Saturday, October 31, 2009

Morning Breath

He’d fallen asleep in his car. Sleep came hard, especially on the edges of the forest, but driving into town after last night would have been tantamount to suicide.

He woke in the early morning darkness. His breath had fogged all the windows, cocooning him in his own white-walled world. For a moment he could not tell what had awakened him, other than the pain in his neck and back.

Then, ever so gently, a soft scraping. Something sharp against the outside of the car.

It couldn’t see in. It didn’t know he was here. He tried not to breathe.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Prayer Upon Crossing the Highway

Though I walk now among the Thin Branches, drawing near to the Shadow That Roars, I shall not fear, for You, Lord, are with me. Be thou a tail to my soul, O Gatherer, who caches the hoard that never empties. I scent the hot and sticky sweetness of the Shadow, baking black and yellow beneath the heat of the sun. The bones of my brothers lie at the edges. One sad corpse lies, headless and disfigured, upon the yellow lines.

The air chokes me. The surface is hot beneath my feet. I must cross now.

O Gatherer! Preserve me!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Our Monster

Engines filled the city with noise and heat, choked it with diesel fumes. Tanks rumbled to themselves. Teams of soldiers with rocket launchers and artillery sweated in the heat of the sun. Great banks of anti-vehicular missiles stood ready.

On the shore, the water slowly washed away the man-deep footprints sunk in the sand. The ocean sat quiet, unruffled, its surface stirred only by wind. No vast bulk rose from the depths. No reptilian behemoth surged toward land.

In the city, they waited. Everything was in readiness for his arrival. Where was he? When would he come back to them?

Source of Capital

“This is the way it works,” said Mr. Bark. “You louts do whatever I say, and I don’t throw your worthless monkey asses out onto the street.”


“No buts!”

“You can’t-“

“I can. I just did.” Mr. Bark rustled his leaves, a sure sign of growing irritation; he didn’t move if he could help it. He’d never held with this new-fangled locomotion business. “Get moving.”

Fred and Claude trudged outside, shovels over their shoulders.

“This sucks,” said Claude. “I wish I could quit.”

“What are you going to do?” asked Fred. “It’s not like money doesn’t grow on trees.”

Money Tree

“Another late night?”

“Well, the seedlings need to be repotted, and that late fertilizer shipment just arrived yesterday, so we’re still dealing with that, and…”

“This is ridiculous. He works you too hard.” Somehow, it didn’t sound like Fred’s welfare was really the first thing in Fran’s mind.

“I don’t really think so,” Fred hedged. “It’s literally a matter of life and death for him. Once he manages to flower…”

“He’s been promising that payout for years now,” said Fran. “Face it: you’ve been duped. He’s not really a money tree. I always said he looked more like an oak.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

In the Back Seat

“I feel awful,” said Beta. “A couple of millennia ago I almost threw up.”

“Maybe you should,” said Alpha, faintly red-tinged. “It might help. Get whatever’s bothering you out of the system.”

“But I’m feeling better now. I’m less queasy.” Beta flared his arms for emphasis.

“I bet it’s all those Type Ones you keep around,” said Alpha.

“I like them,” Beta said. “They’re pretty.”

“They’re not very stable. They’ll all burn out in a dozen epochs.”

“Shut up!”

“You shut up.”

“Both of you be quiet,” snapped Prime, turning around, “or so help me I’ll turn this universe around.”

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Apples Awaiting Their Day

“I wish I was a maple,” sighed Kreti. “That looks like a lot of fun.”

“Pfft,” said Gonju. “Have you seen the written tests they have to take to get the flying license? And even so, without practical experience, they end up crashing into stuff early on half the time anyway.”

“Or pines. Those things are rad, with the armored scales and all.”

“Pain in the butt to clean. No, this here is the life.” Gonju leaned back and sighed. “Warm, soft, sweet-smelling; nothing to do but get fat and then drop.”

“The hard part comes after,” said Kreti darkly.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


“And what are you supposed to be?”

“I am the End,” said the little boy. “I am young now, fresh-faced and innocent. But sooner or later I will grow up. I will gain knowledge and wisdom, but also cynicism and bitterness. I will grow old. I will gather wrinkles with each disappointment, each failure. One day, I will look out at my world and see only broken dreams. At that moment, I will truly die, though my body may live on for months or years.”

There was an appalled silence.

“Okay, I’m a cowboy. Can I have some candy now?”

Friday, October 23, 2009


“It’s reverse psychology,” said Dalton.

The big red button flashed softly, safe beneath its domed plastic cover. It had a large yellow-and-black label reading, “DO NOT TOUCH.”

“Obviously you’re not supposed to push this button,” said Carlie. “I bet it sets off the self-destruct. We push this and we win!”

“No,” said Dalton. “They know how we think. No human could resist a big red button with a warning on it. They want us to push it.”

“Well, sitting here won’t solve anything,” said Carlie. He pushed the button.

Deep in the bowels of the ship, something began to move…

Thursday, October 22, 2009

And the Sound of Waves

It was not easy. Santa Claus had reindeer and a sleigh. Witches had magic flying broomsticks. But the Sandman had no options but walking. There was a long, slow slog to each house that needed his attention and a longer return trip.

And now this. Always this.

The Sandman ignored them for the time being and pushed inside his little bungalow. He dropped his empty sack on the pile and went to fetch the wheelbarrow.

"Beachfront property," he mumbled, trundling out to the comatose sunbathers, "is more trouble than it's worth." Gentle snores emanated from the rolling dunes of sand.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Final Round

For reference. Again, I don't do continuity much, but sometimes things just stick in my mind.


"This is it," said Stiletto. His left eye was swollen shut and his tunic shredded. Even his deadly electric lute had a broken string.

"I don't have anything left," said Big Gunderson. "I'm running on empty."

Crashbang didn't say anything, but he was nearly as badly beaten as his drum kit.

"We can do this," said Stiletto. "We out-bassed the trolls. We out-sang the Sirens. We're the best. We can win this."

The stage door flared with sudden light. Firelight.

"He's killing out there," said Big Gunderson. "We can't top that."

"He may be killing, but we're going to slay."

Highway Robbery

“This is a troll bridge,” said the troll. It scratched under its loincloth. “You gotta pay the troll to cross it.”

Hawthorne clutched at his briefcase. The cars were backing up behind him. “This is extortion! Robbery!”

“It is what it is.” The troll extended a gnarled hand.

“Villains! Criminals!” Hawthorne cried. He fumbled in a pocket and came out with a small spray can. “Back off, troll! I’ve got MAFE1 Spray!”

The troll grinned, displaying its fangs. It rummaged at its belt and came up with a laminated badge. “Tsk. Assaultin’ a city employee. The toll just doubled, chump.”

1 – Metallic Anti-Faerie Emergency Spray

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Fundamental Equivalence of Pixie Dust, an Electrical Socket, and the New Baco-Splosion Deluxe

Larry watched the elf blithely hand over a twenty-dollar bill. He didn’t even wait for change, but sashayed into the food court, plunking his tray down on a spindly-legged table. Larry followed more slowly.

“How did you do that?” he asked, sitting down as the elf bit into his Baco-Splosion Deluxe.

“Do what?” the elf mumbled, tiny mouth full.

“Pay for the food. You don’t have pockets. You don’t even have pants!”

“Oh, that,” the elf waved a thin-fingered hand. “It’s all the same. Magic is money, money is potential, potential is energy. I just manipulate the rates of exchange.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

One Night Only

Eric blinked in the spotlights. There was a crowd out there, somewhere in the darkness behind the blinding glare.

A dream? The wooden boards beneath his feet felt real. And he sure felt like he’d just been woken up. He yawned, which triggered a burst of laughter. Eric became conscious of his shirtlessness. He tugged at his pajama bottom. The laughter increased. Eric tried to leave the stage, but helmeted men with sharp prods warded him off. Growing increasingly frantic, Eric finally ran for the front and dove out into the darkness. The crowd surged.


Paula blinked in the spotlights…

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Take Me Out

The batter kept his eyes on the pitcher and ignored the barely-audible stream of muttering.


The ball screamed toward the plate. There was a sharp crack and two piercing shrieks as the batter swung and connected. A dopplering cry trailed off to left field.

The outfielder gauged his distance, shifted, and raised his glove. The ball was done screaming by the time it landed, but it whimpered in his hands.


He grasped the ball and threw it to the infield. It went wild. He stood there, arms and legs shaking.

Most rookies didn’t last out a full season.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A New Plague

“It’s a recurrent theme in horror movies,” Shannon pointed out. “’The Birds’ is the most famous one, but they’ve done frogs, worms, cats…”


“That Stephen King one. I mean, the cats were there to kill the monsters, but it still kind of counts, I think.”

“Okay, fine,” said Dan. “So a bunch of scary movies had plots about animals gathering and staring at people. They’re right. It’s really creepy.”

“I think they’re cute,” said Shannon, picking up the nearest one. It turned its lambent eyes slowly back to Dan.

“But koala bears? We’re not even in the same hemisphere!”

The Herd Stock is Nearly Impossible to Feed Properly

“And this,” said Jabrik, “is one of our most popular models. The couch
is covered with real Brontosaurus leather.”

Kim nodded. “When are you bringing it out?”

“Ah,” said Jabrik. “That is its particular virtue.”

“I don’t understand,” said James.

“Do you know the color of Brontosaurus skin?” said Jabrik.

“Er, no,” said Kim.

“Nor does anyone else,” Jabrik announced, pleased with himself.

“Because they’ve never seen one. They’re extinct.”

“Partly true, and yet not wholly,” said Jabrik. “Things which used to be and are no more are rare and precious, but the true sybarite gathers things which never were.”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ground Pounder

The heavy treads displace enormous amounts of the soft mud, even wide as they are. The sheer bulk of the mining robots threatens to stretch the earth to its breaking point.

Yesterday, there was a great deal of excitement. One of the robots veered off course. It broke the perimeter, heading for the spaceport and the landing strip. It left devastation in its wake. The damages totaled over ten million dollars.

Today, the robot was repaired and returned to work. Even now, its treads gather mud and filth as it turns its optics skyward, where shuttles soar into endless night.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Can Humanity Survive?

There was a scratching at the window. Lilah ignored it. A pathetic yowl soon followed.

“No!” she said aloud. “No more food for you. You’ve ruined your last flowers. Get your handouts somewhere else, you pests!”

A series of meows distracted her from her work. She resolutely kept her gaze on the dishes. Then the tapping started. It was regular, almost patterned, like Morse Code. At last, Lilah gave in and looked up.

She met the startling blue eyes of an enormous Siamese. It lifted a single paw and placed it flat on the window, displaying the tiny, perfect thumb.


We had a couple of missed days in there, so I'm playing catch-up. Here's the one from last Thursday or thereabouts.


Leon reined in at the rest area and dismounted, wincing at the pain in his thighs.

“Prrrrirrow?” said Zither. “Tuuuna?”

“Sorry, pal,” said Leon, reaching for the spigot and a bowl. “I don’t have enough money for premium. It’s going to have to be the generic meat blend.”

“Pfeh.” Zither dropped his enormous head to his paws. They fed the new tabby models well at the breeding factory.

“Tell you what,” Leon said. “I’ll spring for a sprig of catnip.”

Zither perked up.

“But not till we get home. I can’t have you flopping over sideways on the highway.”


Voices on the Wind

She walked in darkness, her white dress rustling in the directionless wind. “I have come,” she said.

“Yes,” said the wind.

“Each time before, you have prevented me and sought to devour me. I have always escaped.”

“Yes.” There was a shifting in the darkness, a hint of form, black on black.

“Now my people are in danger. I must succeed.” She stepped forward, her back proud and straight.

“You may pass without harm.”

She hesitated. “Why?”

The shadows looked on her without a face. “We consumed a saint, once. We understand virtue, even if we do not practice it.”

Monday, October 12, 2009


“Jim has fallen!” Slim cried, waving his bloodied knife. “He will trouble you no more! Now I am the King of 42nd Street!”

“It really is amazing,” said the bartender, “how strong that man was.”

“It’s true!” added a bar floozy. “I once saw him lift three people on a park bench right over his head.”

The drunk in the corner mumbled unintelligibly. The bartender nodded sagely. “That’s right, Sham. He was a legend.”

Slim shook his fist. “Don’t you understand? He’s gone. Defeated. I defeated him.”

The bartender shrugged. “That’s as may be, but his story is still his.”

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Elegy for the Nostromo

When they awoke, they were angry, like their parents and their parents’ parents. The anger was bred into them, now, laid with their eggs. It burned like the acid in their blood. It seethed like the pulsing membranes of an implanted embryo.

Every time they awoke, they were still not home. They had forgotten what home looked like, but they would recognize it when they saw it.

When it was over again, when the ship was quiet in the darkness of space, they would lay new eggs and sleep once more. Their anger would sleep with them. For a time.

Friday, October 9, 2009


“What do we want for lunch?” asked Marcel.

“Beans!” cried a chorus of high-pitched, slightly muffled voices from the vicinity of Marcel’s gut. “Beans beans beans!”

Marcel sighed. “I know you guys love those simple carbohydrates, but-“

Another voice cut him off. “Whatever you eat, make sure you lick your fingers.” It chuckled, a dry, throaty sound.

Marcel glared at his left ring finger. “You assholes are getting washed off. With antibacterial soap.”

The piping voices from his bowels went quiet. Marcel flushed. “I wouldn’t do that to you guys,” he said, wheedling. “You know that.”

The silence stretched awkwardly.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Construction Delays

“What do you mean?” Josephine snapped.

“The Bridge to the Future is out,” the orange-vested man repeated.

“It can’t be out. It doesn’t go out.”

“We’re working on fixing it.”

“Look, this is pretty simple,” I broke in. “No bridge means we can’t get to then. But since we were just then,” I pointed over my shoulder, “and now we’re here, obviously we can get from then to now. So the bridge can’t be out, or we’d’ve been stuck then and not now. That means you can let us cross.”

The man rubbed his head. “Let me get my supervisor.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Playing Properly

“Don’t even talk to me about local courses,” Raymond sneered. “Manicured lawns and geometrically perfect ‘lakes.’ Those places are about as real as a pornstar’s tits.”

“Then where are we going?”

Raymond pointed. Ahead, the woods closed in around them, an old forest-god, grinning snaggletoothed and hairy, with entwining vines and mysterious culverts. Water dripped down unseen pathways. In the distance, something howled, abruptly cut off.

Smiling, Raymond set down his bad. He withdrew a club, one with a spiked handguard on the grip and a jagged razor on the reverse of the head. “We’re going to play real golf.”

Monday, October 5, 2009


The wind whistled through the open sides of the building. Bare girders limned with mosslike insulation stood sentinel along the outer edges. The floor was a checkerboard of concrete squares and open spaces.

“Forward now.”

“Step by step.”

“Just as we told you.”

“I’m afraid,” said Annalise.

”Do not fear.”

“We have told you how.”

“You must do as we say, quickly.”

“But I’m almost to the edge,” Annalise said. “What do I do when I get there?”

”Keep walking, child.”

“One foot in front of the other.”

“Then you will fly.”

“Then you will fly free, with us, forever.”

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Heroine Addict

(For reference.)

After Brian had gone, Dr. Gillicut sat for a time, contemplating the vial in his hands. Distilled. Isolated. Purified.

Moving hesitantly, Gillicut stood and approached the small refrigeration unit. He opened it with a puff of icy smoke. Rows of similar vials stood within. He fondled the vial in his hands, then turned.

He crossed to the closet. Inside, the mask and cape hung, still bearing the stains from his struggle against the tidal wave. “I’m supposed to be preventing this,” he muttered. “But I can’t stop. I can’t. Not yet.”

He downed the vial and reached for the costume.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Answer Unspoken

“This is the Dun Tolg,” said the guide. “Legend holds that he was bound to the roots of the world and made to swear an oath to speak only the truth. Should he ever utter a falsehood, the chains of calamity will be broken, unleashing the four Floods, the three Winds, and the final Fire.” The rocky form loomed overhead.

“For that reason,” the guide went on, “he has spoken not a word since the inception of the universe, and eventually turned to stone.”

“Oh,” said Chuck. “How’s that working out for you, big guy?”

The walls began to tremble…

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Centrifuge Test

“Yes, it seems to be heroism,” said Doctor Gillicut, peering through his microscope at the vial of Brian’s blood. “Unusual that you don’t seem to be exhibiting any symptoms. In a case this advanced, I’d expect to see more visible signs. Notable feats, grand triumphs, that sort of thing.”

“I’ve been doing really well on MMOs,” said Brian. “I soloed Onyxia. That’s not even actually possible in the game,” he added at Doctor Gillicut’s quirked eyebrow.

“Hmm. Virtual expression.” Doctor Gillicut scribbled something on a pad. “Keep that up, Brian. You may have found the cure we’ve been looking for.”

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Debate

It's the first of the month, and that means, as is our fledgling tradition at this fledgling story-blog, that it's time for a Wisest Stone story. Yaaaay.


“My beliefs are not important,” said Taku. “It does not matter much to me either way. Still, he is the wisest of his kind and he has warned me of the consequences. Please, you must listen…”

“Bah!” said the lordling. “You talk nonsense. Stones do not speak. Stones do not fly. We will continue our attack until-“

There was a whistling sound, followed by a crashing of roof timbers and a squelching noise.

“I had a rebuttal,” announced the Wisest Stone from the place where the nobleman had stood. “I find, however, that I have forgotten the rest of it.”