The first YouTube video received over seven million hits before being taken down.
A shaky camera held by a giggling friend captured a teenage boy standing in a well-tended backyard. Dressed in cargo shorts, he stared solemnly down the lens before announcing, “I’m Shyam Rangaratnam, and this is the Eat Me Drink Me Challenge.”
After taking a deep breath and a dramatic pause—as all on-line daredevils do before embarking on their potentially painful stunt—Shyam broke the seal on the familiar purple vial, and emptied the liquid onto his tongue.
An audible poof sounded as the teenager twisted and writhed, shrinking away like an ice cube under running water. The camera zoomed into the grass, swishing back and forth before discovering miniature Shyam—no bigger than a salt shaker—cavorting through the leafy green jungle he’d thrown himself into.
“Aw shit, dude,” the friend behind the camera guffawed as he stomped his sandaled foot into the grass. “Look out! I’m going to crush you!” In his over-exuberant Godzilla impression, the camera man came frighteningly close to stomping Shyam for real. Every adult watching the video cringed, astounded by how close these kids came to filming a gruesome tragedy.
“Lhálali’s bloody viscera,” Eešan cursed. She searched the cliff face for a hold and found nothing. Finally she spotted a thread-thin crack and wedged her wingtip claw in it so she could reach upward with her stubby grasping-hands.
“Watch out,” Aušidh said. “If you fall now you’ll get hurt, won’t you?” She dipped in a little swoop less than a winglength away from Eešan in the air. The shadow of her wide membranous wings rippled across the uneven stone and the little burst of wind ruffled the sparse black fur on Eešan’s back.
The others circled farther away, the curves and points of their silhouettes slowly churning the air as they gawked. Eešan was putting on enough of a spectacle that half her hatchmates had turned up to watch.
“Yes,” Eešan said tightly. It made her feel sick to have to speak her fear out loud. “If I fall, I’ll die.”
“Oh.” Aušidh circled up and around again, landing on the cliff face just beneath Eešan, her grasping-hands and wingtips confidently catching in a clean four-point landing on the irregular stone surface. “I didn’t think you were that high up yet.”
The water towers never showed up on film. That should have been a sign. In the before times, there were water towers on every rooftop. They were highly visible, distinct from the rest of the landscape, cylindrical bodies with conical heads and long spindly legs. Maybe if we hadn’t been so busy whining about work … Continue reading DP FICTION #60A: “Invasion of the Water Towers” by R.D. Landau
He’s hairy. He grunts a lot. He can be – there’s no kind way to put this – a little clumsy, and even his best friends say his table manners could use a little work.
But at barely the age of 30, he’s become Wall Street’s best performing hedge fund manager, with an estimated fortune of $36 billion, and with bankers, CEOs and even – it’s rumored – a United States president and several prime ministers jumping at the mere twitch of his finger.
Despite being a – there’s no way to put this politely – a gorilla.
How, exactly, a lowland gorilla managed to claw his way to the top of the financial industry is one question that’s brought me here today, to this charming New York café overlooking Central Park. Trees have a calming effect on Magot Stanton, I’ve heard, and “calming” is definitely the mood you want when you are about to meet up with a five foot, 10 inch gorilla who can easily rip your arms off, if he wants. At the suggestion of one of his extremely efficient personal assistants, I’ve ordered one of the café specials for both of us: a New York version of a full British high tea. The assistant has assured me that Stanton is particularly fond of the finger sandwiches created with freshly baked banana bread, with strawberries and cream for dessert.
I never had a driver’s license, you see. Instead I was born blessed with epilepsy. The doctors said it was bad form to put a two-ton vehicle into the hands of a young man who could seize at any time, medication be damned. Grand mal, tonic-clonic—whatever you wanted to call it, it was the big one, and I grew up afraid to be responsible for running off the road and killing someone because of it. I tell you this simply to explain that I was completely at the mercy of the bus line when we stopped at the small town in Kansas where all the houses faced west and I met the whispery old crone who sat at the intersection of two worlds.
At the time I was suffering through a crisis of identity and ennui. It was more than just the listless, relentless boredom of youth. The side effects of the Dilantin I popped to keep the seizures at bay made me irritable, anxious, and dark—sometimes at different times, sometimes all at once. I came from a good family in Kansas City, with two parents who loved me and supported me and a sister who put up with me. I was holding down a 3.88 grade point average at the University of Kansas, and I’d just met a guy.
James was from Pueblo, Colorado. We met at school and were looking into whether or not we wanted to pursue a relationship. He brought a beautiful pair of stark blue eyes, a lingering echo of the English R.P. accent he’d developed during the first 10 years of his life, and a tolerance for my nervous flutters. We weren’t exactly dating, but there was something between us. He wasn’t the first guy I fell for, or the first that I’d had sex with, but he was the first I really started to love. When you’re already pharmaceutically primed for nervousness, anxiety, and agitation, worrying about falling in love really adds to the stress.
This is what the boogeyman looks like.
It has white eyes with no pupils and no irises. Just white all the way through. But it can see you. So I must not fall asleep as I wait outside this closet door in an empty room, in an empty house with a derelict For Sale sign in front of it, everything smaller than I remember, baseball bat gripped in my hands.
This is what the boogeyman sounds like.
Short, huffing breaths, almost snorts, like your boss calling you into his office for a chat, because you got yet another email by accident that was supposed go to the CEO, who shares your name. “And you understand,” huff huff huff, “that you obviously didn’t get the whole story with just that one email,” huff huff huff, “and the engineers are definitely going to address that problem before the product goes to market.” Huff. “We understand each other, right?” And you’re too scared of losing your job to do anything but understand.
I was waiting for the teakettle to boil, and the office wasn’t due to open for, oh let’s say three minutes. The phone blinked and I considered not answering, what with those three minutes of leisure ahead of me, but I needed every client I could get. I put on my phone voice and chirped, “Jasmine Alexa, Attorney at law.”
The voice on the other end trembled with fear and flat, Bostonian vowels. “I’m not shuh, but Ah think I might have killed someone.”
That was as good as a shot of straight caffeine. “Excuse me? Wait… right now?”
There was an unsettling long pause. “No?” It was a woman’s voice, rough and deep, but definitely feminine.
You are no doubt thinking exactly what I was thinking at this point: This person is a murderer. After years of handling divorces and wills, I was suddenly transported into an episode of Law and Order: Special Weird Calls Unit.
Before my brain could decide if murderers paid well, my mouth said, “I’m sorry, this is a civil law office. I don’t do criminal cases.”
“Crap. Wrong number.” She hung up.
Maximised Total Happiness
Michelle smiled, exhausted, as her baby’s cry filled the hospital room. The lights above her were harsh and cold, and the sheets beneath her were tangled and scratchy, soaked in her sweat and stinking of iodine, but none of that mattered against such a beautiful sound. She heard it so rarely—just once a year.
“Congratulations, Mrs Bergeron,” said the midwife. “It’s a girl.”
“Oh, thank you so much! I’m ecstatic!” She looked over at Nathan, cradling baby Danielle face down in his strong arms. A Happiness Moderator stood by them, uniformed with the usual black suit and easy smile; he lined up a large needle at the base of Danielle’s skull and implanted the HappyChip with a swift movement. Danielle’s cries quieted, then turned to a happy giggle.
Charlie Slawson sat alone in the transit station, watching a set of empty train tracks and wondering why the train was late. Truth be told, he hadn’t known until just then that temporal trains even could be late. He looked around the underground station—its old, brick walls lined with gaudy digital displays, advertising exciting trips … Continue reading DP FICTION #57B: “The Train to Wednesday” by Steven Fischer
Jakayla crouched in front of her dark closet. She hadn’t turned on the light because that was an awfully rude thing to do when trying to talk to the monster hidden inside.
“You gotta listen to me,” she whispered. “The news is saying really bad things, like rocks are gonna fall out of the sky and a lot of people are gonna die. You can’t stay in my closet. You gotta go to the basement. There’s dark spaces down there for you to hide in. I won’t tell no one you gone there.”
“Jakayla!” She turned to find Grandma leaning into the bedroom. “I got to run to your auntie’s house. The phone network’s down.”
“The phones don’t work?” Jakayla gasped. “Why? I didn’t think anything had fallen yet?”
“Nothing has, yet. Everyone’s trying to talk to everyone on the phone, and the system can’t handle that. Listen, girl.” Grandma waddled forward to cup Jakayla’s face. “We’re going to be just fine, you hear me? Don’t you worry. Just stay here. We’ll have everyone here together in the basement tonight.”