My Nightmares Smell Like Pink

My Nightmares Smell Like Pink

Damn you, Guinness. Damn your dark, earthy brews and your book of madness that drives normally sane people to the edge of folly. You’ve destroyed more lives in the pursuits of “records” than the Olympics and Extreme Archivists combined. I was there the day it all went down, the day the brightest minds of my town were snuffed out in a wave of pink goo that stuck like the fluorescent taint of horror.

My town of Crockport was a one-horse town; a one-horse, twelve-car, one-drunk-named-Charlie town. It also had a bubble gum factory.

The Trubble Bubble Gum factory had originally been built during the Second World War to make ersatz rubber tires. 1400 chewable tires later, the Army cancelled their contract and Trubble Bubble Gum was born. It was the go-to place for employment in Crockport, the job for anyone who wanted to stay in town and had already gotten fired from the Burger King and the gas station.

The story of that fateful day started when Mayor Rathbone was flipping through a Guinness Book of World Records and saw that the record for largest bubblegum bubble was 20 inches across. He snorted—that wasn’t even as big as his desk. They could do better than that.

Forget the human factor though; they would do it by machine. The 4th of July fireworks were cancelled and the money diverted to the Bubble Machine, as Rathbone called it in his mind. 10,000 dollars of development later, they had a hose hooked up to a tank of compressed air. Most of the money had gone to the huge scaffold it was erected on.

We all crowded around to watch as workers from the factory carted out a 400 pound log of gum. According to the mayor, the monstrosity could make a bubble 575 feet in diameter. Of course, he did the calculations on his arm with a Sharpie so no one was too sure of the accuracy of that number. Still, in his words, “It’ll be a sight bigger than 20 inches, that’s for sure.”

The crowd hushed as they turned on the air. The pink bubble blossomed like a time-lapse video of a growing flower. A minute later, it was ten feet across and growing every second.

When they stopped for a break at 120 feet in diameter, everyone agreed it was big enough; everyone except the mayor. “Look how easily we did this,” he said. “It won’t even be a month before someone makes one 125 feet and we’re back to obscurity.” So on went the air and the sticky pink colossus loomed over us.

At around 300 feet in diameter people started to back away. They weren’t fleeing exactly but they had that stealing certainty that whatever happened, this was not going to end well. The bubble made it to 344 feet across when the bird appeared.

It was an ordinary robin, presumably fluttering home to its nest with a worm in its beak. We all watched, horror-struck, as it flew straight for the pink Death Star, like a red-breasted Millennium Falcon stuck in a tractor beam. Soon it was all but lost from sight in that expansive bubblegum background. Then, we heard that tiny noise that signaled doom.

Pop.

There was a startled squawk and a gooey mass burst from the bubble, looking like a seabird caught in a Pepto-Bismol Exxon Valdez spill. The robin was soon forgotten as the record breaking bubble pancaked onto us, blocking out the sun.

The aftermath was like a war movie made by Willie Wonka. Men, women and children staggered through the streets, stuck to cars, light poles, each other. The ambulances came but got stuck in the streets and even after the National Guard was dispatched with giant paint scrapers, it was weeks before the town looked even recognizable.

Crockport is now on the map, at least, although not for the world’s biggest bubblegum bubble. Mayor Rathbone didn’t know that you needed a representative from Guinness there to confirm it. Also, the factory is gone. Still, we now have the leading chiclephobia clinic in the world, so I guess that’s something.


Kafka Crap

My first instinct was to write a story about Nepal, in recognition of the terrible tragedy that just occurred there. The reason it hits so close to me is that we have a very large population of Nepalese students at my university and one of my students is from Nepal. Actually, just a few days ago we were discussing in class what natural disasters occurred in their countries and the Nepalese student said none, except maybe earthquakes. That kills me now.

But I think it’s too soon and I don’t want to write something that will depress me further. So, instead I wrote something utterly bizarre and zany, because that’s who I am and sometimes I’m in the mood, and sometimes it’s just a coping mechanism. I hope this introduction didn’t kill the whole mood of the following story.

Kafka Crap

Mark woke up one morning and found that he had turned into a horse. His first thought was, I don’t have time for this Kafka-esque crap. I’ve got stuff to do. He tried to check his phone but he cracked the screen with his hoof. He was so frustrated, he kicked a hole in the wall.

His mother ran in and stopped. “Did you turn into a horse?” she asked.

Mark stamped once, for yes. “What a bunch of Kafka crap,” she said. “What are we going to do now?”

Mark didn’t know how many times to stamp on the floor to answer and he had no answer anyway. She sighed. “I suppose I’ll call into work for you.”

Later that day, a man showed up at the door. “We hear your son turned into a horse. That’s illegal, you know.”

“How so?” my mother asked.

“I can’t tell you,” the man said.

“Who exactly are you again?” she asked.

“I can’t tell you,” the man said. “Just have your son show up at this address for his trial. He needs to write out a deposition himself too. Make sure it’s legible.”

“What a bunch of Kafka crap,” Mark’s mother said, slamming the door.

His father was reading a blog story. He pointed to the screen. “Well, it could always be worse.”

 

*This story references two Kafka stories: The Metamorphosis, and The Trial. To understand the last line, click the hyperlink.


Snow Angels in Hawaii – Friday Fictioneers

My apologies to everyone who has been wondering where I have disappeared to. I’m around but I have been quite busy and fairly exhausted. You know I’m behind on things when I post a Friday Fictioneers story on Friday. :)

Snow Angels in Hawaii

Keck had just found proof of life. I had, really. Soon I would be famous.

I lay in the snow outside, gazing up at the universe.

I don’t have a tie.

I sweat too much.

Talk shows. Ugh.

I looked up into Everything and almost cried. This wasn’t our universe anymore. We were younger brother now to a superior race. The vast parsecs where I had roamed for my career weren’t the frontier; they were someone else’s backyard.

I moved my arms back and forth, melancholy in my triumph, feeling as out of place as a snow angel in Hawaii.

 


*Keck Observatory is on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.


A Dragon-shaped Hole in Reality

There are no such things as dragons, which is why it was so puzzling when one suddenly appeared and landed on the Statue of Liberty. It let out a long burst of flame, making the great copper lady droop a bit on her left side. Then it flew away and disappeared, leaving the world quite distraught.

Flabbergasted even.

It wasn’t the damage, it was the sudden, dragon-shaped hole in our understanding of the world. There wasn’t enough coffee in the world for the late nights it would take to fit a dragon into modern scientific theory.

“What if it comes back?” the news networks screamed. Their fingers were on the panic button, eyes on the ratings chart.

“What if it doesn’t?” the scientists inquired. Biologists warmed up their DNA sequencers, physicists tried out new formulas (E=mc2+Dr?).

And then the world waited.

Hollywood made movies. Fantasy enthusiasts wrote slashfic of Draco and the Statue of Liberty. Survivalists bought even larger caliber weapons and nodded to each other smugly (“I knew it was dragons all along”). Conspiracy theorists quickly shoehorned a dragon into their schematics, somewhere between the Illuminati and the Reptilian Elite.

It never came back.

Eventually, the world collectively gave a cough of embarrassment, repaired the Statue, and got on with life. People shrugged.

“It must have been a fluke.”

 


Free to Park, Free to Die – Friday Fictioneers

copyright Roger Bultot

copyright Roger Bultot

Free to Park, Free to Die

“No parking? What does that even mean? It’s space, your Honor. Space. You can’t own or regulate that. You can’t own anything. Matter was free out in outer space for billions of years and suddenly we put a fence around it? Mine! Don’t touch! Bullshit.

“Of course I entered the yard. I took the vegetables—I made the fire. I’m free, you know. That’s my right. I’m sorry it spread but they didn’t own that house. It’s part of the universe.

“I’m sorry they died. Really. I’m not a monster. But they were free too. They were free to die.”


GoMotivateMe.com

Jorge woke up an hour before he had to leave for work and found that all his motivation to get up had leaked out during the night. Lethargically, he looked under his pillow. No motivation there.

Five minutes of staring at the ceiling yielded no motivation. Its creamy, stucco surface was like a desert of motivating power. He thought about calling in sick but could not build up the necessary will.

As usual, the Internet saved the day. Jorge did have motivation to check Facebook on his phone and while he caught up with the witty adventures of the children of high school acquaintances, he noticed an ad on the sidebar.

GoMotivateMe.com: let crowd-sourcing fuel your wildest dreams, where drive, will, and ambition are the only limitations. With a shrug, he clicked on the link.

It took five minutes to sign up and create a new campaign. “What would you like motivation with?” the pop-up asked. Jorge typed: To go to work today.

“How much motivation would you like?” the next box asked. It was an odd question and Jorge was not sure how to quantify his necessary motivation, but luckily there was a drop-down menu. Jorge chose A lot of motivation.

And that was it. The screen showed the number of donors (zero) and a progress bar. A few seconds later, the donor number jumped to 1 and a message from skwirlz0495 popped up at the bottom of the screen: “I will text you and say ‘Good job!’” The progress bar moved a millimeter.

This was fun; a lot more fun than getting ready for work. He watched as another donor message popped up, this one from chunkylover53: “I will bring you half a dozen doughnuts.” The progress bar moved to 20%. Jorge could feel it working: he was starting to want to go to work.

Then another message popped up. It had multiple paragraphs. The username was skullpunch_drunk_love.

“I have traced your IP address. I know who you are, Jorge. If you do not go to work today, I will come and find you. I will urinate in your mailbox. I will tell your neighbors your cat is a Fascist. I will steal the family of garden gnomes in your front yard and burn them out in the desert.

“If you do not email me a note from your boss saying that you went to work today, I will be there in 24 hours, Jorge. You will not see me coming. I will break every window in your house, one each day and I will cut the tops off your tulips. Your car will only have three tires every day when you come outside. Go to work today.”

The progress bar shot, improbably, to 114%. Jorge put down the phone and went to the bathroom to take a shower, a funny feeling in his stomach.

On his way to work to work an hour later, he looked at his family of garden gnomes. “I’m doing this for you,” his whispered. Then he wondered vaguely how he was going to get his half dozen doughnuts.


A Giant Hiding in a Kindergarten

I went to Toronto a few weeks ago for a TESOL convention. The convention center was right next to the CN Tower, which for those who don’t know, is the tallest free-standing structure in the western hemisphere. It stands out, is what I’m trying to say. Plus, Toronto doesn’t have a lot of super-huge skyscrapers. See if you can spot the CN Tower in this picture:

Hint: it's the one over half a kilometer tall

Hint: it’s the one that’s over half a kilometer tall

If you couldn’t find it, you must be listening to the audio version of this blog (available now!)

I find it a wonderful irony that large objects are unmistakeable from far away but can be easily hidden close up. Here’s a picture I took from near my hotel:

0328151851

Fifty feet in either direction and the tallest building in the western hemisphere is hidden by someone’s house (well, a lot of someones’ houses) but the point is, it isn’t the tower that changes at all, or even the surrounding landscape: it’s the viewing position. For someone like me who thinks in metaphors, this is a very satisfying truth.

I am an English teacher, but I have actually preached in church four times. I was a deacon in my church in Korea and when the pastor is gone, someone has to do it. My style is much more logical progression of ideas and much less fire and brimstone. I must have a sulfur deficiency.

The very first time I preached, it was on this idea of perspective. The question I posed was: “What can come between you and God?” The answer: absolutely anything, because it all depends on our viewing position, not on Him. After all, the sun is the largest object in the solar system but I can block it out with my thumb if I hold it right in front of my eye.

I’d expound more on this, but this is ostensibly a fiction blog and you probably came here for stories, not theology (I could be wrong, of course). That is why I’m starting a new blog for all the rational, brimstone-less essays on religion, faith and philosophy that are rattling around in my head.

Don’t worry, the Green-Walled Tower isn’t going anywhere. This is a year of big things for this little blog and 2015 is draped in ivy, as far as I’m concerned. Still, I do have a lot of good ideas that don’t fit well into this blog format, so that’s why the Tower is getting a baby brother.

I’m still not sure what to call it: the Green-Walled Church? The Green-Walled Monastery? We’ll see. Stayed tuned.

wpid-20130921_114356.jpg

It this place is anything like the Tower, it must be one quirky church.

 


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