David Castlewitz

After a long and successful career as a software developer and technical architect, David has turned to a first love: SF, fantasy, and magical realism.

He’s published stories in Weirdyear, Farther Stars Than These, Fast Forward Festival, Encounters and other online as well as print magazines. Visit his web site: http://www.davidsjournal.com to learn more and for links to his Kindle books on Amazon.

Works Published By Dark Futures
Smells, August 2015

Smells

This story is the winner of our Addition Writing Challenge. I also appears in Phase 2 Magazine Issue 3.

By David Castlewitz

Not funny. But Cary knew the kids didn’t mean this to be humorous. They enjoyed watching him withdraw. That’s why the buzzers followed him from tiny room to tiny room in this abandoned building they’d taken him to after putting him to sleep. He remembered nothing about the trip. Not its length. Nor any landmarks. He remembered folding his arms around a portable odordisk, his main concern being the status of its battery, the scent from the disk putting his brain into a state that belied the tragedy that had become his life. He remembered being happy, and then there was nothing, as though he’d fainted.

He grabbed at his front left-side pocket and squeezed the thin khaki until he felt the outline of a quick-hit disk. He stood and dug out the thin wafer. He squeezed the rim with his fingers. Squeezed and hoped and squeezed and let the tears drip from his eyes. Not even a whiff of something. He checked the disk’s battery indicator strip.

Dead. Red.

He glared at one of the insect-like buzzers above, out of his reach and close to the ceiling.

He checked his shirt pocket, and then the back pockets of his pants, and the space in his leather shoes where his instep arched across the soft velvet lining. All the places where he put disks so he could carry them around at work, at home, anywhere and everywhere.

Those kids left him nothing.

He looked into his murky surroundings, eyes tearing. Not enough light to make out details, but just enough detail to tell him the room was tiny, the ceiling high and the walls close. A closet? Did they put him in a closet in his own house? He felt the baseboards, where the walls met the floor. He skittered around on his hands and knees, running his open hand along the cold cement floor.

Cement.

He didn’t have any cement in any of the floors of his house. He preferred hardwood.

Blonde wood with a distinct grain. When he invited friends to gather, he set the house polisher to work hours beforehand to bring out the gleam in the wood, the texture of the wood, the wood of the wood.

Cary shut his eyes, his back against the wall. He urinated, soaking his pants. He didn’t care. The useless odordisk fell from his hands, out of his clenched fist like a slimy sea creature he’d caught and couldn’t hold onto.

At home, with its tesla-grid, he’d put the disk on a charge plate and let the magic of distributed electricity take over. At home, he always had a few disks in the charging state.

At any moment he might want one, so there were always several at hand. At his command. At his bidding.

He mentally enjoyed the memory of turning on a disk and letting its odors waft into his nostrils. Smells shouldn’t be soft, shouldn’t have texture, shouldn’t be more than pungent or less than irritating or anywhere between soothing and exciting.

Confusing. Disk odors should be so indefinable that they confused his mind and set it to humming.

Eyes shut, Cary recalled how he felt when he sniffed a disk’s final puffs. He rifled his memory for a whiff of what he felt with a working disk in his hand, its battery dying while the tiny creatures inside churned and excreted their mind-altering vapors.

He pounded the wall, his fists beating the plaster behind his head, curled hands beside each ear, the vibrations tickling the sensitive spot where his brain joined his spine.

Standing, he walked the room. Walked into a wall. Turned and walked into another wall.

Why did he think he’d been taken to a vast and empty building with many rooms to explore? He trembled. Someone had slipped a sleeper disk in with the stimulators, he supposed, and immediately suspected the playful urchins that ran rampant in his neighborhood. They played tricks on the elderly and videoed the result, which went to

Live-Now or TubeOfTubes or some other online site.

Old ladies skidding on waxed floors and old men with their battery-driven wheelers shot by a sonic charge that sent them out of control vied with views of dogs tricked into leaping into empty swimming pools and cats hunting mechanical birds they could catch but couldn’t eat.

For all Cary knew, those urchins could be live-steaming his dilemma right now. Those buzzers overhead! Did they work in the dark? And he was in the dark. Not total. But dim because the light above him entered through a narrow slit-of-a-window in a corner near where the wall met the high ceiling. Of course, he thought. Plenty of light for the buzzers.

He swatted at the annoying contraptions buzzing above. He retrieved the odordisk he’d dropped and squeezed it in hopes of waking up the bacteria inside it. Maybe they didn’t need electricity to activate. Maybe a good hug would do.

He hunted the floorboards for an electrical outlet. Maybe this prison lacked a tesla-grid and airborne electricity. Those urchins may have taken him to an old part of town where old-fashioned cords and plugs held a quaint sort of glamour for the residents.

Cary found nothing attractive about the old days. As soon as he reached high enough in his career, he opted for a detached house in the modern part of the city, where driverless cars and cleaner-bots and wall-sized video screens with holo-projectors — all the marvels of the society he helped to build and worked to keep functioning — provided a blissful and wonderful lifestyle that he augmented with odordisk.

And why not? In old films, successful people drank to excess, smoked cigarettes until their lungs rotted, took opium and barbiturates and cocaine and meth. The people running the world enjoyed their vices. They had a right to them.

As a partner in a management consulting firm with clients worldwide, Cary had reached high enough on his personal achievement ladder that he not only indulged in the privileges of success, but also its liberties.

He bought odordisk on the open market at an online store he browsed using the holo-projector, which put him into the middle of a street market complete with sagging awnings, fawning vendors, wheeled pushcarts and those ever-present street urchins, some of whom worked as messengers bringing odordisk to customers in RL — Real Life.

Cary always tipped them, shooting his All-Pod in their direction when they dropped off a delivery. He took for granted that they were on the grid with All-Pods of their own to “catch” what he threw. If not… Well, he couldn’t care about everything. He had his job, his clients, his schedules to meet and his teams to lead and his personal whims to which he must cater.

Every few days he had a new odordisk. He liked trying different flavors. He liked the wild rides of the purple sage brand, which sent him to dizzying heights when he inhaled the stringent aroma. He liked the release of the sex-oriented red daisies, which let him explore daring dalliances’ without commitment or the physical danger of sexually transmitted disease.

Damn urchins! He stood on the cement floor with his forehead against the wall, legs spread, palms flat.

He’d experimented with daring Dash Disks and pungent Periwinkle Purples, which let him try a different sexual orientation, even a different gender, and some of the odor-induced revelries grew intense enough to leave him in pain, with bruises where he imagined himself struck by whips, burns where brands were applied to his skin, and, once, broken bones from a few minutes of rough handling by a lady wrestler he’d conjured from his imagination.

After a few of those experiences, Cary swore off Periwinkles. Lately, he’d been buying Homer Hogties, though three recharges killed their bacterial ammunition and the electricity eating buggers stopped emitting mind altering smells. With Homers, Cary always imagined the last of the bacteria choking like cartoon characters: white-faced, eyes bulging, hands at their necks in acts of self-strangulation.

Sometimes, the Hogties left him short of breath. Sometimes, they sent him spinning out of control into deep caverns where devils beseeched him and fires burned and indistinct voices made him cup his hands over his ears so he’d not hear the cries.

Usually, he didn’t remember much from those sessions. He’d awake, as if from a restless sleep, groggy and dissatisfied about something he couldn’t identify. He remembered no amazing beauty, no dazzling coupling with a splendid object of affection, no enriching experience so out-of-the-ordinary that it couldn’t be found except with drugs.

He wondered if those street urchins had manufactured a few Homer-like disks with their version of fun.

He laughed at the thought. The walls closed in on him. Of course. This was all a bad smell pawned off on him by street kids looking to video the disaster he’d stumbled into. If he rested a bit more, eyes shut, everything would pass soon enough and he’d wake into the world as usual, urchins be damned.

Cary took control of his breathing. He willed the walls to slip further apart, the high window to widen, the buzzers to cease and the gloom to lift. He blinked several times. He picked up the disk and held it in cupped hands and wished its power to return, although he knew that to be impossible. Once depleted, the battery must be recharged; and once dead, the disk must be replaced.

Laughter erupted on the other side of the walls. High-pitched voices mixed with the tinkling of glass. Music? Stringed instruments and electronic organs and bellowing trumpets thundered somewhere beyond this room.

“Cary.”

He identified the female voice. He remembered, she wore torn shorts and sandals and a tee-shirt inside-out. Bev was her name.

The walls parted. He walked and the gloom lifted from his mind. He looked at the kids standing in the street, amid the clutter and garbage, next to worn-out cars rusting to oblivion. Somehow, he’d wandered into a part of town where he didn’t belong.

He walked out of the decrepit house where he’d absorbed the odordisk and sent himself into a morass of mental hysteria. The kids stared at him, laughed at him, talked about him.

A few adults loitered on the steps of a nearby building, as though in line for something. Odordisks? Cary wondered, and stepped to the end of the queue.

“Free today,” someone muttered.

One of the kids called out, “I got Hogties and Miracles. Better than ever. Right now. Don’t stand in line like a bunch of fools. I got what you want.”
Cary fiddled in his pocket for his All-Pod. He couldn’t find it. He remembered hiding it from himself before indulging in his disk. He didn’t want to spend recklessly. He wasn’t so addicted to the disks that he’d do anything and spend everything just to get a whiff.

“How do you know it’s free?” Cary asked, directing his question to no one in particular.

“It better be,” someone answered. “I ain’t got no money.”

The kids standing nearby laughed, as did a few of the people in line, and Cary settled down on the cold stone steps and waited for the line to move. It wasn’t unusual for the city to hand out these treats, to give the addicts what they craved. It kept people from doing crazy things for an odordisk.

A quick hit, Cary thought, and then he’d return to his real life, where personal success gave him the right to pamper himself with these excursions into society’s underbelly. A free whiff, a moment of ecstasy, and then he’d go home. Without his All-Pod he couldn’t buy a long-lasting and stronger disk even if he wanted to, although he might if he found a street kid he knew, who’d trust him to pay up.

A quick hit. A free one. And then he’d see what he could muster from the hustling kids hanging on the corner.

August Update 001

Since everything is now back on track with our website, I thought it best to check back in before the end of the month to let everyone know just what has been going on.

First of all, we returned to publishing The Greenland Diaries by Patrick W. Marsh on the first and third Sunday of the month. This month, we posted Day Seven and Day Eight. The next two installments are already scheduled for next month. Can’t wait? The first 100 days are available in book form on Amazon. Patrick also has a novel called Beware The Ills and a short story collection called Seven Monsters available. I can assure you any purchase from him is greatly appreciated as his fiance recently had twins.

We have also published one review so far this month. It is once again written by Ty Black. This time he’s telling us what he thinks of Andy Weir’s The Martian. I recently listened to the audio book of The Martian and I agree with Ty’s assessment. I’d also add that the narration of the audio book is top notch.

That’s all for now. Remember to check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

David Stegora
Editor-In-Chief

The Greenland Diaries Day Eight

By Patrick W. Marsh

The following collections of journals were recovered from a caravan outside of Duluth, Minnesota. The exact date of recovery is not known nor is the origin of the speaker. The Bureau for the Restoration of History (BFRH) would like help in identifying the man who kept these records. This unedited record of events is still considered the most accurate history of the apocalypse that occurred on April 15th, 2011.

“It began with a drum. Then the monsters came. I’ve been hiding ever since.”

Day Eight

Last night, something happened somewhere in the neighborhood. The drum sounded at 8:14 p.m. There is no rhyme or reason to its starting time. You just know that when the sun starts to wane it could start at any moment. Around midnight, between the hollow thumps, there was a horrible crashing sound. It sounded like metal being torn. There was a terrible howling, followed by metallic pop. I don’t know what it could have been. The sound was so loud that it made my teeth hurt.

It couldn’t have been very far away.

In the morning, I started to look for some old maps around the house. I had to find the most efficient way to travel. I couldn’t be caught in the open when the drum started, so I plotted out a path to my parent’s house and my girlfriend’s apartment. My parents live in the suburbs just north of Minneapolis. My girlfriend lives in Little Canada. I left my car in that roadblock on 94. I could go back to look at it. If all the highways were blocked, it wouldn’t matter anyways. My dad had a spare old Jaguar. He’d had it since I was kid sitting in the backyard. It was one of many things he had difficulty parting with.

Once the army launches their counter attack, I’ll start thinking about getting my car back. Until then, I’ll just wait. I wish I knew when that was going to happen. Maybe they need help? I have a gun after all.

I walked down to see Gerald again today. He was waiting for me with a cup of coffee. He said a group of people had come through earlier with about a hundred wounded. They were setting up refugee camps outside the cities. I immediately went to pack, but Gerald stopped me. Gerald said he didn’t trust the government to take care of him. If they didn’t see these monsters coming, then why should he trust them for protection? He calmed me down and told me to stay someplace familiar until things became more stable. It’s hard fighting the urge to move, but I’m doing it.

I’m worried for my dog. There are a lot of strays wandering around. How long until they get hungry? There are so many of them.

Why don’t the monsters have any interest in them?

Review of The Martian

Review By Ty Black

When a sandstorm struck the crew of the Ares 3 mission to Mars, Mark Watney was struck by flying debris, dragged away, and apparently killed by a breech in his space suit. His crewmates took off without him. He has no way to communicate with NASA or his crewmates, and nobody knows he’s alive.

From there, author Andy Weir takes us on a wild ride across a hostile alien landscape in his debut novel, The Martian. Marooned spacefarers have been a common trope throughout science fiction, but Weir’s novel is unique in that it has the same air of realism as Tess Gerritsen’s Gravity, or James Michner’s Space. When Weir throws his humorous, deeply human protagonist into a desperate situation the result is a story which can suck even a reader who’s not science-minded into the particulars of how to manufacture water from hydrazine rocket fuel and the Matrian atmosphere, or how much arable soil is required to grow a crop of potatoes inside a tent on Mars.

Weir, a computer programmer by training, originally self-published The Martian on his website as a serial, but fans convinced him to put in on Amazon for $0.99 a copy. He quickly sold 35,000 books. Now bought and re-released in 2014 by Random House, The Martian has sold 180,000 copies and has a film adaptation coming out later this year, and it’s easy to see why. This review is short and sounds like a cover blurb, I know, but there’s not much to say about The Martian beyond that it’s brilliant. I give it five of five stars.

The Martian
400 pp. Random House. $24
Excerpt here.

The Greenland Diaries Day Seven

By Patrick W. Marsh

The following collections of journals were recovered from a caravan outside of Duluth, Minnesota. The exact date of recovery is not known nor is the origin of the speaker. The Bureau for the Restoration of History (BFRH) would like help in identifying the man who kept these records. This unedited record of events is still considered the most accurate history of the apocalypse that occurred on April 15th, 2011.

“It began with a drum. Then the monsters came. I’ve been hiding ever since.”

Day Seven

Besides the drumming last night, it was quiet all the way through the night. It’s almost more unsettling when it’s just the drum. There were no scraps or bangs against the house. No screams, explosions, or strange hissing. I kept the safety off on my shotgun.

It felt good to wake up to silence.

I stacked some boxes of junk my dad had in my basement. The house used to be my grandmother’s. I made a wall with his stuff. Even if they came down into the basement, the wall would look somewhat natural. My mom would be happy that his pack-ratting came in handy.

I’m impressed that the cold water is still working. The water heater isn’t working; there must be something electrical with that. I’ve been storing water in as many containers as I can find. I figure that’s practical of me. Luckily, I had just bought a whole bag of dog food before everything happened. So, at least I don’t have to worry about that for a while. Food for me is going to be another story. Hopefully, when the army gets a handle on things, they’ll make some sort of supply system.

It’s been a week since the first night of the drum. April 17, 2011.

I should start using the date in this memo book, but that just depresses me.

I went down the street again and talked to Gerald. He gave me a cup of coffee. It tasted fantastic. He even had some cream for it. He talked about his son and daughter in Ohio and how he wanted to leave to see if they were okay. The radio was saying to stay off the roads because of debris. The army didn’t have the time or people to move everything aside. They were supposed to be mounting a counter attack to lure the monsters out and bomb them. Gerald said it wouldn’t work and that when the drums started, planes fell out of the sky. Since then, nobody had been flying. Gerald thought they might have something in the air, something that took all those planes down. Frightening things like people with legs and arms, but surrounded by some sort of fog. He said they had no faces and they made no sounds. Even when he shot that one in his doorway, it was silent. I talked to him all day.

The house seems a little bit lonelier tonight.

August Transmission

I apologize for not keeping up well with things recently.

The third issue of Phase 2 is now going into a month late. I promise it will be available before the end of this month. The fourth issue should still be available in October. You can still get the first issue here and the second issue here. As always, they’re less than $1.

This month, we will get back on track posting The Greenland Diaries the first and third Sunday of the month. As of this moment, there are four installments scheduled to post, going into September.

You will also be seeing at least one more review from Ty Black this month. This time it’s of The Martian by Andy Weir. Look for that on Sunday the 9th. His previous review was of Lock In by John Scalzi. You can find that here. If you want to see what else we’ve reviewed, take a look at our Reviews category.

That’s all for now. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact us on Facebook, Twitter, or via email at editor(at)darkfuturesfiction.net. We’d love to hear from you!

David Stegora
Editor-In-Chief