Blatant Lies


 Jabes waved his hand in dismissal, “I’m impressed by this whole story, mind you, but I don’t see how this helps. We’re nearly out of time.” I assured him we’d meet the deadline and continued, “In that time on the shop floor I learned more about marketing and product lines than anyone in VISCA, especially the management, through observing both customers and my fellow employees. Twenty people were at my initial training, picked from over two thousand applicants. Of those twenty only four were still employed when I left the company ten years later. The rest made mistakes. Half of them couldn’t take the work load or the pressure and disrespected their shift leader. Or they just disappeared, didn’t show one day. One of them, a stock control assistant, was dismissed over a customer finding an out-of-date yam mash on the shelf. Two of them had spillage or breakage accidents within five yards of a customer, prompting two very expensive out-of-court settlements as part of the FoC Consumer Wellbeing, Comfort and Safety Guarantee act. The last one, though, did the worst thing he could have possibly done.”

 I let that sit for a beat. Jabes blinked and fiddled with his mustache even more. “A customer was concerned about a watchdog report she’d read on VISCA vitamin tablets. She was concerned about the quality of the iron in their natal care line. This employee, unfortunately, also kept himself up to date on watchdog media. Frightened that he’d be nailed on that same CWCSG act for causing ‘potential harm or discomfort’ to a customer he admitted that competitor Remmy Pharma’s line of natal supplements was proven to have quality colloidal iron rather than oxides. And for that he not only lost his job, he lost his privilege of employment with VISCA’s entire list of subsidiaries. That’s over eighty different company fronts. And then the next day, I was on shift facing shelves to glance over at Health & Beauty to see that same concerned lady cheerfully purchasing a whole crate of VISCA-brand supplements.”

 I paused again to see if Jabes would respond, raising my eyebrows. He simply shrugged. “You don’t see? Right, it’s fine. This is something you should know intimately, I can tell you have a lot of talent for this line of work, but there’s some things they don’t teach you in school: nobody pays to hear the truth. In fact people, especially consumers, pay a lot of money to avoid certain truths. VISCA vitamins have plenty of quality iron and they have studies to back it up. Watchdog media is virulently anti-business and all claims on their sites are considered unsubstantiated by VISCA, the FoC, and likely your own grandmother. This momentarily concerned mother became a lifetime customer of VISCA’s H&B product lines and her healthy baby boy’s fat little face became a fixture of that year’s ad campaign. So, when I tell you that sample #45 has this use instead of that use, I want you to trust me when I speak because I’m telling the truth. It’s the only way we’ll wrap this up in the fifteen minutes we’ve got left. Understand me? #45 will be a thickening agent and preservative. Note it and sign it.”

Like a fly trap Jabes’ mouth opened to speak, an apparent bad habit of his, before closing without a peep. I held the blue vial up to my eye like a monocle and peered at him through it as he tapped his fingers against the tablet.

"Peekaboo," I hummed with a smirk, then placed the EASYPRESS back in line on the table with its fellows.

(from my upcoming entry to the Broken Worlds competition)

5 April 2014 writing competition short excerpt dystopian dystopia


Euromaidan was in full swing and we needed a representative. So we exhumed Robert Palmer, archbishop of rock & roll, and put him in a mauve suede suit. We contacted the women who starred in his iconic music video “Addicted to Love,” put them in purple and gave them the Patrick Nagel. We loaded a tour bus with Sunn amps, packed it in a C-17 and flew them to Kiev. Across the sparkling Atlantic they warmed up playing old hits for us. Our consensus: “Palmer sounds as good as he did in ‘97”.

En route Palmer got sweaty under his collar: a toppled statue of Lenin in the middle of Khreshchatyk blocked traffic. With a single phone call a red pickup truck with a Werwölfe painted on the chrome arrived shortly to drag the statue away with blue rope. Palmer’s anxiety turned to excitement as the van skid-bumped across the icy asphalt of Maidan Square to a halt behind the haphazard front line barricades stacked like cairns atop the blackened hulks of buses. With a kick from the heel of his imitation Guccis the van door burst open. We watched with pride via CCTV as dozens of armed citizens, in formation, turned to salute him, clubs and cudgels pointed to heaven. They cracked open the base of a street lamp with a crowbar and plugged him in. Amps buzzing, volume jacked, the opening chords of his carefully chosen opener “Mean Old World” soared. Weapons raised, the freedom fighters assembled for a decisive push against the police as Robert belted out in his famous baritone “Look around my brother, there’s a world at your command.”

Our contact in the Ukranian secret service buzzed us: a Berkut sniper perched on the roof of the postal museum. Our directional mic caught his heartbeat, racing, as our cameras zoomed in his two blue eyes peering intently through the eyeholes of a black balaclava. He scoped in on the heart, Palmer’s silver-stripe tie floating behind the apex of the crux. The mic in his ear barked “Fire!” but his finger stayed: tears welled up in those eyes at the thought of silencing the soulful voice responsible for such immaculate pop hits as “Simply Irresistible.” He kissed his crucifix and prayed to Saint Xenia for guidance, finger stuck on the trigger.

Police raised their shields and dug in. A gas grenade flew in a graceful arc across no-man’s-land to fall skittering at Palmer’s feet. His band dropped their instruments and scattered but Palmer held steady, struggling to choke out the second chorus through the caustic smoke. Masked bystanders rushed in to grab suiveners: a snare drum, a guitar, Palmer’s fallen Armani pocket square. Molotovs flared as he and the sniper sobbed alone, together. Many gloved hands pressed against the tour van and rolled it crashing into police lines. As its wheels plowed over their bodies Palmer coughed and kept the rhythm going with his fingers: snap, one bone. Snap, two bones. Snap. “Fire!” Snap.

(my submission to this year’s flash 500 competition)

26 March 2014 flash fiction robert palmer euromaidan flash 500


The Five Elements of Story
This image offers an interesting way to look at the layers of a story. (We don’t know where it originated. Please let us know if you do.)
This chart says that your character needs something to care about, something to want, something to dread, something to suffer, and something to learn.

this chart is useful to me. provides more room for flexing the classic greek structure of exposition => buildup => rising action => climax => falling action etc by demonstrating that the internal logic of the narrative’s emotional progression is as potent and structured of a workhorse for holding reader attention


The Five Elements of Story

This image offers an interesting way to look at the layers of a story. (We don’t know where it originated. Please let us know if you do.)

This chart says that your character needs something to care about, something to want, something to dread, something to suffer, and something to learn.

this chart is useful to me. provides more room for flexing the classic greek structure of exposition => buildup => rising action => climax => falling action etc by demonstrating that the internal logic of the narrative’s emotional progression is as potent and structured of a workhorse for holding reader attention

(via thewritingcafe)

28 February 2014 reblog: amandaonwriting chart writing story structure

  Bioprocessing looks like how a cockroach might if viewed from inside-out. Its function and age stain it a morbid shade of seinna with rusty mange covering any exposed metal on the pipes and repurposed metal sheeting which composes it. A fully-grown adult must hunch over to not feel cramped by the low corrugated printfibre ceiling which turns sunlight a color similar to a thirsty man’s piss. For an interface levers, switches and knobs bristle out from a curved panel sporting an array of pressure gauges. Contrast the decrepid look of the hut with the clearly foreign sleek MedCorps-licensed tech, slotted into rough-cut spaces in the metal. Right beside the pressure measurement panel several matte black Context-Surface readouts scroll real time assessment of the biomaterial brewing process, the origin of the thrumming and humming beneath our feet. An overgrowth of shock white and cobweb gray tubes snake in and out of the panel wall which was built by hand out of scrap sheet metal torn from Big Teeth and ported by foot across the miles to the compound. Like the proboscis of a giant insect the assessment scope hangs limply beside the ergonomic trawling manipulator controls. My hand grasps the handle of the input bay, a seesaw-mounted chute cover which yawns open when yanked back.

  A familiar scent, olfactory adjunct to many common smells such as dog vomit and rotting animal, clarified and unobstructed by other elements to offer its sensory delight in a pure bacterial state, rolls out of the chute to fill the room with its humid odor. Nothing inside except pidgeon feathers and tar-coloured slime. Leader and Big Kid stand in the bath of stench, watching, as I close the lid and examine the readouts. Stage 2 processing is ten minutes and four seconds away from engagement, perfectly on schedule, and I let loose an involuntary sigh when I see that the farming crew hasn’t fiddled with the batch preset that I prepared last night. Pressure is nominal, if a little on the low end, and solid waste capacity is at 72%, which should be just enough to permit the mass of Swayze’s corpse. The only thing left to do now is dump him in. However, Leader and Big Kid seem content to stand and observe. I turn to them with a cheerful expression and nod, trying to give them the hint that their work here is done, but they loom expressionless with their bodies between me and the exit. Swayze’s shit stench begins to mix with the already potent odor from the chute creating a truly horrifying experience for the nose. Breathing in through the mouth doesn’t help, as the air itself tastes of human excretion as if one were standing in a fog of urine. My faithful brothers standby without even a grimace or cough as a little inside joke inspires an involuntary [smirk]: I, Swayze, footed the entire bill for this little agricultural wonder last year.

27 October 2013

  He frowns, laces his fingers and places his head on top. “I can’t let you use it,” he says. We’re both staring at the app. “Talks like this aren’t an official MedCorps treatment, so I’m free to discuss this with you, but medical treatment itself … I’m not willing to put my job on the line.” I reach out and grab him by the sleeve, “You need to give me something.” I tug at him and he shakes me off, scooting out of reach to the other end of the cot. “I can’t,” he says as he fixes his practicals, “You know I can’t.” Falling to my knees I hold my hands out, palms up as if offering him a grail, eyes wide, “I’m begging you. Turn off the app and give me something that’ll make it go away. I don’t want to cause a disaster.” Briskly he rises to his feet and begins pacing back and forth in the narrow strip of space between his personal area and the wall of crates stacked opposite us. After a few laps he halts in front of a crate and places his hands on it, back facing me. “Stepping outside the tried and tested bounds of my education as a MedCorps specialist,” he says to the wall, “I’ll tell you what I think.” He’s fiddling absentmindedly with a spring-loaded latch on one of the crates, pulling it down so that it springs back up again with a *clunk* sound. “It’s a matter of adjustment and integration. Your symptoms are worsening because you’re rejecting context, the present context of your life here in your family compound, and they’ll continue to worsen as you continue to separate yourself from the essence of your human environment. All of the feedback you require is here: you just aren’t accepting it. My opinion? I mean, it’s not an informed opinion … yet, but here it is: the matter is pedagogal. Or, perhaps more concisely, one of love. You can’t accept the love of your family so you can’t reintegrate into their system. FEED met your needs and fulfilled the role of a caretaker for most of your life. It is, in fact, the best form of pedagogy we’ve invented. Lacking that, you’re forced to return to a less efficient love application context. In effect you’ve been spoiled on FEED and, naturally, refuse to re-commit to your original born context.”

  His back being turned, caught up in his monologue, this is my moment to act. For a split second I achieve timelessness and, frozen in that synaptic instance, know that to access the app I need to intuit the password state. It’s going to be something that I’d come up with, as we’re effectively the same person, but I have no time to think of what it might be. Instead I simply need to input it. He and I, entangled by adjustment therapy as best as two individuals are able be bound within the same identity, will always reliably come to the same intuitive conclusions. So I use my password, whatever it is. It’s something in my mystical gut that runs up my brain stem, spreads out across my gray matter and then zaps back down into my muscles which contract to resemble the shape of a personal secret. The app reacts and, in an instant, I tumble from my knees to flop uselessly on the floor. The flutter of vibes, normally so quaint and comforting, reverberates throughout my body as the app floods me with police-strength incapacitants. My muscles, inundated, refuse to respond. My ears are ringing and I can’t hear what Swayze is saying as he turns around and, after blinking in mild [shock], quickly becomes [disappointed]. He stuffs his hands into the trouser pockets of his practicals and walks around the cot to stand over me, staring down at my supine and useless body. Shaking his head he says, in a voice that sounds like a bullhorn from the moon, “I can’t believe you thought we were that stupid.”

10 October 2013

  “Yes?” Swayze’s head pokes out of the tent flap. I prepare myself and turn to him, my hands shaking and clutching one another. His face is unshaven like mine. His hair is a loose fluttery mullet like mine. His eyes are bloodshot from a lack of restful sleep like mine. His untrimmed fingernails are clogged with black grit like mine. Aside from our clothing a plane of imaginary glass in between us provides the function of a mirror as we make eye contact in the hazy sunlight. Above us, like rolling thunder, a stampede of many small feet rushes down the hall above us followed by the plonk-plonk of a metal rod beating the walls. Y’Ok bleats out a muffled call of “YARD, YARD.” The kitchen rings with the clatter of utensils hitting the steel bottom of a deep basin filled with water. My twin by design shatters the glass by pursing his lips and saying “You don’t look so good.” I raise a trembling hand to brush hair out of my eyes and try to offer him a reassuring smile. “I heard you’ve been learning the farming trade…” he trails off as I extend my arms out and the sleeves of my purple Big Dogs sweatshirt pull back to reveal open sores running up my arms. Hissing through his teeth at the sight of injury, like I do, he beckons for me to enter the tent. I hesitate and pull my sleeves back up, shaking my head, “I’ve overstayed my welcome.”

  When I turn to go he calls me by his own name, my old name, which stops me dead in my tracks. When I turn around he has his hand over his mouth as his eyes flit about the room. “Come in,” he says with haste, “Just get in here.” I plod over, hunched with worry, glancing over my shoulder to ensure that nobody sees us together. “Lets start over,” he says as he offers me a seat on his cot. Last time I was in here it was an absolute mess of crates, scattered medical supplies, various pieces of cloth and Link2Link tent piping. Now there’s space. The crates, stacked no higher than six tall, line the walls in a broken circle from one side of the tent flap all the way around the room to the other. One corner seems to be dedicated to dismantling found electronics, the fruits of which are bunched into a mess simultaneously sleek, sharp and frayed. I can identify a small white box on the ground next to the pile as an ArchiveFD Lexicon. These devices are a rare piece of FEED external hardware designed to accept as many dated input formats as possible. Old data storage devices are plugged in and the device performs the crudely simple task of translating ancient file systems to FEED, where the contents are stored and can be browsed on an app via the ArchiveFD framework. This means Swayze’s enjoyed scavenging the local area for pre-plague treasure while I’ve been slaving away on the roof in the hot sun helping haul and attach sewage processing collection tanks to and from the pods. What a piece of shit.

9 October 2013

Heavy thumps from the stairs anticipate the end of night soil processing and the arrival of the building’s horticulturalists. Several pairs of stomping feet come tumbling like stones down the steps, spilling into the connecting hallway and coming to rest in the archway across from my seat. Their lint greys are spattered with black and brown stains, lending them all the grimy charm of a pack of outmile mutts. They linger on the landing to greet the dining assembly with silence and stares, directed mostly at the floor. Creeping along in from behind them drifts the mungy smell of their work. “Yatta, heel,” says the sole female of the group and points to the floor between her feet. A tiny black-haired girl, no more than four, dismounts her stool and slogs with all of the enthusiasm of a condemned prisoner to stand in front of the woman who appears too exhausted to scold her for not being prompt. They exit, leaving five men behind who seem incapable of speaking or doing anything besides standing in the archway and blinking at the bright lights.

The dining tables are motionless for minutes. Nobody takes any food. Y’Ok clears his throat with an unhealthy rumble and deposits a fat wad of nose cheese into one of the thin pockets of his Wayfarer outdoorsman’s vest. I examine the workers and recognize half of them, unable to place their names. Their saggy faces are part of the rotten tapestry of home. In the morning you can see them marching upstairs. What do they do up there? They turn the roof soil by hand and trowel, fiddle with the GREENEnergy biofuel conversion processing for hours and hours trying to get the absolute perfect balance for most efficient synthesis down to the farthest and most alien decimal point, wipe their foreheads on their grimy sleeves, frown to crack their chapped lips, crank the water filtration pump, rake endless tides of black decombination residue out of the rain catch. They sit and watch individual leaves on individual plants for any sort of insect and, once spotted, pluck the offender off by the grit of their calluses and squash them into paste with a motion not unlike rolling a cigarette at the tips. They spritz things with whatever they keep in their bottles, they stare at the sky trying to divine the week’s weather from the unfolding calligraphy of the clouds, they scratch themselves. Sometimes they stand on the very lip of the roof, rubber-shod heels resting upon air, for no discernable reason besides, perhaps, the notion that toppling backwards wouldn’t be a half bad vacation. They do the work to feed us. Nobody bothers or hassles them, most everyone stands up for them in an argument, and four times a year they make contact with a MedCorps Outreach rep to discuss the state of equipment and suss out their increasing debt pile accruing on a FEED wallet they don’t even have access to yet.

13 September 2013


A twofold alternative: it fulfills the role of both bullets and drugs.

The medium by which a “vibe,” which is both the name of the technology when in use (Broadcasting vibes) and specific forms of the technology itself (A particular vibe, usually titled such as “Rain Came Crashing”), is transmitted to a human recipient. The means of transmission isn’t important to me. Vibes can penetrate solid matter and depending on the broadcasting source are capable of long and wide coverage. Drone-mounted transmitters can project a cone about the size of a city block, and I’ll assume that a very tight point-precision transmission could be achieved over hundreds of meters or more. One could simply chalk the means of conveyance to some pseudoscientific solution like “neutrino particle beams” but I’m not a scientist, nor even a fake scientist. I barely read Wired magazine regularly. I don’t care how they’re transmitted.

Firstly, only the absolute weakest broadcast form of vibes are undetectable by a human being. Any vibe strong enough for a human being to notice even a weak effect causes a subtle to strong physical sensation in the body felt in a specific area. A vast majority of individuals feel it in the diaphragm but it can be felt in a number of places, usually areas of smooth muscle connected to significant nerves or concentrated nerve clusters in the body. The sensation is usually described as a “fluttering,” “flipping” or “tickling” which is uniquely distinct to the experience of being “under a vibe” and is rarely strong enough to cause discomfort. Citizens of areas under heavy constant vibe saturation, such as Union Civic, become so used to the sensation that it becomes as easy to ignore as the feeling of wearing one’s own clothes.

The hardest and most practical form of vibes are formally known as Incapacitants, which are most commonly thought of as “weaponized” forms of vibe but are more often used in medicine. These simply use the transmission medium to influence the human nervous system. The effects range from gentle muscle relaxation and massage to complete loss of motor function. Incapacitants have myriad uses involving medical care recovery, first aid, pain management and physical therapy. Most famously, they’re used by Union Police as a means of disabling any aggressor without causing any bodily harm or pain. The use of incapacitant vibes have no long-lasting effects upon the body, and the only psychological harm done is generally due to the humiliation of being rendered helpless.

The most extensive use of vibe technology, however, are Experiential or “soft” vibes. The transmission medium can be used to stimulate the human brain and endocrine system to generate within the body and mind a particular abstract sensation. These vary as widely as heath and beauty products do today, and each one is unique in some subtle way. Vibes are created like recipes, through experimentation, scientific theory, and testing, to produce more new sensations. Vibes are named in an attempt to either sell their qualities or in an attempt to sum up the texture of their effect in a stylized sense: Rain Came Crashing, Venus Rising, Apex Junction, Savior Of Man, Imperfection Untangling. Some vibes are constructed to deliver a specific sort of emotional experience, therefore less abstract, but also requiring specific calibration to an individual’s biometrics for accurate effect: Home, Introspection, Discovery, Peer Legitimacy, Violent Acceptance, Renewal, Foreshadowing, Heartwork.

"Hard vibes" are the attempted replication of a vibe in chemical form, usually a pill or a dissolving capsule in drink. Hard vibes provide a similar, often severe and legitimately intoxicating, experience. While they’re produced by Union Civic’s Medical Corps for a variety of uses, the vast majority of hard vibes are illegally produced and sold off-FEED for a cheaper, stronger vibe experience.

Vibes are the fabric of the lives of Union Civic citizens, and subversively leak into the lives of every individual within and surrounding Union Civic. The addictive quality of both soft and hard vibes would be undeniable and possibly even worrisome if the whole of Union Civic did not exist in a constant bath of them, without a single thought of ever losing touch with a technology that is as common as electricity itself. Every FEED handheld app contains a vibe broadcasting hardpoint by default.

The complete and utter absence of vibe presence upon an individual who has become life-long acclimated to them would require the absolute removal of FEED itself. The loss of FEED results in context withdrawal.

11 August 2013 Context Withdrawal

The goal of Union Civic, and FEED, within the story is to present to the reader a society that seeks to eliminate all sources of danger while unconsciously sublimating all forms of abuse.

10 August 2013 Context Withdrawal


Short-Sell Premise: An Awakabal tribesman’s brief and violent encounter in the bush with an English counterfeiter fleeing mandatory labor at the newly founded Botany Bay colony foreshadows a generational family rivalry between the two men and subsequently the militarization of the Awakabal which, as transportation carries its course, invokes bloodshed and intrigue over the course of several decades of Georgian political bungling, gross negligence, and a culture of corporal punishment.

Setting: Colonial Australia and Tasmania (“Van Diemen’s Land”) with brief vignettes from elsewhere relevant including Georgian England, France, Indonesia and New Guinea.

10 August 2013