(2024/06/28)

pt. i

pt. ii






Maude Mold, by Stanley Lieber (2024/06/24)

MAUDE MOLD

a novel by stanley lieber

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ISBN: 978-1-304-40577-7

NETWORK DEFECTS

MARS3

TRANSMITTED ACCOUNT

MAUDE MOLD






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FUCK #52

FUCK #52






(2023/11/02)






MAUDE MOLD #52 (2023/10/23)

IT’S YOUR FAULT THEY’RE DEAD

Present day. Present time.

Maude’s death at the hands of Piro had been another distraction in a long line of setbacks preventing her from achieving enlightenment. She realized her attachment to her son, such as it was, had resulted in her getting shot. But it was puzzling. TAB3 had still been taken away from her, and she had still been shot. He’d probably have been shot, too. The transaction seemed lopsided, invalid by Milton Friedman’s standards.

She wasn’t sure where she was. They’d taken her out of the shipping container, sure. But what was this? Antiseptic smell. Everything was cold. Airless. She seemed to be still sealed on the card. Mint in package. Was Plinth trying to sell her?

The gods were about. Greater Mercury. Fucking Odin. Neither of them showing much interest. Frozen inside her plastic bubble there wasn’t much she could do about it. Did they know what they were doing?

Some of the other gods were haggling with Plinth, who was seated at his desk, posture neutral, pushing plastic but not overselling it. He seemed perfectly relaxed, ignoring her as he worked. The deal was afoot.

Maude surmised that she must be in Plinth’s office in the New Chrysler Building.

TAB2 was screaming, what else was new. Also ignored by the gods, but not letting it deter him from whatever he imagined to be his mission. You had to admire his line of bullshit. Whatever else was true about him, he tried to make you believe it in total. Next, Piro strolled in, his black gloves coated with something else black, distinguishable only by the comparative absence of reflective sheen. Ashen. His face and uniform were likewise painted with the same toxic seeming soot. Caked.

"Black mold," he said, by way of explaining his appearance.

"This! Him!" TAB2 shouted, volume increasing proportionate to how much he felt like he was being ignored. It didn’t make any difference at all.

For some reason, at just that moment, it began pouring down rain inside Plinth’s office.

END MAUDE MOLD

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MAUDE MOLD #51 (2023/10/18)

ANTIGONE’S PLACE IN ALL THIS

Long ago.

Spiro found himself deposited at Granny’s. Not much different than most days, except that today his father was actually at home, next door, sleeping off an unplanned production surge. Dad was at home, but Spiro was here. The injustice burned him, it was palpable, and it would not fall by the wayside, ignored in favor of slashing budgets, shipping units, or domestic tranquility. Dad was going to wake up.

Everyone was supposed to call her Granny, but Spiro never did. The woman was actually his aunt, his mother’s sister, Antigone, and she was hardly old enough to be anybody’s mother, let alone their grandmother, a revered figure in their family hierarchy. Her stature in the scheme of things was distinctly unearned. The other kids at the daycare she operated weren’t blood relatives, and probably wouldn’t have noticed the discrepancy even if they had been. Spiro accepted that this level of inattention was, historically, the norm. Without automatic identification friend or foe it was no wonder there was so much incest in the world.

"Come to Granny," Antigone said, after spying Spiro frozen in the doorway, hesitant to give in. She reached out to him, awkwardly, her shawl an extension of her frail, spindly arms. In Spiro’s mind, a dead tree shrouded in a yarn tarp.

He could see down her shirt.

Belatedly, he entered.

MILLIONS DEAD

Spiro lay on the living room floor behind Eugene’s chair, face pressed tightly against the register. Central heat whistled manically as it ablated his youthful cheeks.

It was hot, down there.

Eugene was home from work, no explanation asked or given. But that meant he controlled the telescreen, the lunch menu, and all other variables of the domestic battlespace. He’d already thrown out Spiro’s comic books, even the ones he’d stolen from under Eugene’s son’s bed. Scotty was going to be pissed when he got home from school. How might he act out? The joke’s on you, Gene.

Something about black mold on the telescreen. Everyone on Mars had to deal with it, sooner or later. Some people got sick. Eugene had lost his hair at the age of thirty, forever impacting his performance of self. Maybe the fallout was moving again, and that’s why everyone was home from work.

At lunch Spiro made an ill-advised crack about [something] and Antigone had hauled off and slapped him across the face with the fly swatter she carried around holstered in her belt. He’d seen it used in anger before, but never expected to take a shot from it himself. He knew his mother would land on Antigone’s side of any perceived conflict, so he didn’t say anything when he got home.

Even so, he let himself out the front door while everyone was washing up. Careful not to slam the screen or rattle the weathered floor boards on the front porch.

Wandered next door to his own house, his nighttime home, where his dad was still asleep.

Threw rocks at the window until Dad woke up.

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MAUDE MOLD #50 (2023/10/06)

THE DECORATION OF INDEPENDENCE

All through the raid TAB2 was confused, static. He just stood there while the other men ran through their program, knocking over furniture and breaking mirrors, laughing all the while. One woman found at the scene, bearing a familiar codename: Maude Mold, attempted passive resistance, stretching her body across a stairway that apparently led up to the childrens’ bedrooms. Piro dispatched her with his sidearm, punctuating the exchange with an obscure remark about the two-edged nature of freedom. TAB2 could only watch as the woman tumbled down the stairs, and then he continued watching her as she lay there, crumpled on the floor, not really bothering anybody. He observed himself ruefully as his own calculated inaction calcified into the sort of dead-limbed cliché that had totally turned him off during his chance encounters with trash fiction. Already, he had problems with the script.

By the time they brought down TAB3, his father, TAB2, was fully beside himself, monitoring the scene at an increasingly helpless remove. He might as well have been on the other side of a telescreen, which, thanks to his visor, he was. Pointedly, he made eye contact with TAB3, but the boy chose not to acknowledge him. Piro cracked TAB3 over the head with his rifle, and TAB2 just kept on standing there, not breaking character, not doing jack shit about the in-progress rendition of his visibly pregnant son. Had they really just shot Maude?

On the way out of the apartment the men set fire to the building, trading jokes about TAB2’s flickering antique headgear, agitating for liquor and snacks.

Piro signed off on their timesheets.

BLACK MOLD

Spiro Mold, deceased. Ever since he died he’d been mad at his mom. She hadn’t been his killer, per se, but he figured if he’d never gotten born in the first place then he couldn’t have died, so whatever transpired during the interim was at least partly her fault. The logic was unassailable, to say nothing of the premise.

He realized TAB2 could see him.

His mother’s body was rapidly decomposing to black mold inside the shipping container. The six pallbearers pretended not to notice their load getting progressively lighter as their procession boarded the RAGNAROK via her aft cargo ramp. Make it look easy, but don’t make it look too easy. The aperture closed behind them, sealing the deal with a wink.

Black footprints throughout the apartment.

TAB2 was still standing there in the front room with Spiro, slowly inhaling the (for now) rare biohazard, with the realization slowly dawning on him that he no longer cared if it killed him. Spiro stared straight back at him, likewise surprised at the sudden collapse of TAB2’s usual jovial disposition.

TAB2’s visor crackled to life, a sound like your so-called best friend purposely ripping the cover off of your favorite comic book during a fist fight in your bedroom.

"Tom, get the fuck out here. The ship’s idling. It’s bad for the lawn."

Yes, Piro.

Spiro waved goodbye to his friend.

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MAUDE MOLD #49 (2023/09/30)

AFTER THE DIVORCE

They had all moved in together. What with the rapacious inflation, the ever-present threat of violent crime, the increasing political divide in the country, the thought of their children having to contextualize all this by themselves... All three women decided there would be greater strength in numbers, and so they pooled their resources, cohabitating a Greenwhich Village brownstone, sharing their dinners, their chores, and, of course, group-shouldering the ongoing disappointments wrought upon their kids by their good-for-nothing ex-husbands.

It ran for six seasons.

Maude, Kate, Allie, Emma, Jennie, Chip, and TAB3—the latter fresh from space, cranky and still very pregnant. "By my daddy’s beard!" Odin said, when he saw the ragged wagon train merrily snaking into the apartment. "Do your husbands know about this?" Odin had killed his own father, of course, whose origin was in any case obscure.

"You don’t live here, you know," Maude frowned, driving a boshi fist straight into his rib cage, separating sagging bone from so-called muscle with her thumb.

Odin threw up his hands, refusing to defend himself. Ironcially, for a Norse god, he was at long last weary of the constant fighting.

"At least the Romans respected me. Hel," he interrupted himself, "According to this recent alert in my visor, new CIA research can make me wealthy in seven minutes! I’m heading back to Germany, you ladies can piss up a rope."

Kate opened her mouth as if to say something, but after a sharp look from Allie she raised her eyebrows and decided to shut her mouth.

Maude frowned again.

THAT OLD GHOST TRILEMMA

At the onset of the seventh year, after the big blowup, the final dissolution of the commune, Kate, Allie, and their remaining brood all safely moved out, Piro finally led a raid on the brownstone. It was about time.

"No fee ’til victory!" he shouted, crashing through the front room window on the end of his favorite throwing rope. Shouting for the benefit of his men, rather than their target. Affirming their acquaintanceship with the rules of engagement. He wanted them all to get paid, even if they didn’t really deserve it.

Wait, where did everybody go?

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(2023/09/25)