Category Archives: Brandon Scott

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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What’s Been Done by Brandon Scott

For Shaun Kirk, the host to many adventures.

It was the darkest night but the moon was bright as day.

 And the surrounding things, dead now, were obscured and invisible in the nightmare we call the shadows. They writhed and gasped from escaping air, and I looked down at the sword in my hand, and it still stunk of the sulfur and gore that was spilling throughout the last hour of my existence.

I flicked it, and the grass rustled from the sheer amount of liquid flung down into the dirt. The metal felt heavy right then. Like I was carrying the corpses on my back, stretched from one shoulder to the other.

I dropped the sword, unwilling to hold it anymore—though the weight remained on my body, sore as it already was. The abandoned metal shined in the spotlight of the moon.

I stared up at that moon. And he breathed by me, probably going through the same feelings and emotions. We did not expect to survive the last while; we had told some we would not come back, no matter what we hoped.

“I don’t know what to do now,” my companion said. “It’s…well, it’s done now.”

“Yes, it is. For the night, at least,” I said and kicked my foot into the unseen mass in front of me. The gas escaped yet again from the bloating corpse of a demon.

“Should we go back?” he said, and I still did not turn to look at him.

That was the question, wasn’t it? Should we go back to that place? Sure, it was not unprecedented, and sure, we had not told everyone we were doomed people, dead corpses with a day left of breath. But we’d told enough.

“Why?” I said, out loud, but mostly to myself.

He answered like it had been for his ears. “Why? Why not?”

I took a long time to answer, a long time to put words to thoughts. “With…with what’s been done in the name of defense, why should we go back?”

“I don’t understand,” he said, sounding quieter than I’d ever heard him.

“We were, essentially, sacrifices,” I said, picking back up the sword. I didn’t have soreness so much anymore.

“Yes, we were. But you knew that.”

“One way or the other…if we died, they’d be fed for the rest of the month and wouldn’t attack the village. If we won, they’d not come back at all—if this is all the demons. But they probably did not expect us to win.”

I thought he’d caught on by this point, but I still added to the sentence: “What is back there for us if we went? With what’s been done? What would they do with us?’

“We’d be heroes,” he said, but I think even he had doubts.

“Criminals are not heroes,” I said.

“I’m not a criminal.”

I finally looked at him, and I sheathed my sword. A long and silent motion. “No? You’re not? Are you sure? Then, why are you here?”

“Well they branded me as one, but I am not—”

“Let’s go. Let’s escape,” I said. “They’ll be safe without us. And they can think we died, for a while.”

“And what will we do?”

I waved my hand, and the moon glimmered on my rings—stolen all of them. They could not even find them when they captured me. Magic is illegal too. “Well, we killed a demon horde. I think, comparatively, most problems are not too big. So… anything we want.”

“Anything?” he said, still holding his sword. I eye up and down his body; he’s not so bad looking. Another crime where I used to live.

“Anything.”

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Nightmare Rising by Brandon Scott

For Joshua, who thinks in both languages.

“I now appreciate the darkness.” Those were his last words.

And then the darkness appreciated him. He clasped both hands to his chest, folding them like a mummy in an old cracked tomb, and fell back into the churning mass.

I reached forward to stop his fall, but my hands met only air as the entirety of his frame, slow sinking at first, then gone at once, disappeared into the mass.

It shook like a silent laugh, and I stepped back in alarm. An inch forward it bulged out, taking inside it pieces of the ground.

I looked around at the lab tables, and the random beakers, and the bric-a-brac of his room and could find nothing even remotely helpful—nothing even indicating a way to stop this. To staunch its mass of eating.

I scooped up a beaker with my hand and chucked it, but it too went into the mass with no issue.

“What the shit are you?” I yelled at the blob before booking it up the stairs. Like it had been waiting for me to break eye contact, it made more noise, and I heard the breaking of glasses and tables knocked over onto the hard ground.

As my knees shot up with each lurching step, I felt my phone vibrate. This, somehow, was the most surprising thing about the last few minutes. I quickly glanced behind me and pulled out the technology. I knew of only one person who had this number—and his calling was impossible.

The stairs groaned as the dark did what it could to ascend. My eyes felt blurry from concern, but beneath the simple message of Hey, I got the thing working. Come by and see. I saw a new message.

The darkness is comfort. I can see you.

I ran out the front door with my phone clutched in moving hands. The words, only read once, burned in my mind even as I took another stop out in the yard. When the house remained still, I looked at the phone again, my breathing loud in my ears.

How r u txting? I sent out. U died.

With no lag to it at all, the response came. The darkness is not death. Come back inside, and we will show you the eternity of void and shadow.

No thx.

Then perhaps the outside is more preferable.

My teeth set on edge as the sound of wood ripping filled the air. Around me, I could see people poking their heads out of doors, and peering out windows. The din reached a peak, and it took a second for me to see the source, but at the top of the house, the roof shuddered, soon enough filling like an about to burst balloon.

A tendril of darkness slithered out of the open space, looking wrong on the backdrop of a sunny day, and the house expanded even further with pressure. Until, finally, the wood shattered and collapsed into the mass of black.

I stood, horrified, as a pair of long stalk eyes sprung up and swiveled around with irregular pupils.

Do you think the rest of humanity will appreciate the dark?

I was already in my car when the phone rang. I put it to my ear and peeled out, leaving my neighbors to their fates. The sound of another house breaking echoed once from behind me, and then again in the phone itself.

Before the darkness could say anything, I shouted “No!” My finger stopped above the end call button when I heard the reply, still in my friend’s voice—but warped and strained and sleepy.

“Let’s see, shall we? I think it is worthy of a few more tests.”

My hand shook. After a second, I tossed the phone behind me and kept driving. My foot pushing the pedal to the floor, hearing the sound of police and helicopters going in the opposite direction.

Despite being in the back somewhere, the voice came through the phone like it was on a concert speaker.

“Reality is not enough. Never enough. Join the dark. And be free. All of you.”

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