A science fiction story about the end of the world, love, zombies, money, business, mice and men, and everything else.
Episode One: The heart of a hero
Episode Two: Love hurts
Episode Three: God speed your love
Episode Four: Two hands ain’t good enough
Episode Five: Part One: Rape of the Sabine Women
Episode Five: Part Two: Rape of the Sabine Women
Episode Six: Everything counts in large amounts
Episode Seven: Love Never Fails
Episode Eight: Princes of the Universe
Episodes and/or related writing are published on this blog – most Mondays and Wednesdays. Please subscribe to this blog to get a reminder when the next episode is published.
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Gnarls Barkley, Crazy
The Book of Carrot
Book One: Principal Virtues
Chapter One: Love is a battlefield
Episode Nine: Technobohemian Dreams
Tomorrow is the deadline; Technobohemia wants to know if we’re ready to sign.
I’m asking you to sign the attached agreement before noon, today, and return it to me.
This deal is on the fence until we get all 12 guilds on board. We’re waiting for the remaining three signatures – including yours.
If this deal happens, we’re all going to cash out as multi-millionaires in two to five years.
I appreciate how you stepped up to the bat when I tendered our proposal to the top guilds – you won half the guild leaders with the way you stepped up to the plate. You have everything you asked for and a little something extra – you’ll see what I mean when you review the agreement.
If you sign before noon, you’ll get a cash bonus of 250,000 Euros… real money – payable on receipt of a signed agreement.
Obviously, Fire of Heaven is the largest guild in the game. With 10,000 members, FOHs commitment to this commercial development means the world to my Board of Directors.
John printed three copies of the agreement, reviewed it, signed and stamped all three copies, and then he called a courier for pick up.
He forwarded Noah’s email to his dad, Cristina, and his lawyer.
Cristina replied immediately.
OMG! Superrr!!! Are you going to sign it?! I’m dying to know…
John remembered how years and years ago, he and his grandmother waited to get money from the Western Union window at the bank. That 1000 dollars he got every month from his dad was food, water, electric, clothes, and sundries for everyone: his grandmother, his aunts, and him.
The money didn’t go far. They had to stretch it like a rubber band – often to the breaking point.
But things had changed.
Everything changed when John had gone to America to live with his dad and start high school.
John remembered the hand-washed laundry hanging on fiber optic cables in the bathroom – the cables were an unintended courtesy of the local internet provider. The yellow and brown stained tub and the faucet that always dripped. The toilet never flushed right and you had to fill the tank with a bucket of water for a good flush.
And the toilet paper – that was rough.
He thought of the non-stick frying pans that his father had bought for his grandmother – the non stick peeled after a year because his grandmother used a metal spatula. She had sold the silicone utensils that came with the pots and pans.
His aunt Nicoleta was still cooking with those same frying pans – ten years later.
John remembered his grade school uniform always being one size too small or two sizes too big.
Then there was that year they had no hot water. No hot showers and that winter was a cold one.
John returned to reading and responding to his email.
Lumi: Are you ready to celebrate tonight? This has got to be the best night of your life!
Zacharias: What’s this about a celebration? La Boehme? Is your dad coming?
Mihaela: You saved the Hospital – again! Tank Q. AGAIN! Yes to dinner.
George: Are you actually talking to me, again?! Dinner’s good! Ooo la la. La Boehme!
Cristina: Did you sign it?! TELL ME!
Marian: I made my first blog post, John. Check it out.
Fish: Think you forget to mention something. Like how Intelligent picked up the tab! WTG!
Cristina: It’s still no. No to Paris. But YES to dinner.
Dad: Should have told me about Dinner, yesterday. I’m on a plane to New York City to
secure that line of credit for you.
It’s still no…
Cristina’s reply stuck in John’s brain like the smell of wet dog sticks to a room.
Everything was working out – except the one thing that mattered most to John.
John went into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of Vodka off the top of the fridge. He was tempted to call George to join him, but then he thought better of it.
John took the cap off the bottle and lifted the bottle to his mouth.
What had Zach said about trouble? John thought to himself.
What had Mother Washington said? Something, something about being humble and honest.
John was going to have to tell Cristina things. Crazy things. It was the last thing he wanted to do.
What if she thought he was crazy?
He could live with that – if she could live with that.
What would suck and hurt more was if Cristina didn’t believe in him.
“All the money in the world can’t substitute for honesty. Or love. Or prayer.”
John heard Mother Washington say it as if she was in the kitchen with him. He looked around – just in case. He was alone.
Maybe, I am crazy.
John slammed the bottle of vodka in the sink – the bottle exploded into a thousand flying shards.
I need to kill something.
A trail of bloody footprints led back to his office where John was crashed out on an armchair with his headset on.
“Die, fuckers. DIE…”
John’s uniform wasn’t doing the Doc Ock trick and John didn’t know why. The tentacles had receded into bumps on his upper back. But he didn’t care – he had the bearded axe.
John worked his way through one of the secret tunnels under Cismigiu Park – tunnels that had been dug during the Cold War. Such tunnels actually existed in the real world, but John didn’t know if any or all of the tunnels in game mapped to the real world. He had heard there were tougher zombies down here with phat loots.
Yet another potential tourist exploit that Romanians never exploited. Romanians were dumb like that. They had absolutely no instincts for doing business, fascinating tourists, or marketing a solid product or service. If they couldn’t steal it or sell it – even the wise-guys were but one-eyed kings among the blind.
Ahead, he saw something move. His night vision didn’t provide an intelligible picture of what it was. He lit a flare and tossed it ahead.
A blonde haired girl screamed. Apparently, John had startled her. He checked her out – she looked human. John rested the axe.
The girl wore dirty jeans and a tee-shirt with text:
You are your own greatest enemy.
John could barely make out the words.
“It’s okay – I’m friendly,” John said. It was the standard non-hostile thing to say to a PC or NPC.
If you initiated an attack on the PC or NPC after saying that line, the faction cost was double.
She reminded him of Hachi’s little fan – the one with the grandmother at the Schitu Mugureanu Gate of Cismigiu park.
“Do you have any food, Mister?” the girl asked John.
John gave the girl a ration of water and food and asked her name – a standard conversation or quest starter for NPCs.
My name is Emma Snow; I’m 10 years old. My mother and father are dead and I haven’t eaten in days.
“Emma Snow is not a Romanian name,” John said.
“That’s right, it’s not Romanian. My parents worked at the British Embassy, Mister John.”
“How do you know my name?”
“I can read people’s minds.”
John shivered – not in the game.
“What else do you know about me, Emma?”
“If you don’t tell Cristina your secret soon – things aren’t going to work out like they should…
“You don’t have much time left, Mister John.”
John force quit the game.
That’s a mind-fuck for AI! John thought to himself.
But John didn’t believe in coincidence as random accidents. He immediately called Cristina.
“Can we meet for lunch?”
“Sure. Can you be here in 15?”
“Love you too.”
John and Cristina kissed outside the cafe and then found a table under a cloud of cool mist.
“What’s up? Did you sign? TELL ME already!”
“I signed it,” John said with a big grin.
“OMG! OMG! You’re going to be rich!”
“That’s crazy! You’re going to make millions because you play a game. How awesome is that!”
“I have something else to tell you. It’s even more crazy…”
“What is it, John?” Cristina asked excitedly.
“I have to get you out of Bucharest before something bad happens. I’ve… I’ve been dreaming about it all my life…
Christian just started at John, her brows furrowed and her mouth wide open.
“Huh?” she said after a minute.
“I have to get you out of Bucharest – before something bad happens. I can’t stand to see it happen to you again.”
“What do you mean by ‘again’.”
“Cristina, I’ve seen it happen a hundred times in dreams since I was three years old.”
What do you mean by ‘it’?”
“You die. You get shot in the back of the head. You die in my arms…”
“Are you feeling ok, John?”
John felt sick to his stomach.
“Or is this your crazy way to convince me to just pick up and go to Paris with you?”
Cristina smiled and reached over the table to hold Johns’ hands.
“I love you, but Paris is not going to happen. I’m doing my thing – we talked about this.”
Cristina’s phone rang. It was Marian.
“Okay, Marian. I heard you.”
“We’ll take about this later…”
“Fuck you! Fuck you, John!
I can’t believe you’d manipulate Marian into playing a role in this crazy scheme. He’s just a little boy – a disabled little boy! You’re an asshole, John.”
Cristina got up abruptly and her chair fell over backwards. John jumped up and went to hold her, to explain things better, and to make her understand that he had nothing to do with whatever Marian had said.
The waiter started yelling about damages. The guard, a big man and who looked like he had just been rudely awaken from a nap, came outside and grabbed John right away. Cristina fled.
John got a new email.
Emma: You are your own greatest enemy.
John had just paid for various intangible damages when his phone rang – it was Cristina.
“I don’t know what’s going on, John.
I don’t know why you’re doing this to me.
But I’m going to be there for you tonight. Because I love you. But, tomorrow, you’re going to come clean. You’re going to apologize. You’re going to tell Marian he doesn’t need to lie for you.
If you don’t – you’ll never see me again.
Do you understand, John? Never again.”
Cristina hung up.
Cristina’s phone rang. It was Marian again.
Marian was screaming and he was slurring his words so she couldn’t understand what he was saying.
“I’m coming home, right now…”
Cristina arrived at her apartment building to see smoke pouring out of their apartment window.
The firemen hadn’t arrived yet; Cristina raced inside. The elevator was broken, so she raced up the three flights of stairs to her floor. Marian was waiting for her in the stairwell landing of their floor.
He had three suitcases on each side of him and he was sitting on a seventh. Smoke was seeping out of the cracks of the door into the hallway.
“What happened, Marian – are you ok?!” Cristina asked frantically.
“We’re going to go live with John,” Marian replied articulately, calmly with a very happy smile.
The apartment was destroyed but no other apartments were damaged. The fireman’s report would read that there was no evidence of arson, accident, or explosives. The absence of explosives, however, was puzzling as no one could understand how part of the external-facing wall of the apartment blew out. It left a gaping hole in the side of the building.
Unfortunately, Cristina’s father hadn’t insured the property – rarely do Romanians insure their property.
John and Bogdan, the driver, arrived not long after Cristina had called John. They took the suitcases and put them in the truck. As Cristina was getting into the truck, she reminded John that their temporary move-in didn’t settle anything. She also reminded John that he shouldn’t forget what she had expected of him.
“I’m serious!” Cristina said stubbornly.
Marian rode shotgun with an unabashedly, bigger smile.
“OMG – your apartment burned down?! What are you doing here! You should be taking a long, warm, bubble bath,” said Lumi.
“I’m ok and this is John’s big night,” Cristina replied.
“You’ve found a strong woman, John. Beautiful. Intelligent. And gracious too,” noted Zach as he petted his square, white beard.
“If there’s anything George and I can do to help, don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Yeah, that sucks. I’m here for you, Cristina,” George added.
You know – we have a lot of friends at the Hospital. We can help with the clean up,” offered Mihaela.
“That would be great, Mihaela. Thanks!” replied Cristina.
“I propose a toast…” Lumi said as she stood up. George looked her over. Lumi was hot.
“To John and Cristina. May they live happily ever after!”
Everyone clinked champagne glasses and took a sip.
“I’m very excited to say, speaking as the Chief Brand Officer of Intelligent, that I am absolutely thrilled John is going to be the official spokesman for our K-9 Intelligent Eyewear line.
I’ve been waiting a long time for an epic reason to come home to Romania. I’m so glad it’s you, John.”
“Welcome home, Lumi,” John replied.
“Welcome home, Lumi!” toasted a man at the next table as he raised his glass. His companion sneered at him.
John recognized the man’s companion as none other than Noemi. Noemi raised her glass to John.
“Congratulations, baby,” Noemi silently mouthed to John. “Maybe, next time. Maybe…”
Cristina noticed Noemi’s silent whispers to John and gave him a passionate kiss to make it clear that John was hers.
“Aw! I love when love is in the air,” Lumi said with a smile.
“I’m available,” offered George.
“I don’t think so, young George of the Jungle,” Lumi shot back with a grin.
“But your dad here – now Zach here has the sexiest beard ever. It makes me hear ZZ Top singing Legs!”
Zach laughed out loud – he was old enough to easily be Lumi’s dad and he told them so.
Then Zach patted his big belly and said, “What is love? For I have forgotten.”
My stomach is just too damn big!”
Cristina pulled John closer and whispered in John’s ear.
“…where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.”
John’s heart was so large that he almost expected it to burst.
“Really?” John asked her with a whisper.
“Really,” Cristina replied.
“Thank you,” John told her and they kissed.
“Thank you for what?” Cristina teased. “Love never fails. Right?”
John stood up and raised his glass to everyone – to everyone in the world.
“God bless us, everyone.”
“Well said, T-T-Tiny Tim…
W-w-well said,” rejoined the intrusive man from the next table.
John noticed now that the man bore a remarkable resemblance to the British Actor, Anthony Hopkins. He wore a white-flannel, slim fitting suit, a silver shirt, and a tie of woven gold and silver thread.
He wore that white suit like a declaration of war. Or treason. And it was masterfully tailored.
The Great Gatsby would have envied the man.
Just then, a tall, dark and handsome Indian gentleman entered the room and went to the Hopkins twin.
The gentlman was dressed in a United Nation Officer’s uniform. He whispered in the ear of Hopkin’s twin – who stood up at once. Then the officer moved behind Noemi and pulled her chair back as she rose.
As the three distinguished guests took leave of the dining room, Lumi noticed that the man in the white suit was barefoot.
“Can you believe that!”
What?” asked George.
“The man in the white suit had no shoes,” explained Lumi.
John went pale. As did Zach.
“Did I say something wrong?” Lumi asked.
John excused himself from the table and grabbed the empty bottle of champagne as he went.
“I’ll be right back,” he added.
John ran outside as the white Rolls Royce pulled away from the entrance of La Boehme. Noemi hung out the passenger window and blew John a big, sweeping kiss.
John, however, felt the presence of someone standing behind him.
“But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid scheme of mice and men
Go often awry,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain
For promised joy!”
The barefooted man concluded the recitation of the stanza from Robert Burn’s poem with a chuckle.
John turned around and looked the barefoot man in the face.
“Whatever are you going to do with that champagne bottle, John?”
“Who are you and how do you know my name?” John asked.
The barefoot man unknotted his gold and silver tie and pulled it off from one side; then he unbuttoned his collar.
I dressed especially for tonight. I was sure you’d pick up on the Fitzgerald reference.
John was silent; thinking. Fire roared through his brain with fury and fear.
“Like you, I have dreams and nightmares, aspirations and great expectations…”
“I’ve got a Dream with a capital D,” explained the barefoot man.
“It’s about time for a little shake-up, a dash of revolution and a fistful of something strong. A something to get us all focused again on solving the bigger problem – the problem of pain.”
Addendum 1: Mircea Badea 1
“This is Mircea Badea reporting to you live at Regina Elizabeta where fire fighters attempt to control the fires ravaging and threatening historical buildings and monuments. The fire began at The French Bakery – shortly after it was stormed and vandalized by hundreds of angry vagabonds. Apparently, the mob came to the shop with outrageous demands for free bread.
Free bread – wouldn’t that be nice! Are you people stupid? Whoever heard of such a thing!
An employee of the bakery just explained to me that a customer from the previous day had handed out free bread to those waiting to buy day-old bread. She believes this frivolous, self-inflating expression of misguided sympathy set the stage for today’s violence and wanton destruction.
The owners of the bakery have informed me that they do not intend to re-open the 20 year old business.
Another one bites the dust!
The currently unemployed, former employees of the French Bakery have asked me to pass on a special message to that trouble-making and misguided customer:
‘Go fuck yourself!’
We now believe that the fires claimed the lives of ten families living in the apartments above the French Bakery. The death toll is currently estimated at 30 men, women and children. Authorities, however, fear that total death count will be higher when the fires have been extinguished and an inspection of the properties can be made.
‘This is a tragedy of spectacular and grim proportions,’ commented Madame President from her five star luxury hotel accommodations in the heart of Rome.
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe Madam President can feel bad about what’s happening here when she has a glass of sparkling martini in her hand and the view of the Spanish Steps. If only I was so lucky…
Madam President is attending a conference of European leaders to discuss the ongoing efforts of the European Union’s attempts to manage rising sea levels, the consequences of climatic change, global food shortages and relocation of European populations in high risk zones.”
Mircea held up a bag of marshmallows.
“Come back to Romania and roast Marshmallows with me, Madame President. Romania has no interest in the problems of the European Union. Nor do we welcome our unfortunate European brothers and sisters with open arms – especially not to the poor and unfortunate refugees of the submerging coastal cities.
We have troubles enough.
Tell the Chinese to solve the problem. They own enough real estate in Europe to be concerned about the value of their investments. Right?
We also have an opportunity.
As Western Europe continues its death march into oblivion, economic and otherwise, most of Eastern Europe is relatively unaffected by rising sea levels and extreme climatic changes. Our agricultural exports continue to rise for the third year in a row.
We are peasants. We are not peace keepers. We have landcraft and animal craft – not diplomas and think tanks for conflict resolution, public safety and international relations.
The lesson of the French bakery is a lesson for us all. Enlightened interests, moral character and hope are the greatest enemies of the Romanian people and state.
Next Episode: It’s getting kinda hectic
All Rights Reserved by Stan Faryna
20 October 2012