Tag: indie

Drake Novak

An excerpt from Finding Drake Novak

Drake didn’t know where his clan had originally come from. None of them had ever mentioned a home planet. They had always rambled through the galaxy in stolen ships, landing on remote planets, inflicting pain on the natives, feeding until those people were dead, and then searching for another planet. They crushed souls to stay alive the same way vehicles burned fuel in order to move.

One day, his clan settled on a jungle planet where all the people lived in grass huts. Right away, Drake’s family burned down all the huts and enslaved the locals, forcing them to build castles. Drake and his people lived in the castles, of course, while the natives suffered and shivered outside in the rain. Their sadness and anger provided nourishment for the entire clan.

Then the Galactic Police arrived in their white, round spaceships and shot Drake’s parents and siblings with shrink rays. The police snatched them up with tweezers and dropped them into glass tubes. Drake was the only one who dodged the shrink rays and escaped. He jumped into his father’s star cruiser and fled into the sky, scrambling as fast as the engines would carry him. He grieved for his lost family, but he kept on moving.

Eventually, he stumbled across Earth. The planet was a wonderful food source, oozing with despair and misery. Drake glided over North America and landed in the state of Georgia. He found a plastic factory he liked. He sucked the life out of all the bosses and took control of the company. Once Drake was comfortable and happy, he dismantled the star cruiser and sold the pieces for scrap metal. If he had left the ship intact, the Galactic Police could have easily traced it and found him. Drake didn’t mind tearing the ship apart. He had no intention of ever leaving Earth. It was a smorgasbord of sorrows. He planned to drink the sadness of humanity forever.

Drake’s office had two windows in it, one on each side of the room. The left window gave him a view of the parking lot, the street, and the vacant lot nearby. The right window was his observation window, allowing him to look down at the workers and watch them struggle.

Today, Drake stood at the observation window with his hands tucked behind his back and his head tilted to one side. Down below, an elderly woman crouched next to her machine, sobbing and eating nerve pills.

“Look at all those people down there,” Drake said to Mr. Neighbors. “Look at all that delicious pain. Do you know who my favorite employee is? Do you know which one I enjoy the most?”

“No,” Mr. Neighbors said. “Which one?”

“That one,” Drake said, pointing a long white finger. “Brenda May. The little old woman who limps all the time. I love the elderly. They have so many aches and pains. Brenda May can barely walk, but she has to support two young grandchildren. She hates every minute of her life. Her agony tastes so sweet.”

Finding Drake Novak is a dark comedy about an alien who draws his nourishment from negative energy. Malpheus Mallock, a rookie officer from the Galactic Precinct, travels to Earth to arrest Novak. But Malpheus has a problem. His tracking device doesn’t work correctly. Malpheus lands in the front yard of an elderly couple named Carl and Christine. They introduce Malpheus to fried chicken, sweet tea, and Atlanta Braves baseball. The whole time, Malpheus desperately tries to fix his tracking device so he can capture Drake Novak.

Finding Drake Novak is available on Amazon. The paperback is $6 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click on this text to order a copy.

Copyright 2016, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Books

I started writing when I was twelve and never stopped. Now I work in a factory, driving a rickety old forklift, but I still write books in my free time. Writing is more than a hobby for me. It’s a basic need like food and water. I mostly write science fiction stories filled with dark, twisted humor. Sometimes I write madcap comedies set in the South. I also write a little bit of nonfiction.

Finding Drake Novak combines science fiction and Southern Gothic. Drake Novak is a malevolent alien with bloodshot eyes and a black business suit. He draws his nourishment from the pain and sadness of other living things. He takes over a factory in rural Georgia and keeps all the workers as miserable as possible. He absorbs their frustration and despair the way a plant absorbs sunlight. Then a young policeman from the Galactic Precinct comes to Earth to arrest him.

Under the Electric Sun is a book about a robotic raccoon and a boy named Jake. They live in a luxurious underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. One afternoon, as they relax in a room full of plastic trees, a giant praying mantis arrives and tells them it’s safe to live on the surface again. Their lives change forever.

I also love to draw. Sometimes, when people find out I’m an artist, they hound me to draw portraits of their kids. Or they describe tattoo ideas to me, asking me to draw all kinds of ridiculous, complicated things. Some people are downright rude and pushy about it. How to Make an Artist Miserable is a book about these annoying people and the ways I’ve learned to deal with them.

All my books are available on Amazon in paperback and e-book format.

You can click here to order.

Plastic Trees in the Underground City

Here’s an excerpt from Under the Electric Sun

When he stepped through the doorway, his feet landed on soft green grass. The large room was filled with towering oaks, tall pines, azaleas in full bloom, and clusters of bluebells along the ground. Bird songs echoed in the air, even though no birds were visible. In the center of the park, there was a clearing with a playground in it. A group of children squabbled over which one of them would go down the slide next. The dome-shaped ceiling of Bailey Park was painted a pale shade of blue with an electric sun burning brightly in the center. Holographic clouds glided across it, moving so slowly that they barely appeared to move at all.

The grass was artificial, while the trees and bushes were made of plastic and other synthetic materials. The birdsong came from tiny speakers hidden in the leaves.

Jake sat down in the grass and leaned against a tree trunk. He let out a long sigh, which seemed odd to Tristan. It was the type of sound an older person would make.

Tristan sat in the grass beside him. For a moment, they were both silent.

“Just get some rest,” Tristan said, trying to conceal his worry. “And then we’ll go to the pet store. Esmeralda might be working today, you never know.”

A cloud of sadness seemed to hang in the air around Jake. Tristan was hoping it would evaporate at the mention of Esmeralda’s name, but it didn’t. Jake had been enamored with the girl ever since he had first spotted her in the pet store two years ago, sitting cross-legged on the floor and changing the batteries in a light brown Chihuahua. Looking up at Jake and Tristan with her coffee-colored eyes, Esmeralda had remarked that Jake didn’t need an electronic pet. He already had a talking raccoon on his shoulder, which was far better than all the non-speaking animals in the pet store. Flattered, Tristan had thanked her. As Esmeralda had zipped up the Chihuahua’s abdomen, she had talked about her own tutroid, a hoot owl named Matilda. Unfortunately, Matilda’s brain was defective and she preferred to remain perched on the headboard of Esmeralda’s bed, babbling about the French Revolution.

As Esmeralda had talked about her faulty tutroid, Jake had stared at her with a dazed look in his eyes. She didn’t seem to mind his delirious gaze. She had kept right on talking about her love for Matilda and her fascination with electronic animals in general.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jake said now, leaning against the tree in Bailey Park. “Esmeralda’s too old for me. She doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. She just wants to be friends with me, that’s all.”

Tristan shrugged. “Hey, that might change one day. She’s only three years older than you. When you guys get older, that age difference won’t matter anymore. You’ll both be adults. Who knows what will happen then?”

Jake didn’t reply. Tristan desperately wanted to cheer him up, but he had already played the Esmeralda card. He couldn’t think of anything else to do.

“So what do those big blobs look like?” Jake asked finally.

“In the meeting, they said the color changes depending on how you look at them,” Tristan said, relieved that the conversation was taking a new direction. “From one angle, they’re blue. From another angle, they’re red. I’ve been trying to picture that in my mind.”

“I still say they’re giant mushrooms,” Jake insisted. “And they’re mutant mushrooms, because of the war.”

They had argued about it all morning on their way to the vehicle museum.

“No,” Tristan said, staring up at the rounded ceiling of Bailey Park, as if he could see the surface of the earth if he strained his eyes hard enough. “I think they came here from another planet. They just popped up out of nowhere two months ago. And they’re as big as mountains. How do you explain that?”

Under the Electric Sun is available on Amazon. It’s a book about a boy and his electronic tutor. They live in a luxurious underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. The paperback version is $6 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click here to order.

Copyright 2013, 2015, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Barack Obama and the Unicorn

Barack Obama rode his silver unicorn down the Interstellar Highway. He sat up straight in the saddle, smiling at all the stars and galaxies. The Interstellar Highway was made of green, translucent pavement. It looked like an emerald that stretched on forever and ever, shimmering in the dim starlight. A steady current of air blew along the highway all the time, allowing Barack to breathe easily. He didn’t have to worry about a space helmet or a cumbersome oxygen tank. He just wore a black business suit and a light blue tie. His tie flapped gently in the cool breeze.

A little shortwave radio was tucked inside one of the saddle bags. Cuban dance music poured out of the speaker. The drums, the maracas, the acoustic guitars, and the wild piano gave him a warm, happy feeling inside. His soul tingled. He tapped his feet in the stirrups.

Up ahead, he saw a restaurant attached to the edge of the emerald highway. A neon pumpkin flashed on top of it.

Barack leaned back and tugged on the reins.

“Let’s stop here, Jerry,” he said.

The unicorn slowed to a stop. Barack switched off the radio and dismounted. For a moment, he smoothed out the wrinkles in his business suit. He raised his chin and adjusted his neck tie with a quick tug.

Then he pushed open the door and stepped into the restaurant. He was the only customer in the building. He looked around at all the empty chairs. The orange walls were decorated with bats. The front counter was black and covered with fake spider webs. The cash registers looked like tombstones.

A young woman slouched behind the counter. She had short pink hair and green eyes. She looked bored and sleepy. She stared down at a plastic tray on the counter like she was in a trance.

“Welcome to Halloween,” she said in a dull monotone without looking up.

“Good evening,” Barack Obama said, approaching the counter. “I would like to place an order for a bowl of chili and a large Frankenstein milkshake.”

Behind the counter, there was a wall that was supposed to look like stone. In the middle of this wall, there was a doorway. Barack Obama peeked through the doorway into the kitchen area. He saw an old woman with a hairnet carrying a large bag. Barack thought it was a bag of flour.

“Would you like to try our fried scorpions?” said the girl with the pink hair. “They’re only ninety-nine cents. They come with your choice of honey mustard sauce or sweet and sour sauce.”

Barack held his head high and clasped his hands together in front of his body. “Today, I only want to concentrate on the chili and the Frankenstein milkshake. But please don’t feel discouraged. Don’t cast away your hope. I’m not rejecting the scorpions altogether. In the future, you and I will engage in an open, candid discussion about the other food items you offer. I look forward with great anticipation to all the wonderful meals that lie ahead.”

“Okay,” the girl said, tapping the buttons on the tombstone cash register.

Barack opened his wallet and handed her some cash.

“I’m so pleased to be back here in the Upper Universe,” Barack said, glancing out the window at the stars. “I spent a great many years down in the Lower Universe. It was dark and tedious. Time passes at a much slower rate in that dimension, you know. And they don’t have emerald highways that alter reality and shorten distances. Down there, you have to travel in cars, trains, and airplanes. It’s outrageously slow. But I accomplished many things I’m very proud of. I was the president of a large country. And I also did some surfing. I’m pleased with all those things. Very pleased.”

“Do you want crackers with your chili?” the girl asked.

“Yes, please,” said Barack. “Give me a pack of oyster crackers. No, make that two packs of oyster crackers. Do you know where I’m going now? I’m on a trip to Andromeda. The ruler of that galaxy is a huge, magnificent sloth with sixteen heads. I wrote a haiku poem about him on a grain of rice. I wrote it with a pair of tweezers and a molecule. It was a difficult task, but I feel like the poem was a good one. And he enjoyed it as well. He’s going to present me with an award for it. I’m humbled and honored to accept it.”

“Here’s your food,” the girl said.

She handed him a small plastic pumpkin with chili inside it. Then she gave him an orange paper cup dotted with bats. It was filled with cold, green slop.

“What an extraordinary meal,” Barack said. “I look forward to eating it. I look forward to it with great anticipation.”

“Don’t forget your oyster crackers,” the girl told him.

She gave him two packs of oyster crackers. Barack tore them open and sprinkled the crackers in the chili. Then the girl gave him a couple of plastic spoons. He picked up his chili and his milkshake and carefully made his way to one of the tables.

He sat down at the table, smiling. He admired his food for a long time before he began to eat it. When he did start to eat, he closed his eyes and savored each bite. He thought about how good it felt to be back in the Upper Universe. He loved traveling among the stars with his silver unicorn again. It was so much better than the White House.

While he finished his meal, he heard a loud smacking noise somewhere in the kitchen area. He looked toward the front counter. Now the old woman with the hairnet was talking to the girl with the pink hair. They were leaning close to each other and whispering frantically.

“The bag,” the old woman was saying. “You know, the big bag. The one with all the scorpions in it. I accidentally dropped it. It hit the floor and busted wide open. All the scorpions came out.”

“How are we going to catch them?” said the girl with the pink hair. “There’s way too many.”

The old woman moaned. “I reckon we’ll just have to stomp them all. Stomp them as fast as we can.”

Barack noticed something moving on the floor near the end of the counter. A herd of shiny red scorpions ran across the floor in a high-speed exodus.

Barack grinned. He took one last sip of his Frankenstein milkshake and stood up. He walked out of the restaurant. Outside, his unicorn still waited patiently by the front door. Barack reached inside the saddle bag and pulled out the shortwave radio. It was a gray rectangle no bigger than a deck of cards. He switched it on with a flick of his thumb. Cuban dance music burst out of the speaker. It was a tiny speaker, but the sound quality was superb. His spine tingled as he heard the fast-paced drums, the maracas, the acoustic guitars, and the wild piano. It was the most glorious sound he had ever known.

Barack walked back into the restaurant. By this time, the floor was covered with red scorpions, running in every direction, celebrating their new freedom. Barack placed his radio on the table. He raised his hands in the air and began to snap his fingers. He tapped his feet. Then he flung himself across the room in a flurry of wild movement, dancing so fast that his legs became a blur. The music flowed through his body like electricity through a power station. He crushed hundreds of scorpions under his heels in time with the music. He leapt over tables and soared through the air, smiling the whole time. His face glowed with joy.

The girl and the old woman stared at him with their mouths open.

Soon, only a few scorpions were left alive. Barack Obama crossed his arms over his chest and started hopping on one foot. He bounced across the room like a pogo stick, killing the last of the scorpions. He continued to smile and glow.

When all the scorpions were dead, Barack stood tall and proud in the center of the restaurant.

“Thank you,” said the girl with the pink hair. “Thank you so much.”

“Sometimes life calls us to take action in ways we never could have anticipated,” Barack Obama said, straightening his suit and adjusting his tie. “In these moments, we have to find the strength inside us to answer that call. When life gives you scorpions, don’t let fear grip your heart. Don’t collapse. Don’t falter. Instead, turn on your radio. Turn on the Cuban dance music and complete the task that lies in front of you. Good night, my friends.”

Then he picked up his shortwave radio and walked out the door, into outer space. He climbed onto his silver unicorn and continued on his journey down the Interstellar Highway.

You can click here to visit my author page on Amazon.

Copyright 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Cat Drama

I had to take my cat Frances to the vet yesterday because of a stubborn skin allergy that makes her itch all the time. As always, the trip to the vet was a challenge. I had to change clothes when it was over. Frances is thirteen years old and full of issues. Even though she likes to snuggle up beside me and purr while I lie in bed, her heart normally burns with hatred for all living things. She often screams at me for no reason. When people come to visit, she sniffs them one time and then walks away, making them feel thoroughly unwelcome. I could tell you more bad things about her, but I won’t.

Frances is a solid black cat with intense yellow eyes. Her body is round and plump. She weighs fifteen pounds and waddles when she moves. Not long ago, my friend Angie looked at her and said, “You look like you’re pregnant with a whole bunch of kittens.”

When I first got Frances, she was tiny. I held her in one hand when I carried her home. She stared up at me the whole time, howling and bawling. I assumed she missed her mother. I assumed she would calm down eventually. She didn’t. Thirteen years later, Frances still stares up at me and makes loud, horrendous noises like she’s trying to tell me something urgent … and she’s upset because I don’t understand her. I live under a cloud of guilt, constantly wondering what she’s mad about, wondering why there’s so much frustration in her eyes, wondering what I’m doing wrong. I feed her quality cat food and tuna. I pet her and talk to her. I scratch her back. But she keeps on flooding me with guilt and shame.

Yesterday, when it was time to go to the vet, I scooped Frances up in my arms and carried her out the front door. Right away, her fur stood up. Her tail bristled like a toilet brush. She squirmed and thrashed with unusual strength. I locked my arms around her and held on as tightly as I could. I walked to the driveway and stood beside my car, struggling to open the driver’s side door and maintain my grip on Frances at the same time. It was a tough job. As if the situation wasn’t hard enough, she decided to empty her bladder on me too. She soaked my shirt. And the side of my car.

Putting her inside the car was almost as hard as pushing a rope up a hill. But somehow I managed to do it. Once she was inside, I threw myself into the driver’s seat and jerked the door shut. I pulled out of the driveway and started down the road, gnashing my teeth and grumbling. Frances waddled behind the driver’s seat and hunkered in the back floorboard, screaming like she’d been shot.

She kept screaming all the way to the vet’s office. And I did plenty of screaming too. Over and over, I yelled, “Frances, I’m taking you somewhere to help you. I’m going to pay somebody a bunch of money to make you stop itching, okay? You’re welcome, Frances! You’re welcome, you’re welcome, you’re welcome!”

When we got to the vet’s office, I stumbled into the waiting room, holding her in front of me like a hostage. I didn’t even try to be gentle. I was too irate for that. My shirt was covered in black fur and fresh urine.

I mumbled to the lady behind the counter. I told her my name. I told her I had an appointment. Then I sat down in a chair in the corner, scowling. Frances sat on my lap, huddled against my stomach with her head down. She still despised me, but she was too scared of the waiting room to pull away from me. We both sat there a long time, quietly hating each other.

I go through cycles with Frances. In spite of her wretched disposition, I always love her. I think of her as a mutant roommate, a furry companion who greets me every day when I come home from the mill. The love never goes away. But sometimes I forget that I love her. Then I just think of her as an angry bag of fluid.

Two ladies walked into the vet’s office together and sat down across from me in the waiting area. One lady held a gray tabby cat in her arms, wrapped in a blanket like a baby. The cat’s eyes were half-open. He looked groggy and feeble. The lady holding the cat never spoke at all. She just cried continuously and held the cat against her chest, petting his head the whole time. The other woman leaned forward and whispered to me for few minutes. She told me the cat’s name was Oscar.

It was time to put Oscar to sleep, she said gently.

My heart dropped into my stomach. I bit my lip. I felt sad for them. They weren’t just bringing the cat in for a routine visit. They were bringing him in for the last time. They were saying goodbye to a friend. It was a dark day for them.

I looked down at my own cat. She was lying on my lap like a sack of potatoes. I picked her up and held her close. I stroked her fur and looked into her strange, yellow, alien eyes. I kissed the top of her head. I told her I loved her.

Eventually, the vet called me back to one of the examination rooms. I carried Frances into the room and placed her on a cold, metal table. She looked up at me, meowing softly, sniffing the air. The vet trimmed her claws and gave her a quick shot in the butt.

I paid for the shot and left. Frances and I were both happy to get back in the car. The ride home was much different. We stayed calm and quiet. She didn’t scream at me. I didn’t scream at her. We just listened to classical music all the way home.

***

Thank you for reading. You can click here to visit my Amazon page. All my books are available in paperback and e-book format. I write science fiction, Southern Gothic, and humorous essays. 

Copyright 2016, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Finding Drake Novak

Drake Novak is a pale man with bloodshot eyes and a black suit. He owns a factory in a small town in Georgia. The workers don’t know it, but Drake is an alien who feeds on the misery and suffering of other life forms. The factory is his buffet. But Drake’s feeding frenzy is about to end. Malpheus Mallock, a young policeman from the Galactic Precinct, comes to Earth to arrest Novak. Sadly, his tracking device doesn’t work correctly. He lands in the front yard of an elderly couple named Carl and Christine who provide him with fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and iced tea. Malpheus struggles to fix his tracking device and find Drake Novak before his destroys the whole town.

Finding Drake Novak is available on Amazon. The paperback is $6 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $2.99. You can click here to order.

Copyright 2016, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.

Out of Time

An excerpt from The Quality of Life in Outer Space

The elevator door slid shut behind Gary. He walked along the street. Nearby, a man with a buffalo head stood beside an old streetlamp. The man wore an orange suit. He held a briefcase in one hand and a pocket watch in the other. He looked down at the watch and shook his big, shaggy head in frustration.

“Excuse me,” Gary said, waving one wing.

“Oh, what is it?” yelled the man with the buffalo head.

“An asteroid is about to crash into this ship and kill us all.”

The buffalo man rolled his eyes. “I don’t have time to worry about things like that. I’m on my way to a meeting. A big meeting. I’m waiting for the stupid taxi to come. He’s running late. It’s already seven o’clock in the morning.”

“But this is important,” said Gary. “We’re all going to die!”

“This is the biggest meeting of the year, you fool!” the buffalo man snapped. “You couldn’t possibly understand. We’re preparing for the big screaming contest. It’s vital that the orange team gets control of the ship this year. Now go away and pester somebody else, you little vermin.”

“But none of that matters right now!”

“It most certainly matters!” the buffalo man laughed. “The yellow team wants to ruin everything for everybody. The yellow team wants to take the locks off our doors, confiscate our money, and put our children in slavery. It’s imperative that the orange team wins the screaming contest this year!”

A black car came rattling down the cobblestones. It stopped in front of the streetlamp. The buffalo man jerked open the door and crawled inside. As the car took off down the street again, Gary heard the buffalo man yelling, “You stupid driver! You probably work for the yellow team, don’t you? You want to ruin everything for everybody!”

Gary hung his head and shuffled down the sidewalk. The Styrofoam snowflakes bounced off his head. He had no idea how close the asteroid was. He wished there was a window close by.

He walked to the nearest cottage and clawed at the front door with his talons.

The door opened. An old man looked outside and frowned. Then he glanced down and saw Gary.

“Sir, can I come in for a moment?” Gary asked. “I have something important to tell you.”

“Good morning,” the old man said in a deep voice. “Your face looks familiar. Where did you come from?”

“The garbage,” Gary answered.

The old man titled his head. “Have I seen you before? It seems like I know you from somewhere. I used to see you a lot. A long time ago, when I was just a child.”

“I don’t think so,” said Gary. “I need to talk to you about something right now.”

“Come on in. But I don’t have much time. You’ll have to make it quick. I have an appointment I can’t miss.”

Gary followed him into the cottage. The old man let out a sigh and fell into a leather chair. He had a white beard. It was short and neatly trimmed. He had dark, beady eyes and stout arms.

“What is it?” the old man grunted.

Gary flapped into the air and perched on the armrest of the chair.

“Listen,” said Gary. “There’s an asteroid flying toward this ship. If we don’t get out of the way, it will hit us.”

“I hate to hear that,” the old man said.

“I’ve been trying to tell people, but nobody will listen,” Gary said, talking as fast as he could.

“Doesn’t surprise me,” the old man groaned, staring down at the floor.

“Can you do anything about it?” Gary asked, fidgeting on the armrest.

The old man gulped. “Oh, I wish I could.”

“What do you mean?” Gary panted.

“I wish I could help you,” the old man said. “But I can’t. There’s nothing I can do. My time is almost up. They’re coming for me. They’re going to be here soon. You should probably get out of here before they show up.”

“What? Who?”

“Bird, do you know anything about this ship? Do you know how things came to be the way they are now?”

“No, sir,” said Gary. “I don’t. I’ve lived in the garbage hold all my life. In the dark, in the very bottom of the ship, watching soap operas I don’t understand. I’m afraid I don’t know much of anything.”

“Years ago, when our ancestors lived on Earth, they realized the planet couldn’t sustain life much longer,” the old man explained. “The air was full of poison from all the bombs. The ecosystem was all messed up because of genetically engineered animal soldiers running loose in the wild. There were hornets the size of helicopters and locusts that ate human flesh. And diseases that killed whole cities. Oh, it was a big old mess. So some people in North America built a ship and left Earth, looking for a new planet. And they took along some genetically engineered creatures to do the cooking and cleaning. At first, things were good on this ship. I remember people being happy and getting along when I was a little boy. But that was forty years ago. That was before the old captain disappeared. After he vanished, the Law Master took over. Ever since then, we’ve been flying in circles.”

“Flying in circles?” Gary said.

“Yes. Now we’re barely moving at all. There are lots of people on this ship, more than you would think. Most of them are divided into two teams. Not all of them, but most of them. You have the yellow team. And you have the orange team. And they hate each other.”

Gary frowned. “What do the two teams stand for?”

The old man laughed. “What do they stand for? Not that much. The yellow team says the orange team is trying to ruin everybody’s life. And the orange team says the yellow team is trying to ruin everybody’s life. That’s it, basically. The two teams do have a few minor differences, but they’re pretty much the same, really. They’re just dedicated to hating each other.”

Gary glanced at the door and asked, “Who’s coming? And why are they coming? And how soon will they be here?”

“I committed a crime. One of the worse crimes a person can ever commit. I let my emotions get the best of me. It was a dumb thing to do, but I’d kept it bottled up inside me for too long. It had to come out eventually, I guess.”

“What did you do?” asked Gary, shifting his weight from one talon to the other.

“I went to a meeting and suggested we should all stop screaming at each other. I said we should all lower our voices and talk in a more respectful tone. That way, we could work together and make progress.”

“And then what happened?”

“The whole assembly got quiet,” the old man told him. “Everybody’s eyes got big. They all just stared at me. Both teams hated me for saying it, but I know a lot of people secretly agreed with me. Then the Law Master stood up and pointed his long, green finger at me. And he gave me the death sentence.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Gary yelled. “Why would they give somebody the death sentence just for saying something sensible?”

The old man put his finger to his lips. “Don’t say it too loud, bird! They might come for you too!”

“This whole ship is crazy,” Gary said.

“The window is open,” the old man whispered, closing his eyes and resting his chin on his chest. “Fly out the window now.”

“What?” Gary asked.

“Don’t you hear the footsteps?” the old man said, keeping his eyes closed and his head down. “They’re here. They’re outside. They’re coming up the walkway right now.”

Gary jerked his head back and forth. “Can’t you run out the back door? Can’t you go somewhere? It seems like there’s something you could do!”

“No matter where I go, they’ll find me,” said the old man. “Nobody ever gets away from these people. I’ve been around for a long time. I know. There’s nowhere to go, nothing to do. It’s over now. I’m just going to sit here and wait for death. But I wish you luck, little bird. I hope you have some success.”

“No!” Gary cried. “You’re the only sane person here. I don’t want you to die!”

The old man smiled and opened his dark, beady eyes. “Bird, I know why you look familiar now. I know where I’ve seen your face before!”

“What are you talking about?” Gary said, shaking his head. “How is that possible? I’ve lived in the garbage all my life. This is the first day I’ve ever left the basement.”

“I told you we had a good captain when I was a boy,” he said. “Back when things were better. I don’t know what happened to him. But you look just like him. The human part of you, I mean. You know, your face. Your face looks just like his face. You look exactly like him. Same eyes, same nose, same chin, same hair.”

Gary snorted. “But how can that be?”

The front door exploded with a loud crash. Splinters flew all over the carpet. Gary screamed. The old man didn’t move. He just sat there, waiting for death.

“Go,” he urged Gary.

Two men in black suits stomped into the cottage, carrying silver guns. Their heads were bald and smooth. Their skin was light green. Their eyes glowed red. They both opened their mouths at the same time and showed their long, pointed teeth.

“There’s the criminal,” said one.

“Let’s carry out the execution,” said the other.

They raised their guns at the same time.

Gary didn’t want to abandon the old man, but his own self-preservation instinct took over automatically. He jumped off the armrest and flew as hard as he could out the window, into the flurry of Styrofoam snowflakes. Once he was in the air above the cottages, he glanced down and saw white light flash in the window of the old man’s home. He heard a long cry. Gary thought it would be short and quick, but it went on for a long time. The screaming and moaning and weeping seemed to last forever.

Gary cringed but kept on flying.

The Quality of Life in Outer Space is available on Amazon. Gary is an eagle with a human head. He lives on the bottom floor of a spaceship in a room full of garbage. When he looks out the window and sees an asteroid approaching, he takes off on a journey to the top floor to warn the crew. He learns some shocking secrets along the way. The Quality of Life in Outer Space is aimed at younger readers, but adults will enjoy it too. The paperback is $5 plus shipping and handling. The Kindle edition is $1.99. You can click here to order.

Copyright 2016, 2017 Matthew David Curry. All rights reserved.