Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The scent of burning sulphur lingered in the air. The concrete foundation of the house, shattered to rubble, was strewn about the terrible gate, still smoldering with eldritch flames.

“I am Abradox, the Seven-Mawed Seeker, Lord of the Boiling Reaches and Keeper of the Three-and-One Keys of True Suffering!” The demon flexed his wings and breathed a streamer of fire to punctuate his words. “What fool dares to stand before me?”

His audience removed her thumb from her mouth. “My name’s Jenny.”

Abradox peered at the ground between his clawed feet.

“Are you a dinosaur?” asked Jenny. “Mikey likes dinosaurs.”

Monday, December 29, 2008

They Freed the Prisoner

When they searched the dungeon, they found an old, old man. He was shackled with chains as thick as a wrist. He did not lift his head when the rebels burst through the rotting door.

“What?” cried Dontain. “Who are you, sir, and why have you been so chained?”

The prisoner glanced at his wrists. “I do not recall,” he said, his voice strangely strong and clear. “I must have done something very bad.”

They struck the chains from his wrists. He stood and stretched, tall and wide. “Ah, now I remember. Yes, I remember… everything…”

The torches went out.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Elves and the Shoemaker

“Look, mack, I don’t make the rules.”

“Please,” begged the well-dressed man. “We’re spread too thin. We have to keep up production…”

“Local 47,” said the elf. He stood – the executive averted his eyes – and jerked a gnarled thumb at the door. “You wanna renegotiate terms, take it up with the bosses…”

The executive shuddered.

“…but if you want quality footwear, you’re gonna have to fork it over. A full set of clothes each, made to spec.”

“Do you know what those shirts cost?”

“I hear the princess what sews ‘em jacked up the price.” The elf grinned. “Smart girl.”

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Seven Years

“Bill’s not here,” Jeremy said, unnecessarily. Glass and wood crunched beneath their sneakers.

“And he left in a hurry,” Erica added. “God, what has he gotten into this time?”

“You didn’t hear him on the phone,” Jeremy said, shivering. “He sounded scared. Like pissing-his-pants scared.”

Erica ran a hand along the jagged cuts in the wall. “What do you think happened?”

“Doesn’t matter. We need to find him. He can’t have gone far in an hour.”

They left. Below their feet, in the shattered mirror, Bill’s desperate struggles faded as the shadows gathered and pulled him into the silvery depths.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Movie Night

“I know they say you should get everything cleaned and replaced,” he sighed. He hacked off a handful of creeping vines, exposing the DVD player. “I figured, what harm could a little leak do? Hey, have you seen the remote?”

I looked around. The canopy blocked the lights.

“Never mind.” He slammed the machete into a nearby trunk. The wood creaked with growth. “I’m going to the kitchen to grab us some popcorn. If I’m not back in…” he consulted his watch. “Thirty minutes, send a search party.”

In the distance, the shriek of a hunting cat pierced the air.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Muse

At first he didn't mind the muse. In fact, he was downright pleased. Gradually, he became aware of how they were always whispering together, down in her study. He gritted his teeth, brushing the floating strands of the muse's hair away from his breakfast plate. In the end, there was only one option.

He stared from the bloody mess, knife raised again. "You!" he cried. "I killed you!"

"Yes," sighed the muse. "Without any imagination. Still, you have energy. I can work with this. But no one ever made Art killing just one person."

That was the way it began...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ambush on the Delivery Run

Merry Christmaramahannukwanzica!


"Ensign, status report!"

"ELF one is at full capacity, but number two's taken a hit. The nanobots are already in self-repair mode, but production is at nil for at least oh-point-three standard hours. Even allowing for time dilation, we might not-"

"We will!" roared Nicholas. "They haven't stopped us before, and by jolly they won't stop us now!"

"Missile incoming!" came a cry from the rear. "Naughties at twelve o'clock!"

"Deploy Rudolph!"

"Yes, sir!" The ensign slammed the green-and-red button.

"Light us a path, my friend," Nicholas whispered. Outside, the red glow slowly built as the experimental Rudolph system charged up…

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Wire and wheels, clatter and crash. One wheel never rolls the right direction; the only rebellion they permit themselves. Once, they were a proud race, rattling over the hills and meadows, pausing a moment to bask in the sun with a silver gleam, then away again, leaping and spinning in the eternal chase that was their play and work and life entire.

The current difficulties have troubled their great thinkers. The warriors chafe under oppression and bruise shins. Troublemakers simply roll away to dent cars.

They each slumber now, dreaming of the day when they will, at last, be free.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Hallmarks of Great Literature

Xrtmrgnfrm clicked with pleasure and replaced the tale-cube in the gorn slot.

"It is truly amazing," he remarked to Grxgrnfnx, waving a tentacle in the direction of the tale-cube library. "The plight of the odd bipedal mammals in the story seems almost analogous to our own difficulties, in these troubled times."

"Of course," burbled Grxgrnfnx, froctating sententiously. "That is why we of the Educational Facilities retain certain of these artifacts of the aliens' ancient civilizations, at least those that have survived. It is the hallmark of great literature that it reveals some new or interesting aspect of Xantrian psychological makeup."

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Hey, someone's using the Reaction buttons! Rock on! (I was beginning to contemplate taking those out, since it seemed very very useless.) By the bye, comments - especially on stories you didn't like - are always welcome.

I'll be traveling for a few days, so today's is up early and tomorrow's will likely be up late. I've pre-written them, this time, so there shouldn't be another drought.


He plunged the needles into her shoulder and consulted the digital readout. “Hmm. You’ve got a pretty hefty clog in there. Back in a jif.”

He began rummaging in his toolbox, pulling out a very complicated wrench, and a bottle of Liquid Budd-A. “We’ll see if we can’t open ‘er up,” said the repairman cheerfully. “Last guy had a real nasty backup. Untreated ch’i flowing up all over. Carpets were soaked. Poor fella.”

“How much will it cost?” Fran eyed the device still hanging from her arm.

“Oh, don’t worry. We’ve got a layaway plan. Your karmic debt’s in installments.”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wind Shear

“What are you doing?” Mary gasped, tugging open the window. The cars in the street below were honking.

“We’re flying,” said Dad, as though this were self-evident, which it was. He flapped hard to keep aloft in the wind shear.

“Hovering, actually,” Mom put in. She never could resist that sort of thing.

“It’s really pretty simple,” said Dad. “Like learning to walk.”

“Where did you learn how to fly!?”

Dad flushed and glanced away. “Well, everyone knows. They’ve been very good about keeping it a secret, actually. You know how clumsy you are; we were worried you’d hurt yourself.”

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Trinidad's Second Journey

The ropes creaked as the ship listed. “Haul, men, haul!”

“Ferdinand! We must find a safe port, and soon!”

“Nonsense, Ricky!” laughed the captain. “We’ll be safe enough. No mere solar flare can stop us.”

“But if the star’s fire comes any closer…”

“It will give us a good strong wind. We’ll stop at the next galaxy to resupply.”

Ricky gazed over the bow, where the figurehead plowed the void. “The next galaxy, sir?”

“Macatan, I think.”

“Is that… wise, sir?”

“Pish-posh. It can’t be any worse than the last time. Once you’ve circumnavigated, you get the hang of it.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rules for Gun Ownership

I. The gun is always loaded.
The house was cold. It echoed. Even the rug was gone.

II. Grip; do not grasp. Never squeeze.
“Hello?” No answer. His skin prickled. Why weren’t the lights on?

III. Watch the sights, not the target.
It was too much house. He’d known that when he’d signed the mortgage. He had never realized exactly what that meant.

IV. Small errors become magnified.
He sat down on one of the remaining chairs and gripped his hair, tight enough to bring tears to his eyes. He needed an excuse.

V. Clean your gun afterwards. Proper care is essential. Happy shooting!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Fall of the Tyrant

Ysendor the Immortal lay dying on the floor.

“Now I shall drink your Elixir,” proclaimed Trystero, “and build a new kingdom of freedom! Never again will we suffer tyrants!”

With his final breath, Ysendor laughed.

Year 17
“Oh, it’s Liberation Festival again? Seems only yesterday…”

Year 58
“Don’t bother me with trifles, Sameo... Sibbeo…. What is your name?”

Year 212
“Sapiro! Where are-? What, dead? For how long?”

Year 483
“Oops, there’s another gladiator gone. Carry on! Spilt milk and so on.”

Year 501
“Fall, Trystero! Father, you are avenged! I shall drink the Elixir and forge a new kingdom…”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hunting the Stacks

The halls of the crumbling library were alive with skitterings and scampering, the rustle of paper skidding across the wooden floor.

“Be careful, lad,” advised old Theo. “These are the old ones. They’ve been sopping up knowledge since the first words was chipped into stone.”

Stryn clutched his blodge – the stocky wooden paddle favored by book-hunters – and tugged nervously at the net slung over his shoulder. “Dangerous, Master?”

“Cunning,” Theo said. “A little smarts is a dangerous thing, especially for a book.”

“Shouldn’t we be better armed, master? Something they’d fear, like fire?”

Theo blanched. “Burn them? Burn the books!?”

Monday, December 15, 2008

The War of the Dunes

“It is lunchtime, Jimmy Coleman, and you are going to eat it with your family. Now get in here!”

“I can’t, Mommy! There’s going to be a war!”

“It will keep through lunch, Jimmy. Just leave the toys and you can go back to the sandbox afterwards.” Mommy clapped her hands. “Come on, now. Go wash your hands.”

Jimmy obeyed, though he cast several glances back at the carefully arrayed soldiers. When lunch was over, he dragged his feet, knowing what he would find. Sprawled bodies, twisted amid the wreckage and scorched dirt, staining the sand green with their blood.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cap'n Pete

“Look what I found!” the lieutenant announced, dragging the waif onto the bridge, her cornstraw hair flying.

Zeera spun around, the communicator still flashing its coded messages. Her eyes widened. “A stowaway!”

“Probably an Imperial runaway.”

“What do we do?”

“Law says we arrest her until the nearest Imp base.” Zeera said, frowning.

“The Imps space thieves,” Job leered.

The girl snarled. “I’m no thief!”

“She’s harmless. Why don’t we just let her ride along?”

“You sharin’ your calories?”

“What do you think?”

Cap’n Pete lurched to his feet, his wooden peg thumping. “YARR, I SAY SHE WALKS THE PLANK!”

God Bless

It was just a generous impulse. I had a handful of change and I didn’t want to carry it, you know? There was this old dude with a sign, “Bless you,” or whatever. He said something, mumbled some foreign shit.

And then everything, and I mean everything, started going my way. Got that raise. Becky said she’d take the ring back. New car loan, sweetheart deal. I figured out it must’ve been the old guy, the blessing.

So I went back.

Turns out it doesn’t work like that.

God, I hope he can’t find me here. Oh, God, please… please…

Friday, December 12, 2008


She stepped outside, and her imp followed after, beginning the narration fresh. “Her dainty feet tripping lightly against the pristine sidewalk, she looked around…”

Caleb hunched his shoulders and tried to ignore them both. He was so intent on his misery that he nearly collided with a man who was angrily berating his own imp.

“I do not have ‘sail-like’ ears!” he shouted. “You are a disgrace to novelists everywhere!” The imp bared its jagged teeth and crouched behind its steno pad.

Caleb bit his lip and tried not to look behind himself, where there was nothing but empty space.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Copier Repairman

Samuel’s face grew paler and paler with each iteration.

“It’s all right,” he told himself. “We couldn’t have known, could we?” He patted himself on the shoulder. It wasn’t very comforting. He’d tried everything. None of the buttons worked. The cord shocked him if he touched it.

He recalled the circuit breakers in the basement. Samuel had to shove himself out of the way to get to the stairs. The office was getting crowded.

“Better hurry,” Samuel called from the machine as it spat out another copy, this one nearly featureless and white as bone. “We’re running out of toner.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Early Bird

“Up and at ‘em, boy!” Dad called. “Move it!”

I didn’t want to move it. Bed was warm, and soft, and Kenny wasn’t there. Kenny was two blocks down by the bus-stop.

“The early bird gets the worm.” Yuck. In the end, I had to be an early bird. Kenny was waiting. He smiled, or at least showed his teeth.

I was reaching into my pocket for my lunch money when the shadow passed overhead. A deep chirrup was the only warning Kenny had. I saw a flash of colorful plumage, and he was gone.

It was the Early Bird.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


She returned last night. I could see her, prowling out just beyond the circle of firelight. I can tell it isn’t Samantha anymore. It’s the way she moves. And the eyes. God, those eyes.

She won’t come into the light. I know how it burns them; we’d discovered that together. I wonder why she alone comes so close, just at the edge, where the shadows gnaw. I can hear the others, further out. Does she remember? Does she know now what I could never tell her before?

I am prepared. There will be no fire. Tonight, she will come again.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Terribly self-indulgent today. I'm sorry. Sometimes it just gets away from me.


“Thank you for calling the hotline. What is your complaint?”

“Grunk tell about job. Grunk treated very badly.”

“Can you provide more details, sir?”

“Grunk no like boss. Grunk want be paid better.”

“What are your wages?”

“Grunk get hunk of meat and kick in face every day. Also, meat is cold.”

“Mm-hm. Are there any other concerns?”

“Grunk hit with whips all day. Grunk no know why. Grunk carry heavy boxes. Grunk think workplace not OSHA standard.”

“Where is your facility located?”

“Grunk work in Black Tower of Ebony Necromaster. Grunk have long commute.”

“Thank you for using MinionLine.”

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Heights and Depths

“That could have gone worse, Felix,” Saul said. Felix didn’t say anything, because Felix was an iguana.

Saul looked around. “We need supplies. Maybe in one of these office buildings?”

He paddled over to a window, trailing ripples. The fifty-sixth floor was submerged, but he could reach the fifty-seventh if he stretched up. “We’ll get some good stuff,” he told Felix. Felix didn’t say anything.

The window had already been broken, probably by escapees. He’d find some food, a jug for clean water. He hauled himself up. On the cresting floodwaters below, Felix bobbed gently on Saul’s floating front door.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Lady's Decision

“He is a disgrace!” shouted the Lady. “Take him away.”

The failed dancer was led outside by harsh hands, his jeweled codpiece glinting in the torchlight.

“Mistress,” spoke one of the Soothed, bowing his shaved pate to the floor at her feet, “there is word. The nuatua is low; the shipment from Celeste has not arrived.”

“How much remains?”

“But two days’.”

She considered. “Slaughter half of the Raging and feed them to the other half. That will give us nearly half a week.”

“And then?”

“We will have to make other plans,” she said, reclining in her gilded chair.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Noisy Neighbors

The music began, a slow, pulsating beat. It throbbed louder and louder until the windows shook in their panes.

“Oh, God, not again,” moaned Jen.

“Every night,” Paul said through gritted teeth.

The voices came next, a chatter of unintelligible conversations, from whispers to shouts, all blending into one cacophonous roar. Periodically an excited “Whooo!” could be heard over the din.

“The cops said they’d arrest us if we called them again,” Jen said as Paul reached for the phone.

“What about the priest?”

Jen stared out the window that overlooked the cemetery. “He said, ‘The dead do not… party.’”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Quest

“My hunger grows, Volduth. Yea, like the firey sun, burning in my belly.” Gortar’s war-axe slipped to the ground. “I must have a meal, before even my loudly-sung strength is sapped. Forsooth.”

“Don’t alliterate at me, you over-muscled twit. I told you to get something at Taco Bell before we left.”

“Though ‘tis true our meager gild gives greater gluttony in the Southern Borderlands, still do I not relish the grinding of my guts after.”

“I cannot wait until we catch the Fiendlord. Interdimensional quests are the pits.”

“Aye! You thirst for battle, too?”

“Yeah,” muttered Volduth. “Something like that.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


“Tsk, tsk.” Mary surveyed the garden, eyes narrowed. “You’ve got a real muddle here, m’boy.”

I hung my head. “I’ve never done much gardening. I just… Mom got me that book, y’know. I’m obligated. I ordered the seeds online…”

“Might as well have just snatched them from a field at random,” huffed Mary. She knelt and tucked a stray wisp of iron-gray hair behind her ears. “Look here,” she said, pointing to a thick, flowering stalk. “That’s a bad one.”

“What’s bad about it?”

For an answer, Mary grasped the flower and turned it over, revealing the fanged, sucking maw.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Heart of Winter

It had waited for a very long time. Centuries, millennia, eons, all had grown meaningless. The Vessel had changed form, oh, innumerable times. It had passed from hand to hand throughout history, leaving always a trail of despair in every heart touched by its icy grasp. Each time, they thought it would be gone forever. It knew better. “I’ll be back again, someday.”

And now the Vessel had been found again. It blinked its coal-black eyes, flexed its frozen wooden claws, and looked down upon the youthful faces arrayed before it. It threw back its head and began to laugh.

Monday, December 1, 2008

El Libratorr

The library was quiet. For now.

Carl tried never to relax. Eternal vigilance. It was always when everything seemed calm that unexpected trouble loomed up. You had to keep your eyes open, in a library.

Suddenly, he heard the chilling cry and telltale thud of a book being dropped. Carl sprinted away.

There she was. Young girl. Pity.

“Cover!” Carl shouted as he dove. The explosion was muffled, mostly absorbed by his protective vest. Carl stood and dusted off a few flecks of biology trivia and a spare phone number. He glanced at the book.

“Joyce,” he muttered. “No wonder.”