Sunday, April 29, 2012

Weekly Prompt Story: Isolation

By Chris Munroe

Well since my baby left me, I found a new place to dwell.

I had to. She kept the house.

And the kids.

I see them every other weekend, but in between it’s just me, alone in the hotel I’m staying in until I find an apartment.

I should be looking for an apartment, but I feel like doing that makes it somehow more permanent.

This is permanent.

It’s my own fault, I know. One lapse in judgment and my life came tumbling down. I have nobody to blame but myself, but sometimes…

…I get so lonely I could die.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A Father's Love

They walk the streets, flesh hanging loose from long dead bones, faces slack and emotionless. Once they hunted, ran down whatever prey they could catch and feed upon, but there’s little prey left nowadays, so now they simply walk. Sleeplessly, endlessly walk, with neither destination nor any real notion of time as it passes.

There was a time they would’ve hunted me, chased me down, but now their eyes slide over me as though I was nothing more than part of the landscape. I’m beyond their notice. Beneath it.

This is useful.

As little as two weeks ago there would’ve been no way I could make my way down this street, crowded as it is with animate corpses, without having my entrails torn from my body and spread across the walls of the nearby buildings. As things stand, however, I’m walking unmolested, carrying with me several boxes, a load heavier than I could once have ever hoped to carry unaided.

Due to the fact that I have a trolley. It’s the trolley that allows me to carry the boxes so easily. I ought to be clear, I’m no stronger than I once was, whatever else about me has changed.

I could have mentioned that sooner.

It just gets hard sometimes.

Hard to focus.



Okay, so down the street I walk, pushing my trolley, carrying several hundred pounds of emergency military rations I found in the now abandoned military compound a few miles from the fortified warehouse in which my encampment is holed up. I pass dozens, maybe hundreds of the dead as I go, but none of them spare me a moment’s attention as they shuffle aimlessly back and forth. I’m invisible to them, or irrelevant, and it’s because of this that I’m sent on supply runs like this. Why I’m sent by myself.

It’s lonely, but I’m doing it for the good of the group back at the Warehouse. I have an opportunity, however briefly, to help them survive a little longer, and I’ll pursue it for as long as I’m able.

I don’t approach the Warehouse from the front, that would draw too much attention to it and nobody wants that. Instead I go around to the back entrance, where an improvised sling and pulley system  has been built and lowered from an open window twenty feet above the ground. I load the supplies onto the sling, bang on the door twice with a fist that moves slower than it did even as early as this morning, and wait.

I don’t know how long I wait.

Time doesn’t occupy my mind in the same way it used to. I know it should, but it doesn’t.

Eventually, a man whose name I no longer remember pokes his head out the window and, seeing me, signals to somebody back inside. The sling begins to rise into the air toward the Warehouse’s window, bringing the treasures I’ve found to the people who need them most.

I realize, as it rises, that I can’t remember specifically how the pulley system works. I think I might have designed it, I ought to know how it works, but I can’t focus enough to recall...

“Thank you, Alec,” the stranger above me calls down once the supplies are unloaded, “I hope you understand how much what you’re doing means to us, we wouldn’t have a hope in hell of survival if it wasn’t for you.”

I try to form words, but all that comes out is a moan. Yesterday I formed words. Not many, and it was uncomfortably difficult, but a few. I wish I could form words, I have so much I want to say.

I want to tell them to keep her safe. She’s beautiful and bright, and she’s only six. She can’t take care of herself. I want to tell them to bring her to the window, so I can tell her daddy loves her. I want to tell her she’s my whole world, and that I’d do anything, will continue doing everything I can, to keep her safe and fed and breathing.

It’s probably for the best that I can no longer speak. I wouldn’t really want them to bring her to the window. I don’t want her to see me like this.

I do wish I could remember her name, though…

So I moan, then turn, trolley in tow, and start making my way back through the alley and around to the front of the warehouse. I think I can make it back to the military compound for one more load before the rest of what I once referred to as my “self” slips away. I hope I can. It’s too important not to.

I hope I can remember where the compound is.

I hope I can remember how to tell the difference between the boxes of supplies, and get the ones that might be of some use.

I hope that by the time I return I’m not so far gone that I forget to go around back.

And they say things nowadays are hopeless?

I shuffle out into the street, still moaning, and the dead moan a greeting back at me. It would be so easy to lose myself in what’s happened to me in the days since I was bitten and join them.

So easy.

So tempting.

But I can’t.

Not yet.

I still have work to do.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekly Prompt Story: The Moon

The Moon
By Chris Munroe

There’s a whole lot wrong in the world.

The globe is warming, and we’ve passed peak oil. Our governments tell us we’re safe from terrorism, but you know we aren’t. A handful of bankers and lobbyists can destroy the global economy and be rewarded with billions of our tax dollars for it.

And yes, sometimes this gets me down, but when it does all I have to do is remember…

The moon.

We walked on the moon.

We walked on the fucking moon.

So yeah, please, look me in the eye and tell me we can’t overcome our collective challenges…

Friday, April 20, 2012

When David Henderson Wakes Up...

...he’ll find both himself and his bed drenched in blood. Were he to have the blood tested, he’d learn it was human.

I somehow doubt he’ll have it tested.

Instead, once he’s done screaming, he’ll probably shower, gather his bedclothes and dispose of them as best he knows how. He likely won’t dispose of them very well.

He didn’t plan to  need to, after all.

He’ll wonder what happened to him, what he did while he slept. He’ll wonder if he killed someone, and who, and if police are moments away from breaking down his apartment door.

He did, it was a homeless person nobody will ever miss, and no, in case you’re wondering.

He doesn’t need to worry. But he will.

He’ll worry more and more as the weeks go by, obsessing over the moments after he awoke, straining himself to remember what happened, what led to that one horrible morning. He’ll never remember a thing.

Maybe he’ll someday put the experience behind him and get on with his life, telling himself it was only a nightmare, a brief nervous breakdown and that it never really happened. Some people do.

Though they’re never the same afterward.

More likely he’ll never get over it. More likely the guilt and shame and sorrow, and the endless unanswerable questions, will haunt him until the end of his life.

Maybe he’ll end his own life. Many do.

Either way, he’ll never know for sure what happened while he slept, because he wasn’t in the driver’s seat.

I took him, you see, while he slept. I borrowed his body, since he wasn’t using it, and I hit the streets. I picked someone at random, I killed him with a butcher knife from David Henderson’s kitchen, and then I threw the knife into a nearby dumpster.

The police will never trace the knife back to David, because I washed the knife and I put gloves on him before picking it back up, but mostly they’ll never trace the knife back to him because they have no reason to suspect, even for a moment, that he might be a killer.

Because he’s not. And if you kill somebody, once, and you choose your victim at random, you can still get away with murder, even in this day and age.

A lesson I wish I’d learned in life, though I’m not sure I could have followed it. I was good at picking my victims at random, but I could never stop at just one.

That’s how they caught me.

David, on the other hand, will never be caught, because he will stop at one. One horrible night, one terrifying morning, and he’ll never have to help me this way again.

I know he’ll never be caught because none of the other people whose bodies I’ve borrowed ever have been. And there’s been a lot of them, I’ve been doing this since they executed me and nobody’s been caught yet. They’ve gone mad, on occasion, and they sometimes kill themselves, but they never, ever get caught. And neither will David.

And next week, when the urge builds within whatever astral thing I have instead of a living body, I’ll possess someone other than David Henderson to fulfill my mission. And while David loses his mind from fear, guilt and paranoia I’ll be merrily going about my business using new hands each time I kill.

I never possess the same person twice for my nightly excursions, you see. But I admit, I do try my best to keep track of what they do after I’m done with them, how they manage their guilt and pain or how they fall apart.

As the years go by, I’ve learned that that’s half the fun.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Weekly Prompt Story: Hugs

By Chris Munroe

Come in, everybody, help yourself to a seat.

As you certainly all know by now, Johnson’s been let go as of this afternoon and the company is in the midst of an exciting new lawsuit, and so I’ve been asked to reiterate our sexual harassment policy.

We do not, never have and will never tolerate inappropriate or uninvited physical contact among our staff.

Ever. No exceptions.

In that light, effective immediately our “hugs, not drugs” policy will be rescinded. Hugging will be met with immediate disciplinary action.

And drugs, of course, are now perfectly acceptable.

So: Anybody got a hookup?

Friday, April 13, 2012


I don’t even remember their names now, but that’s to be expected, it happened more than twenty years ago.

I was young, eight if I had to guess but I can’t say for certain. My parents owned a cabin in the woods by a lake up north, and we’d weekend up there whenever we got the chance.

It was beautiful area in the summer. It was miserable in the autumn. I have a number of memories of the place, some fond.

As I said, I don’t remember their names now. They were friends of convenience, we had nothing in common other than the fact that we were the only three kids within a hundred miles of the lake, and I never thought to maintain contact with them when my parents finally sold the cabin years later.

Not that I could have. It isn’t like Facebook was a thing that existed back then.

Still, friends of convenience or no, they were friends, and for the weekends our parents brought us there we were inseparable.

We’d swim, or explore the forests surrounding our various cabins, or “rock climb” the nearby hill. I’m sure the hill was nothing more than a gentle slope, but the time, to my eight year old mind, it was Everest.

It was climbing the rocky hill where it happened.

One of them, I want to say his name started with an R, Ryan? Roland? One of them, at any rate, stumbled partway up. This is no surprise since we rarely, if ever, made it all the way to the top. It did get pretty steep toward the end and we were children, after all. He stumbled, caught a nearby bit of bush with one hand, took two steps back, and righted himself, breathing heavily from adrenalin at so nearly having fallen down the hill. He looked gleeful that he hadn’t.

Then he looked down, noticing the ruined nest he’d stumbled into in his attempts to maintain his balance.

They were on him in a heartbeat, a tornado of black and yellow with Richard, or Reggie, or whatever his name was at it’s center, screaming in pain and fear as they defended what was left of their home.

A good friend would have done something to help him. So would a responsible adult. Sadly neither one was available so me and the other kid, I can’t even guess what his name might have started with, stared with a shock mingled with natural childlike curiosity, unable to look away, fascinated by the process as they tore him apart.

“Are they bees, or wasps? Or hornets?” One of us asked.

“I don’t think they’re bees, don’t bees die after they sting somebody?” The other replied.

We agreed that this was so, but still couldn’t decide if they were wasps or hornets. For eight year olds, we had a distressingly limited knowledge of entomology. We argued over the matter, choosing sides at random and switching them often, as the insects continued their work and our “friend” continued screaming in vain for our help.

We continued arguing over it until the hornets, or wasps, or maybe they were bees after all, realized that the person who’d destroyed their home wasn’t alone and turned their attention to us.

I don’t know if you’ve ever been stung on the eyelid by an angry bee, but I have and I’ll tell you: The experience is unique to say the least.

Suddenly we were running, the three of us, the two relatively untouched helping the third along as his face started to swell and his breathing became more and more labored. We ran, though we had no idea where we were running to, and the swarm of angry insects followed us, nipping at us as we went, not catching up enough to swarm us properly but never falling behind far enough to lose interest.

We ran, propelled by terror and pain, blind and screaming, no plan or destination in mind, like a comet with a tail made of bees.

Or wasps. Or hornets. I suppose in the end the distinction didn’t matter.

Eventually, one of us screamed “The lake!” and we hooked a sharp right and plunged through bushes and trees toward the lake we hoped we could use to ward off our attackers.

By this point parents had been alerted to our screams I’m sure, though we wouldn’t see them for a while.

We plunged into the cold water of the lake and, after I don’t know how long, the insects flew away. We thought at the time they’d lost interest in punishing us, but looking back I realize they were probably looking for an appropriate place to die. It wasn’t as though they had a nest to go back to, after all.

Our parents lost their minds when they saw us, and Rex, or Rufus, I wish I could remember what he was called, had to be taken to the hospital. I don’t know if that was the last I ever saw of him, but he certainly makes no further appearances in my memories of the place. I’d only been stung a half-dozen times and was more or less better by morning, and the other kid got off even easier. Two stings. A swirling maelstrom of angry bees and he got stung a total of twice. I figured he was the luckiest kid in the world, not once stopping as the ambulance pulled away from our cabins to think that so was I.

We kept going to the cabin on weekends for a while after that, but I never enjoyed it as well as I’d done before that day. Eventually, the bloom gone from the rose, my parents sold the place and I couldn’t bring myself to care that those weekends up north by the lake were gone forever.

I got on with my life, no lasting damage done either emotionally or physically by that terrifying childhood experience.


Except, sitting on my couch more than twenty years later, I’m thinking back to that day, and taking a long hard look at my life and my work.

And I’m realizing: Angry Bees really are a trope I go back to time and time again, both in my comedy and in my fiction writing. Is that because there’s a lot you can do with the notion, or is it eight year old Munsi inside me, trembling, still holding his breath underwater, afraid he might drown but more afraid of what would happen if he let his head break the surface of the lake, even for a second?

The things that touch our lives as children, do they haunt us to our graves?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Weekly Challenge Story: Dubstep

By Chris Munroe

I’m gonna drop some sick beats.

No, seriously, these beats are the sickest. You ain’t never heard beats this sick.

These beats are so sick the CDC has declared them a class one biohazard, and warned that exposure to them isn’t safe, dog.

The death rate from exposure to these beats is 96%, and they’re airborne, bro!

That’s right, airborne! No body-fluid contact required for transferral of these sick beats!

These beats are the sickest. The sickest!!!

…and unless the United Nations meets my demands, I will drop these beats.

You have been warned. You have twenty-four hours to comply.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

After the Cataclysm

It’s been said that before the cataclysm he was simply a character in a children’s book. But I can’t bring myself to believe that.

There’s too much to his tale, and it’s too inspiring, to be meant for children.

What child would read a tale of a man born in such tragedy? Before the cataclysm such tragedy would only disturb them.

Afterward, however…

In the time that followed, with the roving bands of marauders going from town to town, we needed his wisdom, we needed to believe that one man, with sufficient dedication to his cause, could stand up against criminality and barbarism, and could prevail.

The name of the first man to apply these lessons in this new world has been lost, but the lessons themselves will be with us forever.

When the marauders come, we stand against them, to protect those who can not protect themselves.

Though we are no longer just one man.

We are an army, a brotherhood, and we travel from town to town through the wastelands, defending the weak and spreading hope, our masks, modeled on his own, leaving no doubt as to whose name we work to glorify….

And once a year, we pilgrimage back to our holy order’s capital city, to remind ourselves why it is we risk our lives for strangers. We gather to hear his stories told, though we know them by heart, and to feel the wonder of his presence.

The high-priest takes his spot at a podium built in a cave beneath the city, ancient text in faded color before him, and readies himself for the telling.

“Are you prepared,” he asks us, “to receive this holy sacrament?”

“Holy sacrament, Batman!” We reply as one…

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Weekly Prompt Story: Fool

By Chris Munroe

I won’t use this prompt as an excuse to do a story about Mr. T.

I’m better than that, and I’ve gone to that well too many times already.

I mean, it’s 2012, does anyone but me even remember Mr. T?

I have the breadth and depth of my creativity to explore, and I can come up with something original and insightful if I work at it.

But it’s hard to resist! Knowing I could turn this prompt into a Mr. T gag so easily makes every word I type agony!

Will nobody take pity on me?

Zod damn it…