Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dry Bones

He crouched in the dust and gnawed on a bone. It was long since cracked and sucked until it was barely more than dust itself. There was no other sustenance to be had.

A man appeared before him. New flesh, new blood. He crouched, letting his dry-dust bone fall away.

“Hold, demon!” said the man. “I offer you a bargain. Follow me and devour a world of my enemies.”

“I will turn on you, sorcerer, when nothing is left. These bones are his who called me here, ages past.”

The man nodded. “It will be enough to see them fall.”

Monday, March 30, 2009

Arrogance

“What have you done?” cried Terpsichor, staring at the bedraggled lump of fur.

“Just taught him a lesson,” growled the god, blustering shamefacedly. “A little humility. No real harm done.”

“No harm? Fool!” Terpsichor rounded on him. “A cat without claws is still a cat. A cat without eyes or ears, without whiskers or tail, without fur or teeth is still a cat, with all that entails. Even a fat eunuch sunning himself in a window still knows that he is a cat, first among all creatures that walk the Earth.”

He paused. “But a cat without pride… is nothing.”

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Creeping Death

Erdrick waved the torch back and forth, keeping the crawling horrors at bay. He shielded Lady Astra with his arm, as though it would provide any defense. The scorpions skittered forward, now here, now there, each time retreating as the flame drew near.

Astra cringed as the insects caught by the torch crisped and crackled. “They’re awful! Why do they attack us?”

“They are the servants of the Dark Lord, as venomous as he,” Erdrick answered.

“Loathsome monsters!”

The scorpions spoke, in a voice of a thousand rustling legs moving as one. “Do you think we truly have a choice?”

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Interview

“It’s a mess, these wannabes today – oh, uh, I’ll have a Sulfur Mixer, heavy on the tar,” the dragon said. The waitress turned expectantly to Conroy.

“Seltzer water,” said Conroy, jotting in his notepad. He didn’t glance at the waitress as she departed. “Tell me more. You mentioned things have changed recently?”

The dragon tapped a claw idly. “Oh, it’s hell, it really is. They all want a piece of you. All wrapped up in their silly steel shells. You can’t see a thing in those helmets, that isn’t right in front of you. Tunnel vision, that’s what it is.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

PTSD

Miriam hummed as she set out the plates. Joey thundered down the stairs, but skidded to a halt when he passed the dining room.

“You’re setting the table already?” he asked.

“Grampa’s coming over for dinner, remember?” Miriam stepped back to view her handiwork. “You need to get washed up before he gets here.”

Joey rolled his eyes. “I hate eating with just spoons,” he moaned. “Please tell me you didn’t make steak again this time.”

“You know how he gets around knives and forks, sweetie.”

“The Pixie Wars were a long time ago,” Joey scoffed. “And we won anyway.”

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Patience

“It’s all simple economics, when you get down to it,” the spider said as it wrapped up a struggling moth. “The web is an investment: time, energy, resources. We wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t profitable.” His victim’s struggles slowly ceased. “It’s their fault if they go bumbling into the web; I’m not dragging them over and throwing them in. Profit is nearly inevitable, if you’re only patient enough to wait for your prey to come to you.”

Matteo glimpsed movement all around him. Spiders filled every corner and crevice of the basement, gazing out at him with glittering eyes…

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Earworm

Mrs. Horsethwaite blinked myopically at the officer. “No, it wasn’t quite like that. It was… bouncier, like da-da-DUM-de-da-dee-de-da-DUM.”

“Mm-hm,” the officer tapped some keys. “Is this your attacker?” The computer whirred and a different tune – still tinny and distorted to prevent unintentional infection – played from the cheap speakers.

“It’s closer. Can we just do the full line-up?” She adjusted her glasses, her eyes enormous behind them.

Captain Lazlo leaned across the desk. “Ma’am, those songs have been completely eradicated, outside of our secure vaults. Do you really want to be the one responsible for the breach, if something goes wrong?”

Monday, March 23, 2009

Their Secret is Safe

“What, um, what happened to all the… the dinosaurs?” Zach’s voice quavered.

Miss Pemblebrook smiled reassuringly. “Don’t worry, Zachary. They all died a long, long time ago. Nobody’s very sure why, but there aren’t any around anymore. Some scientists even think that dinosaurs evolved into birds! Imagine that! Birds aren’t scary, are they?”

The class laughed. Zach’s face remained solemn, but to Miss Pemblebrook’s relief, he stopped trembling.

After school, Zach walked home and went upstairs. He knelt down beside his bed. “It’s okay,” he whispered to the hunched and crowded reptiles. “They’re all still buying that silly bird story.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lost

He carved his sign into the tree again. The knife was beginning to look the worse for wear, but he couldn’t think what else to do.

He set off at random. He’d tried keeping track of directions at first. He’d long given up on that. The leaves crunched underfoot. He wondered if the sun was up.

He glanced back at the tree he had marked. He could still see the pale slash in the bark, at least for now. It wasn’t so upsetting that the marks kept disappearing, really. It was that they all seemed to be the same tree.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Run Away

They made their plans after breakfast, which was cold coffee and the stale remnants of three different bags of cereal. Once the decision was made, everything else was like flowing downhill. Bags were packed. Mementos were stored, or destroyed. Their ideas of what were useful were still quite na├»ve at that point. Later they would laugh at what they’d brought.

She’d said it often enough. Over and over, when she paid enough attention to speak to them in the first place. “You’ll do what I say, or you won’t live here anymore!”

That’s true, they’d reflected, and so we won’t.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Conundrum

He slumped in his obsidian chair, idly tracing the outlines of the trapped souls within. The throne was too large for him right now; he usually wished to be big before he held court.

“What if,” he began carefully, “I wished that I would be defeated?”

“Your wish is my command, master,” purred the djinn. It was a bony catlike creature at present, black-skinned and hairless.

“I’m tired of winning.”

“You have but to say the words, my master.”

“But that would be boring. I don’t want to know what happens.” The child considered. “And I don’t want to lose.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Transition

The mob filled the street, chanting incoherently for the benefit of those who had no atonal sounds to pipe through their headphones. It was important not to think too hard. Nothing moved in the houses; the Departed were silent and still as a matter of course, and anyone else who was not part of the chaos had no wish to attract attention.

One of them spotted a stray thought, drifting over the fountain. The mob roared as one and pursued. When they were finished, the shreds of a once-beautiful epiphany lay trampled on the cobbles, and the mob moved on.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Submission

The platform was supported by a slender silver column. Around him, the faint hum of electricity was a counterpoint to the distant dripping of condensation from a cooling fan. The static on the screen wavered into the shape of an impassive face, wide-mouthed and thick-browed.

PASSCODE?” The rumbling voice echoed among the dangling wires.

“I have none,” he admitted. “I am here to see the Intelligence. There are no other options; he’s seen to that. You can check,” he added hurriedly. “I don’t mind waiting.”

The screen went dark. The water dripped. After a time, the face returned. “PASSCODE ACCEPTED.

Mr. Ruffington is Resentful of his Status

Late today, I know. I overslept, and believe me I feel properly apologetic. Here is today's and yesterday's flitterfics, to make up for it.

---

“Ready, Mister Ruffington?” Arlene waggled the stick enticingly. “Ready, boy? Go get it!” She lobbed the stick into the air and watched it spiral away.

Mr. Ruffington watched it go, too, with his tongue out. He glanced at her and cocked his head to one side, then lay down with a faint “Whumph!”

Arlene knelt. “Come on, Ruffle-doodle. You need some exercise. Fetch!”

“Must we do this again?” sighed Mr. Ruffington. “It’s all a bit demeaning. I’d really prefer a bit more dignified and intellectual pastime.”

Arlene’s eyes widened, then narrowed. “Well, we can’t do chess anymore. You always win.”

Monday, March 16, 2009

Playground

The crowd of shouting children formed a ring around the combatants. Jean-Luc – Jon – faced down against Martin Collins, scourge of the playground. Two minutes later, it was over; Martin was short two teeth, Jon had a week’s suspension, and the playground was safe again. Jon enjoyed tremendous acclaim for the weeks to come. So much so that he took it upon himself to organize the playground, keep it safe. It never occurred to him to wonder why so many children chose to rise against his benevolent rule, or why the ring of shouting faces so often cried his opponent’s name.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gerbils

The car rattled into Joe’s Auto Shop.

“What seems to be the problem?” asked Joe, wiping his hands on a rag.

“I think the gerbils are just tired,” said the man behind the wheel. He got out and stretched. Joe chuckled obligingly.

“Slow starting, you know,” the man continued. “I figure it’s time to get some new gerbils. Maybe upgrade to squirrels.”

Joe nodded. “We’ll take a look at it.”

“Oh, and I haven’t fed them today,” the man said as he entered the waiting room.

Joe’s brow wrinkled, and he turned to pop the hood. Eager squeaking greeted him…

Saturday, March 14, 2009

To Go

The girl adjusted her hat and flashed her braces. “And for you, sir?”

“Happiness,” said the man with hollow circles under his eyes. “A new purpose.”

“One double-cheeseburger and a side of onion rings,” said the girl. “Here you go, sir!”

The man took his paper bag away, his face brightening perceptibly.

“Next?”

The next customer dabbed at her eyes. “I want peace. I want to remember only the good times.”

“Small chocolate shake. Three dollars, ma’am.”

Jeremy stepped up to the counter as the woman departed, her worry lines fading away. “I, uh, just wanted a Coke,” he said.

Friday, March 13, 2009

White Horse

Theodore Roll grinned, displaying uneven, yellowing teeth. Sean ran a hand over the car’s smooth white lines. The front door popped open as he drew near, and the engine purred to life. He glanced at the salesman.

“That means it likes you,” Roll said.

Sean slid onto the driver’s seat. It was like being caressed by a woman. He barely noticed the seat belt locking him in place, though he felt the roar of the engine as the car launched forward, heading for the river.

T. Roll watched the waters close behind it. He smiled at the license plate: NIXIE1.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

T-1000

“…but the real thing you gotta watch out for ‘round here is termites,” Gus finished.

“Termites? The place is made of metal!”

“Look here, kid,” said Gus. “Buildings made of wood get eaten up by termites, right? Well, buildings made of metal got the same problem. Different species, see?”

“But how can they chew up the metal walls?” Scooter asked. “They just got little bug teeth.”

“They done replaced ‘em with metal teeth. They’re whattayacallit, cy-bergs.” Gus cut off as heavy footfalls clanged on the floor above. He paled. “Grab the spray!” he shouted. “They done let the queen loose!”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yeti

I didn’t mean any harm. I didn’t even know he was there. I was trying to take a picture of the mountains. The mountains!

The motorbike wobbles. It’s windy here, and the road curves so sharply, but I can’t slow down. I catch glimpses of him: shaggy head, ropy arms, loping through the trees.

Reclusive. Probably mythical. I’d laugh, but…

Bridge ahead. I gun the motor. The sound of the engine kicks up into a higher register. It’s weak, feeble against the weight of the night and the forest.

I hear the heavy footfalls behind me.

Am I fast enough?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Garbage Boy

Keith spotted the garbage boy as he took his trash to the dumpster. Someone had taken a garbage bag and given it a paper-plate face, spindly broomstick arms, and soup-can feet. It made Keith smile.

It was still there the next morning, but now it reclined, as though asleep. Keith chuckled.

After work, he saw his neighbor absently shove the garbage boy into the bin as he tossed in his own bag. Only Keith saw the makeshift hand reach up and grasp the edge again, clambering back out.

Keith worried what would happen when the garbage trucks came on Thursday…

Monday, March 9, 2009

Who's There?

She rounded the corner and came across the spindly form of Almost-There. She turned and nodded to the left – Almost-There favored the left side of where his body seemed to be – and heard his clicking, buzzing greeting.

There was no time to stop and chat, however. She was heading for the forest, down the winding trail from the ruined battlements. She called to Maybe-There, who gave her a hesitant wave.

The space under the trees was dark and full of sounds. She heard a twig snap behind her and spun around. “I know it’s you, Not-There-At-All,” she said. “Quit playing.”

Henry's Workshop

After the accident, Henry couldn’t manage stairs in the cast. He mostly watched television, and didn’t go to his workshop at all. It wasn’t until Maureen went down to find the ladder that she noticed the cauldron, still bubbling away.

“Henry!” she shouted. “How long has this potion been brewing?”

“What potion?” The television roared with laughter.

“You’re the witch.”

“Well, I don’t remember. Just toss it. It’s ruined by now anyway.”

Maureen grumbled and hauled the heavy cauldron upstairs to pour outside. Then she forgot about it until morning, when she saw what was growing through the kitchen window…

New Model

Many apologies! I arrived home slightly later than expected this evening. If I'd been thinking ahead, I'd have gotten the flitterfic done before heading out in the first place.

I'm going to blame Daylight Savings Time, nonsensical legacy of our agrarian past.


---

“Check it out, dude!”

“Oh, awesome!” Trey practically bounced with excitement. “That is a sweet-ass ride, dude. Way, way rad.”

“It’s one of the new models. Has a plus-four bonus,” Stu said smugly. “And a flaming burst enchantment.”

“Sweeeeeet…”

“In fact, I- glack!” Stu was knocked backwards, an arrow seeming to sprout from his chest. An orc in a Humvee crowed in triumph.

“Shit! Wandering monster!” Trey shouted. He scrambled into the passenger seat and poured his Gatorade down Stu’s throat. “Here, bro. It’s only a dee-eight plus one Healing Sports Drink, but I don’t have the Sports Car proficiency.”

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Fresh Water

The lake glimmered through the trees, clear and placid as a sheet of glass. Simeon cried out and lurched forward, but was halted by Taku’s outstretched arm.

“What?”

“We must be careful. Water is untrustworthy.”

“Is this another creature like that hideous snake? Or those nasty little fish that swim right up your-?”

“Hsst!” Taku raised his bow.

The lake rippled. Eyes appeared, and teeth. Far too many teeth.

Simeon regarded the monstrous reptiles with horror. “God above, I don’t know how you live in this jungle,” he said.

Taku shrugged. “I do not know how to live anywhere else.”

Friday, March 6, 2009

Blue Screen of DOOM

Commander Zytyx sneered. “Your spirit is touching, Prince Aldus, but it will avail you nothing… save your doom!” He flung out an arm. The bay doors opened, revealing the Galactic Nebulizer.

“No! The plans… it was unfinished!”

Zytyx laughed. “Fool! Now watch as I obliterate your puny planet!” He snapped his fingers. There was a thrumming sound. It built to a climax… and stopped.

“What?”

“Er, ‘unhandled exception 000035,’ sir.”

“Run it again!”

The console beeped.

“Do we want to send an error report?”

“No! Open up the ‘Options’ tab, fool!”

“Try rebooting,” Prince Aldus put in. “That usually helps.”

Thursday, March 5, 2009

New Pet

“It looks like it’s his kidneys again,” said Dr. Brewster. “Mr. Whiskers can’t take another operation, I don’t think. It may be time…”

My eyes welled up with tears. “But-“

“I know,” the veterinarian sighed, “but he’s in a lot of pain.” He paused. “Have you considered the Wasserman Process?”

“I’ve thought about it…” I hesitated.

“Expensive, I know. Still, I’ve had good results. Even Rags had it done; I’ll show you.” He whistled. “Here, boy!”

Rags clattered around the corner. I laid my hand on the slick metal of his new body, feeling the heat of his fusion-powered core...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Hesitation

It was quiet on the roof. It always was. Even in the most thunderous of storms, it was quiet. That was why he liked it here, the wind and the rain and the sun and the birdshit all just sliding off of his stony skin.

Today it was warm. He could feel the sun and hear the birds squabbling in their nests under the ledges. Perhaps he would open his eyes today. Perhaps he would take flight again.

He tensed, not a movement so much as a preparation for movement. The birds stilled.

No, he thought at last. Not today.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Musicians

Straight from my subconscious to you. This one is a scene almost verbatim from a very odd dream I had last night...

---

The music played, twin pipes lilting around and through each other. The wind blew dust past our feet.

“They say the song is cursed,” said the ancient man in the colorful wrap. “The only way to escape is to play it perfectly. This recording is of two musicians, twin brothers, who thought to finally conquer it. Listen, here. As they played the last note, one of them fell dead at his brother’s feet. He smiled in triumph as they neared the end.” The old man glanced up in the silence. “There are no smiles in the notation for the song.”

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Rolling Stone

The Wisest Stone traveled for a year and a day. He conquered mountains and swam seas. When at last he returned to his resting place, his friend Taku was waiting for him.

“What have you learned on your journey?” asked Taku.

“It is easier to roll downhill than to roll uphill,” answered the Wisest Stone, “but easiest of all is to remain still.”

Taku thought on the Wisest Stone’s words for a time. “That is either very wise or very foolish,” he said at last.

“Come and tell me when you have resolved the matter,” said the Wisest Stone, yawning.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Intersection

I see people have located the "Yuck!" response. Awesome! But please, if you didn't like a story, I would especially like to hear why. (I mean, if people who enjoy them want to chime in with kudos, that's good as well, don't get me wrong.) Still, it's hard for me to improve if I don't know what I'm doing incorrectly.

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Dan grimaced as the light turned red. “There’s nobody here!” he groused. “This is ridiculous.”

The car drifted to a reluctant halt. A shrieking sound shredded the night as a tricked-out hoverbike from the 25th century swerved to a halt beside them. The pilot sneered down at their 1997 Toyota before activating his privacy shield and fading from sight.

Dan and Shannon watched in silence as a Neanderthal and his woolly mammoth lumbered up to and through the intersection.

The light turned green. The mammoth was only halfway through. Shannon clutched at Dan’s arm, keeping his hand from the horn.