Midnight at the End of the Universe pt.1

Onboard the E.M.S.X. Calamity, all is chaos.

Alarms, Klaxons, flashing lights.

“Re-routing power from Auxilliary!”

Smoke, sparks, hissing, rumbling.

“Fire suppression systems coming on-line now!”

“OH SHIT! OH SHIT! OH SHIT!”

“Mac! You’re on fire!”

“Not now! Trying to deactivate the drive!”

“FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!”

“Somebody shut Jax the fuck up!”

The heavy sound of a fist striking flesh.

“I can’t shut the drive down! We need to kill it at the source!”

“Aye, captain!”

A figure unbuckles itself from its safety harness in the flashing lights and begins floating. A skillful kick sends the figure floating down a dim passageway.

“Pressure loss in multiple sectors! We’re bleeding air!”

“We can’t do anything until Abe gets the drive down!” The captain turns her head away from the control console for a brief second. “ABE! Tell me you’ve got it!”, she screams.

Tense moments go by. An unconscious man lists in his safety harness.

A groan shakes the entire vessel, metal grating against metal. The sound vibrates through each crew member, through their bones, through their minds. It seems to go on for an eternity, each crew member crumbling under the onslaught.

Then it ends. The vessel is swallowed in darkness.

Captain Katherine McNamara snorts and jerks violently in her harness, the action rousing her from her slumber. She had been dreaming a dark dream. Looking at her console, that indicates the health of her ship, the Calamity, she see that a few of the coloured indicators were red, a large number were yellow, and a happy few were green. Her left arm ached from burns sustained when a panel shorted out and ignited part of her uniform.

Satisfied that certain death was not an immediate concern, Mac turns and examines the rest of her crew. On her left, asleep, is Lieutenant Isolde Drarm. Astrobiologist and Chief Medical Officer of the Calamity. Isolde yawns, then opens her eyes. She regards Mac with a sleepy smile, “So, are we dead yet?”

Grateful that Isolde’s irreverent sense of humour is still intact, Mac smiles back. She slides her hand slowly down the right side of Isolde’s face. Isolde snuggles her palm for a moment, then notices the burn on her Captain’s arm. “We need to get you down to Medical soon, before infection sets in.”

“Later”, Mac sighs, “You need to head down to engineering and check on Abe. I’ll check on Jax” She turns her and examines the other unconscious crewman. Isolde salutes, then unbuckles herself and launches herself down the corridor.

The unconscious man seated at the communication hub is dressed head to toe in product labeled garments. The Great Thomas ‘Jax’ Jackson, pop star and idol of millions, slumbers in his harness, a slight bruise forming on his left cheek. Katherine can barely conceal her disgust that such a glory obsessed person is on her ship. She impatiently checks his vital signs, slightly disappointed that he is still alive, gives him a solid pinch to wake him.

“Ah! Not the face!”, he rocks in his seat, jolted awake. He immediately reaches for his cell phone and uses the mirrored surface of it to check his face and adjust his hair. “Dumb science bitch sucker punched me,” he mumbles, fingers gingerly touching the slight bruise on his face.

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?” The words drip with menace as Captain McNamara turns slowly and stares Jax down. Jax immediately looks away and fusses with the camera controls at his station. “Uh, nothing. A little concealer will make it disappear. No one earthside will notice. Say, why are the screens down? My audience needs an update.”

“Abe had to power the drive down,” Mac replies, irritated, “we’re running on backup for the moment. Don’t worry, you beloved fans haven’t been out of contact for long.” She starts cataloging the alerts on her control panel, diligently ignoring him. Jax tousles his hair this way and that, trying to make it look the exact right amount of disheveled as was popular back home.

Abraham Stanford, engineer and technical officer is curled up and floating listlessly in Engineering, snoring loudly. Isolde looks fondly at him, she makes a mental note to check on his sleep apnea soon. As she moves to examine him, he jolts awake.

His eyes roll back in his head, his body goes rigid and he begins shaking violently. “Mmmgh! Mmmgh Grgh! Vvrh!” Spasms rock his body. Isolde rushes to him, and watches helplessly as his right shoulder dislocates with a pop. “Abe! Abe!” Isolde flips open her portable med pack and starts filling a needle with relaxants. Abraham’s right knee cracks under the force of a strong spasm, a bulge appears in the knee and a red stain follows, spreading quickly.

Isolde grabs Abe and slams him against a wall, holding him as steady as possible, and injects him with her syringe. Abe, spittle flowing out of his clenched mouth, slowly starts to calm down. His mouth falls slack and opens, allowing several bloody, shattered teeth to float free. Isolde watches them for a split second, then activates the communication panel nearby. “Medical emergency! Abe is down! I need help!” She pulls out a knife and cuts off the right leg of Abraham’s uniform, examining the damage as she waits for backup.

Katherine and Jax float into the room. The captain nimbly floats over to Isolde and Abe. A floating tooth bounces into Jax. He recoils in disgust, then flicks it away. Isolde gives a brief update then adds, “We need to get Abe to Medical. I’ve got him stable enough for transport.” Mac nods, then says “Ok, Jax, help Isolde with Abe. I’ve got to stay and get the power back up.”

A “Ewww” escapes Jax as he clumsily helps maneuver Abraham down the circular corridor. The captain turns and faces the power core. Isolde had carefully strapped Abraham down on the exam table when the emergency lights flick off and the regular lights switch on. “Christ, about time,” Jax exhales in relief and pulls out his cell phone. He turns on the camera and starts recording. “What up Earthlings? The Calamity has been calamitied!

He turns the camera around, covering Abraham unconscious on the table and Isolde, expertly tending to his wounds. She notices his camera and scream, “Get the FUCK out of here, you idiot!” She snatches the camera out of his hands and flings it out of the room. It floats down the corridor, spinning end over end.

Jax chases after the phone and catches it. He turns it over and sees a handprint in blood across the screen. Isolde’s hand, Abe’s blood. He turns back to Medical, “Bitch. THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW!”

“My people!” He turns and floats to the second floor access hatch. Living quarters. Thanks to significant sponsorship, Jax’s quarters are the largest of the group. Screens line every wall, each black with the words NO SIGNAL flashing on each. “Dammit,” he sighs. “Record! and transmit as soon as we reconnect!” The screens light up, each showing an image of Jax as he floats around the room. Faint music plays in the background. His latest hit song.

“Well folks, this is Jax! Live, kind of, from the E.M.S.X. Calamity.”

He starts undressing, his well toned body glistening in the warm lights of his room. Flexing as he takes his clothes off, the cameras watching his every move.

“The Hadron drive worked, I think? I mean, I don’t know the specifics, but it was supposed to create a stable micro-black hole in front of the ship while the two stabilizing “pins” kept the black hole mobile but active.

As he spoke, smart devices in the computer system picked up on his speech and supplied helpful visual images;

The large crescent-shaped design of the E.M.S.X Calamity,

The Hadron collider built into the superstructure of the ship,

An animation of two molecules spinning along the collider and slamming into each other at the mid-point of the distance between the two crescent ‘tips’,

A miniature black hole forms there and begins to suck in the Calamity,

The crescent tips glow with a visible energy, pushing the black hole ahead of the ship, while the gravity of the black hole pulls the ship towards the black hole.

An endless loop.

The speed generated is immense.

“A Carrot leading a Donkey, that’s how they described it,” Jax concludes, as he slips into another branded uniform. “Time dilation slows us down while the rest of the universe keeps going on. A few hours for us is a few YEARS for everyone back home. My fans will be going through a mid-life crisis and falling in love with my music all over again!” He smiles.

Jax pulls himself down into a seat in front of a mirror and straps himself in. several makeup kits are secured to the table in front of him. He begins to touch up his face.

“Anyway, our shakedown tour was to take us from our starting point of the Moon, out to Pluto, currently on the far side of our Solar System. While we’re there, I personally am going to go out and drop a flag on that mofo #demiplanetnomore”

Jax begins to thanks his many sponsors, it was through their generosity and his fame combined that the Calamity was funded. Various ads appear on the numerous screens lining his room. Jax’s smiling face is reflected back at him a hundred times stretching into infinity.

At the medical suite, Captain McNamara glides in. Isolde turns, taking off bloody gloves, “Captain, Abraham is now stable. He’s sleeping for now, I’ve done what I could for his leg, he’s going to need a replacement for his right tibia. I’ll need your authorization.” Mac nods in acquiescence. “I’ve also pulled his damaged teeth and am 3-d printing a new set for him.”

“Captain,” she says, “I’ve never seen a reaction like that in Abe before. I initially thought Epilepsy, but that would have been caught in training and he would have been washed out of the program. CT scans show nothing unusual. MRI is scheduled next.” She tosses her gloves in a biohazard container.

“Is it the Hadron drive?” Her eyes lock with Katherine, steady, calmly. Katherine floats over to Abe, strapped to a bed, and studies him. “Izzy, I don’t know.” She takes Abe’s hand in hers, “the earthbound Hadron collider has been functional for years. It’s been studied back and forth. There should be no surprises left. But, he was pointblank at the source when he shut it down. Something could have hit him through the shielding.” She lets go of his hand. “Or maybe he was adept at hiding his condition. Either way, we’re stuck out here with him. We need to watch him.”

Isolde floats over to her and they embrace. They kiss briefly, tenderly. Mac pulls away, “Do what you need to do to get Abe up. Then I need you on the bridge, we still don’t know how far we made it. We could still be floating around the moon.” She smiles and pulls herself out of the room toward the bridge.

Some time passes. Mac, Isolde and Jax are in their seats in the bridge room fiddling with their control panels, each lost in thought. Mac turns and says, “Everyone, here is the situation: The Calamity was in orbit around the moon. We activated the Hadron drive and it malfunctioned immediately. We managed to disable it but it blew out all power except backup. We are now blind, no radio or sensors of any kind. We have the means to repair or replace them but it will take time. But we are alive, and that is a great thing. We have the supplies to last three times our mission length. We can stretch that out to six times with our combined knowledge sets. We will make it home, I promise you that.”

Isolde smiles and nods. Jax flips a few more switches at his console. Cameras light up, showing him in his seat and the occasional shot of the others at their seats. He looks up and says “Hah! Got it!”

“Mac! Uh, I mean Captain, I know the only reason I’m here is due to the financial backing I brought, but I am a trained communication officer. I made sure that I had it covered.” he pushes himself back from the console. “I’ve been working for a while now on the external cameras. Hardware, software, it all checks out as fine, fully operational. So here you go:” He hits a button and on all their screens the image is that of complete and utter blackness extending away from various points of the ship.

“The cameras are working fine, I promise you.”

“So tell me, WHERE ARE ALL THE STARS?”

End part 1.

Grim/Dark

It was always cold when it rained.

Atmospheric pressure changes, the mountains to the west interfering with warm western winds, the reasons were multitude. The Man never bothered to learn any of them. Today, he just hitched up the collar of his jacket against the rain and hustled across the street, past the fast food joint and into the alley behind it.

Where the drug dealer was waiting.

The dealer set up shop behind the restaurant six weeks ago. The Man observed it from his desk in the office. The dealer was wearing a white windbreaker, baggy white jeans that hung down near to his knees and mirrored sunglasses. He wore this regularly, the
Man noted with some curiosity. A type of business wear perhaps? The Man thought he looked like an idiot.

But the dealer was fierce. Being half a head shorter than most of his clientele made fierceness a necessity, the Man supposed. The Man once watched the dealer take down two large thugs who thought they could shake him down for his goods. The Man was impressed
as he ate his lunch at his desk.

Two weeks ago, the Man was passed over for a promotion. Again. His fury and rage shook the office. The manager calmly stood against it, even warning the Man against further public outbursts. Fuming, the Man returned to his cubicle.

“Who the Fuck does he think he is?”, the Man muttered to himself as he sat himself at his desk. “I DESERVE it, I EARNED it”. He bends a cheap, low quality company branded pen in two.

The Man’s suit is old and showing numerous signs of wear. He hasn’t purchased a new suit in five years. It was the suit his wife bought for him. Before the accident. Before she was taken from him.

To the rest of the workers in the office, he looks old, worn out. The Man doesn’t notice. He hardly notices anything outside of his increasingly small world. He stares intently at the dealer across the street.

After work that day, the Man crossed the street and talked to the dealer for the first time. The dealer was surprised. “Hey friend,” he says, sizing up his new customer, “I’ve seen you around. At the office over there.”

“You look tired. Do you need something to pick you up?”

The Man buys a small bag of weed. He takes it home and immediately dumps it into the toilet and flushes it. He does this a few more times over the next few days, getting into the good graces of the dealer. He pushes himself to be more jovial, all the while
setting himself up for the Big Purchase. Getting customers to like him was always his talent.

It is raining on the day of the Big Purchase, rain cold as ice. As the Man swung his jacket over his shoulders, he hears a sound that freezes him. A rip has appeared under his left arm of his jacket. He mutely fingers the gap where the fabric once connected,
memories of his wife flood over him. She made sure he was looked after with her life insurance, but their house is expensive and his funds are nearly exhausted. He cannot lose the house.

He will not.

The dealer is happy to see him. “Hey buddy!” He gestures with his left hand, “You uh, you got a hole in your jacket there.” The rain hardly seems to affect him. He pulls out a paper lunch bag, folded neatly at the top. “I got your Special Order here, just
need to see some green.”

The Man pulls out a folded envelope filled with bills and hands it over. The dealer smiles at the fullness of it and passes the Man the lunchbag. “Use it well, my friend, and wisely.” The Man smiles, and walks away into the rain.

The manager lives in an affluent area of town. The Man is soaked by the time he gets there. The manager invites him inside, “Are you ok man? What happened? Did your car break down?” He disappears and returns with a large, fluffy towel. “You’re gonna get pneumonia.” They both sit down at the dinner table.

The man smiles and pulls out his water-soaked paper bag. He opens it up, reaches in, and pulls out a revolver. Old, but still serviceable. A sleek chrome finish glints in the flourescent lights. The revolver has absorbed the chill of the rain outside, the grip
is so cold as to almost hurt the Man as he holds it. He cocks the hammer.

“Christ!” The manager jumps back out of his chair, the chair bangs off the wooden floor. His hands up, “Wait! Wait!”

“What is this about?” Is this about the promotion?” The Man nods. “Seriously?”

The manager is shaking, eyes looking about for a way out. “Look, I respect your years of service, we all do. But, you’re not QUALIFIED for the position, we explained that to you at your last performance review. You’d need to do a ton of skill upgrading. At
your age and how close you are to retirement, I thought you would prefer to just ride it out.”

The scream throws the Man off-balance. He had completely forgotten about the manager’s wife. She was shrieking at the top of the stairs. The manager, seizing the opportunity, grabs the salt shaker off the table and throws it at the Man.

“Susan! RUN!” He turns to run, heading to the back entrance.

The salt shaker strikes true, square in the face of the Man. The sudden sharp pain causes him to drop his revolver.

The gun hits the ground and fires.

The screams continue, clearly audible to the rest of the neighborhood. As is the second gunshot.

In the alley behind the fast food joint, the dealer is savoring a warm cup of coffee. It has been a good day, despite the weather. The Man lurches out of the shadows, the freezing rain has sapped something vital from him. His breath freezing in the air as he
pulls out his revolver and hands it to the dealer.

“What the Fuck Man?” You don’t just bring it back! What’s wrong with you?” The coffee, forgotten, slips from his cold fingers. “Did anyone see you?”

“POLICE! FREEZE!” Suddenly, the alley is awash in strobing red and blue lights.

“God damn it!” The dealer, seeing no way out, pulls out a sleek handgun and sprints off down the alley. He blindly fires off a few rounds, hoping to stall pursuit enough to get away.

The Man, numb physically and emotionally, barely noticed the arrival of the police. But the gunshots provoked a reaction. He throws his arms over his head, the revolver slips from his hand and falls. And fires.

Of the two police officers that exited the patrol car, one drops, a spray of blood erupts from his throat. The other officer ducks behind the door of the cruiser, and screams into his radio, “Shit! Shots fired! Officer down! We need backup!” He draws his service
pistol and returns fire.

The Man turns to run, but stops and retrieves the revolver first.

Nearly frozen, exhausted, mentally confused, the Man takes the first corner and the next corner. He finds himself in front of his office. His passkey allows him entrance. He doesn’t notice the pursuit. Does not care anymore.

He takes the elevator to the top floor, then walks the steps up to the roof. The rain has not let up. He looks up to the sky, hoping to see some sign of cloudbreak. There is none. Looking down, he spots multiple police cars surrounding his office. He misses
his wife.

He stares at his revolver. It glistens in the rain, vaguely beautiful, still cold as ice. He raises it to his head and pulls the trigger.

Nothing happens.

“God Damn you, you Accursed Thing,” the Man whispers to it.

He throws it over the ledge and follows it with himself.

Some time later, the rain stops. The police come and go. Life returns to normal. A Boy, hiding in a bush from his bullies, who seem to be everywhere, spots a shiny object nearby.

It is a revolver. Fully loaded. Sleek and chromed.

It is ice-cold.

My College experience

During my college years, I was a lonely guy. I had no social skills to speak of, at parties my anxiety would spike and I would do anything to avoid social contact with others. I would read any nearby magazines or books. I would even stare intently at plants, anything to fake that I belonged there. Or I would drink, heavily. That never worked out well.

Imagine my surprise when, at a friend’s house party, I met a girl. She was smart, funny and ridiculously attractive. We talked and laughed long into the night.

She called me a week later. We chatted for what seemed like forever. She really seemed to like me. My self-image could barely handle it. I’ve never considered myself an attractive man, but I do have a charm that turns on by itself at random moments. She seemed out of my league, but I went with it.

We arranged for a date downtown. My excitement was through the roof. I through on my least shabby clothes and made my way to the restaurant.

There she was, waiting on the corner by the restaurant, smiling and radiant. We made our way inside. I was all smiles and charm.

We seated ourselves and looked at the menu. Then it hit me: the Stench. Her perfume was overwhelming, this thick miasma hanging over the table. There was no escaping it.

My reaction was uncontrollable. Coughing, choking and gasping for air, I covered my nose and mouth with a napkin. Her reaction was understandable, anger. I tried to pass it off as a cold I was fighting. She did not buy it and the meal passed quickly and coldly.

We talked a few more times on the phone. Much better for me, scentwise. My charm miraculously returned and she gave me another chance. Coffee this time.

We met outside the coffee shop, so radiant she was. Her perfume punched me squarely in the face. I desperately tried to maintain my composure but I could tell it was already doomed. Perhaps it was because I was dancing around her, trying to stay up wind of her. She looked at me like I was mad.

She politely drank a cup of coffee with me and made idle chit-chat. I was still struggling to breathe in her presence. Then she left and never talked to me again. I remained and drank another coffee and pondered the situation.

Through the sadness of the moment, a smile cut through it all. It was the most Seinfeldian moment of my life. Cue the bass line.

Many years later, I met another woman. Smart, funny and ridiculously attractive. And she doesn’t wear perfume. Plus, she introduced me to the other Love of my life: a cat named Wesley.

A Mother, remembered.

My mother passed away just over one year ago.

Several members of my family gathered to remember and feast in her honour. As I have no connection to  my spirituality, much of their words fell flat in front of me. But I understand their intent: a woman they all loved died and they needed to gather and remember.

What I have to offer, is a story of Her:

My family never had much money. My father could never hold a job and my mother had the task of raising a gaggle of children. We walked a lot.

The nearest grocery store was a considerable distance away, walking there and back took quite a bit of time. One day, my father asked my mother to go to the store for a few items. She obliged, and set off.

Time passed. One hour. Then two. We children became anxious, looking up and down the street in hope of spotting her. My father became angry and demanded that we go out and look for her. Happy to get away, we left eagerly.

We walked to the grocery store and looked around. She was not there. We looked in the local thrift store, always one of her favorite stops. She was not there either. We looked in every store up and down the street from the grocery store to our home. She was nowhere to be found.

We returned home some time later, empty-handed and sad. My father’s anger was great. Where could she be?

As the sun set, my mother came home. We all ran to her, our fear washing away. We asked where she was, what happened to her. She told us.

She was arrested.

My father was a chain smoker. A pack a day, perhaps more. It was a difficult habit to maintain on a tight budget. My father coerced my mother into occasionally stealing a pack for him. This was in the old days, when cigarettes were put proudly on display in a rack by the front tills. She was caught, and taken to the local police station and given a fine.

She walked home. It was a very long walk.

She was so angry. The shame and embarrassment of being arrested brought out a fire in her that I’ve never seen before. She had never been arrested before, she only committed the crime at the behest of my father. She unleashed her fire upon him and he shrank back in the face of it. She swore that she would never steal for him again.

And she never did.

I have never forgotten how strong she could be.

Stories are now all I have left of her.

A Writer rewrites*

I’ve always been shy.

I’ve always had a hard time fitting, especially as a child. As an adult, I’ve learned that I don’t need to fit in anymore. In most cases, I actually don’t want to. I am, overall, happy with who I am.

As a child, it was different. My shyness held me back. I couldn’t open up to other children, even the ones I liked. As a result, I had very few friends. The other kids didn’t know what to make of me. I was wierd, different. I was picked on, bullied. But mostly I was left alone. Very alone.

One year, Grade 5 if I can recall correctly, I made a friend. I was chosen to work with a classmate on a project. We bonded over the course of the project. To my regret, I can no longer remember my friend’s name. We did what young friends do: we hung out during lunch, played in the park after school, we talked and laughed. It was a shining moment in my young life.

One day, our teacher stepped out of the classroom for a washroom break. I seized the opportunity and turned around to ask my friend a question.

And just like that, the entire class (it seemed) turned on us and shouted

“FAG!”

“FAG!”

“FAG!”

The words chanted in unison, echoed throughout the room. I’d heard the phrase before but was not sure what it meant. It was only ever used as an insult.

My friend started to cry, then fled the room.

I sat there and endured it, Hiding behind a wall of anger and sadness.

The teacher finally returned and quieted the class. He located my friend and brought him back into class. Everything went back to normal, we continued our lesson.

After class, my friend left immediately, without saying a word.

I found him the next day before class. I wanted to see how he doing. He was my friend. I was worried.

He turned to me and said, “I’m sorry Ellis, but I can’t be your friend anymore. I don’t want to be called that ever again.” Then, he walked into class, and never said a word to me again.

I spent the rest of the year, and the year after that, without a friend. It was in the last year of elementary school, grade 7, that I was assigned to introduce the new kid around school. He was Irish, very loud, and brash. He loved to laugh. We became friends. He taught me to laugh freely, without looking over my shoulder. I discovered that I could make him laugh as well. I had a sense of humour, which suprised and delighted me.

We remained friends for the rest of the year and into the summer. Then my family and I moved away and I never saw him again.

Hi name was Clyde. He was a good friend.

 

*This was one of my first stories, written several years ago. I’ve written it here, with minor editing.

 

A Writer writes

Uh, Hello!

I am a 40 something native american who works in a modest job in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

I make ends meet, I have a fabulous S/O, I have a cat that I love to the end of the world (Wesley is his name), friends that I respect and admire. I have many hobbies, well 2.

Life should be good, but

IT

IS

NOT

See, I have this burning desire to WRITE. A desire that heretofore, has gone unsatisfied. Well, no longer.

I grew up painfully shy. Paradoxically, I discovered that I am also a natural storyteller. Writing, for me, is the best way to express the words that roll around in my head. I have so many stories to tell, I despair at never being able to tell them all.

I have a story to tell. A novel, actually. I am using this blog to kick the rust off my writing skills, and see what I can improve.

I will be writing stories of my past, my present and possibly, my future. Some will be funny, others not so. This will not be easy for me, but things that are worthwhile rarely are.

I hope those who read these words enjoy them. Please share and follow or subscribe or whatever.

Thank you.