Thursday, August 26, 2010

Last Panel Text From A Softer World: #4

“Just spread my arms and go.”

“I know how to frisk people just fine thank you,” Mr. Hansel’s bodyguard began to check for weapons.

“Remember, you want this to be practical, but intimidating,” said Bromley. He laid his palms flat against the indoor brick fa├žade of the night club. “Yes, you’re checking to make sure I’m unarmed, but this is also your chance to make me feel small; let me know I wouldn’t want to get into a physical altercation with you.”

“Look I really don’t need the advice,” said the bodyguard. “I’ve been doing this for a while, and you are not my father.”

“No, no,” said Bromley. “Never point out the fact you have any personal relationships, let alone family. It makes you far too accessible as a character.”

“Too accessible as a character?” asked the bodyguard, turning Bromley around by his shoulders. “What if I want to be accessible?”

“It would never work,” said Bromley, the bodyguard tightening his grip. “The audience would never be able to accept it.”

“On the contrary Mr. Bromley,” said Hansel, appearing from behind the loosely hung curtains. “I plan for all my employees to become as accessible as possible.”

“But that’s mad!” said Bromley, breaking away from the bodyguard. “Next you’ll be telling me their first names or their favorite Japanese techno bands. In a world where everyone is sympathetic, how will people know who to follow? You’ll never be able to do it.”

“Oh, Mr. Bromley, perhaps you are correct,” said Hansel, striding closer, his voice lowering to a vicious whisper as he put his arm around the shoulder of his bodyguard. “Though I feel it’s only fair to tell you, Derek here has really been getting into Fantastic Plastic Machine lately.”

“Noooooo!” shouted Bromley.

Also there was a doctor. Her name was Jennifer Hollider, her favorite candy was cherry starburst, she secretly enjoyed chance encounters with friends more than preplanned meetings, and even though she was utterly inconsequential to the overall story I MADE YOU FEEL FOR HER.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Last Panel Text From A Softer World: #3

They don’t believe in restraining orders.
Instead their culture uses very long poles to beat back people who irritate them. It is wonderful.

I am telling you Eleanor: Switzerland is fantastic and you are missing out by not being here with me. Those freelance tour guides I ran into put together this information packet for me, and they have taught me so much. For instance, I had no idea Switzerland had freelance tour guides until meeting them.

I know in your last email, you warned me against being taken advantage of while traveling alone. Well let me tell you: These guys are money well spent. They’ve been with me nearly every moment of my visit and I haven’t felt safer. They own an inn out in the countryside where I’ve been spending my nights; it’s a part of their long-term guest program.

OH! Interesting fun fact: The design of a traditional Swiss inn is quite similar to that of the common American basement. According to my guides, it was the former that actually inspired the latter.
The love they have for this nation is indeed infectious. The food is more enriching, the sky is more lucid, the trees are better; I see nothing that particularly marks them as different from the trees at home, but I swear to you, they are somehow just better trees than yours.

I have to go now, unfortunately; I may not be able to email back for quite some time. Apparently laptops are somewhat of a taboo in their society and I have been asked to turn it over to them for the remainder of my stay. I feel horrible for offending them, but they used the poles on me earlier as part of a ritual cleansing process so I believe we are pretty much even.

Also there was a doctor. He was there to make sure the poles only hit me in my non-vital areas.
Sincerely,
Reginald Grant

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Last Panel Text From A Softer World: #2

There had to be an answer.
“No professor would ever give a test with an unanswerable question, would they?” wondered Lizzie. Rather than chewing on her pencils, she had a habit of chomping them wholesale like a corn cob. She was now on her third.
She raised her hand and waited for Professor Flansburg to sidle over to her desk.
“I’m having some trouble on question seven,” she asked. “I think maybe I’m just reading it wrong, but I can’t seem to find an answer.”
“Well, what would you think to do in that case?” asked the professor.
“I guess write ‘no answer’,” said Lizzie, beginning to do so.
“Oh, no, no,” said the professor, “You can’t leave a question unanswered on the test. I’d have to take off for it.”
“Oh, then am I just reading the question wrong? Cause it really doesn’t seem like there’s an answer.” Lizzie had to push herself not to move onto her fourth pencil in mid-conversation.
“Well, frankly, there isn’t.”
“So then it’s a trick question,” said Lizzie, wondering if the left over pencil cores from earlier in the test could still be used to write.
“I suppose so,” said the professor, looking up at the chalkboard now.
“So then you won’t really be counting it?”
“Oh no, I will be.”
“What, but I- wait is this one of those things where the real test is standing up against the test.”
“No, the real test is the test.”
It was at this moment Lizzie started to regret ever having signed up for Sadism 101.
Also there was a doctor. She was a close friend of the professor’s and, being invited to visit the class on her day off, was asked to go from desk to desk and mess around with people’s papers as they were writing their answers.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Last Panel Text From A Softer World: #1

Are my parents ever coming home?

Because if not, I think I am going to become a space explorer. They can’t stop me if they aren’t here. I’ll do it too. I’m not stupid, I don’t think I can just put on a jet pack, press go and all of the sudden be in outer space. I know you need rocket ships and you need to practice for a really long time before they let you do any of that stuff, but we live like thirty minutes by car from the Kennedy space place where they launch them all. I know cause my dad drove my mom and me there once, and on the TV in the car it took one whole episode of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends which I like more than Spongebob cause they don’t split it up into two small episodes like Spongebob. I know I can’t drive there but I can walk, and I know that’ll take longer that driving but one Saturday I watched a whole marathon of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and if I can get through that then I can get through walking.

Sometimes I dream about it. Once I dreamed I landed on Pluto, which I know everyone says isn’t a planet anymore but it was when my family went to the space place and it was when I dreamed about it. I was the only one there. I thought I was the first one there but then I saw a TV that kept playing home movies of people who were on Pluto before me. They were eating at breakfast tables and opening Christmas presents and doing a whole bunch of other indoor stuff like that, which was weird because they were doing it all outdoors. It was like they’d all been doing it where I was standing right now and then they weren’t anymore and it was just on TV.
Also there was a Doctor. He was on the ship and he told me I was okay.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Opening Line By A Friend #4: Mike Reluzco

The waves' surge and ebb fell in to rhythm with my heartbeat; I looked up and I knew what I had to do. Quickly I removed my clothing, everything but the pendant. Anyone who found what was left on the beach would have to think the tide had swallowed me; miraculously tore me from markings of my humble life and carelessly extinguished me like a sparkler in an Independence Day rainstorm. It was either believe that or believe what I had been trying to tell them for so long, what they had dismissed as preposterous up until this night: that I would become the ocean.

I ran into the water furiously, relying on momentum to carry me when my legs no longer could. I swam when I could no longer stand, and I floated on my back when my arms started to fade from feeling. In an hour’s time everything normal faded from feeling, but I knew what was happening. I could lift my head enough to see the pendant turn clear, and watched as it began to melt, flow back into the ocean I’d retrieved it from only weeks ago. And because I had earned its respect, I followed, the water accepting me and becoming me as my mind, my appearance and my identity diffused into a crystal-colored liquid. Then I too melted.

So anyway, Mark, Beth, that’s why I couldn’t make it to your wedding. I was the ocean. I hear it went nicely and I’m really sorry I missed it, but I mean. Come on, I was the friggin ocean. Cut me some slack. Maybe if you’d had a seaside wedding like I asked this wouldn’t have been an issue.

Also there was a doctor. I went to go see her about a week after I condensed and she said didn’t believe there were any long term negative health effects for what I went through, so if you guys want to give it a shot some time, it’s pretty damn amazing.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Opening Line By A Friend #3: Kyle LaFleur

“I couldn't believe it hadn't occurred to me sooner. The sunrise was the trigger. When the first light of morning hit Phoenix, everything and everyone involved in the Lanesboro experiment would turn active. Short of stopping the earth’s rotation there was nothing I could do about it.
So that is what I decided to do. I decided to stop the Earth.
It was going to be difficult, sure, but just how difficult I had no idea.”
-Detective Reginald Grant (9/14/81)

“So as it turns out, my whole ‘stop the Earth’ thing was kind of not a great idea. I spoke to some scientists last night and there were some things I wasn’t really aware of regarding physics that I now am. Long story short, I wasn’t able to prevent the trigger and the experiment’s participants are already beginning to display strange behavior.
I fear for the safety of the public where my actions have failed.”
-Detective Reginald Grant (9/15/81)

“Well, apparently, the public is going to be just fine. What I thought was strange behavior was actually just a boatload of people laughing at me whenever I brought up the supposed experiments. It was recently explained to me by my partner that there in fact, was no Lanesboro experiment and this was all done as a bit of a practical joke by the guys back at the station. Several people were in on it. Mystery solved I guess; I can certainly take a joke. My only grievance is that they couldn’t have found humor in something that didn’t waste both my time and resources as a valued member of the police force of this city.”
-Detective Reginald Grant (9/16/81)

“Okay so, hey, I’m apparently not a detective and actually just a guy whose friends lie to him a lot. There go the past five years of my life. Also turns out the police station was really not a police station and an Arby’s instead. It is maybe kind of my own fault for not noticing this sooner.

Also there was a doctor. I’d been going to him for the last few years for my police physicals but it turns out he wasn’t a doctor, he was just some guy they found working at the Arby’s.”
-"Detective" Reginald Grant (9/17/81)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Opening Line By A Friend #2: Alex Tomaso

In the forest; that was where I found her. She was holding three feet of orange cable and an open box of Polaroids. I was holding a butterscotch cupcake and the soundtrack for the movie From Justin to Kelly. This much was clear: the looting had begun. This much seemed true: neither of us was doing very well for ourselves so far.

“So it’s the apocalypse, am I right?” I asked.

“Yes, I would say so,” she replied. “At least, you know, if the news reports aren’t just screwing with us.” She noticed at my somewhat meager bounty. “Where are you coming from?”

“Houlden’s Mall. They have this bakery right next to an electronics store. I kind of just left without paying for the cupcake after the casher told me my life decisions were pointless and started to smash the pastry display with a hockey stick.” I paused. “I took the CD because it was the only thing in the electronics store I thought nobody would miss.” She didn’t seem to be judging me but I also didn’t think myself the best guy to read other people’s reactions today.

“I broke into someone’s house,” she said. “Like legit, just broke in and took the first two things I could find. I feel like kind of an ass actually.”

“Me too,” I said. I really did. I was kind of under the impression looting would be a guilt free activity as the end of the world approached.

We split the cupcake and spent the next few hours looking at the Polaroids.

Also there was a doctor. She happened to be walking by and we let her take everything else.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Opening Line By A Friend #1: Brooke Ashley Kolcow

I was all alone in a room, there were no doctors around, and I didn't know how to get out. So began my new existence, reincarnated as an abstract kitten; someone's thought process against the background of a million other thought processes. Maybe I was some kind of mental expansion of that old Schrodinger's cat experiment, in a much larger room rather than a hypothetical box. If so, I didn't imagine the rest of my life to be a pleasant or particularly long one, even if my chances at survival were set up to be slightly better. Either way, I could feel myself being carefully explained, as if by some brass-throated physics professor, trying to get a complex theory across to a small group of devoted students in the simplest way possible. It was just as likely I was being brought up as some kind new-wave of thought experiment in a non-traditional Economics textbook.

It's almost strange that I'd come into being knowing exactly what I was without knowing the manner of my existence. I wondered if all the Farmer Browns I'd heard about in math class ever questioned why five or six apples were so gosh darn important to keep track of in their little bubble universes when there were certainly a vast many other apple trees they'd be responsible for and several different time-consuming duties they would need to tend to were they actual farmers. I imagined whatever or whoever was explaining me must have done a good job setting me up or I would not be so self-aware.

I wondered what would happen to me once their explanation was over.

Also there was a doctor. He sprang up just as I was reasoning these things out, and I imagined whatever this thought experiment was supposed to illustrate was about to become terribly clear.