Sunday, November 29, 2009

See Manuel for Instructions

I make no apologies. 

Well, except for missing yesterday.  This is another travel weekend, so I'll get caught up when I can, 'k?


The ship groaned and rumbled again, great shudders passing through it.  Carrie dragged Traci forward.

“The bridge is through here,” she said, pressing the button in forlorn hope.  The door didn’t move.

“Hey,” said Traci.  She pointed to a small, red lever labeled “Manuel Override.”

“Ha!” cried Carrie.  She pulled the lever.

There was a blur of motion and a man stood before them.  He had golden brown skin, black hair, closely cropped, and a small red toolbox.  “Si, miss?” he said.  He glanced at the door as the ship trembled again.  “Ai.  This will be time-and-a-half.  And hazard pay.”

Friday, November 27, 2009


Another flash, and a fallen leaf exploded into terrible radiance, throwing June to the side.  She didn’t move.

“Don’t you see?” said Rae, taking another step forward.  His foot crackled when it touched the ground.  “You live in a house of springs, wound tight enough to squeal.  It takes so little, so very little, to push those springs out of alignment, and then…”  He gestured, and a pebble detonated, leaving an irradiated crater.

“It’s so hard, June,” he said.  “It’s like walking on eggshells.  I feel it, inside.  I just want to jump up and land with both feet, hard…”

Thursday, November 26, 2009


“I’m thankful for flowers and ponies and all the pretty things in the world,” said Becky.  “What are you thankful for, Dad?”

Dad smiled.  “I’m just thankful for my family.  What time I have with them, anyway,” he added wryly.  “Dear?”

“I’m thankful to still have a job,” said Mom.  “What are you thankful for, Robby?”

“I’m thankful that school’s out!” said Bobby.  “What are you thankful for, Kra-Zar?”

Kra-Zar inclined his shining head with a whir of servos.  “Why are you human weaklings not bowing before me?  We will crush this puny planet!

“Good enough,” said Dad.  “Let’s eat!”


The wooden surface stretched off into darkness on either side.  There was a metallic clank from one side, then another.  Silver rods, larger than tree trunks, settled into place.

Overhead, the shadows shifted and retreated, revealing a red-tinted face, larger than the side of a skyscraper.

“Are you shellfish or salad?” rumbled a deep voice, felt more than heard.  Crimson hands lifted the silver rods, revealing wicked prongs at the ends.

“Neither!” cried Dortmund frantically.

“Hmm.”  The oversized features wrinkled in thought.  The left hand retreated and came back with a daintier utensil, still taller than a man.  “Dessert, then?”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Of Both Worlds and Neither

I think I'll just do eating-themed stories for the rest of the week, in honor of the somewhat silly holiday which approaches here in the States.


“Your tine is nearly up!” cried Dartmoor, swinging his silver-handled spoon.

Pitch ducked neatly.  “You’ll find me more than a mouthful,” he retorted.  “Taste your just desserts!”  His return swipe nearly speared his opponent’s hat upon his middle prong.

“I’ll serve you on a platter!” Dartmoor snarled.

They leapt and swung, but their blows impacted not upon their respective foes.  Instead, with a solid clang, each was intercepted by tines blunt, short, and softly curved, wielded with consummate skill.

“Why do you battle, brethren?” asked the soft voice.  “Come, let us put aside our quarrels.”

“Lord Runcible!” they cried simultaneously.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Way Downstairs

 The stairwell stretched down.  After three flights, the light from the door gave way, and only the faint gleam of gaslight on polished wood delineated the lower levels.

“How deep do they go?” asked Timothy.

“No one knows,” said Roweena.  “The most successful team made it to the four-hundredth landing, establishing several base camps.  The bones of less cautious men litter the stairs below.”

“Wow,” said Timothy.  He fell silent for a time.

“Are you reconsidering, now that you have seen the Stairwell itself?”

“What?  No!  Here, help me up.”  Timothy scrambled for the banister.  “This is gonna be sweet.”

Sunday, November 22, 2009


It wasn’t that the sculptures were bad.  Far from it, really.  Visitors to the gardens remarked with awe and envy at the artistry of the carefully-pruned plants.  Lord Trevor had had several offers for his gardener, in money, land, and… favors, to put it bluntly.  He’d thus far resisted, but the plants were unnerving.

Trevor was taking a constitutional, somewhat nervously, when he came across the gardener, digging beside the topiary lion.

“Working already?” said Trevor.

“Got unruly last night,” the man grunted.

Trevor hesitated.  He spotted what looked like a skull in the man’s hands.  “Oh.  Er.  Carry on.”

Friday, November 20, 2009


The blinds were closed.  Outside, the crowd rustled and murmured and flapped, jostling for places on the windowsill and gutters.  Less fortunate individuals clung to the telephone wires, waiting for their chance.

They never raised their voices.  Anything above a whisper would set off the whole lot of them, cawing and croaking.  She cringed when she heard the scuffling in the chimney.  A sooty lump of a bird fell into the grate, crawled out, coughed.  It struggled to the old woman’s feet and collapsed by the couch.  Far overhead, rheumy eyes opened.

“Welcome back, Grandmother,” Shona said from the table.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


It was harvest time.  Torvald hated harvest time.  It wasn’t bad with animals, but... 

He mounted his tractor and sat for a long moment before turning the keys.  The engine rumbled to life.  The blades in the back glinted as he drove to the north field, which as usual was filled with song. 

The corn was first to spot him, being the tallest.  “Farmer Tor!” said the nearest stalk, and the cry spread down the field. 

“Have you come to water us?  It’s still so early,” said a pea pod.

Torvald shook his head.  “Afraid not,” he said.  “Not today.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Invasive Species

It sat on the kitchen table, a speck of dark light, shifting through an array of geometric shapes.

“I don’t know,” said Adie.  “When I woke up, it was in my hand.”

“Were you dreaming?” asked Teri.

Adie blinked.  “Yeah.  There were… trees… or curtains… and I had to push through to get… somewhere.”



“Plant that puts its seeds in a shell with hooks.  They catch on animals’ fur, and the animals spread them to new locations.”

Adie watched the thing morph into a pyramid, then slowly elongate.  “Will it grow a dream?”

Teri shrugged.  “Or a nightmare.”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


“Why do I let you talk me into this stuff?  First the whole foods, then the yoga, and now this.”

“Be quiet,” Sunbeam hissed.  “He’s an actual god.  He’s got to be way better than just some human doctor.”

They fell silent as the shimmering nude form of the god walked through the door.  He didn’t bother to open it first.

“So,” said Patten, “am I dying, doc?”

Glowing white eyes fixed on him.  “Yes.”

Patten paled.

You are always dying.”  The god shrugged and picked up a stethoscope.  “I’d try not to worry about it if I were you.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Double-post today, to make up for yesterday's Travel Holiday.


“Eureka!” he cried, trailing papers behind him.  He held a scorched alembic in one hand.  His beard still smoked, his hair a matted birds-nest atop his head.  He grasped my arm, his palms sweaty.  “Listen!  The secret!  I’ve found the secret!  You don’t have to turn anything into gold.  It’s already gold!  All of it!  It’s all made of gold!”

I shook him off, hurried away.  He shrieked away, down the street.

My skin itched where his dirty hands had touched.  I scratched at the spot, felt it peel away in thin strips, saw the metallic sheen glinting from beneath…

Grasping-Tree Hill

“I see you’ve been on Grasping-Tree Hill,” said old Darby.  “There’s a tale to that place.  They say old Porter – this being Porterston, you follow – he went down there at the last and sealed himself away in his tomb, all surrounded by his gold and jewels.  They say all that treasure is still there.  Porter sleeps now, unless someone is foolish enough to take something from his hoard.”

Clem swallowed, the gold coin in his pocket suddenly burning cold.  Atop the hill, the thin white branches of the tree crackled, then curled gently in on themselves to form a fist…

Saturday, November 14, 2009


He was born so full of sustaining air his cheeks bulged.  In the early moments of his youth, he played with other youngsters, swimming in tight circles, even blowing small bubbles at each other.  They would regret the waste later, of course, but the young are always foolish.

When his lungful grew stale, he sought love.  One of his childhood playmates, a button-nosed brunette, was amenable to his initiating gestures.  They came together, clung to one another.  He breathed his air into her, saw her swell with the stirrings of new life. 

His lungs ached.  He sank, holding his breath.

Believe Your Eyes

Yesterday's, up late.  Sorry!  Went to sleep right after work and drove all night.


The doors slid open with a whoosh and a ding.  E119 darted out.  “Sir!  Report from eye level!”

The Colonel snatched the sheaf of papers.  His expression fell.  “This… what is this nonsense?”

“Sir, I don’t know, sir!  I’m only a Junior Floaty Bit, first class!”

The Colonel bent his speaking tube forward.  “Get me the bowels.  This has to be a figment.  If they’ve been mucking around again…”

E119 laughed dutifully.  The Colonel glared.

“Sorry, sir!  Thought you were making a joke.  Bowels, muck…”

“This is Logic, son.  We don’t do humor,” said the Colonel.  “That’s two floor down.” 

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Like a green tower, the stalk grew into th esky.  Asphalt and paving stones lay scattered at its base, remnants of the tremendous speed of its growth.  It pulsed with verdant life 

At the top, nodding gently in the violent winds a half-mile up, a bud the size of a freight-liner gradually softened in the growing light.  The sun broke the horizon, and the petals opened in a glory of colors.  The people in the stopped cars and lopsided houses below gasped in wonder as the scent wafted down.

Then they heard the first ominous hum of a bee's wings...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


For reference


As Leon settled in front of the television, the house rocked from a heavy impact.  Leon turned to regard the luminous eye at the window.

“Good night, Zither,” he said.  He stood and reached out to scratch behind one enormous ear.

“Mrrrudnite,” said Zither, crawling into his garage.

On the television screen, a talking head was spouting opinions.  “...driving the other day and some maniac on a chihuahua comes barreling up behind me, barking like mad.  My car was up a tree for hours until he calmed down.  They shouldn't let Mexicans on American highways, I say...”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sea Monkey

“You have to relax,” said Sydney, “or you can't see it.”

“I can't see it anyway,” Pat grumbled.

“Just sit  on the deck-chair and sip your drink and let your mind... wander.”

There was a silence.  “Holy crap,” said Pat.  He turned his head.  “Hey!”

“Don't look directly at it!” said Sydney.

“A monkey...”


“It was blue.”  Pat looked down.  “What's in these drinks?”

“I don't think it's the drinks,” said Sydney, pointing.  At the buffet table, a bowl of oranges stealthily hovered, lifted by invisible paws...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Man and Pack

Another corner. Another dark hallway. The glimmering gems in the floor no longer tempt me; my pack is full to bursting. They'll do me little good if I never escape this maze. Their luster dissipates quickly at a touch. At least I can tell where I have been already, so that I rarely backtrack.

I grow weak with hunger. Visions of succulent fruit dance before my eyes. I dare not stop. These caves are haunted by ghouls. Only the light of the stones holds them at bay, and that fades with every breath.

There must be an end, mustn't there?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hide and Seek

Izzie slipped through the dangling shirts and giggled to herself.  Beside her, someone moved.

“Oh!” said Izzie.  “Are you hiding, too?”

“Yes.  I must hide from Mother.  She will be frightfully cross with me if she finds me,” said a small voice.

Something sounded strange to Izzie.  She peered down.  There was a shoe visible, polished black with a buckle.

“How long have you been hiding?” asked Izzie.

“I know not.  A long, long time, I think.”  There was a cold breeze. 

Izzie looked out again.  Suddenly, the department store seemed very far away indeed.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Smell Like a Fungus

In the northern United States, there is a fungus.  It is miles across, the largest single organism in existence.  Dig into the ground anywhere and you'll find it, or a part of it.  Remember this.

There is a smell to hotels, a hotel-motel smell, an old-carpet-cheap-cleanser smell.  The air thickens with it.  Open any hotel door anywhere in the world and you'll smell the same acrid scent in all of them.  It is like a fungus.  

Whatever you do, wherever you go, please, never go down into the basement of the hotel.  It's important.  Promise me.  Promise me you won't...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Familiarity Breeds Contempt

“The exits aren't even numbered anymore,” said Shannon.  “I think it's the same one every time.”

“So what happens if we take it?” asked Dan.

“Find out,” Shannon ordered.  “I'm getting sleepy.”

The road rapidly petered out to mere dirt tracks.  Only the lights through the trees kept them moving forward.  The sign declared it the “Furnall Inn.”

Behind the counter, a gaunt man turned to regard them as they lugged in their bags.  “Stay a while,” he intoned.  “Stay... foreve-

“Screw this,” said Shannon.  “I'm sleeping in the car.”

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Gifts of the Fae

“She'll be here any minute,” Mom said.  “Just put it on!”

George sighed and pulled it over his head.  The cheerful reindeer began to dance and frolic on his stomach.  “Hooray!” they cried in tinny voices.

“There.  You know how she loves to see you wearing her gifts,” said Mom.  The doorbell rang.  She ran to answer it.

“Helllloooo, dearies!”

“Tania, darling!”

George waited through the interminable greetings.

“And I've got a little present for Georgie-porgie!”

George opened the little bag.  “Rocks?” he said.

“Gravel, dearie.  Magic gravel.”

“Say thank you, George.” 

“Thank you, godmother,” George managed.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Life and Times of Otto von Maark and His Prodigious Beard

In honor of my one-year anniversary, here is a not-quite-a-short-story which I wrote in pretty much one sitting a month ago. I hope you all enjoy it. Feel free to spread it around; it's under Creative Commons like everything else here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


“I shouldn't go,” said Errol. “I've got that thing that's going around.”

“Pfft,” Dean chided. “Everyone's had that. No one cares anymore. It'll burn out in a few more weeks.”

“They say it's a pandemic,” said Errol. “I'm trying to be responsible. It's really contagious. I caught it from less than a minute with Kathy.”

“That was last week. Just don't cough on anyone.”

“I don't think coughing is really the problem,” said Errol, shifting the phone to his other hand. He looked at the flames, flickering steadily up past his elbow...

Monday, November 2, 2009

The VCR in Heaven

“Home movie time!” cried God. He was lugging the old cardboard box of VHS cassettes up from the basement.

The cherubim and seraphim on the couch nodded, their grins fixed.

God knelt by the television. “Has someone tampered with this?” He asked. “It’s blinking twelve again.”

“We had that power outage,” volunteered a cherubim. “It probably reset.”

“Hmph,” said God. “It better not eat my tapes. I lost the one of the birth, you know.”

The angelic crowd knew. None of them would admit it. It was perhaps the only decent thing the Lightbringer had done for his fellow angels.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


It's November 1st! Time for our monthly dose of the Wisest Stone's very best advice. This is the one-year anniversary, roughly, of Mirrorshards and my daily writing exercise. My audience is small, but apparently loyal, and even includes several members not related to me. I'm glad you're all here, and I look forward to another year of strange fragments and odd windows into other worlds.

It's also NaNoWriMo, which I will be sort of participating in. (I've got over fifty thousand words already; I'm aiming for another fifty thousand and an actual finished novel instead of one that cuts out halfway.) Happy November!


“It is the problem of all buildings,” said the Wisest Stone, as Taku worked to dig him out of the soft sand.

“I think it is a problem of sand,” Taku said.

“The sand cannot be blamed. The trouble comes in the weight of the thing.”

“You should not land upon the beach,” Taku pointed out. “We have spoken of this before.”

“It is best,” the Wisest Stone went on, as if he had not heard, “to build upon a foundation of rock. But even piling rock upon rock, at some point you will still be building upon the sand.”