Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tales of Nihuru Rising: Plague

(I've fallen behind recently with my stories, and feel it's important no matter what to continue writing, even if all I can think up is science fiction, so brace yourselves readers, I'm starting a Bi-monthly deadline and hopefully some of these stories will eventually come together to form a novel, comic, or other finished work.)
Shae Sveniker, November 2009

The child was the latest one to come down with it, coughing up little dry clouds of red dust. Soon he'd rust from the inside out and his blood would become the consistency of mud. Doc Thalver was not happy to inform the family, and they agreed to admit him to the facility for further study. The mysterious illness had affected many of the towns-people lately. I was becoming an epidemic and it hadn't seemed to follow any logical path of transition. First an old man in a nursing home had it last year; he passed away as his eyes began to karatinize. By his last breath, his irises had become red shells as hard as nails. An autopsy revealed his blood impossibly thick with minerals and of course, there was the dust in his lungs. None of the other patients in the nursing home experienced any unusual symptoms, nor had any of the employees of the nursing home, nor had their families.

However, two weeks later a man in a mining operation on the opposite side of town began to describe a pain in his chest while breathing, and having been prescribed an inhaler, he began treatment for athsma, including adrenaline shots. Two weeks later, he died with the same symptoms as the old man. They had not been related, nor even drank the same water or shopped at the same stores.

In total, twenty-five people from opposite corners of society began exhibiting symptoms. Two were impossibly ill, the rest had died within three weeks of displaying symptoms. Then there was this boy... the youngest yet.

Doc Thalver sat on the outer steps of the medical facility and ate his mid-day rations as the medical traffic swarmed around him. He scratched his three-days-growth of beard and brushed the ever present dust of the atmosphere from his mustache. His eyes were red and bloodshot from the lack of sleep and the red dust that was always in the air. There were a million things he had to do to make sure the facility ran effectively for the town. He informed one of the orderlies he was going out for a couple hours and began to walk across town to the officer's barracks.

Col. Andersenko met him on the street and took him into the barracks. There he met with the major-general and they walked to the communications facility for the daily meeting. The communications area was a small white room with a rectangular table before which, one by one, images of representatives from the other divisions at similar tables flickered onto a large wall-screen.

The Doctor waited until introductions were made before presenting the companies and military corps with the disturbing problem of his mystery epidemic. After assurances from the representatives in Washington and that they would put their best scientists to work on the problem, Doc Thalver left the communications area and went back to his facility where to his dismay, two more patients had showed up with similar symptoms. One of the died in the admitting office and no one noticed until he began to leak brownish-red mud from his nose onto the shoulder of his jacket and the seat next to him.

He was the major-general's only son.

That night, lit by the cold stars of a moonless sky, the Major-General walked out into the red sands that surrounded the colony. Doc Thalver watched him stumbling until he could no longer make out his black shape in the dunes. Had the Doc known the Major-General wasn't planning on coming back, if he knew that the Major General's body would have been found by a patrol the next day at the bottom of a nearby minor tributary of the Valle Marineris, he might have done something, but instead he just leaned against the clear silicone wall of the settlement and smoked his pipe tobacco and contemplated the dust and the disease.

As the days followed and more cases developed, the military prepared to recieve the new Major-General, Doc Thalver began to feel claustrophobic. The biodome that the entire settlement inhabited seemed to flood with the red dust. In his quarters, the dust occupied every corner and seemed to rain constantly from the cieling, so that hee had to order the housekeeping to sweep and clean twice daily.

The new Major-General summoned him from rounds the fifth day after his arival.

"Doc Thalver," the Major-General said, "I will require you to accompany with me to the com, we've got some disturbing news from the other divisions."

As they settled behind the table, dust settled from the doctor's clothes and dust, leaving a red trail across the white room and table. One by one division representatives checked in until all twenty seven divisions were present and accounted for. At the end of the meeting, the Major-General said to Doc Thalver "Everthing you just heard is confidential until we can put together a press release that wont start a riot in our little community, do you understand?"

"Yes sir," Thalver said. "But you better tell everyone soon, they need to know what's happening where their families are. Everyone has a right to know."

"As I said, Doc, we'll let everyone know when it's appropriate. You go back to the facilty and continue your research. We need your help if these plagues are ever to be understood or contained."

The rest of the day passed in a haze as Doc Thalver made his rounds and prescribed continued observations. The boy was on blood thinners, adrenaline and made to move constantly to avoid the settling of dust in his lungs, but he was partially blind with red cataracts. The others three in the facility were now bedridden, blind, and resigned. They would probably die by the morning. Doc Thalver wondered why the boy had lasted so long in comparision to the others. there was nothing dramatically different from the other patients except the boy seemed calmer and the disease was progressing more slowly.

That evening in his quarters, Doc Thalver cracked open a bottle of scotch and tried to make sense of the unreal reports of the division meetings today. There were strange beings washing ashore all over the islands of the south pacific; half-aborted tenticular cephalopods with large brains and large, fleshy bodies, some aparently adorned with piercings that held wire jewelry, some of them had even been alive when they were captured, but died later, despite the best efforts of scientific men. It was unknown whether they were intellegent, where they were from, and why they were dying.

On a metropolis-capacity space-station orbiting Venus, personel were being afflicted by a plague of air-tumors, their bodies producing concerous mestacular tumors that after autopsy revealed they were hollow and full of air, like the bouys of sea weed. The blood of those victims had high levels of amonia leading the head medical cheif to list their deaths as both due to mestasticized tumors and amonia poisoning. Astronaughts on long-term research missions began to loose limbs completely, waking on morning to find a finger missing, the next morning, an arm gone, the next a majority of their bodies, and the next their coworkers would find an empty suit where their companion had been sleeping. On the moon, workers began to display symptoms of jaundice and polio, and would die of dehydration. On Titan and Europa, all of the colonists were becoming anemic dispite every medical advance and special supplimental diets, and they were dying also of ascites with high concentrations of nigrogen.

Doc Thalver was wandering through the streets of the settlement, halfway through the bottle when he looked out of the clear silicone of the bio-dome wall into the panorama of Mars. There, amidst the sand was the boy, dressed only in the hospital gown Doc Thalver had last seen him in, stood atop a dune and waved. Thalver, shocked, disbelieving, dropped the bottle and his jaw, unsure if what he was seeing was real. The boy continued waving, obviously at Thalver, so hesitantly, he waved back. "My god," he said to himself, "This can't be real."

As Thalver waved back, the boy pointed up to the dim black-purple of the red planet's night-time sky, and as a dust-devil centralized itslef on the boy, he slowly began to disappear into the atmosphere. As the dust cleared, nothing remained of the boy but the hospital gown, now gently floating down like a fall leaf to the ground.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Austin's First Tattoo (non-fiction)

October, 2009
by Shae Sveniker

I got up early monday morning, after having spent the previous two days of weekend at my mom's place, drinking all her beer and smoking all her shake since she was in Texas. I would feel guilty about it if i wasn't so stressed out from school and the pitiful job market in Simi Valley. I picked some oranges, tomatoes, and the only ripe avocado on the tree before throwing my bags, peanut butter and jelly, bread, and some vitamin waters in the Big Fucking Van. Driving up the coast to Carpenteria in the pre-dawn, Southern California fog, I listened to the Rancid (2000) LP to get pumped. It was going to be a long, tough trip, and I had almost no money to play with. Las Vegas here we come!

I stopped in Carpenteria to load up my cousin Austin and his assistant, Edwardo. Austin has cerebral palsy, a birth disorder that causes his muscles to contract continuously all the time in some areas, while in others they remain slack and unresponsive. Coupled with acute hypoglycemia, a family history of depression and psychosis, makes for a bent-boned, highly intelligent, wheelchair-bound ball of frustration and adipose tissue. We won't really get into the problems that come from his high libido coupled with the most strict of christian upbringings.

Once we get to the Sahara and get settled in, Austin and I hit the casino with Edwardo. I gamble a little bit, we get some "free" drinks from the cocktail waitresses, and meander to the buffet. There's very little for me to eat there, comparatively. While the two omnivores chow down on roast beef, mashed potatoes, mushroom and wild rice stuffed chicken, spinach sauteed with bacon, lasagna, mac n' cheese, and a myriad of multicolored, multi-layered, infinitely-frosted desserts, I chow down on grilled veggies, rice and beans, and tortillas. It wasn't bad, but for $10 each I was hoping that there would be more of a selection of things not fried in animal. We all get back to the rooms about 4pm and decide to rest up for the night-life.

Around 9 Austin and I decide to take the monorail from the Sahara to the end of the line at the MGM Grand. He talks about winning big and moving here, about wanting to get a hooker so he can finally get laid, about getting a tattoo. We end up walking the strip and met an American Indian named Bill Buffalo whose wife just left him there in Vegas to go back to Toronto. He's young and pretty good looking, but stumbling drunk, with a huge plastic novelty cup full of rum and coke. He buys us a round of whiskey and we learn what he calls a Canadian cheers. It's strange and complicated. I think he was just fuckin with us.

We take another shot with him and part ways, continuing our way down the strip. Austin drunk-drives all over the sidewalk and it gets pretty funny. Soon we meet a young blond who starts walking with us for a little bit, making small talk and being surprisingly indulgent to Austin's forward questioning. I listen to the conversation. Eventually it became obvious that she's a hooker, and even though she's a deliciously nice young girl, cheerful and cordial, when push came to shove, Austin decided he would rather play Black Jack than get a blow job. She let's us know the monorail quit running around two. It was now around three. Austin's electric wheelchair ran out of juice about a mile and a half away from the Sahara. Pushing a couple hundred pounds of flesh and metal through some of the seediest parts of the Las Vegas strip at three-thirty in the morning is not the most fulfilling experience, especially when done in heavy boots and chaffing pants.

The booze was wearing off and we were both very sober. Eventually the only way to keep Austin from his self-deprecatory downward spiral was to sing old punk rock songs to keep his mind from how helpless he was. Two drunken cousins shouting the words to Time Bomb, I Love Livin in the City, Vacation in Cambodia, and Seven Drunken Nights; surely not an absolutely alien sight for the locals.

I picked him up and put him in bed. I slept in my own room until almost 12:30 pm. When I got up, Austin had already gotten up with Edwardo and gambled away his breakfast. Edwardo, Austin, and I went to the Bodies exhibit at the Luxor. There, plasticized corpses were dissected, put in poses, and used to illustrate the effects of smoking, drinking, and aging, on various parts of the human body. I used the opportunity to study up on muscle systems and bones; pretending to study in order to justify the exorbitant cost. Edwardo bought us a couple novelty drinks in big plastic cups. We wandered around the exhibits at the Luxor, reading about the live-action Lion King play, checking out the beautiful women, and admiring the outrageous fashion shops and art boutiques.

We had dinner at the Burger Bar. Austin ordered a Kobe Beef burger and an alcoholic mint & chip milkshake and topped it off with a double shot of Jack Daniels. Edwardo had a sandwich that had bacon, canadian bacon, pinneable, and a pterodactyl breast on it. It was gigantic. He didn't like it very much.

If you're Vegan and ever go to Vegas with your friends, who happen to be omnivorous, get them to go to the Burger Bar at the MGM Grand. The Vegas Vegan meal is most of a roasted tomato, a thick slice of marinated eggplant, roasted peppers, and balsamic sauteed onions, stacked between two huge grilled portobello mushroom "buns."

That shit was twisted.

Austin's chair started to loose juice soon after dinner so we headed back to the hotel. He talked about wanting to live there, knowing he was going to win it big and make back all the money for the trip and everything. I told him he'd better not fly too high lest his wax wings melt.

Edwardo and I hit the town then, leaving Austin in bed to contemplate whether hookers, games of chance, or tattoos were more deserving of his money. We took the same route Austin and I did, but ended up at a nightclub call the RockCave or something. Eddie was talking about how he and his wife were separated and how he loved to dance at clubs. We ordered some beers and hung out at the bar for a bit, but it was apparent by then that he was not going to dance. I asked a couple different times if he'd spot me and come with to ask these two girls out, but he declined. A little while after we came in, a bunch of really sexy call girls came in and took over the club's open strip-poles. We were fairly content to sit and watch and buy round after round of Corona. On the way back to the hotel, after the girls got kicked out for lewd behavior, Eddie began talking about his wife, how she had beat him up really bad and sent him to the hospital, how she'd spent three days in jail for the domestic violence, and how they were separated and living in the same house.

Poor Eddie. When we came back to the hotel, two really cute ladies asked if we were looking for some company that night; which we politely refused. One of the girls looked so much like Betty I had to look away. I was probably ruder than what was called for in retrospect, but it really bothered me for some reason. I could tell Eddie wanted to get some action, but his English was really bad at this point in the drunk and besides, he had to sleep in the room with Austin. Eddie and I went back to our rooms and I smoked a joint rolled of poorly preserved shake and passed out lonely in front of the TV watching Madventures on the Travel Channel.

The next day, it was finally decided, the conundrum of the ages, the philosophical question that had been haunting generations was finally solved by three hungover bachelors in a cheap hotel room at the Sahara in Las Vegas Nevada. From California, Mexico, and Utah, the representatives presented compelling arguments, to which things really mattered to man-kind, in the most universal perspective; Pussy, Tats, or Bones? Prostitution, Body Modification, or Gambling?

Or, in more eloquent, metaphorical, and perhaps universal terms;
Brief Intimate Human Contact,
Permanent Self-Actualization,
or Temporary Hope?

Austin's new tattoo is of a little blue handicap symbol dude, with a spiked ball and chain attached to his ankle, swinging it over his head with an outstretched hand like a mace wielded in battle.

It represents a battle he's fought all his life, a battle he will continue to fight, and a battle that requires recruiting troops to fight. These strange mercenaries like Eddie are completely necessary, and mean the difference between winning and loosing; a life, a limb, a meal, a shower, even something as simple and complex as taking a shit. I am also reminded that sometimes in life, my brave cousin may have to call in the cavalry to tackle some of the most meaningful battles, and when he does, I'll come riding in a Big Fucking Van, to swoop down and bring temporary reprieve, as we drive into the westward sun.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


(A story for Jessica who reminds me that not all stories have to be about death or insanity; inspired by a true story)
Shae Sveniker, August 2009

"The dust got in your bearings, kid, you might as well just get new ones..." The Punk behind the counter leaned over and gave the board back to the kid. "I've got a repair kit here, forty-five bones."

Boo-Boo looked through the glass to the arrangement. "Man, is that the cheapest? What the hell?"

The Punk pinched his septum ring and wiggled it around with his brown, greasy fingers. Boo-Boo was noticing this tic. "Yeah that's the cheapest, you little turd, where else are you going to get 'em?"

The Punk had a point, out here there was nothing but trailer homes, liquor stores, 'Indian trading posts,' and Navaho Taco stands. This was probably the closest skate shop in two-hundred miles.

Boo-Boo counted his bills, a few weeks working at his mom's taco shack and taking the beer cans and whiskey bottles to get recycled. Fifty dollars, and it seemed like most of that came from the recycling plant though.

"Alright, I'll take it," Boo-Boo put his money on the counter.

"I see you've got all ones there little buddy, how you come across this money?"

"Ha Ha, very funny..." Boo-Boo was fourteen, but life on the res is tough. He knew what a pocket-full of ones could mean. His sister would come home late in the morning from the truck stop on I-40 with her cut-off shorts full of dollar bills, reeking of cigarettes and cheap booze. Sometimes, when she came home and Boo-Boo's dad was around, they would get into arguments and more than once she left home with a shiner swearing never to come back.

The Punk started working on the board then. "Hey show me how to do that!" Boo-Boo said.

By the time Boo-Boo left the shop, he knew how to replace the bearings, wheels, how to adjust the trucks, and what tools did what. "Hey gimme a job!"

The Punk laughed, "Yeah right kid, I ain't hiring no snot-nosed Indian brat!"

"Screw you, Navaho!" Boo-Boo said.

"Hey, don't call me that!" The Punk said. "You come back when you know something, maybe we'll work something out."

Boo-Boo hit the desert concrete and started pushing his way down the cracked sidewalk in the afternoon sun. He spotted some kids he knew hanging out behind the Dollar General, so he rolled up to 'em. It was Tommy Anaba, Jennifer Kai, and Christopher Mojni.

"Hey look, Boo-Boo's fixed his girlfriend!" Tommy said. Cue cat-calls.

"Hey, what are you losers doing out here? Aren't you hooligans s'posed to be in school?" Boo-Boo said.

"Naw, man," Christopher said, "Indians don't have to go to school, 'cus there ain't none around here to go to!"

"Let me ride your skate, Boo-Boo!" Jennifer said.

"Like hell I will!"

"Yeah, Christopher's mom got drunk and kicked us out of the house, but it's all good," Tommy said, "We were looking for the beers my brother stashed back here." Tommy snooped around the dumpsters until he found what he was looking for; a twelve-pack of PBR's in a greasy cardboard box.

"Sweet!" Christopher caught a beer as Tommy threw another one to Boo-Boo.

"Can I have one?" Jenny asked.

"I'm not sure, I mean, what can you give me?" Tommy asked.

It was about four in the afternoon and they all had a good buzz going, Jenny and Tommy were entangled with each other against the rear brick wall of the Dollar General and Christopher was watching Boo-Boo skate around clumsily in the parking lot.

"What the hell?!" The sound was sudden, no one noticed when Tommy's big brother, Jason Anaba, came around the corner in his '64 Chevy El Camino.

"Oh no!" Jennifer slurred. "My brother!" Robert Kai got out of the passenger side of the little truck and ran towards the two love-birds. Tommy tried to get up and run but he was too drunk and fell over.

"You little dumb-ass! Don't you dare you touch my sister!" Robert said, as he kicked Tommy while he was on the ground. Jennifer thought she was going to scream, but instead just kind of moaned.

"Get in the car, Jenny!" Robert said.

"Hey--" Boo-Boo uttered, as he started toward the high-school kid kicking the shit out of his friend, but that was all that came out of his mouth before a big fist smashed into his face. "Ow!"

"That's for drinking my beers!" The fist that smashed into Boo-Boo's face apparently belonged to Jason, and was now wrapped around Boo-Boo's ear in a merciless grip, pulling him towards the El Camino. In Jason's other hand was Jenny, by the fore-arm, stumbling on her skinny little legs. KBZU, the rock station from Albuquerque was playing on the radio. It was no wonder the El Camino could pick up the signal with it's great big antennae sticking up from the roof. Jason threw Jenny into the car and she sat there, tears streaming down her face.

"Let me go!" Boo-Boo yelled.

By Boo-Boo's ear, Jason held him against the speaker in the El Camino's door. "I love this song!" He said "I'll let you go when you sing it!"

"Piss off! OUCH!"

Jason turned up the radio, "Sing it, bitch!"

The noise was excruciating, out of the corner of his eye, Boo-Boo noticed that at the other door, a bloodied Tommy Anaba had his head held to the other door speaker. Boo-Boo cringed, but those two boys sang along until the song was over, and the entire block was filled with the sounds of KBZU and two off-key, miserable accompaniments to the chart-topping rock piece.

"Breakdown.... go ahead and give it to me.... breakdoooown, honey take me through the night, breakdoooooowwwwn, I'm standin here, can't you see, Breakdown it's all right, all right, all right..."

After the older boys left, they lay on the asphalt in the shadow of the store. After a minute Tommy said "ha ha..."

"What's your problem, dickhead?" Boo-Boo said.

"Jenny," Tommy said. "She totally had her hand down my pants when those guys pulled up."

Boo-Boo thought about this for a minute. "I oughtta kick your ass."

"Get in line, buddy." Tommy said.

Boo-Boo was quite for a minute more. "Was it worth it?" He asked.

Tommy answered immediately. "Hell yes," he said.

It was The Punk, walking home from the skate shop, who saw the kids in the back of the Dollar General, beat up and layin on the asphault with shards of Boo-Boo's broken skateboard all over, both kids with bloodied faces and hellish tinitus.


Boo-Boo's friends all started calling him Yogi Bear after high school because he'd turned into a big, barrel chested Dineh with a leather jacket, motorcycle, classic chucks, slicked back hair; a sight to behold, six-foot-five, two-sixty, and mean as a bear. Since that afternoon, he'd always been hard-of-hearing in his right ear, just as Tommy was in his left. Jason Anaba and Robert Kai had left that afternoon to seek their fortunes in the great big city, and had never returned.

Yogi Bear's job at the skateshop came to a close when the shop went out of business. Why skateboard for real when you can play Tony Hawk on the playstation and never suffer the indignity of a skinned knee? So Yogi said his goodbyes, stopped at Tommy and Jenny's place and let them know he was leaving. They really weren't paying attention, so focused on the whiskey and the current argument they were having.

So Yogi-Bear hit the road untill he ran out of gas just south of San Fransisco.

The years rolled by. He grew and sold some weed, distributed underground pharmesuticals, worked odd-jobs at biker bars, until eventually he had some jail-time under his belt and some skills with a switch-blade. It was only a matter of time, so eventually he began trafficking with some of the gangsters in Los Angeles, throughout the rest of the state.

Thusly, runnin the streets in the Bay Area, he made his living on street corners and in dive bars. After Tommy and Jenny got divorced, Jenny took custody of the kids, and Tommy left New Mexico to help run things with Yogi-Bear. It quickly turned into a charmed life. Tommy saved up and bought a black '66 El Camino with a bumpin sound system. This sort of lifestyle was not uncommon for the other urban native americans Tommy and Yogi-Bear met, but sooner or later, everyone gets caught, which is what happened to Yogi-Bear. He was lucky though, and the DA couldn't pin him with distributing, so he got out with a hefty fine and a slap on the wrist.

Tommy picked him up from the San Fransisco jail #8 and they started driving through San Fransisco, south, the the tracks in Brisbane, for another deal. A rival organization was taking street from them and this deal was, well, it was more like a robbery. Yogi-Bear and Tommy had it all worked out. The rival dealers would get their shipment, and there was a time period of about twenty minutes thereafter where the transporter would be vulnerable and unprotected.
Yogi-bear and Tommy parked across the street from the drop and sat in the El Camino and ate burgers from Inn 'n Out. The drop was made and two native men held the stash.

They began to walk, with the shit in one backpack.

"No way," Tommy said, mouth agape.

"Is that... no it can't be..." Yogi-Bear said "It is!"

The Heartbreakers came on the radio just as Yogi-Bear and Tommy pulled up in front of the two older men. Within a minute, the beatdown was lain, and Yogi-Bear held Jason Anaba's ear to the passenger-side speaker, Tommy held Robert Kai's ear in place as well, while Tom Petty's vocals filled the block from the maxed-out radio speakers.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kiril Takes a Dip

Shae Sveniker, August 2009

"It's another gangster movie," Kiril said to his wife. "I've always loved that about the Americans, the outlaw saint."

"Everytime, you say this, everytime," Anastasia said, "I really didn't like that movie."

"You never like the things that I like! Time's like these I wonder why we got married!" Kiril laughed, so as to make a joke of it. He was always laughing, and truthfully, that's why Anastasia agreed to marry him. Kiril and Anastasia walked down the street slowly. They were not too old, maybe fifty, though they acted like they were much older. Life had been rough in Russia. Kiril leaned heavily on his cane with one hand and held Anastasia's hand in the other.

"You'll never know how close I was to living that life my dear," Kiril said, "But I'm glad I didn't, you know." Kiril kissed her small hand.

"You're insufferable," Anasatasia said, "I won't forgive you!" She smiled when Kiril acted taken aback. "You're always making jokes of things that are really important, you know, someday I might leave you!"

Kiril laughed at that too. They continued walking down the street towards their old home in Pasedena. It was warm, in the high nineties. That was compounded by the smog and dust and concrete in the city. It felt much hotter.

"It's very hot here, why did we move to California?" Anastasia asked.

Kiril thought to himself a moment and said, "Well it might be because it was very cold in Moscow," Kiril laughed again.

"Do you remember in '87?" Anastasia said, "When we jumped in the Epiphany?"

"Yes," Kiril said. "That's when I proposed to you, in the freezing water, I told everyone I wasn't cold, but I almost died!" Kiril laughed loud enough for both of them.

"It's days like this I miss Russia," Anastasia said.

"Don't say such crazy things!" Kiril said.

That night, there were power-outages all over the city. The temperature rose with the panic the next day. Anastasia had a heat-stroke at three-thirty in the afternoon. She was dead by six.
Kiri sat in the funeral home and stared at the urn. Aquaintences came by and offered their condolences. Kiril waited for what seemed like forever until an old friend sat beside him.

"Kiril, come with me, don't go back to that empty house, you know you have family in Moscow."

"Alexander, I was just thinking about you," Kiril said, "I can't go back with you. I'm too old for that life."

"So you say! You're fit as a fiddle, Kiril, don't say no!" Alexander took out a cigarette. "You ought to come back, everyone could use your advice. You know Dimitri couldn't come because he has that heart condition, but he told me to give his regards and to pay his respects."

"Oh really," Kiril said.

"Yes, really, they all respect you still my friend, despite your decision to leave. You come back anytime you feel, OK?"

"OK," Kiril said.

Alexander patted him on the shoulder as he left. "You have my number."

Kiril limped home from the funeral parlor with part of Anastasia's ashes in the small, porceline urn, and the rest of them in a paper bag. He emptied her ashes in her garden, mixed the dirt with his hands, and went inside to drink vodka in the parlor. The next morning, hung-over, alone, and bored, he checked his mail. In it was a ticket to Moscow, one-way, first class. Several weeks later, Kiril was on a plane to Moscow.

Alexander met him at the airport and they went straight to Dimitri's place, a small pirouski shop just outside Istra. When he got there, it was dark. Alexander carried Kiril's single bag. Two tall Russians in dark grey suits stood just inside the door, it was not much brighter inside the place. There were no customers and the only light came from a room in the back, behind the bakery's ovens.

"Is that Kiril I hear coming this way?" Dimitri's voice was loud and deep, he spoke in Russian with a rural accent.

"Yes, it's me," Kiril replied in the same rustic Russian as he enter the back room. There was Dimitri counting money on the table and putting it in a safe-bag. He hid the bag under the table and got up heavily. "Ha Ha it's been too long my friend! Come over here and we'll play some cards and drink some vodka! Do you still smoke cigars?"

"No, I gave that up recently," Kiril limped into the room and sat down at the small table. Alexander was in the front of the store, talking with the tall guys standing in the dark. "You know I never thought I'd come back here."

"No one expected you too, I guess I was just worried about you my friend, all alone in that horrible country."

"I wasn't alone," Kiril lied, "There are plenty of people in Los Angeles."

"Sure, sure, well what should it be my American friend, poker?"

"How about Durak?"

"Well it's comforting to know you haven't forgotten where you come from, I'll deal, first we drink, then we can talk business."


Dimitri poured two small glasses and pushed one over to Kiril. "Here's to old friends and new beginnings huh?"

"Na Zdarovye."

"The truth is, Dimitri, I could not come back to work with you," Kiril said. "The money is fine, better than fine, but i have a clean conscience now and it took so many years of scrubbing to get there..."

Dimitri scowled dealt the cards. "You're full of shit Kiril, you got shot and then you got scared and you ran away with your tails between your legs. you were scared for your little Anastasi and you ran away." Dimitri lit his cigar. It was Cuban. Kiril felt his mouth water. "You took the plane ticket, you must have other reasons for coming back."

Kiril thought for a moment. "You know, I can't work for you, but I missed our old times I guess... do you remember that trip to Cuba in '89?"

Dimitri laughed heartily "I can't believe that we didn't get caught!" In those days of economic upheaval, the only way they could get out of the country was to stowaway in traincars that crossed the southern border, eventually they were able to get to Cuba by stowing away on a cargo ship. They came back in with a few kilos of cocaine as their new start.

They retold old stories and laughed until the dawn. Kiril left to stay in a hotel as the shop opened for the morning business.

Kiril had said he wouldn't work for Dimitri, but they both knew there was no other way he could live. Kiril was experienced in accounting and began to take over a couple of Dimitri's front-shops. His creative work earned him much more than the salary one would expect of a deli manager and laudomat operator.

He stayed at the hotel and lived hand-to-mouth, and as the days got shorter, he felt Anastasia's presence begin to sour in his soul. They had been together since the early eighties, had immigrated together, lived together, more than twenty years. He knew she wouldn't approve of his lifestyle, but there was nothing but that empty house to come back home to in Pasedena, and besides, Dimitri was a good friend to have for a drinking partner, or which he was doing more and more of. Still as the weather turned colder, Kiril seemed to grow warmer.

In December he was often seen walking around in the snow without an overcoat. The other patrons at the hotel would stare in wonderment as he walked by. The very air arround him began to feel warm to strangers. Then again, he was drinking pretty heavily, and the MaĆ®tre d’ suspected he had more alcohol than blood.

At night, Anastasia would come to him in dreams. She would say "it's so hot here, why did we move here again?"

and he would reply

"because it's so cold in Moscow..."

One day in January, Kiril left the hotel dressed in bermuda shorts and a t-shirt. The doormen tried to stop him, because it was negative thirty-five outside, an extreme cold even for this part of Russia. When they tried to hold him back however, his body heat penetrated their snow-gloves, and so they let him go.

"He's crazy, he must be ill," one of the doormen said.

"Good riddence," the other doorman said, "Every night he keeps up the other guests, drinking all by himself and laughin all night long. I'll be glad to see him go!"

He walked passed the Pirouski shop were Dimitri and Alexander saw him. They tried to get him to come inside but he kept walking. They followed him, yelled at him, tried to get him to come inside, still nothing worked. As he got closer to the river, he seemed to grow hotter and hotter. Steam from the ice in the air arround him began to evaporate in big grey clouds. His skin was bright red by this point, he looked like a walking fire-brand. Kiril began laughing, a hot, gutteral laugh. A laugh like only Russians can laugh, from the bottom of his belly, like someone had just told the best joke in the world.

"It smells like his flesh is burning, Dimitri, what's going on here?" Alexander tried to grab onto Kiril but to no avail, his body heat burned through Alexander's mittens. "Ouch! He's on fire I tell you!"

"Kiril what are you doing? I will have to call the police if you don't come back to the shop with us! You must be ill with fever! we'll take you to the hosital!" Dimitri struggled to catch up with him. "Where's your cane, Kiril? How can you move so fast?"

"It's so cold in Moscow! HAHAHA!" was the only thing Kiril said as he kept walking. He said it over and over as he laughed and laughed. At the bank of the river, Dimitri and Alexander watched as he took off his clothing and lept into the water and his body dissapeared as the river exploded in a cloud of steam.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

David Makes a Fly

Shae Sveniker, June 2009

It was unusual for Davey to stay in his room more than two days on end. For those two days, though, usually he spent the time talking to himself or drawing on the walls with crayons or doing math in his head. He loved doing math it was his favorite thing. He loved doing math while listening to the same clip from Scooby Doo over and over until he stumbled upon a better, more brilliant Scooby Doo. Right now though, he was listening to the part where Shaggy says "Zoinks, Scoob!" and Scooby goes "Ruh Roh!" and then there is laughter.

Oh god, that laugh track was brilliant, David just couldn't let it go, he played it over and over.

In the meantime, there was math to be done, but not just ordinary math, David had a brilliant idea. The Mom had bought colored tissue paper. the kind for wrapping presents with. It was slightly red on one side and slightly white on the other and it was slightly translucent and there was a lot of it. The minute the Mom had brought the stuff home from the store, David saw it in the hallway and pointedly said "This smells like a job for the mystery gang. Let's split up!" and snatched up the tissue paper and took it to his room. The Mom followed him and was making a lot of noise but David wasn't listening. There was indeed a mystery afoot. He shut the door quickly and the Mom banged on it a for a little while and made more noise. It would go away soon, it always ended in exasperated sighs and then silence outside David's door.

-oinks Scoob! Ruh Roh! HaHa--

David had seen a video of Satoshi Kamiya folding an eastern dragon out of paper just like the paper that the Mom had brought home. He thought the Mom had brought it home for him, because of the video. It was very nice of her to do that. He watched the video on his computer while the Scooby Doo track played over and over. It was complicated but before the end of the first day, David could fold it. Satoshi Kamiya called the thing a "divine dragon" and so David thought it would be good to call it that too. David took out his masking tape from behind his bed and taped the thing to the cieling. He wrote next to it "divine dragon" in red crayon. There was plenty of tissue-paper left, and David thought it would be a good idea to start trying to make his own, now that he'd had a small introduction to this strangely mathmatical art.

-ruh roh hahahahaha--

By the end of the second day the Scooby Doo track had been switched to the same dialogue but at a different place. The sounds were totally different and David liked this one more anyway. It kept playing and playing as David kept folding and folding. The long roll of Tissue was about halfway gone and he'd made several more dragons, a great dane, a Shaggy, and a Daphne but he felt awkward makeing Daphne with such a short skirt so he made her with a longer skirt instead. He'd read that origami art had to be made out of only one piece of paper and there was no cutting allowed and so that's what he did.

-ruh roh ha ha ha ha--

On the third day he noticed that he was running out of the 25 ft roll of paper. He'd made more than fifteen items including a giant beattle, a monster from Scooby Doo, and a twelve-inch tall replica of the Mom complete with whiskey bottle and cigarette in her hands, all folding, no cutting, only one piece of paper each. There was no wasted paper in the room and now he was down to his last six square inches. David knew that there would be more paper but it would be a few days and so David decided to make something really special, but he did not know how to do it so he lifted the blinds in the room and it was bright outisde. He looked out and saw a butterfly flying through the grape-vines in the back yard and closed the blinds again. "Ok gang," he said "It seems like it was old man Peterson all along!"

-ruh roh ha ha ha ha--

The Mom was outside his door making noise and banging on his door. David didn't like it when she did that and didn't know or care what she wanted. There was a mystery afoot! David was hungry, but that didn't matter. He kept folding. Six square inches is not a lot of paper, so David had to get really close to the desktop to see what he was doing. The Mom had brought guests over at around nightfall on the third day, but something was not right. The Mom never had guests over on the wrong days, but now there were guests on the wrong day!

...ruh roh ha ha ha ha...

David opened the door and there were people in white coats in the living room. "It's the wrong day!" David said. The Mom looked began to yell but David was ignatious. "The wrong day! The wrong day!" he said and began to attack the people in the white coats. They had to leave! There was no reason for them to be there! It was wrong of them to be there! But they grabbed onto him and pulled him out of the house. "the Wrong Day!" David had no idea what they wanted and fought really hard but the people in the white coats overpowered him and threw him into the back of a mini-van.

It was quiet in the mini-van and so David sat down and opened his hand and there, the thing he'd been folding for the past twelve hours, no bigger than the eraser of a pencil. "Zoinks Scoob!" He said. The people in the white coats were making noises at him but he wasn't listening. "Ruh Roh!" he said. The people in white coats began to drive the mini-van someplace David had never been. "It's a mystery," he said "Let's split up, gang!" The van drove onto the freeway and David wondered where the Mom was. He said "You meddling kids!" and held out his hand to show the people in white coats what he had made, and in it there was an origami fly, fluttering it's wings, looking around, buzzing in terrified confusion at being alive.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gone Fishing

Shae Sveniker, June 2009

"After my car got jacked in the city, I didn't know what to do," Rachel said, "I'm so glad I ran into you!"

"They stole the whole thing, huh?" Jake kicked a small stone into the river.

"The whole thing, Jakey, the whole thing!" Rachel set her bag down on a big stone. The water was still and slow-moving, the green of northern California reflected in the water.

Jake happened to be filling his tank at a gas station off 16th and Mission, headed up through the city on a whim before the long weekend, when he noticed Rachel sitting on the curb with the look of a lost kitten. They'd known each other in high school, and both had matured quite a bit. She almost didn't recognize him when he asked if she needed help.

Jake had been kind of a chubby kid with poor social skills and bad acne, but now, after living on his own in the big city and working hard at a manufacturing job, he'd lost a lot of weight and his face had cleared up. She could feel herself blush a little when she looked at him, now. They were a long way from Utah, but serendipity knows no rationality anyway. She had been a weird girl, strangely popular despite her originality, she had dreadlocks back then, but now her blonde hair was short in a bob with curls. Jake had always liked her as a friend, but never had any other intentions, she seemed out of his league.

He invited her up to the mountains to camp for the weekend, while the police looked for the car in the city. Just north of Arcada, where the redwoods began to grow, there was a stream they followed from the beach and spent three or four hours hiking upstream, and as they got further upstream, tributaries joined with the water until it was a river about twenty meters across.

Jake and Rachel began clearing an area close to the river for the small tent Jake had brought. It was warm for the northwestern day, and by the time they were done setting up the tent, both were sweating. They laughed about high-school and that time those kids put mannequinns on the roof of the gym before the homecoming game. They had dressed the mannequinns up like hookers in the schools's colors, and wrapped them up with ribbons and a banner that said "game trophy." Nobody ever figured out who did that.

Rachel walked over to the river and put her hand in the water, Jake felt like he shouldn't watch, but couldn't help it, the way the sunset made her skin pink, and light flowed from her shoulders down her toned sides. She sat on a big rock and began to take her shoes off. "The water's warm here, there must be a spring nearby," she said "come on in!"

Jake crept slowly forward, unsure of what to do, she wasn't even watching him though, instead, her back to him, sitting on that big, white rock, surrounded by the green of the forest, she began to remove clothing. Jake felt himself blushing and waited until she had jumped into the water before taking off his own clothing.

It seemed there had already been people here, because there were boulders piled up around one side of the shore, and as the dusk crept over the valley, it was apparent those boulders surrounded a hot spring, there was steam rising and less mosquitos there, so the two friends eventually both ended up there, naked in the wilderness, nostalgic, and laughing on opposite sides of the pool.

"You've changed a lot since high school," She said.

"So have you," He said.

"In a good way?" She asked.

"Most definitely," He said. "Where have you been?"

"That's a long story," she said, and dunked her head under water. When she came back up, she was right next to him. He reached out the same time she did and they pulled each other close and kissed with eyes closed. When Jake opened hhis eyes again, he stared into her beaming face, but right behind her, a dark shape began to rise to the surface of the water, and then another.

"Oh my god," he said as he looked around. "It's spawning season."

"Yeah, it is," she said, and laughed as she groped him "Spawn with me, Jacob!" not realizing when what happening yet.

"No, really, turn around! Look!" And as she did, she gasped.

On the surface of the water from shore to shore, giant Chinook salmon began rising to the surface of the water, gasping, some writhing, mostly though, they were all dead already, and Jake and Rachel were in the middle of the river surrounded by deformed, dead, and dying fish, with battle scars from courtship rituals, mutated by the fresh water and lust.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sonny's Girl

Shae Sveniker, July 2009

The woman in the red dress sank into the light of the stage like a bloodstain on white carpet; a bloodstain that could sing. The haunting sounds of a stand-up bass sliding notes like moans down the neck, from low to high and high to low, the saxophone scooping up the tears of imaginary one-night-stands in it's tenor bell, the soft buzz of a guitar's strings just touching blue notes, a piano expertly setting the mood like candle-light on dark velvet, and the subtle hint of latin blue in congas and bongos; they were all there, but the spotlight shined only on her, the woman in the red dress, who wore the room like a mink coat in winter.

The other boys see her, they try to talk to her, but the bloodstain chokes their little-boy voices and her eyes explode inside their brains like roses blooming in time-lapse films. They squeak like mice, these accountants and lawyers, doctors and engineers, wannabes and had-been men. None of them with the guts enough to say what they really mean, and so every night, in the back of the club, she stacks her gifts from not-so-secret admirers, the flowers and the love-notes and the chocolate boxes and the envelopes of stranger's moneys and she takes off the red dress and waits, alone in the dressing room, for me.

Sometimes she waits until four or five in the morning. Sometimes she waits until three, but she's always waiting for me and I always show up.

She does her nails and adjusts her garter, she practices singing lonely blues in the keys of longing. She makes up lyrics about me, about how cruel and beautiful love can be, and I never sing them back, but sometimes I harmonize. I listen to her move. Sometimes, I speak to her, when there's something to say, but most nights we just listen to each other breathe.

I walk her home and never go inside, always take off my hat and kiss her good night and promise to make an honest woman out of her one day. She jokes about making an honest man out of me too, but I know she doesn't mean it. It don't mean a think if it ain't got that...

One night a thief stole my wallet on my way to the club. I chased him down in a back alley and hit him on the head with a tire iron I found beside a dumpster. I didn't hit him very hard, but he just crumpled like a sack of potatoes. I turned him over and reached into his jacket pocket and took my wallet back. I was winded, but it was fine.

As I turned around to leave the alley, I heard movement on both sides, and seeping from the shadows like oil from the shale beneath the harbor was a gang of young punks lookin to get made. I knew one of them, a little Italian prick named No Face Jimmy. They called him No Face on account of he was jumped into a gang pretty young and couldn't even defend himself at the time. No one has ever seen his face since, he wears a plain white mask, like for Marty Gras, and speaks like he's got a mouth full of toungue and no teeth. Which he probably does.

There was about ten of them in workshirts and slacks and then there was me, clean cleaner than a broke-dick dog with shined shoes and ready for my bloodstain that can sing. Bloodstains was what I got. No Face also had this penchant for makin people as ugly as he was, the psychophant, and by the time the others had had their fun and he was done, I'd be lucky if the best surgeon in the world could make me into Quazimoto.

She waited for me that night just like all the others, but I never came.

She was alone, vulnerable, and there was nothing I could do, bleeding in some downtown alley, my wallet missing and body broken, bleeding to death as the sewer rats gnawed on my fingers. I began to crawl as soon as I regained conciousness, but I was blind, the blood in my eyes, so I found a warm stretch of concrete and lost consciousness.

She waits for me...

I regained conciousness in a hospital wrapped in bandages and high on morphine. Something was definitely wrong. There was no one in the room so I tried to move and found my right arm and left leg in a cast. I looked at the fingers of my free hand and they were swollen and bruised. They made popping sounds when I balled my fist and the tips were numb. I felt the bandage around my head and the shapes underneath were alien. Whatever they did, I couldn't speak except to moan and grunt. I started doing this as loud as possible.

With enough of that, a nurse finally came into the room.

"Mister, you're awake! That's good, you can start by telling us what happened. Oh no, don't try to speak, here, use this." She gave me a shitty ball-point pen and a note pad of stationary with little hearts and roases and cute little self-affirming statements on the top.

I wrote "Phill Carney, 1(866) 929-3100, lawyer."

She looked at the note with a quizical expression and hesitated before I threw the pen and made some sort of animal noise. She got up quickly and left the room.

Within the hour Phill was sittin at my bedside.

"They busted you up pretty good didnt' they buster?" Phill was a wiseguy but a good man. Plus he owed me a favor. "What do you need, buddy, I'll get you anything! You need a bottle of Hennessey I bet you, maybe some real fried chicken, I know how these hospitals work, they cut costs on all their food, it's such bullshit, how are you s'possed to get better eating this crap? hey, I know, I'll order in somethin from Roscoes, lemme give'm a call..." He reached for his cell but I grabbed his hand before he could call.

"Gimme outta here!" I said, but it sounded more like "Giyyee outta here." My jaw was qired shut and I couldn't feel my lips.

"Sonny, I don't think that's a good idea, you can't be seen out in--"

I grabbed him by the tie and pulled him close "Do me a favor." I said. Well, more like "Do ye a yayor." but he got the point. it's all in the inflection I guess.

He said "Sure, Sonny, anything you need, where do you wanna go?"

I wrote the address of the club down and he looked at it and shook his head. "I don't know what you see in that broad, but I'll get you there. You sit tight for a minute."

Fifteen minutes later, two big orderly's with leather jackets over their scrubs were lifting me into a wheelchair to be taken out. Hospital policy, I couldn't use crutches until I was off the property. Liability and such.

Phill's limo waited at the entrance. I struggled into the back and waited quietly while Phill's driver took his sweet-ass time getting to the club. Phill filled me in on the sports scores, the Celtics beat the whoseywhatsicouldgiveafucksits but I sat quietly and waited untill we got to the part of town the club was at.

One of the orderly's had ridden with us and helped me get out of the car. Phill waited for me while I went inside. I didn't know what I was there for, I just knew I had to be. The place was unlocked and there was no bartender. It was about two in the afternoon I guess. Bobby must have had the day off because the place was still sticky and boozey from the night before. I looked around mypoically, the bandaged covered my right eye too. I hobbled passed the stage on crutches and the orderly followed me at a respectable pace.

Passed the stage into the back, and up the stares to the dressing room.

There in the velvet folds of the nest she had made, the woman in the red dress, naked, laying there, waiting for me--

"I knew you'd come to me baby"

--she cooed a love song sweeter than all the blood in her red, red lips, and as the morphine wore off and the pain set in I couldn't help but let the tears come out.

That bloodstain voice of hers, ringing in my muffled ears, as I held her cold hand, and rested my weary head on her soft thighs, I could say nothing, except hum that slow, sad song, our song, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady.