Archive | May 27, 2011

15-minute ficlet: Slurry

Originally posted here in response to the prompt “slurry.”

A slurry is, in general, a thick suspension of solids in a liquid. So sayeth the great online wikipedia, at least.

I’d seen slurries. In my line of work, they came up now and then, which is to say, all the fucking time. Concrete. Explosives. The gook they used to process ceramics. The stuff they fed us and called meat. Solids suspended in liquid.

And then there was this. Solids, more or less, as much as humans are solid (if meat slurry has solids, then humans count, too), suspended in the water, or at least, we were going to call it water for the moment. Liquid, at least, and people jammed so close together that they really couldn’t drown; there was no room to move downwards, any more than in any other direction.

I was glad I wasn’t in it, I can tell you, that was my absolute first thought there. My second thought was damn, this looks like a bad Simpsons episode. But all the while I was working on problem three – how do I get this mess of people out of the water before their fucked-up surface tension breaks and they all go sloop down the drain like leftovers during a clean-up? Assuming there’s a drain, of course, but this looked like a giant, giant bathtub. Reason said there was, somewhere, a drain.

Pulling the plug would be one solution, but that would mean I’d have to find the plug, and chances were, it was under that mass of bodies, under the human slurry. No, I was going to have to find a way to break their surface tension without sending them all drowning, and yank them all out of the basin.

Never mind how they got in there… I’d worry about that once I got them out. Surface tension. Surface tension. There was a reason my mind kept coming back to that, there had to be. I might be pretty dumb but my brain is pretty smart, after all.


Soap, silly string, bubbles, yes, that would work. It didn’t hurt, of course, that the victim of this mess closest to me was a gorgeous brunette wearing not quite enough clothing; thinking about her all slicked down in suds was a fun two seconds of diversion.

Soap. I ran for the tanker truck we’d been using for the really weird plaster cast project. The soap solution there would coat everything it touched, and it wasn’t quickly water-soluble. It would stick to skin like nobody’s business, which is what I wanted for step one.

I sprayed that stuff over the whole mess of them, that’s it, yup, drenched the thousands of them in glycerine solution (thank god for the really powerful sprayer and customers with weird tastes). And while I was doing that, Joe, my foreman, he grabs the girl next to the hot brunette, and pops her out, Pop!, like a cork while he dumps in the readycrete in the spot she vacated.

That stuff hardens in less than five minutes, but it won’t get close to the soap stuff. Before anyone could drown, the whole mess of them were standing on solid ground.

Then all I had to do was track someone down and find out who had turned the middle of the city into a giant bathtub, and what they wanted to do about me having turned their ‘tub into a skate park.

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Daily Prompt: The Cathedral

I’ve had the world’s slowest week of writing. I.e., this is almost all I’ve written, all week, and it’s 686 words. That’s like 1/10 of my normal weekly wordcount.

From [community profile] dailyprompt: “preparing for change,” and “cathedral of data.” It’s misc. post-apoc, based on a Gehenna(*) cult idea I’ve had running in my head for 10 or 20 years.

They had built it, and they had come. The movie misquote was long past archaic by this point, but Tess still found herself thinking it when she stared out over the ramparts and towers of The Library. They had, before the disaster that had ruined their world, designed this place, built it and fortified it and stocked it.

It hadn’t been that they had known the disaster was coming, she assumed (fifteen years old when the world had collapsed, she hadn’t been consulted on the decades of preparation that had led to the library), so much as that they were, by their charter, always planning for change.

So they had built this, The Library, an academy, a town within walls, a cathedral of data. They had built a storage place for all of the knowledge of the world as they knew it, and done everything they could to keep it safe.

Sometimes Tess wondered what the Founders had been planning for. Change, of course. The entire mandate and charter of their foundation was “to prepare for the smoothest transition in times of change.” But that left open a whole realm of things, from a governmental shift of power to a world-ending cataclysm. Had they really expected this?

Expected or not, she could find no fault with their planning. Inside their fortress, they were safe, they were warm in winter and cool in summer, well-fed and well-clothed. Inside the Library, they educated generations of children and young adults, preserving knowledge that would otherwise have been lost, and, through their students, spreading that information across the continent. They had, for their small corner of the world, held off another Dark Age, through their vigilance and preparation.

The job, however, wasn’t over. There was no end point on the foundation’s charter, and the world did not stop changing just because most of the major governments had fallen. And Tess, who had been running the Library and the foundation for longer than she had been alive when the world had ended, who could barely remember what things had been like under a continent-spanning government, found herself second-guessing her predecessors’ plans.

She walked from the high wall down to the main hall of the library, nodding politely at the students as she went. In their comfortable, warm, wooly robes (the sheep and goats, too, lived within the fortress), they looked like a woodcut of medieval monks. And that, Tess believed, was the problem.

It wasn’t that the founders hadn’t planned well; their preparations were impeccable. Tess cringed to think of the billions of dollars, the thousands of man-hours, that had gone into the Library project, resources that the founders had had to burn, that she no longer had. They had built to last, and it had worked.

But what they had built, that was the problem. They had built a temple of knowledge, a chapel with the information of those-who-had-come-before as their god, and students came to worship it, to soak up the knowledge and spread the word of the founders far and wide. It staved off a Dark Age, yes, but what did it leave in its place?

Tess had a feeling, a vague one but supported by research, that there ought to be innovation. People ought to be striving to find new things, create new things, invent new things. People ought to be trying to do what had never been done before, and instead, they were simply retreading old ground. Stagnating. Not falling into barbarism, but not growing, either.

Maybe, she wondered, staring at her robed students, their pens scratching on their paper (both made here, as well as the ink) as they researched the work of long-dead scientists from long-destroyed places, maybe the purpose of a catastrophe was like winter for the trees: a chance to rest, a chance to reset. Maybe by fooling the order of things, the foundation had taken away a necessary step of human evolution.

And maybe they had just slowed it. Change was coming; Tess could feel it in her bones. It was their job to be prepared for it, that was all.

* Okay, “apocalypse.” Onceuponatime, when I played VampireLARP, E.Mc played a character in a Gehenna cult bloodline (Gehenna is the vampires’ end time in World of Darkness), so the phrase always wants to be Gehenna cult in my mind.

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