Pine Cones

STEVE: Y’ever wonder about the first person to die only for some asshole to come along, look down – or maybe up, I don’t know – I wasn’t there – but they look at what’s left of the poor bastard, shake their head, (HALF-HEARTED) “Shame,” (“NORMAL” VOICE) and then continue on with their day as if they hadn’t seen a dead body?

I wonder what they must’ve seen.

Not the dead guy, though I am curious about what he saw too. And I’m sure I’ll see something similar soon enough.

But what about the other guy? What did he see?

Was the corpse still warm?

How many pieces were there, and did they find it all before the bear made off with it?

Did it happen in front of them? Or maybe they came in mid-scene – no context, just a corpse in a cave with too many pine cones up his ass.

Morning Walks

STEVE: There was this one woman. She was a sweetheart, with hair, arms, two-eyes, some of her teeth, and mostly all the other giblets and suchhaveyou.

We didn’t have long together, just a few sciatic-pinching minutes of sloppy, lustless, wholly shameful sexual innuendo-ing.

The next morning, I found myself waking up in a ditch along the northbound lane of Pacific Coast Highway.

Still the best parent-teacher conference I’ve ever accidentally attended.

Nice Night

STEVE: The most utterly depressing thought I can manage at the moment is… in knowing all this suffering is, quite literally, pointless. All of it. The death toll, the mask debate, social media influencers – all pointless tragedies of equal measure, sure.

And all in the face of certain death. And following that, likely cosmic heat death.

Bit of a hat-on-hat, if you ask me.

I mean, how much deader can it get?

Makes you question the whole divine plan thing. Just a little.

What’s divine about anyone who can’t sort out a decent ending to their work, huh? That’s just sloppy craftsmanship. No love or passion at all. It’s lazy.

And you can’t blame humanity for having to fill in all the blanks. We’re curious things.

I suppose that’s why we always have to touch the fire or attempt a morally, ethically, and politically unfounded coup before you realize you’ve made a big oopsie. Or watch someone else try first. See how it goes.

“Oh, fascist coup? Yeah. Turns out it burns something nasty. Not too bad though – leaves you a bit raw for a day or two. Unless you record it like some flaccid halfwit.”

Anyway. I finally got around to watching IT: Chapter Two. I think it disappointed me some.

Bill Hader’s a dream, though.

Where Stars Collide IV

SCENE 4. SEE YA, SPACE COWBOY

MIKE ANGRILY BANGS AGAINST THE POD WALLS AND DOOR.

MIKE: Let me out, Doug!

A SILENCE. THEN…

SOUNDSCAPE: THE DULL ELECTRONIC BUZZ OF THE OTHERWISE PLEASANT ESCAPE POD.

BANGING CONTINUES.

DOUG: Mike. Prolonged outbursts will deplete remaining life support at a higher rate. Please, try to remain calm.

MIKE: (furious, panicked.) Let. Me. Out. Doug.

DOUG: Mike. Help will arrive soon.

BANGING STOPS.

MIKE: You don’t get it! Nobody’s coming for us, Doug! I have, what, three days of life support left before–

DOUG: Incorrect. Life support currently at two-point-

MIKE: Oh, for fu– Who cares, Doug? We’re going to die out here! (considers this) I’m going to die out here.

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

DOUG: Mike. The Weaver was a prized commercial–

MIKE: We were three days out from port, Doug. If they were coming for any of us, they would have by now. Either they couldn’t, or… (considers this) Or, we weren’t worth it.

DOUG: Mike…

MIKE: Congrats, buddy. You kept me alive long enough to realize I was never going to get rescued.

ANOTHER SILENCE. THEN…

MIKE: Doug?

DOUG: Yes, Mike?

MIKE: I’m really tired.

SFX: A SOFT HISS.

DOUG: Sleep now. Mike. I will be here when you wake. No harm shall come to you.

SFX: MIKE’S FAINT BREATHING.

DOUG: Goodnight, Mike.

SFX: POD DOOR OPENS.

A LONG SILENCE. THEN…

SFX: CHARMING SYSTEM SHUTDOWN SOUNDS.

DOUG: Dallas Protocols complete. Mike… User, deceased. Recording, complete. Unit ceasing function in three… two…

ONLY SILENCE.

OUT.

Where Stars Collide III

SCENE 3. DALLAS PROTOCOL

SOUNDSCAPE: THE DULL ELECTRONIC BUZZ OF THE OTHERWISE PLEASANT ESCAPE POD.

MIKE: So, like…did you always want to be a Nanny when you grew up?

DOUG: (considers this) In a way.

MIKE: Wait. Really?

DOUG: Prior to my activation four days ago, I did not exist as you know me now. But from the moment of my creation, I have been… compelled to ensure your survival.

MIKE: (chuckling) I bet you say that to all the humans.

DOUGS: Perhaps. But my programming and purpose affords me the freedom to act independently of my designated User.

MIKE: Well… I guess it’s a good thing we’re such good friends–

SFX: SYSTEM ALERT.

MIKE: Doug. Please tell me that freaky alarm means somebody’s finally saving us.

DOUG: Mike, that freaky alarm means somebody’s finally saving us.

MIKE: (surprised) Seriously?

DOUG: No. But you asked me to–

MIKE: Doug. The alarm.

DOUG: The alert was a relay from distant escape pods.

MIKE: And?

DOUG: Multiple units down. Users, deceased.

MIKE: (heart sinks) What? How?

DOUG: Cause: unknown.

MIKE: Are we under attack? Is it whoever attacked–

SFX: SYSTEM ALERT.

DOUG: Several more units have ceased function. Users–

SFX: SEVERAL SYSTEM ALERTS.

MIKE: (terrified) Doug, what the Hell is going on?

DOUG: Possibilities include faulty or damaged units, unavoidable collision with nearby hazards, malicious forces with no-hostage protocols–

MIKE: (angry, scared) Yeah. Okay. I get it, Doug.

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

DOUG: (considers this) Perhaps the Dallas Protocol–

MIKE: (exhausted, broken) Doug. Please. Please, just… just stop.

SFX: SEVERAL MORE ALERTS. UP, UNDER.

DOUG Do not be afraid, Mike. No harm shall come to you. (a beat) I promise.

SFX: ALERTS CONTINUE.

FADE.

Where Stars Collide II

SCENE 2. 336 HOURS

SOUNDSCAPE: THE DULL ELECTRONIC BUZZ OF THE OTHERWISE PLEASANT ESCAPE POD.

USER: Doug?

DOUG: Yes, User.

MIKE: (correcting) Mike.

DOUG: What was that, User?

MIKE: How long have I been bobbing about in space in this cramped, metal egg?

DOUG: Evacuation protocols initiated approximately seven hours ago.

MIKE: How much longer till someone picks all of us up?

SILENCE.

MIKE: Doug?

DOUG: Scan complete.

MIKE: And?

A BEAT.

DOUG: No ships within range.

MIKE: I’m going to die out here.

LONGER, UNCOMFORTABLE BEAT.

DOUG: Life systems currently at 97-point-92-percent. 

MIKE: (wow. okay…) Uh-huh. Well… Maybe we can use some of this time to work on your bedside manner, Doug.

DOUG: My apologies… Mike.

MIKE: (smiling.) Yeah. That’s a start.

FADE.

Where Stars Collide

SCENE 01. GOODBYE MOONMEN

A SILENCE. THEN…

SFX: EXPLOSIONS. VARIOUS DIRECTIONS. UP, UNDER.

SFX: EMERGENCY ALERT. UP, UNDER.

MASS PANIC.

SECURITY: (shouting) The escape pods! Get to the escape p–!

SFX: LARGE EXPLOSION.

ANOTHER SILENCE. THEN….

SOUNDSCAPE: THE DULL ELECTRONIC BUZZ OF AN OTHERWISE PLEASANT ESCAPE POD.

PANICKED BREATHING–UP, UNDER.

SFX: CHARMING SYSTEM START-UP SOUNDS.

DOUG: Neural links established. User identified. Vital signs acquired. Recording streams synced.

USER: (startled, exhausted) Hello? Hello? Is someone there? Please… what’s going on?

DOUG: Hello, User. My name is Digital Observer Unit-6. But you may call me, Doug. I am here to help.

FADE.

Audrey

Transcribed from recording labeled “Audrey”:

When I first met Audrey McGuire in the bar of a hotel on the outskirts of Los Angeles, she was a fiery shock of red hair poured into a full skirt dress that teased a curvy figure beneath.

Her full, blood-red lips pouted at me as she performed a sob story about needing money for a bus ticket to Indianapolis, to stay with her mother after her husband had raised his hand to her one time too many.

The second time we met, Audrey was a willowy blonde wearing long boots and a short skirt, lying through thin lips about visiting her sister in San Francisco.

Recording stops, continues.

The third time we met, I observed Audrey gracefully flowing from one potential mark to the next, shedding her previous appearance between tables before seamlessly slipping into a new life with a single, gentle touch of each man’s hand.

One moment, she’s an olive-skinned beauty in a cardigan distracting a married man with her piercing blue eyes as she steals his wallet. The next, she’s laughing it up with a group of drunken suits pawing at a pair of milky thighs exposed by the short hem of her fashionable Mod dress.

I never gave a second thought to the way she’d temporarily leave with this or that man as she wore this or that face–sometimes an hour at a time, sometimes for mere minutes. But when some loud, dark-haired stranger in an expensive suit dragged Audrey away by the wrist, the panicked look she shot my way from a hauntingly familiar face convinced me to follow close behind.

Recording stops, continues.

I caught up to Audrey and that dark-haired stranger in the stairwell, just in time to hear a cry of pain closely followed by a drunken voice demanding to know why he had to hear from the boys at the office that his wife was moonlighting as a whore in a hotel bar.

Cynthia. Some poor housewife named Cynthia was probably somewhere cooking dinner for a husband she didn’t know was drunk in the stairwell of a hotel, threatening a frightened woman wearing her face.

And as Cynthia’s face attempted to lie her way out of a literal corner, Cynthia’s husband raised his hand. But as he raised his hand, her face changed. Her left eye darkened and swelled shut. Her bottom lip split and bled. And bruises appeared on her from head to toe.

Whether by fortune, divine intervention, or alcohol, Cynthia’s husband stumbled backward down a flight of stairs and scuttled out the door without another word, looking as if he’d just seen a ghost. Then once we were both sure he wasn’t coming back, I returned to the bar with a woman who looked like my dead wife.

Recording stops, continues.

Over the next several hours and drinks, I found myself lost in the glittering hazel eyes and gentle lines of my wife’s face as she shared the story of a life she never lived with a name she never knew. There was mention of a one-bedroom apartment in Shermer, Illinois, some boy named Reggie, and a kiss behind the high school gym that left her with no choice but to leave behind both Shermer and Reggie forever.

As we danced, the woman I struggled to call Audrey inquired about my work with childish wonder and glee. And as I explained the nature of the microscopic Sutherland Fluke coiled around both her central and peripheral nervous system, how it allowed her body to instinctively reshape itself in reaction to physical and emotional stimuli, she pulled her body closer to mine.

Audrey was gone by morning. And while I’m unsure if I’ve seen her in the years since–or if a person by the name of Audrey McGuire from Shermer, Illinois, ever existed–I do know a lost soul gave a lonely man one last night of happiness. And for that, I will always remember her.

Recording ends.

D’ja Vu’larian

Transcribed from recording labeled “D’ja Vu’larian”:

Feeding exclusively on those threads of time and space intertwined with some poor soul’s untimely, traumatic death, the D’ja Vu’larian’s morbid appetite is seen by some as a cosmic blessing in disguise.

Effectively a wholesale rejection of death itself, these individuals…I hesitate to call them “victims”…regain consciousness sometime in their own past, with only a faint, dreamlike recollection of what transpired.

But much like those affected by a Chronopiller, there is a serious philosophical discussion to be had regarding that lost part of us, devoured moment-by-moment, and now slowly digesting in the belly of some great, trans-dimensional worm.

Recording ends.

Smeltett

Transcribed from tape labeled “Smeltett”:

DR. FINE: The very existence of the Smeltett has been a point of contention for millennia, with records of arguments spurred on by the sudden onset of a foul and malicious odor found in the form of rudimentary cave paintings in both Africa and central Asia.

Current research of the Smeltett leads many to believe that it is the female of the species which is responsible for the foul odor, used in an effort to attract the attention of nearby males, which are believed to be responsible for the… sound also associated with the Smeltett.

Unsurprisingly, all major contributions to research on the Smeltett have been submitted anonymously.

Tape ends.