Saturday, January 30, 2010


"He's awfully late," said Rek, pacing.

The door chimed and the foyer-vid cut on, though it still only displayed static.

"See?" said Triv. "Speak of the devil."

Rek gestured the door open. A hulking form stood outside, sensor lights flickering in the black nodule at its chest. Its matte surface gave back no light. A Viceroy.

"Oh," said Rek. "Oh." She sank to her knees.

"Hira Sebi was selected for transmission," the Viceroy said. "Please accept compensation." It pressed a chit into Rek's hand. Her fingers closed convulsively around it.

The Viceroy glided away in silence. The door spiraled shut.

Friday, January 29, 2010


Bran was moving slowly, out of necessity. He clattered when he moved now. Clattered and scraped and thudded. He’d given up on doorknobs, at least inside the house. Outside, he managed as best he could.

He peered out from the encrustations over his eyes and rumbled. His pincer-like hands ground uselessly against themselves at his sides.

A tiny slip of a girl drifted over to him. She smiled and grasped at the doorknob for him. Her hand slipped through.

Even as he watched, she faded a little further. He felt the new weight settle on the plates along his back.


Sorry about that, ya'll. Rough few days at work. I am not dead, and I do not intend to let this lapse kill Mirrorshards.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


“I hate fish,” said Rebert, pushing his portion around on his plate. Its goggle eyes stared back at him reproachfully.

Across the table, Sally frowned. “Nag’tak phlth cnguisph wakti,” she said.

“Listen to your sister, dear,” said Mom. “Honey, why don’t you take him tomorrow? I think a swim would do him good.”

Dad gurgled and dripped on the flatware.

Outside, the waves lapped at the front door. Next door, only the roof was visible anymore. The lights from the houses were reflected in the water, shifting with the ripples as though the true lights were moving beneath the surface.

Monday, January 25, 2010


When the first rebar poked up through the turf, only old Pickles noticed. Nobody paid the dog any mind at first.

By the time everyone gathered around the site, the first webbing of new-grown concrete was just visible.

“Reckon it’s a stripper,” said Cornelius. “I’ll fetch m’tractor.”

Knocking it down didn’t do much. Neither did weed-killer, fire, or the barrel of hydrochloric from the old plant. It just grew. Soon, even the tractor couldn’t make a dent.

One morning, everybody sighed. They put on their name-tags and pastel polo shirts, and they all trooped into the waiting stores. Pickens hid under his porch and howled.

The Kraken Awakens

Torgie cast the line back into the water while Bartolo refilled his pipe.

"Quiet day," said Torgie.

"Yup," said Bart.

"Not much to do, now the harvest is in."


They smoked and fished for a while. Then there was a faint tremor that sent ripples across the nearby pond.

With an ear-shattering shriek, an enormous tentacle burst from the surface of the water. Thick as a house, it stretched up, up, up, dripping millenial slime and ooze. Covered in pulsating suckers, each the size of a carthorse, it towered overhead.

"That's new," said Torgie, pushing his hat back.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Third Act

"It's foreshadowing," said Tad. "We saw the gun on the mantelpiece."

"Gun's not on the mantel now," Doug grunted. He displayed it in his hand. The snow-cold light from the cave mouth reflected from the barrel.

"I'm talking metaphors," said Tad. He stared outside. Grey-white flakes sifted down. It wasn't snow. "We should have seen this coming."

In the distance, there was a flash-rumble as another building fell.

"Three," said Doug.


"You asked how many bullets. There's three."

"Good. That's good. I wouldn't want to leave her without an option."

The curtain came down.

A shot rang out.

Friday, January 22, 2010


"Gotta be careful, Tibber," Julie-Ann admonished the teddy bear. "This is the Shadow Witches' cave. If we can steal their gems, we can save the castle!"

Raoul watched from the sink. Julie-Ann crept in with exaggerated stealth. She clambered onto a chair and peered into the paper grocery bags.

"We found them!" she squealed. She reached in and retrieved a shining stone, big as Raoul's fist. It lit up the room. Julie-Ann dashed out, Tibber bouncing against her leg.

Raoul set down the pot he'd been scrubbing. Hesitantly, he leaned over and peeked in the bag.

Cans of tuna. A bag of beans.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Good Servant, But a Poor Master

He was unlucky. The window would have melted to slag, but he struck one of the steel support beams instead. It bent out of true with a clang, and shards of glass and drywall fell around him.

He stood, a dribble of fire leaking from the corner of his mouth. Tongues of flame licked from a dozen small cuts.

“Why?” she rasped, crouching low as he collected himself.

He spat. It flared across the ruined tables and ignited on the countertop.

“This is what’s inside me,” he said, his mouth painfully bright to look upon. “What can I do except burn?”

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


She sat at the brightly-lit table, watching the night press in against the plate glass windows. The knife wasn’t terribly sharp. She sawed at the back of her hand anyway, making a piercing screech. She paused and blew away the metal fragments, then regarded the dulled knife owlishly. Nothing.

It all had to come from somewhere, she knew. The armor. It came from inside, left her raw and hollow.

She hunched over, inhaling the smell of stale ketchup. She was afraid.

On her back, the defensive spines poked through the thin fabric of her shirt. They’d started growing that morning.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Alone on the Diamond Sea

With a grunt, Jared hauled the net the final few feet. It tumbled, dripping and glittering, into the bottom of the boat. Several rough ovoids fell out and rolled. He kicked at one. It arced out over the water and landed with a splash.

Diamonds again. He picked one up, held it to the light, watched it sparkle.

You couldn’t eat diamonds. No-one on the island had any use for them, once everyone had some to decorate with.

“Stupid talking fish,” he muttered. He sat back and stared out to sea, turning the gem over and over in his fingers.

Monday, January 18, 2010

All Thumbs

Rito shrank against Delia’s skirts. The street vendor’s wares clattered in aimless circles around the hem of his coat.

“How adorable!” Delia cooed.

“Little works of art, every one,” the vendor agreed. “Scissorboys from the Scissors Man. He grinned snaggletoothed at Rito, who was gnawing a thumbnail. “Scissors Man comes to cut off your thumbs,” he crooned. “Best break that habit. Your teeth’ll come in crooked.”

Rito whipped his hand from his mouth.

“Come along,” said Delia, her smile cooler.

Rito glanced backward. The scissorboys clacked their bladed beaks at him, straining on the ends of their leashes. The Scissors Man lifted the hand that held the strings and winked.

Out Standing in His Field

The crow settled on the crossbeam and pecked amiably at the burlap sack. “So why’re you out here, anyway?”

The scarecrow shrugged, or tried to. “It’s an easy gig. Plenty of sunshine.”

“No, I mean, what is your job?”

“I scare you birds away.”

The crow cocked its head. “How?”

“Well, you’re supposed to assume I’m a real person.”

“We don’t even run away from the actual farmers!” the crow guffawed. “Why don’t they just stop leaving food?”

“You’re asking the guy with a sack for a head who’s nailed to a stick. I don’t even pretend to understand anymore.”

A String, Doubled

“Really, what is complexity?” said the minotaur, moving a pawn forward. “Layers. As you add the layers, your structure becomes more complex. Yet each layer in itself is simple.”

“I’m not sure I agree,” said Theseus. He considered, then shifted his bishop. “Complexity comes from decisions. Comparing options requires processing capability, knowledge, and luck. In a word, wisdom.”

The minotaur regarded the board solemnly. “It’s true. With each choice we make, we close a dozen doors. In the end, it seems as though the whole was inevitable.” He stood, horns brushing the ceiling.

“Yes,” said Theseus. He drew his blade.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


"...and I just don't know what to do without her," Riley finished.

S117 nodded, frowning thoughtfully. "You just need some time to restabilize. I'm sure you'll come through it."

Riley smiled. "Thanks. And thanks for listening; you've been a really good friend. I'm sad to see you go."

"Oh, there are lots like me. You know where to find a sympathetic ear if you need to talk again."

"Yeah," said Riley. He waved and left the booth.

S117 sat back on his seat and watched the last few seconds of Riley's half-hour tick away. He closed his eyes as the disintegrator flared.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

And, Of Course, the Editing Room

The next room was chaos. Splashes and hissing erupted sporadically from all sides. Underneath that sibilant punctuation was a multifarious machine-gun patter

“This is the heart,” said Jolbert, shouting to be heard. “We can output documentation, fiction, code; anything you need at half the cost.”

The investors glanced around.

“The Million Monkeys technique. That’s a trademark, gentlemen.” Jolbert gestured at a squat, hairless man pounding furiously on a keyboard. A pile of broken discards lay nearby. An androgynous youth threw a dipperful of water over the man’s bald head. Steam rose in clouds.

“Overclocked,” said Jolbert, “every one of ‘em.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

(copper and ashes)

This post is a violation of the rules. I wrote it and trimmed off about twenty words, then stalled. Finally I realized that any further trimming would hurt the story more than helping. Rather than gut the story in the name of my abstract and arbitrary rules, I'm letting this one stand at about 125 words. What do you think?


Edan woke to the taste of blueberries. Blueberries were invigorating. There was a push to add another flavor, pancakes or muffins. The Flavor Board would hear arguments next week.

Edan chewed the pap from his morning NutriPak. He read the paper (smoky bacon) and kept an eye on the clock (strawberry jam). When it was too tart to delay any longer, Edan left.

His car was cold (cinnamon) and the traffic report said there was congestion (lima beans). Edan took a shortcut that smelled like burnt toast. He’d get to work on time (unripe bananas).

He didn’t see the truck until it was too late. They barreled toward one another, and all Edan could think was that he’d finally know what it tasted like…

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Remembrance of Me

I threw a stone, and it hit a bird. I know this. I know this.

I can see the stone, as if I held it now. I threw it. I hit the bird.

Raven on a fencepost. Sitting there. One of two, two ravens on the fence. Throw stones at them. Throw a stone at the raven.

I can’t think. I don’t know what to do. It said something. The raven spoke. I threw the stone and the raven spoke. It lay on the ground and it spoke.

“Brother!” it said. “Muninn!”

And then it died.

I threw a stone…

Monday, January 11, 2010

Environmental Sensibilities

“Time to muck out the cages, Bartlett.”

“Why do I have all the carnivores?”

“Waste not, want not. Besides, at least seven of them are omnivores. The rabbit part of the rabbit-sharks enjoys lettuce quite thoroughly.” Doctor Geisteskrank threw open the doors. A cacophony of animal sounds nearly drowned out Bartlett’s next question.

“Why are we doing this?”

Doctor Geisteskrank blinked. “Biodiversity! Nearly two thousand species extinct every year. If nature can’t keep up, then it falls to the man of science to fill the void. What we have here, Bartlett,” Doctor Geisteskrank gestured, “is diversity in its purest form.”

Sunday, January 10, 2010


“Nim! Where have you been? We’ve been looking all over for you.”

The slender form edged further into the light. “I was fine. You should have known that.”

He shook his head, went to the fridge. “This whole thing has been stressful enough without that imaginary friend crap. Give it a rest.”

“I always thought you were mocking me,” said Nim. “Some sort of cruel joke. I realize now that you can’t help it. You just can’t see. No one can.”

Something knocked the bottle from his hands. Something else slammed him to the floor.

“We’ll have to make them.”

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Final Fight

With the smallest flick of his fingers, the Master sent the guards scurrying away. “Do you mean to fight me, then?”

Ye Chin furrowed his brow. “Yes,” he said, feeling weak in the knees.

The Master sighed, stood up, and began gathering his blankets and cushion.

“What are you doing, Master?”

“Getting my withered keister out of here before I get killed.”

“But… all your victories… dozens of defeated champions…”

The old man glanced over his shoulder. “Congratulations. You exposed the fraud. The seat is yours.” He heaved his bundle over his shoulder. “Good luck, kid. You’re gonna need it.”


"It's so cold," I said, "up there, in the stars. Cold and empty, with tiny dots of light just floating alone in the dark until they burn out, one by one." I shivered and hoped Drake would get the picture.

He chuckled, and I didn't like the sound. "Is that what you think?"

I frowned and turned away. I didn't even want his stupid jacket anymore.

"Look," he said.

I glanced over.

He reached up his hand and raked a fingernail across the blackness. Starfire flared in the gap he tore, and I gasped as its heat seared me...


Alternate Title: "All the Worlds Are Burning."

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dramatic Theme Music

I have been a bad writer monkey. In my defense, I've just basically skipped two weekends to travel, once for a whirlwind of family visits and once to clean the darned house once and for all and get it ready to be painted and sold. (Anyone want a townhouse in semi-urban Virginia? Reasonable prices.)

I'm two in the hole for this month, and now I'll be working overtime and unable to make up the deficit tonight as planned. Here is today's, and I'll try to trickle 'em in as I get time on breaks and such.

"We've got to save them!" The handsome man lurched into the bedroom.

"He's still a little woozy," said Kate. "He's only been real for an hour. I shouldn't have let him watch CNN."

"I'll hack into the bank's systems!"

"Can he do that?" said Kelly.

Kate shrugged.

The man sat at the laptop and tapped at the keys. Kate leaned over his shoulder. "You just typed 'asdfg;lkjh.'"

"It's always worked before."

"I hate the ones from action movies," said Kelly. "Even the superheroes catch on faster." She lightly struck the man's head. "Hey! Don't jump through any windows. Blood stains."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Lent and Shaken, Given or Taken

He found the first one in the attic, in an old cardboard box. He pulled it out and whistled.

"A hand!" he said. "And in such great shape."

The hand gave a thumbs-up.

Once he was looking, he found them everywhere. He found two at a garage sale. Seven at consignment stores. Five in dumpsters. He became a hobbyist. Then obsessed. Then driven.

"We need to have a talk, Grampa," said Jillian one morning.

"About what?" he said, as a hand tucked his napkin in, another cut his waffle, and a third poured syrup. "Many hands make light work, right?"

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Trouble Route

“I hate this part,” said Vic.

“You were told when you took the route,” said Webster. “They warned you.”

“Yeah, after the non-disclosure was signed.” Vic grimaced. “I didn't understand what it meant. I thought they were joking.”

“Most do,” said Webster.

“Well, better get the announcement done.” Vic reached for the intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we're going to hit some turbulence up ahead. Please return to your seats and buckle your seatbelts now.”

“Here they come,” said Webster. Below, the first of the pterodactyls were spiraling upward.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


There was a frozen moment. He reached out to touch her still face. His hand left a smear of blood.

Nadir stepped back, his blade dripping crimson. “Try it again!” he shouted. He no longer looked so confident.

“Yes,” the man whispered, but not to Nadir. He stood and looked around them at the shadows. There was nothing there. “I release you,” the man said. “God have mercy on me, I don't care any more.”

The shadows boiled, shifted. The guards behind Nadir cried out.

“God have mercy on us all...”

The darkness leapt forward.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cruise Elroy

"Explain it again," said the President.

"Er... the sun has a crack in it," said the lead scientist, a sad-faced man with a fringe of gray hair. "It appears to be opening, as though hinged."

"Or like a mouth," put in a dark-haired assistant.

"And that's related to the dark patch behind it? The Inky, you called it?"

"The action seems to have been in response to its appearance, yes."

"And the radio signal?"

"We've decoded it." The assistant pushed a button. The sound poured out: wakka-wakka-wakka.

"Regrettably, sir, it appears that the universe is in need of a Power Pellet."

Friday, January 1, 2010

How Not to Fight

"I mean to kill you!" the warrior cried.

"Why?" asked Taku.

"Our tribes are enemies. Come down! Fight me!"

"The Wisest Stone taught me patience. I have food."

"Pah! Superstitions. My god is greater."

Taku shrugged. "Mine is smaller, but he teaches sufficiency."

The warrior grinned. "Fight me... or I will burn your village!"

Taku thought on this, then slid from his perch. "I will fight, though I am unskilled. I was not taught warfare."

"You are soft!" The blade plunged forward. The warrior's face fell.

"No," said Taku, looking at the shattered knife. "That is not something I was taught, either."