Thursday, January 29, 2009

What's the Loveliest Part of Your Body?

Over at Shakesville, they're asking readers what part of themselves they like best. Here is my answer:

My hands. I liked them even when I was a fat, awkward teenager, because at least my hands had long slender fingers and muscular palms. When I was a fat, awkward young adult, I still thought my hands looked kind of nice, and I also found out that I could get almost any girl to let me touch her because I gave really good back and foot rubs. Now I am a fat, awkward middle-aged man, and I've had a couple of go-rounds with carpal tunnel syndrome and have to sleep with my hands strapped into immobilization gloves that I call the "anti-Onanism devices", but they still give good touch, and my wife gets downright lyrical about what they do to her, so I like my hands just an awful lot.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Earth-349: The Planet of the Apes

Earth-349: The Planet of the Apes
By Anton Psychopoulos, Ph.D.
Disclaimer 1: This story is based on a story in Superman #349, but is not limited by that
story or any other.
Disclaimer 2: This story is based on characters and concepts copyright DC Comics,
Marvel Comics, 20th Century-Fox, Universal Studios and others. It is written for
entertainment only and is not intended to deny or disparage those copyrights.
Disclaimer 3: The Planet of the Apes was created by Pierre Boulle.
Disclaimer 4: The chronosynclastic infundibulum orbiting between Earth and Mars was
created by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Disclaimer 5: The healing treatment used by Dr. Zaius was created by someone whose
name I can't recall. If you've read the story, please let me know the title and author.
Disclaimer 6: This story is not recommended for persons under 18, or the easily offended,
especially those who are uncomfortable with themes such as transgender.
Colonel George Taylor of the United States Aerospace Force scratched under his
filthy loincloth and wished one more time that he'd followed that guidance counselor's
advice and become a newspaper reporter.
I could have been the editor of a great metropolitan newspaper by now.
Instead, he had become a fighter pilot, then a test pilot, then an astronaut, and
eventually been given command of Argo 4, charged with exploring the space warp that
orbited the Sun between Earth and Mars.
And look where that had gotten him.
They'd emerged near a red giant star they were pretty sure was Betelgeuse.
Landing in a rare green spot on the mostly-desert second planet, they had found a band of
mute and primitive but quite human people, and soon after they had shared the fate of the
band: rounded up and killed or caged by a band of apes.
There was no two ways about it: the creatures had been recognizably gorillas,
orangutans and chimpanzees, though they had walked on two legs, talked, worn clothing,
ridden horses and carried rifles. Long, deadly rifles.
Taylor's three comrades had been killed, so far as he knew, and he had been shot
in the throat.
Caged at a research station with other captive humans, he had pretty much picked
up their language by listening to the staff. By luck, a gorilla technician often brought her
baby to work, and spent hours talking with him. But with the wound in his throat, he
couldn't talk to them.
If only he could talk, he could surely manage to get them to treat him as a person.
There were at least three intelligent species on this planet – surely they could find a place
for a fourth.
But for now, he sat in his cage, his only companion a pretty but witless female,
praying that his wound would heal enough that he could speak intelligibly.
A fat gorilla entered the room of cages and handed a printed form to the young
chimpanzee who was feeding the captives.
The chimp looked up at Taylor, startled.
"Gee, Dr. Zira was hoping those two would mate."
The gorilla laughed.
"Not after Lab Nine gets through with him!"
The chimp chuckled nervously.
"Um, guess not."
Taylor shook his head slowly, the implications of what the apes were saying
sinking in. It sounded as though they were going to castrate him.
And why not? He was only an animal, after all. Naturally they could "geld" him,
or even "put him down", whenever they pleased.
Just when I thought things couldn't possibly get any worse. . . .
The gorilla was saying something about "orders direct from Dr. Zaius". That was
the old orangutan who seemed to be the most important official at the research station.
Not just a senior administrator, but a very distinguished scientist and a "pih ehr-bool", a
title which seemed to mean something like "defender of the faith". Zaius had the bearing
of a bishop and the voice of a Shakespearean actor, and for some reason he radiated a
severe hostility towards humans in general and Taylor in particular.
The chimp opened the cage, watching the two animals warily, while the gorilla
readied a noose on a stick, the standard control device, to capture him.
"If you knew what they were going to do to you," the gorilla said nastily.
At the last moment, Taylor snatched the descending loop and yanked at the stick,
managing by surprise to pull it out of the gorilla's grasp. Leaping past the two startled
apes, he dashed out into a corridor, then made for daylight.
On the street, an unconfined human created a sensation, sending orangutan
mothers snatching at their children, sturdy chimp males grabbing stakes and bricks to
bring the beast down, gorilla teamsters calming their horses. Surprising them with his
perceptiveness, Taylor managed to evade the apes for several blocks, and he began to
think he had a chance of escaping into the wilderness when a net suddenly entangled him
and he was hoist into the air beneath a covered walkway.
He made one last, desperate attempt to force intelligible words from his throat,
but a club to the back of his head silenced him for the rest of the day.
Taylor awoke to find himself lying in a bed, tucked under white sheets. For a
moment, he thought that the whole episode of the monkey planet had just been a dream.
But his wrists and ankles were restrained, and the walls had the odd curving surfaces of
the ape architecture he'd come to know.
And it stank of ape musk.
His body ached, on the edge of acute pain, especially at the joints and between his
legs. He suppressed a moan of dread as he contemplated that fact, and prayed for a
chance to examine himself and know the worst.
An orangutan whose jacket indicated a fairly low rank entered the room, noted
that Taylor was awake and began to prod his chest with long hairy fingers.
"Get your stinkin' paws off me, you damn dirty ape!"
The orang retreated, eyes wide, hands raised, thin lips quivering. Taylor was
hardly less surprised to hear his voice. The wound in his throat seemed finally to be
healed, he could speak without pain, but his voice was strangely altered.
But that was nonsense. It was a myth that an adult male's voice would rise in
pitch after he was castrated. But as Taylor continued to snarl invective at the cringing
technician, there was no question about it: he was cursing, if not singing, soprano.
The orang had finally had enough. He bolted from the room, shouting, "Doctor
Zaius! Doctor Zaius!"
The stern-faced old orangutan soon entered, followed at a cautious distance by his
trembling subordinate.
"Well, now, let's see how Bright Eyes is doing today," he said with a confident
"My name is Taylor," Taylor said flatly.
The old orang started momentarily, then straightened himself and dismissed the
"So, it's true, you can talk. My worst fears realized. But you won't be talking for
The old ape began untying Taylor's ankles and wrists.
"Let's just see how the rest of your body functions. The treatment seems to have
healed all of your wounds, as usual, but let's just see if you can walk, shall we?"
Feeling as weak as a centenarian, Taylor pushed himself up on his hands to a half-
sitting position, then dropped back down with a high-pitched shriek.
"What did you do to me?" Taylor demanded, forcing himself to sit up again and
look at his body.
"You tell me, Bright Eyes. What do you see?"
"This is impossible. You can't do that, it doesn't work that way . . . ."
Zaius gave a brief series of dignified hoots of amusement.
"We were nearly as startled, the first time we saw it. We had been trying to
develop a means of curing crippling wounds, and had gotten as far as testing it on the
higher animals, when we discovered this curious side effect. Male becomes female,
female becomes male. Fascinating."
Taylor swung her legs out of the bed, sitting up dizzily, still much too weak to
stand. Her shoulder and hip joints had been dramatically altered, and something was
different about her spine. Her waist was tiny, her thighs rounder, her calves much
smaller. Even the weight of her modest breasts seemed to unbalance her.
Just when I thought things couldn't possibly get any worse . . . .
The senior ape prodded Taylor in various places. She didn't bother to object.
"Most of the humans we have used in testing Dr. Milo's treatment had their minds
shattered by the experience. I'd hoped that would happen to you as well. Since it didn't,
we'll simply have to cut your vocal chords, and perhaps use you in one of my
neurological studies."
"Cut up my brain?"
"Of course. It would be a shame to lose such an unusual specimen – but perhaps
you will attract less attention as part of Laboratory Nine's collection. We already have
quite a menagerie here of exotic specimens from all over the planet. Perhaps . . . ."
Taylor slapped her thigh and forced herself to her feet, to look Zaius in the face.
"Damn it, Doctor, how can you keep treating me like just another specimen?
Can't you see that I'm. . ."
She groped for the right word in their language.
". . . I'm an ape, too?"
Zaius glared at her, nostrils flaring.
"No," he said firmly, "you are not."
The orangutan began pacing back and forth, his professorial bearing contrasting
strangely with his loping short-legged gait.
"You must understand that I am very much of two minds regarding you, er,
Taylor. On the one hand, I am a scientist, and would like nothing better than to study you
at indefinite length. And as a lover of justice, I would like to find a place for you in our
society. But I am also a Defender of the Faith, and simply by being what you are, you
pose a threat to the established order of things. A threat I cannot tolerate."
Taylor was wobbling unsteadily on her feet, feeling terribly weak. Zaius stepped
forward and scooped her up in his arms, cradling her as easily as a child. The old ape
swung her into a fireman's carry and bore her through the corridors of Lab Nine, past
startled subordinates.
Zaius lowered Taylor gently onto a mat of straw in a cage, much smaller than the
one she'd shared with the female, and locked her in. Recovering herself a little, she
looked around and saw that a chimp sat in the next cage. The creature was young, male,
quite large, and naked.
"Say, fella, aren't you on the wrong side of that cage?"
Zaius hooted once.
"You won't get much conversation out of that one, I'm afraid. He's one of our
specimens, from a tribe of mute, almost mindless savages recently found in a remote
jungle region."
"I get it. The talking human and the mute chimp, a pair of amusing freaks."
Zaius laughed more freely, sounding a bit like the fat gorilla who had first come
to bring her to this place.
"Indeed, you will make an interesting pair. We'd already had in mind to try
mating him with a human female, and you seem the obvious choice."
Her jaw didn't actually drop, but she sat motionless for a good long time. She
remained silent as Zaius spoke with an attendant and left. Finally she looked through the
bars at her intended mate, and saw how the partition between their cages was
Just when I thought it couldn't possibly get any worse . . . .
They left her alone for a few days, letting her sleep and eat and recover her
strength. Dr. Zaius checked on her once or twice a day, and various tests were
performed. They drew blood, took her temperature and her blood pressure, prodded her
new genitalia with a frightening speculum. Any day, she expected to return to her cage to
find the partition removed. She wondered if she'd be able to put up enough of a fight to
get the chimp to kill her.
She saw a few of the other specimens at Lab Nine, including an orangutan-human
hybrid brought in by an embarrassed farmer. The child was mute, but Taylor wondered if
that might be because no-one had spoken to her since she was born.
Taylor also saw the adult human just three feet tall, and heard the thunderous
rumbling of some very large animal that was being held in a pen adjoining Lab Nine.
There was a lot of talk about an unusual gorilla brought back from the Sin'Ges Islands,
which apparently were quite remote, but she didn't see him in the lab.
One morning the mute chimp was agitated, and seemed to be very eager to get
close to Taylor. She sat against the opposite wall of the cage, away from, his groping
arm. He wasn't the only one upset – the big animal, whatever it was, was growling like
an earthquake all morning.
Dr. Zaius examined her personally that morning, seeming to be very pleased by
what he found when he probed her vagina with a blunt brown finger. He rubbed his
fingers together, feeling their stickiness, and sniffed at them in a way she found revolting.
"Yes," said the old ape, "I do believe that today –"
He was cut off by a renewal of the immense roaring, accompanied by a crashing
of broken timbers and falling rock that could only mean that part of Lab Nine had
somehow fallen down.
Lab technicians screeched in panic. Zaius stood firm, briskly ordering them to
move into doorways. The old ape surprised Taylor by bending over her to shield her with
his own body.
Brilliant daylight cut through the gloom of the room of cages, and Taylor saw
over Zaius' shoulder that part of the roof was missing. Then something else blocked the
light, and she heard one of the terrified gorillas scream, "The island king!"
Zaius was brushed aside like a fly, and Taylor was crushed in a bearhug by some
large animal with too many limbs. But they weren't limbs, she realized as she was
hauled up through the gap in the roof. They were immense black fingers.
And then she was sitting in the palm of a gorilla's paw, with eyes like manhole
covers peering at her, and nostrils big enough to receive her fists sniffing her.
Taylor gave a short, painful bark of laughter.
Just when I thought things couldn't possibly get any worse . . . .

Sunday, January 4, 2009

44 Odd Things

44 ODD Things about you! If you opened this, FILL IT OUT! Learn 44 things about your friends, and let them learn 44 things about you! Send back to me and to several more friends !!

1. Do you like blue cheese? Moderately.
2. Have you ever smoked? No.
3. Do you own a gun? No
4. What flavor of Kool Aid is your favorite? Plain (i.e., just water, with no powder added).
5. Do you get nervous before dentist appointments? Yes.
6. What do you think of hot dogs? I like them but don't really respect them.
7. Favorite Christmas movie? It's a Wonderful Life.
8. Favorite thing to drink in the morning? Coffee with milk and Ovaltine.
9. Can you do push ups? Yes. It hurts more than it used to, though.
10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? My wedding ring, a half-inch gold band that matches my wife's.
11. Favorite hobby? Writing fanfic.
12. Do you have A.D.D.? A pretty bad case.
13. What's one trait you hate about yourself? Aside from my ADD, which is a perpetual burden, my inability to express anger constructively.
14. Middle name? [Not available, but it's one of those virtue names like Felicity or Constance]
15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment. A) Methodists sure do sing better than Quakers (I have escorted my frail father to church, and am sitting in an adjoining room).B) The fog this morning was awfully pretty, lit up all dawn-rosy.C) I wish my knee didn't hurt every single day.
16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? Coffee, water, pomegranate juice.
17. Current worry? Work prospects.
18. Current hate right now? My seeming inability to communicate some very basic truths to a friend.
19. Favorite place to be? Sitting propped up on my bed, with a book or laptop in front of me, a warm mocha to my right and my sweetie to my left.
20. How did you bring in the new year? Alas, New Year's Eve was very unpleasant for me because of a misunderstanding with my wife, but we had a better New Year on January third.
21. Where would you like to go? I'd like to watch a space shuttle landing
.22. Name three people who will complete this: How on Earth should I know?
23. Do you own slippers? Yes. I tend to let them get too old to actually keep my feet warm nor to be comfortable against my soles, but right now I'm wearing some very nice slippers because my sweetie bought them for me.
24. What shirt are you wearing? A red-and-maroon print button-down shirt that is just a bit too short in the body and the sleeves for me but too pretty to get rid of, besides which it was given to me by a dear friend I don't get to see much of anymore. Besides, it was clean.
25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets? Never tried. I have always presumed they would be rather chilly on a cold night.
26. Can you whistle? Yes. wish I had a wider range.
27. Favorite color? Blue. The blue of a clear summer sky.
28. Would you be a pirate? No, pirates steal and hurt people.
29. What songs do you sing in the shower? Most often, I take advantage of the white sound of the running water to summon up the hallucination of a Sousa march played by a large marching band.
30. Favorite Girl's Name: Dorothy (my mother's name).
31. Favorite boy's name: Charles (the name of my grandfather, among others).
32. What's in your pocket right now? Cell phone, glasses case, my work schedule for the month, a 3x5 card with some other things I'm supposed to take care of right away, three pairs of disposible vinyl gloves.
33. Last thing that made you laugh? My reaction to one of these questions.
34. What vehicle do you drive? An Isuzi pickup truck, on "long-term loan" from an uncle who is too frail to drive it any longer.
35. Worst injury you've ever had? The hole in my head, if post-surgical wounds count. Otherwise, the chronic-strain injury I have created in my lower back.
36. Do you love where you live? Yes.
37. How many TVs do you have in your house? One. We watch videos once in awhile.
38. Who is your loudest friend? One of the voices in my head, if it really is a friend.
39. Do you have any pets? No, and I am not sure why not.
40. Does someone have a crush on you? Oh, dear, I hope not.
41. Your favorite book? Heavenly Discourse by C.E.S. Wood.
42. Do you collect anything? Not really. I read comic books, and for many years I accumulated them, but one day I discovered that I felt perfectly fine about releasing them back into the wild.
43. Favorite Sports Team? Brooklyn Dodger. Yes, I've heard, but you asked, and that's my answer.
44. What song do you want played at your funeral? Schiller's Ode to Freedom. I'd rather have all of Beethoven's Ninth, but I don't want to demand that much of people's time, so I'll invite them all to go home and YouTube it in my memory later on.