Two Romantic Scifi Stories

romantic-scifi

Romantic scifi?

What... oh, right, yes, the season of love.

What could be more romantic than two Squid stories, one about a pudgy videogaming cheater and another about reptilian deformities? Huh? Answer me that!

Extra bonus: Editor Matt's lauded recipe for a con suite muffaletta. Details below.

~~~

Mid-Life Crisis: The Video Game

By Jeff Bowles

Press start to begin.

Select your character.

You have selected Overweight Adulterer.

Game commencing....

......

{Welcome to your mid-life crisis. My name is Archibald Pendragon. Don't mind the guns. Or the hounds. Or my collection of bear and demon traps. Pull up a chair, traveler. I can see you're weary from the road.}

Press X to sit by Archibald's roaring fire.

{There, that's better. Cold bones are aching bones. Tell me what troubles you, my friend.}

Headset support enabled. Tell Archibald what troubles you.

"My wife kicked me out last week."

{I'm sorry to hear that. But you're in luck. Old Archibald Pendragon happens to be a world-class wife and husband slayer.}

Please state your gender now.

"Male."

You have just said male. Is that correct?

"Yes."

Verified. You are a male. You mentioned you have a wife. Is that correct?

"Yes."

Did you just say yes?

"Yes."

Are you sure you have a wife?

"Yes, dammit, I have a ... well, no ... I guess I'm not sure anymore."

Verified. You have a husband.

"What?"

Game commencing.

{So you need old Archibald to slay your husband, eh?}

"No, I have a wife."

Command not recognized.

{I know I don't look like much, traveler. Maybe I've seen a few too many winters and these trembling, arthritic hands of mine mean my best days are behind me. But don't you count me out just yet. Let's go slay a husband, yes?}

"Wife."

Command not recognized.

Press X to select Archibald's white winged Hunter Pegasus and begin your journey.

{Very well then, traveler. Away, my mighty Pegasus!}

Press Y to smell the rain on the wind and enjoy the rolling, verdant landscape filling all the world below you.

{My gods, what a sight. Tell me, traveler, how long have you known your husband?}

"My wife. I've known her twenty-four years."

{Ah, a lifer, are ye? Heh. Let me guess, you and your man have grown apart recently.}

"Well yeah, we have. I mean no, that's not why she kicked me out. I can acknowledge I did wrong. I know I screwed up big time. But dammit, she drove me to it."

{I hope you don't mind my saying, traveler, but your husband is a blind fool for letting you go. And if I'm not too much mistaken... look, do you see it? That cave set into yonder mountain? The troll dwells there.}

"What do you mean troll?"

{Why your husband, of course. May his eyes grow dim, and his bones shatter, and his penis shrivel and turn black as the ashes of a diseased dire viper.}

romantic-scifi-alt1Do you wish to enter the cave and confront your spouse?

"Yes."

Are you sure you wish to enter the cave?

"Why not? It's not like she'll actually be in there."

Username CutiePie109 has entered the game. She says, "Wow, look at these graphics. That Overweight Adulterer character looks just like my husband."

"Heather? Is that you?"

CutiePie109 says, "Oh my god, Alex? What the hell are you doing in my game?"

"What the hell are you doing in mine?"

{Good, I'm glad the pair of ye are still itching for a fight. Here's a shotgun for you, and for you, sir, a matching shotgun.}

CutiePie109 says, "Did he just call me sir?"

"Hold on, hold on. I am not going to have a gun battle with my wife."

{But you must. That's how these things get settled. Either you slay the troll, or the troll slays you.}

"She's not a troll! And maybe we're on the outs right now, but that doesn’t mean we want to hurt each other."

CutiePie109 says, "Speak for yourself, you lousy cheat!"

Press B to dodge CutiePie109's headshot.

Shot dodged.

Press right trigger to slay CutiePie109.

"This is silly, Heather."

CutiePie109 says, "Is it?"

"Look, I can only say I'm sorry so many times.”

Press B to dodge behind the nearest needling stalagmite.

"Jesus!"

CutiePie109 has blown the stalagmite to pieces. Press A to lie prone. Press right trigger to slay CutiePie109.

"No! I'm not going to slay my wife."

CutiePie109 says, "You still don't get it, do you, Alex? I wasn't allowed to bother you about the weight you gained. But the second I'm not as fit as I used to be, all bets are off and you go sleep with the office whore."

"Baby, listen--"

CutiePie109 says, "You don't get to call me baby. Pull the trigger, big man."

"I don’t want to pull it."

Press right trigger to slay CutiePie109.

{You must pull the trigger, traveler. It's over. Your husband isn’t going to take you back.}

"I don't believe that. Not for a second."

CutiePie109 says, "See? This is what I'm talking about. He's right, Alex. I'm not taking you back. Now lie still."

Press B to dodge--

......

Your head has been blown to pieces.

Game over.

Would you like to play again?

Press start to begin.

Select your character.

You have selected Neutered Apologist.

"Maybe if I tell her I'm sorry one more time...."

Are you sure you want to apologize? Are you really sure?

~~~

Jars

by DJ Tyrer

Jim’s crocodile hand clacked its jaws in frustration. It had absolutely no patience. With it, everything was ‘now, now, now’. Having a crocodile hand could, sometimes, come in useful – as Jim always liked to say, come in handy – for example, when removing the lids of jars, popping corks from bottles and dealing with bra clasps. It also allowed him to play a small but vital role in his uncle’s Punch and Judy show, although he would never be able to put on his own show single-handed. However, it was more often a hindrance: it couldn’t hold a pen or turn the pages of a book, nor could he use it for more intimate purposes.

Right now, with some difficulty, Jim was one-handedly reading the newspaper. He only ever read tabloids: a folded broadside was just impossible. There was a stack of jars in the garage waiting to be opened; everyone in the neighbourhood would bring their tough jars over to him to open for them. His crocodile hand had no interest in the news; but opening jars gave it something to do and made it feel useful.

It clacked again.

Jim sighed and dropped the paper onto the table.

“Fine,” he said. “We’ll go open some jars.”

His crocodile hand clacked once more, but this time it was a clack of delight that seemed to say “About time,” or perhaps, “I’m so glad.” It might be his hand, but Jim would be the first to admit he didn’t always understand it. Sometimes, it was as if it had a mind of its own. Jim didn’t like to think about that possibility. Nobody likes to think any part of their anatomy has an agenda of its own. We all like to think every part of ourselves is pulling as one.

Jim went to the garage where the jars were stacked up and took one off the top. It was a jar full of jam and the lid was certainly jammed on tightly. Many others also contained preserves of one sort or another; Jim’s neighbours had quite a love of preserves. Some had even preserved deceased relatives in their attics or cellars, regarding them as highly as they esteemed strawberries.

This went on for a while, Jim picking up a jar in his usual hand and letting his crocodile hand twist the lid off, the stack growing smaller as a new stack was born and grew behind him.

romantic-scifi-alt2Then, he picked up a jar that was completely black. Written on it was Evil In A Jar.

“Evil in a jar?” he read, confused.

His crocodile hand looked up at him, but didn’t clack. It did that, sometimes, when he was confused. He guessed it had no more idea than him.

“Evil in a jar?” he repeated, as if doing so might somehow bring belated understanding. “What would someone write that on a jar? Unless, I suppose, there really is evil in the jar. But, why would somebody seal evil in a jar? And, why would someone want it opened?”

He held it and stared at it for a while.

His crocodile hand clacked, after a while, as if prompting him to reach a decision.

He decided. “Let’s open it.” It made perfect sense to him. It was on his ‘To Open’ pile, so he was going to jolly well open it.

Jim’s crocodile hand gripped the lid and twisted it free. It popped and, then, a black cloud flowed out from it and escaped through the garage door.

He looked at his crocodile hand and it looked at him.

“I wonder if we made a mistake there,” he said.

His crocodile hand clacked in agreement.

Down the road, Mr. Smith murdered Mrs. Smith; then the cloud moved on and grew.

Back in the garage, Jim picked up another jar. It was marked Hope. He decided not to take a risk and went back in to his kitchen and had a cup of tea.

 

~~~

Bonus: The Con Suite Muffaletta

Last summer was the second annual Space Squid convention suite culinary catastrophe contest at Armadillocon in Austin and the competition is getting fierce. In the contest, each entry must be created only using the foods available in the convention's generous hospitality suite. One admired recipe was Editor Matthew's muffaletta:

  • use grimy fingers [editor's note: an editor is using inappropriate unappetizing language here] to mash up a compote of black and green olives
  • mash in several cheese cubes of your choice of flavors
  • add a touch of mayo and three crumbled cheesy poofs
  • press the mixture firmly between two slices of white bread until the flavors marry
  • serve with panache!

~~~

 About the Creators

Jeff Bowles was born and raised in Colorado. He earned his creative writing MFA at Western State Colorado University. His short stories have been spotted in such lurid places as Pseudopod, Dark Moon Digest, and Black Static. Jeff’s latest short story collection, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, is available on Amazon now.

DJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, was short-listed for the 2015 Carillon 'Let's Be Absurd' Fiction Competition, and has been widely published in anthologies and magazines around the world, such as Strangely Funny IIIII and IV (all Mystery & Horror LLC), Destroy All Robots (Dynatox Ministries), Mrs Claus (Worldweaver Press), More Bizarro Than Bizarro (Bizarro Pulp Press), and Irrational Fears (FTB Press), as well as on Cease CowsThe Flash Fiction Press and The WiFiles, and in issues of Tigershark ezine, and also has a novella available in paperback and on the Kindle, The Yellow House (Dunhams Manor).

World's Shortest Creator Interviews

Jeff Bowles:

If you could change one thing from your childhood, what would it be and why? (Please include the phrase "hot pink orangutan" in your answer.)

You had a hot pink orangutan as a child? Lucky you. I was fathered by Grape Ape and Agent Orange. Actually, Grape Ape was never around much. Hanna-Barbera knew an Asian-animated quagmire when they saw it [see "Wacky Races"].

Due to a bureaucratic mixup, you have just been appointed Czar of All Mammalian Nutrition. What is your first edict?

Is that Czar, or Tsar? Don't Bolshevik me now ... I am ill-equipped to designate mammalian nutrition. After all, I've lost my fur and my milk ducts are, shall we say, shoddy at best.

DJ Tyrer:

Here's a quote: "Language is just a dialect with an army." What modern language do you think should be immediately disarmed, and why?

Latin. Aha, you're thinking, Latin is an ancient language that's as dead as a dormouse. Well, you're wrong (especially if you said "as dead as a dormouse" - you probably meant a doornail). It's alive and, if not well, certainly sickly, in Vatican City. Now, just take a look at those Swiss Guards with their halberds - they'll have someone's eye out in a minute, and that's why I'd disarm Latin. Won't somebody think of the eyeballs?

If you could change one thing from your childhood, what would it be and why? (Please include the phrase "hot pink orangutan" in your answer.)

I think it would have to be the day I was enticed into a car by a hot pink orangutan. I remember it was a lovely, sunny day and I was walking home from school. A car drew up alongside me and a pink orangutan waved me over and invited me in to see some puppies. After that, it's mostly a blank, though I still have nightmares about orangutans. And, Reliant Robins. Sorry, I can't go on... I need to go take my medication, now....

About the Artists

famhud, Janson_G, and sinisamaric1 are visual artists on Pixabay.

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, and he has a janky retro JRPG on Steam. He does the Space Squid illustrations, editing, and other squid stuff.

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Posted in Featured Fiction