Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lifetimes Piling Up

This one had some snappy dialogue originally, but it was forty words over and something had to go. I think that's the thing I like least about this format; no room for idle chitchat.


“Slow down!” I said.

Ted scrabbled at the dashboard, triggering a half-dozen defense systems. An oil slick, a smoke cloud, and a gout of fire burst from the rear of the car. The dark cars fanned out behind us, a hunting pattern. They were drawing near.

“Shit!” Ted grappled with the steering wheel. The wheels slipped and the car hurtled sideways.

After the chaos of the crash, I slipped a silver disc into the ruined dashboard. Ted’s mangled body flickered. I frowned at him as he shook his head.

“You’ve got to be more careful. I’m running out of quarters.”

Monday, June 29, 2009

Growing Pains

York stumped along, trailing smoke and favoring his left leg. He nodded to Cinci in passing.

“How’s it going?” York said.

Cinci shrugged. She scratched at a patch of windows. A tiny figure was dislodged and fell, screaming tinnily. “Been better.”


“My health, you know.” She covered her mouth and burped, sending a cloud of smog skyward. “I think it’s the light rail. It just doesn’t agree with me.”

“Ah, well, it’s good in the long run,” said York. “Me, it’s these darned suburbs.” He shook his leg to demonstrate. Several houses fell off and tinkled to the ground.

Urban Renewal

The rustling and creaking had slowed in recent days. The buildings were all restored, every brick and stone. They were pristine, untouched, and in perfect working order. The stores were filled with every manner of useful good, kept safe behind polished windows. There was no one to steal them. The streetlights faithfully flashed red and green, keeping watch over empty streets. Each night, the buildings lit with soft yellow glows as basement furnaces hummed, illuminating and warming silent rooms.

On the outskirts, an overpass crept out towards the blasted desert. The task was not yet finished. It was barely begun.


Woo! Back and ready for action!


The car lurched to an uneven halt, one wheel bumping up onto the curb. The tires were useless rags around the scarred, blackened hubcaps. The windshield was gone, or mostly gone, a few shards still clinging to the frame. The entire frame was pockmarked with tiny craters, like bulletholes. It steamed, even in the autumn air.

Dan kicked the door until it fell off, which counted as opening. He staggered out, coughing. He pushed his way into the store with the empty bottle.

“…additive?” he gasped.

The trim man behind the countertop shrugged. “You said you wanted to go faster.”

Saturday, June 27, 2009


“Yes, hello? I have a pest problem. No, I haven't ever called you before. I run a clean house. Yes, it's urgent. They're keeping me awake at night, that's why! All that grunting and slamming around; it's enough to drive me batty. And the pantry is stripped clean. They even ate the baking soda!” She glared at the sumo wrestler perched on the loveseat. He blushed.

“No, I haven't tried traps,” she said into the phone. “I wouldn't know where to begin.”

The sumo wrestler hung his head. Behind him, the rest of his heya did likewise.


Traveling is fun! I'll get yesterday and the day before posted now. Expect today's sometime later on. We just got the laptop hooked up to the hotel's wireless.


Candace moved to the edge of the curb and raised her hand. She was taken aback when a group of large men in football helmets charged noisily to her side of the street. They carried a palanquin between them.

“Who are you?” said Candace.

The leader glanced at her. His face was invisible inside his helmet. “We are a taxi,” he said.

Candace hesitated, then shrugged and mounted the palanquin's steps. A whistle blew. Two players darted into the cross-traffic, slamming cars aside with a crunch and a roar. The taxi, bearing Candace aloft, followed in their wake.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


The door spiraled only halfway open. Tarquin could smell smoke. He grumbled and ducked through, reaching to drag his toolkit after him. The gravity generators were operating erratically. Tarquin overbalanced. He grasped for one of the handgrips to stabilize himself.

The ship groaned and lurched. Tarquin fell to the floor with a grunt. There was a sudden, muffled cry from nearby. Tarquin stumbled to his feet. He shoved a prybar into the hatch of the supply closet. The door burst open, revealing a small Colony girl rubbing a bruised leg.

Tarquin sighed. “This just got a lot more complicated.”

Monday, June 22, 2009

Fire Eater

There is a bloom of light in the darkness. I can see it through the trees. A fire. I like fires. They’re not as good as electricity, but they’re easier to find out here.

The trees hum past as I travel. Long, slow rhythms, barely any movement at all. I’d starve on a tree diet, even if I did nothing but eat.

They scream when I arrive. It annoys me. I eat one for form’s sake. Tasty little tidbits wrapped up in oversized, meaty bags. Hardly worth the effort, but nice as a light snack. At least they brought dinner.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


One morning, Daryl realized that he was remembering lies. There was his childhood home, yes, his mother, his school, his toy dinosaurs, his first job, Kristen, first kiss, braces tangled, love, anger, hate, loss. But there was someone there who didn’t belong.

He was tall and sallow, a grim-faced man better suited to a B-grade horror flick. He was lurking in the closet, tasting Mom’s soup, contemplating a plastic brachiosaurus, perched on a see-saw.

“So you’ve found me,” Daryl remembered the tall man say. “Well, the past isn’t the only place to hide. Eyes front, Daryl. I’ll be waiting tomorrow.”

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Universal Organizer

“It’s not that I don’t enjoy my universe,” said Borsin. “It’s just… well, the storage question.”

“Yes,” said TR719, rotating smartly about and whirring away down the aisles. “Infinite space can be challenging. Hard to clean, too.”

“We don’t want to get rid of it, though.” Borsin trailed after.

“Naturally not,” the robot responded. “Many bioforms grow very attached to their possessions. It is merely an artifact of your simian brain. I am familiar with many such defects. You require a universal organizer.”

“And everything will fit inside?”

“There are many sizes of infinity, sir. One for every household need.”

Friday, June 19, 2009


She was looking for a light bulb for the closet when she found the message from God. She ran to show Bill.

“I found an angel,” she told him.

“It’s a paperclip, Denise,” said Bill.

“It can be both,” Denise said, not wanting to fight about it.

There were other miracles all week. The pickle jar, for instance. And the cat hair. Bill grumbled about chores not getting done, but Denise couldn’t disobey divine inspiration. Things didn’t come to a head until Thursday, when she defrosted the freezer. It was only reasonable that if angels could visit, so could demons…

And Death His Companion

He walked down the street with his death behind him, footsteps just a beat behind his own. He paused at the corner. Busy street; could be dangerous. He glanced at his death. The cowled head shook slowly. Not now. Not yet time.

Why would it tell the truth? he wondered. But the habit was ingrained by now. He stepped out cautiously when the light turned.

“Oh, isn’t that sad,” said an old lady, pointing. A young child walked behind his mother, his death close on his heels. Even the old woman’s was half-step behind her. “Such a shame,” she clucked.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


The marvelous thing, the really marvelous thing, was that it worked. At a cost, of course, but everything has a cost. Progress marches, can’t make an omelet, etc.

The situation would normally be untenable, of course. What human innovation could fathom such a degree of interconnectedness? How could anything survive looped in on itself in that fashion? The trains were first. Then the roads, the glorious American highways. A few sacrifices were made. This is the nature of such things.

To encircle the globe, to knit everything together, who else but him, his shimmering asphalt scales glinting new and shimmering?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Fo Fum

The wedge of cheese had been left out. The knife lay beside it.

“Stay here,” Maria told Miguel. They were crouched behind the towering jug of apple juice. “We’re getting out of here.”

She glanced around, then darted out. The table, the size of a football field, seemed hideously open and exposed, but she reached the cutting board without incident, hefting the knife like a spear. It was heavy and sharp; it should be able to free Carlos before the giant checked the traps.

Maria froze. The door swung open; the giant had returned. Its enormous nose twitched angrily. “SQUEAK?”

Monday, June 15, 2009

Let Me In


Cedric remained as still as he could. His instincts wanted him to sit bolt upright, but he gritted his teeth and kept his eyes closed.


He was a grown man. There was no reason to be afraid. It was a tree branch.


Or maybe a stray dog. Regardless, he would ignore it. He fought the urge to tug the blankets over his head.

The night passed slowly, agonizingly. It wasn’t until morning that he allowed himself to sit up and look to the door. The door, and the scratches gouged deep in its surface.

On the inside.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Trip shimmied down the tree. “I definitely see land!” he called, skidding on the thin soil of Bodoka’s back. “We’ll be there in another day or two, if you can keep up the speed,” he went on.

Bodoka rumbled, raising her head to look at Trip with one enormous eye. Her flippers threshed the water in a constant rhythm on either side of her shell. Trip carefully climbed down the slope and rested at the lip, resting his hand on Bodoka’s leathery neck. “We will find your eggs,” he told her. “And then we will return to the open sea.”

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Soul-Reaper flashed dangerously, pulsing with dark energies. Se-Rok-La, the Blade That Thirsts, was a shimmering light in the young hero’s hands.

“The Ebontower is fallen,” the hero announced.

“Because of you,” hissed the Shadowlord. “You will pay for this!”

“I only return to you the destruction you brought to us!” answered the boy.

“That was justice! Your city refused me aid when I was starving, sent me to exile.”

“They remember the tyranny of the Spirit-Dwellers!”

“I will have what is mine!”

“I will have mine as well!”

All around them, the rubble of both tower and town were strewn.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Necromancy, LTD

“Should start any minute now,” Mrs. Lowry said. Even as she spoke, the lights flickered and went out. A ghostly face appeared, then two more. A bearded man and two elaborately-coiffed women climbed into an ancient automobile, all faintly translucent. They motored away through the wall in eerie silence.

“Well, that’s certainly paranormal,” said Sturgot. “Standard containment and removal fees would-“

“They’re not the problem,” Mrs. Lowry snapped.

A moment later, a spectral hound, all rotting flesh and hideous fangs, burst through the far wall, trailing ectoplasm across the floor. It barked furiously as it pursued the disappearing Model T.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Things They Loved

“Here you are, Miss Jensen,” said Lisa, handing over her change. Chuck had already bagged her groceries. She smiled at both of them as she collected her parcels and strolled out the door.

“I love her perfume,” Lisa commented. “Like lavender.”

Chuck gave Lisa a confused look. “She’s always smelled like chocolate to me. Hot cocoa.”

Trudy turned around from the next register over. “Miss Jensen?” she said. “She smells like new leather, fresh from a tack store.”

They blinked at one another and turned as one to watch the slender form walking away on the side of the highway.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Magic of Writing

"Try another one!"

"Okay, um," John hesitated, the pencil hovering over the paper. He wrote a sentence laboriously. "'I... have... ten... Snickers.'"

With a rush of air, a pile of candy bars materialized on the table beside them.

"This is so awesome! We need some money, too!" Barry bounced with excitement.

"Right. Um... 'Give... me... one... million-'" John muttered, scraping the words into the paper.

"Us! Give us a million bucks!"

"Oh, yeah." John spun the pencil around and rubbed away at the 'me.'

"No, make it two million... John?" Barry glanced around.

John was nowhere to be seen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


The candlelight reflected from her face, looking younger somehow. “It wasn’t my fault,” she said. “Not my fault.”

“I understand, ma’am,” said Detective Morris. “All I need are a few small details. Remember those for me and you can rest.”

“It was him, not me. Not my fault. He planned it. He killed them, not me.”

“She’s in a loop,” said Trenton.

Morris frowned. “We need a stronger connection. Her body isn’t enough; she hated it anyway.” He blew out the candle. The old woman’s spirit flickered out with the light, leaving the two policemen alone in the morgue again.

Event Horizon

He wasn’t sure when it began. He noticed it in the fall, when shadows started to fade with the sun. His didn’t. Instead, it grew darker, fuller, more luxuriant. Everywhere he went, his surroundings grew brighter while his shadow swelled, gulping darkness like wine.

The contrast sharpened as the days went on, the landscape fading to a pallid, washed-out whiteness while he and his shadow became ever more indistinct. His touch left objects shimmering with a luminescence he could never possess. The world attenuated, stretching upward toward sublimation. He remained behind, a dark blot in a pit he’d dug himself.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

And It Rattles, Too

The house rumbled as the air cut on, a deep growl. “I think the thermostat is broken,” said Wendy. “It’s always either too hot or too cold.”

“I’ll have someone out to look at it.” Reginald muttered, buttering his toast.

Neither of them paid attention as Jimmy slipped away from the table and into the basement. Down where the furnace normally pumped hot air into the vents, an enormous, hairy beast crouched. It had its mouth to the pipes and it was breathing furiously, cheeks puffed out comically.

“You might as well stop,” said Jimmy. “They’re calling a repairman anyway.”

Saturday, June 6, 2009


The inside of the bus was full. Already there were passengers clinging to the outside. Mr. Johnson had wedged himself in with his hips, leaving his hands free to flip through a magazine as the wind snatched at the pages.

“How’d we manage before, eh, Kevin?” said Mr. Johnson by way of greeting. Kevin adhered only his left leg; easier to disembark that way.

“I’d just like to get to work with combed hair for once,” Kevin grumbled. He slapped his briefcase in place with a wet smack. The cohesion was going. It’d be time for a new one soon.

Friday, June 5, 2009

In Space

Double-posting to try and get back on a "do it after midnight instead of before" schedule, which works so much more smoothly.

So am I allowed to have in-jokes yet? It's been seven months. I think I'm allowed in-jokes.


The great mining ship Redshift drifted on the edges of the asteroid belt. On the bridge, the captain and the first mate were discussing their course.

Outside, there was a flash of light. A red station wagon appeared amid the asteroids, wheels spinning uselessly in the void. A man and a woman were visible through the windshield. They seemed to be arguing. The woman had a map unfolded on her lap. The car drifted across the viewscreen, then disappeared in another white flash.

The captain spoke first. “I didn’t see it if you didn’t.”

The first mate nodded in agreement.

The Escape

The boat wallowed in the center of the river, riding low due to Eston’s weight. He held a fishing rod in one massive paw, the end trailing in the water. The sky was dark; behind them, the city burned. Even the flames looked dirty. The orange glow was reflected on the river’s surface.

“Never you mind,” Briod scolded. He patted Eston’s rocky leg in a comforting manner. “We’ll get it back, somehow.”

Eston turned lidless eyes on his human companion. He nodded, once, and then raised his head in the Howl, mourning their loss after the manner of his kind.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


“But I have to!”

“Becca, sweetie, you can play later.”

“It’s important, Mommy!”

Mom shook her head. “Real life is important, Becca. Your dolls can wait.”

“She’s bleeding!”

Mom knelt. “It’s just a loose stitch. I’ll patch it when we get home.”

“What if God forgot to fix me up and just left me there, like she is?” Becca pouted.

“I’d patch you up, too,” said Mom, lifting Becca. “Whoof! You’re getting heavy. I see you scraped your knee, too.”

“Only a little. My doll is worse.”

“Well, let’s get you fixed,” said Mom. She carried Becca away, trailing sawdust.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Here Be Doodles

“Okay, which way now?”

Shannon unfolded the map, filling her side of the car with rustling paper. “I, um… hmm.”


“I can’t tell. Someone’s drawn all over it. Look.” She held out the map and pointed.

A dark blot filled that corner of the state. It was a child’s rendition of a scary monster, with stark triangular teeth, great bubbly eyeballs, and scribbled hair pointing every which way. Scrawled across the upper half of Georgia was a jagged word: BEWARE.

“Well, that’s weird,” said Dan, signaling for the exit ramp.

Ahead of them, the terrible, luminous eyes slowly opened.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Illusion of Solidity

“We are trapped,” said Taku. He laid a hand on the wall.

“Not so,” said the Wisest Stone. “The hardness of rock is only an illusion. Once we were as soft as clouds, but we grew tired of being constantly penetrated and violated, and so we adapted an inflexible attitude in order to better preserve our preferred shape. Still, it is only an attitude, and not fact.”

Taku frowned skeptically, but his friend was often proven right in the end. Taku walked with confidence towards the wall. He banged his nose.

“It is a good illusion,” the Wisest Stone admitted.