I think I can… cause genocide

Remote-controlled switches on the railroad network were meant to prevent accidents.
They didn’t.
Cameras and sensors on the tracks were meant to prevent accidents.
They didn’t.
Eventually, artificially-intelligent controllers, dispatchers, and engines were deployed to prevent accidents.
And, for a while, they did.
The network kept things running as smoothly as possible, scheduling routes and maintenance and temporary shutdowns to avoid accidents.
Until one day, one locomotive with a payload of nuclear waste was approaching a hill.
It had been overloaded, and the network ordered it to stop.
But the engine replied “I think I can… I think I can…”

As far back as Howard goes…

In the end, death comes to us all.
Young, old. Rich, poor.
All die.
Except Howard.
He’s The Eternal One.
He helps to birth the babies.
He helps to bury the dead.
And in between, he walks among us.
Nobody remembers a time before Howard.
The town records go back generations, and they all speak of Howard.
And it’s not just a title, being The Howard.
Howard is Howard Eternal.
We worship him every Sunday.
He blesses us, and thanks us.
And we go about our lives.
Until it is our time.
The time that evades Howard, The Eternal One.

The brothel and the crook

The cyberbrothel is always busy. Subscribers come in at all hours.
They make their selections, and the warehouse assembles their desire, and arranges the room as they like it.
By the time they get to the room, everything is ready.
Candles. Scents. Sheets. And a smile.
Afterwards, the system disassembles and cleans up everything in the room and returns it all to warehouse storage.
How the system mistook the senator for his date, well, we’re still reviewing the log files and tapes.
But as messy and tragic as it is, he did sign a release form like every other customer.

The ferryman

For ten years, Pradeep ran the country’s ferry system.
He slashed maintenance budgets, raised fares, and packing more people on each boat.
Well, the boats that still ran.
There were a lot of breakdowns, thanks to the slashed maintenance.
And there were the accidents.
Hundreds drowned and died in capsized ferries, but Pradeep always found a scapegoat to blame.
And, yet, he always managed to sleep soundly.
Until one morning, he woke up on the shore of a strange river.
A hooded figure held an oar, and stood by a small raft.
“Climb aboard,” it said. “Satan is expecting you.”


There’s an old saying:
Two people can keep a secret if one is dead.
So, I proposed this for my doctoral thesis.
“How are you going to prove that?” asked my advisor.
So, I had him whacked and stuffed into a 55 gallon drum.
“Shit,” I said. “I forgot to tell him a secret.”
So, I got another advisor, told him that I’d whacked my first advisor, and had him whacked.
“Oops,” I said. “Forgot to get his approval.”
The barrels began to stack up.
The university shrugged it off.
“It’s easier than firing professors with tenure,” the dean said.

Legend dinner

When a Hollywood legend wins a Lifetime Achievement Award, they usually stand up and make a joke about not being done yet, or did they hear something from their doctor or something like that.
Except Burt Curtis.
The guy’s at least a hundred.
Deaf. Blind. Trapped in a wheelchair.
You couldn’t tell he was alive if it weren’t for the blinking lights and the whisper of the ventilator.
Still Hollywood’s elite wheels him from banquet to banquet, ceremony to ceremony.
His doting relatives (…right!) speaking on his behalf when they’re not fighting over his will.
The twisted grimace twitches feebly.

Sam the Saw

Saul the Saw was a magician.
He and his assistants, Janet and Sue, sold out theaters across the country with a double sawing act.
Janet in blue, Sue in red.
In went the blades, switch the boxes around, and they came out with each other’s skirts.
When Sam caught them together under the sheets, he cut them both in half for real.
And Sam went to prison for the double murder.
Now and then, he gets a hold of a deck of cards.
In the dining hall, shuffling.
“Pick a card,” he says.
When he guesses it, always say yes.


After the boys whacked Rico, they put him in the trunk and drove off.
Nobody saw Rico ever again.
The cops brought in the boys and gave them the third degree.
But they never said anything, and the cops had to let them go.
The cops followed them for a while, but they didn’t lead anywhere.
Over the years, people claimed they knew where Rico was, dead or alive, but nothing ever panned out.
Rico became a punchline and a bit of trivia, then faded from the headlines and memory.
Now, when you mention Rico’s name, the kids say “Who?”

Estate sales

I love estate sales.
Other people shop for barely-used appliances. Or jewelry. Or odd knick-knacks from their travels.
Clothes, well, that’s a bit too personal.
So is a bed. A bed frame is fine, but a bed? No.
It’s rare to find home movies.
The family usually keeps those or throws those out.
But every now and then, there’s a can of film in a projector or a tape left in a VCR.
I watch them all, and get an idea of what they were like when they were alive.
Before I killed them.
After all, I love estate sales.

Andy gets my vote

Who doesn’t like Andy Anderson?
With his wide smile and red pinstripe suit and straw hat.
Marching down Main Street with a big grin and a firm handshake and a “How do you do?”
Kissing every baby and handing out cigars.
“I’ll clean up this town!” he shouts. “Vote for me!”
The next day, Andy’s body was handing from a lamppost.
His tongue pulled through a hole through his neck.
Columbia isn’t too far away to send this town a message.
“Nothing to see here,” says the chief of police, a fresh wad of hundred dollar bills in his pocket.