The Rope, Sliced Through (a #31ShortHorrors Tale)

The Rope, part 1

(note: this poem is based on Neneh Cherry’s single Love Ghetto, from her album Raw Like Sushi)

I hit a home run on the last stretch of life

Finding you finding me

Seems so long ago

I focused on the rope across the canyon

I focused on the rope across the ocean

I focused on holding on, I searched for your oars

The weather ripped at the rope

We nipped at the rope, others hacked at the rope

Sharks gnashed at the threadbare rope

The rope shivered and shook as I inched across

Tugs from behind shook my grip as I crawled

Halfway there, no longer stuck on my island

You saw the tugs as my receding

I crawled, I lost my grip in the wind

I clawed my way back up the ravine, began again

A puddle of misunderstanding like a sea between us

Come rain come shine, I crawled and I clawed

Leave the love ghetto behind, I crawled and I clawed

I made it partway once more when I saw you take your knife

Convinced I’d fall, what your eyes tell you

Your ears can be deceived

And this chase is haunting me

I focused on the rope as you chiseled with your knife

Just a trim, just a butter knife

It isn’t all that sharp

But dull knives still slice damaged substrate

With enough persistence

The sharks were swimming up for me

As I clung on to the rope

You were calling out to me

As I clung on to the rope

Terrified, I cried out too

And clung on to that rope

Good intentions bad connections

I saved you from saving me

Forever is only like the sky and the sea between us

The winds of time and distance, mangled language not believed

The teacher keeps on crawling but will never be relieved.

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The Rope (a #31ShortHorrors tale)

Stolen Paradise

Shouldn’t talk about it

But we have to and we do

What happened to our Paradise?

Stuck in traffic, the traffic of life, the traffic of reality

Suspense controlling my mind

I have to find my way out of here

Maybe I can tunnel out

Or open the front door and just waltz out into the sunshine

The bitter cold air on my free face

Free fall into the void

I know what’s on the other side of the void but I’m scared of the journey

Travel is a necessary part of life and how one learns

I need to learn

I need too much

I need to travel and run and escape

The void is not nothing

The void is everything loud and brash and too much

The route through the void is a tightrope

Not tightly strung

It’s loose and fraying and swaying in the wind

I have one tool for balance and it’s unreliable

I lose my balance so often though my target never changes

It moves

As I move

Creeping, crawling, along the rope, so slowly

It seems I’m not moving at all

Millimeters at a time but forward progress to forward Paradise

I’m halfway there, halfway across

It’s so loud and bright and swirling so fast around me

I focus on the rope

Not on the frayed broken strings

I focus on the rope

Not on the wind that throws me off, hanging on by my raw fingertips

I focus on the rope that will take me to Paradise

My yellow brick road is unsolid, wavering, shuddering but clear

My Oz is real

This rope is real and

I focus on the rope.

The Aardvark and the Alien Goldmines (part 3)

ICYMI, here’s part 1 and part 2

Part 3

The mothership landed amongst heavy enemy fire and took a beating. Its round hull pockmarked with shrapnel and deflected laser bombs, its thick windows were blasted out, hanging in shards from their frames.

The rocket inside the mothership was in decent enough shape, however. The Smarks re-fueled it from the mothership’s emergency supply and all crammed inside. Steve’s face was mushed up against the tiny portal window, his fur was plastered in Smark slime as he perched atop a tower of bobbling soggy Smarks. The heavily laden rocket burst up through the top bay door of the mothership and out into the dark Martian sky.

Safely docked on the other side of the planet, Soldier Smark re-affixed the bungee cord collar and leash to Steve’s neck and led him, rather, dragged him out the rocket’s sliding door into a long, well-lit hallway. The chrome-like walls, ceiling, and floors reflected every photon, and Steve squinted in the brightness. He coughed up a loogie and spat. The floor magically absorbed the mucus into itself.

“What the hell?” Steve asked up at Soldier Smark. Soldier appeared to shrug, his whole body bumped up and down once, tentacles bouncing from the movement. The pair slippy-slid (Steve) and bobbed down the hallway that never seemed to end. Steve looked around, they were the only creatures present, at least that he could recognize as a creature. If that floor was sentient it was getting a hell of an upskirt view.

Finally they reached an arched opening in the wall. Soldier Smark entered, and Steve lagged back, passively protesting. A tug on the leash and a threat of a tentacle tip convinced him to cross the threshold into a bar.

A cantina-style bar.

Modeled after the bar in Star Wars.

The Smarks did love them some Wikipedia.

There were only two types of beings in this bar, however, the Smarks being one, and aardvark being the other. There were no chairs, just tall tables ringed by Smarks of various sizes, and a long metal bar lined with Smarks in various conversations. Soldier Smark swayed up to the bar and wrapped a tentacle around a tall pitcher of dark brown liquid with thick beige foam on top.

The Smark tending bar reached out to Soldier and impressed a series of light taps to its headlump. Soldier appeared to nod, and blinked slowly with all four eyes. He returned a message via his own suction cupped-tentacles upon the bartender’s head.

WE’VE HAD A SHIT DAY. FINALLY GET THE CREATURE WIKIPEDIA SAID WE NEEDED, IT STINKS AND HAS AN ATTITUDE, THEN THAT IDIOT RODNEY LANDED US IN THE MIDDLE OF THE REBEL ENCAMPMENT. DOES HE NOT HAVE GOOGLE MAPS? FOR FUCK’S SAKE. ANOTHER PITCHER WHEN YOU GET A CHANCE, PLEASE.

Soldier Smark tipped the pitcher upside down into a hole underneath the drape of tentacles. Shaking out the last drop, he returned the pitcher to the bar and let out a teensy baby burp.

“Dude, you’re turning red,” Steve nudged Soldier. Soldier blinked one eye slowly at him as he reached for his second pitcher. He dumped that into his mouthhole as well, and tapped on the bar. Another pitcher appeared shortly. By the time Soldier had downed its third pitcher, it was bright red from top to tentacle tip. It burped another baby belch, and Steve smelled something familiar.

Something he’d smelled in a human village during big football games.

He stuck out his tongue and tested the air.

Alcohol.

He squinted at the lever the bartender pulled over and over again.

Guinness.

Steve pulled on a tentacle. “Dude, can I get a bowl of water or something? Or are you too busy getting shitfaced to treat your prisoner with some compassion?” The Smark waved at the bartender, pressed a message on its headlump. The bartender returned with a bowl of water and a bowl of writhing, crawling creatures that only stayed in the bowl because its chrome-ish walls were too slippery to climb.

“Thanks, man!” Steve exclaimed and settled in to nosh. The insectoid creatures were sweet and salty, and very crunchy, a little scratchy going down Steve’s throat. He wasn’t going to complain, though. He licked both bowls clean and looked up.

Soldier Smark was a deep crimson by now, his tentacles swayed one way and his gelatinous body swayed the other. He looked down at Steve, his body heaved in an alien sigh, and gave a gentle tug on the leash. They wound their way through the crowd to an exit on the opposite side of the room they’d entered.

Another chrome hallway, more narrow and with a lower ceiling than the first. As they traveled, the walls seemed to close in, until they moved in single file across the cold gleaming floor. Steve stared at the now-burgundy tentacles ahead of him. Was the Smark getting shorter?

The walls continued to close in on the pair and then Steve realized the ceiling was also lowering. Finally, the hallway was no larger than the boundaries of Steve’s body, and then smaller still, until Steve was well and truly stuck. The leash kept pulling, and he kept resisting. One lone, large, shiny Smark eye blinked back at him.

Startled, Steve squeaked. He squeaked and squealed harder as he felt a tentacle slide between his forelegs, then his back legs. Another tentacle slid over his head and down his back, two more slid down each side of him, squeezing between his body and the cold solid walls. Steve crouched silently and shivered as he felt his fur turn cold and wet with Smark slime. He dry-heaved from the smell but fought the urge to hurl because the current stench plus puke stench would have equaled certain death.

The tentacles retracted and Steve felt himself once again dragged down the hall. He gave up resisting and allowed his body to slip and slide behind his impossibly stretched-out captor.

Then, they fell.

Into nothingness.

They fell and fell, nothing but the air wooshing against them. Steve couldn’t see Soldier Smark, but the slight tug of the leash now and again let him know they were still connected.

A light below them grew bigger. Orange and red like the sun, like the very planet they were visiting, its heat escalated until Steve thought his fur would ignite. He glanced over at the Smark and his eyes grew wide. The Smark had returned to its original purplish-pink shade and was now a spherical, glistening teardrop shape not far below him. One eye opened towards Steve, blinked, and closed again.

They landed on something that slowed their descent but did not stop it. The net finally stopped stretching just as the flames of the fireball licked up toward’s Steve’s tail. The net returned to its natural state, bringing the pair upward, level with a narrow catwalk that ringed the room. There was a guardrail on the platform, Steve noted, wondering how the mushy mass of the Smarks could possibly move across it without falling into the fiery pit below.

Soldier Smark uncoiled from its protective sphere and reached three tentacles towards Steve. Stunned, Steve just laid there and allowed the Smark to pick him up and cradle him like a human baby as the rest of its tentacles pulled them across the net and climbed up to the catwalk.

Soldier Smark looked at Steve, and Steve met its gaze. The Smark put Steve down on the catwalk (oddly cold cement?) but held onto Steve’s leash. Steve didn’t really mind; he figured the Smark didn’t want to end up in the fireball any more than he did.

Soldier Smark wrapped a tentacle around the guardrail and leaned its headlump over the side. Steve stuck his head over the side, between the cement and the lower bar of the rail.

They both hurled up their lunch. The fireball popped and sputtered as it absorbed their squick.

Soldier Smark leaned back against the wall and slid down it into a gelatinous puddle. Steve echoed the movement. They both closed their eyes. Steve felt a tentacle on top of his head, petting him. He nudged another tentacle with his snout and slide his head under it.

And then he farted.

The Aardvark and the Alien Goldmines

ICYMI, here’s part 1

Part 2

Steve woke up on fire. His head popped up and he looked around frantically. He couldn’t smell anything charred, and the end of his snout was dripping in the humidity. He stuck his tongue out to the air.

“Friggin’ tropical here,” Steve harrumphed, and hauled himself to his feet. He walked out of the rocket and looked around the open, wide room, windows on each wall, stars and planets beyond. Were they moving? Maybe? How do you set anchor in space?

“Yoo-hoo? Anybody home? Yo, Slimy Guy!” he called out. He slipped and slid on the slimy floor. The rocket was docked in the middle of the room, its bay door still open. He walked around to the opposite side of the rocket. A mass of interwined, crawling, continuously moving tentacles greeted him. One of the pile stretch straight up into the air and pointed its tip at Steve.

“Hey bro, hands up, don’t shoot!” Steve shouted and hit the deck. The laser missed and burned a hole in the rocket’s side just about where his head had been. Steve closed his eyes tight and waited for death.

He waited.

And listened.

And waited some more.

Silence.

Steve opened one eye.

A Smark approached him, swoosh, swoosh. Steve’s eye followed it. It seemed larger than the alien who’d aardvark-napped him from Earth, but that could have been his view askew from his position on the floor. One of the Smark’s eyes examined Steve from snout to tail. A tentacle moved toward his nose, slowly, like a snake testing the air for dinner. The tip of it booped him on the snout, then entered his nostril.

Steve sat up and back, snorfling and snuffling, tears, his two front paws over his snout. Lord, the smell. Like sewage and gasoline and week-old diapers. Gross. The aardvark was backed up against the hull of the rocket in the middle of the mothership. The tentacle advanced farther and farther up his snout, icy slime nearly reaching his face. Steve’s eyes blinked wide as the rest of the Smark clan moved in. There was only one way out.

Steve cut the cheese.

Hard.

It was more of a shart than a pure fart, and the sulfur smell combined with the misty emission caused the Smarks’ tentacles to curl up in disgust. They blinked their membranous eyelids and bounced away, some wiping their tentacles on the floor or other Smarks to remove the light brown residue of Steve’s gas.

The Smarks huddled up. Tentacles swarmed and rolled and reached and coiled around the pack. A long purple tentacle rose in the air, stabbing at it decisively. Another tentacle rose and pulled it down. Laser shots were fired and all the Smarks collapsed onto the floor. A wobbly, gelatinous pile of writhing tentacles quivered this way and that as the Smarks argued over whether or not Steve was worth the hassle.

They decided to give it one more shot. Mostly for fuel economy. The mothership was closer to the target planet than it was to Earth, and they would need to refuel soon. Plus, driving back through the asteroid belt to reach Earth was really rough on the old mpg.

Steve watched the pile argue from his now-warm spot on the smooth floor. His tummy rumbled. The aardvark’s brow knit in consternation. What the hell was he gonna eat? He hadn’t see Slimy Guy pack any termites from home in a cooler.

“Guys?” he ventured, somewhat louder than a whisper. “Guys?” he asked, a bit louder. “GUYS!” he screech-growled, because aardvarks aren’t really the hollering type. “Got anything to eat? Termites? Ants? Cheetos? And I’m thirsty, where’s the bar?”

He could swear he saw the soldier Smark that hustled him on board roll at least one of his three visible eyes. Steve hauled himself up to all fours and shambled over to him. He stuck his tongue out to a tentacle and got a smart rap on the head.

“Sliiiimyyyyy, I’m hunnnngryyyyy! And when I get hungry, I get gas. We don’t wanna go through that nastiness again, do we?” Steve looked up at the Smark with his best aardvark-cum-puppy dog eyes.

The Smark seemed to sigh, then shrug, then slowly bounced across the room to a large wall of cabinets. He pulled open a door which lit its compartment, and coiled around a thick metal cylinder. He removed it from the alien fridge and twisted off the top.

“Earthworms? You’re giving me earthworms?!” Steve squeaked. “What am I, a trout?” The Smark yanked it from Steve’s grasp and tossed it back in the fridge. He removed another cylinder and opened it.

“Lightning bugs? Come oooooonnnn, mannnn, we were JUST there! You didn’t think to get take-out of the shit I actually eat?” Steve whined. The Smark growled and tossed the cylinder back, handed Steve a third.

“Ahhh, this is what I’m talkin’ ‘bout! Termite Tenderness! Yassss, come to Daddy mah precioussss,” snarled Steve as he flopped down to slurp out his snack. The Smark tentacle-palmed himself and bounced away to another alien somewhat removed from the group.

Soldier Smark’s tentacles pressed an elaborate pattern on the other Smark’s headlump, leaving suction cup marks on its jello-y skin.

YOU COULD HAVE AT LEAST LABELLED THAT SHIT WE BROUGHT FROM EARTH. WE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHEN IT EXPIRES.

The other Smark closed its eye membranes and pressed a pattern upon Soldier Smark’s headlump.

SORRY, I DIDN’T KNOW IT WOULD BE SO PERSNICKETY. WIKIPEDIA JUST SAID SMALL CRAWLY THINGS. ANYWAY, LAND HO.

It pointed a tentacle out the window and sure as shit stinks, a reddish orange planet grew in the window as the mothership approached. Tiny specs of light jumped up into its atmosphere from the ground. Laser war. Or maybe just laser tag. It was tough to tell from that altitude.

Soldier Smark returned to where Steve had flopped and was licking the remaining termites from the bottom of the metal cylinder. It pointed a tentacle to the window, Steve’s eyes followed it.

“You brought me to fucking Mars? Are you serious, bro? Dude, this planet is so overrated,” Steve sighed, then belched. It was a big one, and all the slimy headlumps popped up in unison.

“S’cuse me,” Steve muttered, and raised his leg to piss on the wall.

 

TO BE CONTINUED…