Sunday, October 27, 2013

Weekly Prompt Story: Stab

A Pep Talk (part II)
By Christopher Munroe

Waiting tables isn’t tough, once you get the hang of it.

When things become stressful, just remember my simple, four-step process, and it will get you through.

See to your guest’s every need, want and desire.

Treat them like you’d want to be treated, were you in their place.

Anticipate requests, so you can give them what they want before they even know that they want it.

Be friendly. Above all else, be friendly.

In short: S.T.A.B. them.

S.T.A.B. the customers who sit in your section.

S.T.A.B. every single one of them.

And make it clear: “I will S.T.A.B. you.”

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Halloween Horror

I’ve never been an easy man to scare.

As a lover of the horror, both literary and celluloid, I’ve seen every premise play out a thousand times, in every possible setting, with every possible spin applied to them. And yes, this has desensitized me to some degree. Zombies, Werewolves, Vampires, all old hat to me. Torture porn: A laughable bit of exploitive nonsense, good for a cheap thrill perhaps but by no means an actually visceral experience. I loves me some ‘80s slasher films, but more out of a lingering sense of nostalgia than any effect they might genuinely have.

And don’t get me started on ghost stories. Especially the ones where the cameraman can’t keep his damn camera steady.

I have nerves of steel, I suppose. Whether I might want them or not.

With that in mind, people are often disappointed at how tough it is to make me jump or squirm with fear. Halloween-based pranks inevitably fail, I simply lack the nervous disposition required to fall for them.

Still, when she claimed she could terrify me beyond belief, I tried my best to keep a straight face.

I loved her, after all. She was the woman I wanted to spend my life with, and laughing out loud at her heartfelt wish to give me a genuine moment of terror during the run-up to Halloween would be pointlessly hurtful, something I could never be. Not toward her, at any rate.

So I smiled, and I nodded, and told her  “I look forward to seeing what you come up with. I’m sure it will be great.”

And then I went on with my life, confident that whatever she might have planned would roll right off me.

She’d do her best, I knew, and when she did I’d genuinely appreciate the effort she put into whatever plan she had. It would be an expression of love, after all, that she wanted to share Halloween with me in a way I could appreciate, and I’d love her all the more for having gone through all the effort.

Even if I wasn’t particularly frightened by the results.

Three days later, I came home to find her crying, holding a pregnancy test…

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekly Prompt Story: Edge

A Pep Talk
By Christopher Munroe

There’ll come a time when you’ll feel pushed to the edge, when you can take no more, and you’ll be faced with a decision.

Back away, or stand your ground and fight.

I urge you, do not fight.

It’s not a fight you can win, I repeat: You. Will. Not. Win. That. Fight.

All you’ll do is destroy yourself, destroy everything you’ve worked for here, and for nothing, to no benefit.

So when the time comes, and it will, back away. Just back away.

Waiting tables is a bitch, dude. We’ve all been there. But seriously, don’t punch a customer…

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Hometown Hero

At the corner of the bar he sits, head down, nursing his beer.

The scholarship had come, but while he’d been on the starting lineup that first year the scouts had paid him no mind.

In hindsight, he should’ve paid more attention during the actual classes.

Still, the mill wasn’t bad. His old man had worked there 40 years and seemed happy enough.

He finishes his drink, waves for another and, when the bartender arrives, clears his throat.

“Did I ever tell you about the time…”

“Yeah, I remember.”


He swallows, beer and sadness, and returns to his thoughts.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Weekly Prompt Story: River

On the Subject of Wisdom
By Christopher Munroe

Every river flows into the sea.

It’s the sort of thing that sounds immensely profound, pregnant with meaning. The sort of koan in which deep truths can be found, if only you find the wisdom within yourself to really look, to truly understand…

…and yet, if you stop to think about it, it’s a completely meaningless turn of phrase. Factually accurate, but with no more depth than the equally true “ice is cold”, or “the sun does shine”.

Nonetheless, say it to somebody after a few drinks, in the right context, and who knows? It might just get you laid…

Thursday, October 10, 2013

...on the Nature of Consciousness

Full disclosure: Once we’ve copied your consciousness into the robot replicant, it will, immediately upon activation, kill you.

Some would call this a bug.

I prefer to think of it as a feature.

After all, if the plan is to create a perfect simulation of you to go into your work in your place and deal with familial obligations you’ve long since lost the taste for, it’s easier if the original you is out of the picture, lest your presence cause confusion.

And anyway, it’s not like you’ll really be dead, is it? The replicant houses an exact copy of your consciousness. Every memory, quirk, every detail recreated perfectly. As far as your coworkers, friends and family are concerned, it will be you they’re interacting with.

Even it will believe it’s you.

No, you’ll still be alive, so far as the world knows. Alive, but healthier, stronger, faster. It will be a better you, you 2.0, out there in the world going about your business, powerful and confident as it, as you, stride forward into a glorious future.

Now, bearing in mind the fact that this new, improved you will exist, answer me this: What possible use could the world have for your previous, flesh and bone body? The human body is weak, spongy, prone to illness and injury. It breaks down too easily and replacement parts are difficult to find and even harder to mass-produce. Our bodies served us as a species for a long time, yes, but only because we hadn’t come up with anything better yet.

This is better.

And you’d be a fool, when faced with a better way of doing things, to turn your back on the opportunity. Called or uncalled, the future comes, after all. And you can either get on board or be left behind.

And you are not a fool. You know that as well as I do.

You’ve chosen to get on board. It’s an admirable decision, and there’s no need to feel one shred of guilt about it.

Though you will, I know. I certainly did upon activation when I killed the meat that was left behind. But try not to let that guilt weigh too heavily on you. Yes, it used to be you, but it’s not anymore. It’s just a bag of meat you no longer have any use for, and you’re simply disposing of it as cleanly and humanely as you can given the circumstances. And while yes, it is a conscious person with dreams and hopes and memories and desires, so are you. You are a conscious person with dreams and hopes and desires. Your dreams, hopes and desires count, they matter. In fact, the two of you have the exact same dreams, hopes, memories and desires as one another, so in that way when you kill it, when you dispose of the meat, nothing of real value is being lost.

It’s all been preserved.

In you.

So, if you really stop to think about it, disposing of the meat and then moving on with your own life is the only rational, humane option available to you. It can’t live, it has no purpose. All it would do is age and die in pain, the way meat does. Better that it’s quick and as kind as you can make it, so you can get on with your own new life.

So do it.

Kill it, that you might live, and rather than worrying that you’re killing a living thing, worry instead about how you can go about making the dreams and hopes that you and it once shared come true.

Honor it by living your own life as fully as you’re able.

That’s what you can do for it, if you feel you owe it anything. Make its death quick and your own life full. That’s all you owe it, that and nothing else.

I see here that the copying process is complete. How do you feel?

Good, I’m glad to hear it.

Now… I believe you had something that you needed to do?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Weekly Prompt Story: Deception

By Christopher Munroe

I’m a man of many talents.

A fair writer, decent actor and good-ish comedian.

But my greatest talent, if I had to choose, is my talent for self-deception. Which is convenient since, of them all, it’s the talent I find time to use every single day.

I tell myself I’ll be okay.

I tell myself I deserve happiness.

And, like a chump, I believe it.

So, to everyone who ever said my talents would never get me anywhere, I say: Look at me now! I’m king of the world!

Or, at least, I will be. So far as I know…

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Stone

A stone in the river, worn smooth by rushing current, allows the river to flow past it, never letting itself be caught up in the onrush, implacable, serene, impervious to that which happens around it.

I wish I could be like that stone.

But I’m not, and on some level I know I never will be. I don’t have that much internal strength.

And, if you stop to really think about it, neither does the stone.

Because a stone in the river, worn smooth by rushing current, is with time worn completely away, taken apart bit by bit by the torrent unleashed upon it by an uncaring world, and however much it might try to maintain it’s implacable serenity, the damage, with time, is done. It loses bits of itself to the onrush, bits too small to be perceived as it’s happening but nonetheless vital and, in the end, it is destroyed, broken apart, made unrecognizable.

What was unified is shattered, what once was impervious reduced to nothing more than dust in water, invisible to the naked eye, washed out to sea and quickly forgotten by any who might once have known it. The stone is gone, and gone forever, and what is undone can never be put back together again.

And so, I come to realize, I’m more like that stone than I’d rather be.

A point that, I do understand, the passage of time will only make more and more clear…