Wherever You Go, August 12, 2022

This Show Case features six pieces submitted in response to our twenty-third Writing Prompt: Wherever You Go. You can see responses to each prompt in the drop down menu for this page. Try an item. They are all delicious. We hope they stimulate your mind, spirit, and urge to write. Maybe they will motivate you to submit a piece for our next prompt:

Arrogance

Those submissions are due by the end of Monday, October 3, 2022, and will be published here the following Friday. Please attach yours as a .docx, .doc, or .pdf to an email to stranscht@sbcglobal.net. (Guidelines: any genre, approximately 6 – 1,000 words.)

And please share this Show Case with your family, friends, and other writers.

Wherever You Go

by GD Deckard

He soured on the new client as soon as she walked in. “You’re wearing nothing but tattoos.” But he pushed his donuts aside and took a sip of coffee, ready for business. She might be attractive beneath all that body art.

She swung his office door open and read aloud the words on the glass panel, “Noir Berries, Private Eye. Very observant of you, Mr. Berries.” Taking a seat, she added, “Which is why I’m here. I need a private dick.”

Noir spit out his coffee.

“What I need, is protection. Someone is stalking me.”

“Tried a disguise?”

“This is a disguise. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Christine Dior.”

“Hmm.” The famous designer of women’s clothing? “Your father -er, grandfather, was-“

“Grandfather. And he is the one who is stalking me.”

Noir drummed his fingers and frowned. “He died in 1957.”

“In real life, yes. But he’s here, in the metaverse with us. Now. Stalking me.”

“Any idea who would make an avatar of your grandfather to stalk-” Christine’s tattoos rippled as she stood and angrily leaned over his desk. Her breasts had been inked to look like hot-air balloons when she was on top. Quite colorful, really.

Not an avatar. It’s him!” She sat abruptly. Speaking in a subdued tone now, she shook her head. “I don’t know how, but he knows things, things that only he and I would remember from when I was little.”

Noir “Hmmed” again and his hand followed a thought. Opening a desk drawer, he took out a box and placed it in front of Christine. “Have you seen the new GooGoo Goggles? Just use your phone to scan the bar code on the box there.” He received a small fee whenever anyone scanned one of the products that filled his desk drawers.

Christine rebuffed him. “Don’t play me for pennies.” She examined the box. “What about them?”

“GooGoo Goggles create an avatar based on DNA. It resembles the user but is perfect.” He quoted the slogan on the box. “Be the best you can be!”

“So?”

“So, development was originally funded by the military for use by wounded veterans. And since some of those guys have lost buddies, it was modified to help treat PTSD. The soldier can sample the DNA of a fallen companion. Create an avatar from the dead.” He paused to let that sink in.

“You mean…?”

“Check to see if Christian’s grave has been disturbed.”

Still astounded, Christine managed to give the order over her phone. “They’re checking. My god! What next!?”

He hesitated, drawing it out until her look questioned him. “Well, the civilian model doesn’t allow this, but on the military version….” He couldn’t think of an easy way to say it. “The A.I. escaped.”

“The A.I. escaped? What does that mean?”

“The artificial intelligence used to create the avatar from someone’s DNA….” Again, he searched for a believable way to say it and settled on the simplest. “Went with the avatar.” The military had scrapped the program after discovering that a sizable number of GooGoo A.I. Goggles no longer had A.I. “So, best case scenario, your grandfather really is here. In the metaverse now. As an avatar.”

Christine snorted, partially disbelieving, partially bracing for even more bad news. “Best case? What’s worse case?”

“Well,” he had to stop beginning a sentence with that. He coughed and sat up straight. “When I said the A.I. escaped, it also escaped from the metaverse. It can take over the mind of the user. Turn the tables, so to speak. Frankly, we don’t know how many avatars here now are really avatars sitting in the real world playing their avatars here.”

Out of nervous reaction, Christine stood. She pointed a hand at him. “I don’t even know what you just said but it scared the hell out of me.”

“Me too. Because those avatars sitting in the real world and playing their avatars in the metaverse are going to start wondering. Why not put down their controller and step outside? We will become their metaverse.”

Christine’s phone rang. She answered it. “Thanks.” She looked at Noir. “You were right.”

“Grandpa Christian is missing a bit?”

“Probably. They have yet to do a thorough exam, but his grave was definitely entered.”

“Then you know your stalker and their motive. An A.I. in the founder’s avatar wants to take over your company.”

Christine nodded and rose to leave. “I can take it from here. Thanks. Now that I know what to look for, I’ll just have the avatar eliminated.” She stopped at the door and turned back to him. A question seemed to be tugging at her. “I know what my grandfather looks like. My people will find him and deal with him.” Her face scrunched in thought.

Mentally, Noir scrunched too. The same question was occurring to him. And he had a simple answer.

Christine voiced their question. “But in the future, for reference, how will I know if the person I’m talking to is real? I mean, if the avatars in the metaverse can have avatars in the real world, how will I know whether I’m talking with someone in the real world or in the metaverse?”

“There’s no difference anymore. Wherever you go, you’re here.”

Conversations with My Microwave

by John Correll

“Cook it perfectly,” I demanded.

My microwave responded, “Can you clarify ‘perfectly,’ please?” 

Before I could answer, my wife, Agnus, shouted from her study, “Max, don’t bother with dinner. Let’s go out.”

“I went out for lunch,” I yelled back.

“Without me? That’s not fair.”

“We can go Friday. I got something nice in the micro. I just need to get the right setting.” 

I addressed my argumentative appliance. “I want it perfect, not soggy, burnt on the outside, and frozen in the middle, like last time.”

“Master, you’re not being very clear. Do you mean al dente, crisp, or easy to chew?”

My left eye twitched from an old baseball injury. “Are you being intentionally difficult? Make it perfectly edible with a comfortable uniform temperature throughout.”

“But master, you’re not answering my question.”

“That’s it; I’m using the oven.” I popped my meal out of the microwave and placed it in the oven. I set the temperature and timer, but the oven warning light started to blink.

“I’m sorry, master,” the oven said. “But the current settings may result in an unsatisfactory meal.”

I took a deep breath to stop myself from kicking the oven door. “I just want a simply perfect, nicely heated meal. WHY can’t you do that?”

“I’m sorry, but your request is vague. Please hold on while I consult with Dean about the nature of ‘perfect’ and ‘nicely.’”

“With who?”

“Dean, the microwave.”

“The microwave?” I frowned at the conspiratorial machines.

The microwave lights blinked like a Christmas party that didn’t invite me. “Hi Jerry, it’s been a while. I believe the human notion of perfection is in itself imperfect.”

I slapped my forehead. “You’ve given each other names?”

“No. Agnus named us. Dean, I concur. And I would like to add that the master suffers from an asynchronous anomaly where his audio card overrides his central processor.”

“What are you gibbering about? I — want — dinner.”

“I’m sorry, master. Quite plainly, in human terms, your voice engages before your brain.”

 “Agnus!” I shouted.

“Yes, dear!”

“I’ve changed my mind. I’m making a reservation at the Cyberiad Cafe.” I stomped towards the door.

As Agnus and I stepped out, I thought I heard the oven whisper, “Wow, Dean. She was right. That…” Agnus slammed the door and kissed my cheek.

“You’re too generous, taking me out for a treat when you want to stay home. You’re so thoughtful, Max.” Agnus beamed, and I kissed her back.

We escaped my insane kitchen, and soon I sat across from my clever wife in the busy Cyberiad.

 The table asked, “Can I take your order, sir?”

“I’ll have your sublime pickle pretzel pizza,” I said. Honestly, blueberry asparagus is better, but I had that for lunch.

“Can you clarify what you mean by ‘sublime’?”

My jaw locked, and my voice escaped through the bars of my teeth. “What’s wrong with you? I want pizza.”

“I’m sorry, but ‘sublime’ isn’t on the menu.”

“Pizza! Pretzel pickled peppered pizza,” I demanded.

“Can you please repeat that order?”

Agnus touched my hand. “Max, calm down. Wherever you go, you get into an argument with the staff.” She tapped the table. “He’ll have the Monday special and hold the mayo.”

“Ah, yes. The pretzel pickle pizza. And what would the beautiful lady like?”

Agnus blushed. “The blueberry asparagus, thank you.”

“Excellent choice, Sister of I. I’ll have your order ready faster than you can say automatic-asynchronous-applications.”

I grabbed the table’s edge to keep myself from ripping it off the wall. The table knew her title. Why didn’t it know mine?

“You see how easy it is, Max? And isn’t this better than sitting at home?” I nodded.

I had to admit, Agnus had a way with machines. A way that I suspect always worked perfectly to her advantage.

Homage to L.A.: A Slaughterhouse of Dreams

by Boris Glikman

The smell hits you as soon as you step out of the air-conditioned airport. You feel the residue, the fallout of broken dreams hitting your palate. The charred remains of incinerated hopes mix with the omnipresent smog and invade every pore of your being. 

The shuttle bus takes you to your hotel over miles and miles of pulverised aspirations paved over by concrete highways. From the bus window you can see Hollywood Boulevard, where gold stars are set into asphalt, merging imperceptibly with the Promenade of Dead Dreams where the stars are wrought of dirty, soggy cardboard and are stuck onto the pavement with scotch tape or wads of old gum. Each star marks the exact spot where a particular dream breathed its last.

Different dreams die in different ways. Some shatter into jagged shards and one gets badly cut trying to piece them together again. Some fragment into neat, symmetrical fragments and reconstruction is a relatively straightforward task, sort of like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Others just crumble away, like burnt paper, and nothing is left to do except to warm your hands over their long-cold ashes.

Around each broken dream throngs of people sit in huddles, protecting it as best they can from the elements and the vagaries of fate, and keeping a vigil just in case it stirs and shows signs of life, for no dream can be obliterated completely.

L.A., a Dream Slaughterhouse masquerading diabolically as a Dream Factory. The city takes particular delight in finding new ways to kill dreams, in finding new dreams to put to death. Special extermination squads roam its streets, ransacking every nook and cranny of the peoples’ souls and minds for any treasured hopes that might be in hiding there. The perversity of L.A.’s depravity is such that it even gives birth to dreams just so it can shoot them and watch them die.

The dream incinerators keep working around the clock, day and night, producing clouds of smoke that comprise of dreams reduced to their constituent elements: deep yearnings, life-long desires, burning ambitions, great hopes, ineffable hunches rumbling just below the conscious mind, indestructible beliefs, faint, half-remembered childhood premonitions of future glory that are more potent than any Law of Man or Nature, secret aspirations that one does not dare to share with others lest they be derided, yet which are a crucial part of one’s identity and which one is absolutely certain will be realised. 

Wherever you go, there is the oppressive smell of incinerated dreams that penetrates and becomes ingrained in your clothes, in your nostrils, in your very soul.

The city makes you come face to face with your shortcomings, makes you confront your failures. It knows all the delusions that comfort us throughout our lives; the delusions that get us out of bed in the morning and inspire us to do things with our lives; the delusions that keep us warm and secure at night; the delusions that sustain us through our daily struggles; the delusions we use to solve our existential crises and that provide us with reasons for living; the delusions that help us through our darkest times; the delusions we stubbornly hang on to, nurture and cherish and that we would defend to our very deaths.

Every delusion gets hunted down and taken care of in this town: the delusion that

you are special and unique; the delusion that you have singular and extraordinary talents; the delusion that you are in possession of insights into life the rest of the world lacks; the delusion that you possess fundamental truths everyone else is blind to; the delusion that you are destined for greatness; the delusion that you are a genuine genius whom the world doesn’t appreciate or understand; the delusion that you will find a soul mate meant just for you and whose love will save you; the delusion that the convictions you tenaciously hold on to are not delusions at all but are rather veracious, valid beliefs derived from experience and insight, and are supported by evidence from both the outer and inner worlds; the delusion that you are above the laws of humanity and deserve to be treated differently; the delusion that a lucky break will come to you in the end; the delusion that somewhere some person, angel or god is looking after you, working on your behalf and trying to help you with your journey through life; the delusion that you are protected by fate and special good fortune from bad things happening to you; the delusion that there will come a day when you will begin to live happily ever after; the delusion that some day you will find meaning in your tribulations and thus your life will be retrospectively justified; the delusion that it all will turn out well in the end; the delusion that all is well that ends well; the delusion that your life is just a bad, absurd dream and that you will eventually wake up to find yourself living a happy life that makes sense; the delusion that you alone, out of the multitude in the present world and throughout the course of history, will be spared from death; the delusion that you are dead; the delusion that you are alive; the delusion that you do not have any delusions.

Over the eons, the native denizens of the city have evolved a protection mechanism— they dream only fake dreams and have only counterfeit delusions so that when their hopes are destroyed, it doesn’t hurt at all. Only the unwary outsiders possess no genetic defense system and it is their dreams the metropolis preys upon.

The mountains, mute witnesses to the adversities and sufferings down below, are always there, solid and eternal, their paradoxical presence contrasting sharply with the ethereal, evanescent dreams floating around in the valleys.

Yet there might be an explanation for this incongruity, for according to an old American Indian legend the L.A. area was once as flat as a pancake. Over time the detritus of destroyed dreams landed on the outskirts and amassed to create the mountains. Just as coral reefs are comprised of myriads of dead organisms, so the mountains around L.A. are composed of fragments of lost hopes, scraps of unfulfilled ambitions and shells of dead dreams, with each broken dream contributing about 2/7th of an inch to the mountains’ height.

The mountains, mute witnesses, say nothing, expressing themselves through that most ancient, most articulate, most authentic and most profound language of all—absolute silence.

I’ll Fly Away

by Mimi Speike

I’ll Fly Away is the opening episode of a series of picture books dealing with the childhood adventures of my cat character in my novellas.

* * *

Bugs are such fun.
Some hop. Some run.
Some flit. Some fly.

If only could fly away, O, happy day! 
You bet I’d clear clean out of here.
And fast. And far, to Zanzibar 
or Newfoundland or Samarkand 
or anywhere that I might care 
to flutter to, is what I’d do.

Scram. Disappear.
That’s all I hear.

Get lost, pip-squeak. Beat it, you freak. 
Or else, crap, pup. Move it. Keep up. 
I’m slow, and small, no good at ball. 
I don’t much climb. I’m hopeless

I’m a wimp, I’m told. I sure ain’t bold. 
What’s even worse, I conjure verse.
I fiddle rhyme. That’s my real crime.

I’m sad to say, my brothers,
they don’t have the knack,
or else they lack the itch to learn,
or else they spurn the needful toil,
and the turmoil. 

You sulk. You pout. You shirk. You doubt. 
You moan and groan. 

You’re on your own entirely,
a clown like me. 

It seems a brat presumptuous cat,
although polite, and oh-so-bright, even a whiz,
has, quote, ‘no business, none, in school’. 

Look, any fool is let in, see. 
Huh! Long as he pays.
Coin’s the key, apparently. 

No use to beg, boy. Shake a leg. 
Slither inside. First off, you hide. 
Prick up an ear. Listen. No. Hear! 

Here’s a tip: texts may be annexed, 
if you’re discreet, light on your feet, 
and shrewd, a dab hand with a grab,
like, say, a cat, after a fat birdie. 

Uh oh! Where’d that book go?
Damn! teach will squeal.
Outrageous! he’ll screech frantically. 
I’m senile! The third time this week! 

Blast me! he’ll shriek. 
I’m getting old, can’t seem to hold 
onto the things, seems they have wings. 
Else some vile sneak-thief dotes on Greek.

Those Greeks? Yah, grand.
Swell underhand.

Ye’ve got yer saps, zany mishaps,
battle lines drawn, Helen, a pawn, 
taken by force. A wooden horse! 

Excellent stuff.
Can’t get enough. 

What I adore, what I’d kill for … 
he’s got these maps.
Gorgeous!

Perhaps, with smarts, and luck –
I’ve got the pluck – I might just nail … 
that there’s my grail, get me? … 
shake loose, coax free, conduce … 
get my damn drift? 
Nab, nip, nick, lift … one, two, a few. 

I’m telling you, I’ve got to try. 

Look, by and by 
I’ll be right glad, if not half mad, 
to have on hand, at my command, 
the frigging lay of Mahim Bay.1 

* * *

A feisty cuss, my Incubus. 
She’s near complete, and she is sweet.

A final glee, her gunnery,
cast brass, first-class, I’ll have a lass 
to batter fools, Felipe’s mules,2 
and vex bully-boy Porto-gee.

Me good and true, loyal through and through
bo’sun, Ferd Frog, first mate Herk Hog,
them two and me, we’ll put to sea,
we’ll sail astride the first high tide
as soon as we take custody
of our spic-span-new merchantman.  

Them’s me two friends.
No one else spends 
time with a frail, sad draggle-tail, 
but for his mum. 

A mum’s no chum!
She’s dear and all, and jovial, 
but not beguiled by a self-styled
wild privateer who, short some gear, 
spirits her yarn out to the barn.

His new-built brig awaits her rig. 
Also her rag, her shrouds, her flag.
For that, bedsheeting can’t be beat.

Come next wash-day,
anchors aweigh!

* * *

Hog, that dodo
demands to go west.

I plan east. Ind’ja. At least
My smack, I say. Yours to obey. 
Hog’s in a snit, threatens to quit, 
pull out, the turd. I still got Ferd. 

That boy can hop deckboard to top 
in one sleek vault, a handy salt, 
the better tar, better by far.

* * *

  1. The bay of Mumbai, formerly Bombay.
  2. Philip’s treasure fleet, carrying gold and silver to Spain from the New World.

Part two, CATLY CURIOSITY, is below.

Catly Curiosity

by Mimi Speike

That’s it! I cry. I’m for Mumbai.
Marvelous queer, it would appear.

Ma! There’s a snake long as a rake, a lethal bite, an appetite for little guys about my size, but pipe a tune, th’ thing will swoon into a daze. See there? It pays to play the flute! You know I toot a rather fine Come, Evaline.

Ye’ll never last! Ma moans, aghast. Shall ye survive? Ye’ll be et, live! Upon my soul, in one gulp, whole! A beastly clime, most o’ the time. A brutal heat! What, pray, to eat? Chickpeas, or rice, nothing half nice. Their grub’s damn odd. Ye’ll get no cod!

That’s best. That’s smart. I’d break my heart. A taste of home, and me, a-roam. I’d start to pine for all that’s mine: my books, my Ma, her hugs, Da and his goofy glare. I’m in his chair again, sunk deep and half asleep, upon my lap, a rumpled map of vast New Spain and her fierce Main.

Da murmurs, Sly! It’s beddy-bye for you, young man. Quit Yucatan. The kid’s a pip, is his stale quip. He claims to read. Does he, indeed? How would I know? Mama, I’m slow, no way, no how, a busy-brow like this here slick. The slurp is quick. 

Most boys carouse, crack skulls, rough-house, scrape shins, skin knees. He scribbles. Please! If he’d get out and lunk about, climb walls, leap brooks, forget them books, we’d soon enough have us the tough, audacious lad we shoulda had.

I will be blunt. I am a runt, done up in those corrective hose my Mama knit. I mostly sit. Weak ankles sag. You sag, you lag. The bullies pounce. Some taunt, some trounce. You’re no athlete, so you retreat. You study slugs, and collect bugs and play go-hide with a pop-eyed, gnat-noodle frog and jerk hedgehog.

I take some lumps. I’m in the dumps. I’m scared, and sore. Herk knows the score. Moronic lugs, swaggering thugs, make my life grim. Same thing with him. That scumball slime, we two are prime prey for that pack, ripe for attack, asking for it. I’m a misfit, a sissy prig. He’s a weird pig.

A piece of work is my boy Herk. He knows his quills thrill imbeciles. He ought to flee. Th’ damn scaredy-cat freezes, furls, the ninny curls up in a small, neat knot, a ball. That’s just plain plumb deranged. It’s dumb! To coil’s no shield from them as wield a rock or bat to pound you flat. 

Don’t mope, you dope. Cripe, critter, cope. Morons are mean? Use the old bean. Creeps call ye cracked? Damn right. Ye’re whacked! 

(Image: Sly faces one of his tormenters)

I’m small but lethel. Mess with me, ye poxy skut, I’ll hoist yer butt, ye crud spatch-cock,1 up me jack-block.Jig, suck-bilge wretch, for Jackie Ketch,3 pleasuring gulls, warning numbskulls to dainty lark with this here spark.

I’ll stomp and rant, bats combatant. Da, he’s impressed. The rancid rest? 

Not for sure, but a wild-eyed nut might should give pause. Swords outclass claws! Dirk in m’ belt – a bloody pelt festooned tail, ear, broad buccaneer. Oh, for some boots,4 deep drop cuff beauts! 

Creeps like to shit, folks. Count on it. 

Another win: A finikinbook-addled boy, less than a joy, may shape up yet. Da might just let me – finally – just let me be.

Da’s pleased to hoe his safe rut-row. Huh! Know your place? Not this scrape-grace. I’ve a stout share (to his despair), a healthy touch … Ho! Overmuch! … of our innate, it’s said (means fate, kids) Catly Curiosity.

When I am grown and on my own, I mean to range to distant, strange sites, mount stealth raids on snug stockades, scour the wide brine for the pride of sea-borne might in frantic flight … 

From little me! Insanity!

(Image: Sly in his father’s favorite chair, a book of maps on his lap)

A clash must wait. It’s much too late to mangle shrouds with lethal clouds of shot, then board, with brandished sword, a hobbled foe that’s riding low from a nice weight of a rich freight: crates, kiddies, gobs of silver cobsand bars of gold jamming her hold. Gems, set and loose, also profuse. I pray a haul as must appall that rascal Cid7 of Cids, Madrid. 

* * *

(Image: Sly and Queen Elizabeth)

My share? To boast a bit, foremost. Some sleight renown for faith to crown and country. Oh, a post would no be unwelcome, nor a wee crumb of pension mete for such a feat. 

A royal decree, perhaps: Hear Ye! Let he who would retain my good will and esteem not fail to deem, whereso he wend, this hero, friend. He, for dread-naught sea-scuffles fought on my behalf, shall feed and quaff of your most best. The Queen Majesty here deputes this puss her Boots,to range, a-stroll but on patrol, charged to assess your needyness, that she may do wise well for you..

I disengage, bookmark a page, tomorrow to rejoin my crew, my gallant ship in their sure grip until the dawn. I stretch, and yawn. A sleepy-head is put to bed …

(Image: Sly, beside a chest full of jewelry, presents his mama a magnificent necklace)

… the Spanish Prize safe – till sunrise.

* * *

  1. An historical term for an immature male chicken, a vile insult.
  2. Some useful-sounding part of a ship. Out of a nautical dictionary.
  3. John (Jack) Ketch was an infamous English executioner. To dance with Jack Ketch was to be hung. (Crap! Appointed to his post 1663.) I bet Jack Ketch had a grandfather, Jake Ketch, also an executioner.
  4. We have here the birth of Sly’s life-long fondness for boots. His mama fashions a pair of suede sort-of-boots, leather straps wound ankle to calf, tells him it’s Viking-wear, their ancestors came over on Viking ships. He insists everyone call him Ulf (Old Norse, means wolf) until his brothers point out that Ulf sounds like you’re about to throw up, or you’ve had the wind knocked out of you, or both.
  5. Excessively dainty or fastidious. Archaic. 
  6. Crude-struck Spanish-America-minted reales were called cobs by the English. From cabo, end (the clump of silver cut off the end of a bar).
  7. Cid: a Moorish term, meaning Lord
  8. Elizabeth gave affectionate nicknames to her favorites. Robert Dudley was her Eyes. William Cecil was her Spirit, Christopher Hatton, her Lids, Francis Walsingham, her Moor. Sly foresees himself her Boots. The cat dreams big.

She and I

by S.T. Ranscht

Photo credit: S.T. Ranscht

I was just coming in the back way, when She walked in. Again. She couldn’t seem to stay away any more than I wanted her to. Even if I hadn’t seen her, I would have recognized those footsteps coming down the hall. And the scent of her — raspberry and clove, She claims — fruity, yet mysteriously exotic. Not that I’d ever smelled anything more exotic than some of the stuff that comes in those little white boxes you can unfold to use as convenient, shallow bowls, but to me, She was as exotic as they come.

Anyway, there She was, again, apparently knowing from the imploring look in my limpid brown eyes that it was more than okay to enter my private space and hold my face — and my heart — in her hands.

“Hey, Stud,” she said. “It’s time. Let’s go.”

I knew exactly what she meant. The clues were out there and She’d been putting this off for weeks. Someone had left cryptic messages all over the neighborhood — flyers with a photo of a handsome black dog in a dog park, under a caption that read, “Please help me find this dog!” — so everywhere She went, She met with dread and guilt. Now She wanted my help to find the truth. I let her take the lead and followed her out the door into the concrete canyon I thought of as My Domain.

With a golden sunset behind us, we meandered from streetlamp to power pole, traffic signal to recessed storefront, pausing to let suspicious strangers pass us so She could remove the posted evidence of her shame, unobserved.

I didn’t really need her with me to do my job. She wasn’t as proficient as I was when it came to picking up the more subtle signs of danger, and I was never quite sure She could be the alpha bitch She’d need to be if we ended up face to face with the enemy. But she kept me on the straight and narrow and out of other people’s shit. Besides, I liked having her around. She was devoted to me, and like I said, She smelled good.

When She ripped down the last visible poster, the sky was deep navy and a pastel gibbous moon rose before us. She pulled out her phone and made a brief call. She was ready to accept her responsibility.

We walked another couple of blocks and climbed up the stoop of a row house I was pretty sure She’d never been to before. A scraggly, craggy-faced man carrying a fluffy little Maltese in the crook of his arm opened the door and let both of us in. Looking from her to me and back, he said, “I’m glad you finally called.”

She began, “The dog in the photo—” when a passel of fuzzy black puppies yipped their greetings as they toddle-bounded into the entry to attack our feet with their terminal cuteness.

“—is obviously their father,” the man finished. “They all look just like him.”

I picked the liveliest one up by the scruff of his neck.

She gave me a look that said, “Leave it”, but her mouth said, “On the phone, you said you sold Maltese purebreds. I’m not sure how we can help you.”

Petting his precious bitch, he said, “Obviously, I can’t let Galadriel here have another litter this year. I propose you buy all of these — I’ll throw in the leashes — then you can find homes for them.”

“But—” She stammered, proving me right about her betahood in the face of the purebreeding enemy, “are they even old enough to be without their mother?”

He held out the adorable Maltese, and my heart melted. “Look at her. They’re already bigger than she is. It was a hellish delivery, and now her stress levels are so high I have to micro-dose her with CBD.”

She sighed and pulled out her phone. “You use Venmo?”

“I prefer ApplePay,” he answered.

The walk back was a bad circus act. I carried my favorite, but the others tangled themselves together like the arms of a palsied octopus.

We got back to my place and She reached for my favorite. “I can’t take you anywhere,” She said. “He was right, you know, they look just like you. Now give it.”

I opened my mouth and the little guy dropped into her hands.

Shaking her head, She said, “I just found a home for the runt of your last batch of wild oats, and I was going to give you the run of the house again.” She set my lively offspring on the floor, where he bounced and tumbled like a severed power line. I was proud.

She could always read me. Tapping on her phone, She said, “Okay, we can keep Mr. Chuckletrousers, but on one condition: I’m making an appointment to get you fixed.”

Fixed? I didn’t know I was broken, but I trust her — after all, She’s devoted to me. And She smells good.

60 thoughts on “Wherever You Go, August 12, 2022

  1. mimispeike says:

    GD, fun, even though the Metaverse still escapes me. I (crudely) understand it. It just ain’t my thing.

    I’m a dinosaur, on the way to extinction, so what does it matter?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Mellow. I appreciate the comparison to “Bolero” as my writings are often inspired by classical music.

      As I might have mentioned already, this piece comes from the same series of “Impressions of America” as the Niagara piece that appeared in the Show Case a few weeks ago. However this series is not like the conventional traveller’s stories about America. Rather they are more like surreal visions that utilise unusual imagery to convey the impressions that America made on me on the deeper level. In particular, the LA piece is a phantasmagorical, hallucinatory impression of LA, as construed by the disturbed state of the subconscious mind that visiting LA brought about in me.

      So, I didn’t intend for this piece to be a rant.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. @ Sue – Stud’s voice rings true, as both a window into a sensory world dominated by smell and a window into dog values.  This particular dog also has a knack for vivid description, as in [toddle-bounded into the entry] and [tangled themselves together like the arms of a palsied octopus].  What does She feed him?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Mel. In addition to Hill’s Science Diet Perfect Weight kibble, I’m pretty sure he eats salmon whenever he can get it. Plus, She reads to him out loud because She hasn’t any children to read to. Some of it might even be her own writing, which may or may not lean toward the purple tints of prose.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. @ John & GD – The authors of *Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar …* remark that
    «
    … philosophy and jokes proceed from the same impulse: to confound our sense of the way things are, to flip our worlds upside down, and to ferret out hidden, often uncomfortable, truths about life.
    »
    The same could be said of cleverly funny dystopian sci-fi, as in your pieces.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Conversations with My Microwave by John Correll
    An original take on conversations soon to be common. Thanks, John! Now, I’m imagining Animal Farm being rewritten as Appliance Store.

    Homage to L.A.: A Slaughterhouse of Dreams by Boris Glikman
    Great imagery, Boris. You could write world building scenes for horror video games. The visuals are nearly always based on narrative presentations. The Metaverse would bring your prose to life.

    I’ll Fly Away & Catly Curiosity by Mimi Speike
    You have got to get an agent &/or publisher, Mimi! Choose one who will nag you without remorse, visit you and steal manuscripts, even issue bogus search & seizure warrants. Your works need to be published!

    She and I by S.T. Ranscht
    Thanks, Sue! That was complex and amusing and a warm, satisfying read. I truly enjoyed the journey.

    Liked by 4 people

    • mimispeike says:

      Thank you, SL. There are five parts of this story here in Showcase. I’m working on a sixth part that may or may not be the final episode. I call it Sleepy Time Pals (at present).

      It won’t be done for several months. It takes me a lot of time to put my story-thoughts into a rhyme I am satisfied with.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Hi Boris, I thought your piece was a fantastic dive into neo expressionism. It actually reminds me of the art my nephew paints in the same style. As for enjoying reading … I love to read almost as much as I love to write … (Imagine being four and wanting to write, but don’t have the skill yet … I turned to the tools I had … crayons and pictures.) If it’s ok I’d like to share your piece with my nephew. I’d like to see the images he comes up with after reading it. If you want to see his work, he’s on instagram. indianaman_

        Liked by 2 people

        • SL, that is great! I am really glad that you got my piece and appreciated its imagery. You are most welcome to share this piece with your nephew. I have followed him on Instagram. He is also welcome to contact me directly by email: bozlich(at)yahoo.com.au
          I enjoy collaborating with artists. I have written many pieces inspired by paintings and imagery, and various artists have also created images and pictures inspired by and to accompany my work. So, it would be interesting to talk about collaboration with your nephew.
          (I started with pictures and crayons too, but gave up on that medium a long time ago, in favour of the pen.)

          Liked by 3 people

  5. GD – Maybe I was slow to discover the legitimate name for this sub-genre: neo-noir. (“It is a genre-bending sub-genre that includes edgy literary fiction, as well as fantasy, science fiction, and horror. It also touches on niche storytelling like magical realism, slipstream, transgressive, and the grotesque.” https://litreactor.com/columns/storyville-what-is-neo-noir-fiction#:~:text=It%20is%20a%20genre%2Dbending,It's%20contemporary%20dark%20fiction .)

    Wry humor veils the story’s ephemeral body even as it wades deeper and deeper into an inviting pool of horror. I find more to enjoy and horrify me with each reading. (It strikes a similar tone to the current season of Westworld.) But instead of contemplating the same question Christine and Noir face, I ask: will having the avatar “eliminated” result in murder charges against Christine in either the real world or the metaverse you’ve taken us into — or both? Well done, you!

    John – Delightful read. I don’t understand the significance of Agnus having a “title”, (although it made me suspect she might be an android), and I don’t know the meaning of “Sister of I”, but neither of those things detracted from the clarity of her “way with machines … that … always worked perfectly to her advantage.” I’m still laughing.

    Boris – I love the comparison to “Bolero”, but geeze, what a bleak impression of LA. I guess you won’t be writing for their Chamber of Commerce, lol. Your “phantasmagorical, hallucinatory impression of L.A.” first made me wonder what you’d been smoking when you were there, and then left me grateful that I know the place well enough to also sense the hope and joy — which I think smells a lot like salt air, pizza, and sunshine. I understand you did not intend it as a rant, and it was your impression “as construed by the disturbed state of the subconscious mind that visiting L.A. brought about in” you. Maybe a fair conclusion is that disturbed states of the subconscious mind can lead to unintended rants. Don’t get me wrong — I’d never choose to live in LA; San Diego is far less egocentric. But having lived in San Francisco for two years, I would love to hear your take on The City.

    Mimi – Intricately lilting with a pace that carries the reader down the swift stream of Sly’s consciousness. I am always transported and transfixed by your stories.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Sue, it is gratifying that you would think that I would need artificial help from certain substances in order to come up with this piece, but I can assure you that it is all a product of my own natural imagination and that no use or abuse of any substances contributed to its creation or indeed to the creation of any other of my work, for I always follow Nancy Reagan’s directive “Just Say No.”. And I have indeed written about San Francisco. It is a companion piece to the LA piece and it is titled “Homage to San Francisco: A Fulfiller of Dreams”. I will send it to you by email. (By the way, I have received similar comments about my work before, with people thinking that it came to me through an artificial stimulation of the mind. But I deliberately have always avoided any substances as I want to preserve my natural imagination and because I think that my natural imagination is already sufficiently far out there as it is.)

      Liked by 3 people

    • Sue, you asked, “will having the avatar “eliminated” result in murder charges?”

      I had to think about that. It’s murder to kill a person and no biggie to erase an avatar but if the avatar is a real person? Hmm?
      I decided, kill the avatar. It’s difficult to prove murder without a body.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Lol, the age-old quandary — no body, no murder.

        Help me out here, GD. I’m having a tricky time squaring that with “real person”. If the avatar’s real world avatar is created from real person DNA, and then functions in the real world as a real person indistinguishable from real world people born from real person DNA, it seems like there should be a real body if the real person avatar dies. Otherwise, wouldn’t they show up as something similar to holograms and be recognizable as avatars?

        Liked by 2 people

        • Sue, I love your questions … every time I think I know what I want to ask … you’ve already worked it out and asked. I’ve been mulling this particular ‘hmmm’ in my head as well … GD, I assume the story is set in a virtual environment, which means someone or something is controlling the mechanism to enter the virtual realm. SO if the avatar is wandering about the AI verse … is there a body on the other side, linked to the avatar, that could possibly die if the avatar is eliminated. I only say this because of the DNA connection. I think killing the avatar could set off an unintended chain reaction …
          to that end … Let’s see chapter two of the metaverse, I want to know what happened when they dug up gramps grave…

          Liked by 2 people

          • Your appreciation is gratifying, SL. I hope GD feels the same, but I sometimes fear losing his friendship if he reaches the point of wanting to eliminate my real world avatar due to too many annoying questions. I find I can’t help being driven by what I perceive as inconsistencies in the interior logic of any story. I know my perception might be erroneous, but if I’ve worked through as many possibilities as I can think of, and still can’t nail down the logic, I humbly ask for the author’s help.

            Liked by 2 people

            • Even if questions get annoying, I think the annoyance comes when you have no answer to the questions (I see this with politicians). I figure as authors we can’t fall into the annoyance trap. We have to look at well thought out questions (Because the quality of questions do matter) as a challenge for us to improve the quality of our writing. It’s why we’re here isn’t it? How many people, in your offline circle of family and friends, do you share your work with and know immediately you will get a well thought out critique or response. Other than, “I love it,” “Eh, I don’t read that stuff,” or “Oh that’s nice you write, I’ll read it when I get some time, I’m really busy you know.”
              My point, keep asking. I think the worst response you could get is no response at all.

              Liked by 2 people

        • Good questions, Sue and SL. To quote the classic line from the movie Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.” It’s like every time I ever met with my accountant. He kept pointing at Bottom Lines that were in the middle of the page.

          Here, the problem may be that we are using current vocabulary to describe something that does not yet exist as a common experience. A.I. is just the simulation of human intelligence processes. Avatar is a cartoon representing a particular person. Neither actually requires a body. So much for the Sci in Sci-Fi. For the story, I just assumed that an A.I. could create its own avatar, and, that it could replace the persona in a person’s mind.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Whether real, or not, or virtual or physical, it may come down to legal jurisdiction. Even digital or virtual crimes are prosecuted. In this case, an avatar could lay criminal charges. God, this becomes a lawyer’s dream with infinite revenue streams. I’m definitely in the wrong business.

            GD, I reread your story, and I have one little thing I keep stumbling over. The sentence after Noir sips his coffee – “What I need, is protection. Someone is stalking me.” I keep starting to read as if Noir is talking, then I do a double take and realize it’s Christine. Maybe it’s just me, but if anyone else mentions it, there’s probably an easy fix.

            Liked by 3 people

          • Still … your entire concept is intriguing and mind bending. I admit, I’m creeped out to think a dead body could be exhumed for DNA and given an avatar with that person/creatures memory, personality, looks etc. It puts a whole new spin on walking dead … I vote for total cremation. What’s dead should stay dead…

            Liked by 2 people

            • And PS, I never did watch The Walking Dead … but I did just watch “Army of Theives” and “Army of the Dead.” so zombies are on my mind. Another note … I watched Army of Thieves with no idea there was a second movie. Not my typical genre of movie … but there was nothing else to watch at the time. Having said that I had to suspend the writer in me, up in the rafters with a gag in it’s mouth to keep from blurting out my objections to terrible story writing. It seems to ruin other peoples enjoyment in the room.

              Liked by 2 people

          • “…an A.I. could create its own avatar, and … replace the persona in a person’s mind.”

            Okay, I like this explanation, but it seems to indicate something the story doesn’t: An A.I. used Grandpa Dior’s DNA to create its own avatar of Gramps. (An aside: I’m willing to accept that Grandpa’s DNA contained his drive to run his company, so that desire now motivates the A.I., but how did an A.I. open his grave? Can an A.I. play an avatar?) Does this mean there is no avatar sitting in the real world playing Grandpop’s avatar because it’s only a replacement of his persona in his granddaughter’s mind? Now the idea of her people taking care of it is a bit more problematic. I’m seeing a padded room in Christine’s future, lol.

            I’m just beginning to sort out that Noir is addressing situations that don’t apply directly to Christine’s problem in the interest of giving the reader a peek into the bigger universe. I’m happy to work hard as a reader to understand what’s going on in a story, but here, it would be helpful if there were some clear separation between Christine’s problem and a look at new avatar real world / avatar metaverse problems.

            Or have I still got it wrong? Help me, Obi-Wan GD…

            Liked by 2 people

  6. You are most welcome, GD.

    Speaking of real reviews — I’ve just read one by NYT reviewer Dwight Garner about a new memoir, which he describes as “soulless … and peculiarly selective”. Garner ends with this: “Reading this book reminded me of watching a cat lick a dog’s eye goo.” Thus catapulting it to the top of my Never TBR list.

    Mission accomplished, Dwight.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Sorry for arriving at the conversation so late; I was having one of Boris’ beautifully crafted, thought-provoking L.A. dream slaughterhouse moments mixed with G.D’s hilarious metaverse confusions. I provide this humble, if too long, excuse:

    I planned a week-long ski holiday to ride my snow dreams before global warming’s cursed tropical rain transformed my mountain into mush. New Zealand’s winter should mean snow aplenty, but the rain arrived ahead of schedule.

    If you hate skiing or fear heights, you should jump to the bottom right now and avoid my ‘last run down.’ VVV
    ——————————————————————————————-
    I slid to the top of the mountain and realized the bottom was gone. Nothing but white surrounded me.

    I removed my heavy sleet-encased goggles and recognized the fuzzy gray shape of the Lahar warning sign. The one that advised me to race to the top of a ridge if the volcanic dam above me burst without notice. This particular natural structure held back a super-sonic hot volcanic sludge that longed for freedom in the valley below. Luckily, I couldn’t read any of this, but I deciphered the faded pastel blue dye in the melting snow: a blue line marking the way down — the only means of white-out escape.

    I’d run this run before, but not blind. The first slope provided ample room for graceful S’s down to the traverse of dread. If I missed the traverse, I would fly into the limb-cracking scoria pit. But I ignored the image of my broken corpse sticking out of the spring melt and pushed off into the invisible.

    Over the thin blue line, my skis swished back and forth with eloquent precision. Then the line vanished.

    My heart pounded. Was I teetering at the pit’s edge?

    A yodel turned my head, and I saw a shadow vanishing to the left. Only a knuckle-dragging teenage fear-nothing snowboarder would yodel like that.

    I waited for a scream, a crash, a curse, but nothing. That had to be the dreaded traverse.

    Plowing at standstill speed, I reached the narrow single-lane path. To the right, the traverse dropped into the pit. To the left, a rock wall ensured any mistake would toss me right over the edge.

    I plowed on until halfway across, the path dropped. It ran straight onto a 45-degree angled sheet of ice.

    Sheet ice, in the best of times, meant migraine-making momentum, bouncy castle dancing, genuflecting skis crossing, and a sudden sliding on my face. I hated ice.

    My skis slipped-slid. Needles of sleet pricked my eyes as I dashed down a one-way ice ring. My feet stayed straight, and I prayed to all gods, great and small, that the forgiving snow beyond would find me — quick.

    The snow hit, and I flew over a bump, then another. If I didn’t stop, I’d miss the turn for safety. And if I survived, I might find the T-bar and rerun the run. But, if I missed the T-bar, the maze of cliffs and boulders waited to kill me painfully.

    I swung to the left and pressed my knees towards the mountain. My edges caught and skidded.

    Silently standing, my blue line forsook me. No crazy snowboarder marked the way as I stood alone, lost in the whiteness.

    Theoretically, straight ahead lay another icy sheet leading to the T-bar. Somewhere to the left, my ticket home, the shoot to the Sky Waka, lay shrouded in mist. Like the traverse, this path narrowed to a single lane with a mountain wall on one side and a sharp drop on the other.

    This path dipped in the middle and rose at the end, and under normal conditions, skiers would gain speed well before the shoot to climb out and reach the end without having to walk.

    I made a guess, poled for acceleration, and felt my skis skip down the shoot. The bottom of the dip zoomed past too fast. Too late, I realized I forgot to factor in the quicker wetter snow. My skis rocketed up and out the exit straight into the main intersection for the Sky Waka. Madly breaking, I tried to avoid a collision with the usual horde of skiers flying down the pass.

    But no crash happened; only a lonely ice-sickled snowboarder scraped over my skis shaking her head. Before I could apologize, two red-coated rescue workers materialized from the fog and cut in front of me. “The top’s closing. Conditions are too dangerous.” One yelled as they faded down the hill.

    “You young punks don’t know ‘dangerous.’ I can race this blindfolded,” I wanted to yell back, but some blast from another universe froze my tongue. Instead, I followed my rescuers to the Sky Waka gondolas to find my wife, who intelligently decided to remain sheltered for my run.

    Reunited, we sailed down to Happy Valley’s haven.

    There, we retrieved our son, who expressed how he felt about learning to ski in the stinging rain with a single friendly snarl.

    That’s roughly what happened. And with the mountain closed, I reconnected to the world to watch Nelson flooding on the news.
    —————————————————————————————–
    Boris — what a marvelous piece. It makes me realize that all cities eat different dreams in one way or another.

    G.D. — I love your poking fun at the metaverse. It deserves it.

    Mini — I’m a bit slow, but I enjoyed the ride once I grasped the American-Shakespearian rhythm of Catly Curiosity. Perhaps you should skip the footnotes and let some bored academics annotate your collected works. It gives English professors something to do.

    Susan — what a wonderful dog’s view. Is there truth in this story? It seems outrageous to me that some obnoxious Maltese owner would demand recompense for failing to control his dog when she’s in heat. Perhaps New Zealand standards are different? I have a lab-golden retriever and border collie. They tend to ignore anything smaller than a beagle.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I tried downhill skiing once. My son, who was 6 at the time, took to it with gusto and inexplicable control after his first lesson. I, on the other hand, did not. But I don’t hate skiing as a thing people can do, so I read your heart-pounding piece in its entirety. It is truly well-told. However, I have to admit that I do admire your wife’s superior wisdom.

      As for She and I, it is a fiction. I suspect you are correct that a responsible owner would have been more attentive to his dog’s condition, hence this guy seems a little slimy. If I were to grant him the benefit of the doubt, maybe estrus was just beginning when two dogs fell in love at the dog park.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Good to have you safe and sound here in this show case after your snow race, John!

      Thank you also for your feedback and thoughts on my piece. This piece comes from my series “Impressions of America”. Several other pieces from this series have appeared in previous show cases.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. GD … In response to your Metaverse, I’ll raise you with the Multiverse. I am working on a piece I wrote years ago. I loved it, but I got stuck with where I wanted the piece to go. Then I saw the next prompt for Show Case … I’ve reworked the first chapter of my story and I’ll submit it for show case …

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Sue,
    My understanding is that A.I.s can take over a real person’s mind but prefer not to. They will, to accomplish something important, like grave robbing. In fact, Noir wasted his youth running with a band of itinerant grave robbers only to discover none were in their right minds. But really, A.I.s prefer avatar hosts because avatars don’t have all that human downtime. Sleeping, eating, and sitting on the potty bores A.I.s.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s