Odd World

“There are some rules to Odd World. You gotta be odd. Yeah that’s number one. Then you gotta be like… like you know something, you know? I, myself, know many things. Otherwise, we don’t want you in Odd World because we’re all thinkers. And we think. We think real hard about things. You know? Oh and you have to be good looking –like I am!”

Smick frowned. That seemed entirely unlike Smick, who had been mostly normal, frequently ignorant, and well frankly, hard on the eyes; they didn’t call him Ick for no reason. But it wasn’t time to doubt himself. He had been at Odd World’s fence so many times, he had lost count. Smick had told himself that this time things would be different. He was so sure of himself too, but that confidence quickly died when the guard opened his fat lips.

The next morning, Smick snapped awake, sweat drenched, panting like he had been running. His hands trembled. His cardboard box was moist with sweat, and Eugene was hovering over him with his awning of a forehead.  “So they didn’t take you, huh? What did I say? They don’t want us. We belong in Todd World.”

How long has it been since he first came to Todd World? Ick ignored his menacing neighbor. He folded his cardboard. Such was the way of the Todd. You rise at 8 o’clock sharp. You fold your cardboard box, issued to you upon your arrival, and then it’s off to the soup kitchen, which actually didn’t serve soup but eggs –hard boiled eggs without any salt. Ick shuddered. The egg went down dry and the banana didn’t help. Chalky and pasty, these foods sucked. What the fuck is up with Todd? Who eats like this?

Eugene thrust his forehead into Smick’s sight. “You’re going again aren’t you?  You’re going to Odd World like you do every day. The Todd drones won’t like that. They’ll get you.”

The drones that everyone talked about sat dusty and deactivated in between the Banana Bread Bakery and The Yolk Diner on 7th street. Smicky knew, he saw the first day he arrived at Todd World. But the fanatics raised hell about the drones every day at 12, just right outside the Box Store, where you can buy cardboard boxes for your daily uses. Just name it, they got it. Box shirts. Box pants. Boxes. Box shoes. Box hats. Box toilet paper. Box houses. Boxer briefs. Box cars…

Ick tugged on his cardboard box pants. The paper wrinkled and stains spotted it like some design.

“I’m telling you. Those Todd Drones mean business. Once I heard from a man who was my friend’s friend that those Drones will put you straight into Cod World.” Eugene was whispering, his forehead pressed against Smick’s temple. A drop of spit flew from his mouth and landed on Ick’s nose. Ick flailed in disgust.

“GO AWAY EUGENE!” Smick ran as fast as his cardboard box pants would allow him.

“The drones!” Eugene shrieked. “The drones! Can I have your egg?”

Across Milk Hill, Odd World was pretty visible. The grass was literally greener! Well that wasn’t exactly true since Todd had never been fond of grass. No, Todd preferred asphalt, which made the ground cold at night and hot as balls during the day. Anyways, Odd World had a Ferris wheel with pulsing brains as carts! And they had electricity! Unlike Todd World, which relied solely on fire, Odd World shined with neon lights each night. What the hell was beyond that fence? Magic! Science! Other things!

The white fence wrapped around the black top. Anemic Cows roamed the asphalt licking rocks as they gathered around the banana peeler, who was tasked with feeding the cows all day, all night, every day. Smick ran past the cow feeder, who looked sickly like the cows. Why did they even have cows? No one drinks milk in Todd World. They drink Gatorade like it was water. Oh yeah, they didn’t have water either. What is water?

“Oh hi, Ick.” The banana peeler called behind his horde of cows.

“Hi Clyde.”

Back at the border, Ick rang the white fence louder than ever. He stepped back, his mind racing with answers. No, he wasn’t normal. He was odd. You think cardboard boxers are normal?! Oh how they chafe! No, he wasn’t ignorant either! He knew many things about Todd World.  The guard didn’t know! He didn’t know!

The man spewed the exact explanation he did every time. But Ick was ready. He didn’t even let him finish! “I could be a model in Cod World! I know things like Todd like eggs and bananas! And fuck you, look at these!”

The guard looked aghast as he stared down Ick’s cardboard pants. “What are those?”

“They’re underwear! They cut my legs every day! Now let me in.”

The guard scratched his brain hat in confusion. He then smacked his frontal lobe. A phone dropped from his ears to his fat lips. “Code 41560!  I repeat 4-1-5-6-0.”

“HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT HUT!” Five more guards in skin tight brain suits ran out of the grass hills, brandishing tasers-poles. The electricity cackled as they raised their poles over the fence. Ick watched with excitement and horror as they readied their sticks.

“You’re letting me in!?”

The jolt bit into his skin. His cardboard box suit burst aflame. He screamed so loudly, the cows walked away from Clyde, who looked on with amusement. Ick smoked. Ick flew. Ick landed, a crispy mess.


The fire curled in the dumpster. Many other Todderinos gathered around. Some of the stranger folks roasted their bananas unpeeled over the fire. The strangest folk bit into their eggs raw, uncooked, shell and all. Ick shook his head in shame. What the fuck is wrong with these people?  He was certain they would let him in. Did he not show he was nothing like other Todderinos? When he got over his nerves, he got nowhere! Sadly, he picked the wound on his shoulder. He was forever labeled with a frowny face.

“Told you they didn’t want you.” Eugene said triumphantly. “Clyde and I had to lug your body back. I even bought you clothes with my own Todd Dolla. Wasn’t cheap.”

“Thanks…” Ick mumbled.

That night, Ick laid out his cardboard, tired and restless. He didn’t expect this to burn him so low.  He had been rejected every day for however long he remained stranded in Todd World, yet this time did it. That brand oozed pain throughout his body that he felt anchored to the cold floor, which his cardboard did nothing to stop from stinging him. They rejected him at his best.

“Hey Ick, why do you want to go to Todd World so much?” Eugene asked, rolling to side.

How would Eugene ever understand? Born and raised in Todd World, Eugene was as much a Todderino as Todd himself, who lived somewhere in his cardboard skyscraper. But at least someone was asking. No one ever asked. They just thought that his thing. He had been known as the Todderino who always tried to get into Odd World. The fences and gates rapidly closed around him until he was confined to the small space known as Todd World. Maybe in the end, he wasn’t different, or so he had concluded from his branding.

“I thought I was different. Odd World just looked so much more -it has so much more. They have lights there. Have you ever seen lights, Eugene? They wear pink caps that pop out tools and radios. They have a wheel that spins in the sky. When you see that over the fence, how do you not wonder? Why would they keep us out?” It pained him to say ‘us’. He wished he could take it back.

“I guess I never thought about it. Todd gives us Todd Dolla. He gives us eggs and bananas. I feel happy here. Sure sometimes you have to buy more cardboard, but that’s OK if you save up. You can live well here. You save a few Todd Dolla, and then you can buy your own Box House. Then you’re set. You don’t have to go anywhere else.”

Ick looked to his neighbor, defeated. “Maybe you’re on to something Eugene.” Maybe he was. At least he was happy. At least he didn’t have a stupid frowny face branded onto his shoulder.

“I think I would like to see Odd World though.  You seem so bent on going over there, and I don’t think you’re insane –at least you’re not an Egg Biter. Maybe you know something.”

Smick rolled over. Hearing Eugene say that meant something. The dumpster fire slowly burned out, and all the Todderinos dispersed back to their cardboard hoods. Todd Street quieted. Most of Todd World went to sleep, except Todd Boulevard, which kept their dumpster fire until 3 AM.

The egg and banana chalked his esophagus. But Eugene ate his share just fine. No water. There was a lot of water in Cod World. It was the first time the two dined together. A little awkward, but the feeling almost felt like happiness. Smick found himself smiling, seated on the asphalt. There were the fanatics dancing, hailing premonitions about the Drones Apocalypse. Egg Biters bit into their eggs raw, drinking the shell and yolk. Same thing you’d see any day if you were stuck in Todd World.

Clyde waved past his cows as the two traversed the asphalt. The white fence rose no higher than five feet, yet Odd World seemed so elusive. Eugene followed behind Ick, a little too cautious. Sometimes, he ducked behind a dumpster or one of the few fire hydrants scattered across Todd World.

Once, Smick saw a cardboard catch fire. The Todderinos went into a frenzy; they all began rolling on the floor despite none of them burning. It took a while, but the Todd Fire Brigade screeched their way to the front of the burning box. A man emerged out of his box wagon in a red box suit. It looked like he had colored it himself with a red crayon. He latched a tube to the hydrant. Glacier Freeze burst out from the hose and quenched the fire. Smick remembered how enchanted he felt when he saw the blue rain drench everyone. It was just like the commercials –when the athletes beaded with colored sweat. The Todderinos rejoiced.

They pressed against the white planks. They could see over to Odd World very easily.

“Why don’t you just jump it?”

Ick scrunched his face up and squinted at Eugene. That was so stupid that Ick felt baffled. Why don’t you just jump it?  WHAT DOES EUGENE KNOW ABOUT WORLD JUMPING!?

“Look it’s pretty easy.” Eugene pressed his palm on the fence and pushed his stomach over the plank. He was crossing! He was CROSSING. OH MY FUCKING GOD! Ick’s jaw dropped and he screamed in excitement. He couldn’t help it. He was running around, screaming. “How are you doing that?! I can’t believe it!”

Eugene landed with an OOF . Why didn’t he think of that? Why did he always try the fucking guard? Why did he always try the doorway? His brain hurt. But it didn’t matter. He leapt at the fence’s head and volleyed himself over. THERE IT WAS. IT WAS ODD WORLD.  It was an odd world.


Brain carts with long extensions that ended in booted feet walked about the grassy knolls. The two boxed adults stood in awe as the bug walked over them. Two glossy faces behind the mirror waved at them, but the bug walked over them. Even in the daytime, there were bright neon signs. ‘NO SHOES NO SHIRT NO SERVICE’ gleamed in hot pink above a man serving street side hotdogs. He wore a similar skin tight brain suit as the guards. The scent lured Smick over. Never had he smelled such a delectable smell, and all the eggs and bananas never smelled half as good.

A few times, his box clothes nudged other people, who looked on indignantly. People seemed to just stand closer to one another in Odd World. Eugene stood to his right, but then to his left, he felt a constant stream of hot breath licking his neck. “What’s your problem? Stop breathing down my neck.”

“PFFT. Nice outfit, you squab.” The man shoved past him and went to the hot dog vendor. “Two of your finest long dogs. Eat Freshly.”

“May you always eat freshly.” The hot dog man blessed him.

Ick copied the man, but when the vendor opened his palm for money, he stared at Ick in confusion.

“What is that?”

“Todd Dolla.”


“It’s currency. Take it.”

The man studied the plastic red coins that looked strangely like Monopoly hotels. He took one bit down on it, cracking it in two.

“What are you doing? You don’t eat Todd Dolla. You use it for eggs and bananas and boxes.”

“Eggs and Bananas.” The man repeated slowly. “Look here. I don’t know if I can take these. I only take Brainers.”

Hungry and tired of this hot dog slinging man, Ick asked out of desperation, “How do I get Brainers?”

“Well you gotta know something, you know? Like me, I know how to cook these things. And then you gotta sell them. Or you gotta be really good looking, like me! That helps. That helps a lot. Oh! You could always think. THINK REAL HARD.”

Ick frowned at the sleazy man. He made as much as sense as the Egg Biters, and they always spoke in their own language. “Do you potate?” an Egg Biter once said to him, while she rubbed his belly.

“How about I trade you this hat? I bet you never seen anything like it?” Eugene said, as he pointed to his head. A smaller box sat slightly off centered on his dirty hair.

The man studied the hat, his interest so brightly advertised in his eyes. “What is that? Is that some kind of new material? I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s so profound. It’s so elegantly shaped.”

“Yeah,” Ick said, dumbfounded. “It’s the latest fashion. We’re the first to get our hands on it. But we’ll take twenty hot dogs for his hat.”

“Oh all right! You two have yourselves a deal.”

When Smick glanced back, he saw the hot dog man smiling in his new hat, which, Ick had to admit, did make the man rather dashing. There he stood a pinnacle among the brain hats. It seemed his new hat helped his business. More and more people flocked to his cart beneath the bright sign, just to see the man with the box hat.

The hot dogs were delicious that Ick and Eugene each ate five. Ick recalled the sleazy man fish out the wriggling pink dogs out of the dark brown water. Oh how they were delicious… What is water?


“So this is goodbye?” Ick asked. Eugene glanced over at Ick in his new brain garments. They rode their new brain cart which stomped across the city until it perched high on the skyscraper. It was an actual sky scrapper, rising so high into the air that Eugene felt nauseous when he peered out of the brain cart. Smick no longer wore his cardboard clothes. He had entirely discarded his ties to Todd World… “What will you do? Will you go back to Todd World?”

“I don’t know.” The years flew by, and Eugene had grown a fluffy beard just to show time had passed. How long had it been since they first entered Odd World? They did fairly well for two bullshitters. Ick had started his own cardboard box business. Though he would never wear any of his own creations, it sold well among the Oddicians. But since they entered Odd World, Eugene realized he could not go back.

Smick had found his place, and he would stay in Odd World until he died. But Eugene couldn’t stay in Odd World. It was too bright and too loud. Every night the Ferris wheel was like some artificial sun. In their brain apartment, Eugene would draw their heavyset curtains to sleep –if you asked him what curtains were when he lived in Todd World, he’d think you an Egg Biter.

How Eugene missed Todd World. It just felt like a simpler time on the asphalt road, seeing the same people rallying in fear about the drones that never came. Clyde, or was his name Byde, whoever he was, was still a face so well ingrained in his mind that he thought of him each night he slept. But then whenever he approached the white fence, he was filled with dread. How could he return to Todd World when he knew so many different things? And he thought a lot more now that he sometimes stayed up at night, cold with sweat, eyes burned from all the lights.

A radio fell out his ears, from which the sleazy hotdog slinger said, “Eugene, are you coming by for the hotdog Christmas party?”

“Ick, do you want to go?”

“I’m going to pass tonight. I got plans.”

“No thanks. All right, talk to you later.”

Together they sat at their table, which spat out two hotdogs. A pipe squirted a yellow stream onto the dogs, and then another pipe gushed out cheese. It was hotdog every day that he had forgotten what eggs tasted like. In his heart, there will always be a place for eggs and banana, but no one knew about those in Odd World, except Ick, who despised them and had repressed them into the deepest cranny of his mind.

He stared out their window that faced the ends of Odd World. Whereas a fence marked the border between Todd World and Odd World, there was only darkness on the border. No one knew what laid there, and no one dared to prowl too close to the DARK FARK.

“So you’re leaving tomorrow, but you don’t know where?”

“I can’t go back, so I can only go somewhere else.”

“I’m sorry I made you come over to Odd World.”

“You didn’t make me. I decided to go on my own terms. But I can’t stay here. It’s too… Odd.”

Smick smiled at him and nodded.

The next morning, Eugene walked to the border of Odd World and DARK FARK. He had sorted his belongings into a small bag that hung on his shoulders. Just as he made the first step towards the next world, he heard his name. Smick ran over, still wearing his brain suit. From what Eugene saw, he assumed Smick had packed his entire life into a few heavy bags that weighed him down. “Wait up!” He called. Ick took a while to catch his breath. “It’s not that great here. Who cares that I always wanted to be here. Who cares they have grass and brain cars. This place isn’t that great. Let’s get out of here. I’m tired of hotdogs.”




Where the Roads End

Little Molly Moop ran fast and she ran reckless. ‘I am a missile,’ she said in her mind as she cut through the woods. Her backpack rattled with each step. The twigs and leaves crunched beneath her. She brought noise to a silent and desolate woods. The crows watched her with their curious, black eyes. ‘I am a missile,’ she reminded herself as the trees flew by.

Little Molly Moop was a tiny thing, but her backpack was big. Not only was it big, it was heavy. But Little Molly ran on, never looking back. That was the mistake the others made. If you look back, you’ll find a bullet in your head. Her lungs and legs begged for relief, but Little Molly knew missiles didn’t need lungs or legs.

A gunshot thundered through the woods. She heard the bullet tear through a tree not too far behind her. Crows covered the sky in black, their wings fluttering and their calls rippling. Little Molly closed her eyes for a few seconds. ‘I am not me. I am a missile. And missiles don’t get scared.’ The second shot fired, and dirt erupted at her heels.

It was not the bullet, but her voice that brought Little Molly Moop down. ‘Good Molly. You listened to Mama.’ Molly found cover behind a boulder. ‘Little Ben was bad. He didn’t get too far.’ She was Molly again. Her breaths were labored and her legs numbed.

‘I am missile,’ she chanted her mantra. ‘I am a missile.’ She took off. The bag weighed on her shoulders. She was slower. She could feel it. If she followed the path, Mama wouldn’t shoot her dead. But then… A wall of fog fell before her.

‘You’re not listening. That’s not where you’re supposed to go.’ Another shot rippled through the air. Sounds of a river grew more distinct. Little Molly Moop ran to the gushing water. A ford appeared before her with a bridge of rocks. She stepped carefully, but her feet would still slip.

Two bullets splashed the water. Little Molly Moop was soaked and chilled. She scrambled across, running faster once she touched ground. She weaved through the trees when she saw something that made her jump.

The rags barely clung to the flesh-eaten bones. Hundreds of flies took off when she approached it. In its eye sockets, she saw herself. And she saw Ben, and Lucy. Little Molly couldn’t turn back now.

She was a shadow in the fog, big and monstrous. She cocked her gun and aimed. Little Molly Moop broke the most important rule. The gun’s fire illuminated the fog. The bullet pierced her arm and blood oozed through her hand. Little Molly Moop did her best to stifle her scream, but it broke through her fingers.

Little Molly Moop limped back to the curving river a wounded deer. She was no missile. She was flesh, terrible flesh. The weight of her hunter’s stare could kill her there. She imagined Mama smiling over her. Little Molly plunged into the river. Coldness enveloped her.

In a ravine of white, they stalked the red blossoms along the stream. Moose the Boy followed Hobo and Fatboy, who was actually a girl with plump cheeks. ‘I’m hungry,’ Moose groaned as he did every day for the last year.

‘Shut up and eat some snow. If you help us kill this animal, we can all eat.’ Fatboy slumped down with her make-shift spear. ‘I’ll stab it, and you just make sure it’s dead.’ Hobo dashed ahead, leaving his prints in the snow. ‘Don’t mess this up.’

They found the girl shivering by the bedrock. Hobo jumped excitedly around her, and it seemed the girl welcomed the animal’s company.

‘You’re not food,’ Moose said sadly.

‘No.’ Fatboy thought about it. ‘No. She’s not. Come back, Hobo. We don’t need another mouth to feed.’

‘I-I have food.’

‘Oh yeah? Then give me your bag and we won’t kill you.’ Fatboy held the spear to the girl.

‘No! She’s like us.’

‘Who cares? There’s plenty like us.’ Fatboy pushed the point closer to the girl with dead eyes. ‘Come on!’ Hobo began to whimper.

‘What’s your name?’ Moose quickly asked.

‘Molly.’ The girl didn’t take her eyes off Fatboy.

‘Is that what your mama called you?’

Molly nodded.

‘You should choose a new name. We did. I’m Moose and she’s Fatboy.’


‘Why what?’ Fatboy was losing her patience. ‘Stop distracting me. The bag! Now!’ She pressed the point into her.

Molly shuddered. ‘Why Fatboy? And why Moose?’

‘Because I’m fat! Because I look like a boy incase you didn’t notice. God, why do you talk so much? Now if you weren’t a sniveling idiot, you could put the two together. I’m Fatboy, OK? And he’s Moose because he couldn’t think of anything better. Happy? Do you think we’re friends now? Do you think I won’t kill you now because I know your name?’ Fatboy stormed off.

‘She’s just hungry.’ Moose helped the Molly up.

The warmth seeped into Molly, but she continued shivering. They ate the jerky around a fire. Hobo seemed to be the only one who enjoyed the cold meat. Fatboy chewed angrily and intently across Molly, the flames lapping the air between the two. Outside their shelter, snow fell like petals.

‘So what will you do now that you got away?’ Moose smiled at her.

‘Keep running. I don’t want to be here.’

‘You’re stupid. There’s nowhere to go.’ Fatboy fumed. ‘If you were smart, like me, you’d start hunting.’

‘It’s getting colder and there’s fewer animals around. Maybe we should leave.’

‘We’ve tried that! We just ended back here. And we’re lucky we didn’t wander farther back. There’s two things we can do. We either stay put or we go back.’

Molly rummaged through her pack. Most of her belongings were sodden, but Molly made sure to steal a map. The paper easily crumpled, so Molly carefully unfolded each section. Each crease seemed to flake off pieces and much of the print had faded and become discolored. Little Molly Moop gestured for them to gather around. She pointed to a junction. ‘I want to go here.’

‘Weren’t you listening to anything I said? I told you our options.’

Little Molly Moop wasn’t the loudest, but she wasn’t afraid of Fatboy. ‘We can’t go back and we can’t stay.’

The fire in Fatboy seemed to burn low then. She fiddled with her spear, sulking. ‘I wish we could.’

‘Yeah,’ Moose admitted, surprising the two girls. Hobo nudged the boy.

They all looked to the map once more. The roads converged at a corner of the map. It wasn’t the clearest, but the text was still readable: The End. Moose traced their travels. ‘It won’t be easy. Why there?’

Molly’s eyes were blank as if she had recited her answer many times. ‘I want to go where the roads end so I can forget.’

In their cabin, they always had a fire. The red glow became the only light they knew. That is until the leaves wreathed the floor. Mama would let them out. The sunlight burned their eyes and they stumbled out like blinded animals. Mama was kind then. She taught them the roads to take, the animals to hunt, and the berries and plants to eat.

They never went hungry and they never went cold when Mama was kind. ‘Always listen to your mom,’ she told them with warmth in her voice. ‘Listen to me, and you’ll be safe. Nothing will ever hurt you.’

Molly recalled those days fondly, but she also remembered Mama’s changing. She was never certain what caused Mama to turn into a monster, but she decided to blame the cold. One day winter slipped into their cabin and extinguished their fire. Molly woke up from a chill and walked out to a dark room. The windows were opened and their door rattled by the wind’s hand.

Mama stood by the embers, her eyes taking a ghoulish light. Her hairs looked frayed, and a smile crept from cheek to cheek. ‘Little Molly Moop,’ She said softly, ‘come to your mother.’ Something in Molly told her to run. Mama’s arms swept across her shoulder. ‘Wake Ben and Lucy for me.’

‘Ben. Lucy. Wake up,’ Little Molly Moop nudged them awake. ‘Something’s strange about Mama. I think we should go.’

‘What do you mean?’ Lucy rolled over with half-opened eyes. ‘And where will we go?’

‘Mama taught us how to live out there. We should go. I have her map in my bag.’

‘You’re imagining things,’ Ben got up. ‘Why would we leave?’

‘Ben’s right. Let’s go see her.’

The three children stepped out into the dark room. Mama was not there. The room was devoid of warmth, with only the draft swirling about the room. Molly gripped the strap of her backpack.

‘My children,’ her voice creaked from behind them. Her gun cocked. ‘Let’s go out.’ She made them stand in a line. ‘If you listen to Mama, you’ll be fine.’ She fired her first shot into the air. They all jumped from the sound. ‘Run as fast and far as you can. If you look back, you’re dead.’

Little Molly Moop shook violently. She wanted to look to Ben, to Lucy, but she was afraid that would break Mama’s rule. ‘I’m not me. I’m not me…’

When she took off, the gun fired.

Down the valley, at the horizon, they saw the end of their world. Little Molly Moop was no longer little. Besides their appearances, they weren’t certain how they have changed or whether they could forget. Always like a shadow, their memories followed them. And maybe they learned to bury their hauntings.  But there were the mauve mountains, the field of yellow-green that billowed, and the winds to ferry them elsewhere.

Hobo trekked down the slope, the years making him slow. They followed eagerly, waiting for the moment they could step off the map. They walked briskly until they were all running. Hobo did his best to keep up, falling behind more and more.

The grass tickled their ankles and the mountains rose higher and higher. In no time, they stood before the mountains. They were on the edge of the map, ready to take the final step. To Molly’s map, they looked back to the roads they have taken. It all culminated there at the corner.

For once, Fatboy had nothing to say. The three stood there, frozen, and they all had the same thought. It was the moment they waited years for, but it had snuck up on them. There, they lingered as long as they could. And then they took the next step.


Alan the Monkey

“All you have to do is keep this meter down. Easy right? A monkey could do it. When it gets past this level, right here, press this button. This one right here, with the signs pointing to it. That’s all.”

And if I don’t?

“I know exactly what you’re thinking. Well let’s say in the unlikely event you don’t, then a lot of people will die. Look down there. You see all of them? Yup. Goodbye to that happy couple. Him. Her. That old guy will definitely not make it. And that baby, forget it. Absolutely annihilated. You certainly don’t want that, right?” The latch turned and the door opened. Bill left, waving. “Remember the button!” His laughter has stayed with me.

“How many years has it been since we circled the sky?” I look to my monkey, who picks its butt and shrugs. “You’re right. Who cares.” The files have risen well above my head. For every person, another piece of paper. Their name, eye color, birthday, personality, their quirks and problems, everything must be accounted for.

The buttons scintillate against a galaxy of stars when my machine poops out another paper. I skim the details, which I had quickly learned matter very little in the grand scheme of things. Who cares if that kid will get anxiety when he turns twenty? Who cares if that old woman will lose her leg to a shark attack. What the hell is a shark? Bill stopped categorizing them since the dinosaurs.

My monkey hobbles over with a plate of food. “Wooo AHHHHHHHHH!”

“Hm. Yes, I should eat.” As I eat my celestial mush, I pour my monkey a glass of Tang, the delicious fruit drink brought to us by the astronauts, very rare and very delicious. It smiles with all its teeth at me. “You know I still don’t know your name after all this time.”

“EH. Heh heh.”

“I see. Well Alan I suppose you’re right. We should clean a little.” I look around the room. I never was very organized. But to be fair, I inherited this mess from Bill. The piles and piles of paper can’t be thrown away for however long. After I vaporize my dish and Alan’s cup, cleaning is done.

In my maze of documents, we take a stroll. “Alan, can I tell you something? I am tired of this room. It is both infinite and confining. I don’t even know what that means.” I sigh. “Do you remember your life before you came here?”

He mutters something under his monkey breath.

“Yes. The grass is greener.” The memories of my past life are vague and ephemeral. Its better to bury them. Yes. We walk for some time through the maze we’ve created. I am silent. Alan, disgusted by my existential fuming, runs off when red flashes about the room. The alarm sounds.

It must have been years since we’ve checked the meter. The room turns bloodier and darker with each passing second. I run my fastest, but the maze blocks me at every turn. “Alan! Why did we make this maze?” I can hear his hooting at the maze’s end.

“Where’s the button?” Alan is at the control panel pushing every button, flailing. He screeches at me to help.

“I can’t find the button!” I shove the papers off the panel. They fall like snow. But the panel keeps stretching to oblivion, all the buttons flashing. Alan slams his monkey hands down on all the buttons and I follow his example. The alarm keeps blaring. “What are all these buttons for?”

“Wooo WOO EHHHHHH.” He shrugs.

“What? You’ve been here longer than I have!”

I am filled with dread as I look to the stars in the black abyss. I see the people ignorant of their demise, and I see the consequence of the buttons. “Alan stop. Look what we’ve done.” I pull my hair. I had forgotten I have hair. “Shit! Why do we even have these buttons?!” I sink in the red. The alarm is blaring, louder and louder. I shudder at the thought of what’s to come.

Am I going to die?


I usually hide my thoughts or opinions behind silly stories. But here goes. There’s no ending to this one, at least a satisfying ending. I wrote this to channel my anxieties, but it became an issue of how I address and resolve my anxieties.

There’s no way this story won’t end terribly, at least not if I’m honest with the writing. I’m not OK with that though. Because that’s not the message I want to send about anxiety…

If there’s any satisfaction reading this, it should stem from the fact that’s it’s completely hyperbole. Someone smarter than me wrote that anxiety is imagining the worst situation in which you are completely powerless.

But that’s purely a narrative that we choose to believe. I think rarely is reality as bad as our predictions; the worst situation being arguably dying. “Am I going to die from this panic attack/shitty situation?” Probably not. Hopefully not. And unlike this story’s situation, in which there’s no resolution unless its lame deus ex machina or absolute shit, life is more surprising and unexpected that my story. At least I hope so.

I like to believe that people are always willing to help when they see others in need. We all have friends and family, even though we lose sight of that sometimes. And maybe they’re not always observant of that because they have their own shit to go through. And if not find strength in others, maybe finding strength in yourself is enough. Things aren’t as bad as they seem, and everyone is equipped to navigate past their anxieties if that most terrible outcome can be dispelled.

All right, my nonsensical bullshitting is done. Thanks for reading.

And thanks Lily for encouraging me to write about my own feelings. I think it was the only way I could’ve resolved this.

Thanks Spencer for bouncing ideas back and forth with me.











Behind You

Late of night, my mind wanders to strange places. I watch the last passenger depart into the night, but I wish he had stayed. The door screeches shut, and fear consumes me. A strange presence haunts me, I just know it. To my rearview,  I see myself and an empty bus. ‘Nothing out of the ordinary,’ I soothe myself .

It is a road I traveled night after night. At this hour, there is no one, nothing, save for the shuttering trees. Once again, I peer into my mirror. Nothing. I must be overtired. For my sanity, I park the bus. Row after row, I look for the monster. It must be a homeless man who overslept. Nothing. No one.

My nerves are calmed. Down the road, I push this decrepit bus as fast as it goes. It is a sad endeavor. But alas, I am out of the tree’s vicinity when a gale slams my bus. To my dismay, the lights flicker until I am in the dark.

My eyes are drawn to the my mirror. But I stop myself. What if there is something there? What if the moment it knows I know, it attacks. I clutch my wheel in cold sweat. I pray there is nothing else there. I look. It is just me, nothing out of the ordinary.

I savor the idea of parking my bus at the lot. With only a mile to go, I am surely out of harm’s way. ‘You’re being stupid,’ I laugh loudly. Louder. My loudest. I can feel its presence. I can feel the weight of its stare. I see it.

At the farthest row, it grins at me. I cannot stop. The longer I stare, the closer it approaches. I look back. Nothing. My imagination is against me. I refuse to look at the mirror.

The lot is within sight. I strain not to look. It’s horrible visage haunts me. It plagues my thoughts. I almost wish to close my eyes. I turn my head to the dark. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.  ‘Be reasonable,’ I chuckle. My eyes climb to the mirror.

Two rows away, it reaches for me. I close my eyes. ‘Fuck this!’ I don’t know how, but I run out the bus. Nothing is behind me outside. The night is silent save the lot’s buzzing fluorescence.

I shut the door to my car. My breath escapes me. I heave and heave when I glance in my rearview. A grin and my screams are lost to the night.



Alan the Pirate

When my commute was two hours, I found myself fantasizing about different, exciting lives. And maybe that’s something everyone does; they’re just thinking of what’s possibly better.

I didn’t sit on my ass ten hours a day anymore. I didn’t stare at a monitor burning my retinas out anymore. I was a fucking pirate (I actually never imagined I was a pirate. It was always the award-winning novelist fantasy). And I don’t mean the Jack Sparrow kind of pirate. I mean Captain Phillips, ‘Look at me. I’m the captain now’ kind of pirate. Yup, I was a pirate with a machine gun.

“I see a ship,” my first mate called to me. His name is First Mate Matt for alliteration.

“Yes. Let’s get them.” There I was in my captain’s quarters with my walkie-talkie, in my ship with my many cannons, in the pacific ocean with the dolphins. And there it was, some loser dinghy barely making any waves.

They were obviously no match to my superior ship. I pull up. My crew is looking intimidating, especially Crab Claw Candice. She keeps the crab claws of the crabs she eats in a neat necklace she wears everyday.

“Oh hey man. Can you help us?”

“No!” I blatantly gesture to my machine gun.

“Come on, man. We’ve been here for a few hours, and its scary.”

“No! I’m going to steal all your things, and I’m going to be your captain now. Look at me. I’m the captain now!”

“We don’t have anything.” They were right. They didn’t even have clothes on, for they were nudist.

“Gross. Put some clothes on.”

“We can’t. We’re nudist.”

At this point my crew is quite disappointed. I can feel the tension in the air. “Argh,” I mutter to myself. I fiddle with my machine gun for a few seconds. “Where you guys going?”

“We want to go back to shore.” The old man stands up and points back to the beach. His belly heaves when he gestures. Everything sags.

“Oh god.” Candice leaves at this point.

“All right. Throw them a rope,” I say to Matt. “Hey you guys have to wear clothes on this ship because I’m the captain.”

The nudist comply. They succumb to my authority as captain. I sail them back to the shore, where an army of nudists welcome back their marooned brothers.

“Listen, Alan. This isn’t working out.” I turned to Matt. “We haven’t stolen anything for months now. I got to pay rent somehow. Sorry, I’m out.”

Deep down, I know he’s right. But I’m immature and angry. “Walk the plank then!” I yelled at him. Candice leaves as well, shaking her stupid judgmental head.

At this point, I have to concede that pirating is simply not for me. Whatever. There are plenty of other endeavors. I’m back at my desk. In my head, I cross pirates off my list. At least I have writing…