This month’s theme:


 

This month’s theme:
Frozen Frames Redux, Part 1
David M. Fitzpatrick

 

This month’s theme:
Frozen Frames Redux, Part 1

Readers of Cud Flashes know that, occasionally, I do a column with flash fiction inspired by the titles of songs, often from an entire album. When John Warren Geils died this past April, I thought that a great way to honor him was to do an installment using titles from one of my favorite albums, Freeze Frame. So in July I sat down and had a great time coming up with nine stories inspired by the nine tracks of that album.

The trouble is, I had already done this—in May and June of 2015! There were many amazing parts to this: that I had forgotten having done it, that I didn’t look back over past columns just to make sure, that while I was writing them no memory ever alerted me, that I sent the whole off to the editor, and that it was two full days before it suddenly hit me that I had already done it. But perhaps the most amazing thing is that, of the nine tales, not one of them is a duplicate of the version from two years before. Sure, “Freeze-Frame” had a similar plot device, and “Piss on the Wall” indeed was about wall-pissing, but there were no self-plagiarized plots and themes.

After a good laugh over it, here is part one of Frozen Frames Redux… the 2017 version!

If you’re interested in the original, you can find them here:

The original, part 1: http://thecud.com/live/content/cud-flashes-pan-42
The original, part 2: http://thecud.com/live/content/cud-flashes-pan-43


“Freeze-Frame”
Her face still focused in my mind…
By David M. Fitzpatrick

He looked at her through the frame on the wall. It was like a door, but it didn’t go quite all the way to the floor, and he could see the shimmering field of energy that covered it. She stood just beyond, smiling out at him, as she had been for some time. She was so beautiful. He’d looked at her every day for two months and longed to have her back. He had been lucky to have her facing him.

She seemed utterly frozen, but he knew that she wasn’t. There was movement that he could not perceive. At least today was visit day. He flipped the wall controls open and turned off the field. She was suddenly moving, and she burst out through the frame and into his arms. He cried, and she soothed him.

“It’s all right,” she said. “I’m here now.”

“It’s been a month,” he said. “I’ve been dying to hold you.”

“And I you, my love.”

“I just want to be in there with you.”

“You know that you can’t,” she said. “We need you out here, working your job, earning money.”

“I know. I know what I have to do. I know what you have to do.” He pulled from her to look her in the eyes, but never let her go. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m okay. It has only been a few hours for me.” She smiled, and he saw the weakness in her smile, the lack of energy in her face. And she kissed him. “We must not wait. Every minute counts.”

He pulled her to him again and held her so tightly that he worried that she’d break, and finally released her. She stepped back over the bottom of the frame, into the room, holding his hand as she did.

“I know it’s difficult for you,” she said, “but these monthly visits are special, aren’t they?”

“More special than anything,” he said, and he refused to let the tears flow. “The doctors are working on it. They hope that within five years they’ll have a cure, so we just have to hold on that long.” He gave a start. “Well, I have to hold on that long. For you…”

“It will be just a few days,” she said softly. “ But I see you out here, moving at what looks like super speed,” she said. “And when you stop for a while to look at me, it’s almost like we’re together.”

He reached for the wall controls. He had to let her go. She’d only last a week. She had to be in the room.

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you too,” she replied, and she gave his hand a squeeze.

Then they let each other go. His hand pulled back from the frame, and hers retreated beyond it. She smiled at him, wide and bright, and he smiled back before he turned on the time-warped field.

Her smile froze as time slowed down within the room. He had to turn away; there was always time to look at her with longing, but for now he had to cry.

 

“Rage in the Cage”
I guess I’m out here on my own…
By David M. Fitzpatrick

“You sure you want to do this, buddy?”

“Yeah,” Marcus said, but it was a lie. He just had no choice. He trembled a bit as he heard the roaring of the crowd beyond the backstage curtains.

The promoter looked him up and down. “Let me be clear here. This is a cage match. It goes three minutes. There are no rules. Most guys twice your size won’t last that long with an average opponent. But this opponent is unbeatable. You get that?”

“I get that.”

“He’ll kill you. He kills lots of guys.”

“Some survive.”

“Yeah, those that can stay out of his way and take a pounding,” the promoter said. “Nothing personal, but you look a bit fat and slow, and not like you could take a hit.”

“I need the money,” Marcus said.

“Must need it pretty badly. But if you die in there…”

“I’m going to die out here,” Marcus said. “I have a bad heart, and my health insurance won’t cover the surgery to fix it. Pre-existing condition. People don’t matter. We either have the money to survive or we don’t. So either I live through this and make enough money to save my life, or I die and it won’t matter.”

The promoter looked at him with big eyes. “Sorry to hear that, pal. This is a shitty thing you have to do. I hope it works out, really. All right. You’re up next.”

AS the promoter led him out to the ring, the crowd screamed its approval. Marcus climbed through the ropes as the promoter turned on his mike and announced him.

“We have a volunteer for The Destroyer in a cage match!” the promoter called, and the crowd went wild.

Marcus was numb as the promoter went over everything with the crowd, and The Destroyer was led into the ring. He was a towering sample of the human form: tall and muscular, broad-shouldered and barrel-chested, physically powerful and without a hint of emotion in his eyes.

The promoter left the ring as the cage descended and the crowd chanted for The Destroyer, chanted for Marcus to die.

The bell rang and The Destroyer advanced. Marcus could envision the thing’s synthetic muscles working, could imagine its programming telling him how best to destroy the human in the ring with him.

The android advanced on him, fists up, and was within a few feet when it stopped and seemed to look Marcus up and down, as if taking him in. Marcus shook with fear and backed away, but the corner of the cage was behind him.

Then the android stepped forward and looked right at Marcus’ chest.

“Malformed heart,” the automaton said to him. “Easily dispatched.”

When it punched him in the chest, Marcus felt as if he’d been hit by a train.

 

“Centerfold”
This ain’t no never-never land…
By David M. Fitzpatrick

Andy’s wife caught him screwing the magazine. He was in the garage, ostensibly working on his 1967 Ford Mustang, and she was supposed to be knitting with her friends in the living room, but evidently they had left. He’d been so wrapped up in Miss June 2005 that he never heard her coming. She threw open the door between the house and the garage and there he was, the magazine opened to the centerfold, thrusting away. He saw her too late and yelped in surprise, throwing the magazine into the air and frantically tucking his junk back into his pants.

“Did I interrupt something?” Mindy asked with accusing eyes.

“I was… I was just…”

She stalked down the stairs and picked the magazine up off the floor. The centerfold was dangling out, so she held it up. The nude woman, posed leaning back against a motorcycle, was on display in her nudity: two oversized breasts and some wet pinkness invited the reader.

“Really?” Mindy said. “Screwing the pages of a magazine?”

“I was… just…”

She handed the magazine to him. “Never mind. Jeannie is still here, so don’t come in until she leaves.”

And she turned on her heel and hurried back into the house. As soon as the door clicked shut, Andy held up the centerfold.

“Sorry,” he whispered.

On the page before him, the naked woman moved, smiling.

“That’s all right,” Miss June 2005 said. “You were really doing great things to me, though, before she showed up.”

She turned to show him her backside, and she bent over the motorcycle and presented herself lewdly from behind. “But how about like this?” she said, and, magically, the camera zoomed in slowly until he was close up to it.

“Oh, yeah,” he said, feeling his manhood responding, and he moved the magical centerfold toward his crotch. “So what if Mindy caught me screwing the magazine? It’s not like she’ll ever know that I’m actually cheating on her…!”

*   *   *

Mindy hurried to her bedroom. Andy wouldn’t come in for a while, not until she told him that Jeannie had gone. Jeannie had left a half-hour ago, of course.

She rummaged through her bookstand to find her own cache of porn magazines. She opened her favorite up.

“And that idiot thinks that I don’t know about HIS magical centerfold,” she said.

“He sure doesn’t know about yours,” said the muscular hunk of a naked man in the centerfold of her magazine. He smiled out at her as he grew visibly excited. “Are you ready for some big loving?”

“Take me to heaven,” she said, reclining back on the bed and laying the centerfold facedown on her body.

 

“Do You Remember When”
Life’s so empty since you’ve gone away…
By David M. Fitzpatrick

Sophia woke early in the morning. She took a shower and did her hair and makeup so that she could look good for Alexander when he arrived. The silver-red light of the sun above the alien world lit up the lavender sky. It was going to be another nice day.

It was a prefab house, sent here through hyperspace and set on the world by a robot ship, waiting for their arrival. The receiving bay was just off the kitchen, and she didn’t want the food to get cold, so she went to the control station and instructed it to bring him in.

There was a flash of light in the bay, and she saw the mass of sparkling energy, vaguely human in shape, shimmer wildly until his form reconstituted. He materialized and took a deep breath.

“That was some trip!” he cried out. “Wow!”

He stumbled a bit on the receiving pad and fell into her arms. She caught him and helped him stay upright.

“I’m dizzy,” he said.

“It happens.”

“Why did you come through first?”

She smiled at him. “I just did. Look at this planet!”

He grabbed her hand and rushed to the terrace outside the dining area. A beautiful vale full of a rainbow of flowered trees sprawled below them. At the bottom was a lake. Birdlike creatures flew everywhere.

“It’s beautiful!” he exclaimed. “They told us what it was like, but I had no idea. We have to get working, though… find the best way down to that lake.”

“I’ve already done that,” she said. “I… got here a few days before you. I wanted to surprise you, so I cut a path down the hillside.”

He looked mortified. “Sophia! What if something had happened to you? What if you had been hurt? I would have been trapped in that teleportation buffer forever!”

“I guess I didn’t think of that,” she said, trying to look ashamed. “Please forgive me. We’re both here now. I want to show you the lake.”

“All right,” he said, and he kissed her.

She showed him the path that she had cut. It didn’t quite go all the way to the lake; it was about three-quarters of the way there, and still needed some hacking, and Alexander eagerly grabbed the machete and went to work on it. He was tall and muscular, and he chewed up vegetation like a machine. She watched him work, a few tears in her eyes. He did a fair amount that day, but didn’t take care of the last quarter of the way.

The lake was beautiful, and full of what passed for fish on this world. She showed him various fruits and edible roots.

“You’ve learned a lot in a few days,” he said. “I have to tell you, I’m impressed that you hacked the path so well. I worked myself silly and didn’t do much.”

“It was a lot easier for the first stretch,” she said, taking him in her arms. “I’m sure you’ll finish tomorrow. But now I want you to take me back to the house, and I want you to make love to me, and celebrate our life on this new world together.”

He smiled. “That I will do.”

They made love all afternoon, and after a good dinner, they made love some more. He was drifting off to sleep in her arms when Sophia asked him to come with her. He obliged, and she led him to the receiving bay.

“There was trouble getting you here,” she confessed. “I haven’t been completely honest with you.”

He seemed alarmed. “It’s okay. I’m here now.”

“Not for long,” she said. “I’ve been here three months, Alex.”

He looked stunned. “My god! Why didn’t you tell me? You’ve been alone all this time?”

“No—you’ve been with me every day.”

He seemed about to protest, but suddenly he veered into the wall and she had to grab his arm to steady him.

“I don’t feel well…”

“This always happens,” she said. “My love, something went wrong during our hyperspace teleportation. Something about your pattern. It’s enough to materialize you, but not enough to last. Your body doesn’t work properly for long. It’s about ten hours, and then things go wrong. Just like they are now.”

She could see the dizziness in his eyes. He leaned against the wall. “I don’t understand…”

But he was sliding down the wall, and she saw the telltale glow that began to surround him—as if energy were escaping. He began to shake.

“I love you,” she said.

And then he was unconscious, and she knew it was a matter of minutes. Soon, he was dead. She cried over him, as she always did, and then worked hard to slide his body into the receiving bay. Then she activated the controls and dematerialized him into the system.

She wanted to bring him back immediately, so that she could have a night with him, but all she could do was cry. She couldn’t stand the idea of oversleeping again, only to find him dead next to her in bed. She’d bring him back the next morning.

And the next. And the next. She’d do that for as long as she could. Eventually, as she grew older, he would arrive wondering why she had aged so much since he had seen her what was, to him, just minutes before.

When that happened, she would no longer bring him back. And she would program the teleporter to dematerialize them both and diffuse their patterns forever.

Until then, she’d live alone, together.

 

“Insane, Insane Again”
Breathing room, I need some breathing room…
By David M. Fitzpatrick

“But I’m better now,” Colin said to the doctor, pleading with his eyes. “You’ve made me better.”

Dr. Larner looked at him with sadness on his face. “I know, Colin. We’ve worked hard to cure you.”

Colin was strapped to the bed, completely immobilize. Dr. Larner stood beside the bed. Above him, aimed at his head, were the three guns of the brain beam. That’s what it was called, colloquially.

“So how can you do this?”

Larner pursed his lips. “Because the courts give me no choice.”

“I wasn’t sane when I killed them,” Colin said, tears welling up in his eyes. “You KNOW that I wasn’t. I would never have hurt my wife and children if I had been. You testified that I wasn’t responsible. I don’t even remember doing it.”

Larner took a deep breath. “You’ll remember after this. That’s part of the court’s ruling. The treatment that cured you blocked those memories. But now…”

“They’ll come back?” Colin felt the sweat on his brow. “I don’t want to remember what I did to them. I can’t.”

“I… have no choice.”

Colin’s heart was pounding. He looked up into the three guns of the brain beam. “So you’re going to undo everything that we’ve accomplished? Give me my insanity back? And make me remember?”

“No, your insanity won’t return,” Larner said. “I’m just unblocking those memories.”

Colin began to cry. “Please, doc…”

“Colin,” Larner whispered, “I’m very sorry…”

And he fired the brain beam up, and in just minutes, his mind was awash in the memories of all the horrible things that he had done. He screamed and wailed, mortified at the memories roaring through his brain. They flooded in like a tsunami—memories of his delusions, of his descent into madness, of his belief that his wife and children were demons trying to kill him, and how he mercilessly slaughtered them in self-defense.

He tried to fight against remembering, but he couldn’t, and in the throes of mortal horror he realized that Dr. Larner was only half-right.

Colin’s insanity would not return, but he had a new insanity. It wasn’t like the delusional insanity where he’d thought he’d killed evil demons. It was one where Colin knew every detail of the horribly wrong things that he’d done, and it drove him utterly mad.

He laughed and cried maniacally from his bed, flailing against his binds, unable to move his head, laughing and crying and laughing…


******

Check out Frozen Frames Redux, Part 2 next month.
 

David M. Fitzpatrick is a fiction writer in Maine, USA. His many short stories have appeared in print magazines and anthologies around the world. He writes for a newspaper, writes fiction, edits anthologies, and teaches creative writing. Visit him at www.fitz42.net/writer to learn more.