GUEST POST // The Long Term by Mark Renney

The world is broken; in all the ways we predicted it would be. It cannot be repaired; it is far too late for that now. But at least you can take a break, as long as you have the funds of course. You can check into one of the Long Term Hotels. These are easily distinguished from the others with their high fences and the twenty-four hour security guards patrolling the perimeter.

When I was a kid, I used to think that they were homes for the elderly. Whenever I spotted the residents out on their balconies or lounging in the gardens, to my young eyes they did appear to be old and decrepit. When I learned the truth, that these people were the wealthiest in our society, the monied elite, I was appalled. It seemed obscene to me that they were living amidst us in the lap of luxury, flaunting their success and good fortune in our very faces from behind the high fences with the armed guards protecting them from the rabble outside.

Now I am the one on the other side of the fence, gazing out. I am the old man on the balcony and I remember my younger self and how slowly I came to realise that most people didn’t share in my outrage and were much more accepting of the hotels. They argued that they were ‘good for the City’ and created jobs, not just for the construction industry but also the hotel staff and the security details. And businesses and local shops benefited and flourished, all because of the Long Term Hotels.

I ranted and raged and they stared back at me, incredulous.

‘Why is it so wrong?’ they asked. ‘If they can afford it, why shouldn’t they check in? Who wouldn’t? Wouldn’t you? Isn’t it what we all want, isn’t it the dream? To be comfortable and to be safe?’

I remember how I answered, what I said and I believed it way back then. And I still do.

by MARK RENNEY
© All rights reserved 2022

ABSURDIS EXTREME // Case Study #1952 [13/09/1985] by B.A. Loney

This is the story of a portly Italian plumber who had a flair for acrobatics that was as impressive as his moustache. By the way, his name was not Mario for obvious copyright infringement reasons (so please don’t sue us, Nintendo!).

Every day, after a hard shift full of leaking pipes, clogged toilets and unnervingly sentient toadstools, not-Mario would visit the famous not-Bab-omb Bar that isn’t in Dinohattan. And he wasn’t getting drunk before blue snots with his portly moustachioed colleagues who may or may not have been called Luigi, Waluigi and Wario. Not at all. He was proudly taking to the stage to pole dance in front of all the not-Mushroom Kingdom folk, wearing high-heeled lacquered boots and spritely shined bustier, and his moustache powdered in pink and gold.

He was like Freddy Mercury up there, strutting the length of the stage and back again, and even somehow strutting up and down the pole. Even wall jumping where there were no walls with loud wahoos. How could he do this? He was not-Mario, that’s how! And for some bonus gold coins, he’d satisfy some of the kinkier clientele in the audience with dominating butt stomps to their faces. All this while doffing his bright red cap and racking up a bonus number of 1-ups!

The cheering and applause was off the hook. Everyone tried to touch not-Mario’s moustache for good luck and domestic bliss and whatever else they could think of. Some folks in the audience also thought that if they put one of his moustache hairs in their wallet, this would bring them riches beyond imagining. Maybe even protect them from not-at-all copyright infringing pests such as Piranha Pants, Cry Guys and wayward warp pipes. After all, it was a dangerous world out there and they needed all the luck they could get!

Not-Mario tried to retreat backstage as the audience began to swarm over him like a zombie horde, but to no avail. One particularly aggressive not-Koopa groupie swiped his moustache off with a well-aimed swipe and held it above her head like a trophy. Like a woollen jumper being unravelled by a loose thread, not-Mario’s pixels began to come apart. Is this what it was like to die with no continues? Why? The injustice!

He opened his mouth to cry out to the Miyamoto God but nothing came forth—and nothing downloaded from the Cloud to save him. All not-Mario’s pixels just sparked out of existence, and the only thing to indicate that he was ever there was a static-filled ‘Game Over’. His colleagues wailed mightily, tearing their clothes in an unrestrained display of grief. Their pole dancing queen was no more—and the most skilled plumber in the city by the way. Since then, not-Dinohattan sank in grief and shit. Amen.

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2022

100 WORD SKITTLE // Gravity Falls

She was at her favourite author’s book launch. Nay, he was a literary god with a cannon to launch said book into the stratosphere.

Seated in the first row, she tugged at the hem of her miniskirt and adjusted her combat helmet. A notebook was perched on her knees—her readers needed to hear about this!

BOOM!

Off went the cannon. Where was the book? His false teeth were hurtling into the air but… no book. This had become quite the jaw-dropping event!

She hoped she would be lucky enough to finagle an autograph and a sloppy wet kiss afterwards.

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2022

ABSURDIS EXTREME // Case Study #669,002 [31/12/2023] by B.A. Loney

This is the story of a certain intelligent species in the Chroma Key Galaxy. Unfortunately, they weren’t intelligent enough.

Despite the fact that they’d developed a sophisticated civilisation down through millennia—now in high definition where available—they couldn’t help themselves when a Hollywood actor got up on stage and slapped another Hollywood actor over a perceived slight. It was the juiciest scandal they’d seen in years!

As it happened, it was also the first domino in a chain of endless disasters. A different Hollywood actor had declared his career finished, and as such this meant he could no longer be counted upon to save the day the next time an extinction level meteor wandered into the solar system—which one did.

Their last hope was another Hollywood actor, but when they begged him for a miracle he answered, “If the angels bring some sort of script that’s written in gold ink that says to me that it’s going to be really important for people to see, I might continue down the road, but I’m taking a break.” Alas, there were no angels, nor heavenly paper upon which to doodle gold ink movie dialogue.

So, plebs everywhere went back to fussing over the ‘slap heard around the world’, for what else could they do? They needed distracting from the existential terror that was a meteor steaming its way towards the polar cap. The skies turned red. The seas boiled. The Rapture even came and went—in surround sound where available. And no one was paying attention to anything other than the soothing balm of bloated Hollywood egos.

That’s right. Nobody did a goddam thing. The meteor struck. There was a cataclysm. A whole planet became a barren ball of rock in mere days. Fucking intelligent species! So not fucking intelligent enough!

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2022

100 WORD SKITTLE // Red Options

Chupacabra was reading Wikipedia again, tongue diligently poking out. She was determined to rope Goat into a relationship. Research would be the key to success.

When said research indicated the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach, she decided to make some borscht. All she needed were the ingredients—primarily red beetroots. Time to go shopping!

However, there was a clearance sale on lipsticks, so Chupacabra got side-tracked trying to pick the right red shade for her comely lips. After all, there were easier ways to get a man. She’d not been dubbed the ‘Goat Sucker’ for nothing!

by TETIANA ALEKSINA & TONY SINGLE
© All rights reserved 2022