Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Tao of F. Castle

“Violence begets violence,” said Lao Tze. He slammed another clip into his gun, dodging a vicious swing from the nameless thug’s machete. Lao Tze kicked the man squarely in the groin and smashed his temples when he doubled over. “What you mete out returns unto you,” Lao Tze admonished him as he fell.

Turning, Lao Tze sprayed the room with bullets. “Powerful men are well-advised not to use violence,” he said. He pulled a grenade pin with his teeth, then lobbed the explosive into the next room. “Nothing grows where an army passes,” he said, crouching and covering his ears.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Calm and still, he watched. Movement would be deadly, but that was not his concern. He simply had nothing else to do. He watched the crystalline form gently approach its struggling meal. Liquid glass, smooth and gleaming. It settled down to feed. He watched the first faint blush spread through its body, like the pink sky just before dawn. Then darker, and darker still, scarlet, crimson, deepening until the skittering legs were all that could be seen in the shadows.

“I think,” he said, “I finally understand.”

The sound of his voice set the threads vibrating. The end was swift.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Vampire Slayer

Hector readied his weapons: sword and knife, electroplated with silver; sawed-off shotgun; revolver, silver-tipped bullets; grenades and vials of holy water.

“We must be swift,” he said, “and decisive. Give no quarter, for you will be given none.”

They burst through the door. The interior smelled of rotten meat and old blood. The hunched form in the back reared at the sound, blood dripping from its fangs.

Afterward, Tristan noticed Hector weeping quietly. “Do you pity the dead?”

“You do not understand,” said Hector. “He was the last. The world is safer, now.” A pause. “And diminished,” he finished quietly.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Christina glanced up. “Oh, honey, I’m glad you’re home. Can you get the claymore for me?”

Harold set down his briefcase. “Uh, sure. Where is it?”

“Back of the closet there. I was silly and put on the breastplate first, and now I can’t reach.”

“Doing a little gardening?” He hefted the six-foot blade and handed it over.

“It’s got to be done. They’re getting too big to handle. And we’re almost out of tomatoes.” She lifted the sword to ready position. “Okay. Open the door.”

Harold cautiously grasped the handle. Outside, the peas roared and scrabbled at the glass.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

One Thing at a Time

The claxon shrieked, vibrating the whole of the tower complex. Intruders! Heavy booted feet were pounding down the hallways, setting up a thunderous counterpoint.

Draknar flailed awake, the shreds of a dream dissipating around him. Steady, steady, he thought. Just the expected attack, those so-called rebels. He peered around. Some ungodly hour of the night. Wasn’t supposed to come for two more days. Have to fire the scrying-pool operator.

He heaved himself upright. One thing at a time. He fumbled for a shirt, then the Eboncloak. The black helmet and Soulreaper stood by the door. Did I feed the Fellsteed?

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Smell of Space

The Expedition III fired it reverse thrusters, drifting to a near halt. Goldberg punched in the code and allowed the airlock to spiral open. He drifted out, tether trailing behind him like an umbilical.

“Prepped and ready?” came Dersins’ voice over the comm.

“As I’ll ever be,” Goldberg sighed. “Let’s do this.” With an instinctive wince, he opened his helmet and breathed in. “Raspberries!” he gasped. “And… honey? And something else, smells like… oatmeal?” He opened his eyes and flailed in panic as the shimmering bear-shape approached him.

“We’ve been waiting, Goldy,” said the bear. “Let’s see about that porridge.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Timmy eyed the tiny man suspiciously. “I wanted a gumball.”

“I know, and I promise I’ll get you lots of gumballs. But you gotta use your quarter on this machine first, okay?” His hands were pressed against the wall of his plastic prison.

Timmy clutched at his coin. He glanced at his mother, who was fiddling with her checkbook.

“C’mon, kid! You’re my only hope! Don’t fucking do this to me!”

“That’s a bad word,” Timmy said. He turned his back on the toy machine and bought a gumball.

“Dammit!” The tiny man slumped. He glanced around. “Psst! Hey, kid…!”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The New Book

She paused when she reached the 300s. There was a small, furry, blue man on the shelf. His hair was spiky, like a hedgehog. He regarded her with an air of challenge.

“What are you?” she asked.

“I’m a book.”

“You are not.”

“I’m on a bookshelf, aren’t I?”

“You’re not square and made of paper. You don’t look like these.” She gestured at her shelving cart.

“So I’m a unique book.”

“What are you about, then?”

“Oh, everything. I’ve flown through the stars. I’ve seen galaxies born and die.”

“This is the social sciences.”

“So I’m misshelved,” he shrugged.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Chet pulled open the stairwell doors and shined a light inside. He paused.

“What’s wrong?” asked Susan, glancing at the dark corridor behind them. Smoke curled from under one door. Another had what looked like vines creeping out. Another flashed with actinic light.

“Snakes,” said Chet. He eased the door shut. “A few thousand, looked like.”

“Well, what are we going to do now?”

The elevator dinged merrily at the end of the hall. The doors rolled open, revealing warm, welcoming light. They regarded it.

“Isn’t the power cut off?” asked Susan.

“Yup,” said Chet.

“So… the fire escape, then?”

Monday, April 20, 2009

Unexploded Golems

Telebri thought the old battlefield was probably the saddest thing in the whole world. She used to scurry past it every day. She couldn’t bear to look at those empty hulks.

It was her father who put it in perspective. “Look, flowers and vines are growing around him,” he’d said, running a hand over the spiked shoulder-plate. “A bird is nesting in his mouth. Don’t you think, if he’d had a choice, he’d rather be a home than break down walls?”

Telebri stared at the massive fist. “But he’ll never move again.”

“Because he doesn’t need to anymore,” Dad smiled.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Slow Day

Gid sat idly on the transistor, his pole hovering in the datastream.

“How’s the fishing?” Lati drawled.

“Pretty bad,” Gid said. “It’s been a quiet day today. Not sure what to make of it.”

“Mebbe it’s on sleep mode.”

“Still ought to have some traffic. We’re right off the main branch here.” Gid shook his head. “I hope it hasn’t been… unplugged.”

“Naw. We’d be dead’n’gone.”

“Internal motherboard battery. We could be isolated here and never find out.”

“Well, crap. That’s kinda a downer.”

“Yeah.” Gid sighed. They sat in silence, watching the gate for any sign of a spark.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Regulars

Not continuity, precisely, but I think this old bar has a lot to offer. Who else comes in every now and then to order drinks from tough old Clem, do you think? Let's get some audience participation! Populate Clem's bar with me...


Come on in. Don’t be scared. Keep that notebook out, too. Old Sven there, he took a nasty fall, built hisself a new body outta metal and such. Din’t work quite right, so now he’s just got the legs. Kinda spidery, ain’t they? That’s Donovan, used to work at the power plant. Show him that thing you do with a light bulb, Donny. Yeah. Real pretty how it lights up, ain’t it? And ‘course there’s Jack, but he’s been and gone. Easy to tell, ain’t it, Clem? Now, you want stories, you talk to Clem here. He’s seen it all.

Friday, April 17, 2009


“It ain’t like it was,” Jack said. He gulped his beer. “Time was, a man could make a living just on hisself. Sweat of the brow.” He stood unsteadily. “I got a lotta talent, me. Raw talent. It’s part of who I am. But it ain’t about who you are anymore. ‘S about who y’know. A man ain’t got contacts, he ain’t got shit.”

With that, Jack headed for the door. Took it clean off and staggered down the road, clutching that chunk of wall like a lover.

Behind the bar, Clem shook his head as the snow drifted in.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


The subway doors slid open. Hank caught the scent of smoke and seared meat. He sighed. This was the part he hated. He stepped out, minding the gap and trying not to stare at the hunched shapes around the fires.

A big male waved some sort of club. Looked like part of a street sign. He grunted at Hank. Hank clutched his briefcase and puffed himself up. “Ungaaa! Tak dor ungoway,” he said. His accent was atrocious.

The caveman hefted his weapon, eyeing Hank uncertainly. Hank reached into his pocket. He held out a candy bar. Payday. They loved peanuts.

Under the Ice

Isten held up the gauge. “Another three inches gone.” He shook his head and headed back to the tent. “We’re losing ice at an incredible rate. I think this might be the year the cap disappears completely.”

Marsbrook was heating the kettle for tea. “Bad news,” he said. Marsbrook treated words like precious objects.

“Bad? It could be apocalyptic!” Isten dropped to kneel by the cookstove. “The weather, ocean levels, saline concentration. Not to mention…” he trailed off, glancing at the dark shape just visible beneath the mountain of ice. “Yesterday, I thought I saw it move, just a little.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Sunset Painter

Shelly came across the painter as he paused his work. “It’s lovely,” she said.

“Not my best,” the old man groused. “I wanted the clouds to have that scalloped effect and catch the red, but they turned out overcast.” He painted some arcing bird wings. Shelly heard their cries abruptly overhead.

“It looks just like the real thing.”

The man bristled. “Well, of course!” he snapped. “I’ll try again tomorrow, I suppose. There’s always another sunset. Work, work, work.” Before Shelly could respond, he stood and rolled up the canvas. Shelly cried out as the horizon crumpled and folded away…

Monday, April 13, 2009

Robbing the Liquor Store


Draknar considered the bottle in his mailed fist. “Nope. Let’s try that one.” He pointed the dread sword Soulspike at the whiskey section.

Scratnik clambered up the shelves. “This one, master?”

“Yes. Fetch it here.” Draknar shifted, sending empty bottles tumbling down from the pile. Outside, red and blue lights drew near, causing the Fellsteed to snort nervous flames.


“Silence! I wish to experience drunken revelry. My spells tell me this is how it’s done.”

“But Master…”

There was a gurgle as Draknar drained the bottle. He tossed it aside and smacked his lips. “Bah. Perhaps… that one.”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Only Real Thing

Shen scrabbled for purchase. All around them, the mists of illusion trembled, like an oil slick on the surface of a pond. Gripping his handhold, Shen reached out and brushed the surface. A tree shuddered and popped at his touch.

“We are lost in the pathways of deception,” Utvar intoned. He folded his legs into the lotus position and balanced on the engine. “We cling to the only real thing in the universe and seek the truth.”

Shen turned. There was not much room. “But why is the only real thing a lawnmower?”

“The ways of the universe are mysterious.”

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Simple Gifts

He walks through the forest. The trees are evergreens, pine and fir. The ground is covered by a blanket of snow that crunches and squeaks beneath his boots.

He pauses at a tree. He considers it, rubbing his chin. The growth has gone from stubble to an outright beard by now. Yesterday he tossed away a razor unused. What would be the point?

Still, this is the moment of decision. His trembling hand hovers over the gaily-wrapped packages. He chooses a long, thin one. A rifle? A signal flare?

The paper falls to the ground. He sags. A hockey stick.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Operation Stormflower

“Impact at Epsilon, Theta, Zed… droplet impacts everywhere, sir! It looks like a storm!”

The commander chewed his stem, eyes narrowed as he examined the onscreen map. “Get the bombers rolling,” he barked. “I want acorns hitting the ground on every flight path.” As saplings scattered with the new orders, he turned to the communications desk. “Get word to the pollinators,” he said. “They’ll be worse than useless in the downpour.”

The great petals of the flower-dish rotated, stamen trembling with the newest messages. A whistling sound came from overhead. The commander looked up.

“Pinecones,” he growled. “Duck and cover!”

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Woop. Between oversleeping and an unusually busy night, I plumb forgot to post yesterday. Here's two to make up for it. ;-)


The glittering bridge between the Enclaves swayed beneath her feet. The cable would not break – anything able to generate enough force would also be capable of vaporizing the city – and the sway of the connectors had been calculated to within several hundredths of a degree of safety. Though she knew there was no risk of falling, her adrenaline spiked with every gust of wind.

She clutched the capsule to her chest. This information was too important to be trusted to comm-lines. Besides, what good was an offer of alliance without the payment? Her loyalty was to the family, above all…

True Name

Muscles bulging, the Hero of Tyn-la-mar burst into the warlock’s sanctum. The air was thick with noxious smoke and the scent of scorched blood. The warlock spun in surprise pointed his hand at the Hero.

“I fear you not,” cried the Hero, “for you do not have my true name, and without that your spells are powerless.”

The warlock grinned and hissed a few words in a language never spoken by human tongues. The Hero felt his strength ebb away.

“How…?” he gasped.

“You have worn your mantle for too long,” said the warlock. “Truly, you are the Hero, now.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


“It is time.” Ferdinand stood and reached under the table. He pulled out a violin case, heavily locked. He had not touched it for many years.

“That is… No!” cried Alberto. “You have told me the stories, how it sang so beautifully. But the curse! You said if you played it even once more, it would claim your very life!”

Ferdinand pulled the key from its chain around his neck. “Yes, my friend. And it is so. But the audience, they have come tonight to hear my final concert. How can I not give them… the magic they ask for?”

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ordering Out

Chet’s brow wrinkled as he consulted the paper. Most of the items had been scratched off the list. “Okay, so pepperoni is a definite. And mushrooms.”

“And blood!”

“I still think we should have a veggie pizza.” Darlene was starting to get her martyred look.

“Sure, whatever.” Chet jotted a few more notes. “We’ll do one veggie and one pepperoni.”

“And blood!”

“Dammit, Drac, no one else wants your stupid weird foreign toppings!” Chet rolled his eyes. “You can’t even eat more than a slice without breaking out from all the garlic.”

Dracula frowned, momentarily crestfallen. “Fine, then. Half blood.”

Sunday, April 5, 2009


Morning dawned at the stoplight where Grigor had been waiting for seventeen years; it had not turned green yet, and so he was patient.

"Still no luck, Grigor?" asked Mrs. Fuller as she brought him breakfast from her restaurant. He shook his head and smiled his thanks.

Another car sped past, on the road where the light was always green. Sometimes Grigor wondered what it must be like on that other road; he had never seen the same car twice. In the meantime, Jorge would soon visit on his morning jog, and Mrs. Fuller said she'd make strawberry shortcake later.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Luke answered the door. “We need you back,” said the figure outside, cloaked in a heavy trenchcoat.

“I’m not coming back, Michael,” Luke answered. “I told you that, long ago.”

“The War continues, whether you will or no.”

“It is free to do so. I’ll have no more part of it.”


“Goodbye, Michael. Good luck.”

Luke shut the door on Michael’s protests. Habit guided his feet to the closet beneath the stairs and its hidden panel. They were still there, of course. The shimmering bronze wings, the fiery sword, the golden halo, glinting in the darkness.

Luke turned away.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Things He Learned

Taku bowed before his father. His brother and sister knelt with him.

“You have all been to study. Tell me what you learned.”

“I have been to the Nestling Tree,” said Taku’s brother. “I have learned growth and self-sustenance.”

“I have been to the Singing Fish,” said Taku’s sister. “I have learned to dwell in the dark and the deep.”

“I have been to the Wisest Stone.” Taku thought hard before he spoke. “His lessons were not always easy to understand. I have learned patience and hardness.” He gathered himself and leapt. Everyone gasped. “And I have learned to fly.”

Thursday, April 2, 2009


It was after the ordeal of breakfast that George received the phone call. The test results were in.

“I’m pregnant!?”

“Not quite,” said the doctor’s tinny voice. “You’re creating a world.”

George laid a hand on his swollen abdomen; even that light touch was painful. “How long will it take?”

“Hard to say. I haven’t seen an actual case of medical cosmogenesis before. I can prescribe…”

“No,” George said firmly. “No drugs. Whatever this is, it’s mine.”

The doctor kept talking, but George set the phone back in its cradle. He leaned back, pensive. His expression was almost a smile.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hunting Pack

Tyvalt halted his steed at the edge of the safe zone. Here at the borderline, the viscous mists sent out creeping tendrils along the ground.

Bare stone. Nothing grew here; the toxic stew was not thick enough to support the riotous color of the valley jungles, but true plants could not withstand even this much.

“We should not linger,” his native guide insisted.

“Oh? And which of your superstitions are we violating now?” Tyvalt had been unimpressed with the colony thus far.

“The sky-wolves hunt the border.”

Tyvalt scoffed, but even as he did, the distant howl went up overhead…