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Volume 3, Issue 2, June 30, 2008
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Grinding to a Halt
by Gerri Leen

        We should have known something was wrong when they solved the Black Dahlia murder. How many years had it been, and suddenly her diary just pops out of the earth after a little earthquake (by L.A. standards), and they learn some sleazeball porn financer had invited her to his house for the weekend, and that led them to find his diary buried in the cellar of the rest home he died in? I mean how often does that happen? Only we weren't paying attention to how weird it was (probably because nothing defines weird like the whole Black Dahlia thing). We just watched. Movies-of-the-weeks were made, Elizabeth Short became a household word again for about nine months, and then life went back to normal.
        Only, not really.
        bout a week after that, over in Scotland, old Nessie finally popped to the surface and stayed awhile. News crews came; photos were snapped. She turned out to be some survivor from an Apatosaurusy water dinosaur clan. It was in all the papers, and she even turned out to like dogs. I mean to play with, not to eat. She was a vegetarian, lived on lake algae and the occasional head of lettuce thrown in by wasted picnickers. Nessie was all the rage for a while, then life went back to normal.
        Only, not really.
       Then they figured out crop circles. Wasn't UFOs at all but this retarded-looking stealth plane the government had dreamed up. Kind of looked like a flying garbage can. Only a schmooshed up one, 'cause it wasn't very tall, just round with a lid thing. You know, UFO-like. Been around since the forties and they'd never had one crash--at least not where they couldn't do damage control. This one made an uncontrolled landing as they like to say. Bounced its way across a Bucks County field not far from where they filmed Signs. Everyone thought it was ironic. And then life went back to normal.
        Only--hell, you get the idea.
        Then it seemed like stuff started to solve itself, almost all on its own, like how many lone gunmen there really were, and what the Nazca lines meant, and how the pyramids were built. They found out what Stonehenge was really for. (An ancient disco: who would have guessed?) Easter Island turned out to be early abstract art. Mona Lisa wasn't smiling because she had no teeth. The only unexpected books in the Vatican library were some eighteenth-century porn (they'd read it for the articles, of course). And Richard the Third didn't off his nephews. Even back then, babysitters were saying: "Someone's going to end up getting hurt." Only roughhousing in the Tower had proved fatal, and this babysitter knew she was going to take the heat. So she ran off after shoving the kids' bodies into the crawlspace under the stairwell: voila, a historical mystery for the ages solved.
        We found out Anne Boleyn didn't have a sixth finger, Rasputin wasn't crazy, and Marilyn Monroe died just the way Spoto said she did. Jack the Ripper was the prince's doctor, after all; Shakespeare turned out to have written his own plays; virgin queen Elizabeth the First was not a hermaphrodite (or a virgin); and the Bermuda Triangle was actually one of several terrestrial black holes, which explained Amelia Earhart and the Marie-Celeste, as well as a whole lot of other things.
        But it was the day Elvis showed up at the Dubuque Wal-Mart that we knew something big was happening. Things just sort of went to hell for a while then. People went nuts and panicked, buying up milk and bread the way they do before a snowstorm back east. (Oh, and cat litter, even if they don't have cats.) Other folks tried desperately to cling to their routine, going to work and eating lunch at noon like always (although not with bread because the panickers had bought all of it out, even that weird Pennsylvania Dutch potato bread that tastes really good but is sort of an unnatural color of yellow).
       I was one of those who decided to live in the middle. I didn't see the point of showing up at my going-nowhere job at the video store, but I also wasn't going to waste my time looting the Seven-Eleven for pork rinds and beef jerky to go with my Big Gulp (or sitting in my dump of an apartment with bread and milk and cat litter). So I settled back with my best friend Eric in his mom's basement--she even provided her normal accompaniment of "When are you two deadbeats going to get off your asses and do something?"--and waited for what would come (sort of like those guys in Shaun of the Dead, harpy mom and all, only no cute girlfriend in sight).
        We waited.
        And waited.

Read the rest of the story:
        Grinding to a Halt (pdf)
        Grinding to a Halt (prc)
See our reading software link at left.

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