Union [Writing Warm-Up #6, Final]

UNION [Writing Warm-Up #6, Final]
by T.A. Saunders

After five hundred and twenty years, I have returned. The last I saw this world, Europe was seeking trade routes to China, to trade silk, and Martin Luther sought to change the very foundations of your Christian religion. I saw Shakespeare rise, and Constantinople fall. It is truly a pity that the fine Muslim swordsman gutted the host I was using on that day, else I might have seen more of this world, slowly sinking into the mire of corruption. 

Oh, but my have things changed, and for the better I might add! As I soak the anguish, the rage and the despair from this host, I can also see his memories, his drugged delusions and I can see the hope he clung to till just now. There it goes! Out like a candle that’s burned down to its last, struggling to stay lit. Just a puddle of melted wax, and a charred bit of wick; that’s what’s left of his soul. Yes, Aaron was his name.

Going through his memories reads like a bad novel. All sadness, weeping and failure to live up to expectations. It’s this weakness I sup upon…well, all my kind do, really. Aaron wanted to be an astronaut as a boy. Loved his science, but struggled a bit with math. Grades. Yes, each ‘C’ was a lash from a father’s belt, between swigs of whiskey. He sought his mother’s eyes, but she always looked away, always said, “You should’ve done better. You need to obey your father.” Enablers are the best thing ever! Their passive role in torment, whether adult or child, is gasoline to the flame. Make it worse, make it so they break people like Aaron.

But he was spared a few lashes, wasn’t he? Spared because daddy was driving drunk and killed him and his mother both. That’s how he ended up with his grandfather. What that man lacked in the ability to inflict physical abuse, he certainly made up for in mental abuse. Honestly, if you’re going to abuse somebody, mental abuse is the best. No physical scars and you can claim the person is completely nuts. Another twelve years of being told he was a failure, being told he couldn’t go play with his friends and being forced to live like it was the 1950’s cracked what normality Aaron had. Fertile soil for the thing that lets me inside.

These early memories are the best. I can feel their deep, lingering pain like it was yesterday. Aaron still replays them in his head, sometimes even argues aloud, to himself. Says all the things he wanted to say then, to the dark, long after saying anything would have any meaning. So much easier to talk to the dark, when you want to say something, isn’t it? You don’t think anybody’s listening, but things do hear you. Things like me. Other things. Worse things.

All Aaron wanted was to be understood, to be accepted for who he was. But he wasn’t. Not at home, and not at school, where other children picked on him, pestered him and did what daddy wasn’t around to do anymore. Lashes of the belt were replaced with pummeling fists, hitting and smacking him for not conforming, not being as the rest of the herd was. Normal, normal, normal. Humans and their normal. Little prepubescent primates swinging their little arms, howling at whatever’s not like them and breaking it. It’s almost like having little, snot-dribbling minions really. Goblins that do my bidding, without me ever having to ask. Whatever resistance Aaron had to falling into the cool embrace of my shadow was destroyed by the monkey-goblins. Thank you monkey-goblins!

He never fought back once. Not one single time did he raise a hand to the monkey-goblin children, who beat their chests, howled at how different Aaron was, then beat him for not conforming. Not being a monkey-goblin. Aaron became something worse than a monkey-gobln. He became a dumpster for whatever chemical would make him forget, whatever he could drink to make him look cool to the monkey-goblins, or at least to other dumpsters like him. Misery does love company. Never forget that.

By the time everybody abandoned Aaron, he was a full dumpster. Full of anger, full of regret, full of dreams, visions and disjointed, impossible thoughts that could never be. The cracked glass of Aaron could never be a true, focused lense for anything real, anything that would be worth actually doing. Dealing meth, and smoking away half the product became more engaging than being an astronaut, or a physicist.

But even as drugs and misery sloshed and mingled inside broken Aaron, he never did quite become evil, did he? Angry at himself, weak-willed and tormented, but he never turned it on others. He always kept his torment to himself, let it harm himself, before he would let it harm others. Had this gentle side, hidden amongst the walls of pain and the gobs of drug-induced stupid. It’s why he felt so bad when he ran that poor beagle over with his grandfather’s Buick. The poor thing howled pitifully for a full half hour, after he sped away. Do old people always drive dog-killing Buicks?

But that will change, now that I’m driving Aaron. What remains of his struggling soul, I will consume, and add to myself. It’s an honor! I have devoured souls of Egyptian thieves, Roman harlots and British mass murderers. Aaron’s distinction will be in fine company to the other souls I’ve consumed, and made a part of me. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s going to enjoy killing people. It’ll give a power that drugs could never give him. It will feed him in a way that no approval could ever nourish him. He’ll feel strength when he clasps somebody’s throat, and squeezes. When life escapes in a gasp, from open lips that ask the unvoiced question of, “Why?”

“The why is power, Miss Chaise Michaels. Thank you for bringing me Aaron. Thank you for also bringing me your neck to squeeze. Aaron appreciates it, for all the suffering you’ve put him through.”

Now, to find a damned beagle, and convert it into a Hound of Hell.




I Can’t Get That Y’Sil Out of My Head! [Writing Warm-Up #5]

I Can’t Get That Y’Sil Out of My Head! [Writing Warm-Up #5]
By T.A. Saunders

My skin burns. It’s a pain that travels my entire torso, and I only have moments, between when this crazy bitch is making my skin look like a meat mosaic and when she’s wiping clean the knife she’s using, that I have relief. It’s a moment for me to reflect on how utterly fucked I am, for the person I am. If I were the bird I’d hoped I had been in a past life, I could fly away from all this, or if I was the beagle, I could just bite this bitch in the boob, and make a break for it.

But I’m none of those things. I’m an addict, a failure and I’m going to be the fuck sock for some primordial ass-wipe from Hell. At least, that’s the impression Doctor Michaels gave me, when she gave me the lowdown on my situation. I don’t know much about this voodoo witchcraft shit, but I know enough that once she finishes carving symbols in my skin, and chanting something that sounds like an unhappy Catholic mass done in Latin, I’m done.

For all the things that’s happened, for all the shit I’ve done to myself, I’m deciding right now, I’m not done. I’m not done with life, and whatever surviving braincells I have, I need to fire up now if I’m ever going to get out of this. To be honest, it’s taken me being put here, on the literal sacrificial alter of some demon, or whatever, to see that I want to live. I want to not be this jerk that mopes about his lot in life, wishes he was something else, and wallows in his misery.

The restraints are tight. I’m never going to break them. I had trouble, last week, tearing a t-shirt I was wearing, when I was doing a drunk impersonation of the Hulk; leather restraints are an insurmountable challenge. But if she sets that knife down on the tray, I might be able to get it. I might be able to cut a restraint, or cut her. For all this carving, permanent scarring I’m going to have, giving her a few stabs won’t even flicker on my conscious.

I should be dead though. All this blood is mine, she’s cut me all over and it stings to feel the air move across my body. I cry out more than I want to, but she’s making shallow cuts, inches at a time. She’s being precise, she’s being careful with every symbol. She’s making my flesh art to a dark god, that she hopes will take this body, filled with despair, frustration and a lack of beagles and use it for…well, I don’t really fucking know, do I? But she’s making art for him, is the point. Art I can vandalize, just by moving.

She lifts the knife just as I twist in my restraints. I snarl at her, and her expression is one of surprised shock. She eyes my restraints, and its here I know she fears me. She fears me getting free before she’s done. She uses her sweet voice to try and calm me, warn me she’ll use some chemical on me, but I don’t care. I want to be free. I wait for her to start cutting again, and this time she slips. This time I ruin her artwork. It’s a small victory, probably not important in the grand scheme of me being a meat tapestry, but it’s the fuck you of it that counts. Bitch.

Then I feel it. It. Each one of the carved symbols on my body burns like I’m on fire, but I can’t scream. Doctor Michaels is chanting in something that sounds like more of that angry-sounding Latin Catholic mass, and every phrase she finishes, brings It deeper within my body, through the symbols cut into my skin. I want to scream, for the discovery of a pain new and different to the one I’ve been experiencing for the last two hours, but it doesn’t come to my voice. It’s choked there, like a fat cat trying to push its way through a cat door that’s too small. Instead of the scream, I make this saliva-drenched gagging noise, thanks to the ball gag I’m wearing.

I can feel Y’Sil in my head now, coaxing me like I’m a prom date it wants to lay, in the back seat of his car, with images of power, conquest and women. He tells me he’ll let me kill the doctor first, if I want, or rape her, then kill her if that pleases me. Even as fucked up as I am, as mad as I am at this woman, the idea of raping her sits sour in my stomach, but killing her seems somehow better. It…he, whispers in my mind that together, he and I will have absolute power, to shape the world as we wish.

Somehow, the promise seems genuine. I give a little. I let him take a bit more of me, but not everything. I want something first. I want proof that he’s not going to jack me, and use my body as a wearable meatsuit. I have one condition, and I make it wicked simple.

I want a damned beagle!

TRAVELER — PART VII, An Unexpected Answer


An Unexpected Answer

Mars had declared its independence from the governments of the Earth something like thirty years ago. There had been a concern about history’s first interplanetary war, but it didn’t go down like that. The colonies of Mars were self sufficient and simply wanted their autonomy from their respective governments (in this case, the United States and China) to exist how they wished.

Donna had been working as a US Ambassador to Mars at the time and she had been back and forth between Earth and the Red Planet more times than I’d like to recall. We had just gotten married and it put a strain on things, but we managed. It helped knowing she was doing something important for not only Earth but for Mars as well. When it was finally done, I remember the marathon sex and her unending need to eat real food, instead of that stuff they make with the food replicators.

I think of this now as Earl and I touch down on Mars, because right now we’re looking at the very colony Donna had gone to in order to do her work. The Armstrong Colony was situated in the Valles Marineris and had been the site for many of the negotiations between the US, China and the United Colonies of Mars. They didn’t have much of a military back then, but what they did have was enough to make taking the colonies back by force more expensive than either nation was willing to pay. In the end, it always comes down to money. As we look at the massive anti-starship batteries and the milling of troops coming in and out of the large, domed complex I see a lot has changed in those thirty years.

“Shit,” Earl began, “Look at all that hardware. Those are M-76D hover-tanks!”

“Yeah, US military hardware, but how did they get those? Any of this stuff?”

“Dunno. But this doesn’t look like a colony anymore than my mother-in-law looks like a woman. Suppose we have a look around and see what’s goin’ on here?”

“Probably a good idea. Let’s go.”

My first inclination was that they were on high alert because the Earth was basically obliterated. Without the Earth, Mars’ own orbit would be effected, though it’s impossible to say how. Could it be the result of an alien invader? We’ve not exactly scored well diplomatically with the Alpha Centarians or the Skull Nebula Confederacy but neither has been war-like. Not like this. Even as advanced as the Skull Nebula Confederacy is, they were more interested in hustling us their old technology for mining rights on the Moon than blowing us up. The implications of what could have happened were staggering.

Earl and I floated past the myriad of soldiers and military equipment towards the colony proper. It was a huge, domed complex that was built around a giant terra-forming tower. Because the fusion reactor within it gave off so much heat, a thermal dome was built around it to help create a habitable environment for humans while the atmosphere composition was being changed. It would likely be another fifty or so years before people will be able to live outside these domes, but the change will be a leap for Mankind.

It was amusing to me that Earl and I could simply cross the threshold and move about the busy colony complex without being detected, detained or questioned. We drifted through bustling crowds and the botanical garden stations that made up the majority of the colony dome’s interior, until we came to the center pavilion. What I saw there struck me dumbfounded.

“T-That’s Donna.” I managed to stammer. “Why is she kneeling before that Alpha Centurian?”


 End of Story One




I closed my eyes and attempted to focus. Earl’s dialog about having the urge to scratch his privates as a ghost, despite having no reason to itch them was distracting to say the least. Rather than the less than savory image he presented, I filled my mind with visions of my wife, my Donna.

She was wearing a pale yellow sundress last night at our BBQ, it brought out the gentle tanning of her skin and brought out the straw color of her hair. I could almost smell the chicken and bratwurst I had been grilling while she laughed and carried on with our friends, Peggy and Kevin. The light from the stupid tiki lanterns she had insisted on filled the area around the pool in a pleasant glow. I remember looking up at the stars as I grilled, thinking that the night had been especially clear. Certainly not the sort of night that you’d expect the Earth to just end like it had.

I’m floating in those stars now, not unlike the debris that marks the remains of my home, my world. I reach out with my conscious and attempt to feel her presence somewhere in the vast, drifting wasteland of Once-Earth, but I find nothing. I’m greeted with a sense of great emptiness, speckled with pinpoints of passing energy, possibly other spirits that are doing what I’m doing. Maybe they’re looking for loved ones or just a stranger in the void. Somebody to assure them that they’re not alone in the world. Should I ever encounter one of those lost souls, I’ll give them Earl.

“You know what I really miss? Pork rinds! Mmm! Dip those bad boys in hot sauce and watch your eyes tear up and your pants burn off!” Earl is supposed to be not distracting me and his answer to that task is to distract himself by babbling.

I don’t bother dignifying his prattle with an answer. I reach out with my mind once more, further this time. Beyond the scope of the debris field, beyond the space I can see. I feel as though I’m attempting to fill a jug of water with just enough pinholes in the bottom that water never quite fills it but never quite runs out either. I’m at a mental stalemate with the Universe, as I allow my mind to extend out as far as it will go. Besides a momentary itch at the edge of my perception, there’s nothing. No sign of Donna and for that I’m pleased and sad. I can’t remember my last words to her because I was so drunk I’m sure I stammered them. I remember her laughter as light and amused. She was happy. I’ll have to be satisfied with that and the fact she won’t be caught in this Purgatory like I am.

“Think we’re done here.” I announce. “I can’t sense her.”

“Probably for the best. Means she probably died painlessly.”

I stared at Earl for a long and uncomfortable moment, long enough to make my burly ghost companion slightly self-conscious. But it’s not anger at him, it’s befuddlement at myself for not even considering why the Earth exploded or broke apart or whatever the hell it did. I had done the same thing with Donna; it was as if, as a spirit I’m designed to have a measure of apathy for living matters. Earl displays the same thing in his own crude way. What ghost tries to make fart noises with his armpit, while somebody’s looking for their loved ones? Perhaps its a coping mechanism for those who pass on, so they can finally leave this world. A depletion of one’s humanity to forget and to fade away. Except I wasn’t ready to fade yet. I was ready for some answers.

“So now what?” Earl looked like he was eager to explore the girl ghost possibility again.

“We’re going to Mars. I want to know how this happened.” Maybe then I could fade away. Maybe then I could be with Donna again, once the questions in my mind were answered.

TRAVELER — PART IV, Learning to Fly


Learning to Fly

“We all have someplace to go, Tommy,” Earl said while the valley of silence between us grew. “Just a matter of figurin’ where that is.”

“Donna.” I said at last. “I need to find out if she ended up like us or…”

“Or if she passed on.”


While Earl was annoying in every way a backwater hillbilly can be annoying without a truck with a lift kit, firearms and a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon, he seemed right on board with looking for the spirit of my wife. If our situations were reversed I’m not so sure I would have been so willing to help, the thought of it shames me back to silence.

In keeping with my theory, I begin willing myself to move, rather than physically trying to propel myself forward. I begin to feel, in the most abstract sense, the energy of my form begin to coalesce. It feels a little bit like trying to push out that stubborn turd a lot more than I want to admit with the way I have to strain to focus, but it works and I begin drifting forward. I am sentient energy now; the electrical shadow of a man named Thomas Killian who died along with everybody else who was on Earth when it evidently exploded. That man had a wife, named Donna that should be found if she’s out there.

There was a good chance that this was going to be a futile search. With any luck, I would never find her. She will have died and moved on to the Afterlife, whatever that actually is. Maybe it is actually nothing. Perhaps she and six billion other people simply ceased to exist this morning. Either scenario seems preferential to my fate with Earl Fontane, his beat up baseball hat and his banjo bravado.

“I thought we was looking for your wife, Tommy? Stop floatin’ around like a fart in a tornado and let’s get to it!” Earl barked out.

“I…shut up Earl.” I probably looked ridiculous as I glided around in an attempt to acclimate myself to this new mode of movement. “I need to know how to move, before we go anywhere. I’m not even sure how we can find her?”

“Yeah, that’s a pickle innit?” He replied. “Maybe because we do everything else by thinking, maybe you can do it that way too?”

Earl had another in a chain of disturbingly logical ideas. At this rate I may have to throw out the idea that this is actually Hell and he’s a demon spirit here to punish me with stupid. I still wasn’t very good at ‘flying’ yet but it was enough to manage. I wasn’t going to get better if I didn’t move more. It also surprised me that Earl could move so effortlessly. Then, it occurred to me how that might be.

“You didn’t die with the explosion, did you?”


“How did you die?”

“Fell into a combine about a week ago, while reaching for beer number 53. Woo! Wouldn’t recommend that experience twice!” Only Earl would find death by combine even remotely exciting.

“I generally steer clear of farm equipment.” I muttered before focusing on the task at hand.

I was almost afraid that I would find her.

TRAVELER — PART III, Adrift With the Space Cowboy


Adrift With the Space Cowboy

“Sensi—no you idiot, I’m just grasping what’s before me and not thinking with my pecker in the Afterlife!” I couldn’t handle it anymore. If he wasn’t already dead, I might’ve strangled him.

“Whoa easy there, Tommy. It’s cool. We’ll worry about women later. What do you want to do?” He asked while turning his baseball hat backwards.

I had to stop and think about that because I rightly didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t even know what my existence was now, aside of the obvious fact that I was dead and everything I’ve ever known was obliterated. It was a lot to process for anybody…except Earl. We’re dead and the first thing he can think of is girls. That of course drew me to my next question.

“Wait a minute. How would you even know where to find other people? I mean, ghosts?” I asked while looking down at my feet and baffling at the fact that I could see thousands of stars beneath them. If it weren’t for the fact that the situation was so hopeless, I’d be awestruck right now.

“Well, I found you didn’t I?” He stated with a matter-of-fact tone. “I dunno rightly, I think I sensed you. You know, like one of those Jedi!”

The thought of Earl wearing that Tennessee Titans hat with Jedi robes and a lightsaber made out of a beer can and a flashlight suddenly snapped my gloom in a burst of laughter. “I…you know that feels right.” I said finally.

“Sure does!” Earl offered with his usual ability to state the obvious.

If we could sense other ghosts, we might be able to find others and perhaps find some answers. The most predominant issue I was grappling with was, since the Earth was destroyed and ghosts usually haunt a particular area, did that mean I was damned to haunt the remains of the planet like some sort of galactic graveyard or could we roam?

Wordlessly I tried pushing myself forward with a swimming motion and unsurprisingly, I managed to only make it look like I was imitating a swimmer and in doing so, only mount further confusion with Earl. Further attempts seemed to fall flat, which spurred my new companion to comment.

“No, you just have to think about the direction you want to go. You’re dead, dummy! You don’t move like a person no more!” Earl stated with some authority.

I looked at him skeptically before quieting my mind and trying it. I think it was with the immediacy by which I shot forward that I was surprised; it was entirely effortless. I remember reading some time ago about how ghosts were thought to be electromagnetic shadows of ourselves. Echoes of energy imprinted on the world. If I was essentially sentient electromagnetic energy, that meant with some limitations, there was literally nowhere I couldn’t go.

“We can go wherever we want, as fast as we want…” I stated to Earl for confirmation.

“Reckon so.”

“Except I have no idea where to go.” I stated in muted frustration. Perhaps that’s why ghosts haunt places, they can’t think of anywhere else to go. The very thought of it sickened me.




“This had better be a dream, or I’m completely fucked.” I said aloud, which I found interesting that I heard, since I was in the vacuum of space.

“Yep,” a voice that had startled me agreed, “You ‘n me both brother.”

I turned around to find another person floating amid the wreckage. He was donning a beat up Tennessee Titans hat, with a dark t-shirt with enough different sorts of muted stains on it that it could almost be considered camouflage. Along with this already winning ensemble he wore a pair of worn acid washed jeans that screamed to be returned to the nearest washing machine in the 90’s and a pair of spotless, gleaming snakeskin boots. This had to be a dream, because only would my mind manufacture such a stereotypical hillbilly to menace me.

“Who are you?” I asked not because I was really all that curious but it seemed the appropriate thing to do, since he was floating next to me. With any luck he may just explode into confetti or something.

“Name’s Earl. Earl Fontane and friend, I’m about the best person you could’ve run into!” he announced with a confidence that did nothing but convince me otherwise.

“I’m Thomas.” I didn’t feel any particular need to fill in my last name; it wasn’t as though I’d be dating Earl or anything. Besides which, I was beginning to feel a little unnerved about how vivid this dream was becoming.

“Well Tommy, here’s to me, you and the destruction of Earth! Wooo!” Most people aren’t this pleased about the destruction of a planet, let alone our own, unless they’re Melvin the Martian. But Earl seems to think it’s another tailgate party.

“I…why are you happy?” I asked, though immediately regretted it. “This is the end of civilization as we know it! And while I’m at it, how are we talking, let alone breathing in space?”

“Well, Tommy I reckon we’re dead.” he offered with a tip of his baseball cap. “We’re ghosts! As to why I’m happy, well…hadda happen sometime right? Better it’s a big ass BOOM than some slow, zombie apocalypse bullshit. Though, had me a fine arsenal for that to happen!”

It wasn’t hard to believe Earl had possibly more weapons than the Taliban, but as I watched a slowly burning fire hydrant lazily drift over our heads, I began to accept the possibility that this wasn’t a dream and I had died. We all died. How many of us, residents of the former planet Earth were now ghosts adrift in the lonely black of space? We, as a people would survive thanks to the Mars colonies and some of the deep space exploration missions going on, but that still didn’t bring me much comfort. Who we are as a people, everything that was sacred and everything that explained our origins was gone. Donna was gone. Everything was gone.

“Well Tommy, since you ‘n me are travelin’ partners, I suggest we star figurin’ out where it is we’re going to travel.” Earl announced with his usual take-control tone that made me wish I could hit him with something heavy.

“I…I just need a minute to take this all in,” I murmured. “I feel like I should be crying or screaming or something. But I can’t. I just feel empty.”

“Ah you’re one of those sensitive types.” Earl dismissed with a wave of his hand. “Don’t worry buddy. Earl Fontane’s got the answer. Ghost women! Woo!”