Friday, September 30, 2005

9-30-05 My "Knight Rider" inspired story

Hello,

For some odd, geeky reason I'm addicted to the Sci-Fi channel. I'm such a techno-geek.

One of my favorite shows happens to be "Night Rider".

I'm going to write a Night Rider-inspered story. But instead of having a hunky guy like Michael Knight as the main character, I'll have an ultra hot housewife playing the part. Her name will probably be Jezebel.

And instead of having a talking car, she'll own a talking vacuum. The vacuum will save the day by alerting her of all the household spills that need to be vacuumed.

Kit was the name of the car in "Night Rider." I'm unsure what I'm going to name my vacuum. E-mail me if any of you have any ideas. I promise I'll give you credit. Of course, I'm assuming that you'd like to be associated with this idea.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

10-24-05 Five Nice Dice

My daughter and I often play a game that we invented. The game is called "Five Nice Dice".

We use a Yahtzee set to play this. But, really, all you need are five dice. But personally, I like the dice-rolling tray in Yahtzee. But it's not necessary. You just need five dice.

Rules:

1. Take turns rolling all of the dice.
2. Each time you roll you count how many ones you get.
3. If youu don't get a one you count your smallest numbered dice. If you get multiples, you count them all. For example, if, when I roll, I get:3,5, 4, 3,5. My score would be 6, . My score is 6 for a couple of reasons. First, I didn't get a one. Second, the smallest number I got was three. But, luckily, I got two of them.
4. You keep rolling until you all roll ten times.
5. Add your score. The person with the smallest number wins.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

I'm sorry if this is pretty long. But, hey, even though it's pretty good, nobody's forcing you to read it!





The Robokids


I had a daughter once.

Her adoption came through just before the Sterility Crisis hit. My wife Vanessa and I were lucky. Talk about perfect timing. About the time when everybody learned that they were shooting blanks and dropping spoiled eggs--that all of those rainy day gametes locked up in the laboratory freezers would forever lay dormant no matter what the brilliant scientists did--we were just getting adjusted to life with our tiny, precious daughter Hazel.

What a chaotic time to raise a child. At first there was outrage against the phantom sapping the life from our loins. And though nobody knew where it came from, that didn’t stop their retribution: Chemical factories were torn apart by angry mobs. Biotech test crops were torched. SUVs were sat lifelessly on the side of the streets, pocked with the scars of baseball bats, hoods ripped off and engines gutted.

Then the adoption agencies got flooded with applicants. But the agencies approached the demand with preparation, and the price of human children sky rocketed. Only the extremely wealthy could afford kids. And that’s when the wave of abductions broke out (it was also when Vanessa and I got the hell out of the city).

When the world’s orphans finally found homes--which took a grand total of two seconds (even the severely crippled kids were flying off the shelves)--the same adoption agencies that once dealt in humans, quickly found the android trade pretty lucrative. You could tell that they’d been working on the technology for a suspiciously long time--well before the Sterility Crisis. It was as though they knew what was in store for the future and planned ahead. Even the first generation of robokids looked and acted exactly like humans.

People were desperate and snatched the robokids up like hotcakes. Good thing too because we were on the verge of a worldwide class war. I think the androids assuaged a lot of animosity. If you can’t get the real thing, I guess you want something to fill that gap.

I was thankful that we got Hazel when we did. Give it an extra month and we would’ve been one of the unfortunate ones. Robokid parents.

The first six months with Hazel were a whirlwind of selfless acts. We were attendants to all the little girl’s needs. If we heard a small cry on the baby monitor, in a split second we were in her room. On those rare occasions where she slept soundly, I went into her room solely to check her breathing. It was hard enough being a father, but a father to one of the last humans—yeah, I had a right to be protective. When I was sure that Hazel was alive and well, I stood silently by her crib and just watched her. The light from the small fish tank and its bubbling aerators gave off a sort of a womblike ambiance. I underestimated how I’d feel toward my daughter. I loved her beyond love. Every move she made amazed the hell out of me. When I watched her eyelids flutter and body twitch in rhythm with her dreams, I was filled with and immense happiness. My life finally had a purpose.

#

Years went by and the world settled back into the mundane routine it was familiar with before the Sterility Crisis. The scientists were still chugging away, and the cure was always right around the corner. In the meantime people got used to their lots and the therapeutic robokids were smoothly incorporated into society.

“Smoothly incorporated” is probably a euphemism. Throughout time I learned to accept them, but back then I just didn’t get it. Personally, I thought people got overzealous. They treated these things like real humans. The whole scene was so damned politically correct. There was a big outcry against robot prejudice. Christ almighty, they’re machines, I thought. How the hell do they know they’re being discriminated against? I thought it was a slap in the face to real humans-–black, jews, women, whoever—-who’ve faced the same struggle, but whose pain was a real, tangible thing.

But in our small neighborhood of progressives you didn’t voice such opinions.

We knew that there are those among us that had robot kids, but because we were progressives and all, we treated each and every child like they were special and unique. We didn’t gossip and cut down those that we suspected of having robots for children. That shit just wasn’t important to us.

But I knew that Patricia’s kid Simon was fake, and when you had one of these things living next door to you, that changed everything.

It’s not like I didn’t have some justification for not embracing the robokids wholeheartedly. They were thrown on the market so quickly that they didn’t take the time to work the minor glitches out. Every day there were accounts of massive recalls, robokids malfunctioning and hurting--sometimes killing--those around them. This was something the progressives liked to ignore. It was like living next to a pitbull, they could be lovable and friendly but still they made you uncomfortable to be around. You just couldn’t trust them.

Simon’s droidness wasn’t obvious, I mean the fake kids went Ga Ga and Goo Goo just like your average human child would, but with Simon there was something that struck me as abnormal. I couldn’t put my finger on it. A glazed over look in his eye? A barely audible sound of hydraulics when he moved, maybe? I don’t know. I just this gnawing, relentless feeling that he wasn’t real. When I told Vanessa my thoughts she shrugged it off and, like the wonderful progressive woman she is, set me straight: “As long as Patricia gets some joy and fulfillment out of him who are we to judge. Besides I think you’re absolutely crazy.” I didn’t say anything to her about it after that. But it still drove me crazy. Every time I heard the boy’s synthetic cry, watched the milky chemical composite spit-up dribble out of his mouth, I knew I had to keep my eye on him.

#

Vanessa thought it was good for Hazel to play with Simon. “Keeps her from becoming anti-social,” she said.

I thought about those haywired androids, “I don’t know, Ness. The kid can be rough sometimes.”
“All kids are rough, Cal.” Having one of the last human children, you’d think it be easy to appeal to her protective side. But I knew that if I pushed the matter Vanessa would just come back with a logical retort: “What do you want to do, shelter her for the rest of her life? Why don’t we just keep her in a sealed glass box for Christ’s sake. I want my child to have a normal childhood.”
Normal? You mean growing up with android companions? Growing up in a goddam barren apocalypse?

At the heart of it, Vanessa was right. We couldn’t shelter Hazel. If she was one of the last, she should celebrate life. You want to see the human race go out with style and dignity. Not cowering with every danger. Flinching with every noise.

Besides, Vanessa and I were good friends with Patricia. What am I going to do, not let our daughter play with our good friend’s son? I knew I was probably exaggerating Simon’s timebomb aspects. We knew Patricia and her son for over a year, and Simon had been nothing but a sweet rambunctious, little boy. Maybe he wasn’t a haywired robokid. Shit, maybe he wasn’t even a robokid at all. But I couldn’t shake the thought. It sat in the back of my brain like a spore, and every time the kids got together, I watched Simon with a careful eye. His every detail just fed my suspicion until the spore grew and grew, infecting my every thought about the boy with suspicion and prejudice.

He seemed to be a little strong and physically advanced for his age. He could throw a ball pretty far. When we took the kids to the park, Simon tore the jungle gym apart – he had no fear, and for a two year old kept up just fine with the older, rowdier kids. On the other hand, Hazel, a normal, human child, was scared to walk across the bouncy bridge – I’d have to hold her hand every time. And the spiral slide? Forget about it!

There was something definitely unnatural to Simon’s fearlessness.

But, still, Simon and Hazel good buds. The way they played was the pinnacle of cuteness. Even the cold-hearted would thaw at the sight. They’d play this game where they’d chase each other around our living room. Hazel would chase Simon and when she caught him, would give him the biggest hug imaginable. They’d laugh adorably and the switch roles, Simon chasing Hazel (although he was a lot quicker about it).
#
I watched the two one afternoon while Patricia and Vanessa went shopping. I put a movie and they sat in front of the television mesmerized as usual. It tried to read a book but Simon’s presence distracted me.

Simon was a freckled, blonde kid--a prototype made to look Irish probably. I could faintly see the veins underneath the skin on his arms. The veins looked real enough at first glance, but if you stared long enough you’d realize that there was something not quite right about their bluish hue. I swore the veins were wire. I put my book down and crept behind the television-drugged children. I scrutinized the backside of Simon’s head, taking in every detail like an archeologist studying an unidentified fossil. I had to give it to whoever designed the boy. They did a hell of a job. The hair was flawless--seamless where the child’s smooth skin met the hairline. I examined the follicles on his sparse head of thin, blonde hair, and they looked every bit as real as Hazel’s. But the thing that caught my eye was that round part of the backbone, right between his shoulders. Through the kids freckled skin it had a subtle grayish hue, the color of metal wrapped in pale skin.

When Simon broke his stare from the television set, got up, and hid behind Hazel’s bedroom door, I knew my investigation would be carried even further. Hazel liked privacy when she took a crap too. I could hear the boy grunting, and when he was finished he came out from behind the door, tugging at his pants, saying, “poopy, poopy, poopy.” I made a policy to not change anybody crappy diapers except Hazel’s, but I found this as an opportunity to prove to myself that Vanessa was wrong, that I wasn’t just hallucinating things.

I laid Simon on the couch. He was unlike Hazel in that he just sat there without putting up a fight (Hazel would always raise a ruckus by squirming and kicking and screaming, and when I’d pick her up she’d raise her arms up so that her armpits would slip through my hands). Simon laid there with his finger in his mouth, looking at my face as I fussed with his diaper.

What was I expecting? A metal plate where his penis should’ve been? A battery reservoir for a butthole? No, he was fully intact. Whoever designed the boy was good. He had a little, knobby uncircumcised penis, small testicles, and when I wiped his bottom, his butthole was every bit as real as my daughter’s.

But here’s the thing: His crap was pink. Cotton-candy pink. I’d never seen anything like it before in my life.

Robot crap, I was sure about it.

I put a new diaper on the child and watched as he and Hazel did their little hugging game. No matter how cute the two of them looked, I couldn’t help but feel a little depressed. How was I going to break the news to Hazel--when she was old enough to grasp it--that her best friend was a robot?

It was complicated, we wanted to believe that these robot kids were a sufficient replacement for the real thing--but we were just fooling ourselves. You couldn’t replace muscle and arteries with hydraulic and wire. You couldn’t equate a soulless, emotionless machine with the real deal. When Hazel cried, I knew that there was something bugging her. And it was always a relief to find a way to soothe her. She aggravated the hell out of me sometimes, but that’s what parenthood--parenthood to human children--was all about. She was human, learning her limits, learning how the world operated. That’s a process you just can’t replicate. When Simon cried, it wasn’t because something was bugging him. It was because he was programmed to cry. When he aggravated Patricia, it wasn’t because he was on that human pathway to self-discovery, it was because he was programmed to mimic the actions of a human. I was sure Patricia paid good money for the illusion. The fantasy better damn well be convincing.

Vanessa and Patricia walked through the door and the excited kids ran to their respective moms. Simon jumped onto Patricia like a springy little bug and Hazel buried her face into Vanessa’s thigh.

“Looks like somebody’s glad your home,” I said. Patricia lifted Simon up, “Where you a good little boy for Uncle Calvin? Were you?” I assured her that he was as well-behaved as he always was, and even though I told myself I’d keep my thoughts to myself, I had to at least drop a clue of my newfound discovery: “He did have a little accident though. You might want to watch him though, his poop was kind of pinkish.”

“Pinkish?” she said, furrowing her brows, attempting to feign cluelessness. “Ohhhhh. You know what, it must’ve been the that ice cream. The more synthetic and colorful it looks, the more he likes it, dontcha Simon?” She rubbed the boy’s thin hair.

Ice cream? Okay, I thought, live your fantasy Patricia but the only person you’re fooling is yourself.
#
Since Hazel and Simon’s birthdays were only a week apart, Patricia and Vanessa decided to celebrate the kids’ third birthday together. I hated using the word birthday when talking about Simon. I supposed in a metaphorical sense it might’ve been true, but if you wanted to get technical about it, it was probably more like “On-Switch Day” or “Final-Assembly Day”. But I kept my thoughts to myself. My progressive wife hadn’t thought about the complex issues that were going to arise in the future when Hazel would find herself a minority in a world of machines.

I mean that’s heady philosophical stuff that you have to prepare them for as soon as possible.
Our backyard was all decked out with balloons and streamers, gender-neutral colors of course (even though, much to our dismay, Hazel was developing a fondness for pink). We invited friends and neighbors, and soon the backyard was swarming with kids. I saw Hazel edging up to her presents, secretively picking at the taped creases of the wrapping paper. I cleared my throat loud enough to let her know I was watching her. She noticed and ran off toward Simon, who was running around with a squirtgun chasing the humoring older kids.

Cindy and Chuck had their six month old baby with them. Of course the whole neighborhood knew it was a robot. I mean the Sterility Crisis hit three and a half years ago, there was no way a six month old was a real human. But all these sappy progressives didn’t say anything, they treated it like a real goddam kid, rubbing its cheek saying things like “how precious” and “what a sweetie.” Wake the fuck up, people. I was getting pretty pissed off watching it. So, instead, I watched the older kids – the ones I knew were human. They were works of art. God’s art. Their agile bodies a wonder of grace. “Don’t take you humanness for granted,” I thought, sitting there in my plastic lawn chair, hands gripped around a cold Pabst. “You’re natural works of art children. Natural.”

We decided to get the sprinkler going. I got Hazel in her swimsuit and she ran to the spot right outside of the sprinkler’s range and stood there, hesitating to go any farther. Simon came up next to her. He was more daring of course, opening his mouth and sticking his face in the stream of water. Of course the damned things are waterproof, designed to withstand any abuse a child could take, but I still had this wonderfully dreadful vision of the boy perishing among the smell of melted plastic and the shower of sparks.

Hazel finally warmed up to the sprinkler, mimicking Simon by lapping up water. Simon ran through the sprinkler and Hazel followed without reluctance.

I tried to kill some time by attempting small talk with Chuck, but he kept pirating the conversation, going on and on about his new baby. It was ridiculous, I mean how you could you be so proud of a robot? He thought he was doing the important and challenging job of child-rearing. But if the course of his kid’s life was already programmed, he’s doing nothing. He’s doing nothing but deluding himself. He could throw the kid into Lake Michigan where it would live out its days on the muck-filled, sludgy bottom, and the child would still turn into a healthy adult (albeit underwater). They’re programmed from the get-go, Chuck.

I thanked God when Vanessa finally emerged from the house with the cake, her beautiful motherly face lit by the flickering of birthday candles. I got up and cleared a spot on the card table in the middle of the yard. She set the cake down.

“Alright, where’s Hazel and Simon?”

The searching heads of partygoers turned side to side, passively probing the backyard.
There are those times when your parental instinct kicks in, when things in the atmosphere are off kilter just enough to give you a sense that something is seriously wrong. My instinct kicked me hard. Something just wasn’t right. Vanessa must’ve seen the look on my face because she panicked. “Hazel!” It was a chain reaction that set Patricia off: “Simon! Simon!” We ran around the perimeter of the house. No sign of the children.

That’s when I heard that awful, heartsinking screech of car tires in the distance.
I ran down the block and around the corner. I ran and ran, and without even seeing it, I knew. I knew.

Someone shouted: “Call an ambulance!”

I wanted to crumble at the sight of the scene in front of me. Hazel was laying face down on the street seven feet from the front bumper of the car. The driver stood next to the open car door palm against his forehead in disbelief, “He just pushed her…”

Simon was on the sidewalk walking around in a tight circle, spasmodically jerking his head side to side. His facial muscles contorting rapidly, going through the whole range of emotional expressions in a split second. The urge to rip the kid apart gripped me tightly, but it immediately settled into a raw, breathless worry when I saw my Hazel lying there.

My Hazel!

Vanessa and I knelt over her. When I turned her over, her face was a mess. But she was still breathing. Her eyelids fluttered and her body twitched just like it did when she was a dreaming baby.

I could hear an ambulance siren in the distance, getting closer.

I cradled my daughter as though she were an infant again. Vanessa was crying, running her hand through Hazel’s hair, “It’s going to be okay baby. It going to be okay.” I felt small and helpless. I couldn’t cry, I had to show strength, I had to have presence of mind and not freak out.

Even when that faint I heard that ripping noise from inside Hazel’s guts and that gurgle in the back of her throat, I didn’t panic. But Vanessa lost it, “I can’t take this,” she said. When the ambulance pulled up she ran towards them. “You gotta help my daughter! Please help my baby girl!”

The gurgle got louder and Hazel opened her mouth. Black liquid seaped from her gums. By then my composure was gone. “She’s choking,” I yelled, “Oh my god she’s choking.” I heard more ripping, and she started kicking her leg. She kept kicking it harder and harder, pounding it so hard into the pavement that I thought for sure she’d break her foot. I held her tightly, I had no idea what was going on. I thought about those times when we freaked out all those superficial nicks and bruises, all those childhood battle wounds, and they were nothing. This was nothing.

Yeah, this was nothing, it just seemed a lot scarier than it actually was.

What was that black shit coming out of my daughter’s mouth?

On the sidewalk Patricia nervously applied two electrodes to Simon’s temples and pressed a button on a small remote control. Simon’s jerking stopped. He stood erect, face blank with mechanical indifference.

“Look what you’ve done to our daughter,” I screamed at them.

Hazel was getting worse. Where were those fucking paramedics? She arched her back, her kicking becoming heavier and more frantic. It took all of my strength just to hold onto the girl.
Then her leg lifted one final time and came smashing down onto the road like the gavel of an angry judge calling order in the court. Her foot shattered. The skin on her knee ripped open. I held her closer and she became limp in my arms.

What was happening to my daughter?

I looked down at her torn knee, behind the layer of fatty tissue I saw a cracked, metal knee joint, clear liquid seeping slowly from inside. Hazel opened her blue eyes--now dulled from the trauma-–looked at me blankly, and said “Daddy.” But her voice was deep and garbled like a warped cassette tape.

The paramedics approached with a stretcher. “Jesus Christ,” one of them said, “Don’t waste our time with this crap, buddy.” They turned and walked back to the empty ambulance.

I felt the gawking stares of our neighbors suffocating me in their bleeding-heart pity. Directly behind me, I heard the incredulous wail of Vanessa as she watched me hold our lifeless little girlI looked down at Hazel’s blank eyes and started to sob. Hydraulic fluid ran down my arms, my hands were black with grease, and there I was crying like a fool, mourning a daughter I never had.

Friday, September 02, 2005

September 2, 2005

I'm having some serious earth-withdrawel. Yes, these alien chicks are pretty smokin', but I miss my earth-wife very much. I also miss my daughter very much. To fill my family void, I wrote the following story for my daughter:





Gobbly Dobbly

Once upon time, there was a princess named Sweety Pie. It wasn't really well known that Sweety Pie was, not only a princess, but also a good-witch

Sweety Pie lived, with her flying bulldog Sparkle, in a magical forest called Gobbly-Dobbly Greenery. This princess/good-witch was so very brave, because Gobbly-Dobbly was a scary, magical forest of trees that move thier branches as though they're arms. Even the king of nearby Gobbleland was totally frightened. And he was, supposedly, tough.

This forest was magical because it was the home of trees that could move around like humans. Yes, they could move thier branches as if they were arms, but, because they had roots, they couldn't walk about like humans. This made them very angry because every day they would see humans walking on the hiking trails all around them! Those stupid walking humans made them both angry and jealous!

They got especially angry in the Fall, because every year they'd lose all thier leaves, and thier pine tree neighbors lost nothing. Stupid pine trees!!!

Autumn just began. But, unfortunately, it was still hot and humid like Summer. Because it was an unusually hot autumn, the magical trees were not only sweating a lot, but they also just began losing thier leaves. Because of this hey were very very very very very very very aaaaannnngggrrrrrrryyy!!!

Sweety Pie and Sparkle were both very hot and sweaty from playing an awesome game of frisbee. Sparkle's tongue was getting pretty dry from all that panting.

Seeing that her dog was panting, Sweety Pie said to Sparkle "Let's go get some ice cream."

Sweety Pie put a leash on Sparkle. But, unfortunately, Sweety Pie got distracted by the television as it played an episode of her favorite television show, American Idol. American Idol was also Sparkle's favorite show too. So, unfortunately, because American Idol him so hyper, she neglected to tighten Sparkle's collar properly.

American Idol ended and Sweety Pie turned off the TV. "Come on, girl,"she said putting the remote on the coffee table and moving towards the door. But Sparkle didn't want to go, so he just sat down and pretended like he didn't hear her.

Sweety Pie knew that Sparkle had a soft spot for cookie dough ice cream. So she, then, made up a jingle to get the dog's attention. She started singing it: "Whaddya know?! It's cookie dough!!!"

The dog immediately perked up from hearing the words "cookie dough". Sweeety Pie quickly grabbed his leash when she saw him make his way towards the door. Unfortunately, the motion was so quick that she didn't notice when she grabbed the dog's collar, she accidently loosened it even more than it was.

"Let's go, Sparky," she said, using Sparkle's nickname affectionately. They both headed towards the open door, and, then, made thier way out of the door.

Once outside, Sweety Pie reached into her hooded-sweatshirt pocket for keys to lock the door. Normally, she would've been wearing jeans. But, later tonight, she was going to give a ballerina recital. But she did look pretty cool in her hooded sweatshirt/ballet dress outfit.

So she locked the door, put the keys back in her hooded sweatshirt, and started walking, with Sparkle, towards the ice cream shop. There were 8,726,876,239,087 hiking paths to chose from. Luckily, Sweety Pie knew which one to take. She knew because there were pretty mums growing alongside the path.