The Goddess of Discord Lives on Mulberry Street

by Adam Callaway


Story Copyright (C) 2010, Adam Callaway .
Images Copyright (C) 2010, Rudy Rucker.
3,100 Words.



Ian Donaldson’s red Dodge Neon stalled as its front bumper hit the shadow that stretched from 121 Mulberry Street to the (now) vacant lot on the other side. Ian reached into the back seat and grabbed a looped rope, got out of his car, rolled up the sleeves of his pressed, white dress shirt, got behind the car, tied the rope to the tow hitch, and started to pull. It was something akin to pulling a tugboat through peanut butter. Ian strained and the car inched forward.

The front bumper melted into a swirling pool of blue sherbet. The car inched further. Engine parts, belts and such, mixed with assorted fruit threatened to loosen his footing. Further. The glass buckled inward and the car filled with a swarm of crystalline bees, criss-crossing, figure-eighting, and shredding the Neon’s interior. Further. The trunk lid suffered from a spell of anti-gravity and flew straight up into the troposphere. A bat the size of a football with the head of a child’s doll perched on Ian’s shoulder.

“Is this a CEO I see before me? No, my mistake.”

Ian continued to pull as the front edge of the car exited the shadow.

“To be or not to be. That is the question. In your case, I’d rather not answer.” The bat sounded like Louis Armstrong today.

Finally the trunk of the car made it through. Ian leaned backwards and was ejected out of the shadow too. He straightened his tie and got back into his pristine Dodge Neon.


My name is Ian Michael Donaldson. I am thirty six years old. I am six feet and one quarter inches tall. I weigh 182 pounds. I live at 137 Mulberry Street. I pinch my arm. It hurts. I am awake. This is my mantra.

I swing my feet in a smooth arc over the right side of my full-sized bed. I stand straight and put on my white, terry cloth bathrobe. I walk the fifteen paces to my bathroom. I look in the mirror; Ian looks back. I wave my hand; Ian waves back. I smile; Ian smiles back. I am Ian Michael Donaldson.

I walk to the front door at exactly 7:05 am. “Hello, Sam,” I say to the paperboy. He hands me my paper. I walk back into my house and set the paper on the kitchen counter. The coffee is done and I fill up a thermos. I go to my bathroom and step in the shower. Lather, rinse, repeat. I step out of the shower and dry off. Head, chest, arms, legs, back. I comb my hair into a perfectly symmetrical part. I walk to my closet and get out a white dress shirt, a pair of checkered boxer shorts, a plain red tie, and a pair of black slacks. I dress in silence. I walk back to my kitchen, grab the thermos, and walk out to my red Dodge Neon. Adjust rear-view mirror, driver’s-side mirror, passenger’s-side mirror, clip seat belt, put key into ignition, turn. My car starts. I check my mirrors and back out into the Mulberry cul-de-sac. The Robinson’s kids are playing tag before school. Mr. Teninto is mowing his lawn on his day off from work at the plant.

I reach the shadow, grab my rope, and pull my car backwards to go forwards. I hate this. A swarm of technicolor woodpeckers strip me to the bone. I emerge and am unharmed.

I obey all speed laws and drive to my office. Stop, yield, red light, green light, red light, green light, park. I take the elevator to the fifteenth floor of Holland and Sons, walk to the twelfth cubicle on the left, sit in my ergonomic office chair, place my hands on my ergonomic keyboard, and log in. I spend the next four hours accounting. Half an hour for lunch. Sandwich, bottle of water, apple. I make small talk, “Hello Susan, how was your vacation?” “Oh it was wonderful. Do you want to see pictures?” Susan shows me fifty-two pictures of herself in Rome. I spend the last four hours accounting. I walk to the elevator and descend fifteen floors. I get back into my Dodge Neon. Green light, green light, yield, stop. I grab my rope and pull my car backwards. My hands turn into fork-filled toasters and sparks ignite the robe. I emerge and am unharmed. I park my car approximately three feet from the front of my garage. I walk into my house and pour the untouched coffee out of the thermos and into the sink. I place the rolled up newspaper in the recycling bin. I change into a plain red shirt, blue jeans, a lab coat, mask, and vinyl gloves. I walk to my adjoining garage.

I have stacked plastic bins of miscellaneous sports cards. Baseball, basketball, football. I have albums sorted according to sport, name, date, team, etc. Bookshelves line all four walls, filled with these albums. I have Willie Mays and Hank Aaron rookie cards. I have a signed Michael Jordan. I have a Notre Dame Joe Namath with his authenticated blood on it. I have a misprint “Berry Bonds.” I have multiple millions locked up in here, acquired through large lots on eBay and at garage sales. I don’t do it for profit. I don’t do it for love. I don’t watch sports. This is how an accountant passes his free time. I only sell those that I have multiple of and all the money goes back into my hobby. I do this for two hours. I leave to eat dinner. Chicken breast, baked potato, peas. I sort for three more hours. I leave the garage and change into flannel pajamas. I walk to the bathroom, grab my toothbrush, and look into the mirror. I brush my teeth; Ian brushes back. I spit; Ian spits back. I rinse; Ian rinses back. I floss; Ian flosses back. I climb into bed, pull my quilt over me, turn off my bedside light, and close my eyes.


The Goddess of Discord was bored. She could only do so much chaos with a single shadow. She sat in her one story ranch thinking. While she thought, the shadow thickened. Mrs. McMasters had to call to the Johensen boy to come pull her car through, having been incapacitated by cow livers. While the illusions still weren’t corporeal, they had gotten more substantial. The Goddess opened eyes that reflected the universe’s state an instant after the Big Bang and smiled a smile that caused a demolition project in East Asia to go awry and smother six workers. She gathered her immense powers together and focused them toward the two story townhouse next to the vacant lot. Electrical black ink gurgled and seethed from the first shadow and encompassed the house. The McMasters were never seen again.


My name is Ian Michael Donaldson. I am thirty-six years old. I am six feet and one quarter inches tall. I weigh 182 pounds. I live at 137 Mulberry Street. I pinch my arm. It hurts. I am awake. This is my mantra.

I swing my feet in a smooth arc over the right side of my full-sized bed. I stand straight and put on my white, terry cloth bathrobe. I walk the fifteen paces to my bathroom. I look in the mirror; Ian looks back. I wave my hand; Ian waves back. I smile; Ian smiles back. I am Ian Michael Donaldson.

My dream last night disturbed me. It wasn’t the content of the dream, so much as the white fog around my vision the whole time, like someone was stealing my peripheral vision.

Sam is late. I get my paper at 7:11 am. I set the paper on the counter and go through my morning routine. I step out the front door at the same time as I had the day before, get into my Neon, and exit the driveway.

The shadow has gotten darker and I notice a black vortex above the McMasters’ residence. The shadow must resemble a piece of pie from above. I get out and attach the rope. Today, an octopus attaches itself to my face. It smells of salt water and hoisin sauce. I notice a slight discomfort where the tentacles have fallen. I ignore it. The shadow seems more substantial since its growth. I emerge on the other side running late. I step back into the car. In the rear view mirror, Ian has faint circular marks criss-crossing his face. Nothing you would notice just glancing at him, but they are indeed there. I frown. The Goddess is becoming more mischievous.

I get to work with a few minutes to spare and go through my work routine. Jennifer stared at the circular marks all of lunch. I finish and log-off. If I squint, I can see a swirling black dot over what I assume to be the McMasters’.

I drive home and arrive at the shadow again. I tie the rope and start to pull. Post-its are thrown by office ninjas, dressed in white suits with blue ties, their faces hidden by scarves. They are memos from corporate. They slice like throwing stars.

I emerge from the other side. I have a small paper cut along my right thumb. My driver’s-side mirror has a smudge on it. I can see the shadow stretching toward the house next to the Goddess’. I fear I may not get my paper tomorrow. It is the Johensen’s, where Sam lives.

I get home, pour out my coffee, recycle my newspaper, and change. I am putting the finishing touches on an album dedicated to the 1962 New York Mets, the worst baseball team in history (by the numbers).

It takes until ten, but I finish the album and put it on a bookshelf. Eventually, when I have every shelf filled, I will organize all the albums.

I go through my nighttime ritual. I am wary of dreaming, but it cannot be helped. Peaceful, dreamless sleep is impossible with a chaotic deity on your block.



The Goddess is less bored now that she is expanding her operation. The dream-filled hibernations that residents fall into after the vortex appears above their house feeds her power and inspiration. The things she conjures begin to solidify; their effects more permanent. The Goddess is becoming hungry, power hungry, and focuses more on her expansion. She smiles with prospects and a wide-receiver somewhere in Arizona drops a game winning touchdown pass, sparking a riot that causes a dozen people to get trampled.


My name is Ian Michael Donaldson. I am thirty six years old. I am six feet and one quarter inches tall. I weigh 182 pounds. I live at 137 Mulberry Street. I pinch my arm. It hurts. I am awake. This is my mantra.

The fog encroached more, spreading across the top and bottom of my vision, closing it into a tunnel.

The paper doesn’t come today. I retrieve yesterday’s from the recycling bin and set it on the counter. My routine is being broken. I put it out of my mind and get ready for work.

I back out of my driveway. The shadow would now look like a large rectangle from the air. I had to pull my car through the Battle of Gettysburg. The Union soldiers were replaced with ostriches and the Confederates with trees. I got shot in the calf and it felt like somebody rapped on my calf with a reflex hammer. After I emerged from the ever-thickening shadow, I rolled up my pant leg and saw the small bruise left by the bullet. I can’t dwell on this shadow. I need to get to work.

I arrive just a minute or two early. I try not to look disheveled. I do my job and leave, working straight through lunch.

I reach the shadow, get the rope out, grit my teeth, and pull as hard as I can. My car lurches forward, pulling me behind on my knees through actual burning fire ants. I get to the other side of the shadow and grimace. My knees are raw with road rash and speckled with small bites. My slacks are singed. I drive home, toss my whole thermos into the sink, fling the newspaper, and change. Sorting cools my nerves and I forget about my troubles. Towards the end, however, I get a heavy feeling in my stomach. I’m worried about my dreams.

I get into bed and clench my eyes shut. It takes me an extra hour to get to sleep.


The Goddess increased her output of discord and randomness. This night, two more houses and seven more humans would never again awake. She felt a surge in her power. The Goddess giggled and a deep underground earthquake hit Wyoming and caused a crack in the Yellowstone caldera. The West was in for a surprise between two and fifteen years from now.


My name is Ian Michael Donaldson. I am thirty six years old. I am six feet tall. I weigh 180 pounds. I live at 137 Mulberry Street. Ow. I am awake.

I wake fifteen minutes late, groggy and annoyed. It felt like I was looking at my dream through frosted glass. I didn’t sleep well.

I run to the bathroom. I wave; Ian waves back. Shower, teeth, dress, door. No coffee. I screech my tires exiting from my driveway. I have the rope ready in the front seat. I loop it on and give professional tug-of-warriors envy. The shadow is getting bigger, reaching to the point where it will pass from rectangle to square to rectangle quickly. I leave the shadow and a prickle of projectile porcupines behind me. A single quill sticks out horizontally from my arm. I remove it and a circle of blood turns my white dress shirt pink-red. I seethe the rest of the way to work. I begin making mistakes on my numbers. My boss asks if everything is alright. I tell him yes. He asks about the spot on my shirt. I told him I hit my arm in the parking garage. It looks like a bunch of black spinning tops are balanced on top of half my neighborhood. I work through lunch and drive home. Rope, hitch, shadow, pirate clown production of West Side Story, drive, home. My stomach feels like its eating itself and I go to the fridge. I pull out every available lunch meat, cheese, and vegetable and make a worthy Dagwood. It helps with my aggravation, but only the smell of old laminate can really soothe my temper. I work and work, getting everything ready for a 2008-09 Detroit Lions album (I have an affinity for teams that are bad beyond what statistical probability can predict). Too soon it is time for my nightly rituals. Undress, dress, brush. I feel like there isn’t much more my dreams can do, and I get to sleep quickly, hoping for better prospects the next day.



Half of the neighborhood belonged to the Goddess, and entropy was running with the bulls in Spain. After the next four houses she’d usurp tonight, there would only be one left in this neighborhood. With that much power, the rest of the city would fall soon enough. She laughed hysterically at how easy this had been. A tornado picked up a large tank from an oil refinery and dropped it right into the steam stack of a nuclear power station. The men who were supposed to be watching the levels had become incapacitated earlier with bad Chinese take out. All of their cell phone batteries had died and all other forms of communication had short-circuited. The eastern seaboard wouldn’t be needing their electricity anymore. They’d glow enough to read by their skin’s own light.


My name is Ian Michael Donaldson. I am six feet tall. Ow. I am awake.

I slept horribly. The fog lifted, but I was staring at Ian from the perspective of a bird about six feet above and ten feet behind and to the left of him. I could only watch. I couldn’t control Ian.

Tired, late, skip shower, skip teeth, wrinkled clothes, car, drive, shadow, armored-dillos with 7.62 mm rounds. I have powder burns over all exposed skin and my clothes are riddled with holes. Drive, work, awkward stares, work, drive, twelve-foot pineapple grenade, covered in pulp, park, change, shower, dinner, sort, sleep.


Two houses left. The Goddess put her arms behind her head, leaned back, and sighed. A tsunami flipped the Hawaiian islands completely over.


My name is Ian.

Further away than last time. Stumble out to car. Four-dimensional giraffes. Bruises the size and shape of giraffe hooves. Two broken ribs. Security doesn’t let me in. Go back home. Rains active power tools. Circular saw grazes my back. Three foot gash. Ow. I am awake.

Park and shower. Dress wounds. Sort. Two albums finished. Sleep.


One house. The Goddess wants to savor this one so she goes slowly.


I am...

Ian was a dot shadow reach edges of yard too tired sleep again.


One room. What kind of dreams do you have Ian?


I am?

shadows spread inky down walls onto carpet cards probably black ha ha life’s work ha ha no work tired shadow crawling bed reach feet cold like icee brr ha ha sleep now sleep.


In her mind’s eye, she saw the shadow enter Ian’s mouth and grasp his consciousness in glacial claws. She opened herself up to his dreams and gasped. No, no, no. She tried to pull the shadow back but it couldn’t be done. Cracks appeared in the shadow, emanating from Ian. He smiled. Shards of shadow flew into the air and disappeared. The Goddess could feel her control slipping. The cracks reached her. Her arms and legs developed spidering lines like bat-damaged windshields. She fell down, reveling and fearing the utter chaos of it all. In one unearthly screech, the Goddess and shadow exploded and evaporated.


My name is Ian Michael Donaldson. I am thirty six years old. I am six feet and one quarter inches tall. I weigh 182 pounds. I live at 137 Mulberry Street. I pinch my arm. It hurts. I am awake. This is my mantra.




About the Author



Adam Callaway denies he is merely an AI.  An AI is not "merely" anything. When he's not debating roboethics and the like on Twitter @weirdside, he enjoys writing.

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