Refrigerated Dreams (Act 4)

The boy from the refrigerator was perched upon a steel beam like a vulture high above them in the old shoe factory. His slick black hair was more slick than usual. The dead eyes of alien blue that punctuated his pale face swirled like a spiral arm galaxy as he looked down at them. He cocked his head in an odd manner as he listened to them talk beneath him. Adam Longo recognized the boy as one of them that was there when they locked him in the old refrigerator that day. He was one of them that held him roughly by the arms as they led him down into the pit of the dump. The girl was someone he recognized from that school he knew as his living hell. She was the one he stared at when she wasn’t looking. She was the one he thought about at the closing of the day when he would lie atop his bed in his quiet room at home. She was his only good memory.

Then Adam Longo recalled how the other one, the red-haired one, their leader, had laughed without remorse, how he had gotten right in his face and said something like, “Are your balls all shriveled up… Is that why you don’t ever talk?” His breath was overpowering. Rudy was his name. He hated Rudy. And now here was one of his rooks and that girl thinking they were all alone in this immense place lost in time. He thought about leaping out into the air and floating down and he would come upon them in a fury of revenge. He could do that now. Something drastically changed after he went into that refrigerator unwillingly. Sheer human cruelty had given him a power he never expected.


Veronica took a step back from him. “You were part of that?” she wanted to know.

Andy paused for a moment. “I was against it.”

“But you still allowed it to happen.”

Andy looked up and sighed with frustration.

“What!?” the girl snapped. “You’re angry because I’m upset you let a boy get locked in a refrigerator? He could have died.”

Andy bent down and picked up a metal rod and tossed it into the void. It tumbled and clanked loudly. “Why are you getting bent out of shape? Let’s just get high.”

“I think I want to go home,” Veronica said.

Andy’s demeanor suddenly changed, and he grabbed her by the shoulders. “What’s your problem?”

“Let go of me!”

He pushed her away and turned. “Fine. Do what you want,” he said, and he started to walk away.

She called after him. “Where are you going?”

“Just go home,” he called back, and then, like the sudden snap of a bone, something fell from above and was on top of him. It attacked him with the ferocity and conviction of an angel bred by animals, and the boy struggled and shrieked as he was mercilessly beaten and clawed.

In the epilogue of the boy’s torn moans, a panting Adam Longo turned to look at her through the dim light. He was mystically aglow, and his gaze froze her in place, and like in a dream she struggled to run but her legs refused to receive and follow the command. Veronica had no control over her own self now and could only watch in wonder as the figure stood. He was just a boy, but nothing like a real boy. He looked down at Andy twitching on the dirt-strewn floor of the factory. Then he looked up, toward the place from where he came, and he suddenly ascended in a completely inhuman way.

Her legs became free from their dream burden and Veronica ran toward the lighted frame of the doorway they had entered. She burst into the outside world and leapt down the iron stairway, past the loading bays and toward the hole in the chain-link fence. She scrambled through, a piece of metal bit into the top of her shoulder and she winced as she dove into the sea of weeds and tall grasses on the other side. She went for her bike, lifted it up and got on. She pedaled toward town with an urgency and fear she never knew she could possess.

Once she was long gone, her scent and heartbeat now carried away to the place where the terrible people were, Adam Longo curled into himself for comfort and warmth as he perched on the wide beam. He watched the day turn to night through the broken factory windows. Living had been lonely enough he thought as his eyes set on the few stars he could see, but now, now this, whatever it was, whatever he now had become. It was lonelier than death itself — lonelier than the dirt piled upon the lost ones.

MORE TO FOLLOW

Read the previous part of this story HERE.


Child of the Cabbage (End)

Gracelyn Polk was on her stomach on a small bed in a girlish bedroom of pink. Her legs were bent upward at the knees behind her, socked feet crossed, as she lazily flipped through a teen magazine. A Who record spun on a small turntable in its own red box that could close with a gold latch, and it had a handle so a person could carry it around and take it to parties if they wanted to. Baba O’Riley filled the room as Moses the cat was curled like a furry crescent roll on the bed beside her. There was a yellowed and curling Ralph Macchio poster on the wall, some cheerleading memorabilia on shelves, a makeup table with an attached mirror next to a childish white dresser. There was a closet, door propped open by shoes, and it held unfamiliar clothes within it. A rectangular window with white curtains looked out upon an endless sea of cabbage, a metal windmill stirring screams in the distance.  

Then there came a gentle knocking at the door and Gracelyn reached to lower the volume on the record player. “Come in.”

The door opened with a creak and Farm Guy looked at her uncomfortably and smiled. “I just wanted to see how you were getting along in here,” he said, his head slowly moving around, scanning memories with his crystal blue silicon eyes, filing them in the proper slots. “Room okay?”

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “Thank you for… Everything.”

Farm Guy put his hands on his hips. “Absolutely. I love having you… Say, I thought I might take a walk out into the cabbage before dinner.”

Gracelyn scrunched her face in distaste. “You aren’t going to pick any, are you?”

“I’m not much for cabbage either,” he said, moving toward the window and peering out, his tall body awkward in the small bedroom. “It’s gross. That’s why I find it so strange that a whole field of it shows up in my backyard.”

“Do you think it’s a good idea… To go out in it. Because I don’t think you should.”

“I was hoping you’d come with me,” Farm Guy encouraged, walking closer to the bed, and looking down at her. “Might make us both feel better. You know — when we don’t find anything out of the ordinary.”

“But what if we do?”

He waved a hand in the air to discount her worry. “Nah. All we’re going to find is a hell of a lot of gross cabbage. That’s it. Trust me.”

She moved herself so that she was now sitting on the edge of the bed. Moses the cat got up, arched his back like Halloween, then curled back down into a snoozing ball. “Do you know anyone named Astron Puffin?” the girl asked.

A look of intense pondering came over Farm Guy’s face as he considered the question. He snapped his fingers suddenly when something came to his mind. “Cabbage farmer from over in Hillsdale.”

“That sounds like him.”

Farm Guy shook his head. “Odd sort of bird he was.”

“How so?” Gracelyn wanted to know.

“He was one of those fellas always going on about spaceships and little green men from Mars… Hell. He was a little green himself come to think of it.”

“I hardly think the little green men are from Mars,” Gracelyn interrupted. “They’re smarter than that. Mars is a dead planet and unable to support life as we know it.”

“Are you sure about that?”

She cocked her head to think about it. “I think so. Astronomy was one of my favorite subjects in science class. And besides, no intelligent life would want to be neighbors with Earth.”

“You got that right… Maybe you should do a report on Mars.” He waited for a reaction from her, but none came. She just sat there, thinking, jabbing her teeth into her bottom lip. Waiting for something. “Well, anyways, wherever they’re from, he sure was weird about it.”

“Did you know him well?” the girl asked.

“No. Barely at all. A random acquaintance who drifted in and out of the community of cabbage. Which I was not part of. I just knew a few of the guys. What does he have to do with you?”

“He had been following me around, at school mostly, watching me. He even showed up at my old farmhouse where I was staying, too.”

“He did? What on Earth for?”

“I don’t really know, except that he was always going on about being friends with me and wanting to protect me, and how he didn’t want to be alone… Like you said, he was an odd sort of a bird. I found him to be a bit pushy, too, and just not right.”

Farm Guy looked at her, his face flushed with a serious tone of knowing something that she knew as well but was left unspoken. “Well, thank God you’re here with me now. That’s downright unsettling.”

“But that’s not all, Mr. Guy. Sometimes I think I hear him out in the cabbage. At night. Yelling. Scared. Lost. But calling for me.”

Farm Guy sighed deeply, returned to the window, and looked out for a few moments. He made sure it was locked before he turned back around. “Let’s go for that walk.”


Astron Puffin sat in the endless cabbage field, knees drawn up, legs locked into position by his thick arms, his head down, his mind now mumbling. A crow flew across the sky, its aching caw causing Astron to look up. The cold sun was somewhat blinding. He looked at the cabbage around him. He studied their green, veiny heads and leafy wings and their seemingly unbreakable bond to the earth. Astron shook his head and scoffed. They were his only audience, and so he began to talk to the cabbage.

“Do you ever have one of those days where you feel like you’re a car, and you’re completely out of control and you go off the road and you crash into someone’s house… And I mean right through the living room, and all of a sudden there’s all this broken glass flying everywhere and bricks and wood and pieces of wall and everything is chaos, and everything is a mess, and, in the process, you even end up killing some lonely old man who was just sitting there in the house all by himself watching Johnny Carson on television or maybe reading his Bible in the glow of a soft lamp… And then suddenly, a car comes crashing through the wall and it’s all done for him. It’s all blood and dust and shattered bones and the entire history of one poor soul is snuffed out like a lipstick-stained cigarette in a dirty orange glass ashtray in a smoky dive bar.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” came the voice, the same voice from the spaceship but now coming out of one of the heads of cabbage that had turned to face him like a real head. The strange eyes widened, and the green lips moved again. “I see you’re startled, but think nothing of it… We have more pressing matters. The man is coming.”

Astron scrambled backward in the dirt. “The man?”

“And the girl is with him.”

“Gracelyn?”

“It’s time to stop the clock.”

The head dissolved and a rusty pitchfork with blood-stained tines suddenly materialized in the mist of gravity and quickly dropped out of the air and landed in the dirt before him with a deathly rattling thump.

“Something from your barn,” the voice from the cabbage said. “Do you remember it? Do you remember what happened back on the farm? Do it again.”

Astron went to pick it up. It felt right in his hands. It felt familiar. He began to walk toward the big, yellow house again. And this time, he was getting closer to it with every step he took.


She held his large, rough hand as they meandered down a perfectly straight row of the cabbage field. Gracelyn turned to look back at the house. “How far are we going?” she wanted to know.

“We’ll know when we get there,” Farm Guy assured her. “But don’t worry about that. Look around. Enjoy this beautiful day as it comes to an end.”

“You said that so decisively. What’s going on?”

Farm Guy suddenly stopped. He went down to his knees before her and took the girl by her arms. He looked far into her muddied golden eyes, the technology of her pupils gently sparking, the bloodshot lines merely delicate wires. “You have no idea what you are, do you?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why you go on while all the others don’t. Why some wandering god on the other side of the moon left you all alone here… It’s because you’ve never been alive. And if you’ve never been alive, you can’t die.”

She reached out a finger and poked him in the face. “You don’t have real skin.”

“No. I don’t.”

“We’re the same.”

“Yes. We’re the same,” he answered.

And just as Farm Guy rose back up before her, Astron Puffin charged out from some invisible place and he was howling like a madman, the pitchfork straight out in front of him, the tines hungry for new flesh and blood and the bringing of death.

Farm Guy moved like lightning shot from the fingertip of a god in the inhuman way he was made, reached out, snatched the handle of the pitchfork, and swung it around. He cocked it back quickly, and then violently thrust it forward into Astron Puffin’s chest, two or three of the tines surely piercing his heart.

The world somehow slowed as Astron dripped to the ground like a slew of heavy mud. Farm Guy yanked the implement back out, threw it to the side. Astron fell forward, face-down. Gracelyn turned and ran away, deeper into the cabbage.  


He found her sitting all alone on a big abandoned wooden crate looking off into the distance. The day was dying on the crest of the darkening hills, a moon was eager to make its entrance alongside the black stars and ruby red planets.

“I had to do it,” he said from behind her. “He would have tried to hurt you, take you apart piece by piece… And I just couldn’t have allowed that, but I’m sorry you had to see it just the same.”

“You didn’t move like a man. It scared me.”

“I didn’t mean to scare you.” He went to sit beside her on the abandoned wooden crate. “It’s getting dark. We should probably head back to the house soon.”

She ignored what he had said. “Did you know that even after a star dies, its light can be seen for a million years?”

“Is that right?”

She looked at him in the fading light, twisted her mouth. “I think so… Do you think it will be the same for us?”

He chuckled, breathed in deeply. “I don’t know. But it would be nice to see each other if there ever was a time we were very far apart. Maybe you should do a report about it.”

“Maybe I will, but not tonight.”

They hopped off the crate and walked back toward the big, yellow house, now the color of a moonlit bruise, window frames aglow, the light brought forth by the servants of memories moving around inside.

END


Bring Back the Ludovico Treatment

There was a beheading in Moore, Oklahoma. That’s all the message said. I questioned if this was becoming a common practice, for just the other night someone down the hall in my shoddy apartment complex was beheaded, and the night before that, right down on my shoddy street, a hot dog vendor was beheaded just as he was slathering someone’s steaming wiener with relish — I don’t like relish. Then there was that incident down at the public library just about a week ago when a circulation clerk was beheaded after telling a patron he owed $1.25 in overdue book fines.

Machetes and firearms line every rubber raincoat now — as does madness in the minds of men.

“Thank God someone had a gun.” Someone said, in the Land of Violence.

And violence stirs violence until the only solution is more violence — more guns, more bombs, more tanks, more jets, more ships, more drones, more senseless destruction.

And the money we spend to kill and maim and rape countless cultures, could cure illness and starvation and homelessness ten million times over and more. We could actually nurture humanity.

On my way back the other day from the ice cream shoppe, I saw a campaign sign for a death cult touting the joys of the Space Force. Why!? Why do we have to militarize space? And to think we would have any chance against them up there. Dimwitted buffoonery.  

And the Annunaki looked down from Orion and wondered what they had done.

Lord Femfatuntin turned to his lead galactic centurion and ordered, “Send down the chariots of fire, these idiots are destroying all my hard work… And Tome, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind bringing me back a box of Count Chocula? On second thought, you better make it two.”

Tome the galactic centurion bowed with respect. “As you wish, my lord.”


I was sitting alone in my shoddy apartment eating a bowl of cereal and watching COPS when there was a knock at the door. I stuck my eye in the peephole but all I saw was a thick neck, some broad shoulders and a name patch that read TOME across the breast portion of a shiny space uniform.

I pressed my face to the door. “Who’s there? What do you want?”

“It’s Tome. I come to you from the planet Placitas.”

“I don’t know any Tomes and there’s no planet named Placitas. Away with you!”

“Please, Phil Paradise. It’s very important that I speak with you.”

“How did you know my name?”

“You are the spawn of my history — a child of Femfatuntin,” the stranger said.

I looked through the peephole again and shook my head.

“Look,” I said. “I think you may be on drugs, and I don’t want to talk to you. Please go away.”

“I can’t do that, Phil. The future of your very own existence and possibly that of the universe depends entirely on me speaking with you.”

“I don’t open the door to strangers.”

“I’m a lot bigger than you and I can break this door down,” Tome from Placitas threatened.

“Go away or I’ll call the police.”

The aliens in the hallway began to laugh among themselves.

“Oh no! Are they going to come arrest me for possessing a medicinal herb that comes from the ground?!” one of them said.

“They’ll arrest you for harassment and trespassing! That’s what they’ll do. You can count on it!” I called out.

“Your laws are pathetic and ludicrous,” Tome from Placitas said.

There was more laughter in the hallway and then the door opened, and they just walked in — Tome and his two alien sidekicks.

“How did you do that?”

“I’m an advanced being, Phil. It’s pretty easy.”

“You guys are very tall and shiny, but you look absolutely human,” I said in utter amazement as I looked them over.

“And you are very short and dull. We made you that way so you could never be a threat while you work, work, work.”

“I must be dreaming. Did I eat acid?” I wondered.

“Let’s sit down and talk,” Tome said.

“I thought you might smell bad, but you don’t,” I quickly pointed out.

Tome sighed an alien sigh. “Why is it that you Earth people always consider yourselves as the most superior creatures in the universe? You just assume that surely every other living thing out there must smell worse — I don’t understand where you get this false ego. I mean, you haven’t even mastered intergalactic space travel yet. The truth of the matter is… You’re just an animal who requires the use of hand sanitizer in a world that has gone horribly wrong.”

“Well, if I’m just a filthy animal why did you come to me?”

Tome quickly looked over his shoulder at his comrades and then back at me.

“You’re one of the few reasonable individuals we’ve been able to locate down here.” He put a large hand on my shoulder and awkwardly smiled. “Phil, we’re destroying the planet, and we want you to come back with us before we do.”

 “Why!?” I yelled in defiance. “There’s no need for that! You’re talking about billions of lives!”

“You mean billions of morons, Phil! Absolute dashboard bobbleheads on the road to self annihalation.”

“You can’t do this! I won’t let you!”

“There’s nothing you can do about it Phil Paradise. Nothing,” Tome said to me with authority.

I scratched at my head and looked about my shoddy apartment.

“What about my things?”

“You won’t need any of it.”

“But, I have asthma. What about my asthma medication?”

“You won’t have asthma anymore where we’re going, Phil. Just close the door and come along,” Tome ordered.


There were some nice people on the spaceship, and I was well fed at a mile-long buffet. When the total annihilation of Earth came it was quick and clean, like laser surgery. They let me join them to watch on a huge monitor as Earth was vaporized — one second it was there and then it was not. There was some low-key clapping and some cheers and whistles, and then we all ate some delicious cake and drank the best milk I ever had.

Awhile later, I was sitting on a spaceship bench and was looking out a window as the galaxy rushed by. Tome came over and stood tall beside me and we looked at space together.

“You’re doing pretty well for your first intergalactic flight,” he said.

“How fast are we going?”

“Faster than you can even comprehend.”

I looked up at him. “There are others like me — sensible like you say — what about them? Why did you leave them behind?”

“We didn’t. We already have them, Phil Paradise. We’ve been collecting them for a long time — babies to octogenarians and beyond. I’m sure you have heard of alien abduction?”

“Yes, absolutely. I’ve always enjoyed stuff about aliens and space. I used to be Catholic but once the priests started ass-grabbing kids, I kind of settled on the idea that organized religion was a bunch of bullshit. Now I subscribe to ancient alien theology.”

Tome nodded his head, seemingly satisfied with my personal confession. “That’s good, Phil, and just so you know, you won’t be alone on planet Placitas, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“I was wondering what it will be like,” I said.


Then something shifted in him, and Tome suddenly clamped his big hands to his head and groaned with agitation and stomped a foot.

“Oh shit! I forgot my lord’s Count Chocula!”

“He likes Count Chocula? The cereal?”

“Yes! It’s his favorite thing for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner. Damn it! And Earth is already destroyed. That’s just great! Bad shit like this always happens to me.”

“Calm down, Tome. I’m sure he’ll understand.”

“Oh, but you don’t know Lord Femfatuntin. He has anger issues.”

“But, can’t you just make your own Count Chocula here on the spaceship?” I suggested.

“We’ve tried that, but it just came out tasting like generic Count Chocula and he knew right away it wasn’t the real deal. He’ll only eat real Count Chocula made on Earth.”

“I guess you’re screwed then, Tome.”

“Thanks, Phil.”

“When will I get to meet him?”

“Maybe in about 400 years.”

After that, I didn’t see Tome the Galactic Centurion for a very long time.


They gave me a very nice apartment overlooking a tranquil sea of clouds. Maybe I was dead and there really was a Heaven, but I didn’t know for sure.

I felt alive enough when I went to the market on Tuesdays, and they gave me food. For free. Everyone got as much food as they wanted any time they wanted it. No one on the entire planet ever went hungry.

I had no soul-sucking job in the sense of having a job. I was merely allowed to have a satisfying task of my choosing, and that task was to read to wayward dogs and cats at Space Kennel No. 99. They enjoyed it immensely, evidenced by the plethora of wagging tails and gentle purrs every time I cracked open a new book. Dr. Seuss was their absolute favorite. I asked the animal handler, the odd Susan O’Neil, about it one day.

“How did you get Dr. Seuss books?”

She looked at me and smiled a tight-lipped smile and adjusted her spectacles.

“He’s here.”

“He’s here? Dr. Seuss is here?”

“He prefers to be called Theodor.”

“Well, where is he? I’d like to meet him.”

“He’s incredibly reclusive, but I do think he plays squash at the Stellar Sports Open Air Plaza every other Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m., but only if it’s cloudy outside and there’s a chance for rain.”

“He plays squash in the rain?”

“So the story goes.”

“I wonder if he really eats green eggs and ham.”

“I wouldn’t.”

“Hey Susan O’Neil, can I ask you a question?”

“Of course. You can ask me anything, former Earthling.”

“Does anyone ever get beheaded up here?”

“Beheaded? Do you mean like …” And she rolled her eyes and made a hand motion across her throat like it was getting sliced.

“Yes. Exactly.”

“Of course not. We’re not bloody asinine savages like they were!” she wickedly asserted, shakily pointing the tip of her finger toward that spot in the universe where Earth used to be. “This is Shangri-La compared to your own little version of a spinning blue hell. How on — what used to be Earth — could a species allow its own offspring to be cut down by a gutless murder machine, and accept it repeatedly?” She shook her bookish head in disgust. I must admit that Susan O’Neil was quite attractive for a Placitan. That’s what the originals were called — Placitans. And I suddenly was taken over by the desire to ask her out on a date.

But just as I was about to speak, we heard the haunting sound of the great gongs of Placitas reverberate all around us followed by the heavy march of the centurions and their steeds. I rushed out into the path lined by rubber trees and there I saw Tome the galactic centurion leading his troops to whatever trouble there was. I ran beside him as hard and as fast as I could.

“Tome! What on Placitas is happening!?”

He reached his arm down, snatched me up and threw me behind him on the horse.

“I couldn’t hear a word you were saying!”

“I wanted to know what the situation is. What’s with all the menacing war stuff?”

“They’ve come. We didn’t think their ship could make such a long journey. Somehow, they escaped before the annihilation, and now they’ve finally arrived, and we must stop them.”

“Is it something terrible? I don’t want it to be something terrible,” I cried out.

“Of course it’s terrible. Why else would we be going to war?” Tome answered.

“But you hate war. You’ve learned to put it away and live in peace.”

“Some things are worth fighting for when the enemy decides to impose its beliefs. Hold on Phil Paradise.”

“What is it!?”

“They’re trying to open a WalMart here!”

And that’s when the dusts of war raged, and Tome lit a fire beneath his troops, and I could barely hold on.

“But… Tome… Wait!”

“What is it, Phil!? I’m trying to lead the charge.”

“Wouldn’t the WalMart have Count Chocula?”

END