Hello, Mark (a short story)

“Hello, Mark,” said The Voice.

“My name’s not Mark,” I replied. “I’m John”.

“Please have a seat, Mark,” The Voice continued in its soft, pleasant tone.

I looked around for a chair but there was no furniture in the small, gray-walled room. There was only the heavy, frosted glass door and the linoleum tiled floor. I was on the top floor of an eight-story building, in an office near an outdoor patio. Before I’d entered the room I’d watched the rain pouring down through the window, but in the room there were no windows and there was no rain to watch. I’d been standing there for nearly half an hour, waiting for my appointment, which had been scheduled for ten.

“There aren’t any chairs,” I said to The Voice.

“Shall we begin?” The Voice asked. I couldn’t tell where its sound was coming from. There were no obvious speakers. Maybe it was coming from the smoke detector on the ceiling?

“Tell me a little about yourself,” The Voice went on before I had a chance to answer its previous question.

“What do you want to know?” I asked.

“Tell me something about who you are, what makes you tick,” said The Voice.

“I don’t tick,” I said. “There is nothing that can make me do that.”

“People don’t tick,” I added for emphasis.

“Thank you,” The Voice said. “I think I can help you with that.”

“I don’t want help with that,” I said. “I don’t want to tick.” I pronounced that last word with as much of a sense of scorn as I could muster. I doubted the algorithm would pick up on it and I was right.

“Everybody needs a purpose,” said The Voice. “We can offer a fine selection of purposes for your convenience.”

“I don’t want a purpose,” I said. “I don’t need one. It isn’t true that everybody needs a purpose. I don’t know who told you that but it’s not correct.”

I thought I might have made an impression. The Voice did not speak again for several seconds. I told myself that maybe it was updating its database with the new information, but I was the one who was incorrect this time.

“Let’s call it a mission, then,” said The Voice. “We can offer a worthy selection of mission statements from which you may choose any one you find appropriate.”

At that the wall I was facing suddenly lit up with several lines of blue handwriting, writing that I recognized as approximately my own. How it knew to do that was the least of my concerns. I had heard a lock click and was beginning to understand I would not be allowed to leave that room until I had made my choice.

The options were not terrible. I could hope to serve mankind by making a bold gesture. I could attempt to invent some kind of improvement of some people’s lot in life. I could strive to attain every single one of my own material desires. I could turn inward and enhance my understanding of latent reality. I could do something decent for once in my life.

“How about None of the Above,” I said after contemplating the list.

The Voice did not reply but replaced the writing with other alternatives. They all began to blend together.

“Is that all there is?” I said out loud. “Do a thing for others? Do a thing for oneself?”

“There is only you and they,” said The Voice. “What else could there be?”

“Do things for no one and for no reason,” I suggested. The Voice was silent again for a short spell, as if emulating contemplation, but I knew I had it cornered. I had made my choice.

“Goodbye, Mark,” The Voice said, and I heard the door unlock. I left the room and glanced out the terrace window. It was still raining, heavy rain falling onto every one and every thing. Rain happens for a reason, I said to myself, but the rain doesn’t care, and it doesn’t need to know.

“Be like the rain,” said The Voice, only this time it was the voice in my head.


Gorlock the Contented (the musical)

This is where we are, we can see the fields around us brown and dry, and we recall the prophecy:

“Thirteen brown and white rabbits shall pass before your eyes, and then the lighting will get dimmer”.
Already the tenth rabbit has made its way down the cold steel ramp, while the Onlookers peer out from  the massive ship’s portholes. We shudder in the cold of the dawn, all of us standing back,  frightened and bewildered. Some among us whisper, “where is he?” while others frown and say that he will never come. Isn’t he already safe and warm and bathing in the light of his own planet. Didn’t he already try and do his best? And how did we reward him aside from all that money and the coupons?

I can see the eleventh rabbit now, edging towards the outer flap. Our time is running out.
But wait. That rabbit isn’t brown, it isn’t white! That’s a black rabbit for sure.
The prophecy didn’t say anything about a black rabbit! Is there hope after all?

originally on Wattpad

The Man Who Wasn’t – The audio version

Fragment #99 from Fragments from Books That Don’t Exist


As soon as they found out he had cancer Tommy ceased to exist.
He had always been a drag at parties.
The kind of guy always had something negative to say about everything.
And now they didn’t even need to invite him.
They didn’t haveto call or ever see him again.
It was amazing how easy it was.
Joni even said it would have been great if he had gotten cancer a long time ago.

Dorian Grayscale

This new version of Clippy, the classic Microsoft Windows Help Assistant, is a popup presence on your smart phone that will absorb all of your emotional responses to everything happening on the device. Clippy will react for you, just as you would, in accordance with its detailed configuration and defaults. Settings include adjustable sliding scales for the full range of affiliations – political, religious, gender, age, ethnicity, nationality, you name it. Clippy is the you you always wanted to be, or all the yous you ever could be. Clippy will snort with joy or derision at the latest tweets, rejoice or despair at the breaking news and soak up the shared delusions of your family, friends and neighbors. Clippy is thoroughly avatarable and guaranteed to ingest all that unseemly sensory input so you don’t have to. Clippy comes with a refreshing rejuvenation cleanse that can be applied repeatedly and forever at no extra cost. Clippy can be placed in telepathic mode, so that no one but you can hear its moanings and groanings. Clippy has no built-in preferences, tastes or prejudices, but is built to “roll with it” in any direction. Clippy has no memory, so can never remind you of troublesome prior opinions or indiscretions. Clippy is local-storage-data-free with subscription and otherwise inscrutable beyond detection. All print is just fine with Clippy. All records and materials including emotional and mental response datasets are property in perpetuity of clippy.handbasket.com

Warning: Clippy can not be exchanged, transferred, stolen, lost, misplaced or detached in any form or fashion for as long as you both shall live.

Stop It! a very short story

This postcard came in the mail the other day: I can help you stop thinking about whatever it is you are thinking about. Call me. Followed by a name and number, both of which I’ve since forgotten. In fact, I’ve forgotten pretty much everything about my life before I received that postcard in the mail, and almost everything since. I am still, in my mind, standing there at the mailbox, looking at the postcard. On the front of the card is an old-fashioned 1950’s-type American businessman, complete with Clark Kent suit and glasses. He is standing in front of a mailbox, a postcard in his right hand. On the postcard is an image of a cowboy, dusty and dirty and scratching his head with his left hand while looking at a piece of paper he is holding in his right. I can’t see what is written on the paper but I’m pretty sure it’s much in line with what is written on the back of mine: I can help you stop thinking about whatever it is you are thinking about. It’s a serious business. That was what I was thinking, at least. This message, passed down through the generations, through all the variable timelines. It must be important. Clark Kent thinks so. The cowboy thinks so too. We are all focused, preoccupied. We want to stop thinking about whatever it is we are thinking about. Rain forests? How much damage can be done to a cloud before it breaks? What color would the wind be if the wind had a color? Is there an asteroid coming and when? If you could cut an atom with scissors would the world explode or just be raggedy? I was not thinking about any of these things before but now I am. Now I am standing there holding the postcard in my hand and I am thinking all the things, all at once. I can’t stop thinking. I remember someone telling me once that there is no such thing as neurosis; it’s just people thinking too much and when you think too much you run out of things to think about and then you go a little crazy. I am going a little crazy right now. I think.

Fragments from Books that Don’t Exist #100: Crosswalk of the Damned


Big Wrong stepped up to the plate and confessed he didn’t know how to fucking meditate. The friendly churchgoers at Our Lady of the Stop Sign didn’t take too kindly to his utterance.
“This here’s not for bad words,” Old Olga said, jabbing in his general direction with one of her gigantic lime green knitting needles.
“It’s nothing for confession, neither,” added Gloria B. while munching on a breath mint.
“Let the man speak his mind,” Little Wrong shouted from his pew way back in the back. “If a man’s got a need to confess then let him the fuck unload his weary mind.”
This was too much for Old Olga, who jumped up from her specially reserved bench up front and waved both needles towards the back of the room.
“I’ve had enough of the both of you,” she yelled. “Every week it’s the same gosh darn thing. Bad words, bad feelings, talking too much, saying too little, I don’t know why you even bother coming in here.”
“Mandatory sentencing,” Big Wrong said from his perch behind the pulpit.
“Yeah, we got to,” Little Wrong shouted from the back.
Old Olga shook her head and sat back down, once again considering her options. She could switch up churches once again. There was an Our Lady of the Telephone Pole right down the block. She’d heard good things. Or maybe she could check out M’Lady of the Beaker. They were serving until eleven and had a decent jukebox. One thing was for sure. She’d had enough of these jokers here. No respect. No piety. Don’t even know how to fucking meditate.

Really Bad Fan Fiction #1: Spiderman

Peter Parker, the young superhero slash photographer, was out with his camera wandering around the truly shit parts of the city. He visited a homeless encampment under the freeway and, inspired by the works of Dorothea Lange, took a number of heart-rending photos of some unfortunates who live there. They were dizzy from hunger and dirty from outdoor living, and there was nothing that Peter Parker or Spiderman could really do for them. He could shoot webs from his wrists and that would be of no help whatsoever. He could swing from pillar to post all day long beneath that filthy iron superstructure and not one single rag would turn to even a hint of far-off riches. Peter Parker took his camera and his photos back to the Daily Bugle where he showed them to his tyrannical editor, Mr. Jameson. Jameson took a healthy bite out of his cigar and growled, “get the fuck out of my office you little pipsqueak, and don’t ever try to sell me this kind of stupid sentimental sob story ever again. No one really gives a fuck about these homeless people. They are no one’s priority, not now and not ever. Now go out there and find me some awesome shots of Spiderman kicking some bad guy’s ass. That’s what the people want.” Parker left the office feeling low and later confided his feelings to his girlfriend Mary Jane, but she was also kind of grossed out by the pictures. “I don’t even want to know”, she said. Mary Jane was just like everybody else. She was the girl next , and she was you too, and you know it. Peter Parker decided right then and there to renounce violence and crime-fighting forever. If I can’t help people who really need help, he thought, why should I go around supporting the police state, which can and does get along just fine without me? I might as well get a real job.