When Doug Calls – Ch 5 – Life and Times of a Brain Crab

This is chapter five of an unpublished story I’m working on. I thought it would be fun to post a short chapter every week or so. I’d like to know what you think.

The guy leaned back in his chair, crossed his legs, and continued, “As I told you earlier, I’m a video technician at Boiler Hospital in Dallas.  My job is to digitally record the operations that take place in the hospital.  They are used as teaching aids or as evidence if a malpractice lawsuit comes up.  Of course, this evidence is only disclosed if the video shows the operation was performed competently.  If any asshattery was caught on video, it is destroyed.  Some of my best footage has been lost this way. 

So about ten months ago, I was recording the video of an operation to remove a brain tumor. It’s a kid who looks like he’s maybe 15 years old.  Sometimes, brain surgery is laparoscopic but not this time.  They sawed all the way around his head – so the top would come off.

And when the top did come off, the tumor wasn’t a tumor at all.  It was a very pissed-off brain crab.  Everyone in the surgery room died horribly.  Me?  I wasn’t in the room.  Hell no.  I was in the video control room, on a different floor.  The cameras are all operated remotely.  This keeps me from possibly contaminating something or getting in the way of the surgeons.

Once all the screams and chaos subsided, I panned the cameras around the room, looking for the crab.  I saw it hop the length of the room so it could be anywhere.  By the way, the inside of the kid’s head was almost completely empty.  The crab had eaten most of the kid’s brain.

Before the operation, I took a handheld cam and shot a few minutes of video with the parents and kid.  They wanted it, you know.  The kid was functioning normally – talking and moving around normally.  He even told me a joke.

Did you hear about the crab that went to the seafood disco? He pulled a muscle.

I didn’t say it was a good joke but in that 20/20 hindsight sort of way, it’s really funny, now.  The brain crab was making an inside joke.  What I do wonder is, if the brain crab was in control – and it had to be because the kid had almost no brain left – why didn’t it try to stop the operation?  The only thing I can think of is – I guess it wanted out.  Do you think he wanted to kill everyone in the operating room?  A psychopathic, serial killer, brain crab – who would have seen that coming?  Or maybe after the boy’s brain was gone, it was still hungry and this was the only way to get out to get more brains?  Who knows?

So anyway, the hospital went into emergency lockdown.  The brain crab destroyed the lights and two of the three cameras that were in the room.  The camera that remained was recessed in the ceiling and had a fisheye lens.  It didn’t look like a camera – more like a light that wasn’t turned on and I guess that why the crab left it.  Still, with no lights in the room, it was completely dark and I couldn’t see anything, though I could hear it scuttling around and what sounded like someone chewing wet food. 

When two policemen arrived, they opened the door to the operating room with big flashlights on and guns drawn.  The flashlight beams danced around the room and settled on a nurse in scrubs, standing among the bodies of other nurses and doctors.  She had the mask and protective eyewear on. Her gloved hands and outfit were bloodied but it was a surgery room, so that’s not unusual.

“Freeze!” The police yelled, both training their shaky lights on her and probably their guns, too.

The nurse didn’t move, except her head.  She looked up and said, “It’s on the ceiling!”

The flashlights swung upwards and around the room, and then there was pandemonium—the sound of rapid movement, grunts, and gunfire. Something was knocked over and clattered across the floor.  The flashlight beams swung erratically around the room and, within a few seconds, lay on the floor – pointing towards the closed door.  The two policemen were dead.

The nurse walked slowly to the door, illuminated by the crossed flashlights, and just before she opened it to let light spill in from the outside hallway, you could see the back of her head and the brain crab, clamped to her neck, manipulating her like a puppet.

I switched to viewing the security camera in the hallway, following her out of the room and past people, pressed against walls, or standing in doorways looking out.  As she passed, thin, translucent tentacles shot from her open mouth, striking each person and then quickly retracting.  Each victim reacted as if they were stung by a bee but promptly fell to the ground, motionless.

Finally, a doctor pulled a gun from a holster under his scrubs and fired, blowing the crab on the back of the nurse’s neck to bits.  The nurse fell to the ground, and the doctor who was packing saved countless lives that day.  He was later arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in a hospital.”

The guy casually stopped talking to take a sip from his coffee cup.

Doug was transfixed.  I think he was buying it, but this sounded fake to me, and I had to say something, so I did. 

“Why wasn’t this on the news?”

The guy lowered the coffee cup and said, “Shortly after this incident, two black helicopters landed on the helipads on the hospital roof, and four men in black suits came out.  They took the video I recorded and the bodies in the operating room.  In fact, they took all the videos recorded anywhere in the hospital, parking lot, or from surrounding businesses near the hospital.

They also took everyone on the second floor away to be inspected.  Black vans pulled up, and men in hazmat suits took them away.  I was on a different floor, so they didn’t take me.”

The guy leaned back in the plaid chair back again, not relaxed but still reclined.

He said, “The thing is – no one said, don’t talk about it.  I mean, they took all the video and the bodies and stuff but didn’t say to keep quiet.  So, people called news shows and were interviewed. Each story differed a little from the others, and most people only had seen a small part of what happened. They haven’t watched everything unfold via video cameras as I did.   Most of what they said involved the Men in Black from the helicopters and vans more than anything supernatural or… crabby, and this is why you didn’t hear about it on the news – because most of it wasn’t about crabs, and none of the crabby stuff was credible.

I didn’t want to get involved in the circus, so I kept quiet, sort of.  Instead, I posted it online.  Disinformation.org picked it up and ran with it, but it’s all the conspiracy theorists and nut-jobs that keyed in on it, forming their theories and extrapolating the facts to a great extent.”

The guy seemed to notice my nano-reaction to his comments and looked directly at me, over my tented fingertips.

“See?  You do remember the news stories about the black helicopters at the hospital, don’t you?”

The guy put his hands behind his head, fully reclined in his chair, but he kept talking.

“There’s a lot more to tell, but this is usually enough.  Either you will acknowledge the brain crabs, or you won’t.  So let’s make it easy. If you don’t believe me, leave.  I’ve got the check.  If you do believe me, then stay, and I’ll give you what you paid for.”

Check? We waited. Apparently. Doug said nothing.

“OK.  My name is Benson Doyd.  That’s my real name.  No convictions. I’ll tell you why I’m telling you anything.”

Good to know.  Boyd pulled the recliner forward, put his head in his hands, and rubbed them over his face as he looked up.

“So here it is – it’s because of my dog.

Buddy, my dog – he was a sensitive animal.  I don’t mean that he is a wuss or anything, but he is a sensitive dog and can tell when I’m sad or upset. He’s a Rat Terrier, and they are thoughtful, independent sages.

The thing about Buddy is he’s a good judge of character, but he gives everyone a chance.  He’s a thinker, wise in a canine sort of way.  Yes, he drinks from the toilet, but he knows when someone has an alien brain crab up in their noggin, steering the ship, you know?  He knows, and he won’t have anything to do with them.  You might remember – he didn’t like you at all, Doug.

That’s when I asked you to leave, said I didn’t feel right – I would call you later.  And didn’t.  Of course, I wasn’t going to have sex with you.  You have crabs!”

That made me do a double-take.  It was one of those, looking back and forth between Doug and the guy over and over until I blurted out, “What?!  No!” Like Homer Simpson, seeing the last donut eaten.  Neither Doug nor the guy seemed phased by my cartoonish reaction.

“I know,” Benson said, glancing up at me but down at the floor, quickly. “How do I know Buddy didn’t have a brain crab too?  I’ve had other experiences outside of that day at the hospital.  I don’t think the crabs like dogs or cats.  Not sure about monkeys or chimpanzees – but they prefer people.”

He looked solemnly at Doug.  “Don’t look so sad.  You knew it couldn’t work out.  Me, a big city dork with commitment issues and you, a scaly brain-eating crab. Star-crossed from the beginning. You are from another dimension, after all.”

My Homer Simpson impression of, “Ahhhhhhhh!” continued with little notice.  Boyd, however, kept talking.

“Where was I?  Oh, yes.  You’re from another dimension.  I found your portal – the one in the back of the Starbuck’s on McArthur Blvd.  The one behind the bags of espresso beans. I shut it down.  I have no idea why a double-tall caramel latte can sever the connection, but it did.  If coffee defeats you, it’s a real bummer that you opened the portal in a coffee shop.  Anyway, that portal is gone, but I bet you have others, eh?

I also stomped four of your little cousins who had just popped through. They squish easily when they are small.  I’m guessing everyone who works at that Starbucks is crabbed.  I got out.  That was this morning, right before I came home, to meet your crabby self.

I’m not saying you have a brain crab, Doug.  I think the crab has fully taken over, eaten the entire brain, and everything that made you Doug is gone forever.  I think you are all crab, looking at me with little crabby eyes, thinking little crabby thoughts, right now.

I have dominated the conversation, haven’t I? Why don’t you talk for a while?”

Drool plopped quietly onto the table as my mouth hung open, witnessing this exchange. Doug took a deep breath and then spoke.

—–

When Doug Calls – CH 3 – Anti-Popular

This is chapter three of an unpublished story I’m working on. I thought it would be fun to post a short chapter every week or so. I’d like to know what you think.

CH 3 – Anti-Popular

Another thing I’ll tell you about Doug that’s less amazing but still freaky is that he loves the crap out of the Soundtrack to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a glam-rock version of Beatles music from a subpar, 70’s movie starring the talented but miscast Bee Gees.   Before Doug died, he only listened to Kiss, AC/DC, and Alice Cooper (and there ain’t nothin’ wrong with that), but after TMI, it was the Sgt. Pepper’s Soundtrack, every time, all of the time, on an endless loop.  I don’t know why, it just was.

People began to think Doug was, you know, weird. I think it was the Sgt. Pepper’s Soundtrack that did him in, in the public’s opinion, I mean.  Truth be told, Doug was strange before TMI, like me.

Take a look back to before TMI, and before people were interested in him – Doug had a tough go of things.  I knew Doug in high school.  He wasn’t a popular kid, but neither was I, so… so what?  Right?  So what. Yeah. Anyway, we would walk home from school together because our houses were on the same block, not because bullies on ten-speeds would beat us up if they caught us alone.  Neither of us had girlfriends, but we could have if we wanted to.  We weren’t athletes or on a team because sports are dumb.  We did play a lot of D&D and Xbox. My Drunken Ranger, Zekedt (pronounced with no silent letters, “Zekedt”), was level 17 and a force to be reckoned with. Zekedt had many girlfriends all over the Four Realms, so I had that action going on.

Even now, I’m 31 years old, and Doug and I still live on the same block, except that Doug is in an apartment over his parent’s garage, and I’m in an apartment behind my parent’s home so, you know, we’ve grown in that way.  Matured.

This dumpster, though.  This dumpster. Doug should have told me more about it.

I curled up into a fetal position as I fell, bracing for an impact as the blackness of the open dumpster raced up to meet me.  I don’t remember feeling the impact but do recall a loud, “KA-BONG!” noise and then nothing.

*******

When Doug Calls – CH 2 – Both Sides

This is chapter two of an unpublished story I’m working on. I thought it would be fun to post a short chapter every week or so. I’d like to know what you think.

CH 2 – Both Sides

Once, Doug and I were in his garage apartment, and I put the bong down to ask him how he could tell the future.

“Dude, you know what’s going to happen before it happens.  How?  And do you have any Doritos?”

“I ate all the Nacho Cheese Doritos.  I think I might have Funyuns.”

“I hate Funyuns!”

Then we watched Cartoon Network.

Another time when I was a little less high, I asked him again.  Here is what he said:

“There once was this guy with a mental disorder that only allowed him to remember things he saw on the right side, but anything he might have seen on the left side, he was oblivious and couldn’t recall. 

He went to a psychiatrist, and the psychiatrist said, ‘Close your eyes.  Imagine you are standing at the South end of Main Street, a street you know well.  Tell me all the shops on the right side and then tell me all the shops on the left side.’

The guy listed off the names of each shop on the right side, one after the other, but when it came to the left side, he couldn’t remember any of them.

Then the psychologist said, ‘Imagine you are standing at the other end of Main Street, the North end, facing back at the same rows of shops.  Now, tell me the shops on your right and then the shops on your left.’

The guy banged out the shops on the right side, what was the left side the first time, and couldn’t recall any of the shops on the left side, which was the side he previously remembered.”

“Well, that’s messed up.  Obviously, the guy has a memory of both sides of the street.  He just can’t access both sides of the memories at the same time.” I felt brilliant.

Doug leaned back, reached for the bong and lighter, and said, “I don’t know what happened to that guy, but the point is that, well, it’s like everyone has a mental disorder when it comes to seeing the whole picture, everything that’s around them.  Everyone except me.  I can see both sides of the street.”

“Yeah, man, but, like, how?” I eloquently asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. Probably the whole thing when I became unalive.”
Unalive is the word Doug uses for his state of not actually having a heartbeat but still being like alive.  He doesn’t like the word “undead.” That’s for zombies and vampires, and he’s not either of those. I don’t think he is, anyway.

© 2020, Mitch Lavender

When Doug Calls – CH 1 – Dumpster Diving

This is an unpublished story I’m working on. I thought it would be fun to post a short chapter every week or so. I’d like to know what you think.

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CH 1 – Dumpster Diving

It’s 3:14 in the morning when my phone rings.  I wake, curse, fumble for my mobile, and raise it to my head.

 “Hello, Doug,” I mutter.

See, when my phone rings in the early morning hours, at a time all the normal people are asleep, I know it’s Doug. It’s always Doug, and getting these calls is just one of the many benefits I endure as Doug’s best friend.

“Do not get into a dumpster behind the Toledo Taco Bell on Miramar Street!” Doug paused and then added, “I mean it, Ed. Don’t do it, no matter what.”

“OK, Doug. I won’t.”

Being that I lived in Dallas, had never been to Toledo, didn’t even know anyone in Toledo, and while I love Taco Bell, I could not fathom dumpster-diving for stale nachos, I was pretty sure I could keep this promise.

It’s is not as unusual a phone call as it might seem.  Calls from Doug are always… peculiar.  One time, he called me and told me not to eat a live, poisonous snake, but if I do, be sure to swallow it tail first.  Another time he told me not to read any Russian books aloud.  I don’t read or understand Russian, but Doug wasn’t interested in that. 

You might ask why I put up with Doug’s insomniac-induced rants, and the answer is complicated. I suppose I should tell you a little bit about Doug Newborn to ease you into it.

 First and I think, foremost, you should know that Doug died.  He choked on a McRib Sandwich at McDonald’s and died.  Paramedics cleared the blockage from his throat and revived him, but he never had a heartbeat after that. No pulse.  No respiration. Because Doug’s blood pressure was 0/0, the Coroner declared him deceased, but Doug argued with him about it until he finally recanted, with the understanding that while Doug Newborn was not dead, he also was not alive in the sense that was recognized by medical science.  Doug chose to view that as a fault of medical science.  It certainly wasn’t his.

The second thing you should know about Doug Newborn is that, not long after The McRib Incident (TMRI) of 2013, Doug disappeared for 22 days.  He was last seen playing a Joust arcade game at 7-eleven, a block from his garage apartment, and then, on level nineteen with eight lives to spare, *poof*. He disappeared. Missing person flyers were posted, and the local news covered his disappearance.  Police had no leads.  Twenty-two days later, Doug’s back in the 7-eleven, wondering why his high score wasn’t on the Joust machine.  When the clerk told Doug he unplugged the machines every week to sweep behind them, thus wiping the high scores, Doug nearly went ape shit.  He insisted his score was easily 700,000, and he had been there the whole time.  Since no apparent kidnapping or wrongdoing was involved, the police dropped it.

So, two nights after Doug’s warning about the dumpster, I find myself running through the dark parking lot of Taco Bell on Miramar Street in Toledo, chased by a shadowy, bat-winged, dildo-shaped monstrosity with claws that hang down at the back of the nut sack and a shark-toothed dickhead, and I DO NOT jump into the dumpster behind the Taco Bell for cover. The thing caws at me from a black sky, a shrill version of the sound Pac-Man makes when caught by a ghost if he were screaming from hell.  Doug tells me about the dumpster, but he couldn’t tell me about shark-toothed, flying dildos? 

I leaped over the hood of a rusty Camaro like Bo Duke and bolted to the dumpster in the adjacent Wendy’s parking lot. The cawing Pac-Man-screaming-in-hell keeps my adrenalin up, and I leap into the Wendy’s dumpster and bury myself under the cardboard and… other stuff. 

I lay still, trying not to breathe hard, mostly because it smelled terrible but also because I was trying to hide.  Of course, Bat-Winged Dildo Thing saw me jump in the Wendy’s dumpster, so it was no surprise that my ninja-like moves had not thrown it off.  The lid on top of the dumpster swung open with violent squeal and clang. Six-inch talon claws closed around my leg and lifted me jerkily out of the dumpster, up and up with each massive wing flap.  I looked down and saw the black asphalt of the unlit parking lot reeling past me, and I saw Doug standing there, holding something small out in front of him, maybe a flashlight.

A bluish flash shot from the object Doug was holding, hitting Bat-Winged Dildo Thing, and its grasp on my leg released. I was falling, and I was going to die.  All that, “My life flashed before my eyes,” crap didn’t happen, but I didn’t die, either.  Anyway, I fell into the dumpster.  The dumpster behind the Taco Bell on Miramar Street.  In Toledo.  Remember the dumpster Doug said not to get into, no matter what?  That one.

Another thing about Doug is that he has premonitions that have never been wrong.  Some haven’t come true yet, but none that I know of have ever been proven to be false.  Many are queerly accurate. That’s also a thing to know about Doug.  Maybe I should have led with that?

© 2020, Mitch Lavender

GEEK AM I

As a card-carrying GEEK, it is my right… nay, it is my RESPONSIBILITY to complain about the most insignificant and trivial of details when it comes to movies, books, comics, video games, and particularly in my case, board games.

Look at the most passionate geeks out there and that’s what they do – criticize and complain and nit-pick.  I can only surmise that any geek worth his salt would do the same, right?

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Not That I Care (Flash Fiction)

Have you ever been in an absolutely quiet, serene place, void of any distraction at all?  Didn’t it feel weird?

Consider this: If you abuse your body, it creates problems and organs stop doing what they are supposed to do.  So, if you drink too much, your kidneys and liver will fail to filter toxins properly, or if you smoke, you damage your lungs and have difficulty oxygenating blood.  What about your brain?

Inane television shows, sound-bites, self-important celebrities, radio chatter, internet memes, Facebook status updates, tweets, and the general, incessant noise we surround ourselves with every day – subjecting a brain to such a relentless input of low-grade, sensational information, year after year, it’s not unreasonable to think that something had to give and it did.

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Don’t Kill the Dog (for authors)

There are places that authors fear to tread and rightly so.  Some things are taboo and off limits, even in the fictionalized place where we create our stories and taking a certain plot twist can completely lose a reader or worse, make them angry.

I have a tendency to write dark fiction and that is thin ice to tread.  It’s not hard to make a wrong move.  It takes scruples and sense of self to avoid it because when weaving a story (i.e., pantsing), it has a life of its own; taking a direction that almost seems to be beyond the author’s control.  The story is completely in the author’s control of course, but it can sometimes feel like it has its own personae and is making choices for itself, such as having your antihero become a predator on the weak, vulnerable or trusting.  Who would like Batman if he was a rapist or child molester?   Rapists and Child molesters, that’s who, and no one else.

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The Whole Does Not Equal the Sum – a writing exercise

A writing Exercise from Writing Excuses episode 4.24 podcast

Concepts to use in the story: Accountant for a church, Contacts that decrease your vision, and brain implants

Exercise: Develop character(s) and conflicts using the three concepts above.  It can’t be silly.

The Whole Does Not Equal the Sum 

by Mitch Lavender

Better living through technology – A mantra that is repeated to the point that it is not even thought about.  No one considers what it means or if they believe it.  They certainly do not question it.  It was the very heart of the doctrine of The Church of π.

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I Observed – a short story

SHORT STORY LAUREL November

I Observed
By Mitch Lavender

BUSINESS-CARDS-3I took the card from him and shoved it in my pocket without looking at it.   At an event like this, people handed out business cards like they were throwing confetti.  I’m nobody to these people but they don’t know that.  Because I’m so disinterested, they assume that I’m important.  That’s my bad.  They used to call it socializing.  Now, it’s networking.  Now, it’s opportunity.  Now, it’s as good as it gets.

His name was Dale Staire.  Something in the way the incandescent light reflected off his name tag made me think of the EKG machine flat-lining in my father’s hospital room when I was twelve.  I decided to look him in the eye.  It was twenty minutes later that I broke free from the conversation with Dale Staire. It turns out Dale was a makeup artist (or the way he would say it, ‘artiste.’)   I broke away by dominating the conversation with things I knew from the research I have documented.  Things so horrible, Dale Staire was too shocked to respond.  He could hardly wait to leave my company.
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The Depths–A short story by Mitch Lavender

Darren was the first to wake. Duct-taped together with the two other unconscious men, he groggily struggled against the restraints. His angry, dilated pupils wandered up and tried to focus on me.

“This won’t stop me,” was all he said. Then his head fell back to his chest.

Was he right? Maybe none of them would stop and what I’d done wouldn’t make any difference. Maybe Darren was full of it. Maybe I didn’t care anymore. I was reminded of Josh and how things ended up for him. It wasn’t a comforting thought.

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