Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Super Soldier

They’re still trying to puzzle out what happened to me. The doctors say things like “bio-mechanical enhancement” and “pseudo-conscious endocrinal control” and “cyborg” and “super-soldier.”

“Will the subject please address the test unit?”

I step forward. The machine is like a barbell attached to a crane. Testing lift capacity, they said.

I’ve tried to explain, but they don’t understand. The thing that drives me, the glands and chemicals… it’s fear. It’s the force that drives a fist through glass. Or gnaws off a foot at the ankle.

“Begin test.”

I close my eyes. The Fear swallows me in the darkness.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Prince Charming

The knight brandished his sword. “Milady, I am here to rescue you from durance vile!”

“Oh, sir,” sighed the maiden. “You are not here to ravish me, I hope? My virtue must remain intact.”

“What? No, nothing like that. Just, you know, slaying.” He gestured with the sword. The dragon blinked.

“No ravishing?”

“No. God, no.”

“I see.”

“I mean, ugh. Just… no.”

“I get it.”

“Not in a million years.”

“I understand.”

“Plus, you haven’t bathed in, what, a week?”

“Screw this,” snapped the princess. She turned to the dragon. “Kill him first and then you can eat me.”

Sunday, September 27, 2009


“I’m a little overwhelmed,” said Gregory. “I really wasn’t expecting divine intervention.”

“What?” asked the angel. “I can’t hear you. Hold on, let me land.” He set them both down on the top of the pillar. The waters still roiled below the bridge. “Sorry. The jet-pack is awfully loud,” said the angel after they’d stopped.

“You’re not what I expected.”

“Sure we are. Angels are divine, so we have to be the most awesome things in the entire universe. For you, that means robot ninja dinosaurs with lasers and jetpacks.”

“I’ve got butterfly wings,” put in a Dipolodocus, hovering nearby.


“Josh! Joooooosh!”

I turned, hitching up my backpack. Sure enough, there he was, in his rattletrap truck. He’d stopped in the middle of the intersection.

“I will be there in two days, Josh,” his thickly accented voice said. “Two days.”

“I know,” I said.

“I will bring with me the bottles.”

“I know that, too.”

“Then you know I must be paid.”

I tried not to shudder. I thought I could hear the clattering motion in the back, even over the rising horns.

“The price is higher this time, Josh. You will be ready.”

I nodded, feeling my heart sink.

Friday, September 25, 2009


“Carson is a solid team player and a great athlete.”

“He’s weak outside of genre. Coach tried him on freestyle poetry last week. He ranked fifth on the whole field.”

“You’ve got to consider stats, Stan. The boy puts out over three thousand words a day, with a seven percent cut rate on the editing sweep. Talk about output ratio!”

“Can’t ignore the doping controversy, though. He tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.”

“Coffee, whiskey, and unfiltered cigarettes. Shame, that. Still, that was ten years ago. He’s moved on and so should we.”

“Looking forward to tomorrow’s match?”

“You know it.”

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Structural Integrity

The earthquakes had been increasing in intensity. The expedition team had returned, breathless and secretive, bundled away to the hidden base before the press could get more than a word or two out of them.

“Well?” growled the Commander. “What’s the situation down there? Is the source in the mantle?”

“I think we can say that we have, indeed, pinpointed the source,” said the lead scientist, who’d spoken with the expedition team. He was pale. “However, ’mantle’ may not be the most accurate term to use anymore.”

“What word should we use, then?”

“I think ‘yolk’ might be more appropriate.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pit of Bar-B-Q

It wasn't until he'd joined the circle and gotten his paper plate of charred meat and heartburn-inducing sauce that he thought to check.

Undead, all of them. Skeletons. They didn't realize he'd picked up on them.

“This is pretty good,” he said, taking a bite of the barbecue. “Where'd you guys pick it up?”

“We know a man named Bill,” one said, his voice somehow at once guttural and hissing.

Another nodded sagely. “Bill makes the best barbecue.”

He stared at the nameless lumps speared over the fire. The zombie turning the spit grinned at him.

Bag of Tricks

Whoops! I fell asleep yesterday and forgot I hadn't posted yet. Here's the one for Tuesday!


“One? One!? I've got more than one trick! Here, do you have a deck of cards? No? Well, I can tell you what card you'd've picked anyway. It's the King of Hearts. It's always the King of Hearts. Or, here, I'll pull a coin out of your ear. Bend over so I can reach.

“No, you know who's got only one trick? The stupid fox, that's who. His trick is being a lying, self-important douchebag! He only tells that story to make himself out as some kind of James-Bond-MacGuyver badass. Well, who got caught, butthead? Yeah, that's right.”

Monday, September 21, 2009


“Man, the clipping plane is really close in today,” said Bentley.

Anderson gave him an odd look. “It’s foggy out, yeah.”

“The processor must be overtaxed. Something big going on downtown, maybe?”

“There’s no processor,” said Anderson. “It’s just fog.”

“Crap! I forgot my keys in the office.” Bentley glanced at the thick walls and the closed security gates. “Here, hold this,” he said, handing his briefcase over. “I’ll be right back.”

He ran through the walls and into the building. A few minutes later he returned.

“Wallhack,” he admitted sheepishly. He blushed. “I don’t use it for serious competition.”

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Saltwater on Ivory

We burned the photos today, in a big pile out back. It wasn’t much like burning leaves. Smelled awful.

We’ve tried other things, naturally. Salt across the thresholds. Dreamcatchers in the windows. We’ve tried to move, but the house won’t sell.

Tonight, Robby will lie on his mattress in my room. Lise will be on the cot. None of us will sleep, because as soon as we cross into that liminal half-drowsing state, she will come. It’s not her death’s-head, nor even the chill touch as she drains off our life to sustain herself.

It’s the tears we can’t take.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Looking In

It is cold outside. I am outside. I am cold.

I see you, through the window. I remember what it was like to be inside, in the light. To be warm.

It is cold outside. You cannot know how cold, not until you feel it. I could show you. I could show you the frozen trees and the spearhead icicles. I could show you the unmoving river and the hollow at the bottom, where the water still runs frigid over my body. I could show you everything. I would like that.

It is so cold, and you are so warm.

Friday, September 18, 2009


The water was deep here. No light reached them as they floated. No currents pushed at their hull. All was darkness and silence.

They discussed what had happened in the world above. Corporal Lundt believed war had broken out and the world had burned, so fast no one had time to warn them. Captain Barnaby favored a disease, a terrible plague. Private Timon mumbled they’d simply been forgotten, the entire planet marching into the future together, save for the crew of the submarine.

They told stories, but they never dared rise again to the surface. What if they were wrong?

Thursday, September 17, 2009


“We’re going to be late for class!”

“I’m almost ready,” said Carla. “Just having a hard time with this… thing.”

Jeanine sighed. “Come out and let me help.”

Carla appeared, her head encased in translucent pinkish rubber. It inflated as she spoke. “I don’t think the seal is supposed to be this tight.”

“Of course it is,” said Jeanine. “It wouldn’t be much of a prophylactic if it let stuff through.”

“I’m getting light-headed.”

“What, you want to go without any protection? Just let whatever ideas into your head you like? I swear, Carla, it’s like you don’t even care.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Thomas awoke. Downstairs, thumping and banging announced the presence of strangers in his house. He dashed down the stairs and narrowly avoided singeing himself on a white dwarf star.

“Installin’ yer solar system,” grunted a rotund man with a hard hat and a clipboard. He spun at a loud crash from the next room. “Nichols! Careful with that! Don’t worry, mister, we’ll patch that up with some dark matter, no problem,” he said, turning back to Thomas.

“I didn’t order…”

The man scratched his head. “Ain’t this 674 Primrose? Well, shoot. Sure you don’t want one? They’re damn useful things.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


The house is dark when I arrive home. I am tired. I need rest.

Something crunches under my foot as I mount the steps of the front porch. I withdraw my foot. An insect. No, not an insect, but a carapace, a shed skin. A remnant, left behind when its occupant grew too large, moving to the next stage of its life.

I scratch idly at my chest, feeling the scales flaking away beneath my shirt. The surface beneath is hard, black, and chitinous.

Stumbling inside, I make for my bedroom and I wonder: what will I have become tomorrow?

Monday, September 14, 2009


“Hey, guys,” said Sam. He swung down from his perch near the ceiling, dangling from one leg before somewhat clumsily grasping ahold of the lower platform.

“You’re really going through with it?” asked Darnelle.

Sam plucked at his patchy fur. “Scheduled for complete transition next week.”

“And you’re happy?” Jason frowned.

“Sure,” said Sam. “It’s as good as any of the alternatives. The world doesn’t need another human, but it’s still got room for monkeys.”

“It’s unnatural,” said Darnelle. “Animals don’t even have souls.”

Sam shrugged, a more complex gesture than it once was. “Maybe we’ve just never seen one.”

Sunday, September 13, 2009


The needle sank into Andre’s neck.

“Ouch!” he said.

“Don’t squirm,” said the doctor.

“So this’ll protect me, right? From everything?”

“Well,” the doctor said quellingly, “I wouldn’t go right back into the clubs. You’ll actually be more sensitive for a day or two. Maybe even phantom symptoms: unfocused craving, inexplicable fondness for strangers, light sensitivity...”

Andre was already out the door and into the waiting room.

“All done?” asked Cass with saccharine sweetness.


“You know what this means?” Her eyes narrowed. “If I catch you with that vampire slut again, you won’t be able to blame the venom.”

Saturday, September 12, 2009


With thanks to the emergency assistance of your friend and mine, Spielorjh


The barroom went dark. Sam the piano player stopped cold. Black Bart and Mauve Bart paused their card game.

The floor creaked under enormous metal feet as, with a hydraulic whirring, the Deputizer-7800 entered. “CITIZEN - MAUVE BART - YOU ARE UNDER ARREST FOR THE FOLLOWING CRIMES: ASSAULT. THEFT. JAYWALKING.”

“Like hell!” Mauve Bart leapt to his feet, hand going for his holster.

The magazines spun behind twin barrels, filling the saloon with noise and shrapnel. The remnants of Mauve Bart dripped to the floor.

The Deputizer tipped its automated hat. “GOOD DAY CITIZENS,” it shrilled as it lumbered away.

Friday, September 11, 2009


The candle flickered in the darkness. It reflected from the polished stage floor, eerily still. It illuminated her torso in shifting shadows. Of her face, only her chin was visible, crimson lips stark against the bone-white skin. She moved, a doll brought to life by the puppetmaster’s strings.

“You used to love to watch me dance,” said her voice in his ear. He could not answer her. She’d seen to that. “You took that away from me. You took everything.”

On the stage, she hung poised on a single toe. Her lips curled faintly upward. She blew out the candleflame.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Today's story courtesy - both inspiration and gracious permission - of the deliciously minimalist flash game Canabalt, by Adam Saltsman.


I run.

There is no other option. I run and I do not look back. I know they are there. But they are not why I run.

Ahead is a window, plate glass. I feel the servos in my legs respond to my mental commands, increasing speed. Outside, the Guardians continue their work. The flash and rumble are audible even here. It is too late to save the city. That is not why I run.

My cybernetic limbs catapult me forward. The glass shatters. I am bleeding from a dozen cuts, even through my nano-armor. I am alive.

I run.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

We Looked for a Round One, But This Was All They Had

The bare bulb buzzed overhead, illuminating limp posters that hung from whitewashed cinderblocks.

“So this is it?” he asked.

Art brushed crumbs off the card table, setting it wobbling. “Times are tough, but I’m sure we can bounce back. We just need more support. Your support.”

“Look, I’m only here because Jenny…”

“Never mind that. Will you join us in our quest?”

Lance cast a glance at the corner, where a senile old man in a bathrobe muttered to himself. He thought about his apartment. He looked at Art’s eyes, shining beneath his cardboard crown.

“My liege,” Lance said, kneeling.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Eight Times as Productive

No one else seemed to notice that Mr. Feinricks, the new Director of Accounts, was a snake. Patrick could see the arms of the suit, hanging limply. His thick, scaled body was squeezed into one pant leg, with a pair of shoes tied to his tail-tip like decorations on a honeymooner’s car.

He explained the whole thing to Karhou as they shared a beer after work. “I can’t work like this,” Patrick moaned.

“He gets things done,” said Karhou. “Nobody wants to rock the boat.”

It didn’t become unbearable until the next day, when Mr. Feinricks introduced the new webmaster…

Monday, September 7, 2009

Piano Man

Twofer today 'cause I missed yesterday due to commuting and sleep. Maybe one of these weeks I'll give myself a day of rest, but I haven't run out of ideas yet.


Calliope took a step onto the gleaming ivory stair. It sank beneath her feet, chiming gently.

“C,” she said. “Sounds a little flat, though.”

“That’s good,” said Periwinkle, hovering beside her. “You don’t want to hear a sharp note. Not here in His Lordship’s tower.”

“Why not?” asked Calliope, curious but trusting. She checked the walls. According to the key, E was the next flat note. She stretched her legs to reach it.

“Metaphors have teeth.”

“What happens when we get to the top of the scale?”

Periwinkle shimmered green for a moment, wings beating. “The hammers,” she said faintly.


“Now, you need to be careful at intersections…”


“Just write it down in your book, Julie,” Professor Hilbert said wearily.

Julie scribbled dutifully. “Oh!” she said. “Okay, then what?”

“The store is on Sutter Boulevard.”


The professor tapped Julie’s lexicon again.

“Oh, right.” She jotted the word. “Ah, I see.”

“Excellent. We need bread, milk, and fruit – apples or grapes. Cereal, tomatoes, butter... Maybe you should write the list down?”

“No, Professor,” said Julie. “I know all those words already. I’m learning more every day. I’m ready to go outside.”

Hilbert hesitated. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, you are.”

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Advice

I've had a piece of flash fiction published over at Hypersonic Tales. It's called The Lady of Tilmarine, and it has an audio version and everything. Très chic. It's not a pro sale, little more than token, but it's a sale, at least. A bit of balm for the bruised ego as I approach the triple digits in rejection letters.


The first e-mail I got from me was almost banal. “I saw you today, walking around,” it read. “I like your hat.”

I didn’t own a hat. But I had seen a hat I liked the other day. I bought it and wore it on my first date with Zeya. It worked wonders.

The messages were infrequent, always helpful. I followed all my advice. Yesterday, I got a new e-mail. “You fucked up,” it read. “You fucked it all up. God damn you to Hell.” Nothing else. Nothing since.

What should I do? I don’t know. What will I do?

Friday, September 4, 2009


Martin and Deirdre lay on the grass and watched the sky, holding hands in the approved manner for young lovers in that situation. They also partook of the accepted pastimes.

“I think that one looks like a train. See the smokestack?” Martin pointed with his free hand.

“The sky is so blue. Dark blue, almost like water.”

“Maybe it’s the firmament.”

“What, like the Bible?”

“The water was all in a big sphere overhead. Until rain was invented, anyway.”

Deirdre giggled, but stopped as they heard a roaring sound. They looked up again to see the clouds froth into foam...

Thursday, September 3, 2009


“2012! The world will end in 2012!” the man on the bus shouted, waving his arms. He spoke to nobody.

“Lies!” cried a burly, bearded man. “The Lord vouchsafed unto me that the world ends on Christmas in 2033.”

“Idiots,” sneered a slick-dressed man. “The world will end in a few billion years, when the sun burns out.”

As the bus erupted in a welter of conflicting prophecies, I turned to the pale woman beside me. “Don’t you have a date for the Apocalypse?” I asked.

“Oh, yes,” she said, turning wide, dark eyes to me. “It was last Tuesday.”

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Open Minds

After returning from his adventures, he wanted to share his new-found insights with the rest of his people. He led them through the tunnels, far beyond the limits of their burrows and hunting grounds, past the wellspring and the steam vents, up to where the rock mixed with soil. He showed them the cave entrance, let them see the vast dome of the sky, speckled with pinpricks of shimmering light, let them feel the air move upon their faces, carrying a thousand new scents.

In the morning, the sun’s rays touched his battered body, lying alone at the cavern mouth.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


And so, with August caught up barely in time, we move to the lovely month of September and my impending unemployment. In the meantime, here is the Wisest Stone to guide us on our way as the year circles toward autumn...


The boulder clipped the top of the curtain wall, knocking several smaller blocks loose. “Hello,” said the Wisest Stone amid the settling dust. “You folks seem more reasonable. Now, this territorial dispute you’re having…”

“A talking stone!”

“It’s of the devil! Fling it back!” Soldiers scattered.

“You are the Wisest Stone!” said a small block. “Why do you not simply leave?”

“Ah,” said the Wisest Stone, “but here, traveling between the two sides yet bound to neither, I am in a unique position to arbitrate.” Rough hands strapped him into the catapult. “I’m sure someone will want to listen. Eventually.”