Battle For The Net

 

If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet.If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here: https://battleforthenet.com/sept10thEveryone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown: http://tumblr.fightforthefuture.org/post/96020972118/be-a-part-of-the-great-internet-slowdown Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

via Battle For The Net.

Simulation 26, Part 2

guesticon

“Why do you do this to yourself?”

 

***

 

You’re cowering in the closet again. Eyes tightly shut, face pressed as close to the wall as you can get it. There’s a crash, the sound of broken cookery and smashed items from beyond the door. Before, before you would have gone to see, to check and make sure. Now you just bury your nose deeper into the corner.

 

Outside the screaming continues, inaudible yet you know its vicious and hateful. You don’t need to hear the words to know the tone. It’s the same song and dance day after day.

 

Feelings are hurts, words are used as if they are just sharpened knives, and gapping wounds are made.

 

On and on it goes. Endless it seems until it’s not. Silence reigns and continues to grow. Cautiously you pull away from your corner. Ear pressed to the door you listen, silence.

 

You go into the kitchen. It’s vacant. Strewn around are the remnants of a once immaculate table.  With an air of long practice and light feet you begin to pick up the pieces of your life.

 

***

 

“Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen”, you count quietly under your breath nails digging into your thighs.  Four bloody trails roll down the slope of you body, pooling in the crease of your groin.

 

“Twenty.” Slowly your fingers relax their grip.

 

You stare at you bloody nails frowning. Meticulously you begin the clean up. Using your thumb to clean the moist blood and flesh from under your nails. One hand at a time wiping every so often at a near by tissue. Four tissues later you fingers are as immaculate at they will be.  You should get a manicure soon; you frown down at your ragged cuticles.

 

Peroxide next, you don’t want the cuts to get infected, infections lead to sickness and sickness leads to questions. And you have too many scars and not enough good answers.

 

You bite your lip at the burn of it but not bloody, not anymore you’re an old hat at this now.

 

***

 

The you that stares back in the mirror doesn’t look like what you think you look like.  This person has to be you though. This weak, sad, pathetic creature is you. This pale, shallow skinned, limp haired, sad sack of flesh is all you’ve got.

 

You purse your lips and try to image what it’d be like to be attractive. You can’t. You try to smile bright and huge like you’ve seen others do, you grimace. Your teeth are crooked and stained yellow, your lips too thin on the top and too puffy on the bottom. You look like a crazed person, the kind people move across the street to avoid. No, smiling won’t make you more attractive.

 

You away from the mirror and flop backwards, just short of missing your bed. Your ceiling is far more attractive than you are.

 

Suddenly there’s the sound of a door slamming into a wall, the bonce back and it slamming shut. You freeze, deer in headlight stupid and in the way. Maybe if you don’t breath no one will know you’re here.

 

Hold it.

 

Hold it.

 

 

Hold it.

 

 

Hold it.

 

 

 

Hold it.

 

Door slams.

 

You breathe again. No you think you need to be braver first.

 

***

 

“This is so I never forget”

 

. . . Terminate Simulation 26 . . .

Signing off for a while.

Hello everyone,

I’m sure you have noticed that we’ve been MIA for the last week or so. I regret to inform you all that Short Story Salad will be shutting down for a while. We cannot say when we will resume our story telling, I apologize. Everyone is well, but different commitments in life have pulled us away. We will try to post up the last of our stories soon.

Though this site has only been up since Fall 2013, we were writing on our other websites since the summer of that year.We thank you all for your interest and for coming with us this past year of storytelling.

Take care,

bernicons

Bundts and Bolts, Part 3

bernicons            Of course I make a break for it, but I slam right into a the largest pair of tits I’ve ever had the pleasure of encountering. Jessica, as it turns out is a lovely woman, towering at nearly six feet tall with a wide build like some valkyrie or something. Jessica grabs my arms and twists them behind my back.

            I wince. “Hey! Be gentle, gorgeous.” I can at least get the satisfaction that I made her blush.

            Still, Jessica’s grip is as strong as iron and she removes my sister’s cake from my grasp and passes it to Agatha.

            “Creator Agatha, be careful with the costumer,” says UB and I’m almost touched.

            “She’s not a customer, UB. She’s a thief,” her words drip with loathing and her breath smells of burnt sugar. “Who are you?”

            “Does that really matter? You caught me. Call the police already.”

            “Don’t you worry about that.”

            “Yeah? Just know you’re ruining a little girl’s birthday!”

            UB’s digital face drops into a frown. “Birthday?”

            “Yeah, my sister’s!” I turn to Agatha, “Look, you’re prices are too high. But that little cupcake you’re charging through the nose for would make her entire year. So let me have it.”

            Agatha rolls her eyes so deep into her head I think she’s about to faint. “You know we sell day-old goods at half price, right? We even donate the majority of our leftovers to charity. You went through a lot of extra effort just to get yourself into jail. Why should I buy your story.”

            “Because I wouldn’t be in a ten block radius of your little bakery otherwise! I think you’re smug little operation is stupid, and now I know why you all keep you’re chef here a secret. You can’t really sell the ‘old family recipe’ crap with a robot.”

            “Is there something wrong with your food?” asks UB. Man, that things was just a little too considerate. I look up to speak but catch my breath when I saw how disappointed it is.

            “They are family recipes for your information,” said Agatha. “UB here just makes things more efficient.”

            I glance over at UB who stares at the cake it was just decorating with this immense sense of disappointment. “Look, man, I didn’t mean it-“

            “Hey, don’t talk to him!” Agatha pinch the bridge of her nose with frustration. “Jessica, tie this fool to the post over there. Grams will figure this out.”

            Jessica brings me over to a pillar at the side of the room and secured me with one of those zip tie things. She pauses. “How old is your sister?”

            I smile. “10.”

            She nods and looks away before following Agatha out the kitchen. I hear the sad hum of UB approaching and I halfway wonder if I’m just projecting the sadness in its movements.

            There’s a fork of cake in front of my face. “Wha-?”

            “Has this human tried UB’s creation yet?” it asks me.

            I shake my head. “No, I haven’t.”

            It’s digital yellow face appears determined. “Then you will!” It pauses, “Is this human allergic to any standard baking ingredients?”

            I shake my head again and before I can even say no, the cake is in my mouth. I almost cough it out because of the shock of the moment but the luscious creaminess that is the frosting overwhelms my gag reflex. Shit this is good.

            I don’t even need to say it, UB can see my approval in my expression. “Good. Another!” This goes on for like at least another minute and I’m full of cake. It’s only when Agatha comes back with Jessica and Grams does UB stop.

            “Looks like our baker has taken a liking to you,” says the little old lady with missing teeth.

            “Yeah-” my words are lost between the confectionary chewing.

            “Tell me,” she begins, “Is that you said true, that you wanted a cake for your little sister’s birthday?”

            I gulp the cake and nod, staring the old woman in the eye.

            She appears unimpressed but nods. “So be it.”

 

            My little sister likes to visit me when I’m working at the bakery. This is the deal we worked out with the Bundts and Bolts family; I work off my debt and promise not to tell anyone about my new buddy UB. Jessica is taking me out on our second date this Wednesday, UB wants to bake a cake in celebration. Typical.

Game(Rules) Part 2

berniconsI nod, washing the oil and dirt away from my face. Waking up can be the hardest part but I got up. And I will have a piece of leftover ice cream cake as reward for level one. When I bring my eyes back up to the mirror, she stares at me. It’s a hard, well weathered stare. She tells me that I have to do this. Every day, wake up, repeat the rules, go through the day, get home, sleep and repeat.

 

You know what you did. And I nod. And for that, I live on repeat. But at least I live, I can’t say the same for-

 

You can’t say their names. Not out loud. No, never out loud. It’s not a rule but it’s Breaking something none the less. I shut my mouth and she nods at me. Yes. This is what needs to be done.

 

There’s a single mountain of ice cream cake swimming in a lake of cream speckled with the chocolate crunchy insides sitting in my bowl. Time must have past because I don’t remember sitting down to eat this slice at all. I’m late. I slurp up the cream and crunchies, toss the bowl into the sink and rush out the door. I start to form the reasons in my head. The bus was late. I forgot my cell phone. I saved a cat from a tree.

 

I go with the cell phone excuse and they seem to believe me. They care more about a game coming out in the fall and something about who they are going to date in which play through. I want to join in the conversation. I remember I used to play games like that, read books, watch movies. I liked stories. Before the breath leaves my lips, I see her in the faded reflection of the vending machine. She shakes her head. I know she’s right. It’s hard enough to keep my own Story straight. I don’t need others to confuse me.

 

I can’t help it but I’m always shocked when I hear the names. They were common enough names, people aren’t all that creative so of course I’m going to hear them. Today is a Not Good day. There’s a Matthew, an Amber and a James in the store. A group of kids that are just goofing off and chatting it up but I couldn’t help it. I jumped when I heard Amber. My coworker laughs at me and I laugh it off, saying I thought I saw a hornet or something. Game face back on. I don’t need her to remind me to do it.

 

Late lunch, more like a dinner. But it’s a sub so I count it as a lunch. I scribble it down in my notepad. If someone asks about it I tell them I’m just keeping up with my daily purchases. Satisfied that it’s not some kind of diary they leave it alone. The sub as avocado on it. It’s a nice treat. One of the few.

 

It rains on the way home but I don’t mind. I only Broke one rule today, and just barely. I get to do a little yoga and play online checkers online with strangers. People that I’ll never know and they’ll never know me so I’ll be able to rest easy when I go to bed. The clouds are heavy overhead, it’s dark. I can see her in the dark reflections of the windows I pass. I don’t want to look but I know she’s nodding in approval. Another day, another Round won. If I can keep this up, maybe… There’s no maybes. Just Rounds, just days.

 

I’m tracking rain into the hallway of the apartment building but there’s little I can do. It’ll dry up, and by the looks of it, I’m not the first person to have trudged through the hall like this. For some reason my keys are always hard to find and they never open the door well, always getting jammed. I wish they stayed jammed this time because when I open the door I look down and see a sheet of paper on the ground, laying in the place where the mail slot would have left it. Still wet from the rain outside. I know about Matthew, Amber and James is scribbled hastily on the surface. I don’t need a reflection to know she’s glaring at me.

Guest Writer 1

guesticon

 

So we promised guest writers and we have started! Welcome Imani! Our first guest writer!

Here’s a brief write up from our special guest:

Mostly Imani just thinks she’s awesome. She has a mostly boring life however that says otherwise but everyone’s got to have dreams. Imani in turn has a cat, a five year plan, student loans out the wazoo and a fondness for 2nd person fiction. She can be found here on twitter (displaying her not so hidden love of Calvin & Hobbes or here at the blog she never updates because her life really isn’t as awesome as she likes to tell people it is.

Thanks for joining us this week, Imani!

Game(Rules), Part 1

guesticonYou play this game with yourself. It’s not a fun game – and to be fair it’s less of a game and more of a set of rules but really who’s to stop you from calling it a game in the comforts of your own head? This is a game you’re long since familiar with. Each day is a new day of play. Your game is a solitary one but then again most of your life is. You’d say you prefer it that way but that’s a lie and you do your level best not to lie to yourself, you lie to too many other people about too many other things.

 

You keep the rules of your game (your life) simple less you forget them; trying to remember things is part of the game as well. Level one goes like this (rule one:) If you get up without hitting the snooze you can eat whatever you like for breakfast, no one will judge you. Rewards are key to success, keep all rewards equal to in value to the task accomplished.

 

Level two (Rule two:) Game face must be worn from the second you step foot out the door till the second you return at the end of the day. You don’t want anyone to know that what you’re saying on the outside doesn’t match what you’re thinking on the inside. When you were younger – naive and foolish and oh so much younger – this was a hard and you lost this level a lot (broke this rule a lot). It was even harder back before when you lived with other people the space that made up “safe space” and “every place else” was a lot smaller. There was less down time, you slipped a lot, gave away things, said little things you thought were okay that were definitely Not Good. Older you, current you, you don’t live with anyone, you’ll never make that mistake again. A Good Day earns you…well this earns you nothing but the lack of stress and in turn if you fail the stress to be Better is it’s own punishment.

 

Level three (Rule three:) write everything down. Where you’ve been, who you saw, what you’ve told them, if you ate today, what you ate today, did you wear that shirt this week. Everything because details are important and getting tripped up because you can’t remember the details would be the most shameful way to get caught. And getting caught forgetting isn’t something you ever want to image the ramifications of. If you go the day without messing up, without having to confer with your notes in an obvious way – because what would be the point of keeping notes if you didn’t look at them? – you gpet to go home and do nothing. Absolutely nothing and it is the most glorious thing to do, your most favorite thing to do. If you fail however the punishment is to put yourself through your paces. To go through your notes and study, everything until you know it so well you dream it.

 

Your game is simple and it keeps your life uncomplicated and you protected. You exist within the parameters of your game and you find great comfort in knowing that these are things you’ve done and can continue to do.

 

Once back a long long time ago you tried to think of a way for your game to end. You tried slowly once to ease out of it, to do what other people seemed to do but it left you feeling….wrong. Too many comments were made, about your pyshical state of being, your mental state of awareness and really just all the things you want people not to look to hard and long at.

Bundts and Bolts, Part 1

bernicons            Bundts and Bolts is the name of the bakery downtown that’s been getting a lot of hype lately. It almost went out of business not two years ago, back when it was known as No Bundts About It when some cyber chick freaked out when she found an actual lug nut in the cupcake. Everyone else found it to be hilarious but the cyber community freaked the fuck out. The owners almost went bankrupt with the legal fees. Yet, somehow, they pulled out of that shitstorm and were now the talk of the town. People line up around the block for an over-priced mini cupcake. They renamed the place to the aforementioned establishment as a not-so-subtle screw you to the cybers that wanted the place shut down.

So why do I even care, you ask? Why am I trying to break into the kitchen at Bundts and Bolts? I need a small cake for my little sister’s birthday. It’s already 4pm and there’s no way I’d get something if I went to the back of the line now. Even then you’re more likely to see me lick a pastor’s boot than see me pay over $60 for cake. I told Clare that I could get her a much bigger cake from the corner store and she could eat at least twice as much but I knew what she was thinking. She passes the bakery everyday on her way to school and all her classmates talk about having been there for a home-made, old fashioned, artisan crafted-bullshit, confectionary treat, everyone but her. I can’t afford to get Clare much, I can barely afford the studio we live in, but I can snag a cake for her. It’s what I do best after all. Yeah, okay, people don’t like thieves, but if that bitch with the moped wanted to keep the damned thing, she should have tried harder.

Across the street from Bunts and Bolts I see a group of cybers sneering at the place. One of them’s got a robo third eye embedded into the middle of her forehead with e blinking bindi  between her eyes. Flannel shirts, fake flowers braided into their hair and beards, listening to music from a dubstep group you know you’ve never heard a song from. All three of the lady’s eyes stare me down as I walk into the back alley behind them. I swear, if Clare ever comes home asking for some kind of cyber augmentation I will personally move us out into the country and get us as off the grid as we can get… okay not really. No one lives in the sticks but new-age hippies with gardens for front yards who then complain if someone like me takes an eggplant…

Out of sight, out of mind. I climb up the fire escape to get a lay of the land as I continue across the power lines toward Bolts, it’s cool, nobody ever looks up anymore so nobody even sees me. At a glance, the place looks pretty under-secured but at a closer look… it’s exactly like. I’m really surprised actually, you’d think that they’d have this place locked up a little tighter. A lot of people say it’s the bakery’s new lead baker that’s so masterfully brought this place back up into the public eye, a baker that doesn’t like the public eye and thus has never had an interview. What? Has nobody ever even tried to break in? I land just outside on the docking bay where I guess they must unload all their flour and sugar and whatnot. They’ve got a combination lock- a combination lock. I’m insulted. My laser bolt cuts make quick work of it and I manage to lift the door just enough as to not make so much noise and wiggle my way in.

I hear people in the front room, trying to haggle the price of an almost day-old cannoli but it’s surprisingly quite back here. I mean, I know that it’s close to closing time but wouldn’t some people be runnin’ about trying to get their last orders filled? I shrug and continue on. In and out with the cake, that’s all I need. Turns out that the kitchen one door down from the loading bay. There’s someone in there for sure, I can hear them humming, so I open the door just a crack to get a peek and see what I’m up against.

Icing squirts out of two of its fingers, creating two separate rings of  decoration on the outer lip and middle of the cake. It does this without even turning the cake on a lazy susan because its elbow just turns in the socket with such automated swiftness I almost missed it. When it’s done it spreads its fingers out so that a thin lining of metal can connect the fingers together forming a kind of spatula to smooth out the frosting on the sides. Its face is a black screen with big, yellow, digitized eyes inspecting its work closely. Then a small smile forms on the screen below the eyes. Its happy with its creation.

My mouth falls open. A robot is the lead baker? I must be leaning against the door to much because it opens just a little more and the fucking thing squeaks. The robot turns its head toward me with a surprised look on its digital face.

“Can UB help you, human?” it asks.

The Hill, Part 3

bernicons8:49 pm

“Stop! W-what are you doing?” Jasmine’s voice shuttered.

One of the women snipped away at Mausmi’s hair. “We need this, for the Mistress.”

“What Mistress?!” Thunder rang outside. Another woman slapped Jasmine across the face.

“The Mistress compels us, we must do as she bids.”

“We must do as she bids,” echoed the hollow voices of the other women in the cave. From Jasmine’s count, there were four of them, each with their own hound at their side. At the far end of the cave there was an altar of some sort, a menagerie of blue and purple candles lead up to the space, with more and more candles huddled around the main table. When Jasmine had become too restless, they pulled her away from Mausmi and turned her away from the altar. They said she was no worthy.

“We have your vessel, Mistress!” sang the first woman, “Your faithful have provided!” Jasmine could not see what the women were doing with Mausmi’s hair at the altar. They were working with fire and a perfumed smoke. Another poured oil about the altar. None of them were looking at Jasmine.

Which she used to her advantage. She was sore and there were certainly bruises crawling up her arms, but still, Jasmine reached for a single purple almost beyond the reach of her bound wrists. Jasmine’s eyes darted back and forth from the candle and the altar she could barely glance at in the corner of her eye. The perfumed smoke masked the smell of burning rope and the chanting women covered her grunts of exertion.

“Mistress! Fill this empty cup! Be released from your heavenly prison on this night! Walk among us once more!”

Mausmi jerked up and cried out toward the ceiling. The four women held hands and kept themselves from focused on altar, singing their horrid song. Mausmi’s head went limp on her shoulder.

The bounds were burned through, and Jasmine kicked her legs free. “Hey bitches!” She shouted. She swiped the candle and threw it at the altar where the fire consumed them.

 

9:23pm

Mausmi’s body stopped in mid air, inches from the unforgiving bark of the tree and hovered here, engulfed in a pale blue glow.

“B-baby?” whispered Jasmine.

Mausmi’s eyes flew open, glowing in the same blue glow that surrounded her. Her body sung itself upright and she flexed her hands, inspecting them closely. “Yes,” said Mausmi in a voice that was not her own. “This will do.

Jasmine squirmed in the mud but then cried out as the pain jolted up her leg from her ankle. This caught the attention of the glowing Mausmi. She stepped forward, but her feet never touched the ground, her head tilted slightly as she studied Jasmine with a quisitive brow. “You are not one of the faithful.”

“The faithful!?” spat Jasmine, “I hope they all burned alive in that hell-hole!”

The glowing Mausmi looked up, seeing the smoke from the cave. “They are all but dead. Pity.”

Jasmine could hardly keep up with her breath. “I’m glad! Go with them for all I care! Just give me back my Mausmi!”

A glowing hand reached out and grasped Jasmine’s throat. Keeping up with her own breath wasn’t the problem now, having breath was. She was lifted from the earth, the glowing Mausmi’s hand gripping tighter and tighter the higher she was. Tears ran down Jasmine’s hot cheeks, but she could not struggle, she hurt too much to try.

Then the grip loosened and Jasmine was lowered, gently to the ground. Jasmine was confused, searching for an answer in the glowing eyes. “This body does not wish you dead. Curious.”

“Mausmi?”