THE FIFTH DI…
Edited by J Alan Erwine
Copyright 2016 by Nomadic Delirium Press
All stories and poems are copyrighted in the names of their respective authors
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any informational storage and retrieval system, without the written consent of the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passes in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, broadcast, etc.
Nomadic Delirium Press
A Cure for All Mankind
by Chris Dean
The lobotomies worked out so well that everyone wanted one. And the whole world changed. The first beneficiary was Milo Arthur French, a multiple murderer residing at the California Correctional Institution near Corcoran. This large, vulgar man who wore a permanent sneer agreed to submit to the latest of Dr. Marls Krieger’s radical surgical experiments. The partial lobotomy performed with laser surgery and a supplemental pharmacological therapy would, in theory, abate the patient’s atavistic impulses. After twenty years of disappointment Dr. Krieger had little hopes that this time would be any different. French was prone to extreme violence and seemed the perfect candidate for yet another failure.
But when Milo French recovered from the anesthesia something had changed. He looked around the recovery room with a newfound intelligence in his clear blue eyes. The sneer was gone. He saw the white-bearded man standing near the bed and said in a hoarse voice, “Thank you, Dr. Krieger. Thank you.”
Dr. Krieger was stunned. “How do you feel?”
The doctor glanced at the straps fastened around the patient’s bulging arms and inquired in a quiet voice, “You know where you are? Do you remember?” Before the operation French’s dislike for the restraints had produced a string of profanity.
“I remember it all.” French sounded very sad. “I’m so sorry.”
Dr. Krieger cleaned his glasses, unable to speak. Only time would tell whether the subject’s condition would remain permanent. But at this moment, Marls Krieger’s life’s work was justified. He patted French’s big hand and nodded.
“All those people,” French said. “I can’t believe I did those terrible things.”
“That’s all behind you. Try not to think about it. It’s going to take some time for you to adjust.” Dr. Krieger eyed the restraints. “Tomorrow, if you seem stable, we’ll see about doing away with those.”
“Dr. Krieger, I don’t deserve to be trusted. That thing that killed those people is buried somewhere inside me. I don’t ever want to take a chance that it could come out again.”
“That isn’t possible. We have surgically removed the portion of your medulla oblongata responsible for your negative impulses. I can’t predict what type of person you’ll become. But that personality that did those terrible things is gone forever. The slate’s been wiped clean. Now, the ancillary use of Matratirine will augment your recovery. It’s a natural stimulant which will provide a basis for positive feedback with your environment. You quite literally will have to learn elementary social skills all over again. But I’ll be with you every step of the way. Trust me, you will be fine, Mr. French.”
“I appreciate all you’ve done. I feel like a new man, doctor. And I can see things I couldn’t see before. It’s like a veil’s been lifted and I can understand the whole world better. I can’t explain it better than that.”
Mr. Fine’s Process
by Samuel Van Pelt
Automation was the way of the future, and any job that could be automated, would be automated. Mr. Fine was responsible for the transition at government offices throughout the Greater Seattle Area from human workers to Botsbots automated machines. He turned the DMV cafeteria on 3rd into a five-star, automated eatery. He transitioned the line cooks into public housing while they looked for new work (if they looked for new work) and gave them the guidance they’d need if they took the moral high road and applied for permanent unemployment benefits. It was Mr. Fine’s position that the unemployed were of greater benefit to Seattle than any of the leches trying to steal jobs from automatic machines. Unemployed were easy. One third of one cent on Seattle’s tax revenue went to keeping them healthy and out of the way. The leches, on the other hand, were a constant strain on the economic movement that was the city-wide adoption of Botsbots automation. They resisted progress and slowed the great automatic machine Botsbots was building into the heart of Seattle.
Today’s first transition, a small post office on 5th, had turned into a chore. Mr. Fine handled it well, however, so the tapes of the incident would reflect the power of the process.
Mr. Fine found it best to bring the machines to the location and all but install them before letting the workers know they were being removed from their positions. However, this office didn’t have an alley, which instigated the incident. Mr. Fine mistakenly had the car arrive at precisely at 8 a.m., which would have been fine in a back alley, but there wasn’t. It was an understandable misstep. Mr. Fine was human, after all. The delivery vehicle, however, was not, and arrived when instructed. It pulled over below the monorail, flipped its caution lights on, and waited for further instruction from Mr. Fine.
When Mr. Fine arrived in a car at 8:02, he realized his mistake.
“I’m not going to those damn ice-cube-tray apartments,” the postal-worker yelled. Her blue uniform rolled around her fat in interesting ways as she stormed around the clearly labeled Botsbots moving truck. She slammed her fist on the slick-black paneling then charged to the hood and attempted to dent the rigid structure with the soft folds of her fist. “We don’t need you here. We don’t need you bastards.”
Mr. Fine opened the back-side door of his driverless car and stepped onto the curb. His pleated green pants folded as he stepped hurriedly toward the inconsolable mail-carrier. This, despite the complications, was where Mr. Fine worked best. He situated the camera on his lapel, making sure it would record the entire interaction.
“Ms. Weather,” he said, “Ms. Weather, please.”
Ms. Weather held her fists clenched on the hood of the truck. She stared at Mr. Fine with a desperate sincerity. Her grey bangs clung to her forehead and her freckled cheeks wrinkled as she bore her teeth. It would be a process, but Mr. Fine knew how to calm her down.
“Don’t say my name. I know you. I know you, you green-suited fucker.” She slammed her fists again and stepped around the vehicle to the passenger side door, leaving herself exposed in the middle of the street. Ms. Weather punched the rearview mirror, cracking the glass and splitting the cautionary message at the bottom between “they” and “appear.”
“Alright, Miss. I won’t say your name.” Mr. Fine followed her around her car. “I want to understand what you’re so upset about, though. Could you help me understand why?” That was step one. Get them talking. Get them to explain the problem.
by Brian “flesheater” Stoneking
Lenawk heard the echoing sound of a man’s voice, “What is it?” The prisoner lay semiconscious inside a quarantine lab with a trio of humans wearing hazmat suits, staring back at him. And why shouldn’t they stare? He was merely a machine… half machine anyway. That explained his lack of remorse for all of the victims in the galaxy he had claimed. His disconnection from human emotions made him the perfect killing machine.
“His name on the chart reads Lenawk. It’s also stated that he’s one of the most dangerous criminals in the galaxy and as for the metal canister strapped to his back when we found him… I can only assume it’s a weapon of some kind… perhaps explosive,” Dr. David Weldon said, carefully scraping a tissue sample from the prisoner’s body. His hands quivered and beads of sweat trickled down his façade as he breathed heavily through his respirator.
The two other researchers, Dr. Curt Malone and Dr. Ann Jackson watched Weldon’s hand tremble and both felt uneasy with the way he performed his task. He was a good twenty years older than his colleagues. Weldon should have retired five years ago and clearly he no longer had a passion for studying strange life-forms. Or perhaps it was the fact that he had never encountered anything like Lenawk in his entire career.
“You okay?” Malone asked.
“Huh?” Weldon said, looking at Malone with wide eyes. He gulped down the phlegm building up inside his mouth. “Yes, just never seen anything like this before… not sure what to make of this.”
Weldon placed the samples from the prisoner’s body onto a petri-dish, placing the dish onto the lab station. He flinched as the specimen’s body moved.
“We should’ve gotten the security team to do this dangerous work,” Weldon said quivering.
“Come on, Dave… you know security's just a bunch of Neanderthals. They can’t do this type of work,” Dr. Jackson said.
“Anne… it was sarcasm. God knows they don’t pay me enough for this kind of shit.”
“Not enough? Try living on security wage,” Security Officer, Bruce Ellingsworth said through an intercom speaker.
The three researchers turned and noticed Chief Ellingsworth, looking through a window on the observation deck. He leaned into the speaker again and said, “Besides… you’re the ones with the big bucks. I sure as hell wouldn’t touch that.”
This perfect killing machine which Ellingsworth referred to was a muscular entity with a six foot-five body frame. The hybrid body contained several lacerations, exposing shards of machinery through crevices of broken skin. But the massive shape of the hybrid’s body was not the most deadly thing about the criminal. It was the unknown infectious disease surrounding the body.
Major General, Victor Manning hurried into the quarantine section dressed in a hazmat suit. He looked at the researchers inside the room and then down at the hybrid strapped to the table.
“How many victims has he claimed?” Manning asked.
“Claimed or Infected?” Dr. Jackson said.
“Let’s start with claimed. I think that’s the most important question,” Malone intervened into the conversation.
“He’s murdered twenty victims but as of how many people he’s infected…” Jackson paused. “It’s uncertain. All I know is that his body is surrounded by an unknown strain.”
by Douglas Kolacki
Alex awoke, and wished he hadn't.
The alarm clock squawked, the synthesized equivalent of fingernails dragged across a blackboard. He rolled over, reached for the snooze button, paused. Sleep another five minutes, then wake again to the same hindsight? The same anger?
He slapped the clock off instead.
Today was February--10th, already?--yes, the 10th. And still it wouldn't go away, the bad taste that had been in his mouth since December the 25th.
He started to get up, but didn't quite make it; he rolled over and buried his face in the pillow. He was in no hurry to see outside. New England, as it had all winter, lay dead--that was how it looked to him. The cold had killed the grass and stripped the leaves off the trees. The oaks and the maples, lush and green in the summertime, now were reduced to arboreal skeletons. This wasn't supposed to happen. There was an order to nature: autumn leaves caught fire and fell, the air chilled below freezing to prepare for the snow, like the Creator sprinkling soft white onto his Earth to transform it into an enchanted place fit for the grandest of all holidays.
Why no snow this year? Not in December, January or even February yet? When clouds gathered, the temperature rose and condemned Providence to another soul-sapping downpour. Rain made everything gray and soggy. Last night Alex lay in bed, hearing the endless patter and splashing outside, and tried to call to mind the old saying about the sound of rain on a rooftop, how it was supposed to help you sleep...but it didn't. He lay awake while the memory haunted him--Christmas, of all days--knowing he ought to be over it.
It's water under the bridge, okay? Forget it!
As he had told himself yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that...but some things had a mind of their own.
Really, volunteering to work on Christmas made sense. He'd done it before, in Navy messaging cells that, like his call center, were manned around the clock. It freed up the married guys to be with their families, right?
Still...if he'd run into Robin sooner...
Customer service. Call after call, checking shipping status on leather goods. Didn't these people know what day it was?
"It was supposed to be here today!"
He checked the order logs. They had called once, twice, repeatedly as the holiday approached. In some cases--too many in fact--the jackets, the purses, the gloves had not even left the factory.
"It was supposed to be a present!"
"I should have known. That airhead who waited on me..."
"Forget it, I'm calling them for a refund."
"It hasn't gone out?"
"It hasn't even shipped?"
Over and over he checked the clock on the wall. It's only ten? It's only a quarter after ten? Ten twenty-five?
In the children's home where Robin and staff cared for eleven orphans, there were bright lights, a sparkling tree with a crystal angel crowning the top--too large to support, it seemed, but it never fell--and beneath the bulb and tinsel-adorned evergreen, a wealth of presents, big ones, small ones all wrapped in red and green, some striped, some polka dotted, some adorned with bows, some with ribbons. Donors provided these. Alex, who had provided a few himself, helped wrap them on Christmas Eve, while Robin and the staff whipped up hot chocolate with pink and white marshmallows.