Monday, January 31, 2011


She scratched her nose for the third time in ten minutes. Nervous habit, or just an itch? Reed made a provisional note and continued his frantic documentation. The physical specs were simple enough to gather, though implementation would be a pain. When he had enough observational time logged, he could begin coding the parameters. Sufficiently details behavioral patterns were an adequate substitute for Skinner's black box.

The hard part would be removing the original, once the sim was past the beta. Messy. Reed had a plan for that, too. He knew everything about her, after all. Even where she slept...

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Plan B

There was a rumble in the distance. One of the immense skyscrapers crumbled and fell in on itself as pale fire leapt upwards to paint the sky. The moon flared red as blood. Rogmund stood before the window with his hands behind his back.

"Bad news, sir," said Jeff the intern. "We've broken through into the ravenous Hell dimension three months prior to projections."

"What's the impact?"

"Down for the next quarter before we can mobilize the weapons, ammo, and medical divisions."


"We'll be down after, too. Population losses."

Rogmund watched the streets burn. "Cash my stock options. Backdated."

Station Gamma 356 Has a Nickname

"Welcome to Hell," Captain Gardarov said. He handed over the keys that would give Corterelli access to the station's computers, sensors, and – Unity forbid – weapons.

"Er..." Corterelli juggled the bundle uneasily.

"Don't worry." Gardarov was unshaven and greasy, his grin disturbing. "you'll hear them soon enough. The whispers. And you'll curse the weeks. Thought it was a bargain, eh? Full year's pay for three months? The whispers know. They know so much..."

Corterelli made to respond, but Gardarov shoved past him into the transport. With a hiss, he was gone. Corterelli looked around. He cocked his head and listened.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Three Years On

There was a clatter as Unit 17 (Billy) fell to the floor of the playroom. Immediately, all his klaxons went off and he clutched at his left knee, where an indicator light flashed urgently.

Corvin rushed to soothe him. "There, there," he said, patting the tiny robot on the back. "Come on, now. Not so bad. Just a skinned knee, all right?"

Billy played sniffles2.mp3 and gathered himself back up.

"You know," said the Dean, "when you told us you had AI that perfectly mimicked the course of human development..."

"In some cases, it's even slightly behind," Corvin confirmed, beaming.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


"What about the Cuban Missile Crisis?"


"Fall of the Berlin Wall?"

"Aliens again."

"The aliens control everything?"

We barely contained our laughter, but Bink was deadly serious. "Everything," he said.

"And the government covers it all up, right?"

"No! That's what the aliens want you to think the government wants you to think. The government wants to tell people, but the aliens won't allow it."

"All right," Jane said, "so how do you know so much?"

Bink sighed. He reached up and pulled off the mask, blinking his nictating membranes at us.

"It's okay, though. I'm on your side."

Monday, January 24, 2011


He walked the streets, his hands tucked into his jacket, head down. At his feet, the shadows boiled. I saw something dark with eyes like coals dart away and hide beneath a parked car. I saw something else with no eyes but wings that fluttered and rustled flee and lodge in a hedge. I saw a creature with no form at all but only a piping, eerie voice spiral out to swirl through the sky.

Behind him, the lights came on, one by one, turning the darkness to mingled light and blots of shadow. He walked on, seeding the night.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


If you watched closely, you could see it happening. The wind blew, the sand shifted, and the desert claimed another inch. Here, the few hardy shrubs that still clung to the soil seemed to tremble in fear. Further out, nothing but the dunes, rolling gently away and sparkling in the sun.

The little broom hung by the door, her weapon in the endless battle to keep the sand out. She had not wielded it in three days. The door stood open, and the sand poured in. She sat in the middle of the emptied house and waited for the desert.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


The temple was hushed in darkness. They sat in holy communion, the man and the god.

The man was slack of jaw and greasy of skin, his hair lank and unwashed. His limbs hung like salami in a butcher shop.

The god was a cubic rectangle. It danced and sang for the man, and gave him the form and semblance of all manner of goodly things. The god seemed to fill the man with its beaming brilliance, which the man absorbed silently.

A quieter, subtler thread carried other things away, from man to god, but nobody noticed that at all.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Red-Fingered Dawn

The hurled pinecone knocked the wide-brimmed hat from the Old Crow's head. He spun, and the children tensed, hoping for one of his legendary rants about the Burning Eye and its search for him.

Instead, he fell to his knees, wringing his heavy black robe. "It sees me!" he cried, eyes locked on the cloudless sky. "God help me, it knows!"

When eventually they broke into his cottage, they found the robe on the floor, surrounded by the most peculiar burn marks. Everyone agreed that the wind had blown soot from the fireplace in that distressing fashion. Stranger things happen...

Monday, January 17, 2011


The swordmaster was white of hair, but his fiery spirit still burned behind his eyes. He looked on the slender youth, and his mouth twisted. "Train you? Pah! I run no orphanage for lost children here."

The boy shrugged. "All right, then."

He returned home and became a baker. His uncle had long wanted an apprentice. He married a plump girl from the next town over and raised three happy children. The swordmaster died some years later, largely unmourned. The baker slept well, untroubled by dreams of swords or destiny.

Somewhere, a kingdom languished, but that was a different story.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Children of Power, Children of Fate

Long one today, based on an offhand comment from Mur Lafferty. I apologize in advance, as this story contains not just a pun, but a raunchy pun. I'll let myself out the back way and see about that suicide now, shall I?

They thought it would change the world, and it did, in some ways. But eventually things settled down, as they do, and everyone found that life carried on. It ended up as just another pickup line, like "What's your sign?" At least it didn't bring disco back (except for poor Stuart, who never figured out how to turn his abilities off and ended up hanging himself to the strains of KC and the Sunshine Band.)

It was more than that to me, but until now, my quest had been fruitless. "So what's your power?"

"I can reshape liquids into cats and bring them to life." She flicked a bored glance my way, but paused when she saw my stunned expression. "What?"

"Follow me." We went outside, to the mouth of the alley, where – as usual – a handful of strays were browsing on garbage from the sushi joint next door. "I don't usually do this, you understand? But this can't be just a coincidence."

"What is it?"

I pointed to a small gray tiger-tabby, and the terrible dark energy crackled from my fingertips. The cat gave a small "mew" and collapsed into a gray-and-black puddle. I turned to the girl. "Try it now. Please."

She gave me a wide-eyed stare, then knelt and touched the puddle of cat. It bristled, grew furry, and, with a soft chime, became a gray cat that gazed at us with a mixture of confusion and disdain before leaping to rejoin its companions.

The woman stood and met my gaze. "This... it's like destiny."

"I don't normally ask women home on a first date," I said, "but I've been saving Mister Scruffles in an old milk jug. When my powers manifested I... he... and I couldn't help him..." To my embarrassment, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I turned away. "I'm sorry."

"Shh," she said. "I think it's sweet. C'mon. I'll pay the subway fare."

"You will? I mean, you'll come and help him?"

"Of course! It's not every day you meet a man who can make a pussy wet from across the room."

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Forty Dollars an Hour, Plus Travel Expenses

"What you got down here, see, is rodent damage." Irvin tugged at his pants, where the heavy toolbelt made them sag.

"Rodents?" Mrs. Lieson pulled her floral-print robe more tightly around her.

"Sure. Your squirrel, see, comes in for the warm, and they chew that plastic right off. Then leaks, loss of pressure, and boom, here I am."

Mrs. Lieson managed a relieved smile. "Squirrels?"

The floor rumbled, and from below came a terrible, mind-piercing shriek.

"'Course, sometimes it's hard to distinguish your squirrels and your basic Doom Rat." Irvin spat and reached for his wrench. "Mind yer feet, ma'am."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"May He Reign Forever" at the Dunesteef

My winning entry in the Broken Mirrors Story Event has at long last made its appearance. Huzzah and suchlike and so on!

Have a gander and let me know what you think in the comments. (Either place, I suppose, if you're shy.)


"What are you doing?" asked Julissa, as I pried open her chest and peered around her insides. They were damp.

"Looking for... wait, there it is!" I reached in and down a bit; I'd aimed at the heart unconsciously, but naturally it was more toward the center of mass. "Got it!" The translucent glimmer winked in my hands.

"What is that?"

"Desire," I said. "I'm tired of wanting you. But I've got no one lined up yet." I opened up the game system. "This'll hold it for now."

It didn't upset me at all when she cried. Definitely an improvement.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Moving the Goalposts

"I am not you," said the Other. "I am alien. I am darkness to your light. I am ignorance to your knowledge. I am mystery to your openness."

"I know you," said the teenager. "I know what it is to be despised and misunderstood. I know the feeling of crying alone in the night where no one can see because no one can see. I feel your pain, the pain of separation and isolation. Everyone is Other to someone. I understand."

"Are you still talking?" The Other snapped her gum and tossed her hair. "Omigod, you are such a weirdo."

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Seeker

He moves carefully across the ice, the surface rippled with the motion of waves, caught in the moment when it froze for the last time. The snow eddies and catches in tiny drifts before being scoured away by the endless wind. The ice is dark, a greenish blue. There are air bubbles. It is solid.

At a point well out of sight of any land, he stops. He kneels, brushes away the powdery snow. The ice here is measured in fathoms. There is nothing below him but shadows.

He retrieves an ice axe from his pack and begins to dig.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Seeing How the Sausage Is Made

I've visited this universe before.


"I don't know why you're putting up such a fuss. What would happen if we stopped completely, cold turkey? Mass chaos, that's what." Carrie punched the button to release another metered dose through the vaporizer and inhaled deeply. "See? Better already."

Trixie pouted and held her breath as long as she could. "The hope-industrial complex is practically a monopoly. There's hardly any oversight. I'm just saying we need to act thoughtfully."

"You're overreacting."

"She's not," said Grandpa. He rubbed at his scars. "Processed hope is junk, compared to the real stuff."

"Home-grown. Organic." Trixie smiled.

Grandpa shook his head. "Ours."

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tiny Plastic People, Melting

"Tyson, dinner."

Tyson ignored her. He added a dab of glue to the plastic fuselage in his hands.


"I am working on my model, Mom!" he shouted. He pressed the piece into place and held it there. It would soon be time for the painting.

"Your model can wait. Come downstairs now."

"'Model' means more than one thing." Tyson muttered. "It can also be a projection. A model is the shape of the future." He held the tiny jet and its miniature weaponry tightly. On his desk, his toothpick building was taking on the first resemblance to his house.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


"Ah, Edgemond. How is your research coming along?"

" We've... had a breakthrough in the spontaneous generation problem."

"Ah, yes, the matter-out-of-nowhere thing? Turned out to be cross contamination, did it?"

"Er, no sir. Here, I'll... just show you. Put these goggles on."

"Cripes! Some sort of bacterium?"

"Yes, sir."

"It's practically everywhere."

"Yes, sir."

"What does it eat?"


"An autotroph?"

"Er, no, sir. It eats... nothing. And leaves behind everything. We... we think it may be the source of the universe."

"The whole universe?"

"Yes, sir."

"Is poo?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good luck getting that past the review board."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Geisteskrank sprinkled shredded grass into the aquarium. "Have you never heard of hybrid vigor? Everyone knows that you can revive a flagging bloodline by introducing new stock."

"I think that's usually with something a little closer," said Bartlett. "Remind me again how this is better than the gerbil-cobras?"

"Gerbils, while sufficiently adorable, were a sub-optimal base. High-strung. These," Geisteskrank gestured, "are inherently useful. Fugu, of course, is eminently popular in Japan, and beef has long been a staple meat."

"And therefore?"

Geisteskrank clapped sharply, and water sloshed onto the floor as black-and-white flesh pressed taut against the glass. "Puffer Holsteins."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

He Tries His Best

"Seek always, and take what you find. This is the path to enlightenment, for knowledge is hidden and must be gathered. This is the School of Adventure."

"To seek is good," said RPG, "but nothing worth doing comes quickly. You must keep your nose to the grindstone if you seek a higher level of existence."

"There can be no advancement without regression," Fighter put in. "To have a winner one must perforce have a loser. In the end, there is one who exceeds them all."


Everyone turned to look at Shooter.

"Um. I, uh... can we start again?"

Monday, January 3, 2011

They Eventually Dropped the Lawsuit

The streetlight flickered and went out as they approached. "Isn't it weird how that always happens?" said Quentin. "I read somewhere it's usually because the light was about to go out anyway and people's electrical fields mess it up."

"I can believe that," said Kyle.

"I feel like it always happens to me, thought."

"Could be worse." Kyle laid a hand on the lamppost. The bulb overhead flared back to life, sputtering and sparking until it finally exploded in a burst of brilliance. "You could have the opposite problem. They won't let me come into Best Buy at all anymore."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Gaze of the Crowd

A 200-worder today, but I couldn't resist the challenge laid out by the fine ladies at Pendragon Variety. Here it is: a story about a healer named Fabio. Enjoy!


Elsie gasped on the pavement. She saw the car speed around the corner and disappear, a hit and run.

"Rest easy," said a soft voice by her ear. Warm hands cradled her and wiped away the pain. She opened her eyes. She'd know that face anywhere, familiar from hundreds of romance covers.


"Shh." His hands were glowing blue and, where they touched, her cuts healed before her eyes.

"I don't understand..." she said.

"It is my duty as a sacred Healer. Shush now. I must work quickly, before anyone else arrives."

"But how can you do... that? Do magic?" Elsie found it hard to do anything other than relax into his touch. It was so soothing.

"There are not many of us," said Fabio. "Myself, Paris, Jamie Lynn, for a while. The adoration of the masses brings power, but most dilute it and divert it into other skills and talents. Only those of us who have pure fame can truly channel this energy."

Abruptly, Fabio's head snapped up.

"I must go. They have found me again."

"Who?" cried Elsie, almost weeping as his touch left her.


Elsie heard a sound like the howling of wolves in the distance.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Happy New Year, y'all. And many more to come, at least until the supervolcano in Yellowstone finally erupts.


Taku and the Wisest Stone watched the sun rise.

"What will happen when you die?" Taku asked. "I know that you will outlive me and all of my children's children, but even you must end some day."

"I have thought deeply on this topic," said the Wisest Stone, "and I have come to the conclusion that I do not wish to end. Therefore I won't."

"Many say that," said Taku, "yet Time comes for all."

"Ah, but there is a difference between them and me." The Wisest Stone had a smirk in his voice.

"What is that?"

"I mean it."