Category: short story

You want “audible” books, try mine

Audible Books seems to be doing all right these days, adding a few more pennies to the vast coffers of Amazon.

Feeling a bit chagrined for patronizing a site owned by one of the mega-companies that are gradually taking over the world? Reluctant to add to Jeff Bezos’ ballooning net worth?

Well, allow me to offer an alternative.

I have recorded a substantial amount of my body of work and posted it either on here on my blog or over at my Bandcamp page.

I charge absolutely nothing for these recordings, even though I devote a lot of time, energy and creativity putting them together. There’s accompanying music, sound effects…and the short stories and novel excerpts I feature are a good bit more original, entertaining and literate than many, if not most, of the offerings you’ll find with my corporate counterpart. That I guarantee.

A word to the wise, however: my recorded prose may well be a gateway drug to the rest of my oeuvre. Once you get drawn in, you may find it impossible to stop, unable to resist immersing yourself in my dark, demented visions. Allow me to indulge in a maniacal chuckle as I imagine you downloading an MP3 of a tale like “Daughter” or “Walt Disney in Hell”, with no idea of what you’re getting yourself into, the rabbit hole you’ve tumbled down.

My writing will definitely liven up a long car trip, I’ll tell you that.

Try some of it on for size, see if it fits.

What do you have to lose?

Except a few preconceptions and maybe one or two nights of sleep.

No such thing as “class system”

Moment of Truth

They say it’s not a class thing, it’s just common sense that the right to vote should be reserved for those who own property.

They say it’s not a class thing, but it isn’t society’s responsibility to look after the poor.

They say it’s not a class thing, it’s that higher education was never intended for everyone, just a select few.

They say it’s not a class thing, it’s because handicapped parking discriminates against the able-bodied.

They say it’s not a class thing, but shouldn’t those who make more get to keep more?

They say it’s not a class thing, but does their daughter have to sit next to her?

They say it’s not a class thing, but too much is made out of raising the minimum wage.

They say it’s not a class thing, but wouldn’t our neighbourhoods be a lot safer if we had more cops and prisons?

They say it’s not a class thing, but what’s all this nonsense about minority rights?

They say it’s not a class thing, but aren’t the best cleaners and maids from Central America—El Salvador and Honduras especially—because those people have the most to be thankful for.

They say it’s not a class thing, it’s just that offhand they don’t know the price of a quart of milk or carton of eggs.

They say it’s not a class thing, they really do need that great, big house all to themselves.

They say it’s not a class thing, they don’t mind shelling out seven bucks for a quality cup of coffee.

They say it’s not a class thing, but as a rule they never give to panhandlers.

They say it’s not a class thing, some people are natural leaders, while others are meant to serve.

They insist it’s not a class thing, then grin sheepishly and admit yeah, it probably is.

 

 

“The Boy Eternal” (Post #450)

boyIt’s my 450th blog post and, frankly, you deserve a bonus.

All the times you’ve dropped by my strange, little site and found yourself confronted with yet another rant, a venting of spleen directed toward my latest bugbear. Middle of the road, milquetoast, liberal democrats are my current obsession. I despise them, down to the last strand of DNA. Don’t get me started on that.

I reported previously that I was “de-commissioning” an old notebook. I salvaged some poems, ideas…and a few bits and pieces that coalesced into a spoken word piece I’ve recorded and titled “The Boy Eternal”.

It’s personal, to some extent, but I’m never one to let facts get in the way of a good tale.

I present it to you, with my compliments. The music adds a nice, dramatic element.

Have a listen and let me know what you think:

 

  • To listen to more of my spoken word or ambient recordings go to my Other Media page.

Christmas stories! We all need Christmas stories…

Christmas TreeI’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I love Christmas.

Love, love, LOVE it.

No apologies, no sense of embarrassment and I refuse to hand in or forfeit my curmudgeonly credentials just because I leave a plate of cookies and glass of milk in front of the fireplace on the night of the 24th.

And let me remind you, there are two very good Christmas-related posts on this blog that are absolutely mandatory reading this time of year.

Check out the real story of St. Nicholas and then call up a creepy tale involving my detective duo Cassandra Zinnea and Evgeny Nightstalk, titled “Finding Charlotte“.

Happy holidays, everyone!

“Invisible Boy”–listen to the MP3

EctoplasmAs previously reported, I’ve been mucking about with sound recording of late—music, initially, but yesterday I thought I’d try my hand at some spoken word.

“Invisible Boy” is my best known and most frequently anthologized story. It appears in my collection Sex & Other Acts of the Imagination and has become one of my signature tales.

I’ve performed it frequently at live readings but, for some reason, resisted recording it.

I’ve rectified that oversight, adding some music for dramatic effect.

Hope you enjoy my rendering of a favourite short story:

Flash Fiction

lights

2020

Endless processions of driverless cars.

Delivering their contents to automated houses.

Under the constant scrutiny of cameras, overhead drones.

Smart appliances reporting preferences, behavior, patterns; mined for data, narcing to their corporate masters.

Election night: voting by remote control, hardly bothering to check the results.

Keeping your head down, mouth shut.

Addicted to livestreaming porn sites.

Disgusted by the state of affairs but powerless to effect any change.

Buying stupid trinkets to fill the void.

Drugs when nothing else works.

An epidemic of suicide in your age bracket.

Desperately lonely and neurotic, verging on anti-social.

In your solitary rooms, secured by triple locks.

Talking to yourself and the listening walls.

Waiting for the knock on your door.

satellite

 

© Cliff Burns (All Rights Reserved)

“Test Subject” (short story)

Yesterday I was feeling completely listless and dull-witted. Couldn’t work up the energy to do much of anything.

Then I remembered a couple of photos Sherron sent me. Sometimes, in the morning light, our kitchen walls get these really cool shadows and patterns projected onto them; my visually-oriented wife noticed this pair and took some shots with her cell phone.

I called up the photos, placed them side-by-side on my computer screen, stared at them for about thirty seconds.

Then I grabbed my blue Hilroy exercise book…and started scribbling. No thought, no pre-planning, just went for it.

It’s an old trick…worked for the surrealists and, by God, it worked for me.

Here’s the story, accompanied by the images that inspired it:

* * * *

Shadow1

The Test Subject

ALL RIGHT, TERRY, YOU KNOW THE ROUTINE. WE NEED YOU TO TAKE US THROUGH WHAT YOU’RE EXPERIENCING AND DESCRIBE—

It’s hard…I don’t…there aren’t any…

COME ON, YOU HAVE TO DO BETTER THAN THAT. WE NEED SENSATIONS, COLORS. PAINT US A PICTURE.

(Laughter) You don’t…it isn’t like that. God, I wish I could explain, show you…but there’s no (indecipherable), no, ahhhh, common reference points.

ARE YOU DISORIENTED, DO YOU—

What? Did you say ‘distortion’? Everything’s distorted. It’s like…like…

GO ON.

…this kaleidoscope…constant movement…twisting and spiraling…

ARE YOU FEELING NAUSEOUS?

I feel—oh, Jesus! Jesus! Did you see that? It just…wow…this bolt of pure blue light…zipped right past me and it—I swear it smelled like cinnamon.

THAT’S WHAT WE WANT TO HEAR! YOU NEED TO DESCRIBE THE EFFECTS, HOW THIS THING MANIFESTS ITSELF. TERRY? TERRY, DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?

I know. I see what you’re…but it’s really got on top of me and…and…it’s just too…and then everything just changes, like that! Did you see it? Like the whole universe suddenly switched polarities and—and flowed in the opposite direction. Whoa, trippy. And there’s something…I see something…

YES?

I dunno…a shape…presence…now it’s up there, by the ceiling, sort of floating…

POINT. SHOW US WHERE YOU MEAN.

There. It keeps shifting, flowing, like I said. I can’t quite…it blends in with these other blob things…they kind of swirl and mesh…yeah…swirl and mesh…mesh into a mess…

WHAT ELSE? DO YOU GET A SENSE OF ANY—

–someone turn up the heat? It’s freezing in here.

THE TEMPERATURE IS KEPT AT A CONSTANT 24 DEGREES CELSIUS.

I’m telling you—fuck! That time it zoomed right past me. This bright-colored blur…I could’ve reached out and—

TELL US WHAT IT LOOKED LIKE. GODDAMNIT, TERRY—

It’s made of light and…uhhh…wow! Oh, wow…there it is. Hovering, just in front of me. Holy shit, I think it’s looking at me—

EASY, TERRY, COME ON NOW. YOU’RE TRIPPING, REMEMBER? IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD. SO GET A GRIP—

It’s staring at me, man. Studying me. I’ve never…I’ve seen little green men before but…this thing knows

KNOWS? WHAT DO YOU—

–knows I’m here and it’s curious too. Wondering who I am, what I’m doing. This is its backyard and I’m trespassing on…

–ONLY AN HALLUCINATION—

Bullshit! Bullshit! There’s something in here and it isn’t just the fucking drug. It sees me. It sees me and I want out. Get me out of this! Somebody! I need to–

TERRY! TERRY!

Gimme the fucking antidote! I want to (indecipherable). This is fucked, this is totally—

AT THE REQUEST OF THE TEST SUBJECT WE ARE DISCONTINUING THE SESSION AND—

What the fuck are you? What do you want from me? Keep away from me—

IT’S OKAY, TERRY, WE’RE COMING IN. BOB AND ANGELA ARE RIGHT OUTSIDE AND THEY’LL—

Oh, Jesus, oh, Jesus– (Heavy breathing, panting)

WHAT’S—

It’s coming, it’s—ahhhhh…Christ, it’s got me…help me…it’s–(indecipherable).

(Shouts of alarm, a woman screams)

BOB? ANGIE? SECURITY! SECURITY! WE HAVE AN EMERGENCY SITUATION UP HERE AND WE NEED A COMPLETE LOCKDOWN, REPEAT—WHAT? WHO’S THAT? WHO’S THERE? IS SOMEONE OUT THERE? HELLO? HELLO?

(End transcript)

shadow2