The Sound

Transcribed from tape labeled, “Taylor.”

TAYLOR: “It sounded like a pod of whales, and looked like a sea of lights.”

My Layla passed away a few years ago. One morning she woke up and died. Doctor said something popped in her head. I never talked about it much. I guess a lot of us wish we had. I know I do.

I heard on the news it started at 12:42, when all the lights went out. Some people online said it was later than that. Of course, some said it was earlier. I don’t know what time I heard The Sound. I only remember it was late, and cold. But, The Sound? The Sound… it was soft, pleasant. “It sounded like a pod of whales, but it looked like a sea of lights.” Sometimes I wish I could keep waking up to it. Sometimes, I dream that I do.

Layla waited for me outside the front door of our apartment. Pale in white, like the day I married her. And in The Sound, I heard her voice. She called, she cried. She said things – things only she knew. Things only I knew. Things she shouldn’t know. Called me awful names when I wouldn’t let her in. All I wanted to do was let her in.

I never thought I deserved Layla. She was too kind, too sweet, too understanding. Too trusting. I was a mess before she met me.

I was a mess when she married me. I was a bigger mess after she left me. I don’t know what I am now. But to see her standing there? I didn’t deserve to have her back. But I’m starting to think, maybe… maybe I deserved what came next.

From the window, I saw others opening their doors. They let in whatever they saw. I once heard someone saw a cat. So, who knows? But they saw what they saw. We all heard what we heard. And some of them… they opened their doors, and let that light in.

Our neighbors – sweet girl, awful mother. We used to hear them scream at each other through the walls. One day I realized the fighting stopped. Saw the girl one day in the laundry room, and she was all smiles. That night, when the sound began, she was screaming at her mother to go away. Screaming and screaming, “You’re gone, you’re gone! I killed you! You’re gone!” She kept her door closed.

The woman across from us… she opened her door. She’s gone now. Like everyone else.

My neighbor moved the next day. I helped her load a few boxes and bags into her car. We didn’t say anything the entire time. Box, car, box, car. (CHUCKLES) She didn’t even thank me, now that I think about it. But before she drove off, she, uh… She said, “It sounded like a pod of whales, and looked like a sea of lights.” I don’t know where she is now. I guess she’s gone too.

Alley Oops

BILL BILLIAMSON TYPES AWAY AT A TYPEWRITER IN AN ALLEYWAY.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Meanwhile, somewhere in an alley behind a stripmall…

TRENT SCROTAL-WAXING, A FLUSTERED WEIRDO HOLDING A STACK OF LOOSELY-BOUND PRINTER PAPER, ENTERS.

TRENT: Excuse me, are you erotic scifi novelist Bill Billiamson?

BILL: That’s right. How may I help you?

TRENT: Wow. Uh… Hi, I’m Trent Scrotal-Waxing. I recently finished reading your new book, “Wet, Sloppy Bits in Space,” and I just wanted to say you’re a real bastard, aren’t you?

BILL: I’m sorry?

TRENT: Look. I’ve been a fan of yours ever since I pirated a copy of “Dinosaur Orgy on Mars with Robots and Lasers,” but I do not appreciate this tactless commentary on me and my genitals.

BILL: I’ve done no such thing.

TRENT: Oh, come now. Did you really think I wouldn’t notice all these thinly veiled references to me and my genitals scattered throughout this… this… literary hit piece?

BILL: “Literary hit piece”?

TRENT: Playing stupid, are we, Mr. Billiamson?

BILL: I assure you, I’m not playing at all.

TRENT: And I assure you, I’ll have your ears choking on your own words… (FLIPS THROUGH THE STACK AND READS) “As the flaccid winds of Analor stung their eyes and punched their nose in that way an offensive smell might do had it a fist, they looked upon the distant light of Brixby-Eleventy and sighed a sexual sigh.”

BILL: Yes?

TRENT: (SCOFFS) Need I go on?

BILL: (CONSIDERS THIS) Yes.

TRENT: Oh, well… Uh… What about this… (READS) “Cunnilinda held his arm in the light of the moon, content in the knowledge she could never love another.” Hmm? Did you really find it so necessary to mock my lifelong inability to find companionship without paying for it?

BILL: Did you pirate and print out a copy of my book instead of buying it?

TRENT: I did. And after suffering through your attacks on me and my genitals, I have to say it was worth every penny.

BILL: Look. Mister…

TRENT: Scrotal-Waxing.

BILL: Mr. Scrotal-Waxing, rest assured that I do not know you, I do not want to know you, and I have absolutely no intention of writing anything about you or your genitals.

TRENT: A bit late for that now, isn’t it? Now the whole world thinks my genitals are of an inferior nature, utterly incapable of pleasurbation!

BILL: Are you sure you’ve actually read my book?

TRENT: I’ve… read enough, thank you very much.

BILL: (GESTURES TO THE STACK OF PAPER) May I?

TRENT: (HANDS STACK OF PAPER TO BILL) Far be it from me to stop another man from digging his own grave.

BILL: (READS) “The Turgidian drove his staff deep into the soft, yielding flesh of yet another Moistman, and howled like some sort of howling beast.” I suppose that one’s also about you?

TRENT: An obvious allusion to my deep-seated resentment toward my mother.

BILL: Right. Well, what about… (READS) “They dove headfirst into the slippy mouth of the Clitorian Caverns, never to be seen again.” What’s that one about, then?

TRENT: I was only a child, Mr. Billiamson!

264 Hours

Transcribed from tape labeled “Sergio.”

SERGIO: When I try to sleep, all I see is a man’s eye dangling in a way that eyes shouldn’t.

I haven’t slept in about… seven days? I’m not sure. What day is it?

I once read a man went like, 264 hours without sleep. I don’t know what happened after that. Maybe he died.

I saw a guy die once. Did I ever tell you about that? Not too long ago, actually.

I’d been working overtime, extra shifts. Whatever I could get. We had to get some serious work done on my wife’s car. Cost a fortune.

One night, I’m scheduled to work swing. My wife needed my car, so I got a lift to work. But I was on my own going the other way, though. Had to take the bus.

(SIGHS) All I wanted was to get home.

It’s like a forty-five minute trip home. Straight shot, which is nice. No transfers. But that’s plenty of time for something to go wrong.

The old man was there when I got on. The kids came in about ten minutes later. Buncha college kids – not anymore, of course. But they were at the time. And they were laughing, giving the driver a hard time. I think they were drunk.

Something about the old man caught their eye. Maybe it was just him being there. Could’a been me.

It started with some jokes. One of them pulled out their phone, started recording the whole thing. Made the old man the star of their pretend late-night talk show. They sat there on all sides of him, asking all sorts of personal, awful questions they had no business asking. I can still hear the twisted way one of them cackled. Not a laugh like the others, but a cackle. Like this was the funniest thing in the world to them, but they hated it at the same time. It was… sick.

The old man wouldn’t play along. They got mad. And then, they hit him.

I love hockey. Something about the raw, hard-hitting nature of it. This big kid – red hair, something he thought was a beard – he body checked the old man – boom! – right against the glass. Shook the whole bus.

The bus driver didn’t say anything, he just pulled over and ran. Maybe I should’ve done the same.

Sometimes I wonder if those kids were just bad people. Not that I’m much better. I sat there and watched it happen.

They pounced on him, stomped on the old man like they were putting out a fire. By the time they stopped, his head… his head, it… it looked like a kicked-in jack-o-lantern.

Sometimes I wonder why he was there. Where didn’t that old man get to? It keeps me up at night, that old man and his eye.

Bill’s Boards

STEVE: We’ll return in just a moment to, “I Can’t Believe You’ve Done This.” But first, a completely different sketch.

CUT TO:

AN ANNOYING RADIO AD. THE SORT YOU HEAR ON A MORNING COMMUTE AND WISH YOU COULD GET FAR AWAY FROM BUT IS SOMEHOW PLAYING ON EVERY STATION.

OTHER STEVE: Do you have a business, service, or assorted flavor of ponzi scheme? Do you need to reach the least amount of people possible in the smallest radius imaginable in a world that has long since shifted to a global digital marketplace? Do you want to piss away what few marketing dollars you can afford on an eyesore of an advertisement sure to be forgotten and left in tatters in a matter of weeks or eventually covered up by another monstrosity nobody will give the time of a day, except, perhaps, in the form of a sullen sigh of disgust?

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE.

If so, then you need a Billboard! And here at Bill Billiamson’s Billboards by Bill Billiamson, we’re eager and turgid to take your money in exchange for a billboard designed and abandoned by Bill Billiamson, son of the legendary billboard creator, Bill Billiamson. Organic, inedible, made of one-percent recyclable materials, loose fitting, mint-flavored, smooth, yet rough, California sober, and an Ohio seven, our billboards are sure to be a waste of every dollar.

Bill Billiamson’s Billboards by Bill Billiamson: Because the internet is a strange, mysterious realm of techno-wizardry.

Lexi

Transcribed from tape labeled “Lexi.”

LEXI: Sometimes I dream of a shape of a man, little more than a vague approximation – two arms, two legs, something like a head. Maybe more, sometimes less.

At least, I think it’s a dream. Pretty sure.

Most nights it stands outside my home, beneath the dirty glow of the street light. Other nights, closer. Sometimes on my lawn, beneath my orange tree… or, uh… at my door.

They stand there, looking at me looking at them from behind the safety of the curtains hanging in the window of my living room, this shape lost in fractured light and shadow. It shouldn’t see me, but it does. I can feel it.

The Job: “Cheapshot” Sandors

A STRIPMALL PARKING LOT.

SETH: (VOICE-OVER) This job isn’t for everyone, you know. It’s given me a lot, but it always gets its cut. Always.

CUT TO:

SETH “CHEAPSHOT” SANDORS, A MISSHAPEN POTATO OF A MAN SEEMINGLY DRESSED FOR HIGH SCHOOL GYM CLASS AND HOLDING A LARGE, HEAVY TEXTBOOK.

BARRY: I’m Seth “Cheapshot” Sandors, and I’ve been a pro wrestler for twelve years.

CUT TO:

SETH BEHIND A DUMPSTER.

SETH: I’ve lost friends and loved ones to this business, actually. I mean, I know where they are – they haven’t just disappeared into thin air, or something. Obviously.

Well, for example: My sister once hit me with her car for a chance at a free trip to Classy Lou’s All-You-Can-Eat Buffet. She didn’t get it, unfortunately. And she hasn’t answered my calls… or responded to my lawyer’s attempts to get her to pay my hospital bills.

And then there was the time my one-time best friend slept with my girlfriend just to get a psychological upperhand in a match I wasn’t even involved in. (BEAT) Which, now that I think about it, doesn’t make too much sense, really…

A SILENCE.

Oh, check this out…

SETH REVEALS SEVERAL DISTINCT SCARS.

(POINTS) This is where they replaced one of my ribs with a titanium rod for some reason. This one is from the time I took a VCR to the back of the head during a “Be Kind, Rewind” match. And this, uh… this is from an unruly class of twelve–year olds who all decided to throw their desks at me for asking them to, please, put away their phones and stop recording my crying from all the mean things they were saying to me. (NERVOUS LAUGHTER) Middle-schoolers, right?

ANOTHER SILENCE.

Anyway. I couldn’t go back to teaching middle-school English after that. (BEAT) Literally, I wasn’t allowed back on campus. But I also saw it as an opportunity to take my natural ability to absorb inhumane amounts of physical, mental, and emotional abuse and make something of myself. It’s all about making those opportunities for yourself.

That’s why I’m here, actually.

JOE, A MAN IN A WHEELCHAIR WITH A MAKESHIFT CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE BELT, PASSES BY.

Sorry, I’ve gotta clock-in real quick.

SETH SNEAK-ATTACKS JOE WITH THE LARGE, HEAVY TEXTBOOK.

(GESTURES) Come on! Come on!

REFEREE APPEARS OUT OF NOWHERE.

SETH PINS AN UNCONSCIOUS JOE WHILE A HORRIFIED CROWD WATCHES.

(TO REFEREE) Oh, stop staring and do your job!

REFEREE: (LIGHTLY SLAPPING THE PAVEMENT) One! Two! Three!

SETH STANDS, HOLDS UP THE MAKESHIFT CHAMPIONSHIP BELT IN VICTORY.

ANNOUNCER APPEARS OUT OF NOWHERE.

ANNOUNCER: Your new Calvin Carson’s Town Center and Outlet Mall Champion, Seth “Cheapshot” Sanderson!

EVERYONE LOOKS UPON THIS IN SILENT CONTEMPT.

Human Capital Stock

AN ADVERTISEMENT: THE SORT YOU HEAR ON THE MORNING COMMUTE OR DAY-TIME TELEVISION.

INDEBTA, A MIDDLE-MANAGER TYPE, SULKS IN AN UNCOMFORTABLE CHAIR.

ANNOUNCER: (VOICE-OVER) Are you a middle-manager type sulking and hiding in your office as you avoid dealing with the numerous complaints about low wages, long hours, sexual harrassment, and the various recording devices in the employee washroom violating privacy laws and basic human decency?

INDEBTA: (NODS) Uh-huh.

ANNOUNCER: (VOICE-OVER) Have your shallow attempts to cultivate a cult-like roster of exhausted wage-slaves by way of after-hour binge-drinking events masquerading as “team-building exercises,” sparkling bottled water in the breakroom, and assorted absurd mantras, slogans, and unearthly chanting failed to obtain the results and data your corporate overlords demand of you?

INDEBTA: (SHRUGS) Maybe…

ANNOUNCER: (VOICE-OVER) Then maybe you need the Monopticon Electric Corporate Employee Trainer System.

INDEBTA: The Monopticon Electric Corporate Employee Trainer System?

ANNOUNCER: (VOICE-OVER) Yes, you insipid potato, the Monopticon Electric Corporate Employee Trainer System is the only handheld training device designed by bastards and approved by the Federal Government for the sole purpose of keeping your worthless, yet valuable human capital stock in line!

INDEBTA HOLDS UP A MONOPTICON ELECTRIC CORPORATE EMPLOYEE TRAINER SYSTEM.

INDEBTA: Wait. Isn’t this just a cattle prod?

ANNOUNCER: (VOICE-OVER) Are you stupid, or just an idiot?

INDEBTA: Yes.

ANNOUNCER: (VOICE-OVER) (SIGHS) Light-weight, battery-powered, sexually healing, and phallic in all the right and wrong ways, the Monopticon Electric Corporate Employee Trainer System is a handheld device capable of delivering enough electricity to put down an African elephant, yet dangerous enough to silence any employee demands that continue to place your owner’s money in jeopardy.

EMPLOYEE ENTERS.

EMPLOYEE: Excuse me, Indebta? I’m here to talk to you about a living wage and reasonable, humane expectations of employees.

ANNOUNCER: (VOICE-OVER) Why don’t you give it a try?

INDEBTA: Sure, why not?

EMPLOYEE: (LOOKS ABOUT CONFUSED) Who are you talking to, Indebta? What’s that in your–

INDEBTA ELECTROCUTES EMPLOYEE WITH THE MONOPTICON ELECTRIC CORPORATE EMPLOYEE TRAINER SYSTEM, EMPLOYEE DROPS LIFELESS TO THE FLOOR.

INDEBTA: Wow! Thank you, Monopticon Electric Corporate Employee Trainer System!

ANNOUNCER: (VOICE-OVER) No “thank you” necessary. Simply order the Monopticon Electric Corporate Employee Trainer System and give us your money today!

Toilet Humor

AN EMPTY VOID.

A. FAILED: Good whenever, and welcome back to, “We Had Time to Fill.” I’m a failed thought experiment.

Tonight, we’re here in a vast, empty void to speak with professional recluse and fictional construct who will inevitably and invariably be misconstrued as a personal attack on some random lunatic who absolutely, positively must make everything and anything about themselves regardless of the context or subject matter, Mr. and/or Mrs. Impacted Bowels.

IMPACTED: (WAVES) Hello.

A. FAILED: Tell us a bit about yourself.

IMPACTED: I’d rather not.

A. FAILED: Fascinating. Impacted, is it true that you have not relieved yourself, in a fecal sense, for nearly two years? 

IMPACTED: That’s correct. It’ll be two years next month since the last time I defecated, excreted, or dunged.

A. FAILED: Disgusting. Is this for business or pleasure? Or perhaps for some sort of turdish world record?

IMPACTED: (CHUCKLES) If only. No, it all started two summers ago, when I discovered, while sitting on my toilet, of course, that other people were deeply invested in the whens, whys, and hows of my feculence.

A. FAILED: And how did you come to discover this, exactly?

IMPACTED: They told me.

A. FAILED: They told you?

IMPACTED: In a sense.

A. FAILED: In what sense does one possibly communicate that they wish to be involved in another’s bowel movements?

IMPACTED: In the sense that my neighbor at the time stood in their bathroom above mine, along with several of their friends, and began drunkenly commentating and cackling aloud about how they could hear my turdlacious activities. That and the assorted blogs, vlogs, podcasts, commentary tracks, and an illustrated newsletter that they’ve released in the time since.

A. FAILED: Are you sure such voracious fecalphiles didn’t simply find the sound or smell to be amusing? I mean, no need to kink shame these days, right?

IMPACTED: Perhaps. But funny sounds, smells, and sexual deviancy aside, I did find it rather uncomfortable to perform such things without proper compensation.

A. FAILED: Those cheap bastards.

IMPACTED: Cheap bastards, indeed. So, I set out into the world to find a place in which to unburden my butthole, if you will, in relative peace and quiet.

A. FAILED: And that’s what has brought you here to a dark and endless abyss?

IMPACTED: Eventually, yes. I’ve spent countless hours on the toilets of friends and family, squatted above a variety of portable chemical toilets, swam in the waters of Huntington Beach, and even once glimpsed into the vile hauntings and slitherings of a gas station washroom. And yet – and yet! – none manage to provide either the necessary ambiance or lack of microphones and cameras that I prefer when releasing that sloppy, ooey-gooey mess which weighs me down.

A. FAILED: And have you finally found that ambiance and lack of recording equipment?

IMPACTED: Well, I did until you all blipped into existence.

And So, It Comes to This

STEVE: I am a professional recluse.

SOMEONE: (INAUDIBLE SOMETHING OR OTHER)

STEVE: I’m working on a new one right now, actually. I haven’t settled on a title, but I am thinking of calling it, “Does Anybody Else Feel Like Crying All the Time?”

SOMEONE: (INAUDIBLE SOMETHING OR OTHER)

STEVE: If I had to describe it in just one word, it would be, “an introspective, single-act dramedy seeking to uncover the soul-wrenching, fruity, yet creamy center of the eternal question: who are you, and how did you get in here?” (BEAT) Or whatever one word means that.

SOMEONE: (INAUDIBLE SOMETHING OR OTHER)

STEVE: Well… I wanted to challenge myself. See what I could really do, ya know? Could I come up with a minute – just one minute – of original material every night… and waste it. Every second.

PulpBusters

SFX: AN EGG CRACKS OPEN.

STEVE: (VOICE-OVER) Inside every PulpBuster is a raw nugget of partially digested humor.

SFX: NOT ENTIRELY UN-EROTIC SLURPING, LIP SMACKING, AND OTHER MOUTH SOUNDS. UP, UNDER.

STEVE: (VOICE-OVER) Mouthwatering, vomit-inducing, sexually stimulating – PulpBusters are confusing morsels of thought and sound sure to disappoint.

SFX: MILDLY EROTIC VOMITING. UP, UNDER.

STEVE: (VOICE-OVER) This Act Like a Pedantic Twat Day, get the ones you love something special. But for the ones you hate, there’s always PulpBusters.

We’ll Have Nun of That

MOTHER SISTER, A NUN, SUNBATHES WITH A FULL COOLER OF BEER. FATHER BROTHER, A PRIEST, ENTERS.

FATHER: Good morning, Mother Sister.

MOTHER: Good morning, Father Brother.

FATHER: Do you happen to have any more of those domestic infants in stock?

MOTHER: Oh, dear. Who talked to the papers this time?

FATHER: No, no. It’s not that sort of thing.

MOTHER: Thank Heavens.

FATHER: No, there’s been another baptismal drowning.

MOTHER: Again?

FATHER: Afraid so.

MOTHER: When did this happen? How are the parents?

FATHER: Just a moment ago, actually. (GESTURES) The parents are still waiting. They think I’ve gone to the toilet. So, I’m in a bit of a hurry. If you’re out of stock, any of the younger orphans should do.

MOTHER: You can’t just swap that dead baby for another one.

FATHER: Why not?

MOTHER: The parents might notice.

FATHER: Don’t be ridiculous.

MOTHER: It’s true. I saw it in a documentary.

FATHER: What documentary?

MOTHER: (CONSIDERS THIS) I forget.

FATHER: Well. It’s still worth a try. So, do you have any you can spare?

MOTHER: Yes, I think so. But I can’t help feeling this is a bit wrong.

FATHER: Wrong?

MOTHER: Yes. Sinful, even. (GESTURES) He’s watching, you know.

FATHER: Who’s watching?

MOTHER: God, of course.

FATHER: (SCOFFS) Come now, Mother Sister. No need to bring religion into this.

MOTHER: Fair enough.

FATHER: Besides. Where in the Bible does it say a nun or a priest can’t replace one drowned child for a different, less unalive one for the sake of skirting responsibilities? Hmm?

MOTHER: I’m sure it’s in there somewhere. It’s a fairly big book.

FATHER: Yes, well, I’ve skimmed through the admittedly large book, and I’m mostly certainly there’s nothing of the sort in there.

MOTHER: Feels like a strange oversight, doesn’t it?

FATHER: It does.

MOTHER: (SIGHS) Oh, alright.

FATHER: Wonderful.

MOTHER: Any particular make or model in mind?

FATHER: Whatever’s fresh. Nothing too ripe.

MOTHER: I think I know just the one.

I Say Potato, You Say Potato

STEVE: My grandmother was a very warm-blooded, carbon-based organism capable of thought, speech, and a few other tricks. She’s long dead, thankfully. But she was the one who taught me – with no small amount of physical violence, mind you – how to properly peel and prep potatoes.

STEVE GRABS A LARGE SACK OF LIVE, TITTERING POTATOES.

Now, Grandma always insisted they had to be freshly caught and alive potatoes. And while my PTSD and regular flashbacks ensure I’m not a fan of canned or frozen – nor capable of walking down either of those aisles at the supermarket without breaking down into uncontrollable tears, if you would be so kind as to allow me to overshare – feel free to make do with whatever’s on hand.

That said. What you do is grab hold of one by the husk, like so…

STEVE REACHES INTO BAG, GRABS POTATO.

There we are…

POTATO HISSES.

Then you sort of deshell it, like this…

STEVE CRACKS, SNAPS, BREAKS POTATO CARAPACE. POTATO SCREAMS LITTLE SCREAMS.

And once you’ve asserted dominance and instilled fear in the rest of the bag through this ruthless, blood-thirsty display, the rest will mash, boil, bake, or fry with the greatest of ease.

But, as a final warning, do be sure to keep an eye on your potatoes. They are, of course, capable of holding a grudge across several generations, and likely to return in greater numbers if allowed to escape and procreate.

Thank you, and please, leave me alone.

What in the Silent H?

A COLLEGE LECTURE HALL. PROFESSOR JIGGLE NIPPLESON SPEAKS. THEIR ASSISTANT SITS ON A NEARBY STOOL, DRESSED IN A SILLY COSTUME.

PROFESSOR: Good evening, class. I am Professor Jiggle Nippleson, and welcome to tonight’s special lecture on subverting expectations. (GESTURES) Aiding me tonight is my assistant, Craigbert. (TO ASSISTANT) All set, Craigbert?

ASSISTANT: (NODS) I think so.

PROFESSOR: Wonderful.

PROFESSOR SHOOTS ASSISTANT DEAD.

AN UNCOMFORTABLE SILENCE. THEN…

Now. As you can see, Craigbert never even suspected that I would casually execute them without hesitation.

CLASS OOHS AND AAHS AS THEY SLOWLY GET IT.

You might be asking yourself, “Is Craigbert really dead?”… or, “Can I learn to do this myself?”… or perhaps, “Do they have a book I can buy?”

The answer to all those questions, I’m happy to tell you, is “yes.” Yes, I do have a book you can buy, and it is very, very expensive.

CLASS CHEERS.

Clitorian Plating

STEVE: The other day, I overheard someone sharing their rather strong distaste for fictional jargon in genres like fantasy and science fiction. As opposed to real fantasy and science-fiction jargon, of course.

This person was otherwise perfectly fine with the Turgiddians committing acts of genocide across entire quadrants. And they certainly took no issue with Flaccidites being a thinly-veiled racist caricature of Romanians, with their large middle-toes, hairy elbows, and ability to shapeshift into puddles of water.

But call the thing where you pull a trigger, it goes “pew-pew,” and concentrated bits of light kill anything standing in front of it a “four-knuckled hashtagger with a huckleberry suppressor and clitorian plating,” and all believability is lost.

Aliens and interdimensional beings are perfectly acceptable, but only so long as they speak American.

Right Step, Wrong Foot

A REPORTER SPEAKERS TO US LIVE FROM A SMALL FAMILY BARBECUE IN A PARK.

REPORTER: (TO AUDIENCE) Good evening. I’m A. Work of Fiction, and welcome to the biggest mistake of my life.

Our top story tonight: a local family is shocked, sickened, and shamed by the startling revelation that I’ve shit my pants.

EVERYONE SNEERS, GAGS, DISPERSES.

Who am I? Where did I come from? And what compels an otherwise healthy, grown adult to defecate – publicly – in their pants – and at a family barbecue, of all places.

WIFE: (CONCERNED) Honey? Is everything… (SMELLS IT) (GAGS) Oh, my god…

REPORTER: (TO AUDIENCE) Joining me tonight is my wife, Insert Name Here, in her first public appearance since learning I’ve shit my pants.

WIFE: (DISGUSTED) What is wrong with you?

REPORTER: (TO WIFE) I hate your father. I always have.

WIFE: (GETS IT) Oh. Well… (SHRUGS) Be sure to clean up when you’re finished.

WIFE WALKS AWAY.

REPORTER: (TO AUDIENCE) I’m A. Work of Fiction, continuing to shit their pants live from my Father-in-Law’s retirement party. We now return you to another complete waste of time.

One Job

STEVE FORMALLY, YET FORMALLY ADDRESSES THE LISTENER.

STEVE: Dear Reader… This is a bit embarrassing to admit. But it has recently come to my attention that I simply couldn’t be assed to write a sketch.

For some, this will come as a bit of a surprise. And I assure you, you will soon learn precisely how foolish you were for doubting how astoundingly stupid I am.

Others, however, are judgmental bastards who obviously know me quite well, actually.

In either case, I’m afraid it still works out, more or less, to be a complete waste of time.

STEVE TOOTS A LITTLE HORN.

Trim

The girl sat in a chair in the kitchen of a small house in an unincorporated corner of Anaheim, a bed sheet tied around her neck. Polyps stretched and reached from the pores on her face, the skin there twitching and pulling taut. Their slender tendrils writhing, flicking, and teasing at thin slits of light slipping in from where the curtains were drawn and pinned shut. And a boy, not much younger than the girl, stood across from her, a pair of his mother’s scissors trembling in his chubby fist.

“I think this is going to hurt,” the boy said.

The girl nodded. “Yeah. Do it.”

Tearing Me Apart (Sam)

DENA: I still have this picture of us from that day. See? That’s the three of us, sitting on the sand a little bit out that way. Cassi is the one on the left, Sam’s the brunette in her swimsuit. And that’s me, sitting on a bit of driftwood. It’s been… God, it’ll be fifteen years this summer. I’m older now than Sam ever was. Has it really been that long?

We, uh… We were all coworkers. We all worked at [REDACTED]. Remember those? (LAUGHS) I guess I’m showing my age. But, uh… Cassi and I, we were both just kids then – we went to the same college, actually. Sam was a bit older than the two of us, but you couldn’t really tell by the way she acted. The two of them worked together for a bit before I came along. I transferred to that location a little less than a year before that photo was taken.

(SIGHS) If we only knew…

I’m sorry. It’s… It’s been a long time, but it hasn’t. Ya know?

Umm…

A SILENCE.

Anyway. The three of us were close, I guess. We talked a lot. We even went out for drinks after work, especially if we all got stuck working the night shift on a Friday or Saturday. You start doing that, you get to talking and sharing. Sometimes a little bit more than you probably should. Sam shared – a lot. But she never said much about her husband. With everything she told us, Cassi and I knew Sam like a sister or a… or, her gynecologist. Ya know? I knew more about her body than my own. I knew the name of her high school boyfriend – that I still remember. But I couldn’t tell you her husband’s name.

One night while we’re locking up, Cassi asks Sam why she’s been looking so tired all the time lately. And that’s when Sam told us her husband left her.

An hour later, we’re drinking and talking. And Sam tells us how she found all these messages and photos on her husband’s phone. They were watching TV, and he left to use the toilet. And he just left his phone there, with all this opened up for anyone to see – he was that checked out. And as she’s looking at all this, he comes back and sees her looking at all this. And she said that’s when he told her he was leaving. Just like that. He said that, turned around, packed a bunch of his things, and walked out. She hadn’t seen or heard from him since.

The three of us didn’t work together for a while after that. It was just the way the schedule came out, I guess. At one point, Cassi got to thinking Sam had asked not to work with us anymore. But I don’t think Sam would have done that.

After a few weeks, maybe even a couple of months, we all worked the same Friday night together. Cassi got there first. And as I’m clocking in, we both see Sam walk through the door, looking like the living dead. She must have lost twenty pounds in just a few weeks. Her hair looked thinner. We asked if she was feeling sick, and she just sort of waved at us and said it was a bit of food poisoning.

I don’t remember who suggested the beach first, if it was Cassi or me. It was warming up lately and we’d been throwing the idea around for a while, but our schedules hadn’t lined up in forever. But at some point that night, Cassi looks at the schedule and sees we all have that Saturday off. So, she and I start talking about maybe going to the beach first thing in the morning. A minute later, Cassi shouts across the store, “Hey, Sammy! You wanna see me in my bikini tomorrow morning?”

Sam said, “No,” actually. (LAUGHS) But, uh… Cassi eventually convinced her. Somehow.

A SILENCE.

I only saw Sam two more times after that day at the beach. This is the way I like to remember her.

Sam emailed us that and a bunch of other photos later that same night. She was so happy to use this expensive looking camera of hers, with all these lenses and accessories. The way she ran all over the sand and tide pools, snapping a photo of the waves and seagulls and starfish, you’d never think anything was wrong. Like, everything that had been pulling her in every direction let go all at once. Even if only for that morning. She didn’t even realize she’d cut her foot on something until after she sent the photos.

I didn’t see Sam again for another week, but Cassi worked with her that Tuesday. Cassi actually called me up during their shift, asking me to keep an eye on Sam, telling me how Sam somehow looked worse than ever, that she was hobbling around on one foot and complaining about an infection on the other. By the time I saw it on Friday, the skin above her ankle was all red and tender, with these blistering sores that oozed and stuck to her socks. Sam said she was taking antibiotics and left it at that.

I was scheduled to work with Sam two nights later, but she never showed.

A week passed before anyone started asking questions. Two weeks passed before Cassi and I agreed to visit Sam’s apartment after work.

Sam lived in this cute little one-bedroom with her husband, just a block away from the store we all worked at. (LAUGHS) It was a five minute walk, but she still drove every day.

We knocked and knocked at her door until one of Sam’s neighbors stepped out and told us nobody had been in or out lately. They figured she’d run off or something. But the way they described Sam… they said she was a loud girl, always fighting with her boyfriend. Even after he’d left, they still heard Sam crying and screaming day and night. But now it’d been silent for a day or so.

We, uh… Cassi, that is – she managed to get us into Sam’s apartment.

A SILENCE.

It was dark. Very dark. All the lights were off, the curtains were drawn and pinned shut. And warm, so very warm with the way the doors and windows were closed up. But the smell… It smelled like dead fish and sea water. You could hear the hot water running from every faucet – in the kitchen, in the… in the, uh…

I threw up immediately, just as soon as Cassi opened the door and that thick, moist wall hit me in the face like a brick.

Cassi went in ahead. A minute later, I heard her screaming.

The carpet was so wet I almost slipped while walking down the hall to her bedroom. I remember that too. I took out this little setup she had there, with these photos of her dog and sister and mom. Knocked all of that to the ground.

But, uh…

Jesus.

(HEAVY SIGH)

There was… blood… blood and, uh, rotting flesh. Everywhere. The carpet, the walls. Like it had melted and dripped all over the place.

(SOBS)

I’m sorry. I just…

No. No, I’m okay.

(BREATHES)

Cassi is just… She’s screaming in Sam’s bedroom. Screaming and screaming and screaming. And it’s so hot and wet everywhere. And I’m still trying to catch my balance. I had to throw my shoes away after that, they were just soaked and caked in all of the, uh… They were ruined. Just ruined.

But I get into the bedroom, and there’s this leg on the floor. Like, just sitting there. Right there on the carpet by the bed, like it had fallen off in her sleep. Like it had melted off.

And then we looked in the bathroom.

Uh…

(NERVOUS LAUGHTER)

I turned on the light, and we found her. We found Sam.

(EXHALES)

Most of Sam was floating there in the tub, in this… (SNIFFS) this soupy mess of salt water, blood, and, uh… (CLEARS THROAT) and everything else. One of her arms was missing from the shoulder down. The other was a half-melted glob of goo. And her… Her other leg was floating in a puddle on the tile.

I remember screaming, and then not much after that.

A SILENCE.

I still dream of that day on the beach. It’s the rest I wish I could forget.

IT’S OVER

Dougs in Space

DOUG, A DEPRESSINGLY BLAND, YET SOMEHOW LIKABLE-ISH MAN, SITS ATOP A TOILET.

HOST: (VOICE-OVER) Douglas Anderson, fictional character and depressed alcoholic, never left California in his thirty-seven years of existence.

DOUG BECOMES UNCOMFORTABLY AWARE OF HOST… AND US.

In his college days, Doug traveled as far north as Stockton for a one-week training seminar after accidentally acquiring a job at a car rental company.

DOUG REMINISCES.

He also visited San Diego on several occasions, though he wasn’t particularly fond of it.

DOUG: (SCOFFS)

HOST: (VOICE-OVER) When pressed for a reason why he felt this way about an entire city, Doug only ever averted his eyes and curled his lip.

DOUG: (GROWLS)

HOST: (VOICE-OVER) He even once had plans to visit Vegas.

DOUG SMILES A SAD LITTLE SMILE.

It was to be a celebration of his twenty-first birthday with a group of his closest friends. The culmination of a lifelong bond forged through the crucible of childhood and, in once case, a brief stint in juvenile hall. Unfortunately for Doug, he had the misfortune of falling ill with a mild cold mere days before.

DOUG: (GROANS)

HOST: (VOICE-OVER) And rather than risk getting anyone else sick, he took the headache and stuffy nose as a sign from the Universe to stay home. Doug would never see the neon lights of the Las Vegas Strip, nor the many fliers and pamphlets for adult entertainment that line it.

DOUG HANGS HIS HEAD, SIGHS A SAD LITTLE SIGH.

That said. Try to imagine Doug’s surprise when, without warning, he found himself ripped from atop his toilet, sent crashing up and through the ceiling of the converted garage he rented in Santa Ana from a kindly old woman named Gloria for five-hundred dollars a month, and then hurled by some unseen force into orbit.

DOUG INEXPLICABLY LAUNCHES INTO SPACE.

DOUG: (YELPS)

HOST: (VOICE-OVER) Despite the arguments that invariably arise whenever the wholesale abandonment of Douglas Anderson by physics itself is brought up in conversation, Doug was neither frightened nor quick to make some sarcastic, witty remark with his final breath. Instead, he welcomed his end with open arms. And his final thought before finding himself shredded to pieces by a passing stream of space debris, located somewhere between Newport and the moon, was this: “Dreams really do come true.”

Gloria, unfortunately, passed away several months after Doug’s ejection from the planet Earth. With Doug gone, there was nobody home on Wednesday afternoons. Thus, there was nobody around to hold the chair steady for Gloria as she refilled the bird feeder in her garden. Her body was found several weeks later by her son, Tito, who had stopped by in the hopes of borrowing fifty dollars until he started his new job.

TITO ENTERS WITH TOUR GROUP.

Tito currently operates and manages daily tours of the Doug-sized hole left behind in his mother’s garage.

TITO POINTS, TOUR GROUP OOHS, AAHS, AND SNAPS PHOTOS.

IT’S OVER

Brixby

ANONYMOUS: Mr. Brixby stepped out for his nightly smoke at a little past one in the morning. Fifteen minutes later, I’m watching him get his arms plucked off behind a dumpster.

I’d been working at the El Dorado for about two, three years by that point. I was hired to cover the swing shift a few nights a week, then it just sort of took over my whole life. Eventually, they had me working mornings and graveyard so often that it felt like I lived there as much as everyone else.

Mr. Brixby was what we called a “long-term resident.” Most of our guests were. Not that there were ever many guests for much of the year. Not outside the summer tourists. It wasn’t exactly anyone’s first-choice. And the ones who stuck around weren’t exactly there by choice, if you get what I mean. Mr. Brixby was one of those. He said he was there for work, but I don’t think any of us knew what he actually did for a living. But he was a nice guy. Paid his rent on time. Loved to talk about the latest tech toy he’d picked up somewhere. This one time, he came back from wherever with this 3D camcorder. Remember those?

Anyway. When he wasn’t out doing whatever it is he did when he wasn’t there, Mr. Brixby was usually in his room. The only time he ever stepped out before morning was for his nightly smoke. In fact, he was in a smoking room. Had been the whole time he lived there. So, I never understood why he always stepped out to smoke in the parking lot, same time every night. I’d say it was for the fresh air, but…

When I worked graveyard, I’d empty out the lobby trash cans and join him. We’d just talk about his latest toy, movies. Not the most stimulating conversation, I guess. But his weed was great. And plentiful.

The night it all happened, I was working graveyard. And I saw Mr. Brixby step out that night too, same time, same way. But before I could get to all the cans and join him, this couple came stumbling in, belching and farting something about needing a room for the night. If they hadn’t been so drunk, I wouldn’t have taken so long to get out there. Or maybe I should’ve just told them to kick rocks – it wouldn’t have been the first time. And I think about that a lot, ya know. If I had just gotten out there sooner, maybe, uh, Mr. Brixby wouldn’t…

Anyway. I get out there some fifteen minutes later, and I don’t see Mr. Brixby anywhere. His car’s parked back there. Not even a whiff of smoke. Just me, a bunch of dripping garbage bags, and a dark, empty lot.

So, I go to the dumpster.

SILENCE.

Working graveyard at a motel, you see your fair share of freaks and crazy shit. I’ve seen people hiding in other people’s rooms. I’ve been threatened by people meth’d out of their mind. We even got cursed once, this family we kicked out laid out these weird, I dunno… markings? They drew markings in salt at the front entrance as they left with all their shit. But you never expect to see a man being…

(SIGHS) I know what the cops and papers said, but it wasn’t some coyote. I was there, not them. I saw them. And, look. I know it sounds how it sounds. But there were two… At first, I thought it was a couple of homeless guys digging in the dumpster. It happens. But…

One of them was holding Mr. Brixby there by the arm, twisting it, and he’s got Mr. Brixby doubled over on his knees, like this. And his eyes are screaming – I see his eyes looking at me looking at him, and I can see they’re screaming – but nothing’s coming out his mouth. And the other one is there, just off to the side, eating Mr. Brixby’s other arm. Just gnawing and tearing away at it like, uh… like one of those big turkey legs you get at the fair.

And then, I screamed.

The cops showed up not long after. One of our other guests must have heard me out there screaming and called. But by the time they got there, those two… I told the police the same thing I told the papers, and somehow they turned it into a story about a coyote attack. But I told them I saw two homeless men attacking Mr. Brixby and that they both took off running, over the fence and into the river trail.

Truth is, I don’t know what I saw that night. Or maybe I know exactly what I saw, and I can’t even admit it to myself. But whatever I saw, I guess my screaming scared them off. And I did see where they went. But they didn’t run. And they didn’t head for the river trail.

SILENCE.

My family didn’t exactly live in the best part of town when I was growing up. I still don’t, really. It was never bad, but… This is an old town. There’s a lot of the old sewer lines and drainage running beneath any given block, ya know? So even in the nicest house on the nicest street, you’re likely to find a cockroach here and there – those big ones that look like they could run off with a small dog if it tried. They crawl out of the sink, out of the bathtub. Had one climb out of our toilet once. When I screamed, those things dropped what was left of Mr. Brixby, fluttered these fleshy flaps or wings on their back, and scurried down an old storm drain. I don’t know how, but they… squeezed and slipped right down through that small hole. (SNAPS FINGERS) Just like that.

Just like that.

IT’S OVER