Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Slumber Before the End of the World

"Now, I understand you've paid to be in cryostasis for a thousand years, and I know that it's not quite halfway there yet, but you have to listen to me closely: The end of the world will be tomorrow. You understand? Tomorrow?"

The man's words ring in my ears. It doesn't make complete sense, but I nod for now.

"You have two options. First, to witness the end. If so, you'll need to complete Form 1A for early cyro-release. Second, to resume cyrostasis, to freeze yourself so that you will die in your sleep, without knowing what hit you in your last moments, and to lose the chance to even enjoy one last moment on Earth."

"Not much of a choice there, right?"

"Right. I'll prepare Form 1A for you."

"Hold on, buddy. Let's resume my cyrostasis, as my contract clearly delineates."

"You're sure you want to do this? It's the end of the world, you know."

"No way. It's clear that you're scamming me."


"You're scamming me. First, if 300 years have passed, as you suggested, how come I understand you perfectly even with linguistic drift?"

The man squirmed visibly.

"Um... universal translators. Yup, universal translators were invented some time ago."

"Right.... and what is the cause of the end of the world?"

The man looked around for a quick answer, before answering "Global cooling."

The look on his face when he realized what he had replied was hilarious.

"And global cooling will happen exactly tomorrow?"

"Did I say global cooling? No, that wasn't really what I meant. What I really meant was global cooling... global cooling is a consequence of a meteor strike, which is the catastrophic event that is predicted to happen in 1 day's time, which is tomorrow. Of course, global cooling is the world ending scenario, but the meteor is the cause."

I stared at him for a moment. Some untruths don't even have to be unmasked for them to break down.

"It's fair to say the game's up already. Why don't you tell me what's your plan, and perhaps then you can set me back to sleep again?"

The man sighed.

"It's the end of the world alright. The end of my world if I don't discharge my quota of patients today. Cryostasis is too expensive to keep up in the long term, and especially so for 'early-backers'. That's why it's actually become a job to convince patients to agree to early release."

"By one means or another."


"That has got to be the funniest plan I've heard in the last, what, fifty years? At least, I'm guessing that's the real amount of time that has passed."

"Oh, you've haven't heard funny yet. You know something?"


"It is really 300 years in the future. I'm just the guy from the next row of cryo-booths. Someone just unfroze me last week using the same plan. But here's the killer- you know what kind of jobs are available to an ancient being from 300 years back?"

And then he started laughing.

"Probably the same kind of jobs that will be open to them 700 years later."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Writing Exercise: The Soldier's Hunt

"It's very difficult," said the Soldier, "and if you're not determined, you can never manage to catch one of them."

He leaned back in his armchair, and sucked upon a long straw which he held between his forefingers. I had often seen him around with the straw, but he never smoked anything. Perhaps it was a vestige of an old habit.

"Whatever you do, never lose your composure. They can sense your moods, your impatience, your temper; they live on such emotions, savoring your frustrations as we would a tasty meal.

The key, or at least one of them, is not to rely on sight. You might catch a glimpse of them, fleeting shadows on the edge of your field of vision. And that is all you can see before they fade away into the background in their infallible camouflage.

But, as I found, you can always smell them. A good nose will do that for you, and if you don't have one, a hunting dog will do as well to sniff them out. A dog makes the hunt too easy, however. You'll never get the visceral feel of killing like that.

You'll never hit them with bullet rounds, nor beat them with knifes or bayonets. They're that good... but I found a way to best them. It was simple, really."

The Soldier reached out towards the upper drawer of his work table, and pulled it slowly, as if he was delaying the moment of final revelation. Proudly, he beckoned for me to view the contents of the drawer.

Beside the stack of framed fairy corpses was a bottle of small beads, each just small enough to fit a straw, the cruel ammunition for his crazed genocide.

Exercise nouns: bead drawer fairies nose soldier temper

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Writing Exercise: A Trans-dimensional Language Censor

Even though the science had advanced very much in the last few decades, trans-dimensional communications was still very difficult, though for entirely different reasons. In a way, that was fortunate; it opened many positions for trans-dimensional linguists, though it would be more accurate to describe my job as that of a language censor.

Dealing with extra-dimensional beings was tricky, even more so than dealing with alien races. The main issue was the homocentricity of most languages, particular the most commonly used (and likely ancient) ones. Many verbs and nouns are only sensible with an complete understanding of human morphology, planetary and environment conditions on Earth, and human culture and societies. Not only is communications impossible with such nouns, more sensitive alien races might view culture-loaded words as hate speech professing the superiority of certain morphological/cultural/value systems. Thus, the choice of words in diplomatic exchanges was crucial.

Needless to say, interpreting trans-dimensional communications was a very protracted and vague affair.

Exercise nouns: position hate spoon question language selection

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Another Encounter at the Convenience Store

Recently, there have been more suspicious persons loitering around my workplace.

There is only one convenience store in this part of town, and it is air-conditioned, so I can partly understand why many people choose to hang about here, but the situation is really becoming a bit too ridiculous.

For instance, hiding behind the shelves of the innermost aisle was a man dressed in red spandex. He was looking about nervously for something.

Perhaps he did not manage to find a brand of hair loss cream that he accustomed to. This was a sensitive topic to many men, so I could understand his distress.

“Sir, could I help you with anything?”

“Oi boy, have you seen any monsters around?”

“Were you able to find it amongst the shelves? I don’t think we have that brand of hair loss cream, Sir.”

“No not that, real monsters! Mon-sters! Mooonnn-sssttt-ers!”

By slowing down his speech, the red spandex man was clearly trying to make me understand his strange point in an ineffective manner. This kind of scenario usually happened when two people were trying to communicate in different languages. Perhaps he was a foreigner, as reflected by his strange manner of dress.

It would be poor service to judge him any further, so I tried to clarify his point.

“I’m sorry Sir, but we don’t have any product by that name. By the way, that aisle is only for hair loss products.”

“Ah no, I’m not looking for hair loss products today. I’m-”

“Yes Sir, I understand. You were totally not looking for hair loss products.”

Customers often try to disguise their purchases for embarrassing products. This happens very often in our business; men doing grocery shopping in the middle of the night with an innocuous packet of condoms in their basket, or women accidentally buying a leg-shaving razor for their supposed family members, or hobos buying alcohol claiming to be thirsty.

Admittedly, the red spandex man had used quite a novel line of disguise. I had not yet encountered this method during all my part-time work here. Still, I could not comment on the effectiveness of his strategy, which did not seem to have succeeded. Also, I did not understand how he could have tolerated the embarrassment of his unusual costume, though he did not seem very affected wearing it.

There are all sorts of perverts in this world, but customers are customers.

“Yes, now about the monst- eh? No, I’m really not here to buy hair loss cream! Don’t misunderstand me!”


“You’re totally misunderstanding me now, aren’t you? No really, what you’re thinking is wrong! All wrong! No, actually I’m a hero! A heee-ro! I’m here to prevent a monster attack!

You might have seen some strange things around here recently. To the untrained eye they may simply appear as odd occurrences that are quickly dismissed, but that is actually an effect of monster mental stealth magic! But this magic can be defeated with greater awareness! Now, try to think back on any unusual happenings or strange people. For instance, people with unusual appearances, such as a person with a cannon for a head, or hammers for hands, or a speaker in place of a mouth…”

“I can’t disclose any information on our customers. Also, it’s discriminatory to judge people based on their appearance!”

“What! The survival of the world depends on this! Monsters must be defeated without exception! By withholding information, you are indirectly helping the monsters! The world will be destroyed by customer privacy protection!”

The red spandex man continued to rant on about invasions, foot soldiers, and giant robots while making different combat poses. He seemed to be very passionate in his violent hatred. Rather than monsters and other imaginations, it seemed much likelier that his fanatic intolerance would bring about the end of the world.

“Sir, your presence here may be affecting our other customers. Furthermore, you have actually threatened to use physical force against some of our potential customers! If this continues, I may then have to call the police to rein in your behavior.”

“The police?! You’re going to call a police on a HERO?”

“Also, if you’re not going to buy anything, then there’s reason to believe you’re here just to stalk our customers. Then it becomes a police matter, doesn’t it?”

“M-me, a stalker? A STALKER!?”

Everyone in the convenience store turned to look at the red spandex man, who had shouted the last word out loudly. His face quickly turned a hue of red not unlike his costume.

“Yyyooouuuu! I’ll wash my hands off of this! Don’t regret it if Earth is destroyed!”

The red spandex man quickly grabbed something off the shelf, threw it down my counter, paid for it, and left.

Coincidentally, it was a bottle of hair growth liquid.

That was quite a bit of fuss over a hair loss product. He would have saved himself quite a bit of embarrassment if he had simply paid for it quietly. Then again, perhaps it was intentional. A masochist, maybe? That would explain his costume; he could have been involved in some new kind of play that was not of the theatrical kind.

A pervert stalker that made violent threats against our customers? I had better call to inform my colleague that was going to take over the shift. Although he had a gentle nature, he was tall and had a strong-looking build, so he might be able to handle the situation if it turned violent.

“Hello, Mr. Anvil-face? There’s this potentially dangerous customer that you’ll have to be wary of…”

Monday, March 31, 2014

Another Day in the Life of a Bureaucrat

With each breath, her silken hair flowed and parted against her bare shoulders.

Of course, that was an obvious sign that she was not human. Or more accurately, that was an obvious sign that she was never a human. 

It was an action that was similar to breathing. By all appearances, it was indistinguishable from breathing, an exact simulation. The problem was, dead people generally don’t breathe, and I don’t need 5000 years of on-the-job experience to tell you that. And certainly, nobody at the gates of heaven can be considered to be alive. 

Though, it could very well be argued that she wasn’t dead either.

As a junior celestial bureaucrat the entire matter was frustrating to handle; the antiquated laws were certainly inadequate for this situation, but the ability to change the laws were clearly way over my salary grade.

I can’t blame the higher ups, of course. Thus, I must blame the humans. Everything is their fault. They were always too clever.

Clever enough to make robots to replace their own labor, but too clever again to make them sentient to replace their own intellect. Anything a human can do, a robot can do as well, and more tirelessly. And so, everything was cheap, but nobody had any money or any jobs.

But humans are clever. What was their unique selling point, the cleverest of them thought. Something innate to a human, something that only humans could have. 

Their answer was the soul, an immortal spark that endures past time.

And being so clever, they offered the promise of a soul to their robotic clientele. Of course, it was all a romantic deception, not anchored in any true science or knowledge. But the robots bought into the fiction, their neural networks modeled so closely on the human mind that they shared the same weaknesses.

But again, humans were too clever. To enhance the effect of the illusion, they engaged in elaborate ‘soul transference rituals’, where the soul would be transferred to the robotic customer. Meanwhile, some monkeys typed the complete abridged works of Shakespeare, and that’s the gist of the story.

The robot girl blinked at me with a childlike innocence. The normal procedure was to weigh a hair against a feather to determine her sins, but her hair was composed entirely of advanced synthetic fibers. 

I let her through. It was not against the book, by any means. Then again, it could very well be argued that it wasn’t in the book either.

I called for the next person in the queue to move forward. A loud shuffling noise greeted me.

Seriously, a smart home with a soul?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Collectors

The doorbell rang, but I did not want to answer the door. The roaring noise in the background, and now the grave stench, had all but confirmed my suspicions. If so, there was no other choice but to open the door.

I was greeted by the sight of a Collector, with his fluorescent green skin. The Collector easily towered over me with his great height and girth. In the background was another Collector, comfortably recessed in the skull of a massive Ravenous Eater.

What did he want? 

The Collector pointed back towards the Ravenous Eater, before extending his hands to reveal his open palms. "Nothing", he gestured.

"Did you forget? It’s a Tuesday." the Collector said.

Small quivers ran through my body; indeed, someone in the house had forgotten this important fact. 


The Collectors came every Tuesday at the same time, with a regularity not unlike clockwork. I could always tell when they would arrive by the deep rumbling noise generated from the bowels of their six-legged machines— the Ravenous Eaters, those all-consuming beasts. Of course, that was only the name I called the machines by; nobody actually knew its true name. Nobody knew much about the Collectors either.

What we knew was the single rule: Tuesday is Tribute Day. Each Tuesday, the Collectors paraded around the town in their fearsome Ravenous Eaters in a sort of militaristic ritual. Each week, the oppressed citizens would do nothing but meekly present their tribute to their overlords. So fearful were they of the Collectors that they would leave their gifts out by the streets, unattended, while they sought refuge in safety of their homes. Nobody ever stood up to stop the Collectors, or to present resistance. It almost seemed as if everyone was resigned to their fate.

I suppose the only glimmer of hope I saw in our future was that everyone only offered the most useless of tributes, things they didn't want or need. I suppose it was a small "Take that!" to the Collectors. In truth though, the Collectors didn't care. Be it biomass or scrap metal, they accepted everything. After all, it was only food for their Ravenous Eaters. I had always suspected the Collectors performed their weekly ritual only as a show of force and dominance; they profited more directly from their other taxes they collected from the people.

What happens to people who didn't pay tribute? I don't know, but nobody makes such a foolish decision. Everyone regrets it almost immediately after; I have seen people frantically chasing after the Collectors with their bags of tribute, begging the Collectors to accept it and spare them.

That alone is warning enough of the power of the Collectors.


"Tuesday! Collection day," bellowed the Collector. 

The Collector looked as if he was going to tear me to bits. With his size, he probably could. I had to give him something as tribute. But where was it? Where was the tribute? It wasn't at its usual place.

I had to call my most important ally for help.

"Mom, where's the trash for the garbageman?"