William McKinley, shot by an anarchist in 1901, is widely thought to have died eight days later from his infected wounds. Lies, all of it. McKinley's shooter, who bore the unlikely name of Leon F. Czolgosz, was in actuality a struggling actor and pioneering performance artist hired by the president himself. Three years later, Czolgosz was himself struck dead by a mysterious disease while traveling in Europe under the alias Frederick G. Whittaker.
McKinley had grown weary of the authority of office. His wife suffered from epilepsy, and a cure was not forthcoming. With his death falsified and a small fortune in stolen White House silver at his side, the former president set out for the unexplored depths of Zaire, where he hoped to find exotic herbs that might remove his wife's affliction, or at least lessen her symptoms.
McKinley's travels led him far and wide. He spent most of his time pretending to be a circus performer, although when drunk he would often put on an eyepatch and call himself "the Pirate President." Among other acts of vandalism and conspiracy, McKinley is believed to have planted the explosives that would later cause the Tunguska explosion, and wrote the bulk of "Ernest Hemingway"'s output (the rest was penned by a young Calvin Coolidge).
Although crypto-historians have not been able to completely trace McKinley's footsteps, they generally agree that his travels came to an end, ironically, when he was shot in a border dispute by badly lost Dutch merchants in Cambodia. His last words are reported to have been "Not in the face!"
An excerpt from The Secret Histories of the Presidency by Jack Shackenaw, page 27.
Maybe you saw where Wired solicited sci-fi stories limited to only six words long. Some are good, some are terrible. Obviously they didn't ask me, but it's an interesting writing exercise.
Leonard Mackerton is the world's worst venture capitalist. He stands in front of the CEO and Board of Directors for Sanctified Steaks, Incorporated. His ill-fitted suit is even more depressing because it was custom-measured and tailored for Leonard--but he just has one of those bodies on which nothing will ever hang gracefully. You could put a silk toga on Leonard Mackerton, and he would look like someone had wrapped him in a beaten tarpaulin.
By contrast, the CEO of SS, Inc. looks relatively refined. Despite his wealth and power, Mr. Roquefort is not a bad man, and he uncomfortably glances around the room before raising his hand slightly. "Um," he says. "Let me see if we have this straight, Leonard:"
"You want to take all the bits of the cow that we don't use, squeeze them into tubes of indiscriminate flesh, and then offer them to our customers as a light meal?"
"Exactly!" cries Leonard. "Even better: put them on a piece of bread--or two pieces!--and add ketchup! It's handheld, it's easy to make, and it's cheap. It's like a donut hole, for meat. You'll make millions! We'll--" he adds slyly "--make millions."
Roquefort sighs and, again, looks around the room. No-one is going to rescue him from this one. He takes a drink of water.
"You've heard of hot dogs, right, Leonard?"
Leonard looks puzzled. "I'm not following you." One of the board members begins snickering softly behind his hand.
"Hot dogs. Frankfurters. Meat products that are sold on a bun, with condiments."
"Yes, yes," says Leonard. "I know, hot dogs. But seriously: what about my idea?"
The CEO leans forward. "We'll be in touch." he says, and nods Security forward.
I have a notes.txt file on my PocketPC where I keep all of the random ideas and brainstorms that pop into my head. I haven't really cleaned it out in years, and I have no idea where some of this stuff came from.
So for the last week I've been trying to write a short story around one line that's sitting there: "like a donut hole for meat." And it's hopeless. I'm going to give it another shot later today or tonight, but in the meantime, if you're feeling creative, give it a shot for yourself in the comments.
As time machines become more common, the Time Police find themselves working harder and harder. Their job is to maintain the internal consistency of history, and to halt or amend paradoxes caused by overzealous time-travelers. When chronological disaster is detected on the mightly Hourglass 3000's quantum circuitry, the Time Police swing into action. Using subterfuge, ingenuity, and highly advanced technology, they redirect the river of causality back into its natural path. And then, for what they claim is poetic justice, they kill the time traveler's grandfather.
Oh, not before he or she is born. No, the Time Police would never invite paradox that way. Instead, they travel back to the meddler's childhood, to a time when youth and grandfather are sharing a private moment together. They shoot the elder, and to the time traveler-to-be they utter four words, which he or she will never forget: "This is your fault."
Research is as of yet unclear on the number of time travelers inspired by feelings of childhood guilt and filial duty.
I know, I know, it's been All Bass All the Time here at Mile Zero for about a week now. Sorry about that, but such is the nature of my little obsessions. In the meantime, I offer the following microfiction, reprinted from a certain online writing circle. The theme for the day was the number 5.
And since that point I've had five traffic accidents, five murder attempts (two stabbings, a shooting, a strangling, and a poisoning), and five bounced e-mails. My doctor says I've got five times the normal risk of sudden onset amnesia. Once each day this work-week, there have been bomb scares near my office. Five of our biggest clients have pulled their contracts, leading to a five-percent pay cut for all staff.
But you know, I'm still "increasingly popular and well-liked" ...in bed.
His office staff watching from the 12th floor, Mr. Xiang sets out to prove, once again, that his iron stomach can digest anything. On previous occasions, he has eaten canned grubs, exotic cheeses, goat, yoghurt past the sell-by date, ocean oysters, prairie oysters, skunk, cow tongue, cow brain, bull pizzle, possum, Chicken McNuggets, steak tartare, hamster tartare, escargot, hamster flambe, baked Alaska, rooster feet, ox whisker, shark fin, and (on one notorious occasion) 50 hard boiled eggs, among others. This week, he promised his office staff that if sales exceeded the previous month's record, he would surprise them yet again. The staff, who have become grizzled veterans, agreed on the single condition that they be allowed to pick the challenge. Then, with gusto, they set out to finally make Mr. Xiang sick.
So now Mr. Xiang, the moment of truth upon him, steps up to one of the district's finest sidewalk vendors, right outside and across the street from the office window where his staff gapes impatiently, and orders a foot-long hot dog with extra relish. The vendor, a well-known character by the name of Smelly Melvin, takes payment in grimy, grease-covered hands and smiles widely with both of his teeth as he gives Mr. Xiang a steaming frank on a cold, stale bun.
The day is won! Perhaps they thought this would stop Mr. Xiang, but his appetite is invincible. He tosses the now-empty wrapper into the trash can and considers ordering another hot dog. No, he thinks as a strolls nonchalantly onto the crosswalk. Even he can only take so much. Looking up, he catches sight of the staff members still waiting at the window, screaming and yelling behind the soundproof glass. They are waving to him wildly and pointing, which Mr. Xiang thinks is overkill even for such a magnificent feat as Mr. Xiang's lunch break. Ridiculous, he thinks as he crosses the center lane, cars honking madly all around him. They act as though a mere hot dog could kill him!
No. That would be the bus.
"Did you hear about Bob?" Mr. Bizarre asks the Siren as he passes her in the grocery store, lifting heads of lettuce with his telekinetic powers and checking them for rot.
"No! What has he done now?" The Siren's eyes flash behind her cold blue mask, her voice at only a hint of its full seductive power. Down the aisle, Rubberboy earns money for the summer by stacking soup and canned pork on the very top shelf.
"Last night, there was a fire in a Georgetown apartment building. He called the fire department and then pulled two children out of the blaze." Mr. Bizarre continues, awestruck. "And this morning I heard that he defused a hostage situation by talking the gunmen down."
The Siren looks a little skeptical. "I don't know," she says. "I was talking to Doom Monkey and the Painted Avenger, and they said that he's never thrown a car, stopped a bullet, or blown anything up. It seems so hard to believe."
Mr. Bizarre shakes his head, sending lettuce cascading to the floor. "Believe whatever you want," he replies sadly, "but I think he's got a lot to teach us."
The Siren just nods, a little chastened, and takes her leave. As they walk away from each other, both of them consider the work of Bob: a decent, ordinary man in a world of unimaginative superheroes.