Friday, August 26, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: The Titan of Lonesome Road


They got flippant naming their roads in Middle America. Michael hadn’t thought it would be real, but several hundred miles down the interstate his headlights caught the sign and he pulled onto “Lonesome Rd.”

No buildings greeted him and only the first fifteen feet off the interstate were paved. From thereon Lonesome was only dirt and divots. Michael slowed to ten miles an hour, letting his eyes drift closed. He barely needed the sense to tell where the giant was sleeping, though. It was so big that he’d felt it for the last half hour, growing as he got closer. Here it was oppressive, almost like it was in the car. When it got heavy enough, he rolled to a stop.

He wished Yab had warned him deserts got so cold at night. Chill came through the rental’s windows. Michael rested his hands on the heater. It felt like the giant was stirring out there, making the world tremble. He hoped it wouldn’t wake before the rest of Yab’s plan materialized.

Lights flooded the rental. Michael turned to see that it hadn’t been his giant rumbling; it was an eighteen-wheeler. He rolled his window down, wincing at the cold as he stuck his head out.

“Hey!”

“Listen, dude,” the truck driver yelled from inside headlights’ glare, “there’s a big critter sleeping under this road. It’s going to wake up real hungry. You just get back on the interstate and keep going to Nevada. It’ll be a better weekend for you.”

Michael yelled back, “Yab sent you?”

The trucker’s silhouette stiffened, then hustled over to Michael’s car. When he got near Michael could see his vaguely Hispanic face and long, oily hair. He stuck his hand through the window. Michael shook it.

“You’re here for the titan, too?”

Michael nodded. “Yeah.”

“Cool, dude. Meet me in the back.” He shuffled his legs uncomfortably. “Aren’t deserts supposed to be hot?”

Michael grabbed a jacket from the backseat and followed him.

The trailer was open. White track lights illuminated the floor, helping Michael make out the metal oval that took up most of the trailer. It was bolted to the floor. A red LED panel was similarly bolted to the rear side, attached to a crude computer and keyboard.

“Hey, dude.” The trucker rubbed his hands together. “I’m Miguel.”

“Miguel? I’m Michael.”

They looked at each other.

“That’s weird.”

“Kind of.”

Michael gestured at the keyboard.

“So what is this? A bomb?”

“A-bomb, I think.”

“Yab sent a nuclear bomb? You know how to work one of these?”

Miguel stuck his hands in his armpits. “Hell no. All I do is drive.”

“You just drove it here?”

“I drove a truck twelve-hundred miles keeping an eye out for a road that isn’t on my GPS and a guy who was supposed to mark the spot. That’s all Yab asked. Figured whoever was waiting would handle this.”

The trailer lurched, throwing both men to the floor.

Michael braced himself against the wall. “Titan’s waking up.”

“So what do we do?” Miguel asked, looking for a handle and trigger on the casing. “Point and shoot?”

“It’s not a gun. Nuclear bombs destroy cities. We could be killed. Yab isn’t asking that, is he?”

Miguel shook his head. “The titan wakes up and it’ll kill a lot of people, dude. Yab’s sent me after three titans before and he’s never gotten one of my partners hurt. He sent a bomb and a dude to wait for it. There’s got to be a plan. You got codes?”

Michael at the floor. “I’m not a bomb guy.”

“You’re sure?”

“I’m a psychic. I found the titan and hung out for whoever came. That’s all Yab asked.”

Miguel frowned. “You supposed to ghost whisper the code?”

“It doesn’t work like that.”

“This doesn’t seem like Yab. There must be something. You check your pockets?”

“For nuclear codes?”

Michael checked his jacket– Yab did get clever sometimes – but only found half a pack of gum. He offered it to Miguel.

“Trident?”

The trailer lurched again, this time so badly that the men almost flew into the ceiling. The truck came to a rest at an angle. Michael pulled himself up in front of the panel. It flickered, but it was still on.

“Not funny, dude,” Miguel said from behind him.

They heard tapping behind them. They wheeled to find a white-bearded man in a brown parka standing at the door of the trailer.

“Yab people?” he asked in a Jakob Smirnof accent.

Michael asked, “Yab sent you?”

“Yab sent me, yes,” he nodded. “I am teleporter, yes.”

“You teleport?” Michael asked, then looked at the bomb.

The bearded guy disappeared, then flickered into being next to Michael. He tapped him on the shoulder.

“I am teleporting people, animals, okay?” He pointed to the LED screen. “Not big bombs. You do bomb yourself.”

Miguel looked him over.

“You Russian?”

“Belarusian, okay? I am Mikhael.”

Miguel offered him a hand. Mikhael shook it.

“Sorry I am late, but I am parking ten miles away.”

“Ten miles?”

“You drove here?”

Mikhael nodded like his partners were developmentally challenged.

“I am teleporter, okay? I give you code, I teleport us safe from bomb, we drive rest of way home. It be okay. Okay?”

“Code?” Miguel smiled.

Mikhael produced a piece of translucent orange plastic and handed it to Michael. Paper was folded inside.

“Code is your job, okay?”

Miguel snickered. “Code is your job, dude.”

Michael frowned, snapped the plastic and read. He typed the code on the keyboard. The LED flashed numbers.

1:00.

0:59.

0:58.

Mikhael gripped both men by the shoulders. Miguel crossed himself. Michael rubbed the bridge of his nose. Psychic and bomb guy? Well, at least Yab wasn’t asking him to do PR. That guy was going to have a difficult morning.

33 comments:

  1. I love how they all have the same name. It's like they are three halves (thirds?) of the whole. And the idea of an a-bomb in the their hands is kinda scary.

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  2. Awesome details in this. The same name, the gum. Great flash, John.

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  3. This was a fantastic peek into a wild world. Note-perfect flash, John.

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  4. Loved the details in this, especially how they all have the same name. Yab has assembled quite a team, even if he didn't bother to introduce them before they got started.

    They didn't ask me, they asked the guy up at the end of the road I used to live on, what to name it. I would have suggested "Dirt Rd." or "Two-Track Blvd."

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  5. LOVED the details throughout the flash, John, but especially this line "Well, at least Yab wasn’t asking him to do PR. That guy was going to have a difficult morning." cracked me up!

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  6. This bomb had better do the job, otherwise that there Titan is gonna think someone is taking the Mickey. :)

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  7. Ahhh, I love this. I can't quite put my finger on why. Maybe it's all the different forms of Michael? Anyway, great job!

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  8. What I like about your flashes is that we can't put you in a box, you are constantly inventive and we don't know what to expect. As others have said the three version of Michael was a great touch and the story is so strong visually. I saw the whole thing as a short film.

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  9. At least they didn't have to put a piece of gum on the bomb to make a Trident missile....

    [sorry]

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  10. I REALLY enjoyed this one, right from the street name (is it wrong I want to Google Map it?) to the specialist skills of the men. Awesome stuff!

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  11. Back from vacation and trying to respond to as many comments as I can before Hurricane Irene. Sorry if I'm slow reading your works and replying, but I am trying to get around. Should be back to normal by Monday, if you trust the forecast (and the winds not to knock over my house).

    Sonia, probably "thirds," but they don't even know there's a third for a while. Glad you liked the name trick, and that it wound up so popular. I confess to enjoying it a little too much.

    Laurita, it's fun to furnish a character's experience with details. Those are the executions I tend to admire. Glad you liked it!

    Tony, glad it worked for you. Any aspects seemed particularly wild in interesting ways?

    Mr. FAR, I live on a particularly unimaginative street. Maybe name envy bleeds into some of my work. "Lonesome Road" actually came from mocking a prompt for an e-zine, which asked for stories about lonely roads.

    Estrella, would you believe the final line is what I changed the most times? But that was the phrasing and thought that I finally fell for.

    Steve, one hopes Yab knows what he's doing. Three Michael variants can't just truck around for speculation.

    Gany/Catherine, just the names? Or did it seem like they were versions of the same person to you?

    Alison, I do endeavor to change things up routinely. The "Dear" letter format of the last two weeks was unusually formulaic for my #fridayflash, but I tried to make them very different. Going into a more traditional third person narrative felt fun this week.

    Tim and Danni, no apologies necessary. The joke is there.

    Icy, I promise that this is not based on any actual Lonesome Road, nor is it intended as a desire to bomb some part of U.S. soil. Is there actually a street resembling this one in name and appearance that you found?

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  12. I appreciated the masterful characterization in this. Well done John.

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  13. I hope you weather through Irene safely and without any damages.

    Loved your flash, it felt very dream-like to me. Very clever to use the name variations with each being part of the puzzle to deal with the bomb.

    I also liked how they all three approached the issue with faith that it could be worked out somehow.

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  14. The other commentors said it all, other than I do like stopping by each week to see which direction your imagination will take me.

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  15. Fun story, makes me wish it were longer though, I think I'd like to get to know Mike, Mike, and his other brother Mike. ;)

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  16. This is great, John! I, too, loved the names. This is one you could turn into a series of shorts. This Yab seems to be a strange and intriguing individual. Or he at least keeps some strange company.

    BTW, stay safe and dry this weekend.

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  17. This was inventive and funny - loved that they all had the same name.

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  18. Thanks everyone for the well-wishes. One hopes the weekend will wind up uneventful. Boredom can be safe.

    Carrie, thanks so much for the kind words. Was there any particularly effective characterization in here for you?

    Madison, I do tend to be interested in people who think they can accomplish goals, or those who try anyway. That might have bled through thickly here. Glad you liked it!

    Peggy, I'll try to cook up something dynamically different for you next week.

    Chuck and Tammy, the editor I originally ran it by actually suggested rendering it into a novel. I'm kicking around the idea, though like this one item as a flash. Did it fail in the form for you two?

    Helen, it seems like the naming convention was a hit! Did something in particular about it tickle you?

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  19. The names have that touch of manic/inspired humor I find in your stories. I love the premise of using atom bombs to keep the world safe from titan's.

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  20. It was just like hey I'm Michael and your the same and you too and we're all here together! Is Yab laughing at us. It just seemed funny to me. ^__^

    Maybe this cold I have John is giving me a weird sense of humour *_*... hand me another box of tissues.

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  21. This is cool, John. A fun glimpse of an interesting world. He very much takes a back seat, but Yab seems like he might have a few good stories himself. =)

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  22. I'd like to know more about your titans. But on the other hand, the story works well without that knowledge. I live the third Mike. And that he's from Belarussia.

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  23. Your imagination astounds me. Much like Fantasia, it HAS no boundaries!

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  24. Yab the all-knowing and his faithful disciples. This seems like it could be an excellent lead-in to something much larger. A cool Sci-fi story, with just a hint of fantasy and plenty of interesting characters to make the story entertaining. Good work.

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  25. I thought it worked great as a flash piece. In fact, I was not thinking novel so much as possibly a collection of pieces like this that slowly unveil more about Yab. Something akin to a flash fiction tv series. Not a serial, per se, as each piece could stand on it's own as a story.

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  26. Aidan, not a lot else you can use on titans than atomic bombs and bribery, really.

    Helen, I appreciate your sense of humor! This is the sort of story crafted for it.

    John, Yab would be at the core of a novel or series, even if we still never met him.

    Flying, Belarus doesn't get the representation it should. Some great culture there.

    Aaron, haha, thank you. I do try to bend my mind up every so often.

    Stephen, the first editor I showed it to said the same thing. I have a few other characters (maybe additional Mikes) who might flesh it out further some day...

    Chuck, that does make sense, thanks for recapitulating for me. Also, if any TV producers are out there, fees are negotiable.

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  27. Excellent story all the way through! The mystery of how it would all work out, the same name in three different languages, the final resolution. All spectacular!

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  28. My tongue is stuck in my cheek! This is great! It fits together like pieces of a puzzle. I like how it's all old hat but a new assignment. Trident? (Do they get paid in layers? LOL)

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  29. Eric, glad you enjoyed it so much! Thanks for dropping by this week, and for the feedback on what you enjoyed.

    Apple, getting paid in layers is a joke I'm sorely depressed to have missed. Thank you for catching the opportunity.

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  30. Fantastic detail and style Jon, I enojyed this alot - another great #FF

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  31. Well played, sir. I like the concept and the 3 Michaels intrigue me. Love the idea of knocking off awaking titans too. Trident Gum was a nice touch. ; )

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  32. An awesome mishmash of X-men and Titans. And I love all the Mikes :).

    So do only people named Michael have a special power?

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