Tuesday, August 7, 2018

"The Vorpal Report" in The Temz Review

My new novelette "The Vorpal Report" (9,400 words) has just been published in the latest issue of The Temz Review.  A special preview of the novelette follows:

The Vorpal Report
by Robert Guffey


What’s wrong? she seemed to ask, tracing his bare back with her fingertip.

He shrugged his shoulders in response.

She sighed with ennui, then slid her palms down his back and began kissing him along his spine.

He stared at the blanket that hung from the top of the bunk bed above them.

Her roommate was gone. Most everyone in the dorm was gone … for Thanksgiving weekend, he assumed. Thanksgiving, he’d always suspected secretly, was like most holidays: a con to keep you in your home, stuffing your face with dead meat all day while government agents in “Radiation Suit Leisure Wear” tiptoe in your backyard, injecting your flower garden with a new chemical virus created by Mengele’s ghost up in that condo lab in D.C. with the plush red curtains.

Mmmm. Yes.

Pherrod Hempley now expressed this long-repressed suspicion to Ellen as he watched the blanket hanging there from the top bunk. The ratty old blanket seemed to be clinging on to dear life, doing nothing spectacular really—like himself.

Ellen laughed. She leaned towards his ear, her long, recently fuchsia-dyed (cinnamon-scented) hair falling onto his head. She ground her teeth lightly on the tiny white hairs on his neck, and then on his flesh. How’re you doing? she asked.

Pherrod wasn’t sure what to say, so he didn’t say anything.

Roll over, she said softly, giggling, and pinched his butt.

His gaze dropped from the blanket hanging from the mattress above him, to the wad  (Ellen’s blanket rolled up into a ball at the foot of the bed) next to his mouth. Please don’t wipe it off on my blanket, she said. One guy—some guy—did that. Real, uh … here, use this. Real disgusting.

When he wouldn’t roll over, she began attempting various ways to excite him. He lay there for a few seconds, watching the blanket slide off the mattress above him, then grabbed her arm and pulled her towards him. He began massaging her pink nipple, and he looked her in the eyes and said, Nothing’s wrong. He kissed her on the lips.

Mn. She shook her head. No kissing.

So he buried his head in the crook of her neck and shoulder and went at her with four fingers.

His face was pressed into her new hair for the twelfth time that day, and for the life of him … he really couldn’t smell the cinnamon. Maybe it was just him.

But when she asked him about it later, he nodded, and said, Yeah, baby, smells nice ….

She grinned with satisfaction.

* * *

He tried not to think of these things, but as he watched the lump of blanket squatting next to his—and Ellen’s—head, he thought he could just as easily imagine himself taking her skull and ramming it into the nightclub-flyer-covered plaster of the wall four or five or six, perhaps more, several more, times … as he could taking her head in his hands and covering it with kisses, as he did now after stealing one of her roommate’s condoms that had been hidden underneath the mattress above them. The roommate was going to be surprised when she came home; her supply was dwindling rapidly. But Ellen said not to worry, she’d pay the stupid cunt back later.

Pherrod found himself wondering how she would pay her back.

I’m not paranoid, it’s just that I think everyone’s out to get me, an acquaintance who thought of himself as a friend had said to him a long time ago, why?, no one knows. But he found it funny now, as he came inside of her, and she held on, and she siiiighed underneath him, and, hhhhhhh.

He tried not to think of these things … of what she was doing (and who she was doing it with) when he wasn’t around.

But he often did.

* * *

Thanksgiving dinners. Holidays. Celebratory toasts.

What these things are, exactly, are cons to keep people in their homes stuffing their faces with dead meat all day while ….

* * *

A government agent flew in through the window and—straddling his broom—landed like a rocket ship in the bathroom. It was dark. But he didn’t need a light. Infrared goggles had long been standard issue. All he needed to do was plant the vector, then take off …

This he did, in the false bottom of the medicine cabinet (which had been installed long ago for just this reason) …

Quietly, he reclosed the cabinet.

Quietly, he straddled his broom once more.

And quietly, he kicked off from the second story bathroom window sill, and with a quiet, carbine backfire, was gone into the quiet, suburban night.


* * *

Jabberwocky Outbreak Declared a Pandemic by CDC

Washington, D.C.—Over the past few weeks dozens of cities on the East Coast of the United States have become affected by an illness the Center for Disease Control is calling “Jabberwocky Disease,” a disorder that affects only the language centers of the brain. With the advent of the illness, common words are often transformed into meaningless utterances, though the victims themselves appear not to be aware of this. The victims are not affected otherwise, and the disease is not believed to be fatal.

“The breakdown this could cause in our day-to-day lives is incalculable,” says Dr. Ronald Eckert of the CDC. “Up till now, in the vast majority of instances, the deleterious effects have been gradual and intermittent; however, in rare but severe cases, the language breakdown has been abrupt and resistant to treatment. In the past few days, these severe cases have begun to multiply exponentially. Unfortunately, the disorder appears to affect not only oral communication, but written communication as well.”  Dr. Eckert claims that the outbreak, within only a few days, has reached pandemic proportions.

According to Dr. Amini Fayshad, former U.S. Surgeon General, the possibilities of this disease are far more dire than one might imagine. “What adds to the general uncertainty of the situation is the fact that no reputable linguist is aware of what might occur to the way people perceive reality if the means by which human beings communicate undergoes a sudden and irreversible paradigm shift,” commented Dr. Fayshad on Sunday. “What if reality itself is shaped by the language we use to describe it?” 


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