over. The machine was dead. In the end, it had only taken one shot.
The hunter stepped back. It was almost sad. After the thrill of the chase, he had been anticipating something more...dramatic. Then again, it was a machine. Maybe it had simply evaluated its options, found them lacking, and decided no further action was possible. Machines weren’t dramatic, especially the ones that were designed to kill people quickly and efficiently. The blades that tipped the creature’s appendages were a testament to that. Ah well.
The hunter plucked a tiny device from his belt, attached it to the lifeless shell. A recovery team would be there in a day to pick up the body. He activated his own tracker, and turned away. He’d have to pick up his rifle from the bushes. Might as well start back now. He had enough rations to survive another few days. The recovery team would likely drop in to get him on the way back. He sighed and ran a hand across his brow. The desert air was sweltering, even down here by the water. The flare sparked and sputtered as it began to die, and just like that, it was over.
Click. The sound of metal against metal shrieked out in the night, and a scream tore itself from his throat as the steel jaws of the trap closed around his ankle. He fell forward, pain lancing from shin to thigh as he twisted and cursed. A trap. A trap. The blasted thing had disarmed his traps before. You stupid fool. You didn’t retrieve them all!
At last he gained control again, turning over, teeth clenched. Another wave of pain washed over him, and then he forced himself to sit up, trembling hands searching for the source of the pain. It was a basic jaw-trap, of course. Spring-loaded. The thing had hidden it in the sand. Right here. Right under him. It had all been over, and still the gears had been working behind those worthless glowing eyes. You wanted drama? Well, now you’ve had it, you blasted fool.
The light from the flare was falling fast. Did he have another one? He wasn’t sure. He’d left his pack with the rifle. Don’t panic. It’s just a matter of willpower. Get to the bushes, and you’ll have a weapon and first-aid. The tracker will lead the team to you. Just lie low and you’ll be--
He froze. A familiar sound came wafting down the cliff-side toward him, and this time he paid attention. The piping cry of the carrion beasts. They would be on top of him soon, and he was out of ammo. Out of ammo. Out of time. He had a knife, but they had a hundred teeth on their side, and without his rifle, he was just meat.
Long moments passed, and he his heart sank. He stared at the dead husk of his former prey, feeling light-headed and tired and very sick. Was this a part of your plan, machine? Did flesh and blood really win today? He shook his head as the darkness fell once more and the real hunters closed in. Closer, closer, till he could see the flicker of their beady eyes. And for a moment, he thought how funny it was.
For a moment, he laughed.
By Dual Matrix:
Laughter sounds all around me, here there, everywere.
It can mean two things, or someone did something stupid or he did something funny.
I hope for him the latter.
Who was it, I didn't notice, I look around and everyone laughs, everyone.
No-one with a face glowing red of shame, and no one ever laughs at his own joke.
Who could it be?, I wonder, who could it be?
What went wrong? I did what I was teached to do but yet it didn'y work. Yet they still laugh.
The world around me seems dizzy, all thing seems to turn around.
The feeling of fealure went trough my body.
How can it be, everyone laughs exept me, what happend.
"Guys, what's going on, what's so funny?" I ask.
And yet then I notice, then I see, the board sustaining my lesson, the board next to my own head, filled with words, filled with words not mine.
How come these words to be, and how did I not notice?
I became angry, terrible angry, not noticing the keyboard linked to the sceen was no longer in my possesion.
A bell rings...
"Today, I was saved by the bell, but Tomorrow no-one will laugh, no-one will laugh, tomorrow, I'll succeed."