Saturday, November 19, 2011


A fresh "drabble" (ultra-short-story) today, based off of a supposedly true story I heard once. It was from an anonymous source, so take its veracity with a grain of salt. Still, makes for a pretty good story.

Nov. 19th, 2011- Aaron Matthew Smith

We shoved through the bare trees, frozen grass and underbrush crunching beneath our boots. After hours of hiking I could finally see the clearing up ahead.
“I’m tired, Justin,” Chad said. “Are we there yet?
“It’s right here!” I’d told Chad I’d found something weird out in the woods. I knew he’d never believe me unless I brought him here. I ran out into the clearing, aware that Chad was still standing in the treeline. I listened carefully, and in the center of the clearing I heard it. My footsteps on the frozen dirt were suddenly replaced by a hollow metal clang in the chill afternoon air.
“What is it?” Chad said, too scared to approach.
"Don't know," I said. “I didn’t want to look by myself.” I bent over and tore the weeds away, revealing one of hundreds of metal drums I’d found buried in the Arkansas woods. I scraped the dirt off of the round, rusted top, my gloved hands fighting the corroded cap free.
Noxious fumes hit me like a tidal wave and I feel onto my butt, colors swimming in front of my eyes. I leaned over and puked, splattering my gloves. Chad was shouting something, but I was too sick to even turn to look at him. He must’ve dragged me out of the clearing, because the next thing I knew we were running, Chad half carrying me.
“What was it?” Chad gasped.
I started to talk when another wave of nausea rolled over me. Whatever it was, it wasn’t supposed to be there. We needed help.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I love writing short stories, but much of the time it can be really difficult.

This was not one of those times. This story seemed to leap right onto the screen! It's an expansion of the story I wrote last week, which is a sort of novel-in-progress (like a whole lot of my work). The first part is here, and the second is here; as per usual, it's not totally necessary to read the first parts but they'll help set up the world a little more clearly. Enjoy! 

Aaron M. Smith- Nov. 11th, 2011

I should’ve known I was in for trouble as soon as I saw the apartment number. Thirteen. I don’t consider myself a superstitious person, but the job gave me an itch as soon as I took it.
The cold November wind threatened to tear my ears off my head as I approached the building. Whitaker-Jones Agency had sent me on a fairly straightforward case today. Some rich guy was behind on his alimony payments and liked to hide out in a little hole in the wall he thought nobody knew about. But his ex-wife knew enough about it to give me the address. All I had to do was see if he was there and then call her attorney. Easy in, easy out.
The address was one of those little hundred and fifty year old brownstones that are all the rage with the kids and cost more to live in now than they did back before the paint was falling off the walls. I flashed the PI badge to the doorman and he let me in, after making me pass through a weapon field. I’d left my gun at home, luckily; in most of the places downtown, if you’re detected with a weapon they won’t let you on the premises. Forget using the subway.
And there I was standing in front of number thirteen. I had my hand raised to knock when the door to number fourteen, right behind me, exploded into a thousand pieces.
A city bus in the shape of a man slammed me to the door of thirteen so hard I heard the wood splinter. Or maybe that was my ribs. I gasped for breath while the man on top of me sprang to his feet. He grabbed the collar of my shirt and lifted me into the air with one hand like I was a newspaper he intended to swat a fly with. His ice cold empty hand grabbed me under the chin.
Blue spots danced in front of my eyes as he growled, “I am not your property!
My vision cleared for a fraction of a second; I got one glimpse of his face before he tossed me down the hallway like a scrap of trash. The titanium fibers in my coat saved me from lacerations but did nothing to blunt the impact of the hardwood floor. I skidded and rolled like a foul ball, finally coming to a rest thirty feet and several bruised ribs later.
I looked up; a man with glasses and watery blue eyes was peeking at me from Thirteen, his door scattering splinters of wood. Whoever had just thrown me out was gone. The strange thing was, I recognized his face, sort of.
I groaned and got to my feet as quickly as I could without sacrificing my last scrap of dignity. Apartment fourteen was abandoned, not a scrap of furniture in the place. The view from the window looked down onto the front stoop; the guy had seen me coming from here. Had he been hiding out in here? If so, from whom?
A flash of shining steel sprinted from the door of the building, sending the poor doorman tumbling down the short stairs. No wonder most door minders were automated nowadays. The guy who clobbered me moved faster than any human could have, leaping twelve feet straight into the air to grab onto the train line overhead, naked metallic body reflecting the dismal grey light of the New York afternoon. In moments he was out of sight.
I slumped against the wall of Fourteen, too sore to question the guy across the hall. A minute later I heard voices and a pounding on the stairs. A short woman with a head full of curly brown hair spun into the room, NYPD-issue firearm pointed at my melon.
The angry combat mask on her face fell when she saw me, disappointment causing her almond-shaped eyes to narrow.
“…Toby?” she said.
“Afternoon, Casey.” Two other officers stepped into the room around her, guns trained on me. I didn’t recognize either of them.
“He’s fine guys,” Sergeant Sandra Casey said, indicating with her free hand for them to sweep the rest of the apartment. She holstered her weapon and crossed the room to me. When we were alone, she said, “What the hell are you doing here, Toby?”
“Singing telegram,” I said.
“What’s a telegram?”
“Nevermind. I was here on a job when I got the stuffing knocked out of me. Probably by the guy you’re after.”
“We’re not after a guy,” Casey said, her voice guarded.
“Forgive me. The thing you’re after.”
She narrowed her eyes farther, her brow creasing. “Toby, what do you know?”
“More than I should, I’m beginning to think.” I grinned. Somehow, it made my ribs hurt.
“Damn straight.” Casey knelt and whispered, “This is supposed to be top-secret, Toby. People could get hurt.”
“I thought you weren’t looking for people.
“You know what I mean.” She got right in my face. “You got a good look at it, then?”
“I sure did,” I said. “The smart plastic their faces are made out of makes an impression. Same with the carbon-fiber skeletons.” I winced. “No doubt about it. It was a full-human Auto.” Casey didn’t say anything, but I could tell from her silence that I’d guessed correctly. “Except they’re not supposed to exist. Nobody’s been able to get a full human prototype to work.”
“Autos are nothing new,” Casey said, helping me to my feet. “They’ve been doing manual and tedious labor for years.”
“Until now?” I ventured. “Who made this one?”
“Proscor,” Casey said after a moment. “And they reported it stolen thirty hours ago. Nine years of work, gone.”
I looked out the window, down the mag-lev train line the mechanical man had just used for his getaway. “I think ‘stolen’ is the wrong word, Sergeant. Looks to me like it escaped.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New Cartoons!

TWO POSTS in two days?! I know, I can't believe it either. Two things happened this weekend, both of which inspired me to cartooning.

The first, the uniquely American scam that gets people to get up an hour later to get more work done in the sunlight during the winter. Yup, it's daylight savings time!

"You've earned the achievement: All The Benjamins"

This weekend we lost America's greatest professional curmudgeon, and a darn talented writer and contributor to "60 Minutes" to boot. Farewell Andy Rooney, 1919-2011.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


It's November, which means it's National Novel Writing Month! I tried to participate in NaNoWriMo last year and did pretty well. I wrote nearly 20,000 words, which (while less than half the 50k "goal" that NaNo'ers shoot for) was more than I'd written in a single month, and is still my 30-day best.

This year I'm going to make a resolution not to write more content but to do more to make my name known to agents and publishers; push my blog a little harder (as well as update it a little more often), write more agent letters, tweet with more connected people.

In that spirit, this story is a sort-of sequel to the entry I wrote for last June called "Awake" which you can read here (new window). While it's not totally necessary to read it first, it might make this story a little easier to follow. It's a working idea that I'd like to develop into a novel one of these days, as soon as I flesh out an actual story from it. Enjoy!

"Who?" (1700ish words)
November 5th, 2011
Aaron Matthew Smith

My eyes flew open and I was again blinded by white light.
My stomach did a sudden flip and I leaned over the edge of the bed and puked all over the floor. Which was how I found out I was in a bed. I felt a hand on my shoulder as I coughed and spat.
“Easy, easy. Take a breath,” a woman’s voice said, and then shouted, “Orderly!”
“I’m okay,” I said, leaning back up, my paper hospital gown crinkling as I moved. Someone pressed a cool glass into my hands, and I took a drink. Whatever was in it tasted like orange Tang, but I managed to keep it down. I looked up to see a pair of almond-shaped eyes.
“You’ve been asleep for nearly two days,” the woman said. “Are you feeling better?”
“Better than what?” I sipped the drink. It was too sour.
She shrugged. “My name’s Sandra Casey. Do you remember me?”
I nearly said no but caught myself. Something about her eyes was familiar. “Maybe,” I decided.
“I was there when we found you. Do you remember that?”
I tried to focus, but it felt like I was trying to remember a particularly raucous bachelor party the morning after. “I remember being cold, and then all this light. And then the puking.”
Sandra Casey shook her head. “I was afraid of that.” She touched a pin on the lapel of her suit jacket. It made a tiny chirp noise. She whispered, “This is Casey, we’re going to need someone from psychology for the John Doe we brought in the other day. Send to my current location.”
“John Doe?” I said. Cold truth hit me like a sock in the gut a second later. I tried to recall my name, or what kind of car I drove, or my wife’s name. Hell, whether I was married or not.  
“Why can’t I…” I said, the panic in me threatening to boil over like an unwatched kettle.
“We’re not sure,” Sandra said, holding her hands up in what I suppose she thought was a comforting gesture. “We’re still examining the equipment.”
“What equipment?”
“The canister that we found you in.”
I laughed. I actually laughed. “Canister? What’re you talking about, like a sardine or something?”
She made a confused face, then her eyebrows rose. “They still sold them in cans back then.”
“What’re you talking about?” I said.
“Sir… do you know what year it is?”
“Listen, I heard you call your shrink a minute ago, but I’m not totally cracked.” I wrinkled my nose, the smell of bile reaching me. “I’m sorry, but can we get someone to clean this up?” I pointed at the recent paint job I’d given the floor.
Suddenly a tinny buzzing reached my ears from the door to the room. Something like a doggie dog flopped up at the bottom, and a little thing that looked like a halved soccer ball slipped into the room. I watched mesmerized as it sniffed out the pile of vomit on the floor, a tiny red light on top of the white object going nuts. It glided across the puddle, leaving sparkling white floor beneath it until the job was done. There was a ding! like someone’s microwave dinner was finished. The little light on top turned blue and the thing let itself out the way it had come.
I turned to look at Sandra Casey, pointing at the doggie door.
“That was an orderly,” she said calmly.
“That was a Roomba, and I’ve seen one before.” I sniffed, a sharp scent now present in the room.
“That small is nitrogen,” Casey said. “That thing sublimated the puke.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yes,” she said. “It’s a sublimating maid.”
“No, I mean are you seriously going on with this?” I said. “It was sort of cute at first, the whole reanimator thing, but it’s getting old. Who set you up to this? Did someone drug me and pay you to freak me out when I woke up?”
“Sir, I know this is hard to understand, but according to the machine where we found you, you’ve been asleep since 2010.”
“Look, I’ve had enough. I’m calling the nurse.” She seemed nice enough, but this was serious; I couldn’t even remember my own name, for crying out loud. Whoever was pulling a fast one on me had done a good job. I looked to each side of the bed for the nurse call button, but didn’t see it. In fact, the metallic hospital bed didn’t have any controls on it at all.
A foot square area of the wall just above Casey’s head blinked to life suddenly, like a hidden TV screen. A woman’s face appeared.
“What can I do for you?” She asked.
I blinked. “Uh.”
“Nothing right now, thank you.” Casey said. The screen blinked off. “Be careful, it’s voice activated.”
“…where am I?”
“Roosevelt Hospital, New York City.”
I shook my head. “I don’t remember much, but I remember that building’s old. This place looks like the damn space station.”
“That’s what I’m saying,” Casey whispered. Her brow furrowed, her mouth set in a tiny frown. She wasn’t letting up.
I stood up from the bed, making sure the gown covered my kibbles and bits and crossed to the window. Sunlight filtered in through frosted glass. I leaned in, trying to make out some of the shapes on the other side. As my fingers touched the cold glass it suddenly changed transparent, filling the room with direct sunlight.
The first thing I noticed was how blue the sky was. I’d never seen a sky that beautiful before. Building rose like glittering arms into the sky, each trying to reach a little farther than the others. Each of the buildings was covered in scales that reflected the sunlight like fish scales, making the whole city look like some gaudy piece of rhinestone jewelry. There were no telephone or power lines, no clouds of smog clogging the air, no constant railing of car horns drifting up to the window.
I blinked twice. Then I leaned one way, then the other, watching the perspective from the window change as I moved. It wasn’t a picture, and if it was a fake it was the most amazing special effects I’d ever seen.
I looked at Casey. “How’re you doing that?”
“…and get psych up here right now,” she was whispering into her lapel again.
“No, no. You tell me right now what’s going on!” I stuck my finger in her face, my patience completely gone. “I can’t remember my own damn name and you’re playing movie magic? This is serious!”
The door to my room opened suddenly, and I screamed.
The little floor cleaning robot was back, except it was bigger, and flying. And this time it had a woman’s face on it, stretched out of the white surface like it was made of latex and a women behind it was trying to press her way out with her face. It’s non-eyebrows moved in a horrible mockery of concern.
“It something the matter, sir?” It said, formless mouth moving as it spoke. And I lost it.
I dove past Casey for the door, knocking the white levitating head for a loop as I shoved past it into the hallway. I hung a left and charged down the completely empty hall. Which distantly struck me as odd- weren’t hospitals usually full of people running all over the place?
The hall ended at a sort of hub with a reception desk and three other passages branching off. Another levitating head stationed behind the desk turned to look at me as I approached. My bare feet slipped on the tile floor as I slid to a halt.
“Something wrong, sir?” It said in a maddeningly human voice.
No time to hesitate; I took another left as I heard footsteps pounding down the hall behind me. Casey’s voice shouted “Police! Stop that man!” but it was too late. I was already down the next hallway, its antiseptic white surfaces identical to the last.
Something sprang suddenly from the floor; I barely had time to throw my hands up to shield my face before I crashed into it. The thing gave with my weight and sprang back like a semi-transparent trampoline. A expected to hit the tile floor but the crash never came. Another of the membranes had appeared behind me, and no sooner had I hit it than I felt the first clinging to my back. In seconds I was sandwiched between the two resilient surfaces, its soft surface pressing against my face. Through it I could see Casey jogging down the hall toward me.
Oh god, I thought. They’re going to cut off my face and turn me into one of those horrible floating things.
Someone turned the corner behind her and ran up to meet Casey. He wore a white lab coat and looked like he’d just jogged up thirty flights of stairs.
“Is something the matter, sir?” I heard the floating face call after him.
“About time,” Casey said as the guy came up next to her. Her voice came to my muffled, like my head was stuck under a pillow. “He just went ballistic.”
What was I supposed to do? I struggled, but it felt like I was held in a bear hug by a particularly impassioned professional wrestler.  I was completely helpless. Through the murky skin I stared at Casey’s almond-shaped eyes. Was she really going to let them do whatever it was they were going to do to me?
“Help me,” I said, as loud as I could manage.
She came within inches of my face. Her brow might have been furrowed. Or it might have been the gummy film holding me like fly paper.
“Don’t worry,” she said finally. “We’ll find out what happened to you.”
Even if I would’ve noticed the syringe in the other guy’s hand, I couldn’t have done anything about it. He plunged the needle right through the binding and into my shoulder. I barely felt the prick, and a moment later I didn’t feel anything at all.