The Man Who Made Pigs Fly

pigs_fly

Interview with Albert Coughlin

Location: Washington, D.C.

Date: Tuesday, July 25, 2031

COLLINS: Alright Albert, why don’t we just dive right in–oh, I mean, why don’t we get started here. Can you tell our readers what drove you to do this? There are so many theories out there and we can’t begin to cover them all.

ALBERT COUGHLIN: Hm–theories, huh? like what?

COLLINS: oh, some are quite juicy. Some say you did it because of a woman.

ALBERT COUGHLIN: Oh–wouldn’t that be sweet. No–unfortunately it was not for anything so romantic. No, I just always thought, how could I truly change the world. Be remembered, forever.

COLLINS: well, you’ve certainly done that but–

ALBERT COUGHLIN: Yes, well, that was really it. I knew that I had to do something important with my life, something no one has ever done.

COLLINS: How long will the pigs be up there?

ALBERT COUGHLIN: the craft is self-sustaining. And, now that it’s in orbit, it will stay there up for quite some time. We’ve made a whole ecosystem in there so that the pigs can eat and live comfortable lives. We don’t want them to live poor lives just because they are part of our experiment do we?

COLLINS: Oh, no–of course not. So, you’ve received quite a lot of criticism. You are considered to be one of the smartest if not the smartest man born in over a century. Many people believe you’ve wasted your intellect for the sake of a prank.

ALBERT COUGHLIN: A prank, how so?

COLLINS: Well, with the amount of money you’ve spent making pigs fly, you could have done a lot of good for the world. Actually there is the website, have you seen it?

ALBERT COUGHLIN: I don’t spend much time on the internet if I’m honest.

COLLINS: It calculates the amount of people you could have fed with the amount of money you’ve spent. I think it’s climbed to over three-hundred-million. What do you think about that?

ALBERT COUGHLIN: Ms. Collins, history is full of geniuses who wasted their lives trying to prevent hunger, pain–and even sillier, death. I have shown people that truly nothing is impossible by–look, I don’t need to defend myself. Not to you–anyone.

COLLINS: of course, my apologies. Of course. So, what do you think you’ll do next? I’ve placed a bet that you’re on your way to hell with a giant bucket of ice. Can you give me the inside scoop?

ALBERT COUGHLIN: I think we’ve covered everything we need to cover.

COLLINS: of course, yes. Thank you for joining us. This has been JANE COLLINS at ABCNS with Albert Coughlin, CEO of Coughlin Enterprises, the man who made pigs fly.

The Drunk Collar

yesterday's

I sit at the bar alone. It is a Tuesday. It isn’t late, it isn’t early. The sun has been hanging around later these days, yet the wind is still at war with the warmth, so I take my jacket out with me to smoke.

A man is there, speaking English into his phone. Something about an apology. He puts two fingers to his lips, looking my way. I pass him a cigarette. He cringes as he places it in his mouth as though he’s taken it from the lit end. He turns away.

I find him later, in the bar, also alone.

“Hey man,” I say. He gives me a funny look.

“You’re American?” he asks.

I nod.

“You like Trump?”

I sigh. “Honestly don’t care.”

He frowns. “That’s worse.”

“Oh well. You?”

“Do I like trump?”

“No, where are you from?”

He seems to think about it a moment.

“England,” he decides. He doesn’t sound English.

“Mind if I?”

He takes his jacket off the chair beside him. I sit.

“So,” he says, “why don’t you care about trump–ah!”

His face jolts into a grimace.

I lean away, confused.

“Sorry,” he mumbles. He taps his neck. I look and notice a thin strip of metal around it.

“What the hell is that?”

He slips a finger under it, itching. “Drunk collar,” he says, as though it is a thing.

“Excuse me?”

“You haven’t heard of them?”

I shake my head.

“Ah, well, you take them out when you go drinking. You can program them to shock you whenever you do something you wouldn’t normally do sober.”

“Uh-huh.”

He laughs. “No, I know, it sounds absurd. My wife got me hooked on it. It helps. You make more friends, and when you do, you keep them.”

I look at the collar again. It doesn’t look too fancy.

“How do you program it?” I ask.

He pulls out his phone.

“There is an app.” He turns the phone to me. “This is my list.”

driving

eating chicken wings past 10PM

touching female strangers

fighting

texting ex-girlfriends

smoking

arguing about politics

public urinat–

He puts his phone back in his pocket before I can finish the list.

“Anyways, it’s a long one.”

“I see.”

“But really man, how could you people elect Trump–AH,” he grits through the pain.

I shy away from him a bit. “Look, I don’t like talking about politics, like, ever. And, well, you seem to know it’s a bad idea.”

He shakes his head, knocking away the pain. “My wife made this list with my damn mother-in-law,” he growls.

“I’m sorry?”

He seems to calm down a bit.

“It’s fine. I just don’t understand you Americans.”

I shrug. “You don’t have to. Not sure we do.”

He takes his drink down in one.

“I’m off to piss,” he says. Then his face twists into knots.

“Not right here!” he cries at his collar. It calms down, he sighs and heads for the bathroom.

 

 

 

The Rom-com App

Монтажная область 1

The slideshow for John’s wedding ends. His mother is weeping. His grandmother, doubly so, holds her. I head for the bar. John finds me.

“What’d you think?”

I pour myself a glass of something brown.

“Hm, yeah, it is was good.”

“Pour me one of those?”

“Yeah.” I do. I take mine down in one.

I begin pouring another.

“Okay, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

John laughs. “You only drink like that when something is wrong.”

I take my next glass down in one. “No, I don’t.”

“Look, it’s okay to be upset.”

“Not upset.”

“You weren’t in the slideshow.”

I don’t say anything.

John nods; understanding, nauseating.

“Look, it’s just odd,” I mutter.

“What?”

“The best man somehow not being in a single photo. I could have sworn–it doesn’t matter. It’s your wedding, I’m being a child.”

I go to take the next glass down in one, pause. I take a sip.

“Look, it’s this app Karen used.”

I look sideways at him.

“What?”

“Look.”

He pulls out his phone, slides it over to me. I pick it up. It’s dead.

“Ah, shit.” He snatches it back. I take down the rest of my drink. This time, John pours my next.

“Anyways, it’s called the rom-com app.”

I choke on a laugh, cough on a sip. “What the shit is a rom-com app?”

John looks awkward.

“It just, well, anything you take a picture of, it just cuts out anything that might be negative. You know, so like, all your memories are perfect or whatever. I don’t know Karen explains it better. And well,” he pauses, looking for the right words.

He doesn’t find them.

“You have a sad face,” he decides.

This time the laugh comes out unhindered.

“A sad face?”

“A bit. I was furious when I saw it. I even called the company. They said fixing them could distort the pictures we already have and well–”

“Yeah, I get it.”

I take my drink down in one. It hits me in the back of the eyes. John pats me on the back.

“Boys!”

We both turn. Karen stands pointing her phone at us.

“Smile!”

John holds up his hand.

“Not now Karen,” he says, serious.

“Oh,” Karen holsters her phone. “You told him.”

She gives me a truly empathetic smile.

“Aw,” she says, walking up, slipping her arms around me.

“Don’t be sad.”

 

Thanatophobia

parental

Tom sat watching the television, pencil in one hand, notebook on the knee.

ICE CREAM

He wrote at the top of the page in big block letters. He looked back at the screen. The version of himself trod along the street listening to something in his headphones.

The Tom on the couch turned up the volume. The song became more clear.

DAVID BOWIE LIFE ON MARS

He bounced his knee as he watched. It was sudden, as it sometimes is. The version of himself on the television looked up, then, he was flatten. The sound reverberated around Tom’s living room. Tom turned down the volume. He stared at the body of himself, his chest under one wheel. He looked around on the screen for any more clues. He hurried to write BLUE MINI-VAN before the screen went back to home.

“No Potential deaths,” it informed him. He sighed and leaned back into the couch. He closed his eyes a moment before snapping up. He looked at his watch. He picked up his phone. He dialed.

“Carol?”

“Yes?” his wife answered.

“You’re late.”

She sighed on the other end. “I’m often late Tom, I’m a lawyer, we do things.”

“Did you watch your channel this morning?”

His wife breathed into the other end of the phone, frustrated.

“Tom—“

“Did you watch it?”

“I’m hanging up Tom.”

“Carol, how—“ Tom tried, but the line went dead. Tom stood up, fuming.

“Idiot,” he growled to himself. He tried calling a few more times, but Carol didn’t pick up. He texted her: You have to watch it. If you don’t, who knows what could happen. Please, do it for me.

Tom’s phone lit up, ringing. He answered.

“Carol?”

“Tom, seriously? You are texting me while I am driving around to nag me about not checking if I’ll die. That is such hypocrisy!”

“I just want you to be careful,” Tom moaned.

“Look, I’m not going to spend every day obsessing over this, they are possibilities Tom, it says it on the damn box. Just, please, let me have a relaxing drive home bef—AHH!”

Tom’s heart froze. His face went numb.

“Carol?”

“Carol!”

“No, no, no,” Tom groaned, “Carol?”

Carol started breathing into the other end of the phone.

“Tom,” she whispered.

“Carol, oh god, are you okay?”

“I’m messing with you Tom, get a grip, please. I’ll be home in five minutes.”

The line went dead. Tom stared at his phone a moment before throwing it across the room. Not angry, revolted. He turned to the TV.

“One New Potential Death,” It told him. Tom hesitated. Then, he picked up the pencil and notebook and sat down.

He took up the remote, he sighed, he hit play.

 

 

Time Travel Inc. – Tech Support

The call center of Time Travel Inc. is easily the most dull part of the building.

“At least we’ve got a good view,” Mark says, staring out the window. The crowd of protestors holler insults back at him. Mark gives them the finger.

“Don’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“It’s rude.”

Mark laughs. “That is a shit reason.” He makes a face out the window.

“Look at that one,” he says.

I sigh. “Which one?”

“That big fat one on the ground.”

I peer out.

“Oh, the one with the sign that says ‘when will my son matter?’”

Mark sighs. “You’re no fun.”

The phone rings. I answer it.

“It isn’t working!” a shrill old voice cries on the other end.

I cringe. “What isn’t working?”

“The machine! It won’t work.”

“Is it plugged in ma’am?” I ask.

There is a pause. Then, “of course it is, you shmuck. I’m old, not retarded.”

“Please, ma’am. My apologies. What is the problem?”

The woman on the other end takes a breath. “I’ve been trying to go back to my grandson’s graduation and it isn’t letting me. It keeps saying ERROR, over and over.”

“Mhm, okay, have you tried to go back to that time and place before?”

“Are you retarded?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Well, either you think I’m retarded and can’t read, or you are retarded and can’t listen to words properly.”

“Ma’am, there is no reason for impropriety, I am just asking the usual questions. So, you want to see your son’s graduation?”

Grandsons!”

“Yes, sorry, and when did this graduation happen?”

The woman on the other end stays silent a moment.

“You think you’re clever, don’t you?” she says.

“I’m sorry?”

“You think it was within the past six months and I am just a stupid old lady who doesn’t know the laws? You think I’m an idiot.”

“No—I,” I try to finish. It’s no use.

“No, you shut your mouth. I’ve had this machine for years. I know how it works. I know how to read. And write too, imagine that! And I tell you your machine is malfunctioning and you sit there assuming this poor old lady must not understand time travel. Well you can’t go ahead and let me talk to your manager then.”

“Ma’am,”

“Manager!” she cuts me off.

“Please hold a moment.” I put her on hold and look up at Mark. He is smiling.

“Well, she sounds lovely.”

I take a deep breath and stand up. I walk to Henry’s office. Door is open. I knock on the frame. Henry looks up.

“A woman on the phone. Wants to see her son’s graduation.”

Henry smiles at the look on my face. “One of those?” he says.

I nod.

“I’ll take care of it.”

“Line three.”

“Got it.”

“He picks up the phone.”

I walk to the lounge and pour myself a coffee.

“I hate my fucking job,” I whisper to my coffee. I take a seat and sip away, wondering where everything went wrong. A minute later Henry walks in.

“Ah, there you are.”

He sits down.

“So?” I ask.

“She’d been there before. Three months ago. Had to send her the travel record,” he smiles. He looks at my coffee.

“Telling your coffee you hate your fucking job again?” He raises an eyebrow.

I shift uncomfortably in my chair.

He laughs, “there are cameras everywhere.”

“I—“

He holds up a hand. He leans forward. He looks right at my coffee.

“I hate my fucking job,” he tells it.

Sympathy for G.O.L.E.M.

 

 

(Finale of six-day series — Sympathy)

I wake up on a table. It is cold. I am cold. I look down. I am naked. The door opens. A woman walks in.

“Hello,” she says with a peaceable smile.

I cover up as much as I can with my hands. I frown at her.

“Who the hell are you?”

The woman shrugs. It’s a beautiful shrug; soft, careless, confident. Why the hell am I naked, I think.

She has a gun strapped to her side. She leans against the wall.

“You are a mess, huh?” she asks.

I look down at myself.

“I haven’t been to the gym lately,” I mutter. She laughs. It sounds like an alarm.

“I meant, the mess you’re in, to be fair, you’re taking it all rather well.”

I make a face. “Things have gotten a bit weird in my life lately.”

She nods. “I can see that,” she says, looking at my stomach.

“Who the hell are you?” I demand, feeling a burst of emotion.

“Golem, or, well, part of it,” she says, “Gentiles for the elimination of Hitler in every manifestation.”

I frown. “That doesn’t make sense.”

She shrugs, “oh well. It doesn’t have to, as long as you get the point.”

I nod slowly, “you kill Hitlers?”

She nods.

“In all dimensions?”

She nods. “You’re clever,” she pauses, frowns, then adds, “enough.”

“And you’re here for, my —“ I cough, “the Hitler, inside of me.”

“Bingo-bango.”

“What about Slick? And Butch and, wait, Larry? He is Hitler too!”

The woman only nods.

“Do you have my cigarettes?” I ask.

The woman reaches into her pocket and pulls out my pack and a lighter. She tosses them to me. I light one and sit up.

“I suppose a don’t have a choice?” I say.

She laughs. It goes on too long to be real. It stops too suddenly.

“No,” she says simply.

“And my friends?”

“We have them. After we remove the abomination, you’ll all be sent home.”

I smoke the cigarette to the filter. The woman watches.

“What if I won’t let you?” I ask, more out of curiosity.

I immediately regret it; I’m tired of getting hit in the face. Oh well.

I wake up around the kitchen table back in my apartment. N and M are talking about Radiohead.

“The hell?” I mutter, scratching dried spit from my beard. They turn to me.

“Hey!” they cry. I stare at them. They are both blind drunk.

My head hurts, my stomach, worse.

“It was so messed up,” M slurs which N nods. “They, like, dude, they like killed all the Hitlers. It was sick. An not like good sick, messed up sick.”

N nods, slowly.

I reach over and take what’s left of the whiskey down in a gulp.

N stands up and walks to the spot between the sink and fridge. He waves his hand in the open air. He shrugs and comes back to sit.

“You alright?” he asks.

I nod, slowly.

“No, not a bit.”

Then, a popping sound. We all turn. Slick steps into the kitchen from between the sink and fridge.

He smiles.

A bullet blows through his head like a car forgetting to stop.

Golem walks and stands over Slick’s body. She turns.

“Hey, you.”

She smiles

N waves with two fingers. M passes out drunk on the table. I throw up, just a little.

Golem nudges Slick with her boot. She chuckles.

“You alright?”

I shake my head.

“I wanted to apologize.” She says the last word through her teeth.

“Your child was a girl so, it seems we made a mistake. She has been put into the body of a healthier host who will deliver her and she will become one of us. She will be well cared for.  Thought I should come tell you in person.”

She looks again to Slick.

“Lucky I did, eh?”

I try to nod. Instead, my mouth falls open a little bit.

Golem takes a deep, first-day-of-spring, breath. She grabs Slick by the boot. She drags him back through the sink and fridge.

There is a pop. And that’s the last of it all.

 

THE END

Sympathy for Clones

(Part 5 of six day series)

“What they hell do you mean Golem?” I ask Slick, pinned to the wall. I feel so angry I might cry. Then, I do. I cry as Slick loses air between my fingers.

M pulls me off of him.

“It’s okay,” he says.

I try to respond but all I feel is a great wall of poison in my chest that needs to be released. I sit down in the corner and compose myself. The tears find their bottom and I stop shaking. I feel hungry.

“What do you guys have to eat?” I ask Slick. Slick adjusts himself, rubbing his neck.

I can tell he is fighting back anger. I don’t care.

“What would you like?” he growls.

I think for a moment. “Pancakes?”

Slick nods. I hold my hand out to N. “Help me up.”

He frowns at me, grabbing my hand, he pulls me up.

“You hate pancakes,” he says. Thinking about it, he’s right, but, I want them none the less.

“So?”

He shrugs. Slick leads us to a dingy kitchen.

“Have a seat in there,” he says, motioning through a door.

Through the door is a cafeteria. It looks post-apocalyptic. I instinctively look into the corners for zombies or some other incarnation of the devil. I only find dirt.

We sit at a table. N leans forward, and whispers, “golems?”

M lights a cigarette, “we need to get out of here,” he says, simply.

N nods.

“I just want some damn pancakes. Oh, and by the way,” I point at my stomach. “I don’t suppose either of you know how to deliver a baby through, you know, a penis?”

They don’t respond.

“That’s what I thought. So—“

There is a crash from the floor above. Then, gunshots. Slick pops his head out of the kitchen.

“Don’t move,” he says, then, awkwardly, gives us a thumbs up. He disappears out the door.

N puts his face in his hands.

“I’m going to die here,” he moans, then, starts talking to himself in Russian. Gunshots continue above us. Someone screams; the sound of death knocking. Then, nothing, silence.

There are footsteps. The kitchen door bangs open. Slick stands there. Blood is spattered over his apron. He gives us another thumbs up.

“Pancakes almost ready,” he says. He turns back into the kitchen.

Later, laying on a rickety old cot, I think. It hurts. I roll over. M sleeps peacefully in the cot across. N snores above. The door opens. I squint through the dull light.

“Larry?”

Larry comes closer. I sit up. Then, he knocks me over the head for the second time in a day.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Sympathy for Saint Petersburg

(Part 4 of six day series)

It’s a lot to take in. We stand outside the factory building and look around. M whistles. The Saint Petersburg we’ve become accustomed to is gone. Buildings flattened under a sky that had finally grown too heavy to bear. Old bricks, full of memories, scattered about, forgotten.

A dancer; old, disgraced, and dead; still wearing her shoes.

N lights a cigarette.

“So,”

Slick stands with us.

“I’ve never seen this city as it should have been,” he says. I look at him. I look away. Now that I know his face, I can’t un-see it.

“Is the whole world like this?” N asks.

“Yes,” Slick says, “some parts are better, the warm parts. It is where we send the true-borns. They are raised in a protected place. No harm will come to them. Soon, all the original copies will die and there will be no more danger.”

A mental movie starts playing of two teams of child-Hitlers playing T-ball against each other. Laughing, rough housing, eating a snow-cones, going home to write an essay on Machiavelli for homework.

“So, what am I supposed to do?” I ask, suddenly disgusted and angry, pointing at my midsection.

Slick looks apprehensive. I reach out to grab him. He takes a step back.

“Okay, look, we brought you here because, well, there were special circumstances regarding your pregnancy.”

M stifles a laugh.

I sigh. “What, exactly, is so special?”

Slick smiles, “it’s a girl.”

None of say anything. M doesn’t even laugh. I am not even in my own head. I’m sitting back, warm and safe, watching a movie of myself. Myself turns to Slick, he grabs Slick by the collar.

“What the fuck does that have to do with anything?” myself asks. N and M pull me away from him.

Slick takes a breath, backing off. I step back behind my own eyes and wait.

“We couldn’t risk an interdimensional delivery. It is too risky. We had to bring you here so it can be done with more,” Slick pauses, “care,” he decides.

I light a cigarette. Slick looks at it disapprovingly but doesn’t protest.

“And what does that mean, precisely?” I ask.

Slick frowns, “a natural birth. We copy you, and transplant the child into the copy, and the copy will give birth to the child and you can go home.”

I take a drag of my cigarette. Then, uncontrollably, I begin laughing. It hurts. I choke on my cigarette smoke. The laughter subsides with the coughing. I catch my breath. I flick the cigarette away.

“Screw it,” I tell Slick.

I turn to him. He isn’t looking at me. He is looking fearfully out at the broken city. I follow his gaze. Something moves.

“Inside, now!” He says, suddenly. He grabs me by the arm. Something starts moving fast across the ground. It screams.

I don’t think. I turn. I run. M and N are close behind. Slick slams the door to the building. He bolts it, a heavy bolt. He takes a breath.

“What the shit was that?” N asks.

Slick turns, slowly, “Golem,” he says.

Something heavy slams into the door.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Sympathy for Hitler

(Part 3 of six day series)

Slick leans back.

“There was a war. A great war. It was begun by a man called Adolf Hitler, he—“

M stands up. “I knew it!” he points at Slick, “you’re friggin’ Hitler, holy shit,” M turns to look at N and I, “this guy is Hitler! I told you he looked familiar.”

M’s face goes wide, his jaw slack. Slowly he says, “they are all Hitler…”

He turns and glowers at Slick. Slick has a deep sadness in his eyes. No, not sadness, shame. I look at Slick and frown. M is right. I look up but M is no longer enraged. In fact, he is pissing himself laughing. N is frowning up at him.

“What is wrong with him?” N asks me. I shrug.

M heaves great deep breaths in between laughing. He looks at me, tears in his eyes.

“You were knocked up by Hitler!” He peels into a fresh fit of laughter. I feel like vomiting. I turn back to Slick.

“You better explain,” I turn to M, “shut up and sit down.”

M sits, he continues to breathe heavily, choking occasionally on a giggle.

Slick watches M until the room falls silent, then, turns to me. He nods.

“Yes, our original was the man you know as Adolf Hitler, but we are not that man. We are copies of him. We are all that is left.”

I don’t move, I don’t even breathe, I wait. Slick takes this as an invitation to continue.

“You see, Hitler was going to lose the Great War, and he was desperate for any way to gain an advantage. So, he enlisted a scientist by the name of Joseph Mengel to create an army of copies, using Hitler’s own genetic materials as the source.

Mengel succeeded.

So, Hitler, not trusting anyone else, only allowed the technology to be used to copy himself. He created armies, vast armies. Within five years the Great War ended. In the aftermath. Well, Hitler’s copies were as ruthless, as ambitious, as their maker. They purged the world of all but each other. For years after, the copies fought amongst themselves, and in the chaos, the true original was lost. And so, all that remained on Earth were infertile copies. All the women were dead, all the men.

So copies, made more copies, who made more. Each time we are copied we are less stable, less intelligent, less everything. We are weak, we die too soon. Once we realized this, we knew that without some new way to create life, we would all soon die.

All our efforts were put into discovering a new way of life, and in time, we did. We found a way to cross dimensions. Yet, no matter where we went, we remained infertile. So, we found a way to use the genetic make-up of the original, found in Mengel’s labs, to create clones in a new, healthier way. To do that we needed hosts, human hosts. So, that is what we did, that is how we have managed to survive. There are only a few of us who are true-born. The process takes much longer but we are not infertile and we live a normal life. Once there is enough of us, we will explore other dimensions for mates and bring them back here and create a new world order”

Slick pauses, his eyes are lit up. He opens his mouth to continue, then shuts it. He looks at all three of us in turn. I look over at M. His mouth is wide open. He is staring at Slick.

“Holy shit,” he manages, before laughing all over again.
TO BE CONTINUED…