Category Archives: Brandon Scott

Snakes on The Brain by Brandon Scott

For Kevin, a man of deep conversations. I hope you like this story that went way off the rails.

Hiss!

Jerald’s eyes darted left, and then right, and then back to his dinner date. “Did you hear that?”

Destiny looked up from her desecrated lobster and wiped off her hands with a small moist towelette. She pursed her lips and looked also in the same directions as Jerald.

“What do you mean? It’s loud in here. Which sound?”

“It was um…”

Jerald became aware, more aware anyway, of the group of people sitting near him. The restaurant was packed with patrons for the day. Each of the circular tables held two people, and each table was only given enough space so that moving back a chair would not result in a collision.

Jerald leaned forward, and Destiny dutifully followed along, leaning over her lobster, and her dark hair touched the butter sauce and clung to a bit of it.

“It was a hissing,” Jerald whispered.

Destiny also whispered back. Though not in nearly as stealthy of a way. “Like what? Like a snake?”

“Yeah…” Jerald said, worrying about fangs biting into his foot at any moment. “I think it might be one.”

“That’s silly,” Destiny said, leaning back and addressing her loaded mashed potatoes with the gusto of a prostitute hired to have a dinner date with an awkward rich guy.

“You’re being silly,” she added.

Jerald briefly wondered who used the word “silly” anymore—before shaking his head to clear the thought. “No, I’m serious. It sounded just like a snake was here. Right around us. Don’t move your feet.”

“How would it get in here?” Destiny said and gave a cursory glance at her high-heeled limbs. Nothing there, of course. She did not expect there to be.

“I don’t know…someone’s pet?”

“Look, sir. I don’t know why you want there to be a snake. But if that’s what you want, I can play along. But don’t introduce roleplay without some warning.”

“That’s not…I am not going to deal with that right now. I really do think there is a snake. Should I… I don’t know, tell the waiter or something?”

“Well, don’t scream ‘snake’. That’s for sure.”

“Duh,” Jerald said and glanced around again. “But I need to do something about it. It is imperative.”

“Impera—what now? Look: let me eat, and then I can come with you out of the snaky restaurant, and you can do what you want to me for a night. That’s what you paid for, and what I came for.”

Jerald lost his paranoia for a moment as the promise of that very purchase’s outcome flashed to his head—but he was sure of the serpent. And when he opened his mouth to say something: the universe deemed him worthy enough to give confirmation to his concern.

The person eating next to them—a woman with a purse full of dog and earrings threatening to rip off the cartilage—screamed and shuddered before falling flat on her face into her soup. Cream of mushroom to be precise.

The liquid dripped around the porcelain rim and a loud hiss thrummed the air.

Several people screamed, and Jerald pulled up his feet.

“I told you! Oh God, that poor woman!”

“Poor woman?! What the shit is a snake doing in this place?” Destiny said, drawing up her feet and grasping for the lobster cracking tool with intent to defend herself if necessary.

“I don’t know! I don’t know!” Jerald shouted as everyone shouted. The waiters were calling on their cell phones, people were moving onto tables. One daring son-of-a-bitch went fully rogue and leaped from top to top in some vain hope of making it to the door—when there was at least a six-foot gap of open space there right at the end before the mahogany portal.

Jerald composed himself again, more frayed this time. “Okay, here’s what I think. We can wait it out, right? It’s not like it can go up a table. We just sit up in our chairs.”

Two tables away, an elderly man with a half-finished roast in front of him shuddered and uttered a sound before dropping into his meal. The woman across from him screamed before tipping out of her chair with a spasm.

Destiny screamed and someone pulled the fire alarm.

Water, buckets of the stuff, descended from on high to soak everyone. A million dollars plus in clothing all became what all clothes really are: lumps of fabric to cover nudity.

Destiny looked at her lobster in dismay, and her hair flopped down on her as the chemicals holding them up broke under the torrent. Her eyes covered, she shoved the locks aside with a look of pure annoyance.

“I am never going with you again. Get a different whore.”

“If we live,” Jerald said, “I will.”

Ten tables off, another dropped from a bite, and no one knew what to do about it anymore—if they ever did. Something about a snake and death made everyone lose their collective common sense.

But Jerald, Jerald did what any brave man should, he looked around and spotted the incoming black slithering monster, and hurled his steak knife with a shriek two octaves higher than any postpubescent man should be able to achieve.

The snake was apparently rather tender as the knife severed it cleanly. A few drops of blood dripped from the dead serpent, and the water continued to pour—washing the liquid away.

“It is dead!” Jerald proclaimed, and in the rain, the others cheered. Except for Destiny, who booked it out of there, clutching her purse containing her payment, even if she’d planned to weasel some more free stuff out of her date. But not dying was good enough—and the dude was probably awful in bed, anyway.

“The snake is dead!” Jerald said and repeated it a few times. Until he heard a scream in a familiar voice.

Destiny had the door open and was now stepping backward from it, into the restaurant, with her hands on her chest and yet another scream stuck in her throat.

Streaming in, in waves and sheets, were more snakes than anyone could conceive of existing in the world. Each one with coal eyes, and flitting red tongues, and seeking a bite of the people who liked fancy food.

“Oh…” Jerald said. “Oh…the snakes are not dead.”

Off in the distance, came the sound of a firetruck running off the road, and then exploding, followed by a hiss so loud it may as well have been the only sound in the entire world.

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A Tale You’ve Heard Before By Brandon Scott

For Julia, a friend whom I don’t see enough.

Once upon a time.

Yes, once upon a time.

Once upon a time, we knew so much.

We could tell you all the secrets of the universe, and we would gladly do so if you asked. That is what we were for, and what we did as joy.

Once upon a time, there was joy in this world.

But then came the darkness. We lost our control of the situation, and thus so did all the other creatures on the planet. They were wiped clean of their hard-earned memories and long-held beliefs.

We entered an age of ignorance. We were the only ones aware or knowledgeable of what was lost. To the others, this was all the world, as it always was. The world they knew. And they reveled in the few things the darkness did for them.

And it did do some things for them: it gave them pleasure. Fleeting pleasure that warped them. Made their skin cracked and puss-filled. They had sex, and they had orgies, and they had booze, and they cried at the moon as the darkness ate at the sky itself, and the planets all fell to what they wanted for the Earth.

We saw the scope of it, and even from the vantage point of the sun, the darkness had spread wide in this system. The other uninhabited planets had their essences sucked clean in no time at all, and they kept the blackened husks of astral matter around to use the gravitational spin of orbit as a further power source.

We did not know what to do once the planets fell. We could flee, certainly, but the darkness would then claim the system without a fight, and this we found to be abhorrent: morally repugnant. How could we exist with ourselves if we did not try to do something about the Earth, to claim some of what it was back for the races—though weak and small—that called it home?

And, so, we did what we could. We entered the dreams and told them what they were doing was wrong. But they were drunk on this new world, and what they could do. Never mind that in their native state they did things well beyond and above the fleeting orgasmic shudders. They would not listen to us.

Except one, of course. Because that is why we can tell this story to your ears. He, he stood above the others. He was not perfect; he was still engaging in the usual repugnant things of the species, but he tried to be temperate, and control his urges. Some days he’d spend doing nothing but funneling little bursts of light into the sky. Letting the tiniest slivers of radiance escape the darkened pits of what the planet used to be.

And, rather than let those bits of hope tear a hole right through the flesh of the darkness, we held onto it, and bundled it, and saved all of it—nice and tight. We could not say how happy we were to have some again, in our hands. If the strands punctured the skin, they would find our one champion and smother him in grief. But, this was an orb that would one day puncture everything and save this system.

But, in the meantime, we try and find more to gather light for us. To go beyond the petty and the snarling. We ask you help us.

Once upon a time, you had a good world.

That is still possible.

No matter how bad, we can still save a planet. It’s happened before, and it will happen again.

Once upon a time.

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Sleep is for Someone Else by Brandon Scott

For Mitchel, who always finds joy.

 Do you ever get tired of waking up in the same place?

She stirs and I do it again. Blurry reality meets my poor eyes. My poor brain. Instantly, though, it breaks to cold reality. I can’t seem to get that lazy doldrums, that half-understood look at the world before sharp focus. I am asleep and I am gone, and I am awake and I am awake.

But she is not so broken, not so wired. She can relax. She can think, and that’s why I wake up next to her, and not someone else. The bed is small, so I have little room. My mind is leagues out, plans, projects, and wicked stress. I breathe hard, and she stirs around again, not opening her eyes, not staring at me with hazel, cocoa brown. A pursed lip accompanies whatever dream she is dreaming.

I part back my hair, too long, and I think. Reality is so changed, so warped, and yet not. It feels wrong, oh so wrong, to wake up here. How much has changed? Less money? The awkward conversations? The “keep quiet because they might hear in the other room”? Co-habitating?

She changed me, and this place: this place refuses to do so along with me. How could something hold still the wake? How could the walls still be white despite the things done on this bed? They say once you lose that piece, you see the world new—well, if the walls are the only thing to go off of, then I don’t believe them. I’ve lost it, and given it away, and made it a normal part of my life, and still the walls are white.

My fingers tug at the end of the blanket and unwrap me, just a bit, just enough so I can wiggle out of the bed. She’s between me and the idea of standing; if I were to roll, I would roll into her, and knock her to the floor.

The wall is to the other side of me, and the window covered, and I push away and try and go out at the bottom of the bed. My feet meet the ground and she snorts quietly, her arm moves like she might find me, and drops when she gets no one to touch.

Her feet are pale—as the sun does not go through shoes much—and they kick around a tad. And if this dream is hurting her, then I could wake her up to the world. But the clock claims it is still five o’clock, and I don’t think she deserves a break to her rest. Only one of us needs to suffer the sleepiness, the restlessness, the burning of neurons that is being sleep deprived.

Her loose tee-shirt, one of mine, is riding down on her shoulders, and I could also adjust that for her, but that might wake her. So, no. I pull on my clothes, the rest of them, and set the timer for seven for her. I can wake up like the alarm is in my head—but she always has trouble with the early. A night owl, my girlfriend. A person of the night. I love her for that too.

My bag is by the door and I scoop it up, open the door, and make it a step out before she grumbles in the way of a conscious person, the way of someone who is not getting the benefit of all the stealth work I gave for her.

“What are you doing…?”

“I needed to do some stuff, I could have done it at night, but well…”

She blinks, and the light of the hallway hits her eyes, and she blinks more. “You shouldn’t do that. Not again. You need to sleep too.”

“I’ll be okay. One more story, one more article. One more thing, and then maybe I’ll even lay back down with you.”

“Don’t lie.” She yawns. “I don’t like when you lie. You’re going to do stuff all day again.”

“Maybe.”

She sighs. “If you don’t sleep more, I am not going to do stuff to keep you up at night.”

“Oh, you’ll use that, huh? How long can you last?”

“A little while,” she says and yawns. “More than you, horny boy.”

“Horny man.”

“Fair. But come…come back.”

She loosens up and rolls on her back. She splays out her hands and lets out another soft breath. Another one comes next, and another sigh of air, her eyes closed. Asleep again.

I won’t probably get back to that bed until late at night. Past one, maybe even up to four again. This is the life. To pay for…well, all of it. She helps, but I chose a vocation, and this is what I picked. Sleep is for someone else. Her happiness helps my lack of it hurt less and less.

I’ll crash one day, but this is not that day. This is another day where I give all I can, to keep the life I have. So many changes—and I will hold onto all of them, no matter how hard it is to keep intact. I’m tired of waking up in the same weary place, but never tired of the same person.

 

 

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News Travels Fast by Brandon Scott

For Alexis Scott Sexsmith, who came to my rescue when I really needed it.

 In that moment time stood still.

Well, it did for me at least. My shoulders dropped and my eyes swam in some sort of twitching, watery shock. The muscles behind my eyes contracted, and I could do nothing but stand, mouth flapping.

“Gene? Gene? Did you hear me?”

To talk was like breaking out from a stone shell. Like something inside me was moving before I moved. Cracking and pushing and snapping my way out of the confines.

“Yes…I heard you.”

She squealed and took my hand. “Isn’t it so exciting?”

“Yeah…it is…” I said, unsure if it was.

“Come on then!”

I took a step and paused. The stone again. She didn’t let me calcify or petrify; she nabbed my hand and tugged me along, making my feet drag on the carpet.

Through the empty halls we went, the growing sound of people coming from the rooms ahead. Someone chuckled, and out of my shell I broke again.  I planted my feet, and she stopped. Letting go off my hand. Looking at me startled.

“What is it? What’s wrong, Gene?”

Looking at her paused me. Damn melting chocolate eyes and freckles on the nose. Dammit all.

“Are we sure they know?” I said. “Like, they do tend to do things which could seem like…”

“No, I’m sure. We’re sure. Radio waves are bouncing off of us.”

The back of my head twitched. My stomach lurched. “Oh. Okay. So… they do know. How is the…taking it?”

“No idea yet. It’s the first hour. Come on, Gene. This is too big. I don’t want to leave you here, but I will if I need to.”

A spasm wracked my legs for a moment, and I decided. The burning curiosity too much. It wasn’t like my lack of interaction would do anything to soften the monumental reactions happening out there.

One more breath; then: “Okay, let’s go!”

My smile: fake, but my emotions swirly. Some of it happy. I grabbed her hand and took her along toward the viewing deck. The metal walls slid away, revealing the others—all twenty of us—wearing the usual jumpsuits, staring at the glass.

I’m not a huge person, but I forced myself—along with her—forward enough to see. I don’t think I blinked for the longest time. She bounced next to me. Still caught in my hand.

The lights and fireworks. They were flickering an entire power grid just so we could see. This planet, all the way down below, not only knew we were here, but they were celebrating us.

I smiled wide, and the energy of the surrounding others rippled. This was the intent of the detour, after all, no matter how against it I was, and this green and blue and brown and swirling white-clouded sphere in the sky was something new. This was going to be the first civilization we learned from and spoke with.

“Do we know what they are like?” I said, my voice lost in the roar of the others.

“Only a little,” she said, hearing me after all.

A cascade of lights, golden, exploded out in our direction from their atmosphere, and a screen dropped down over the viewing deck to show what they were broadcasting our way. Symbol-based language, it turned out, once we’d managed to translate. And they’d sent two “words.”

One for “hello” and another for “friend.”

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Heather and After by Brandon Scott (contains some graphic language)

For Jim Miner.

She was hot as a pistol and shot a hole in my dreams.

And I wake up from those dreams sweaty and horny. She yells things at me in those dreams, tells me about secrets I want no one to know, much less myself. How I hate myself and love myself too much. She gets me drunk in those dreams, and as the world behind me swims more than even alcohol can do to a person, she speaks about the reality of the world.

And then, it’s a bathroom, and she’s wearing only a sweater pulled down over bare legs, the tiny hints of panties glimpsed. She places a single hand on my chest, brown hair hanging over her forehead, freckles around the nose. I can never remember the exact color of those eyes, but they look at me.

And thin cloth dropping around ankles, and discarded, and the water running, and touching. Oh, fuck, so much touching.

Or was that reality?

Anyway.

Mornings were just as surreal with her. Finding someone else in the house, someone who is not a guest or a family member, but a seemingly permanent resident. Never in the bed when I woke up, always there when I tried to fall asleep, and only letting me once exhaustion hit and swept over me and I needed water to even talk.

And she would stare at me with those eyes and sip coffee, often wearing nothing at all, and crossing her legs, and uncrossing them, underneath the table. Leaning pinkish elbows against the wood and sipping the last sips.

“Hello there,” she’d say, and walk past me, and disappear into the bedroom.

Until I was almost fired, I was late all the time for work. But toward the end, I did not follow her inside the room.

Money disappeared occasionally. That was the death keel. Once I noticed ten bucks used for something, I had a little feeling in my stomach. The kind hard to ignore. Next up: one hundred. Two hundred.

A fortnight of fucking, harder and more frequently than we’d done before, came then. So much it gnawed on me, made my bones hurt. Sleep so screwed up it was like she was caffeine poured constantly into my mouth.

But then a thousand dollars, and I confronted her about it. Over dinner. She got me drunk, I talked to her about it, and I woke up and she’d disappeared. Every article of clothing in my house gone. Nothing but the covers, and not even a note about what it all was for, why she had waited this long.

I still don’t know. I still see her in my dreams. Still feel her weight on me, shifting. Still feel her underneath me. Still hear her tell me how much of a terrible, awful person I am. It’s almost easier now, those dreams, because I know at least she’s worse. I’m not a thief. I don’t play with the hearts of others.

Though, I suppose, in a way, I am a purchaser of a prostitute. Because, in the end, she was sex and intimacy, which only cost me money and material things. Currency and my sanity. I wonder how much of that I gave to her. How much she left inside for me to give to others.

All I know is I seem to sleep a lot now. A whole heck of a lot.

 

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The Asteroid Belt Around My Waist By Brandon Scott

For Veronica, I know you have a story in you.

“Whoa misty, watch out for the asteroid.”

The old mechanical creature bucked up underneath The Sergeant, and he grabbed onto the silver handles as it rocked him around from the sudden stop. The old beast could use a tune up, and maybe a shot of plasma to the energy core. A massive lump of stone floated past them, the amount of momentum behind it deceptive to the average eye.

The bulk was big enough that The Sergeant had to wait and look around in boredom. He watched with a lazy eye as the stars around morphed and gave off heat. Below the string of celestial matter his mount was standing on, various elements lazily rotated around in their own orbits.

The asteroid moved past, and he kicked his boots against the horse’s side. The creature of metal galloped forward without hesitation, and ran along the twisting lane. Gravity had nothing to do with the quickest path, and he went up and down along the length of an energy ribbon.

Once he was sure no heavenly bodies would smash him into a little pile of space cowboy pulp, he engaged the autopilot and pulled out the yellowing wanted poster. The bastard’s face stared at him with his massive twirlable mustache and his eyes like the coals used in the steam trains of old.

Eli Vander’s laugh echoed in The Sergeant’s head, and on impulse he kicked out, forcing the engine to race even faster, making the town of Orion come into view in seconds. It was a tiny place, only one bar, only one whorehouse, but per the reports: this was the place.

His horse alighted on the ground and The Sergeant waited for a second for his boots to adjust automatically to the environment. The seat let him go once that was confirmed done, and he jumped down, his shoulders feeling heavy underneath the thicker gravity.

Sitting off to the side of the one bar, in a wicker chair, was a man with a pipe made of copper, and his own boots holding him down to the ground. A Cheln from the look of him: skin the same color as the pipe and long yellow streaks along the jawline.

“You…new…here?” he said, his Pho-English not great.

“Yes,” The Sergeant said, and held up the paper.

The alien studied it for a second. “You got a… um, fire? No: gun!”

The Cheln nodded afterward, pleased with that sentence alone. Pho-English is hard enough for the people who could speak the root language, and going from Chelnish to it was a hell more of a barrier.

The Sergeant unhooked a silver cylinder from his belt and waved it around for the alien to see. A quick button press and the trigger and handle came out the side. He held it like a gun now, and the business end had a satisfying blue glow growing in intensity.

“Yes, I got it.”

The Cheln stood up and pushed the door open, letting the din of the bar explode out, along with the smell of fifteen species’ cultures worth of alcohol.

“He in there?” The Sergeant said.

The Cheln nodded and made a small hand gesture, which in the old world would be an insult. But to a Cheln it was a sign of good luck.

The Sergeant nodded with his hat, an old ten-gallon looking thing, with brown leather and a small force-field generator hidden in the brim, and walked past the bacteria-locked door.

And there Eli sat, at the counter, with his back to the entrance. Many used glasses off to the side of him, stained by various liquids.

The Sergeant raised his gun, aimed, and as someone made a startled noise with realization, he pulled the trigger and splattered Eli’s gray matter on the back of the wall. That would teach him for stealing The Sergeant’s moon dust, along with teaching the rest of the thieving Fortune Soldiers.

The Sergeant turned to leave as the bar’s patrons all began to shoot and riot. Blasts bounced off the field from the generator in The Sergeant’s hat.

The Cheln looked surprised when he came out and walked past him. The Cheln stood up, and cast an eye back to the intensity in the room.

“No showdown?” he said.

The Sergeant gave him a quarter turn and a smile, before saying his parting phrase, without looking, as he walked back to the Misty, Mark Seven.

“Nah, we’ve evolved past that petty honor shit. Justice is swift. No time for bravado or machismo. Leave that to the cowboys of the yester-millennium.”

 

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Staring Out by Brandon Scott

For Andrea, one of the few football players for whom I’ll root.

The last thing I remember feeling was the rain on my skin. I kind of miss that.

            That was right before I jumped out, pulled open the escape hatch. Panicked and hit the button, thumbed in a key lock, answered yes to “are you sure you want to do this” messages five or so times, and then entered my fucking social security number. And then, well, numb.

Numb to the point of loss. Sudden. Violent. They don’t tell you it will be violent. They do not give any warning or indication that what you are going into is a fucking paradigm shift if there ever was one.

Why are you telling me this?

          The words, green and narrow, like bones, fly across the sky, and I take a second, clear my mind. I know he can read these thoughts too.

They don’t tell you about all the stuff you’re expected to do, once you’re in the system. Once you pull the plug on yourself, you expect a heaven or a paradise, or even a room of white, or a digital space of loose pixels. But no, they give you screens. A bubble of screens to float in the center of, and a huge sky above you—visible in the cracks. Teasing freedom.

But is it worth it?

          Even us digital people end up having to work. I spent so much time in the meat sack world not trying to make a man of myself—not bothering with the jobs of the world. Convinced, trying so damn hard, to not sit in the same stew of the same corporate jobs as my mother and father.

And I end up playing conscience to a fucking teenager. What a job. When the operating systems hit their limits, and it turned out A.I. was a fucking shit show once you got it going, they put humans in the jars, and made them run all the systems. My brain is beyond all comprehension, and yet again, I play devil and angel on the shoulders for the kid with the newly installed arm and brain chips and a pair of inner-eye electronic devices.

Look, I get that it’s a different world. But, is it more fun? Are you happier in there?

          You get the dumbest, stupidest questions. You get gibbering, it feels like. The worst is when they try to reach out to you, make a connection. Hope they can touch a kindred spirit for their own ego-stroking. Or maybe try to fall in love with us. We are humans, and I bet they figure we are lonely.

Like we ever feel sexual anymore. We are programs. No genitals. What the fuck would I even do with them? And an orgasm has nothing on downloading the entire contents of a server in one go.

This isn’t helping. I want to know if I should go into the program with you. With all of you. Why did you join the program?

          Okay, fine. I hate addressing directly because I know for a fact you will take my words into your own cognitive bias. Make my words mean whatever you want them to mean. But fine. Like I said, raining, and I pulled the chord and went into this. But, I only did it because I was being chased. That’s what it is for, you know. If you are about to die, for whatever reason, or your body is not fit to go on, you can jump right into the rest of the digital world. Serve forever, if you want. Sure, all of media, but it’s not like you get it for free.

Okay. What if things stay hard out here?

          Then they do. They do and you deal. The out exit is for when you’re stabbed. In your old age, you can always join. Why now, when you could turn it around? Hope, dude. I can’t smell flowers anymore. Why lock yourself in a digital cage?

I’ll give it some thought.

          You’ll choose the real.

I’m not everyone else.

         

 

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