Monthly Archives: July 2017

Sorry, Father

Another response to a prompt on Writer’s Digest that I could not post. I did try deleting a few words that might have tripped up the filter, but to no avail, so they have been restored in this version.

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It was a simple plan. 1) Get born of a virgin. 2) Start a new major religion. 3) Be martyred in the hands of a figuratively-rabid crowd at a rally for a literally-rabid demagogue. All I had to do was take the stage and drone on about love, peace, interracial reproduction, and pansexuality, and “the people” would do the rest.

The cheeseburger was not in the Divine Plan.

We arrived about an hour early, not having known that in Portland, Oregon, public transportation actually ran on time. I told my disciples to spread out through the crowd at the Convention Center, ready to agitate and be martyred with me.

I looked for a place to have lunch.

Really, I was ready for my sacrifice. I didn’t have the kind of doubt that had bedeviled my siblings and all those prophets that Father had sent to this world. I had no attachment to this world, like those who had chosen to become cult leaders instead.

But I was going to miss cheeseburgers. They don’t have cheeseburgers in Heaven.

I headed toward Murder Burger at the food court. They didn’t have a line, and surely they had cheeseburgers.

I was greeted with, “Welcome, Friend! Have you eaten here before?”

I sighed. This was one of those over-pretentious hipster joints. “No.”

The “friend” handed me an iPad. “Here is your freedom of choice. If you flick…”

“Whoa!” The phrase “peanut butter” had caught my eye. This infuriated me. Not only did my soon-to-be-literally-sainted mother have peanut allergies. So did many of my disciples, and we had a strict No-Peanut Doctrine. “Peanuts?”

“Of course!” He grinned proudly. “Sourced from our founder’s family farm in…”

“Don’t you know peanuts kill people?”

“Oh, no, these are organically grown.”

I rolled my eyes, and flipped through the menu, becoming increasingly confused. Where was the cheeseburger? “Can I get a cheeseburger without it?”

“Ummm… no, it’s in our grass-fed…”

“There are peanuts in your cheeseburgers?”

“Well, we don’t have ‘cheeseburgers’. You can add your choice of goat brie, walnut chevre, and…”

“Walnuts???” Now I was filling up with Wrath.

“Why, yes, they are…”

“Look, all I want is a cheeseburger! You hipsters have ruined beer! And salami! And pizza! And now you are ruining cheeseburgers?”

“But, Friend…”

“Don’t ‘friend’ me, you devil-spawn!” I spread my arms in anger. “You are the ones who are destroying all that is Good and Right in Creation! This madness must stop! You and your pork-belly pastrami!!! You all be gone to Hell!!!”

The thing about angels is that they kinda’ just do what you tell them. By the time I realized what I had done, it was too late, and I was standing in the rubble of the Convention Center. Tens of thousands of attendees, all dead.

The cops came incredibly quickly, and whisked me away to the nearest Black Site.

Sorry, Father.

Sorry, Mom; I thought you’d be sainted for sure.

The Polyhedronoids Are Coming

Long ago, in our galaxy, on a temperate planet orbiting a modest star, a civilization arose. This was not the first civilization in our galaxy. Not by far. And ours was not the first galaxy to have a planet on which a civilization arose. Not by far. But this was the first of its kind in a way. Like many other civilizations, this civilization gave rise to more civilizations, and within a few thousand years the planet was thoroughly covered with civilized societies, large and small. Like many other civilizations, these civilizations waged terrible wars against each other, while struggling to maintain peace within themselves. Most civilizations in the universe, they come to a point where they realize they can kill off millions and destroy entire civilizations, and they begin to choose peace over warfare. Most civilizations in the universe, they come to a point where they realize they can kill off the entire planet, and they double down on peace, and do their best to eschew warfare. Not on this one planet. Somehow—and we don’t know what exactly happened, because all we have now are very scant archeological remnants—the civilizations on this planet chose to wage a war to end all wars, and they succeeded, by destroying not only all of the civilizations, but also most of the advanced life forms on the planet, through irradiation, climate change, and geological instability, which repeatedly churned up more and more radioactive isotopes from deep in the planet’s mantle.

Some advanced life forms did survive this catastrophe, including handfuls of the species that had destroyed the planet, in fortuitous shelters here and there. But, not for long. Advanced life forms need some degree of stability and/or regularity in their environments to survive. This planet could not provide that anymore, except in very small pockets for short periods of time. Radiation also made it difficult to pass on useful genetic innovations to the next generation. Most of the advanced life forms went extinct entirely. A few did survive, by devolving into single-celled organisms, when their circulatory cells found pockets of favorable conditions in which they could survive and reproduce.

One of these single-celled descendants—possibly of the formerly-civilized species—happened to mutate a gene that synthesized a silicon-boron compound that could protect the cells from radiation. This increased their chance of survival greatly, and other genetic innovations followed, such as the ability to harvest energy from electromagnetic radiation, and the organization of the compound into geometric shapes in which a small colony of cells could survive sudden changes in their environment, including complete desiccation, vacuum, and high heat. The most successful of these cells had a sixty-vertex shell, about 2 centimeters in diameter. Being descendants of intelligent species, these colonies developed the ability to move their shells in a rolling motion, and the ability to detect and move toward favorable conditions for reproduction. When such conditions were found, the shell would burst, releasing the individual cells of the colony, each of which had to very quickly and efficiently form a colony of its own, before the favorable condition dissipated again. Once the geology of the planet stabilized, these colonies were able to proliferate.

Over millions of years, these polyhedronoids came to cover the entire planet. Because all the essential ingredients of life they encountered became encapsulated in the shells, the planet’s crust was slowly depleted of these elements. Every time a few liters of organic matter chanced to pool somewhere, the polyhedronoids would descend upon the pool and almost instantly devour it, before any other life form had the time to give it a go. Eventually, there was no life left on this planet but the polyhedronoids, encapsulated in their shells, waiting for the next favorable condition, which would never again form on this planet.

As the star which the planet orbited, over a billion years or so, began to overheat, the planet lost its atmosphere, and the geological upheavals began anew. Being light for their size due to dessication, the dormant polyhedronoids were churned up off the planet’s surface, and carried into space by stallar winds, scattering throughout our galaxy. Billions upon trillions of them were released, and they traveled at incredible speeds across space. A few of them here and there found a planet on which there was a favorable condition, and there they did what they had done in their home planet, sucking up all ingredients of life in very short order. Even planets with advanced civilizations, like ours, were powerless against these mindlessly efficient, voracious invaders. After a couple of billion years, there was not a single planet left in our galaxy that could support life.

Now quadrillions and quintillions of these polyhedronoids are leaving our galaxy, and heading to others. We fear that they have acquired the ability to steer themselves in space, and some—a few trillion—are heading for your galaxy.

The planets on the edge of your galaxy that faces our galaxy, like your planet, of course, will be the first to meet these unwelcome guests. And your planet’s condition is very much favorable for the polyhedronoids.

Your only recourse is to destroy your planet before the polyhedronoids arrive. That is the only way you can help save life on your galaxy, although, we fear, this will only delay the inevitable.

We wish you luck.

“Harry Potter Comes To Your House”

Another entry for Writer’s Digest writing prompt.

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(I’ve changed it to when they are adults.)

“So, it must be quite awkward for you,” said Father. I held my breath.

Harry didn’t see what was coming. “Sorry?”

My father took another bite of pudding, and immediately realized his mistake. He held up a finger while he finished the bite. “Being named, you know, like the famous…”

Harry still didn’t get it.

Mother did. She decided to intervene. “Dear, could you pass me the…”

“Oh! Ah. Here.” At least Father was able to read her mind. And easily lost his train of thought. His mind was a wrecking yard of old train cars still carrying their precious unfinished thoughts.

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“This is the thing…” Harry held it out.

I jumped back. No way. There was no way. “No way, Harry. No. Way.”

“It’s all broken up now. It’s not a Horcrux anymore.”

“I don’t care. I’m not letting that anywhere near me.” Just to make the point, I stepped further away from him.

“Oh…” Harry looked quite crestfallen. Disappointed. Rejected.

Like the way I felt when he had rejected me. “If it’s really that harmless, why don’t you just keep it? Hang it on your wall or something. You know, like a trophy. Or give it to Ron. He’s the one who…”

“Yeah, well, he definitely doesn’t want it.”

“Then why me?”

Harry blushed.

I had no idea what that meant. All I had were some wild guesses. His b&*$@ wife probably thought I was dispensable. Or harmless. Or both. Just didn’t want such a dirty thing in their house, with a baby coming. Can’t just recycle the Dark Lord’s old junk. What could she do with it? I know—give it to the slut who’s always hated her.

Better yet, Harry thought I was dispensable. Persuadable. Bored with my menial job and wanted something “special” from the “special” guy who…

“Honestly, because I’ve asked everyone else.”

“What?”

“You’re the last person I wanted to ask… and now, literally, you are the last person I’m asking.”

I frowned. What did he mean?

“I can’t keep it. I know… It’s just too tempting. It still…”

My frown deepened even as I started to understand. There was a rumor that What’s-his-name had imbued it with a lot more magic before deciding to use it as a Horcrux.

“I should not be near this thing. None of the people who know Dark Magic should be near it, and you are the last person I know who doesn’t know any Dark Magic. And…”

“And yet you don’t want any harm to come to me.”

Harry smiled thinly, and nodded. “I… I did like you.”

“Bullshit.” He was telling the truth, however.

“I mean, I liked you a lot. I’m so sorry… I wasn’t turning you down. I was just too shy…”

I took the locket. “Bullshit.” I believed him.

“…”

“Is it gonna try to kill me?”

I put it around my neck, and Harry flinched. He wasn’t sure.