“Cyclops” – a short story by: mOUNTbRENDON

There is a variety of people gathered, sitting around a somewhat long, maybe medium-sized wooden table. The room is your average room; one with pasty white walls and a few paintings hanging, well spaced seemingly at random. Everyone sitting around the table is nicely dressed. Some of the men in suits, some in just well ironed slacks and a nicely patterned tie. All of them have very fancy hair styles and only two are wearing glasses, one rather business like, the other with very wide frames that are striped with brown and black. Are you bored yet?

The women are all very good looking, depending on your definition of good or not and if you are in to making that sort of distinction. The point is, all of the women are wearing their cute business-like skirts and their best jewelry. Because that is what makes a woman good looking. Just kidding, they are all attractive in their very own unique way; a way that is making me think how this story would be better told from a woman’s point of view, but you are stuck with me as your narrator. A man.

Don is the name of one of the men. He is in his mid to late twenties and is the one with the large framed glasses. Wait, no. He is the one sitting next to the guy with the long framed glasses. But that guy is not important for now. For now, it is Don who is of the importance. Don is listening to the guy at the end of the table, the only one standing. At least that is what everyone else thinks, and anyone who would be discretely watching who has nothing to do with narrating this story. I know better, because I am your narrator and I have the specially unfortunate privilege of peering into Don’s head, which is currently thinking about how badly he needs to fart. And I know what you’re thinking, reader. “Awh, this is going to just be a stupid story about farts. That’s why he (the narrator, aka me) made it such a big deal about him being of the male sex.” Well, reader, I am happy to inform you that this story is not at all about farts, though it contains one small, fart-based instance.

Don sits, paying attention with only his face to the bald, standing boss man, but in his mind, Don is thinking about his stomach and how it is pushing some sort of natural methane based gassy substance through his bowls and to the gates of his butt crack. It is beginning to send a physical pain to Don’s stomach, so he leans forward, as if he is suddenly experiencing a sharp spike in interest to what his boss is saying. He has absolutely no idea what his boss is saying, and his change in posture only worsens the gassy pain.

A loud, rubbery noise begins to whisper through the room. No one acknowledges it, but most certainly everyone hears it. The noise, however, then grows and is no longer rubbery and no longer a whisper. It is now a shout resounding that of a yelling goat, and everyone sitting around the table, even the guy with wide brimmed glasses is now looking directly at Don, who suddenly feels a thick liquid leak into his underwear. He can feel the red in his face and looks around the table at everyone, stopping to make eye contact with his boss. Completely and utterly ashamed.

“May I please be excused,” Don growls politely, possibly the only time in history someone has successfully achieved such a polite growl.

BUT, Don never actually farted. That part was all a part of his own imagination. He was able to contain his need to fart and then, realizing the absurdity of the situation his mind has just taken him, he lets slip a slight grin that no one seems to notice except for Shayla, who is sitting directly across the table from Don.

Shayla quickly looks back to the head of the table, frustrated that, yet again, she has accidentally made eye contact with Don, who she only knows to refer to as Don because of his name tag that says, “HELLO, MY NAME IS don.” It’s not like she has been staring at Don this entire time, which she is sure he thinks by now, it’s just a matter of sitting directly across from Don. He could be anyone and this same thing would probably happen, thanks to the simple matter of chance. She is not looking into Don’s eyes, she is repeatedly looking ahead of her at nothing in particular only to eventually realize that her eyes are aimed in the direction of Don’s own eyes. And now he’s going to want to come up and talk to Shayla after this meeting, which she has already missed the point of and has given up attempting to piece together.

She looks over at Don and his smirk is no longer there. He is looking ahead at the boss, who she can’t remember the name of. Don is now giving the occasional nod. But, she knows that the nodding is only an act. She looks at him, quickly examining him, his style, his face, his hair and realizes that if she were the kind of girl to intentionally flirt during a business meeting, she would find Don a very welcoming target. And so she imitates Don for the rest of the meeting, occasionally fake head nodding as if to really be getting some good information out of the rest of the meeting. Once, it finally ends, which she knows only due to her boss’ back now being turned and various people scooting their chairs back to stand up, she makes it a point to intentionally make some clearly-not-an-accident eye contact with Don, who is now fully standing up and stretching his hands above his head as if just waking up from a nap. Shayla finds this act very cute. He puts his hands back down and looks around the room, as if wondering what to do next. Boom. He makes eye contact with Shayla and she holds it, making sure not to be the first to look away, or even say something.

“Exciting meeting, huh,” Don says with a sudden sense of confidence. She knows that she and her not-so-subtle-but-still-slightly-subtle eye contact is the source of said confidence.

“I learned absolutely nothing,” she says softly and smiles. “It was about world poverty, right?” she jokes.

“If by poverty you mean boredom, then yes,” he says. He’s not terribly witty, she thinks, but she can tell he has a good heart. It’s his mannerisms and the tone of his voice. His joke was still enough to get a soft chuckle out of her, and the way he holds the door open for her as they continue their conversation to-go means that he is considerate. She’s been with plenty inconsiderate men. A change is needed.

They walk down the street and he eventually walks her all the way home.

“Well, this is me,” she says and motions up the steps.

“Oh, right,” he says caught off guard, but then he quickly regathers his composure. “I didn’t even realize I was walking you home,” he jokes.  “I had no intentions to walk over to this neighborhood, but I’m sure glad I did. It was really great talking to you.”

She smiles, more brightly than she has since she was a little girl blowing dandelions.

BUT none of this actually happened outside of Shayla’s own head. Don has remained motionless and has hardly even noticed the numerous accidental eye contacts between him and Shayla. She lets out a quiet sigh and turns back to the bald, standing boss at the head of the table.

The bald, standing boss is talking about the corporation that Shayla and Don have just recently been hired on to. The company is not important, but it’s a large corporation so feel free to boo out loud. Go ahead, it’ll start an interesting, not at all hostile conversation with your neighbor. Are you on a subway? A bus? A park bench? A library? Any of those should be a great place for such a conversation.

The bald, standing boss finishes his talk, knowing that only two, maybe three but probably more along the lines of two and a half people listened to any of the words that have been coming out of his mouth for the last half hour. In fact, he didn’t even get to the conclusion that he had written out before hand, because it was completely unnecessary. He probably could have just turned around and walked  out of the room mid sentence and no one would have known any difference. This is completely true and did not just happen in his head (in the contents of the story anyway. So it is just as true as his existence as a fictional character in a fictional story. That clear things up? You’re welcome.) The bald, now walking boss man makes his way to his office where he sits down and stares at the picture of his wife and two little girls on the shelf beside him. They depend on the success of this branch. In many ways, they depend on the success of the meeting he just had, which he knows was a complete failure. He leans back in his chair and thinks about the bottle of scotch he has hidden in the trunk of his car.

Let me just interrupt this story here. I didn’t want this to be a politically charged story about corporate America, but it’s really turning out that way thanks to the damn unnamed bald, now sitting, boss. I would really rather not write a depressing story. Not this time. So let us just either end the story here and save you, the reader, the time it will take to get to the predictable tragic ending, or we can interrupt the story entirely and I will narrate a hypothetical situation in which a fictional character, much different from Don, Shayla, wide brimmed glasses guy, and bald, standing boss, has a strange run in with an actual cyclops, only the cyclops turns out only to be a very tall man who lost his eye at a young age when he fell on a rusty nail.

“Woah,” Jerry thinks as he rounds the corner of the nature trail located in the heart of Seattle, Washington. There is a tall man walking towards him who is wearing a brown shirt that is slightly frayed at the shoulders. The man, as he grows closer is not a man at all, but rather a cyclops.

“Hello,” the cyclops says in a deep, friendly growl – okay, that’s enough paradoxical growls for one narrator. And no one, I’m sure wants to read this story, so I will just end it here. Good night.

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A Story Concerning an Imagination of Reincarnation

By: mOUNTbRENDON

Reincarnation: A Story

     In a place that can only be considered a place because of lack for a better term, outside of time, and outside of fear and love and hatred and joy, there is a long line of spirits continually growing, but continually shrinking at the same time. There is a repetitive dinging sound, similar to the sound people would relate to that of a bicycle bell. Toward the middle of a line, a conversation begins between two peculiar spirits.

“I hope this is the human line,” one spirit says, leaning in to the other, we’ll just call this spirit It for now.

“You’re telling me,” the other spirit says, we’ll call this spirit That. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been through this line and ended up as a stupid mouse.”

“Oh yeah,” It says. “I’ve been down that road and let me tell you, once was enough.”

“This last time I was a pet mouse,” That says. “Surprisingly enough, it was much worse than a wild mouse.”

“You don’t say,” It says.

“Oh, I do say. My owner even stuck me in one of those hamster balls or whatever you call them. You know, the ball that they stick you in with no way out, so even when you get to roam free, you’re still trapped. The idiot could not get it through his head that I wasn’t a damn hamster. I hated that ball.”

“You hated the ball?” It says. “I would have loved one when I was mouse.”

“Oh, no you wouldn’t have,” says That. “It’s so constricting and everything around is all red. Not to mention the claustrophobia I developed, no thanks to it.”

“I’ve been a bee who was born without a wing before,” It says.

“What? A bee without a wing?”

“Oh yeah, it was horrible. Granted, I didn’t last long which gave me another shot at this here lottery. I don’t think I would have liked being a bee anyway.”

“Is that what you think this is?” That says.

“Is that what I think what is?”

“This. Here. You think we’re just in the midst of some random lottery?”

“You don’t?” It responds.

“Not a chance! Certainly, your previous life on Earth affects the results in some way. Sure, there might be slight randomization. But when I say slight, I mean very little.”

“No way. Take my life as a mosquito for instance. I did all the right things. I buzzed around people’s ears as much as possible, sucked their blood making sure to leave as much of an itch as possible, and then I was eaten by a frog, which helped supply life for another being. And you know what my next life was? A tree. I was a fucking tree next. A redwood even. I lasted for hundreds of years not able to do anything aside from just be. I had no say about what was done to me or the trees around me, no form of communication whatsoever. I just had to sit there and wait for someone to come cut me down and let me pass on to the next life. I get that bullshit from my life as a mosquito, a damn good mosquito. I even gave someone west nile. I served my purpose so that I could go be bored out of my trunk for three hundred years. No, there is no way this thing is anything but random.”

“Well, how do you explain me ending up as a mouse for the last twenty-six cycles? It has to be because I’ve been doing something wrong. I just wish I could figure out what exactly it is.”

“Well, I sure hope for my sake you aren’t in line for your twenty-seventh cycle. I have no desire to be a mouse again.”

“You’re telling me,” That says. “Hey.”

“Yeah?”

“Have you ever been a cow?”

“A cow?”

“Yeah, a cow. Have you ever been one of those?”

“No, what’s so great about being a cow?.”

“It’s the best. You just sit around and eat all day. No other responsibilities. You’re not even micromanaged like if you were some kind of pet.”

“Sounds boring,” It says. “Humans are where it’s at. Then you really get to do whatever the hell you want.” There is a pause as both It and That focus their attention on creeping line. “I’ll tell you what,” It says. “That dinging is getting annoying.”

“Yeah it isAt least we’re getting closer to the front though.”

“Ever been a human?” It asks. “I hope that’s what’s next.”

“Yeah…well, kind of. It was the cycle right before I got stuck on the mouse. It didn’t last long though. I keep hearing how awesome it is to be a human, but I don’t really see what all the fuss is about. Then again, I was killed by some thing called abortion before I even left the womb.”

“Well, there you go. You didn’t really get the whole human experience. I was a human a few cycles before mosquito. I’ll tell you what, it was the best.”

“You must have been a pretty shitty human.”

“No way! What makes you say that.”

“Because you ended up being a mosquito a few cycles later. Only a shitty human goes back to the level of the mosquito, no matter how many cycles later.”

“Well, that’s if you believe in earning your next cycle. I was a great human, just like I was a great mosquito. I’m telling you, this whole thing is random. It’s not even all that surprising that you’ve been a mouse so many times. You know how quickly mice reproduce? I’m not exactly educated, but I’d guess it goes faster than just about any other species. Twenty-six in a row may be statistically improbable, but it certainly isn’t impossible by any means.”

“I think you were just a shitty human, just like you were a shitty mosquito and you’re just blaming chance because you don’t want to hone up to being a shitty spirit.”

“Who are you to say that, Mr. stuck in mouse?” It yells. The other spirits in line focus their attention on It and That before another ding turns their attention away again.

“I’m sorry,” That says. “You don’t seem like a bad spirit. I was out of line.”

“Thank you,” It says.

“You know what sucks most about being a pet mouse?” That says.

“What’s that?”

“You don’t even get to have sex. Not even once. I mean, what’s the point in being a mouse if you don’t even get to have sex? It’s just ridiculous. And then they give you cheese as if they’re making up for it in some way. You know why mice like cheese so much, don’t you?”

“Sure,” It says.

“When all you get is sewage, trash, or mouse pellets, cheese is like breast milk all over again.” The conversation ceases as It and That reach the front of the line.

     “Well,” That says once he’s at the front of the line, with only seconds to spare before his next cycle begins.  “Let’s hope we’re not mice. I swear, I will step into a mousetrap as soon as I can if that’s the case. So long.”

     That then disappears, soon after followed by It.

Several cycles later, they meet in the same line once again.

“Hello there,” That says.

“Hi,” It replies.

“Remember me? I was stuck on mouse for twenty-six cycles? We talked in line a few cycles ago?”

“Ohhhh yeah! How have you been?”

“Oh, you know, just trying to work my way to human.”

“Still convinced that you earn your next cycle, huh?”

“Oh yeah. I was a pet dog last. It was mostly awesome just cause I got to see how awesome humans are firsthand. Hey, how was being a caterpillar.”

“The caterpillar sucked. The butterfly was pretty cool though. How about you?”

“Didn’t get a chance to be a butterfly. I got eaten just as I was getting ready to make my cocoon. Typical really. What do you think this is a line for?”

“I don’t know,” It says. “I don’t really care any more to be honest. It’s not worth getting my hopes up guessing.”

“Oh, I see,” That says. “They still got that annoying dinging, huh?”

“Yep. Still annoying as ever.”

“Well, I’m up, see another few cycles from now,” That says and then disappears.

A few days later on Earth, two mice run into each other in a damp basement of some rental apartments. There are a few traps scattered throughout the basement and one mouse heads right for one. The other, as best as a mouse can, tries to warn the other mouse by moving its whiskers and letting out some squeaking noises. Seconds later, the mouse heading for the trap is now clamped in the jaws, dead. The other mouse feels a brief moment of sadness, at least as much as a mouse can feel sadness. Suddenly though, a strange, unidentifiable memory pops into its mind. It scurries over to another trap and before it can grab any cheese, the large metal jaws come clamping down, ending its life.

“Hey,” That says to It, as they once again find themselves next to each other in line. “You weren’t just a mouse, were you?”

“Sure was. You were right about being a pet mouse. It was awful. I had to escape. Luckily, I forgot what a mouse trap was and ran into one.”

“Yeah, I saw that” That says. “You reminded me what it was. Thank you.”