Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Alcoholics of the Future

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention held a press conference today to address concerns over the recent spike in cases of alcohol-related deaths connected with time-displacement. Dr. Marcus Fiteegue, a spokesman for the CDC suggested that the number of instances of Hangover Displacement Syndrome (HDS) brought on by increased availability of a range of "Pay now, Party Later" (PNPL) devices such as Pineapple, PaP® and Horkbefor™ are responsible.

"These products allow for easy consumption of dangerous amounts of alcohol, the effects of which are felt before any actual consumption takes place," said the spokesman. He added that college students and social drinkers were the most at risk.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions, Chapter 27: The Attack

     "You already know, Seth," said Katie. "Think about your dreams."
     "So you think they really are repressed memories?"
     "Not merely repressed," she responded. "I think maybe LaBelle intentionally deleted some of your memories."
     "But, why? And how?"
     "I'm not sure about the how of it, but I'd guess the why has to do with the fact that they canceled the tests. Well, that and the secret and probably illegal nature of the whole program."
     "You mean this TIER thing?" Lewis asked. "Why didn't they wipe my memories, then? And why don't I remember this O'Keefe guy at all? Oh, wait … " His voice faltered.
     "You two have probably never even met before now,"  replied Katie. "I doubt they bothered with your memories, Wright. You were only involved in one small, failed trial. Seth was recruited for the larger program—Strange Animal, I mean—not just TIER."
     "So what is Strange Animal?"
     "It's an enhanced combination of two other programs. TIER was one of them. The other was called WEIRD."
     "Weird Tier," interjected Mary. "'Tier' is German for 'animal', so …"
     "Exactly," said Katie, though she pointedly refused to look at Mary. She was focused on Seth.  "The government has a funny sense of humor when it comes to naming black-box projects. And they love acronyms."
     "So what, exactly," asked Mary, "was WEIRD all about?"
     "Warfighter Enhancement Incorporating Recombinant DNA."

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions, Chapter 26: The Intruder

     "Bricked? You mean, like …" Nita started, then thought better of it. "What the hell, lady? You have your phone set up with a code that bricks it? Who the fuck are you?"
     "I told you," smiled Katie in a way Nita found infuriatingly smug. "May name's Kathleen."
     "No ID, no keys, no cash, but you have a phone that deletes itself instantly. I want to know a whole lot more than just your bloody name. Out with it!"
     "I'm afraid I can't do that, Ms. Herrera." Katie smiled again. "I mean, unless you just want to know about my taste in food, favorite places to shop, that sort of thing. Though I'm guessing from the knife in your hand and the pulsating bulge in your forehead that you're not wanting to make friends with me."
     "Oh, so you think you're funny, too, huh?" Nita waved the knife about casually and turned to Lewis. "Looks like we've got ourselves a couple of comedians, here. We'll see how funny they think they are when the police get here." She leaned in close to Katie's face. "Assuming they're still breathing by then."
     "Right. First of all, though this would all go far more easily for me if the local authorities actually were on their way, I very much doubt they are." And here Katie gave Nita a particularly infuriating smile, before adding, "Secondly, I don't respond well to threats. So, you might want to put that thing away before you hurt yourself."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 25: The Questioning

     "What's your name, creep?" Nita pushed Seth into the living room chair.
     "Umm, I'm uh … Hey!" He gave Nita a scandalized look. "I'm not a creep!"
     "Then, why," she asked, "have you been sitting there watching our house?"
     "I wasn't—"
     "Shut up!" Nita scowled at him. "I'm in no mood for lies, pajero."
     Lewis went to the open door, looked up and down the street, and closed it behind him. He said, "I don't see anyone else around. I hope you didn't freak any of the neighbors out too much."
     "I couldn't care less," replied Nita. "Let 'em call the police, if that's what they want. I'll just hand this asshole right over to them."
     She turned back to Seth, "It'll take them a bit to get here, though, and in the mean time, you're going to answer some questions."
     "But … you just told me to shut up."
     "Shut up with your lies, I mean. And don't speak unless I tell you to."
     "Yes, ma'am," Seth said, trying to collect his wits.
     Lewis went into the kitchen and returned with a roll of masking tape.
     "Lewis, honey," began Nita. "I need duct tape, not that."
     "Sorry," he replied. "It's all we have. I can go check the basement."
     "No," she sighed. "It'll have to do. This won't be long, anyway."
     "You!" She pointed at Seth. "Lean forward, hands behind your back."
     "No," said Seth. "You don't have the right—"
     Nita grabbed Seth by the small hairs at the back of his neck and pulled him forward,"
     "Ow! Ow! OWW! "
     "I wasn't asking you, cuca. I said DO it!"

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 24: The Watcher

    Katie decided that before reporting anything more to Hanlon she would take a day or so to see if Seth did anything unusual in the aftermath of their date. Then again, with Seth, how could one tell what was unusual?
     She also reasoned it might be a good idea take precautions to be sure she could find him. He had proven to be wilier than she had expected, after all. She had considered tracing his cell phone, but didn't want to go through the hassle that would entail. She settled on placing a tracker on his car, instead. Perhaps she could manage to finagle a second date out of him, eventually, or—if he was serious about not wanting a relationship—at least get a chance to friend-zone him and an opportunity to visit his home. She hit her downtown hotel room and picked up some fresh clothes, along with the equipment she needed, before heading over to Cortona Road, doing her now customary loop around the neighborhood so as to be ready to exit as quickly as possible without turning.
     As Katie pulled around the corner, she stopped in front of a large tree on the opposite side of the street, but a bit further around the corner than the last time she'd been here. Curiously, there was a different car in the driveway this time: an ancient Toyota Tercel hatchback. This new vehicle was painted in a dirty brown that looked like rust—though parts of it appeared to be the genuine article. As she watched, Seth arrived in his Camaro, and a man stepped out of the brown hatchback. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 23: The Stalker

     "I think that guy over there is watching us ... I think." Lewis nodded towards a table in the back corner of the deli where they'd met for lunch.
     "No, don't look." Nita grabbed Mary's arm before she turned. She and Lewis sat next to one another across from Mary. "If he is watching us, don't let him know we know."
     "So, it's not just me being delusional?"
     "No, Honey, I don't think it is."
     "Great," replied Mary. "Now you're both making me paranoid. Can you at least describe him, for me?"
     "I'll do you one better," said Nita. "Here, let me take a picture of you with your salad. I'll be sure and get him in the background." Mary snapped the photo with her phone, then handed it to Mary. "Though, I'm not sure it'll do much good."
     The man in the photo was wearing a black wool cap and over-sized sunglasses. He was also holding a magazine, which obscured most of his features. A few stray tufts of blond hair poked out from beneath the cap, but there was little else to identify him. His clothes were baggy—a plain, dark grey sweatshirt and blue jeans. He had a cup of coffee on the table in front of him, and some kind of sandwich, which it looked like he'd barely touched.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 22: The Morning

     O'Keefe awoke to the sound of his phone issuing a text alert. He looked around the unfamiliar surroundings, confused, until the memories of the previous night began to assemble themselves in his pounding head. That'll go away, he thought. Just need to find some aspirin and some protein. That had been quite a night. He was surprised how it turned out. He hadn't intended to sleep with Svetlana, but he had no regrets. He'd really grown fond of her, and well, maybe that was just the emotional release he'd needed. She hadn't seemed to mind, either. The part of him that worried he may have taken advantage of her drunken state was quieted by the recollection that she had somehow appeared to be quite a bit more sober and in control than he had been. Russians! Guess their notoriety for putting away the vodka is well-earned.
     His phone beeped at him again, so he picked it up, and tapped his code on the screen. It was a text from Gary which read:
               found her!
               Mary Dagfridchen
               Hillard  ph 555-2336
               u want address?
     Oh no! Mary! What had he done? How could he say he loved her after he'd slept with another woman? He would have to make amends. The first thing to do was to get the hell out of this hotel room. Where was Svetlana, anyway?
     He stood quickly, scrambling around for the clothing he'd so hastily and eagerly shed the night before. He heard the sound of water running from behind the bathroom door. Must be showering. What should he do? Should he just leave? That was just too classless. He would have to face her, tell her last night had been a mistake. It was the right thing to do—the only thing to do. He hoped she hadn't fallen for him too hard. This was going to be awkward enough without that.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 21: The Dreams

     The cab arrived, and they piled into the back seat together. Having planned for the possibility that she'd have to seduce O'Keefe, Katie had prepared a room at a rent-by-the-week motel that was about halfway between his house and her downtown base of operations. This was the address she gave the driver.
     During the ride, she leaned into Seth, head resting on his chest, listening to the rhythmic sounds of his heart and his breathing. She wondered about him. He really was unlike anyone she'd ever met before. He was confident and cheerful one moment, then worried and paranoid the next. He could be flirtatious, and he clearly liked her—no, he clearly liked Svetlana—but, he declined to act on his feelings beyond a certain point. She supposed he must be like her—living a double life. He must be. But how could he be so good at it? How had she not broken through his façade? She revised the balance of her mental calculations: he wasn't quite the fool he had initially appeared to be. So was that all an act? Could he be playing her the way she'd planned to play him? Was he really that good?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 20: The Director

     "What have you got for us, Hanlon?" The woman behind the desk spoke sharply. "Have you learned anything useful?"
     Hanlon was perpetually uncomfortable in this office—and it was clearly designed with just that purpose in mind. The simple act of crossing the distance from the door to the desk left him feeling like an intruder into a sacred space. The Director's desk sat atop a dais, so that he had to look up in order to address her, and when she leaned back in her seat, he was forced to address the empty air. There was a large Labelle company seal etched into the Ashford Black Marble of the wall behind the chair, flanked by flags of the United States and the various branches of the armed forces. The room's primary lighting fixtures shone from behind the desk, which made it difficult to read the Director's expression.
     "I can't say for sure, ma'am," he replied. "But, of course I'm still not sure what this is really all about."
     "You know what you need to know."
     "I just had a call from my agent. She's with the target now."

Monday, May 6, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 19: The Date (pt. 2)

Part II

     "OK," said Seth, leaning across the table. "I told you where I work."
     "Yes," replied Katie. "You work in this secret laboratory. But this is not so unusual. You said to me that you only clean the place, yes?"
     "Yeah, I only clean up, but I still see things, you know?"
     "What kind of things are you seeing?"
     "Things I … I'm not sure I understand them. But, there are weird things going on there all the time."
     "But if this work is for government, do they not already know of strange goings-on?"
     "Yeah, but maybe they worry about how much I know, and whether I'll tell the wrong person."
     "Did you talk to wrong person, you think?" Now she was finally getting somewhere—this is what Hanlon had hired her to do.
     "No," he replied. "I don't really talk much about work—at least not with people outside of work."
     "Then if government watches you, and knows you have done nothing wrong, you have no reason to fear, yes?"
     "I guess it depends …"
     "Have no others asked you about this work? Friends or family?"
     "I don't have any family to speak of—and few friends."
     "Besides," Katie said, "you are only worrying without proof. American government does not do such things like Russian—"
     "Wait!" Seth interrupted her. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small electronic device. "This is my proof."
     "What is this thing?" Katie recognized it immediately as a data snooper. She reached out a tentative finger, as if she wanted to touch it but was afraid.
     "It's a snooper," said Seth. "It tracks electronic data signals that go through a particular device."

Monday, April 29, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 18: The Date

Part I

     There is a certain class of dining establishment that is ubiquitous across the American landscape. These are the "mid-range" restaurant chains that sprouted up across the nation in the 1980s and 90s in order to serve the tastes of the aspiring yet faltering middle classes who had neither the time nor money to spend on higher quality fare, but wanted an option they felt was better than fast food and more "upscale" than the local mom-and-pop eateries that had supported the entertainment economy for so many decades. These chains not only drove many local restauranteurs out of business, but pulled the overall national food quality levels into line somewhere between mediocre and bland.
    After Katie and Seth exchanged a few text messages, arrangements were made and he had naturally chosen one of these godawful chain restaurants: that tribute to the lowest common denominator in American Cuisine known as Crabbapple's. Oh, and look! The walls were covered with re-creations of trinkets and signage from the Great Depression through the 1960s. Quelle suprise! Never mind the fact that O'Keefe had probably been exposed to all sorts of interesting cuisine from all over the world—no, he just had to choose the blandest among America's many bland dining offerings. The worst of it was that even though it had been many years since she'd been to the Columbus area, Katie knew it was full to the brim with high-quality dining options. Oh well—at least they have a bar.
          Katie walked into the abominable excuse for a restaurant, ignoring the hostess and going straight for the bar. She had chosen to wear a bright blue cocktail dress with a mid-thigh hemline and a deep-cut front. She hoped that with the combination of strong drink and a bit of flirtation she'd succeed in keeping O'Keefe distracted enough to talk freely.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 17: The Café

     Another day. Another café. Sometimes—when on the job—Katie felt as though all she did was go from one coffee shop to another; talking to different people in each one, exchanging notes or packages. She could imagine a worse life—sometimes she felt as though she'd lived several worse lives already—but it grew tiring at times.
     This one was quite busy; unlike the book store she'd spent the evening in with O'Keefe. She suspected Lewis Wright had known it would be busy. He had been more than a little skittish and didn't want to meet with her at first, but when she had said they could meet in public and even let him pick the location he finally relented. Why is my life so full of fearful, paranoid men?
     The table he'd designated wasn't open when she'd arrived, but she had watched and waited like a vulture and snagged it as soon as the occupants had left. That was one of many reasons why she always arrived early to these things. 
     She wore a dark blue pin-striped pantsuit with a white lily pinned to the jacket. This was how she'd told Lewis to identify her. She had her hair tied back in a tight bun and wore a pair of wire-frame glasses with non-prescription lenses. All of this, of course, helped her get into her May Parker: Serious Scientist persona. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 16: The Subject

     "Hello?" The voice on the other end of the line was hoarse and slurred. Who would be calling at 5 o'clock in the morning?
     "Doctor Jacobs?"
     "Yes, this is Doctor Jacobs. Who is this?"
     "This is Lewis Wright. You might remember me from a few years ago—"
     "Yes of course, Lewis. How may I help you? Is everything all right?"
     "I'm not sure."
     "Can you come into my office later today? It's very early, you know. I believe I can squeeze you in later this—"
     "Um, no, I'm afraid not."
     "Now, Lewis, I know you weren't always fond of our work together, but we really did make a lot of progress."
     "No, Doc, you don't understand. I'm out of town. I can't get to your office. I'm in Ohio."
     "All right. Well, perhaps you should begin by telling me what issues you're facing, and we'll talk through the problem."
     "Please, Doc, just listen!"
     "I need to get in contact with Celia—my wife. My ex-wife, I mean."
     "And you're calling me?"
     "Yes," Lewis replied." I'm sorry, Doc, but I'm running out of options."
     "Lewis, if she's broken off contact with you, I'm sure—"
     "Listen to me, Doctor Jacobs. Please! I think she and Izzy might be in some kind of trouble and I really need to speak with her, OK? Do you think I wouldn't have tried another method—any other method—before calling you, if this wasn't vitally important?"

Monday, March 25, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 15: The Hacker

     Gary Harold was a man of big ideas and small ambitions. He enjoyed figuring out complex systems, whether they were the mechanics of games or the rules by which international trade was conducted. He also enjoyed impressing others with his esoteric knowledge, but he lacked the drive needed to make any practical use of that knowledge. He also really liked smoking weed. These facts were probably related.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 14: The Doctor

     Katie left the book store and went straight back to her hotel suite. She always kept a stash of burner cells on hand in order to make untraceable calls when needed, and she didn't want any record of contact between her and the psychologist who had worked on the Strange Animal project.
     She still wasn't sure what to think of O'Keefe. He was paranoid, sure—but she happened to know there were people watching him. Goofy though he was, he seemed a nice enough guy. Deception was a core part of her job—of who she was, even, she'd been doing it so long—but she almost felt bad having to deceive him. What was it about this poor hapless janitor that made her sympathize with him? Well, clearly he was more than just a janitor—his service record was proof enough of that. She wondered if she could get him to talk about his time in the navy. Obviously that was a secret he didn't want shared, if not even Labelle knew about it. Or were they involved in keeping the secret, too?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 13: The Confluence

     "I don't give a damn about your stupid football team," Nita said. "Something strange is going on, and I want to get to the bottom of it."
     "So sorry," replied Mary. She grabbed the remote off the coffee table and shut off the TV. "What's the matter? How did you find that book?"
     Lewis sat back down on the couch without a word. Something was definitely bothering Nita, and it made him anxious. His head swam from standing and sitting so rapidly—he hadn't had this much to drink since before his nervous breakdown.
     "I know you don't want to talk about it, Mary, and I hate to pry," began Nita as she pulled the armchair around the coffee table to face them both. "But, I need you to tell me about your trip to the BMV yesterday. I know there was a guy—or some people, I guess—who got on your nerves. Tell me about them."
     "Why?" Mary was annoyed by the question. She hated when Nita got all schoolmarmish on her—especially since she was a year younger than Mary. "What business is it—"
     "This is important," Nita interrupted. "Honestly, Mary—I wouldn't ask if it weren't."
     "OK, fine—there was some guy in line that kept trying to talk to me. I tried to use that book as a prop—to keep myself looking busy so he'd leave me alone."
     "But he didn't."
     "No he didn't."

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 12: The Call

     "Why you think I would know of such things?" Katie asked, after several pregnant seconds of pause.
     "Well," Seth replied, "because you're from Russia. Isn't the government pretty much always surveilling everyone there?"
     "Is not always way things seem in American media."
     "How do you mean?"
     "You are thinking of Soviet Union," she said. "And not even under communists was it as bad as Americans always think. Or so my parents tell me. I was born in Soviet Union, but grew up with glasnost and under Gorbachev and Yeltsin."
     "But what about Putin? I hear he's a control freak."
     "Putin cares for power," Katie responded. " He does not concern about peasant goings-on and the like." They sat for a moment, sipping their coffees, before Katie asked. "Why do you ask this?"
     "Oh, no reason."
     "I think you have reason, but do not wish to be sharing." She pouted.
     "Oh, all right," Seth said. "I suppose I can tell you." He paused and looked around the café as though he were expecting someone to be listening in on them. He nodded to where Nita was sitting and whispered, "I think she might be listening to us."
     Katie turned to look. Nita was busy looking busy. "I do no think she has been paying us any mind."
     "Someone has been watching me. It's the government, I think."

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 11: The Thief

     "You know, I used to be a kleptomaniac," said Mary in the most matter-of-fact voice of which she was capable after five or six glasses of Scotch.
     "Wait," Lewis replied, "Serssously? 'Cause … because, that just does … that just doesn't seem like you. Like, at all. I mean, you're so … a … such a … so such …" Despite his usual reluctance to drink alcohol, Lewis had tried to keep pace with her drink by drink.
     "An uptight bitch?" Mary finished for him.
     "Well, no. I wasn't gonna say that!"
     "Of course you weren't," said Mary. "You're too nice for that. And, I think, you're too timid."
     "I'm not timid."
     "Yes, you are. You're a big ol' 'fraidy-cat, you are." Mary added, "You're afraid of everything."
      "I am not!" Lewis was indignant. "I'm just … don't like … I just don't like to make decisions, is all."
     "But isn't that just because you're afraid?"
     "Yeah," he replied. "But I'm … not … not scared of everything. It's just that … that one thing. Just … limiting my choices. I'm … not a coward, or anything."
     "Then prove it," insisted Mary. "Call me a bitch."
     "Because you wanted to say it, but didn't have the stones."
     "No, I—"
     "Yes," she interrupted him. "Yes, you did. Admit it."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 10: The Contact

     The late-September sun shone through a break in the trees, nearly blinding Katie as she sat in her car watching a group of young men playing disc golf. They were laughing and drinking beer, which was, she was fairly certain, illegal in the park—the beer, that is, not the laughing. Or the disc golf—though watching the way these men behaved gave her the idea that maybe it should be. Or perhaps that was just the effect the beer was having on them that made the whole lot seem so intolerable.
     A black convertible roadster wound its way slowly down the gravel drive. She flashed her lights just as it crossed her line of sight. The car pulled up next to hers, facing the other way and the driver rolled down the window.
     Katie rolled her own window down and, without looking at the man in the other car, sent a text to the number she's been given by Gavrilo. It read, "That you, Fritz?" She could hear a tone go off from the other car.
     The man sent her back a message reading simply, "Miss Cavell." Katie turned in her seat to face him.
     "Thanks for meeting me here, DuQuesne," she began. "I believe you have something for me from Gavrilo."
     "Yes, Miss Cavell," the man replied. He was a man of very dark complexion and slight build with a close-cropped hair-cut. He was dressed in a dark coat, black shirt and hot pink tie. He turned to Katie and regarded her through his reflective cop shades. "And I believe you have something for us, as well."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Grand Romantic Delusions Chapter 09: The Roommate

     "Why can't I come along?" Lewis was using his anxious voice. The one which usually got him his way where Nita was concerned. 
     "Because," Nita replied, "I really need time to focus." She wasn't having any of his guilt-trip tactics this time.
     Nita's was the kind of room that left one with a feeling that just another couple of feet in one dimension or another would make it work. It wasn't cramped, exactly, but it wasn't quite big enough, either—especially for two people to share. There was a queen-sized bed, a tall dresser, a bookshelf and a very old desk and chair. None of this furniture matched. The state-of-the-art flat-screen TV on top of the dresser certainly looked out of place, as did the pychedellic paint job and the posters featuring bands from the 1960s and '70s.
     "I can be quiet. I'll just sit," he said. "And be quiet."
     "No, you won't." Nita had had far too much experience with Lewis to believe him. "I know you'll mean to, Honey, but I don't think you're actually capable." She could tell he was about to get into one of his down moods. She really couldn't afford to babysit him tonight, though—she had far too much work to do.
     "Listen, Lewis," she interjected, before he could really get going. "This is really important to me. Besides which, I want you to do me a special favor." 
     "Wait." Lewis was a bit surprised by this development. "What sort of favor?"

Thursday, January 3, 2013


We have no choice but to play the hands we're dealt. Sure, there are rules by which the universe runs, but at its heart a lot of life is just chance, indifference—chaos unending. But, there's one thing that is always consistent: you're always there, watching me. 

Whether I fail or succeed, you're there, looking at me, weighing my worth as a human being. That's right, I see you giving me that look: that knowing look, that condescending look, that judging look. Or is that a look of pity—or of disappointment?