Situation Normal. Atmosphere Breathable. Brainstem Injected. Dialogue Engaged.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Robots Of Trichobezoar

Construction workers keep early schedules. They begin hammering right at sunrise and stop sometime after lunch. For as long as I can remember I've thought they kept this schedule for three reasons: afternoon work is overtime pay, drinking a few beers before going home to the wife and kids, and attending early baseball games. Normal things.

These men are the foundation of our society, the men who plaster our walls and pave our streets. What could be more benign than the gruff blue collar ethic of sawdust, box lunches, sunburn, and pickup trucks?

Alas, there is a bad apple in every bunch. Sometimes there's a few. Several of these rotten apples are conducting unspeakable acts in the condominium construction site next door to my home. These ghouls appear to be regular men by day, sweating and swearing and grunting and heaving. They toil the morning away clad in overalls, wood chips, brick dust, and calluses. Some of the laborers, no doubt, are genuine men of the trade. A select few hide a darker secret.

The humans leave around 2pm in their pickup trucks. Those that remain are the owners of a small fleet of windowless white workvans. These so-called people, I decided, were not overtime laborers. They behaved too strangely.

I'll get to that. I want to share my first impressions. Maybe they were simply my worst fears, fevered hallucinations run rampant. I thought: These are impish fiends in disguise, wearing the skin of men as condom protection for their widescale fucking of humanity. These are the curators of impending armageddon. These who loiter here until dusk must be inhuman beasts with multiple stomachs, hot teeth, and strange appetites.

I've been having lots of problems lately with interdimensional alien monsters and psychotropic transmissions. Due to these encounters I've been meaning to infiltrate the local demon-imp base. I've been musing on it for over a month, but I've been holding myself back, waiting for the right time. I can feel it coming soon. Not immediately, but soon. My most recent discovery adds urgency to my upcoming mission.

I want to talk to my friends about it, but I don't want them to commit me, shun me, reprimand me, or shake their heads in condescending denial. I'll need proof before I can take this to them for support. I'm afraid to attack this fearsome menace alone. But if that's necessary, at the very least I must recruit believers beforehand, disciples to spread the message and carry my torch in the unfortunate event of my savage dismemberment by bloody claws.

I suppose I should tell you more. I began to suspect weirdness when I went on my back porch recently to enjoy some evening coffee. I saw two white vans parked in the dirt below. Next to them was a pile of refuse: plywood scraps, shattered bricks, cracked cinderblocks, sawdust, and canvas wrapping. Behind the vans stood four workers in a circle facing each other, smoking cigarettes. All four of them were silent, and I thought it odd that I'd heard no noise of industrious labor for a good while. The construction ruckus had ceased long before. For several hours all the sounds leaking in through my windows had been typical: the usual River Road traffic, clunk-clunks from bouncing semi carriages, and pulsing basslines from caffeine addled Eastern Europeans. No hammering. Why were these four workers still here?

I looked down at the silent pow-wow. They moved only to breathe their cigarette smoke. They did this with slow deliberation, one worker taking a drag at a time. They were a clock measuring increments perceptible only to them. The local wildlife seemed not to notice them. I saw a raccoon traipse over a yellow workboot and and scramble into the naked building with nary a glance upwards nor an inkling of predatory danger.

Finally the sun crept below the treeline across the street. I live right across from the Des Plaines river, and I enjoy the luxury of third story porch with a forest top sunset view whenever I choose. Pollution from the heavy traffic that separates me from the river emanates up into the sky, adding richness and glory to the dying light.

That day I didn't enjoy the fading light. I wanted desperately to see what the mute quartet would do when they finally budged. The moment the dimness obscured their features, they turned in unison to face the building. They walked inside single file, still wordless, still creepy.

I waited a few moments. From deep inside I heard a low whirring. I scuttled down my stairs and slunk around the fence. I tiptoed up to the building and crawled through a bare window socket. Carefully I moved deeper into the darkness until finally, in the center of the basement cavity, I saw the strangest scene I've ever witnessed in my whole damn life.

The four men were seated around a long plastic children's picnic bench. Haphazardly scattered about the floor were steel traps. Caught within them were dogs, cats, raccoons, and possums. The floor was strewn with animal bait: dead rats and fish. The trapped animals looked full and happy. Perhaps the food had been drugged?

The men at the table had removed their hard hats. From small circlular holes dead center atop each of their heads, dull grey light emanated, fading mere inches above their domes. Wafting upward from the ugly glowing holes came feathers of leaden ash that fluttered out of their cranial light columns into the gentle evening breeze.

So they were not at all human. They were flashlight torchskull men that powered their heads with some sort of nuclear steel grey light. They didn't strike me as overtly sinister. They were stiff, deliberate, precise, and synchronized. I decided they must be robots. They were mere mechanical minions, manufactured operatives of an unseen unidentified threat.

The whirring sounds transformed as I snuck nearer. Closer up, I easily indentified the humming as the low buzz of shaving clippers. The automatons held the furry animals over plastic buckets and shaved them clean. The docile cooperative creatures lay limp in the imp-bots' hands as their hair fell in mangy clumps into the buckets. Once naked, the little mammals were gently placed into carry cages. After fourteen animals were shaved clean, filling four buckets with hair, the robotic servants replaced their hard hats on their heads. Next they carried all the sleeping animals out to the vans. Last they came back and removed the bait and traps.

Throughout all of this I had sat silently in a dark corner. I wondered if they would've attacked me. Certainly they must be programmed to allow no witnesses, to accept no breach of secrecy. I remained silent. Wondering. What could they possibly do with all that animal hair?

The vans had not started yet. I heard moaning and whimpering coming from outside. Oh boy. More eavesdropping. More sleuthing and danger. I moved towards the front entrance and peered out. One of the vans was open, and strapped to a gurney inside was a pale, skinny man with pallid complexion, dark bags under his eyes, and needletracks running up and down his arms.

"Oh no, not again, please, not again."

"You must. Bezoar."

A needle was plunged into his arm at the crook of the elbow. He sighed and smiled. He appeared to fall asleep immediately but one of the robot construction workers sat him up. The fake carpenter grabbed a handful of striped raccoon hair from a bucket and mixed it in a glass mug with a thick elixer of some unknown clear fluid.


He tilted back the unhealthy man's head and poured the viscuous bristly sludge down the man's gullet. The man moaned again, and then he burped. The robots closed the van doors. Both vans sped away.

I was safe again, for now. What was that strange utterance? I remembered.



What happens when an animal licks itself clean and, instead of coughing up a ball of hair, it stays inside the stomach for years, calcifying and hardening? A bezoar, or a trichobezoar! The most majestic ones manifest not as gall stones, but as spiky barbed spherical nests of intricate beauty. Long ago they were regarded as rare exotic jewels, magical poison cures, or focal points of mystic energy.
1:52 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm


June 01, 2005 2:22 PM, Blogger You've Got What I Need... said...

You and your sappy Romances, Steve. [nice work with this one]

June 01, 2005 4:09 PM, Blogger Lostinspace said...

I always wondered that something was up with construction workers. :) I think I would peer inside of them just to find that exotic jewel.

June 01, 2005 4:18 PM, Blogger Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

Thanks, Pony. I try. Hey, at least I didn't slice up any infants or dip any naked people into giant vats of snails this time around.

I have this horrible compulsion to hit publish before I've reread something ten times, and I did it again today. I spent 45 minutes picking typos from this story like popcorn shells from my teeth. You probably stumbled upon a few. Sorry about that.

Ameca, the world is full of false facades and subtle surface glosses that hide subterfuge and mischief.

I can see evil trouble and wondrous joy looking at anything.

Even my dinner.

June 01, 2005 4:26 PM, Blogger OldHorsetailSnake said...

What if, upon slicing him open, they discovered he had manufactured a TRICHOPHYTOBEZOAR? Would that be dangerous? Would the vans get flats carrying such a load? Chapter 2, soon, please.

June 01, 2005 4:48 PM, Blogger Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

Hoss, I suppose it depends on how much kibble got caught in the gastrointestinal hairball. It could swell to a mighty size and roll all about. Quite painful, I imagine.

Chapter 2 will be more of a Chapter 4 or 5, but I'm sure I'll think of a way to link together the Monday restaurants, the brainwaves, and the bezoars all together.

June 02, 2005 4:14 AM, Blogger Latigo Flint said...

I very much enjoyed reading of your adventure Steve, but when I clicked and beheld the supplemental information on the Wikipedia page, time slowed into an old NFL Films elegant half-speed. It seemed like less than a minute, but when I blinked next, I found my tongue had developed deep, dry cracks.

Sir, I truly believe you've just closed some sort of glorious metaphysical circle here.

June 02, 2005 9:27 AM, Blogger Kerouaced said...

Damn you really through some words together for that one. Such great images...

June 02, 2005 2:00 PM, Blogger P/O said...

i'm not sure what i just read, but i loved reading it!

June 02, 2005 3:58 PM, Anonymous sarcastrix said...

Darnit! I thought they were collecting more hair for my toque scheme. I want a dog hair toque! And I won't stop there, no. I would like a sweater knit with the image of my dog in the centre and a scarf and maybe some nice socks. Maybe the socks with individual toes. And another sweater for my little dog, because he gets cold really easily.

June 03, 2005 10:55 PM, Blogger Kilroy Trout said...

Perhaps this can help:


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