It's holiday time at Space Squid. This month we're doubling up with a mindbending story and a devastating comic tale, plus photos of Austin's biggest, best mutant squid mural ever.
They are, respectively, Here Comes New Jersey from Leland Neville and Every Mother's Child from John Sowder. Mural photos by Chad Trosclair.
~~~ 1 ~~~
Here Comes New Jersey
by Leland Neville
“Earth will be destroyed this Saturday. Or maybe Sunday. It depends on which side of the International Date Line the comet strikes.”
I keep my eyes closed and don’t respond. Just go away. Please. Why are you my bunkmate? What did I ever do to deserve you?
“Did you hear me? No more Earthlings. Only cockroaches. This is a big deal. You’ve been sleeping for two days. You’re missing out on the end of history.”
He needs a name. I will call him Max. Every prison has a Max. It’s short for Maximum Security. It’s a popular and innocuous nickname.
Max pokes me in the arm.
I sit up and shove him. He falls on his bony ass and whimpers. I barely touched him. He probably has inner ear issues. Max screams for assistance. I’ll receive a demerit (I must have hundreds) and maybe a stun or two. I’ll then need to change my underwear. I can always borrow clean underwear from Max. Inmates named Max are usually all right.
“No one is coming, Max. Everyone hates you.”
“Not everyone. My daughter talks to me once a month. She still cares.”
I grab Max’s inked arms and jerk him to his feet.
“Wait, wait! Do you know why no one came to taze you?” he whispers conspiratorially.
“Because everyone except for your daughter hates you.”
“No. Because almost everyone wants to be home when the world ends. The staff is gone.”
Sure enough, the doors slide open with a little pressure. I follow Max through a coil of soothing green corridors. The cells are vacant.
“What’s going to happen to us?” asks Max.
The exercise yard is deserted. I cautiously touch the barbed wire. There is no malicious electrical bite. The guard towers appear abandoned. There are no vehicles in the parking lot.
“I guess you’re free to leave, Max.”
“No thanks. It’s a seven-day walk through the desert to civilization. It might as well be seven years. And it’s over one hundred degrees in the shade.”
Max’s shaved round head appears to glow from within.
“Are we the only two left?”
“Let’s check the library.” Max’s silver teeth spit light beams into my eyes.
There are nine gray men gathered around the library’s lone computer.
“We’ve got the real uncensored Internet,” says the man at the keyboard. “There’s mostly porn and stories about Comet New Jersey. Here comes New Jersey! We’re all going to die!”
I will call the man monopolizing the computer Shank.
“Let me see,” I say.
I elbow my way to the computer.
“Wait your fucking turn,” says Shank.
A burning pain in my right side brings me to my knees. There’s blood. Then a blunt object collides with my head.
I regain consciousness.
“You weren’t out for very long,” says a prisoner I’ll call Max. It’s an inoffensive nickname.
Laceless work boots and faded orange jumpsuits are strewn across the concrete floor.
“The rapture got them,” says Max, his eyes focused on the computer’s tiny monitor. “One second they were arguing over porn sites and the next second they were gone. I went to the front of the computer line. From last to first. God works in mysterious ways.”
I stand. The pain is minimal. I am not bleeding.
“The comet that is going to hit earth is about the size of New Jersey. That’s why people started calling it Comet New Jersey. It was a joke. It was supposed to miss Earth. Its real name is unpronounceable, probably Russian. Anyway, the comet unexpectedly changed course. Some scientists think it’s an antimatter comet. Almost all the scientists think that this will be the end, but you never know. There hasn’t been any news updates in twenty-four hours. I suppose everyone is with their loved ones, or getting drunk, or being sucked up by the rapture, or maybe all three.”
“Are we the only two left?”
There are black Cyrillic letters on Max’s forehead. Cyrillic script is popular in prisons.
“Why are you here?” asks Max.
“For a crime I probably committed.”
“You don’t remember the crime?”
“I live mostly in the present.”
“Read.” He points to be monitor.
There is a boilerplate news story about a man (presumably me) and a vicious murder.
“I still don’t remember,” I tell Max. “My personal history scarcely exists. Maybe I have a genetic brain anomaly. Maybe I suffered a brain injury. Maybe I enjoyed remembering and reliving the murder too often and the authorities surgically altered my brain to deprive me of that miserable pleasure. That last scenario is my favorite. Anyway, I obviously can’t remember why I can’t remember.”
“It is not possible to feel guilt about something you can’t remember. Without guilt there can be no forgiveness. And without forgiveness…”
“It’s all about the future,” I say.
On the monitor verses from the Book of Revelation slowly scroll downwards. There are words about a two-hundred-million-member lion-headed cavalry. There are words about a dragon with seven heads. Inmates are attracted to the Book of Revelations because it promises prison justice to all.
Max’s empty orange jumpsuit is draped over the chair. His almost new work boots are too small for me.
It’s now about the future.
I will gather all discarded firearms and ammunition. I will prepare Molotov cocktails. A guard tower will make an excellent fortress. I will concentrate on slaying the seven-headed dragon. Perhaps its death will confuse the lion-headed cavalry. Maybe the two-million-strong cavalry will fight each other over the dragon’s tasty liver and the ensuing chaos will open up more opportunities for me to inflict damage. Flexibility will be the key to victory. The demons have been restricted to following a familiar script.
It’s not much of a plan, but it’s a start.
I will keep one eye heavenwards.
New Jersey can’t get here fast enough.
~~~ 2 ~~~
Every Mother's Child
by John Sowder
~~~ 3 ~~~
Mutant Squid Mural in Austin, Texas
Squidfan Chad Trosclair alerted us to this magnificent mural at 10938 Research Boulevard in NW Austin. The art is the work of Solomon Perry of 3DIllusionArt.com. Click on the thumbnails for additional views. Thanks to Rocco Trosclair for providing scale and energy!
About the Creators
Leland Neville lives and writes in upstate New York. He previously worked for a news magazine in Washington, D.C. and taught in both a high school and a prison. Some of his short stories have appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, The Barcelona Review, and FLAPPERHOUSE.
John Sowder is a writer, artist and carbon-based lifeform whose work can be found in A.C. Comic's FEMFORCE, the Lovecraft eZine, and Drew Edward's Halloween Man.
World's Shortest Creator Interviews
What's your favorite imaginary color?
Roygeebiv. Inspired by Roy Orbison, the Bee Gees, and the New Edition’s Michael Bivins, roygeebiv is the rocky road (or maybe the tutti-frutti) of colors. A little goes a long way.
Who would you drive across country to see perform?
I would drive across the country in a rusty roygeebiv 1971 Ford Pinto to see Andy Kaufman perform as Elvis Presley. I saw Andy last week in the snack aisle at the local Big Lots. Andy never learned how to drive and doesn’t like flying. I am available to drive him 2,500 miles to the Hollywood Bowl so I can see him perform.
You could either be frozen for future revival or immediately reanimated after death. Which do you choose and why? Are you a zombie afterwards? Do you live in the body of a pigeon? Why do you keep calling me Charles?
Well Charles, I would prefer to be immediately reanimated upon my death. Not as a zombie, or a bird, or a zombie bird.
If you had to watch a duel, who'd be the fighters? Who'd win? What would your delicious viewing snack be, and how would you dress for the occasion? Potential details... with shoelaces, or without? Would you wear a cosmetic mole, alive or otherwise?
I would like to see the classic Showa-era King Ghidorah battle against Klingon leader Commander Kor, who is piloting a 23rd Century D7 Romulan Battlecruiser. I would be on some kind of space platform wearing a vintage store bought Rat Fink Halloween costume, minus shoelaces or cosmic moles. My snack of choice would be a package of Planter's P.B. Crisps with a few bottles of Sweet Baby Jesus.
About the Artists
Tracy Lundgren is a photographer from Newcastle, Australia.
Our very own D Chang is a designer and game writer from Austin, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Avast, Ye Airships! and the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology. He does the Space Squid cover designs and other squid stuff.