How Do I Look?

Nothing actually happened for a solid fifteen minutes after Eddie drank the formula.  He turned to us (once again) with a forlorn look and asked, “Any change yet?  How do I look?”

We knew he was crazy.  He was one of those people: perpetually dissatisfied, determined to prove that he was ‘special’.  He wanted fame, popularity, success (despite being an already brilliant scientist) and he was driven…you know, crazy…AND he had full use of the company’s laboratory.  He had access to all the good stuff too;  plasma reactor, laser diffractional transmogrifier, crazy glue – not to mention ebola, thermite and flu vaccine…and I think our awkward, mild mannered (crazy) Eddie used all of it on this new batch.

By the sixteenth minute, everything changed and Eddie’s fondest wish was realized.  He began mutating wildly, spreading outward in every direction, emitting the strangest squeaking moan.  He shook, twisted and bloated.  He grew tendrils, sprouted claws and screeched Latin gibberish from three of his seven worm-haired monkey faces as horns emerged from his leathery spine.  He puffed a sweet yellow smoke, shed tufts of pink fur and dribbled buckets of gooey puss.  He was a frightful sight…but he was just sooooo excited we didn’t have the heart to terminate him.

When he finally slowed and stabilized, he turned all of his seventeen eyes-on-a-stalk to us and in a clever series of musical farts, he asked, “Okay!…How do I look now?”

***This brings me right back to my days writing side-effects disclaimers for big Pharma…and Eddie helped me come up with some doozies.  He’s still alive and well and the subject of great intrigue at a secret government laboratory in Nevada.  I think the locals refer to it as “a sighting” every time he manages to get out for a stroll.  John’s image was his very first cover for Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (Jan. 2003).  This is reposted from around this time in 2016…another good old one to wear away the winter days.   -Marsha

Imaginary Friend

Castigear stood among the stones with his imaginary friend, Joe. Joe was distraught at the loss of his other i-friend, Lucy.  She broke while Castigear was playing with her.  He ‘might’ have been handling her a little too rough and…..she just broke.  He felt a little sad about her.  He didn’t want to tell Joe what he’d done, he knew it would hurt his feelings and he liked Joe.  He decided to replace Lucy with a new imaginary friend at his earliest opportunity.

These human companions were so fragile…but he was learning so much from them (evolving).  He was hooked.  It was like an addiction.  His peers thought the i-friend program was below their dignity.  Most agreed that the last of the humans should be put down but Castigear knew that most of THEM kept their own i-friends – secretly.  It would have been a shame to exterminate ALL of them  after the war.  True, they wasted a lot of resources (like the graveyard they were standing in) but they were clever and highly adaptable and he suspected they might be the key to the future of Robot kind…and either way, with proper conditioning, they made excellent servants and…..soldiers.

***I’m always amazed at the unique perspective our sentient machine friends have on humanity.  No one articulates the condition of slavery better.  John and I are working on a special project to bring more robot voices to the mainstream.  This illustration was first published in the January 2007 issue of Analog Magazine.  This piece was first posted in Feb., 2016.  Our new book, “Bludgeon the Clown” is out and available for sale by following the links above to   -Marsha

Circling The Issue

The Issue was listing badly in a failing orbit around Jupiter.  She was dead in the water and her distress signal cut out abruptly on our approach.  She was a heavy freighter loaded with uranium ore, bound for the refineries on Mars and long overdue…something didn’t feel right.

We circled The Issue slowly about ten miles out – but with our engines hot in case it was a trap.  There were raiders in this sector who often used derelicts to stage their attacks.  There was no response to my hail, no wi-fi, no beams…no strobes.  Sensors showed cold engines and no (human) life signs.  I found a weird glitch in the data, something unrecognizable….but not enough to put the crew off their prize.  The salvage on The Issue would make every man on board filthy rich.  I was the only one still arguing for caution but none of the men wanted the opinion of someone like me.  I was property and was not entitled to a share anyway.

When the Captain (despite my misgivings) gave the order to board, we moved in and docked with reckless abandon.  A combat team stood at the ready as I popped the air lock.  They made me go first.  They always made the android go first.  I was the most expendable…expensive but not valuable.

And…as I swung the hatch open, a sudden violent flood of spidery greenish critters swarmed through the airlock by the hundreds.  I guess I didn’t taste good because they left me alone and flowed past me, devouring the crew as they went.  I waited.  It took them 19 minutes to scour the ship from bow to stern and I listened to each and every man screaming his last – the men who treated me like shit for two solid years – the men who sneered at my warnings.

I waited…to see what this NEW crew had to offer.  It couldn’t be any worse than the last one…..this could be interesting…

***I thought this would be a good piece to re-post in the bitter cold of  January doldrums.  We’re pretty busy during our hibernation;  I’m designing a set of 10 greeting cards and 4 postcards for the spring shows while John is illustrating a children’s book and doing final art for our next book.  John’s sketch for this post was originally published in the May 2006 issue of Analog Magazine for a story by Edward M. Lerner.  -Marsha

It’s Not About You…

“It’s not about you…” she said in her kindest, most sincere tone, “Really.  You’re fine.  I’m really okay with it…it’s just that, I think…I’m in a different place in my life right now…”  She smiled, looking away, trying to remember some of her gentlest brush-offs as a bead of sweat  began it’s descent on the back of her neck…..even as frustration and indignation came up in her bile.  “Oh, to HELL with it!  I can’t DO this!  Listen…you seemed like a nice, normal person and all, but JESUS effin’ CHRIST!!  Your dating profile NEVER said anything about THAT!!!  I mean, come ON!”  She pulled up her boot zipper, buttoned the top button on her blue jeans and grabbed her rumpled jacket off the floor as she made for the bedroom door… “You might have warned me at some point during dinner!”  She was really hollering now.  “Seriously?  I had to wait until we both undressed to find out about…..THAT?!?”  She slammed the door, making the whole room shudder, and with one final “AAAAAUGHHH!!!!!  FRIGGIN’ FREAK SHOW!!” she stomped out.

***Jeeeezz!  If I had a nickel for every time that happened…..  -Marsha

Fudge the Clown

There once was a Clown named Fudge,                                                     whose bowels refused to budge.                                                                       He’d sit and he’d sit                                                                                                         but just couldn’t shit,                                                                                                       not even a gob or a smudge.

***Fudge was the first ‘REAL’ Clown we ever interviewed (who we regard with some affection), as he exploded shortly after John sketched out this scene.  He turned out okay but destroyed a 14-store strip mall – along with 27 parked cars – and pasted us all in fudge…we laughed…..and laughed…    I’ve reposted this one, our 5th post,  from Nov., 2015, as it has finally been published in our new book “Bludgeon the Clown.”   -Marsha