“Saul Ryan, thanks for joining us in the studio today,” the interviewer said as he gestured toward the open chair opposite him.

“Yeah. You’re welcome,” Saul said.

The interviewer adjusted his tie, then asked the question everyone was waiting to hear the answer to, “How old were you when you first realized you wanted to grow up to be a monster?”

Saul shifted in his seat, eyes casting about the room. Not out of discomfort, more of a reflection of how boring he thought regular people had become. “Well, I think it was somewhere around age twelve. I had joined my father on a business trip to Florida. He was there to sell his new robots to a handful of shoe manufacturers. The first morning we were there, we had breakfast at the hotel and I got this idea. Why stop with shoes? Robots should be able to do almost anything someday.”

“So just like that?” the interviewer asked.

“Yeah. Just like that. I realized that we – the wealthy – don’t need regular people, or at least wouldn’t need them for long. All we have to do is automate everything. Then there’ll be no use for regular people. It’ll be nice.”

Not feeling uncomfortable in anyway, the interviewer asked, “Well, what will you do with all the people that you don’t need?”

Saul took a quick look around the room, and lowered his voice a little. “That’s pretty easy. I mean, it took a great deal of planning, but they’ll die off before they have a chance to do anything about it. See we’re destroying the public education system, the health care system, and raking them over the coals with chaos.”

Saul stopped talking and nodded a few short nods.

“I know you only had a moment for us today, so I’d like to ask you one last question. This one came in on Twitter, looks like some kid, a fourteen year old.”

Saul nodded and said, “Go ahead. I have time for one last question.”

The interviewer, cleared his throat and read the question, “Has it ever occurred to you other people are people too?”

“No,” Saul said and then he got up and walked out.



You wanna hear the story of the time I met the Pumpkin Man, again? Are you sure? I just told you that one last night! Well, okay. Well, fine. Whatever you want, little lady.

I was down at the beach, right where you was swimmin’ earlier today. This was way long ago, well before your momma was born. I was skippin’ stones on the lake, sending ’em towards the sunset with a satisfyin’ sorta song. “Kssh-kssh-kssh-ploop,” went the rocks. “Klash-kssh-kssh-ksh-ksh-blop,” they would sing when I really put my wrist in ’em. My nice little half-whistled melody screeched to a stop, though, when I heard a yell so loud it made me just about jump out my skin.

I dropped the rock in my hand, forgotten with a clinkety-clack, and turned around expectin’ someone right there behind me. But it was just an awful “HALLOOOOOGHHH” echoing across the water, followed by a loud squishy sound. I didn’t see nobody there on the beach with me.

But then I noticed, way up on the hill, a-way up the path by the big old oak tree, stood a man. Or — well — it looked like a man anyway. With some kinda crazy hat on, just hollerin’ his head off to beat the band.

I waved and tried to yell back, “What’s wrong?” but he wouldn’t stop goin’ “HOOOOLLLOOOOOUGGHH!” So I figgered, better go see what’s wrong with this feller. I clambered up the steppin’ stones, couldn’t see cuz I ain’t wantin’ to fall, so’s his, uhh, appearance really done shocked me at the top.

I looked up, outta breath, and there was the pumpkin man. The dude had a giant jack-o-lantern on his head! I mean, it was bigger’n a beach ball. He’s standing there staring at me with black triangle eyes, and his hands on the sides of his pumpkin-y cheeks, and I’m just starin’ with my jaw on the ground. Catchin’ flies.

Before I could think to offer to help him get the dang pumpkin off his head, he lets out a hollerin “HOOO” and grabs the pumpkin up — but he’s got no neck! He’s got no head! He’s hollerin still somehow, and I swear to you that pumpkin mouth was openin’ wide as he bashed it to the ground with a giant ker-SPLUT.

I swear to you, no lie, he had no head. No neck! But when I looked down at the ground in the piles of smashed pumpkin-parts all around, and then I looked back up at him, his dang pumpkin head was right back on his shoulders!

I blinked a few times. I rubbed my eyes. And as I did, he yelled “HOOOO” louder’n anything I heard in my life. He lifted that pumpkin up in the air again, and brung it crashin’ down on the grass, ka-whump, and again, when I blinked, his head came back. His pumpkin head, I mean.

“Look, mister pumpkin man,” I says, “I don’t rightly know what’s goin’ on here.”

He yelled “HOOO” and hurled his head on the ground again, ka-plort, and by then I started to get better at ignorin’ his yellin’. “Look, let me try to help you there, mister.”

So’s I stepped towards him, holding a hand out, and he froze. It was quiet for a moment, like the wind died down to listen in. I stepped again, and he put his hands to his giant orange head. “Now look,” I said, which was all I could get out ‘afore he whipped the big pumpkin in my general direction! I ducked to the side, and it whizzed by me, tumblin’ in broken pieces down the stepping stones. Blat-bup-bup.

I don’t know why I wasn’t scared at that point, but I was just gettin’ angry about all these dang giant pumpkin parts all over my property. So I marched towards him, returnin’ his “HOOOO”, and when he threw his head at me again, I was ready. I caught the damn thing.

No, I don’t know what I was thinkin’. But I tell you what, I stopped thinkin’ pretty quick as soon as those triangle eyes squinted up at me, and the pumpkin winked.

I swear it, the sun set over the lake fast as I stood there holding that pumpkin. And then in the new darkness it started talkin’. “Put me on,” it said. “Put me on your head! It’ll be fuuuuuun,” it said. And that’s when I screamed “HOOOOOO” myself, and I threw that accursed thing to the ground, splat!, and I started runnin’ for the barn to get my dang shotgun.

Clearly this was a supernatural situation, but I wasn’t really in my right mind. And when I got my gun and I got out the barn, I heard only one more earth-shattering cry of “HOOOO” as I walked trepidatiously back down through the field towards the lake.

When I got to the old oak tree, the pumpkin man was nowhere to be found. But the ground was littered with pumpkin pieces and a whole bunch of crows were picking at ’em, eyein’ me.

Anyway, that’s why we don’t ever carve pumpkins after the harvest here on the farm no more.

Sleep tight! I’ll be downstairs, watchin’ out for that mean old pumpkin man, and if you hear a “HOOO” off in the distance, well, gorgeous… that’s probably just an owl.


Constellations of Want

Sustain yourself with the
clean-smelling petals
as they wrap themselves into the night,
scratching the starry horizon
into constellations of want.

I don't want to see forever, that's absurd, so:
allow for a thick mist to settle,
as if on schedule, a melted snowcap in mind
now turned into a wall of fog
to hide behind when the extroverts
come to steal my energy.

Reliant now on the tingling
sense of the moon,
I need it to predict my tides.
The interconnected muscles
in my chest float flashing moonlit bursts of
my breath into the heavy spring air.

I don't think I have hallucinated
this street,
this sidewalk,
this hill,
those trees,
this comforting fog,
but I have the strange sense
I could have created them
in the moment just before waking
to allow for a walk into the introverted night.

Dust Motes

Nothing is real.

Nothing to read.

Nothing to feel.

Nothing to see.

We are like dust motes, slowly waltzing toward the ground.

No light.

No distance.

No time.


The Kings of Sand and Order

(written partially with Robin Sloan’s Voyages in Sentence Space tool)


We couldn’t find ourselves until the day was just right. The whole shop was in the dark shroud of thick curtains, with the uniformed projectors under their dustcloths. Whip open the windows, let the curtains fall, and let the gold dust drift on down in the broad sunbeams.

Dear friend, the adventurer, the one who waits and watches, the museum-lover, the last knower: perhaps it was not right of me to tease her, after she lost Saturn and fell to us, ringless. We’re all just governments in the midst of internal coups, trying to get going, get started again, somehow. Not lose.

“Just tell me, though, if you think my old art is holding you back.” I move with vigor now, as I yank the coverings to the floor and power on the projections.

She looks around. “Never, Jim. I’m just glad to absorb it. At least now I know it’s all trickery.” Lazily draping an arm down to rest on a crumpled tarp on the floor, she whips it up and around like a flag. “You have no idea what you’re really revealing,” she laughs. Dust flies in whirlwinds.

I take a step, adjusting. Balancing myself on a curve of dappled sunlight carving shadow on the dusty boards. “No. But, there is still, always, somewhere… that combined pattern that has beauty within it.” Reaching up, I twist the focus ring. “The one crystallized experience we always strive for.”

As the projections come into focus on the ceiling and blend with the setting sunlight, she turns on the floor-lights and begins to absentmindedly practice dance steps.

The room becomes one of the ninety million moons of the earth. She is lit by them, golden. She obstructs my lights and my plans.

“We may need never understand, doctor. A few minutes to bring back the order, please.” Now she dances, as if trying to absorb all the light.

I stare and smile, thinking about someone else, another time, another place.