Consequences of Cliche

He couldn’t let it end this way, he couldn’t let her go. He realized that now, but was it too late? He looked at his watch: forty minutes. Forty minutes until the love of his life was to board the plane that would carry her out of his life for good. Everything around him stopped. Forty minutes. A thirty minute drive to the airport. Could he make it? He took a deep breath. Yes. Yes he could do it. For true love he was willing to break a few traffic regulations. With a sudden determination in his hurried steps and butterflies dancing around in his stomach he grabbed the keys from the table and rushed out to his car.

Seven minutes. That’s how much time he had left to find her when at long last he arrived at the crowded terminal after breaking every speed limit and carelessly double parking just outside the gates. He almost panicked as he ran towards the departure lounge, all the time scanning the crowds for a familiar face. What if she had already boarded? They’d never let him aboard the plane to talk to her.

He cursed himself again and again. He should have known how it must have looked to her, he should have never let her drive away in tears before explaining the situation. It had all been a terrible, terrible misunderstanding. The other woman had been his sister, come home from Rome and living with him in secret in order to avoid her abusive ex-husband. The ring had been an heirloom from their mother, that he had been asked to pass on to her daughter. But how should she have known? She had been hurt before, he should have been more careful. He should have been less stupid, he should have…

And that’s when he saw her, on her way to the shortening line to the check-in desk. She wiped at her eyes with a white napkin and her makeup was all smudged across her cheeks. And even so, in that moment she was more beautiful than he had ever seen her. He stopped, completely taken by the sight of her.

He called her name across the room, and she slowly raised her head and met his eyes. For a moment time stood still. He tried to catch his breath, thoughts and fears running rampant through his head. He wanted to explain, to tell her everything, to make her understand.

”Will you marry me?”, he called instead. The room went completely silent. Her eyes widened, tears still trickling down her cheeks. Then a smile started spreading across her face, and she dropped her bag to the floor.


On board flight FR 5992 people had settled in their seats and were now waiting for departure. They were running late, very late in fact.

”We’re still waiting for a booked passenger”, the stewardess informed Chad Stirling as he asked for the fourth time when they would actually leave. He was impatient, he had a places to be and people to meet. The parcel hidden in his left shoe would have to be delivered to the right people in the Madrid airport within the next three hours, if he wanted to keep his head. They were the kind of people who didn’t wait. Chad Stirling was starting to sweat. He was afraid now, really afraid.


Thirty minutes later they still hadn’t lifted.

”We’re terrible sorry for the inconvenience”, said the flight crew as they handed out free lunch packages and coupons to the increasingly frustrated passengers. ”We’re still not done with the boarding.”

Rosa Hertz tried again to call her ex-husband. Their daughter Adella was seven years old and her plane was probably halfway to the Madrid airport by now. Rosa was supposed to pick her up there in ninety minutes, and then go with her to visit the girl’s grandparents. Adella’s father had put her on the plane, but now she was Rosa’s responsibility. She got not answer. There was no way they would arrive on time. What would happen to Adella?


”The crew is going through the plane’s storage area to remove any luggage belonging to the missing passenger. We calculate being able to lift in approximately twenty minutes. We are terribly sorry for any inconveniences caused, and of course you will all be appropriately compensated for the delay.”

Eighty minutes late, is this a joke? Marcie Dew took a deep breath and struggled to keep her composure. She ran on a tight schedule and couldn’t afford to miss this meeting. She cursed the firm for not affording her a more reliable flight. This commission of trust was supposed to be her way to the top, and now she would probably miss her chance. She would sue these motherfuckers for everything they owned, that was for sure. She just hoped she would still be able to afford it after botching this important negotiation. She leaned back in her seat and struggled to stay calm.


When the plan finally took to the air it was almost two hours late.

Hans Johnson missed out on the birth of his first child. Felicia Rowan didn’t make it in time to say goodbye to her dying mother. Mr. and Mrs. Greenhill missed their connecting flight to Florida where their daughter was getting married the next day. Charlotte Mackey failed to deliver the confidential documents to her contact in Spain, resulting in the secret inter-work between MI6 and CNI being disrupted. Chad Stirling was found dead in a Barcelona gutter later that night, shot through the back of his head while trying to escape an unknown assailant.

Not to mention the general bad mood that was generated by the delay, and which spread like wildfire as the passengers of flight FR 5992 disembarked in Madrid and went their separate ways around Spain.


”Yes!”, she laughed and threw herself into his arms. ”Yes, I’ll marry you.”

And as they embraced there on the departure lounge floor, people started clapping. First slowly, then faster and faster until a storm of applause surrounded them. They both laughed as they kissed, forgetting all about the world around them.

”I’m sorry”, he whispered as he hugged her tightly. He would never let her go again.

”It is I who should be sorry”, she said. ”I should never have doubted you.”

And they took each other’s hands and left the airport together, forgetting all about the plane and the bag and the worries that now lay behind them.

And they lived happily ever after.

Their Master Plan

A long time ago there was an ancient alien race that wanted to take over the world. They were equipped with superior technology and a total lack of empathy. But still, for reasons now unknown, they did not succeed. They went sulkily into hiding and were soon forgotten.

It is no secret that humans like cats. Everybody loves them a nice, furry cat, except for ninja rat mutants and really strange people. And because of this, you would be hard put to find a town where not at least a third of the population keeps a fluffy feline as a lodger.

But people are also lazy, at the same time as they have way too much to do. This results in a situation where cats are left alone for most of the day when their masters are at work, and are left to entertain themselves when the masters at long last get home and are too tired to suitably socialize. Cats are easily frustrated, and masters are easily guilt tripped.

There was only one way this could possibly end, really.

Really was, by chance, also the name of Riley O. Burrow’s cat. ”Riley & Really” was the signature at the bottom of all Riley’s Christmas cards, and on Facebook his professional status was set as him being an employee of a faux company with that same name. The phrase ”oh, Really” was also not seldom heard echoing through his spacious flat as he discovered yet another product of his furry friend’s innovative play style.

When Riley got back from work one evening, he wearily noticed that Really had, rather imaginatively and quite obviously for want of better things to do, turned his masters excessively expensive headphones into a chewing toy.

”Oh, Really”, he sighed as he picked up the sorry remnants of shredded cable that lay sprinkled all over the floor. The perpetrator himself made big eyes and beckoned him into the kitchen – it was time for his dinner. Riley would have loved to not give Really his food tonight, but he was to kind a master for that. So kind a master was he, in fact, that he drove into town the very next day to get the cuddlesome culprit a better toy to play with than his pricey electronics.

He quickly found what he was looking for. A large sign in front of the pet shop advertised the newest innovation: ”The Decoy” – a mouse shaped toy so engaging that it would keep the kitty busy for hours on end. It didn’t run on batteries and was totally child safe. Riley bought it without any hesitation.

Quite correctly, The Decoy became an instant hit when Riley put it down on his living room floor. Really really liked it and was totally absorbed in playing with his new toy from the moment he laid paws on it. He carried it around, beat it across the room, chased it, threw it into the air and fought it furiously with tooth and claw. Riley was content. Now his stuff wouldn’t have to fear being torn to pieces by a restless cat when he himself was at work. He went to bed.

He awoke in the middle of the night from a ceaseless racket. A burglar? He was instantly fully awake and speeding through the room to hit the light switch. But the source of the disturbing noise was just Really, playing with his new toy.

”Oh, Really?”, Riley said and went back to bed. He didn’t sleep much that night, however. The sound of a cat fighting, running, jumping and attacking kept him awake.

He was deadly tired the next day, and decided to throw The Decoy away – or at least to put it away on a shelf. The problem was, he couldn’t find it. Really followed him through the flat and seemed to be looking for the toy as well. Riley realized that his cat must have lost the toy, just as he had managed to lose all other small trinkets he had been given over the years. It was like with socks in the laundry – once lost, they were never found again. Riley decided it was just as well, and went to work – still feeling like undead shit.

When he got home, the cat was already asleep. Riley put new food and water in the bowls on the floor and followed suit. He had struggled to make it through the day in his sleepless state but now, finally, he would be allowed to sleep.

Around midnight the ruckus began. Really chased The Decoy though the apartment, clawed at it, fought it within the confined space of his transportation cage and generally made it impossible for Riley to go back to sleep again. He went up, took the toy from his cat and put it in the trash. Sleep still eluded him, however, and he spent the night in frustrated and futile attempts to get at least some rest.

At work the next day, he was not the only one to shuffle around like a zombie. A co-worker, funnily enough, cursed his own cat for keeping him awake at night. Riley shared a coffee with him, and together they valiantly made it through the day.

When he was again awakened by the sound of cat violence the next night, Riley knew that something was wrong. He had put that toy away, hadn’t he? But there it was again, being violently abused all across his floor by his completely absorbed cat. Riley screamed at his pet, but that didn’t help. He chased Really through the apartment until he got his hands on The Decoy. Once again he threw it away, but just like last night he was too worked up to go back to sleep.

At work the next day, his coffee mate had called in sick. And not just him, actually. Several co-workers were missing, and Riley had to skip his lunch break to cover for everyone.

The following night, The Decoy was back again with a fury. He threw it out the window, but still it was back again one day later. Riley despaired, he didn’t know what to do. After five sleepless nights, Riley, too, called in sick. He couldn’t do this anymore. The people at the office would have to make due.

What Riley didn’t know, however, what that more than a third of his co-workers had had the exact same thought. And not just at his company. People all over the country, all over the world, were calling in sick – for lack of sleep. Their colleagues had to work overtime and skip their lunches, in turn leading to even more people going on sick-leave. Little by little, the world slowed down – until one day it stopped.

And the ancient alien race watched from their sulking hideout and stopped sulking. Their estimations had been correct – cats were the weak spot of humankind and they had aimed their vicious attack correctly. Now the time had come to employ and deploy their superior technology and total lack of empathy, now was the time to shine. And they crept forth from their dark corners, hellbent on world domination.

Riley O. Burrow had been slumbering on his couch, but now he was wide awake, unable to believe the images that flashed before him on the TV-screen. Explosions, fires, floods, an army of space aliens marching through the capital. What the hell was happening, and why didn’t the army do anything about it? A yawning news reporter was held at gunpoint by one of the invaders.

”…and their spokes…person…has ordered me to tell you that all this has been possible because we let their Trojan Horses” – the news anchor stopped, listened to a voice in his earpiece and corrected himself – ”Oh, sorry, let their Trojan Mice, into our homes. This has allowed them to effectively wear all our defenses and infrastructure out from within. And that’s all from CNN News, I’m afraid. Now they’ll finally allow me to go home again and sleep.”

Riley just stared as the news anchor was ushered away and the sacking of the capital continued. His eyes went to his cat, still playing with The Decoy on the floor.

”Oh”, he said, sudden insight dawning on him. ”Oh, really…?”

Securing the Family Business

Another short text in response to a writing prompt. The prompt kind of gives it all away, so I recommend reading the text before clicking the link. Feel free to leave comments!


”But you must surely understand that this is not the medieval anymore?” Mr. Caralhaw adjusted his glasses and shot his client a skeptic look.

”I know, I know”, his client sighed. He had expected this shit, nobody understood him anymore. ”But nobody understands me anymore”, he said. ”They don’t know what they’re getting when they buy into my brand. It’s almost like they think I’m into mindfulness or something these days.”

”Well, aren’t you?” Mr. Caralhaw sounded genuinely surprised.

His client fixed him with his coldest stare. He was quite proud of it, actually. Had taken him several hours in front of the mirror over the years. ”No, I’m not.” He decided to change the subject. ”Anyway, I’m fine with getting the crazies, I’ve always liked them. But recently, I only seem to attract the most narcissistic crazies, those who don’t do any worshiping and hardly even burn churches anymore. Can you imagine?” He was visibly upset now.

”Yes, unfortunately we seem to have had a steady decline in the worshiping and burning of churches since the eighties. Those inclined to adoration of the supernal seem to have moved their activities in more… celestial directions. Things are not what they used to be.”

”You’re not kidding”, his client exclaimed. ”I thought that I could take some time off to prepare for the new baby, but obviously that was asking for too much. After all this time and work…”

Mr. Caralhaw dared a faint smile. ”Well, yes, parenting often affects the career negatively, I’m afraid. But let’s focus on solutions now…” He looked through his papers again. ”I have created a suggestion for a PR-model that I think will appeal to the target group’s sense of self worth, while still leaving space for the acknowledgement of higher powers. Would you please have a look at –”

”No”, his client said sharply. ”I will not cater to those megalomanic good-for-nothings anymore. The customers of the rivaling firm at least remained loyal to the brand while the CEO was on infant care leave. Never mind that they slaughtered the brat later. My own clients wouldn’t even cut me that much slack. So much for that allegiance…”

”So… what will you do?” Mr. Caralhaw was frustrated to see two weeks’ worth of work being thus brushed aside without the slightest consideration, but of course he concealed his feelings carefully.

”I will leave them to their deluded practices for the time being. I’m needed elsewhere, I have to take care of my family. But when the baby has come and I’m back at the office, I will conduct an exhaustive revision of the organization. Ineffective people and programs will be weeded out and replaced. I will rain fire upon my so-called followers and slaughter them in their beds. I will tear down their puny altars to themselves. And then I will start from scratch.” He rose from his chair and collected his jacket and his briefcase.

”Are you sure you want to engage in such a thorough re-organization? It will require both time and funds, and –”

”Yes, I’m sure. This will soon turn into a family business, and I want to be able to pass on something solid to my son. Good day, Mr. Caralhaw. Thank you for your time.” And with that, Satan opened the door and left the office.

Mr. Caralhaw remained behind his desk, wearily looking down at all his futile work and wondering, not for the first time, why he even bothered.

How to write a definite bestseller

After quite a miserable life Mr. Collins was sent to Hell to atone for his sins.

It so happens that no matter how long is the period of time you actually spend in that steaming place, it is perceived by all on the inside as at least thirty years. Don’t ask me why. I don’t know why.

Anyways, it so turned out that for Mr. Collins, the Purgatory was really not that bad. Not worse than the stinking life he’d led on the surface, at least. So while the torture and burning and lashing and flaying wore on, Mr. Collins used the massive amount of relatively passive time to think. And after years of thinking he got the idea for a book. A book so innovative and fresh thinking that it would without question be the best book in the world – if it was ever written, that is.

Decades after his arrival in Hell, a plump man in a gray suit approached him on the rack. He wore an apologetic look and insisted on shaking hands, even though Mr. Collins’ hands were rather… sticky. He explained that regretfully, there had been a minor misunderstanding concerning Mr. Collin’s lodgings, and that of course they would see to it that he was properly compensated for his unnecessary suffering. Obviously this situation was very embarrassing for the family company, and they would appreciate it if he didn’t speak of the incident to his friends.

It was arranged so that he was sent back to earth with a full refunding and a promise of a long and pleasant Second Life as a small but oh, so well meaning apology for the conceivable complications caused by this error on the company’s behalf.

Mr. Collins shrugged and went home, only to discover that his house had been sold in an executive auction during his absence. So he checked into a hotel and started writing his book by hand on copier paper. Three weeks later he finished and could conclude that it really did turn out the best book in the world. The hotel porter, after a quick review, could confirm that this was unquestionably the case.

The manuscript was sent to several major publishing houses, all of which returned within short, completely afire with enthusiasm for what they labeled “the potential bestseller of the century”. All made Mr. Collins juicy offers, but he settled with the one that, among other things, offered him a lifetime subscription of the New York Times and a well bred puppy of his own choice. He didn’t have very high demands on his Second Life.

He moved into a nice villa overlooking Toluca Lake and lived very happily there for the rest of his life. He attracted many fans who had read the Book, and met more women in one year than he had talked to during the whole of his First Life – but he only married one of them. He never wrote another book, and he didn’t go back to Hell.

***

Ms. Morris found a copy of the best book in the world lying on top of her kitchen table one day. She read it in lack of better occupation, and then read it again. And again. She felt that it really fulfilled its promise about strengthening the reader in taking hold of her own life and granting her the tools to follow her own dreams. That’s why she sneaked out of the house the next day and headed for the city.

She had a clear picture in mind of just what parts of herself she wanted to change and how, and it didn’t take her long to find the people who could help her with that. The kindly doctor at the plastic surgery clinic was careful to let her understand that they usually did not do cats, but that for such a charming lady as herself they would be sure to make an exception.

A few hours later she walked out of the clinic, happily testing out her new, very own, dashing woman’s legs. Dressed in some borrowed clothes she set out to explore the city from a somewhat higher point of view than usual. She attracted many impressed looks and would soon find that her new life was to be a pleasant one. The only thing she would have to work a little on was her skittish and feline nature, that seemed not always to fit in with the way that humans expected a young woman to behave. Except for that, she was very happy with her decision to change. And all thanks to the best book in the world

***

Chris Larkman was a sorry figure until he passed by the bookstore one rainy day by chance, and happened to pick up a copy of the best book in the world. He was a slow reader, but a week later he quit his job as a public toilet cleaner and started working on his very own solo album as a singer-songwriter. It just so happened that the owner of one of the major record companies had finished reading the very same book only the night before Chris’ ill recorded demo was sent to him. The book had touched him in a weak spot, and had made him decide to start taking more risks with new talents instead of just betting on the safe old horses. As it turned out, this was a very profitable bet. You have probably heard of Chris – under another name, of course – since he is now one of the leading pop musicians of our time. To think that we would have missed out on him if it weren’t for the best book in the world!

***

Mrs. Louis drove her car to work every day. Until the day she read the best book in the world, that is. After that, she sold her Ford and instead bought herself a nice, blue bike. Now she goes by bicycle to work everyday, and is starting to consider participating in her area’s big bicycle race next summer. She doesn’t even know she was running a high risk for diabetes before she started exercising, and now she will never have to find that out, either. Thanks to the book.

***

Ted was being bullied at school by a boy a year older than him. As a last resort to cheer him up, his mother borrowed him a copy of the best book in the world from the local library. He was a lonely kid, so he finished it in one day. The next day he went to school hell-bent on striking back. Funny thing is, though, that the bully – Jim, he was called – had been reading the book too. He answered Ted’s wallop with not another blow, but with an apology. Today they are best friends. What a great book, huh?

***

Ms. Jamieson finally got herself an apartment of her own. Jack Finnings broke up with his abusive wife and started dating a top model. Simon Curtis chose the police academy instead of the safer but more boring economy program that his parents recommended. Lisa Watson started her own fight club, went to jail for it and met the love of her life behind the bars. Jill practiced for weeks and at last managed to beat the district record in Counter Strike. Mrs. Henrikson finally finished the oil painting she began when she was in junior high, forty years earlier. The book changed the lives of all who read it, and always to the better in some strange way. It made everyone happy that it came in contact with.

***

Except, of course, for God. God started worrying when his angels began complaining about job scarcity, and when even the easy-going Raphael mentioned that he’d been suffering from boredom lately, God decided to look into the affair. It turned out that the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” doesn’t really work out in practice – at least not for the heavenly party. Well, it certainly makes Heaven’s work a whole lot easier if some people just stop complaining and do something about their problems themselves, but it is another thing completely if all people suddenly decide to help themselves. That makes God feel obsolete and supernumerary. And that isn’t a good thing. Unfortunately, that is just what the best book in the world managed to accomplish.

That’s why God banished the book from Earth and let his vengeful angels throw it into Hell, lest they go on strike and force the Lord to go into the troublesome business of sorting out a celestial rising.

The best book in the world was returned to where its idea was first conceived, ’cause even though its contents was very much in line with the supernal, it was also doing its work for it. Nobody ever read the book again, except for the sorry souls in Hades, of course. And I’m sure they found it very useful. But the lives that had already been changed by it remained so, and the Nether Family Company greatly enjoyed this little haphazard consequence of their precedent malpractice – that was by the way completely forgotten thanks to this chain of events. So advantageous was the minor chaos caused by the book, in fact, that they did not back away from the possibility of some day staging another, similar, practical joke on Heaven.

Who knows where next year’s top ranking novel was written?

…Every Cat But Mine

This text was written in reply to a writing prompt that said “Cats around the world start to do strange things like doing their owners taxes, or getting part time jobs to earn them money. Your cat however is incredibly special in that it does absolutely nothing interesting. Ever”. Feel free to tell me what you think!


I was amazed, of course. Maya poured me some more tea and underlined what she had just said with a gesture towards the desk in the corner. I could see a pair of fuzzy ears protruding from behind the monitor, but otherwise I would never have guessed who was sitting there, hammering away at the keyboard like a pro.

”Oh, and the only reason I even bothered to make this tea myself is that Morris is monitoring the stock market right now”, she said apologetically. ”I’m not even interested in that shit, but hell I’m not complaining. I expect him to pull that off just as well as he did that phone call to talk me out of those parking tickets from last week. Those people really can’t handle arguing with a cat.”

I nodded and drank my tea. The brew Morris made was much better, but I didn’t mind. I hadn’t gotten entirely used to this thing with a cat making my tea yet anyhow, and Maya’s attempt wasn’t that bad. ”Yeah, I heard Anderson’s Tanis has taken to repairing the neighbourhood’s cars. I didn’t even know there’s cat sized tools for that yet.”

”Nah, there isn’t. I’ve checked. But Tanis makes them himself from stuff he orders from Ebay. He’s quite the Cat Gyver, that one. I wish Morris was more practical like that.” She cast a fond look towards the corner, where a furry paw just reached into a water bowl and retrieved a few drops before vanishing behind the monitor again. ”Don’t listen to me. Morris is the cat of my life and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.”

I finished my tea and excused myself. In contrast to everyone else nowadays, ever since the Thing happened and the cats suddenly started pulling their weight, I still had to do my own chores and make my own phonecalls. I even had to repark my own car, I noted sourly as I observed Maya’s neighbour cat, Holiday, getting out of the family’s red Kia after moving it a couple of yards down the lane. I got into my own bucket, which started on the third try. I wished, not for the first time, that Mr. Bruce as well would rise to the occasion and learn some mechanic skills, just like Tanis.

On my way home I took note of just how different everything was now, compared to before. There were cats everywhere, doing stuff not even people were expected to be doing on such a regular basis. I could see felines taking out garbage, watching small children, shopping for groceries, painting houses, walking dogs… I even thought I saw a tabby driving past in a police car, but that must have been my nerves playing tricks on me. Right? The headlines were full of amazing stories where furry kittens rescued families from poverty by building shelters and malkins directed blockbuster movies. Of course it was mind blowing, but it also made me irritated. Why could not I, too, be allowed to reap the fruits of this fantastic turn of events?

I arrived home, where I parked my sorry vehicle in the over grown driveway and made my way across the unkempt lawn to the door. The house was in dire need of a new layer of paint, and there were several bags of garbage sitting on the porch. I sighed. It was all good and well that Maya and everyone else got so much help with everything, but I still had to do it all by myself. I opened the door and immediately grew even more irritated. Couldn’t Mr. Bruce at least come tripping to the door and greet me like a normal cat, if he wouldn’t make himself useful in any other way? ”Hello?”, I called, but still no reaction. I sighed again, heavier this time, put the heavy bag of groceries on the kitchen table and began to unpack it.

”Good”, a low pitched voice called from the living room. ”Put the Whiskas in a bowl – the large one – and bring it here. Oh, and I want some coke too.”

I almost lost it, but clenched my teeth and tried to stay calm as I walked into the living room. I stopped in the doorway. ”Can’t you at least pretend to be useful around here when I’m away?”

Mr. Bruce looked away from the screen for only a couple of seconds, gave me one of those disgusted faces that was his specialty and then returned his full attention to the match of Team Fortress 2 he was currently playing. ”Bitch please”, he said. ”What d’you think I am, a dog?”

And I just shook my head and went back into the kitchen to continue doing what had to be done around here, all by myself. Just as usual.

Well, why, because of the mummies of course.

Hello, past!

Once upon a time there was a being not quite a tapir but somewhat similar to one, that invented something extraordinary: an inflatable parking lot to use during rush hour the day before Christmas. Imagine – just unpack, inflate and park. Inconceivably practical! The tapir was nominated for the annual tapir Nobel prize and lived happily ever after. Oh, and before it died from old age and cirrhosis of the liver caused by extensive drinking, it also invented the human race.

The human race turned out to be quite the bomb and quickly became very popular, especially with children and young teens. It also turned out to have inherited some of its creator’s inventiveness and caused quite a buzz when it discovered Fire, Wheel and subsequently Electricity. Tapirs love electricity. It turns them on in some perverted way, those kinky bastards.

Anyhow, electricity was a handy little thing to say the least. You could use it to cook, heat your humble living quarters, light up the night to avoid being eaten by horrible, carnivorous beasts and to power your Crazy Daisy Moving Lawn Sprinkler ™. The technology developed and evolved and what was first generators fueled by burning disgusting stuff quickly became slick, shiny, highly modernistic and super safe </sponsored ad> nuclear reactors and everything was awesome. Then there were a couple of catastrophes and some people died or were born with seven toes.

“Well, back to the drawing table”, said the human race, and went back to the drawing table (and yes, the table was from IKEA. Jeez…). It soon became clear that to make up for the closing of the nuclear power plants and avoid unnecessary WoW level-capping due to repeated blackouts, something radical had to be done. After some experimenting with alternative power sources, solar power turned out the unquestionable favourite. It didn’t disturb the neighbours with its subtle but oh-so-infuriating engine noise, and it sure as hell didn’t sabotage the river fishing. The progress was slow, but some ten years ago (OK, two years into the future since you’re in the past, loser) it was decided that solar panels were to be installed on every ineffective surface in the world. This included the Sahara desert, and this is also where things are about to get interesting. Why, you ask? Well, why, because of the mummies of course.

And now you ask about the mummies? Seriously? OK, well: “[a] mummy is a deceased human or animal whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or accidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or lack of air, so that the recovered body does not decay further if kept in cool and dry conditions” (Wikipedia, where else?). Ah, so you knew what a mummy is already and what you were really asking was “whatsupwiththosefrigginmummiesdude?” Well, I was just about to tell you. Calm down.

The mummies, of course, were sleeping in their fancy tombs beneath the desert sand, enjoying the natural, convenient and completely free warmth that seeped down through the sand and into their customised postmortem state rooms while they chilled and dreamed of past glory and other things that excite the well preserved dead. So you can imagine what a fuss arose when that same heat source was thoughtlessly blocked by thousands upon thousands of slick, shiny, highly modernistic and super safe </sponsored ad> solar panels. To put it mildly, the conserved corpses awoke, and they were quite cranky. And as all respectable retirees faced with despicable injustice, they got together and climbed out of their chambers and crypts to exact merciless vengeance upon the establishment which had robbed them of their well deserved eternal sleep in a cozy environment.

The mummies marched across the solar panel covered desert until they reached civilisation, and then they kind of ate everybody. Well, or they didn’t exactly eat everybody. They discovered quite quickly that their digestive systems, together with all their other innards, had been left behind in their perfumed jars at home, next to the glasses with their dental prostheses. So after some embarrassingly iffy first attempts to devour the Earth’s population, the mummies settled for ripping their throats out and leaving them to die in growing puddles of their own blood. Some of them collected spines, but you shouldn’t judge every mummy because of that.

Anyways, it turned out that as soon as one of the mummies managed to secure a humanless area of about one square kilometer, it simply lay down in the middle of said area and slept. Some of them dug in, but not all of them. This seems to be a matter of taste amongst mummies and has nothing to do with outside temperature or air pollution. Luckily, even way back when the mummies were being “made”, so to speak, resources were wryly allocated between the population, and thus only a select few had been able to afford the somewhat exclusive and expensive treatment. Thus there weren’t an endless number of mummies, even though that number alone was proving troublesome enough.

So at the end of the day the lion’s share of the world’s continents ended up depopulated and covered in soundly sleeping mummies, and the extensive solar cell project proved quite superfluous since mummies don’t know how to handle a microwave oven and wouldn’t care for dubious gastronomical debaucheries anyhow. So the world ended up rather quiet and restful, even though the occasional Crazy Daisy still disrupted the peace of the undead and caused them to go on a rampage amongst those poor souls who had managed to stay alive by keeping away and not provoking the mummies in any way. I am one of them, as I’m sure you had already gathered by now.

And that brings me to the reason behind me writing this text and using another piece of excellent tapiric invention to send it back in time to you: please, please, please do your best to ensure that silly garden sprinklers that run on electricity don’t become a hit! They’ll just go on and on and on and on ad infinitum and wake the mummies up long after you have all had your throats ripped or your spines stolen or whatever. Having them run on water is more than enough. It is easier to cut the water supply to any given suburb street than cutting the power. Believe me. And I’m tired of crazy dashes over picket fences and through unkempt gardens to turn off one of these stupid flower thingies before it wakes up a morning tired mummy with murderous tendencies. I’ve had just about enough of it. So I implore you, dear sir or madam, to, if nothing else, refrain from buying one of these lawn decorations if they run on electricity. That’s all I ask of you. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Thank you.

P.S. Oh, yeah, if the above didn’t convince you enough: sprinklers with electrical components are also highly hazardous for everyone, including but not limited to children, pets, mailmen, dolphins and cute old ladies with their cats in baskets. So they are just plain stupid. And you are, too, if you buy them. And people will likely sue you. And then you will go to hell – if the mummies don’t eat you first, that is. So. There. I hope you are now irrevocably convinced and stuff. Have a nice life. Bye. D.S.

The Dead Poets’, Manual Writers’ and Pseudonym Authors’ Society

Julian Jersey’s job sucked, and on a particularly sucky day at the office things got so dull that he decided to summon a demon from another dimension.

You see, writing user instructions for cheap furniture and electronics was boring at the best of times (although it included several stimulating challenges including but not limited to formulating bullet-proof how-tos that deprived the customer of any and all legal claims if the worst should happen and somebody lost a finger. Or a hand. Or a reproductive organ), but ever since Rich Gimmons, the only person at the office not totally dull, was sacked after being sent to prison, it totally sucked. Sometimes this dull job of his became too much to handle even for such a master of daydreaming and distraction as himself.

Julian had actually even begun to suspect that nobody really read his work anyway. Sometimes he fancied himself in league with the great masters. Homer. Shakespeare. Franklin W. Dixon. Surely their contemporaries didn’t afford them heroic status during their lifetimes? The latter, even, he wasn’t totally sure was a real person. Well, the same could be said about the former. And Master William? He could as well be grouped in with the other two, as far as Julian was concerned. At least non-existent people didn’t have to suffer lousy jobs and lousy payment for lousy jobs. He sat sometimes looking out his twelfth story window, dreaming away to a time in the distant future when his work, too, was afforded the attention it deserved, and he himself was contemplated in the same way as scholars of his own time pondered the writers of The Iliad, Macbeth and The Hardy Boys.

That people of today didn’t seem to acknowledge and appreciate his masterly user instructions was of course only natural. For heroes and poets, after all, fame is a benefit that comes with death. Therefore he struggled on, making the best of the situation and even occasionally squeezing in small bits and pieces of verse in between the third and fourth steps of “How-to-Build-Billy-the-Shelf”. Nobody would read the crap in his lifetime, anyway.

The ritual he found on Google, and the demon came with a loud explosion in a puff of smoke and a nice symmetrical cardboard-box with its name printed in a tacky font across the front label. Julian eagerly tore open the box and started digging around in the compact mass of Styrofoam flakes that welled out of the package as soon as he opened the lids (he always wondered how the people at the packing department even managed to fit that much Styrofoam into boxes in the first place, because he never managed to fit it back in).

One of his hands closed around a paper folder, the other around something small and furry. The flakes fell away, and he retrieved from the box some kind of manual, and a little hairy demon the size of his thumb. It grinned demonically at him, and he knew that this was the real deal. Sadly, the manual was written in some strange font that he couldn’t read – but what the heck, who read manuals anyway? He held the demon in one hand, and lifted the box with the other. More Styrofoam fell soundlessly to the floor. Shalyoo was the name written on it – along with more letters he couldn’t make out.

Schalyoo…”, he muttered to himself and glanced at the fluffy evilness in his right hand. It already seemed to have grown a little. Perhaps they came in travel size and expanded on unpacking? What an idea… The little creature looked back at him with a defiant grin. The next moment the door to Julian’s office swung open and his boss’ head poked inside.

He wanted to know what the fuck Julian was doing making all that noise. When he saw all the Styrofoam he raised his eyebrows, and when he laid eyes on the little creature from another dimension his expression turned into a rather even mixture between incredulity and fear. He wanted to know what the fuck that thing was as well. Julian answered conscientiously that he thought the creature’s name was Schalyoo, and that he had summoned it from Hell in a moment of boredom. Schalyoo itself, which had apparently been growing some more while Julian was talking to his boss and was now the size of his hand, soberly jumped up into the air and bit Julian’s boss’ head off.

The first emotion to strike Julian’s mind at this rather drastic turn of events was not, as might be assumed, fear and disgust at the limp body falling with a thump to the floor of his office and the blood gushing out of its severed neck. No, initially he was simply amazed that such a relatively small creature could fit a man’s entire head into its mouth and then swallow it whole. Then the full impact of what had transpired before his eyes struck him, and he fell to his knees and yelled “Schalyoo! No!”

The creature grinned at him, displaying several rows of oversized, very sharp teeth, and grew some more. Its belly was round now, Julian observed, and he imagined he could discern the contours of a human nose poking out through the soft, furry skin of the demon’s abdomen. Then it licked its lips and jumped away, out the door. It was not until Julian heard the screams of fear and pain drifting up the corridor that he was able to muster up the will to defy his paralysis and stumble out the door after it, avoiding the sight of the limp body as best as he could.

The creature called Schalyoo ate the heads of ninety percent of the people in the building. Some areas it would simply not enter, so some of the cleaning staff, at least, got away safely. Julian it never touched, but stopped and purred smilingly every time he caught up with it and called its name. Then it grew and jumped off again on its killing spree. When the building was empty, it left through the front door and snapped the head off of a passing Chihuahua in a by-the-way fashion when crossing the street. Julian tried to follow, but was soon thrown off the chase by crossing cars and inquisitive press and police. The last he saw of the creature was its silhouette, now twice man-sized, in front of the burning wreck of a car a couple of blocks away, before it disappeared between the buildings.

Julian told the police everything, and after some consideration he gave the press the whole story, as well. The police set to work immediately roping off the stricken area (although the fact that the stricken area all the time expanded made their efforts quite futile), and did their best to make sense of the situation. The journalists were more effective, and soon Julian’s face was on every TV-screen in the city, and the name Schalyoo on every person’s lips. People were ordered to stay inside and keep away from doors and windows, and this helped for a while – before the creature had grown to such proportions that it could begin cracking houses like nutshells and plucking people from their homes like very small grapes, dropping their bodies back to the ground like apple cores after their tasty heads had been devoured. The National Guard was called in before long, but by then Schalyoo had grown so much that none of their weapons affected it – and they didn’t dare try a nuclear strike.

Things exploded everywhere, people were crawling around in the streets and police and military fought for space in a city that more and more began resembling an outright war zone. The president appeared on TV conducting a speech with lots of mentions of our Lord and Saviour. The speech had to be interrupted, however, when Schalyoo stepped down close to the White House and Mr. President with family had to be evacuated. Simply put, it was mayhem – and all the while the creature continued to grow.

Julian became something of a national celebrity, appearing regularly on TV and radio broadcasts simultaneously as Schalyoo sacked the country. He was allowed to publish several of his user instructions in a large anthology, with every other how-to alternated with a little poem or story of his own. This, of course, made him happy – but he could never quite shake off the feeling that he was responsible for the terror (no shit).

The disaster finally turned into some kind of strange every-day situation, and people began to adapt. The weather report began to include Schalyoo-reports as well, informing the public about where in the country the creature should be expected to rampage in the next twenty four hours. People could thus plan their lives, and most often not too many died as a result of miscalculations on this front. The problem was that there was no way to really adapt to the crisis since Schalyoo kept growing all the time. Nobody knew why. Then one day the creature crossed the sea, and the entire world was in turmoil.

Julian Jersey watched the live broadcast from his new penthouse apartment as the crossing was reported by all news bureaus at once. He had an important press conference in a couple of hours about his new book, but at the moment he was caught up in an inescapable vortex of guilt. It was not so much that he had summoned the creature from another dimension that plagued him, as the feeling that he should have read the user instructions before unpacking it. Now he sat with the cardboard box in his hands, struggling to make something out of the strange letters crammed over the sheets that came with it. All to no avail. And what was worse was that he didn’t even know where to send his complaints about the poor manual.

He was not alone in watching this broadcast. In another dimension the Dead Poets’, Manual Writers’ and Pseudonym Authors’ Society had gathered before their altar to observe the commotion. Franklin W. Dixon smiled sinisterly, Homer shook his head and William Shakespeare eagerly produced quill and scroll from somewhere inside his robes to document the mortals’ tragic misfortune. Behind them in the darkness several voices began muttering while pens and notepads were retrieved from pockets and little convenient fanny-packs. This was proving to be a very productive month, and the Society never missed out on an opportunity to occupy themselves. Fame really was a benefit that came with death (for some), but it was also the only benefit that came with death. Homer looked troubled, as always. He’d never liked the idea of tricking people into hubris, because that would imply that the ones doing the tricking had the right to meddle in the affairs of mortals – the task of the gods – and to him that equaled hubris in itself. He’d much rather have had the mortals tricking themselves, leaving him to record the comical or tragic outcomes. William just smiled, always loving the drama following in the wake of a good misunderstanding. Dixon just hated everybody. In fact, this affair with the summonings had been his idea to begin with. Maybe it was because he wasn’t entirely sure of his own existence. Who knows.

There were others there in the dark dimension with them, all dressed in that kind of black robes favoured by evil cultists, ring-wraiths and sith-lords, but these three were the leaders. They had long been watching Julian Jersey, knowing him to be a potential victim and maybe also a future member of their Society. After all, they had all started out just like him (with the possible exception of Franklin W. Dixon).

Behind them in the darkness loomed uncountable rows of symmetrical cardboard boxes, all ready to be delivered in the blink of an eye to whomever wished to incorporate a little dangerous excitement into their everyday lives. They were all adorned with a laminated label on the front, with the name of the contents printed in big, bright, common letters, and below was a lengthy disclaimer written in a language the Society had made up themselves, as a joke. This same language comprised the exhaustive user’s manual that was included in every package, informing the customer how to handle the product in order to ensure the most beneficial outcome for everyone involved. For example the manual warned the user about the risk inherent in calling the product by its label name too frequently, since this triggered its inbuilt proliferating function. It also encouraged the user to keep the product away from domestic animals, children, wild animals, receptionists, firemen, grownups and all other species and persons the user didn’t want dead, or at least beheaded. It should also not be fed after midnight.

The last pages were entirely made up of a collection of very witty formulations (sometimes in rhyme) that effectively deprived the user of all legal claims should he or she refrain from following the instructions and advice provided in this folder. There actually was a phone number at the very bottom – in fully legible, though very, very small, numbers this time – but nobody every called it. And this was probably just as well, since it had long since been taken over by a pizza baker in your town. Homer always thought this was stretching it a bit – I mean, someone might want to call and ask something, especially since the language used in the folder was one nobody knew save for the Society themselves. But Dixon irritably dismissed this notion at once; being famous after death (if assuming one had in fact actually lived and existed at one point) is really quite boring, and they could not be blamed for wanting some fun at least. Besides, he dryly observed, nobody reads these fucking instructions anyway.

And somewhere in the darkness behind them another box dematerialised with a loud explosion and a puff of purple smoke.

THE END