Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Sitcom

Ted fought against the metal mountain as he climbed. The thick cloths and leather straps wound around his hands and feet grew snagged and tattered and worn as the level ground – covered only by a thinning blanket of dead grass and glittering permafrost – fell away beneath him. As he climbed upwards, the smoldering heap of rusting steel smoked in places. Red lines stained crags and eddies. Ted was unsure if the stains marring the mountain were rusted iron or ancient blood. Both had been offered over the years to appease The Monster. Yet, The Monster was never appeased, not fully. The Monster looked down on what was left of the world with a toothy smirk. The Monster’s giant lips frothed with blood. Tremors rising from deep inside the core of the earth told Ted that The Monster hungered. Wings creaked overhead and blocked the pale light of a dying sun as The Monster stretched.


“Why must you do it?” his mother asked him. She ran around the kitchen. The spotlights overhead and the yellow flowers on her wallpaper kept her cheerful, kept her smiling. She whisked something in a bowl. Scrambled eggs maybe? The beginnings of a cake? Cookies?

Ted did not know. He stared down at his hands. They were caked with dried blood.

His mother tsked. “Ted, you tell me right now, what is it you want to prove?”

He looked up to his mother and saw her. Really saw her. She was beautiful, radiant. Light streaked out of her eyes and warmed the chill in his soul, but he still felt cold. His brother was gone. His mother tried to remain happy, wore a permanent smile, but even as young as Ted was he understood this was her front, an act. He knew she was lonely. Since The Censors invaded she had been forced to sleep in a tiny twin bed. She no longer knew the embrace of her husband. She no longer knew what it felt like to be kissed with the exception of chaste brushes of indifferent lips against her cheek. The Censors wanted her pure. The Censors did not care if that false purity killed her soul.

“Mom, I just killed my brother. Dad made me do it. He said it was in the damn script!” Ted tugged at his crew cut hair. “I need answers!”

The laugh track erupted into a joyful cacophony of canned emotion.


“Why do you climb, boy?” The Monster asked. He had no name. He was simply The Monster. That was enough.

Ted lay sprawled out on a small metal platform. His hands and feet pulsed and wept with blisters and blood. “Because I have to know.”

“What do you want to know? How do you know I have the answers? How do you know, if I do have the answers, I will give them to you? What makes you think I can be trusted?”

Ted laughed. “It’s not about trust. It’s about truth.”


His father never came home from work. No “Honey, I’m home!” or tumble over furniture, no canned applause for his clumsy, over-stylized entrance. Instead, the house grew silent.

Ted looked at the fourth wall. The cameras had stopped rolling. The studio audience had been left deserted. A tumbleweed from the western that was filming on the set next door rolled across the linoleum kitchen floor.

“Why do you do it?” his mother asked again, softer this time. She fell over and shivered.

Ted wanted to rush over to her, to hold her, to cry over her. Instead, he sat at the kitchen table and ate his cereal, trapped by an unforgiving and unyielding script. His mother died as she slept: alone.


Ted spoke between clenched teeth. “I just want you to answer one question, you sick bastard. Who are you?”

The Monster smiled. “I think you know.”

“Why do you do this?”

“Just to see if it works.”

A shock of lava and smoke erupted near Ted. Some of it splashed down against his outstretched arm and left instant whelps and burns. “Well? Did it work?”

Sheets of typed paper were crumpled into a ball before being tossed into a trashcan littered by empty beer cans.



  1. Oh, the dark thoughts lingering within the minds of writers.

    How do you come up with such interesting works of flash? Do you use prompts, or are they all impromto?

  2. Intriguing story TJ, though I admit I'm not clear on what's happening. Is it all just a play? Or simply his thoughts? I'm sorry I don't understand.

    However, your descriptions are quite vivid. It was easy to see, and feel, the blood pulsing on his hands.

  3. Chad -- No prompts. I just start writing usually without any clear idea of where I'm going. Sometimes there's a sentence or an image or a vague idea that gets one going, but usually it's just putting one word after another. Kind of like whittling. You start cutting and let the wood show you what it wants to be. At least, that's the best analogy I can think of.

    Deanna -- Thanks! Would it help if I told you I was The Monster? I mean, it's not me exactly (I write prose not TV scripts) but close enough. I was just thinking about all the characters I've killed, tortured, and maimed while writing shorts this year. They must think I'm a pretty terrible person... ;)

  4. Fine whittling here Opie! Very creative with a winky nod to Rob Petrie, Sally Rogers and Buddy Sorrell. You might want to uncrumple some of those pages, probably some good stuff on them!

  5. A really strong opening (the metal mountain was the hook) got me reading this and it was incredibly interesting and unique. So many layers as to the scenes going on, very twisted little take.

  6. Stunning surrealism. I get the impression your work is talking to you, as my story "Hi, It's Me!" talked to me while I wrote it. An experiment, all right. The tell: the question at the end. The irony: "No." Because of course it worked. Well done sir.

  7. Imaginative writing, although it left me a little confused. At the end the story seemed to solidify. Thinking nightmarish boyish thoughts of demons and death while eating ceral before school.