Night of His Life

Enter: January Embers

As the sunlit sanity of the waking world burns the night to ash,
embrace the unbound madness of your wildest dreams,
laugh into the endless abyss of your darkest fantasies,
and rage against the coming dawn.

PulpBusters is a presentation of bone-chilling buffoonery, nerve-wracking silliness, and twisted nitwittery by “Amoral Crackpot” Steve Arviso.


Dear Reader,

Please note that the following program is intended to be accompanied by the official PulpBusters soundtrack (now available at all popular record stores, local video rental establishments, and drugstore bargain bins).

Please press play... now.

— Steve


“WHATTAMADOON”

From the personal journal of Dr. Howard Fine:

The Whattamadoon itself is hardly a creature worth making note of, as its teeny-tiny, squishy, toothless body makes it incapable of causing any physical, temporal, or psychological harm to any living creature.

However. The Whattamadoon's web is notorious for snatching up any thoughts blossoming and fluttering about one's head as they pass through the doorway in which said web is hung.

Fortunately, walking back through the web often allows an unwitting buffet to recover whatever million-dollar idea I totally believe you had before the Whattamadoon can feast upon it.


MOEBIUS

They stood again where they stood countless times before.

"Again, then?" the voice asked, as it had countless times before.

"Isn't there anything else to do?"

The voice shrugged in the way a voice does. "There's a gift shop."

"Again, please."

They never chose the gift shop.


“WAH’WAZZAT”

From the personal journal of Dr. Howard Fine:

I hesitate to refer to such a frightening, malicious thing that gleefully toys with its unsuspecting, isolated prey as a mere "creature," but the Wah'wazzat is certainly one of the most elusive, deeply unsettling entities I have ever encountered.

Because the human mind is fortunately, mercifully incapable of properly processing the physical appearance of the Wah'wazzat, would-be victims are left to question the origin and direction of the scattered sound of skittering, rustling, and faint breathing as the Wah'wazzat closes in for the kill.

If not for the fact that the Wah'wazzat is easily and conveniently startled by so much as a quick glance in its general direction, I suspect reports of missing persons would quickly outpace the obituaries in every morning paper.


PEACE OF MIND

The old man and the girl sat on the shore of the lake, watching the sky burn above them. As the earth trembled and the world began to scream, she took his hand. "I'm happy I met you," she said.

He squeezed her hand, began to speak, but then nothing else mattered.


“SMELTETT”

From the personal journal of Dr. Howard Fine:

The very existence of the Smeltett has been a point of contention for millennia, with records of arguments spurred on by the sudden onset of a foul and malicious odor found in the form of rudimentary cave paintings in both Africa and central Asia.

Current research of the Smeltett leads many to believe that it is the female of the species which is responsible for the foul odor, used in an effort to attract the attention of nearby males, which are believed to be responsible for the...sound also associated with the Smeltett.

Unsurprisingly, all major contributions to research on the Smeltett have been submitted anonymously.


THE FACES WE SEE

As she buried her hatchet in its skull, she couldn't help but wonder what the ghoul had been just days before. A telemarketer, maybe? An internet film critic? Perhaps the manager of a smoothie kiosk at the mall. It helped to put a life to the faces she saw in her sleep.


NIGHT OF HIS LIFE

New Tech, Old Problems.

In a city like Adia, anything is legal if you can afford the transaction fees.

Case in point: Xim Techman, age forty-two, former Void designer, widower. Any other night, Xim would be in his apartment, sitting in his only chair, falling asleep to his favorite stream. Tonight he's in the neon-lit lobby of The Port, taking in everything else.

Across the way, a group of young women celebrate a birthday in a cozy booth. Drinks, whatever passes for food around here. A multicolored vapor that seemed to pulse with the beat of the music. Their chatter drowned out by the world between them and Xim. But the flashing lights of their hair and the flickering patterns of their translucent attire did little to take away from the utter joy on their faces as they streamed and shared and laughed and squealed with glee.

Somewhere to his right, a visor-wearing serverscrubber was doing their best to flirt with the bartender. Something about slipping into a Void later, maybe swap accounts. Nothing permanent, baby. Just wanna walk a mile in your shoes, see where it takes us. Maybe back to yours.

Xim never heard the end of that conversation, on account that he gagged on the bitter blue of nitro nipping at his taste buds long before he even smelled the stuff. Probably someone getting dialed up in a washroom stall. But Xim would later think about the poor, dumb serverscrubber, hoping that maybe they found someone to sync with. It was never much his thing, of course. No, that was more Nary's idea of a fun night out. They'd log places like this all the time, back in college. They'd have a few drinks, play a few games. She'd watch him dance to the Bleeps and Creeps. He'd ignore the blisteringly foreign sensory input and focus on her smile. No matter the account,  no matter the avatar - he always knew her smile. Always knew it was her looking back at him in the pinks and blues of that chilly dance floor, or in the warm darkness of their bedroom.

A hand on his shoulder and a faint voice on his left snapped him out of his rewind. "Xim?"

"Yeah. Sorry," he apologized without knowing why.

The voice belonged to a shock of pink hair and a long jacket bathed in neon. "January Embers," she smiled, holding out her hand.

For a moment, Xim thought he might die right there. Then, he didn't.

"Everything alright?"

"I'm sorry. It's just," he started, slowly - noticeably slowly - constructing a lie from the truth without realizing it, "you look exactly like your profile picture."

She laughed. "Right?"

"Isn't that a bit hard?"

"Public profile while you're a, uh…" he struggled, inserting that foot into his mouth one little piggy at a time. "You know."

A smirk crept across her face. "Nervous?"

"A little."

She shook her head, ever so slightly. "Don't be."

He smiled. "So, is it true you're full organic?"

"One-hundred," she beamed. "You?"

"No," he said, perhaps too quick. His left hand trembled. The left side of his face spasmed. He hoped she hadn't noticed, but she did.

"Xim," she said. "If you want to cancel, I--"

He took a breath, then continued his thought. "No, a few upgrades. Couple of replacements and a mod or two."

A cackle from the girls in the booth across the way cut through the space between them. Someone in or around the washroom demanded someone else hurry the fuck up in there. And the lights strobed between yellows and greens and reds and purples.

"You wanna get out of here?" he asked.

"I'm right where I want to be," she said. "You?"

He looked at the woman in front of him. "The Sweeps," by Bleeps and Creeps, began to play. Then, his arm steadied. "Yeah. Yeah, I think I am."

To be continued…


THE END BITS NOBODY CARES MUCH FOR

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YOU ARE NOT ALONE

PULPBUSTERS
Steve Arviso
2021