Friday, September 28, 2007

3000 Miles from Graceland, Part 7

She ran down the street, heedless of the danger of slipping and falling on rain-slicked asphalt. Rod ran four steps ahead of her, close on the heels of the shadowy figure that clutched her son. Kevin stared over the figure's shoulder, fixing her with a sullen, accusatory stare.

With a final lunge, Rod caught Kevin's captor in a tight bear hug and forced him to stop. The shadowy figure gave up the boy and disappeared in to the night.

"Oh, Kevin," Jenny said, holding her arms out to her son.

Rod began to back away from her, tightly gripping Kevin. She stopped, confused.

"Rod," Jenny cried, "Stop! Where are you going?"

Her husband said nothing. He simply kept backing away.

Kevin opened his mouth, but all she could hear were garbled noises.

"Kevin," Jenny felt tears streaming down her cheeks, "Kevin, speak up. Mommy can't understand you."

Kevin again opened his mouth. This time the words came out in a steady, low growl. "I said," he narrowed his eyes, "That I'm going to get you for this."

Jenny's mouth dropped open in shock, then clicked shut again. At that moment the world exploded in to white light and her husband and son disappeared.

Her body jerked suddenly, violently and she found herself lying on the couch under her favorite red comforter. Rod was sitting calmly in the overstuffed chair, reading.

He looked up, smiling. "Hey, beautiful. Did you sleep well?"

"What?" she looked at him with confusion and horror. "Where's Kevin? Where did you take him?"

"I didn't take him anywhere," Rod put the book down, "I was at work when he disappeared, remember? You must have had a bad dream."

"Oh." Jenny rubbed the sleep and confusion from her eyes. "Okay."

"Do you want any breakfast? We have eggs and bacon, but I wasn't going to make anything until you woke up."

"Yeah," she nodded, "Yeah, that would be good." He started to get up, but only made it halfway out of the chair before she spoke again. "Hey, what were you reading?"

He picked the book up again and thumped its cover. "I think I've figured out what happened."

"To Kevin?" she asked, even more confused.

"To everyone."

"From that book?"

"Yeah," he thumped it again, "From this book. My mom sent it to me a couple of years ago. It's all about the end of the world." He held it out and pointed at a bulleted list on the back cover. "See?"

She took it and stared at the words he’d pointed to, unable to focus or connect them with what had happened to her son. "What does this have to do with anything?"

"You see that first point," he asked excitedly, "The one that says millions of people worldwide will vanish in the blink of an eye?"

"Yeah, so?"

"That's what happened yesterday. Don't you see it?"

"Right..." she nodded, mostly to humor him, "I'm sure that's exactly what happened."

"Just you wait. When the antichrist rises out of Europe, you'll see."

She re-read the second bullet point. "What's an antichrist and how will we know it's coming?"

"I..." he paused, then shrugged, "I really don't know."

"Well," she rolled her eyes, "Maybe you should find out before you get too geeked about this."

Rod scratched his head thoughtfully. "Wait, I know what I'll do," he said.

"Does it involve making me breakfast?" Jenny asked, realizing she felt very hungry.

"I'll do that later. First, I'm going to call my mother." He turned and practically ran for the kitchen.

"Oh, good, your mother," Jenny muttered to herself, standing up. "Guess I'll make my own breakfast, then..."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

3000 Miles from Graceland, Part 6

Jenny met Rod at the door when he finally pulled in to the driveway well after dark. Her red-rimmed eyes made it obvious she'd been crying.

"Rod!" she shouted, throwing her arms around his neck, "I was so worried."

"About what?" he asked, returning the hug. He sighed quietly, relieved that she hadn't come out the door in a screaming fit.

"You." She said, pulling back. "I just saw the traffic reports and heard that it's a nightmare out there on the expressways. I was worried that you got in one of those horrible accidents, since I haven't heard from you in a while."

"Yeah, it's pretty bad." He shrugged. "I got through okay. Where's, uh," he paused to look around the entryway, "Where's Kev-head?"

Her tight hug immediately loosened. "What did you say?"

"I asked where Kevin is."

She let him go and stepped back, an angry, incredulous look plastered across her face. "Kevin disappeared. Don't you remember?"

"Oh," recognition flashed across his eyes, "Right." He tried to recover. "I, uh, figured that since you were sitting around watching the news, that meant you found him."

"No," she shook her head. "I've been looking for him for the past three hours. I just came back to the house to check to see if he'd come home when I saw the pile-ups on the news."

"Oh," Rod winced, "Well maybe we should call the police."

"I already did. They're a bit busy, so I've had to take matters in to my own hands."

"And I take it you didn't find him."

Her right hand swung around in a roundhouse move with an open-palmed slap that connected hard with his left cheek. She moved so fast that he didn't even have a chance to react. His head snapped around and he momentarily lost his balance. He stumbled back a few steps, but kept on his feet.

"What was that for?" he shouted, raising his left hand to massage the stinging cheek.

"It's for being an inconsiderate ass, what do you think?" She raised her left hand to strike him again.

He grabbed her wrist and held it tight. "Okay, Jenny, okay. I'm sorry."
"For what?"

"For being an inconsiderate ass, apparently."

She sighed heavily and yanked her arm out of his grasp. "You just don't get it, do you?"

"Get what?"

"Our son is missing. I've been looking for him and worried sick about you getting home safe. I've been all by myself trying to keep from completely losing it and only barely holding on. Everything is falling apart out there. And you just come waltzing home like nothing happened. Not only that, you don't even remember that anything happened."

"Okay, fine," he said, turning away from her, "I get it." He started walking down the driveway."

"Where are you going?"

"To look for Kevin," he said over his shoulder. "Anywhere but here," he mumbled to himself.

Jenny shook her head and walked back in to the house. The news was still on and Kevin's shirt was still draped across the arm of the couch. She absentmindely picked it up and started walking towards the TV to shut it off. Halfway across the room she stopped short, hardly able to believe what she was seeing or hearing.

"I repeat," said the disheveled anchor, "Preliminary reports indicate that millions, if not billions of people worldwide have disappeared." "Including..." he shook his head sadly and looked down at his desk, apparently ready to burst in to tears. A close shot of a woman filled the screen. She was on her knees in the middle of a street, eyes closed tight and mouth drawn back in an expression of sheer agony. In her uplifted hands she cradled an empty infant's jumper. The anchor composed himself and looked back at the camera. Silent tears streamed down his cheeks. "Including, as far as we can tell, every single child on the face of the Earth."

He slumped forward on to the desk and began sobbing in to the sleeve of his suit coat. A barely audible, "Oh, Bethany...David...why?" came through the TV's speakers.

A woman appeared on the screen. "We're, uh, we're..." she hesitated, barely managing to stay composed herself, "We're going to go back to coverage of the situation on the roads. If we get any additional information, you'll be the first to know." She reached out and put her arm around the anchor's shoulders as the studio feed faded out.

The sheet enormity of the situation suddenly hit Jenny. Unable to hold herself together any longer, she collapsed to the floor and began sobbing in to her missing son's shirt.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

"In Somalia, they speak Somali" by Patrick Phelan

Patrick Phelan wrote: Whenever I show up to a Left Behind thread, especially... er... when it's a week later, everyone's already said most of what comes to mind for me, and the only respite is to join in and take joy in the off-topicery ("Hello. My name is Infernape Montoya. You whited out my Trainer. Prepare to faint." Two of a kind! I demand to take the pot!) which is why I've been mostly lurking for, y'know, years. But it does occur to me here that it's interesting how many of the efforts to Redeem the Left Behind series-of-events circle around changing the viewpoint character. It's nice to suggest that the problem is Rayford and Buck, and then you remember... um... Nikki Uluru's* speech to the UN, and then only the sweet embrace of sugar dulls the pain.

Actually, I do think that would have been an effective introduction to a speech, if delivered with the proper charisma (Informed Attribute, yes?) and, most importantly, wouldn't involve a hundred and ninety two separate countries. It's like a political version of "HELLO, CLEVELAND! ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?" And by the same token, a sentence or two in Swahili at the start of his response to the Somali ambassador would be a nice gesture, but, yes. Overegging. Rosemary is nice, but if you packed a bunch of rosemary into a thick, egg-solidified log of rosemary, and roasted it, and provided it to me, I wouldn't think it a delicious dinner.

Jeff said: That's because it's neither steaming nor drenched in butter!

Jake said: "Just being here, but the primary language spoken in Somalia is Somali, a semitic language. Swahili is spoken by a small minority of the population, but your suggestion would be equivalent to Carpathia answering the American diplomat in Spanish."

Patrick Phelan responded:

"Asante sana," Nicolae Carpathia said to the man, the expression on his face something like a young Robert Redford being insufferably pleased with himself. "Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali served..."

His expression quickly changed to that of a young Robert Redford wondering exactly why a group of diplomats were hiding sniggers behind their press kits.

"Plank," he hissed out of the corner of his mouth, "I'm losing the crowd."

"Most Somalians don't speak Swahili," said Steve Plank, equally covertly. "They speak Somali. It's a semitic language..."

But the man of the mountains had heard enough, and without thinking twice about it, sent out a wave of Satanic power with a sound like twenty thousand metal voices crying "Hail!" that was quickly forgotten.

The next day in the newspapers, every column but that of Cameron "Buck" Williams (who had better things to do) dealt with a loving hagiography to Nicolae Carpathia - what other man would have remembered Elmi Ahmed Duale's childhood on the coasts, and his speaking of Swahili amongst his immediate family? Certainly not Elmi Ahmed Duale, who spent several hours trying to remember when he'd ever spoken Swahili outside of his professional career - though he surely must have, or he wouldn't have felt so flattered by the great man's attentions - and eventually retired to bed with a headache. which I mean thank you, my one-second investigations with Google plainly served me poorly, and I shall know better in future. Though I am not entirely sure I will not start saying that in Somalia, they speak Spanish.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

3000 Miles from Graceland, Part 5

Rod Logman was pissed. He'd been stuck in traffic for nearly two hours and it didn't look like things were about to get better.

Off to his right a minivan sat on the shoulder. It's doors were open and a woman sat inside, clutching what appeared to be a pair of baby-sized denim overalls and a pink teddy bear. Up in front of him was the wreckage from an accident between a city construction truck and a small sedan. No police were at the scene, although a cruiser had managed to make it to a stopped car in the opposing lane.

Everything added up to one, simple fact: he wasn't getting home any time soon.
"What is wrong with you people?" he cried out impotently, pounding on his steering wheel in frustration. "Why can't anybody figure out how to drive today?"

A white sports car pulled off on to the shoulder and began to sneak around the car accident. Several other cars followed and for a moment it looked like everyone was going to break free of the traffic jam. Then a Honda and a Ford both tried to squeeze in to the space at the same time. The Honda bounced off the larger car and careened in to the concrete barrier. The gap disappeared, taking with it any momentary hope.

Rod slumped forward, hitting his forehead against the steering wheel and accidentally honking the horn. The driver in front of him raised his hand, middle finger extended.

Before he could even think of coming up with an appropriate gesture, Rod's phone rang. He picked it up and looked at the caller ID. It was his wife.

"Yeah, Jenny," he said as soon as he'd flipped it open. "What is it?"

"Where are you, Rod?" she asked, sounding a little scared.

"I'm stuck in traffic. Why?"

"He's gone," she said, "They're all gone."

"Who's gone? What's wrong?"

"Kevin. He's gone. So's Jimmy. So's...everyone."

"What?" Rod felt anger begin to build up and realized he would have to suppress the urge to yell at Jenny and keep her from panicking. "Who's 'everyone?' Where did they go to?"

"Kevin and Jimmy and all the neighborhood kids," Jenny began to sob, "I don't know where they went. I don't know what happened."

"How could they all be gone?"

"I. Don't. Know. Rod." Jenny said, suddenly sounding angry.

Rod sighed. "Okay, calm down. Don't get mad at me."

"I'm not mad."

"You sure sound mad."

"You're an ass," Jenny replied. "Listen to me. Our son is missing. I don't know where he went, I don't know how he left. The police don’t seem to care. I need you to help me find him."

"Okay," Rod said. "I'm stuck in the worst traffic jam ever. I'll be home as soon as possible."
"Fine, then." The phone disconnected.

He flipped the phone closed and dumped it on the passenger seat. "Bitch," he announced to no one in particular. "Probably freaked out over nothing And now she's going to be pissed off at me when I get home. Great."

For several seconds he considered just not going home. That would show her. She seemed to think she could just order him around and get her way. Who wore the pants in the family, though? Who brought home the bacon. He did. That was who.

It would be great. He'd take a couple days off and go on a road trip. Maybe Vegas. He could gamble and drink and hang out at that hotel he'd heard about with the pool where all of the women went topless. He'd probably make a killing at the blackjack table, maybe take a shot at the no limit Hold 'Em games. Jenny never let him have any fun, so he'd finally get his chance.

The more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea. It would be freedom, the kind he hadn't had since the kid was born. Really, since he'd gotten married.

He quickly realized that as much as he liked the idea, he could never do it. He had a kid and a job and responsibilities. Besides, what would everyone think of him if he just up and left? People weren't too sympathetic to deadbeat dads.

No, he decided he'd hang in for a while longer.

Assuming the traffic ever let up.

He smacked the steering wheel and swore at the universe.

Children of the Goats, Part 4

The new kid showed up while Chris was in the middle of the story about the steamshovel.

He told the best stories, Fatima had ever heard. He could remember these amazing ones from before. Stories that didn’t have God or Jesus or anything. People would go do fun stuff that was really fun, and afterwards there wasn’t a lesson to repeat back.

Fatima didn’t stop working, because Hakim would get mad. He was already glaring at the group of kids hanging around Chris. Besides, she could hear just fine if she pulled up buckets of dirt close to where Chris was talking.

This story was about a steamshovel named Mary Ann, and how she dug super fast for her best friend Mike. It was Fatima’s favorite.

Hakim dropped his shovel and walked off. At first Fatima thought he was really mad, then she saw the new boy coming over the hill.

She dropped her bucket and went over to see. Hakim walked fast, and by the time she caught up, Hakim and the new boy were already talking.

“Jonas, right?” Hakim asked. “Your mom’s always making food for the orphans? With lots of boiled cabbage?”

Jonas ducked his head and nodded, staring down at the ground.

“What are you doing here?” Hakim asked. “Why are you digging?” He wasn’t angry, Fatima could tell by his voice. Just confused.

Fatima smiled at the new boy, Jonas. He was a bit smaller than Hakim but bigger than her, and white, with red hair.

“Jenny sent me,” he said.

Hakim rolled his eyes. He didn’t like the whole Jenny-business.

Jonas dug his toe in the dirt. “I want to help. You know,” he pointed at the hole, “dig.”

“Dig for what?”

“Are you snooping or something?” Chris walked up behind Fatima. “A tattletale? Gonna run tell Mommy and Daddy, and score points with Jesus?”

“No.” Jonas shook his head, keeping his eyes on his feet. “I...wanna help,” he mumbled. “Dig.”

“Why?” Hakim asked again. “Why do you want to dig?” He frowned.

“What makes you think we want you help, anyways?” Chris stepped forward.

Hakim put his hand out, stopping Chris. “No, he can stay. If he wants to dig, he can stay.”

“Oh yeah?” Chris asked. He turned to Hakim. “Who put you in charge?”

“You want to be in charge? Go dig your own hole.”

Chris glared. He jerked his hand like he was about to hit Hakim, but stopped. “Fine. But if Jesus-boy tattles, don’t blame me.” He walked off.

“Fine!” Hakim shouted. He turned to Jonas. “What are you waiting for? Go dig!”

It was really annoying how Hakim had longer legs than Fatima. Unfair. She was always running to catch up. Like now, when he saw Jonas walking home. He went way on ahead, really fast. She couldn’t keep up.

Fatima dashed down the road, finally reaching them. They were already talking, and Fatima caught the tail of Hakim’s sentence.

“Maybe I like boiled cabbage,” he said, which was stupid. He hated boiled cabbage, even now, after Jesus made everyone like vegetables. He’d sooner pick leaves off a tree for dinner than eat in the same house as boiled cabbage. Fatima knew. They’d done that once or twice.

Jonas looked straight ahead. “I don’t see why you have to get on me just because I have parents. I mean, why are all of you digging?”

“My mom and dad are in the pit,” Hakim answered. “Just about everyone in my family, except for me and Fatima. They’re in there, and they’re on fire until I dig them out.”

Jonas turned his head and looked at Hakim a moment. His lip wobbled like he was about to cry, but he bit it and kept walking.

No one said anything for a while. It was easier for Fatima to keep up, because Jonas was smaller, and he took slow, trudging steps that kicked up dust.

After a while, Hakim said, “You don’t have to tell me. I’m not gonna make you. You can still come dig if you want. But I really want to know why.”

Jonas. “I remember when everyone was getting burned up in the sun, and no one could go outside?”

Fatima didn’t, but Hakim must have, because he nodded.

“Well,” said Jonas. “I had a big brother. Danny. A teenager. He had a dog, Max. Nobody in my family was Christians, then. One day the sun went weird, and set people on fire. Do you remember that? Everyone had to stay inside.”

Hakim nodded. Fatima didn’t remember it, but she thought she’d had to be inside a lot.

“It was nighttime, and we put cloth and wood over all the windows to keep the light out, and hid in my parent’s bedroom, because it had hardly any windows.”

“We hid in the basement,” Hakim said. “It was dark. Fatima was just a baby. Mommy had a radio. She told me to watch out for spiders and cockroaches, and make sure they didn’t crawl on Fatima.”

“We were supposed to bring the dog in,” Jonas said. “I think I was supposed to. But I forgot, and Mom and Dad were busy, and nobody brought the dog in. Then the sun came up.”

He took a deep breath. His hands balled up into fists. “I heard him out in the yard. Barking, then kind of whimpering. Then...screaming, sort of. Like how he’d yelp when he was hurt, but worse. Horrible. It went on forever. I wanted to got get him. But Dad said no, and Mom wouldn’t let go of me.”

He stopped, and took a few more breaths before speaking again. “Danny was bigger. And fast. He went out after Max. Dad ran out after him, but he must have made it outside before Dad could stop him. I didn’t see. Mom was holding on to me in the bedroom.”

He stopped again, and wiped his eyes with his balled-up hands. “I didn’t see, but I could hear him. Max had just stopped screaming. For just a second, everything was quiet, and I thought Danny had saved Max. But then Danny...started...screaming...” He pressed his hands against his eyes, and took a deep shaky breath.

“Dad came back afterwards. He wouldn’t talk. Mom took one look at him and started crying. I wanted to know where Danny was. Neither one of them would talk. They became Christians just after that. Because God burned Danny up. And I heard he’s still...burning...” He started crying, grinding his fists against his eyes like he was mad at something.

Fatima hung back a moment, then went over and patted him on the elbow. “It’s okay,” she said. “We’ll dig him out. We’ll dig everyone out.”

When they got to Jonas’s house, Hakim waved and led Fatima off. She knew he’d been making it up about the boiled cabbage.

“Listen,” he told her, when they’d gotten a bit away. “Don’t go around telling everyone about what Jonas said.”

“Why not?”


“Because what?”

“Because...” Hakim frowned again, and waved his hand for a bit. “Just because. Don’t. It’s not cool, okay? He didn’t tell everyone. Don’t say anything.”

“Okay.” Fatima nodded. She didn’t see why. If everyone knew about Jonas’s brother, they’d understand. But Hakim knew these things, so she kept her mouth shut.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Doctor in the House, Part 2

Michelle grabbed an empty seat. "Let's see, we're going to need an emergency response team to meet us at the gate and get your husband to a hospital as soon as possible," she told the patient's wife. "I'll ask the flight attendants if they can get word to the airport."
"This is your captain speaking. Seattle-Tacoma Airport has shut down. No, I don't know why, but I can guess. We've been diverted to King County International Airport, and should arrive in approximately one hour." The voice on the PA sounded tired.
Michelle swore again. Another complication. In the meantime, the patient's wife managed to flag down a flight attendant, whose nametag read "Sandra," and repeated Michelle's request. Sandra nodded. "I'll have the captain notify Boeing Field."
The woman thanked her, then asked, "Boeing Field?"
Sandra replied, "Another name for the airport we're going to. Boeing tests planes there."
Sometime in the midst of all this, the patient's daughter had emerged from the restroom. Michelle, being somewhat busy, hadn't seen her come out, but now found herself explaining to the young woman what had happened to her father.
"My kids are missing. Am I going to lose Dad, too?" asked young woman.
Michelle assured her that because she'd been able to respond almost immediately, he'd probably pull through. After verifying with Sandra that Boeing Field had been notified of the emergency, she settled in to keep an eye on her patient for the rest of the flight, occasionally talking to his wife and daughter to let them know what was going on.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

LB zork

[see here for original post (and a good time).]

Buck leaves. You are in a large room.

> n

sorry, the checklist requires you to meet the whore of babylon. You take a cab to JFK. There is a payphone here.

> use phone

With what?

> use change in phone

You have no change. An atheist must have stolen it!

> admin login user larTheManjenkins


> thurmond4prez

Welcome larTheManjenkins

> edit checklist

You don't have permission

> list user access 'checklist edit'

-- stud27LaStraw

> enable quickwrite mode

logic disabled

> exit admin

You are in JFK airport. There is a payphone here.

> inv

pistol of heathen whipping +2
Rev. Bruce Barnes notes
enemies list

> use phone

You reach Hattie. She is pleased to hear from you.