Saturday, April 30, 2011

To Scale


"I made," Kiko repeated slowly, "a ship in a bottle."

"Kiko, you asshole! That was our best water container. We're trying to survive here. Is any of this sinking in?"

Kiko kept working. "If you keep talking that way, I won't let you come with me."

"Go to hell, Kiko." I stomped into the foliage. He didn't look up.

The next morning he was gone, and so was the bottle. There were only marks in the sand: a cylindrical depression drawing a line out to sea, and Kiko's footprints leading up to it, getting smaller and smaller and smaller...

Business as Usual

When Gary returned from lunch, wolves had eaten the sales department. Or at least, there were wolves and no salespersons. This might have been an improvement. He was withholding judgment.

He ended up trapped on the employee refrigerator. His briefcase made an okay club, but he was getting tired. He was wondering if he could reach the window when he recognized Leon. Leon was a wolf, now, apparently. Maybe that was what happened to sales.

"Leon!" said Gary. "Hey, what's going on? Don't eat me."

"Sorry, bro," Leon said, leaping and snapping his spittle-flecked jaws. "There was a paradigm shift."

Within an Egg in a Duck in a Box Under a Tree

It is a hard thing, and yet not so hard as you might think. Getting it out was easy; men are forever losing their souls by accident. But to cut it and fold it, bend it and break it, and fit it into a needle, well...

I remember that I did it, but I don't remember why. I wonder sometimes if I was always like this, porcupined, needle-souled; sharp, thin, cold and, if I'm being honest, a bit of a prick. Did I shape it to fit in the needle, or was a needle the only place it would fit?

Friday, April 29, 2011


"C'mon, we can make it!"

"Dude, no way. The sun's almost down."

"We got like five minutes. Think of the chicken nuggets!"

Skeeter resisted manfully, but he couldn't deny he had the munchies something fierce. "Okay, but let's hurry, awright?"

They pushed inside, and the bell over the door chimed. The pale woman behind the counter smiled thinly. Brody grinned at her.

"We, uh, like, want some nuggets, man?" Brody said.

"Sorry," said the woman, as the locks slammed shut and dark forms rose from the shadows behind the counter. "We're no longer serving dinner. It's the breakfast menu now."


The welding torch flared as they unsealed the last pieces of bulkhead. It fell to the floor with a clang, revealing a polished metal door. They opened it and shone their lights inside. An untouched workroom, complete with tools and supplies.

"This isn't in the plans?" asked the captain.

"Who knows?" the engineer shrugged. "We only found it because of that leak. It must've gotten sealed up during construction. No one knew it was supposed to be here."

Something moved int he flashlight beams, and they froze. A cup of coffee rested on the counter, steam drifting gently above it.

The Little People

The vacuum cleaner emitted muted roars as she pushed it to and fro across the carpet, leaving tracks in the fabric. Every now and then it crackled, sucking up some previously invisible dirt. She shoved the cleaner as far under the bed as it could reach.


The engine squealed, and she flicked the off switch with a sigh and a muttered profanity. She lay the machine down and prodded at the obstruction.

A tiny armchair fell to the carpet. It was mangled and crushed, but clearly recognizable. She touched the vacuum cleaner's brush, and her fingers came away red...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Toll Booth

You see lots of weird stuff in this job. Tons of naked college-kid butts, of course. But weirder stuff, too. Like the time a five-year-old came through on a plastic tricycle. Had correct change, even. Bands on tour sometimes hand out swag; t-shirts, tickets, y'know?

Last night, a big, black tour bus picked Tyson's row. No band name. I couldn't see in, but I could hear, like rattling. And scratching. Tyson's face was white when the bus rumbled away, belching black smoke.

"What'd you get?" I called.

He showed me a little cardboard square. "My return ticket," he said. "Pre-punched."


Doctor Geisteskrank pressed a button, and the lights swirled. The unit hummed softly. "And how do you feel now?"

The unit beeped. "Euphoric and ecstatic. Every moment is filled with inexpressible joy."

"Excellent." Doctor Geisteskrank reached for the termination lever.

The unit beeped again. "Also angry and sad."

Doctor Geisteskrank blinked. "What? That's impossible. You shouldn't be able to feel any negative emotions."

"Correct." The unit whirred, lights flickering across its surface. "The anger fills me with inexpressible joy. I cannot feel the anger, and this makes me sad, which causes further joy. Everything is terrible because it is wonderful."

Friday, April 22, 2011


"Oh, little one," Victor crooned, stroking Cherise's cheek. "You're such a tempting morsel. It's hard for me to restrain my... darker impulses." He leaned in, brushing her neck with cold lips. "Very hard," he whispered, feeling the warm pulse beneath her fragile skin.

"Vic..." She pushed at him gently, and suddenly he was inflamed. He threw her down with inhuman strength, fangs extending. He lunged, hands like claws, only to stop with a jolt as the stake slipped between his ribs.

"I do kinda like dom-play," Cherise told Victor as he crumbled, "but you have to remember: it's only play."

The Insane

"How fast can you run?" asked the wolf. Its tongue licked out, once, twice. Red flesh, black nose, silver fur.

"I'm pretty fast," said the man. "I won races in grade school."

The wolf panted, eyes glinting. "You're not faster than me. No one is. How fast can you run, hunter?"

The man stood hunched, hearing the movement all around him. He shrugged. Something tinkled on the floor, bent metal. A dozen ears swiveled; a dozen eyes tracked it. The man held up the black grenade whose pin he had dropped.

"Let's find out," he said.

The grenade bounced twice.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Other Hive

The weathered wood of the roadside stand spoke of summer heat and sweltering desperation. "Wasp Honey," read the sign, in neat black letters. The honey was in jam-jars and old bottles, all clearly scrounged from someone's kitchen. It was black as coffee.

"Some sort of regional concoction?" asked Dan. "Like vegemite?"

"Nope," said the freckled woman behind the stand. "Them wasps made it."

"And it's not... It's okay to eat?"

The woman shrugged. "I ain't died yet."

Shannon dipped a finger in a jar and tasted it. "Oh, God!" she cried, retching.

"Hey!" said the woman. "At least they're trying."

The First Law

The juggler tossed fiery balls into the air. They flared all the colors of the rainbow and, with a flourish and a snap of the juggler's fingers, winked out. The gathered children did not applaud.

"Where'd the fire go?" asked a small boy.

"It disappeared," said the juggler, forcing a smile. "Magic, you know."

"But energy is conserved," a little girl put in.

"So's matter," said another.

"You better fess up," said the boy. "Don't lie."

"What are you talking about?" the juggler snapped. His stomach lurched, suddenly burning.

"It had to go somewhere..."

The juggler hiccuped. He smelled smoke.

Point of View

Truth walked on the stage, and the theater erupted in cacophony. Voices hooted, screamed, and cursed. Men stood on their chairs to shout pleas of love. Others turned pale and fell senseless to the floor. Everywhere, faces were twisted in shock, adoration, hatred, or revulsion.

"What's all the fuss?" asked Chesterton. He lifted his opera glasses. "She's not doing anything. Looks a bit plain, really."

"I think," said the Marquis de Rebeille, "that one's view of Truth rather depends on the angle."

"Blast and botheration," said Chesterton. He peered at his pasteboard tickets. "No wonder these seats were so cheap."

Friday, April 15, 2011


Finch pushed back his hat. "Naw, we got this. C'mon, Buford. Show 'em your stuff."

Buford, his gray skin dry and sun-bleached, shambled out. He wore a ten-gallon hat atop the shreds of scalp on his skull.

Finch clapped his hands. "What does a donkey do, Buford?"


"And how do you steer a horse?"


Finch turned to the others with a wide grin. "Somethin' else, ain't he?"

Tucker and Will glanced at each other. Tucker spat. "Still thicker'n a shit sandwich."

Finch frowned. "Hey, Buford. What is it these two ain't got more'n a teaspoonful of between 'em?"


"Enough!" The King waved his polished black trotter, and the tumult ceased. Dust drifted down across the arena. Only one pig remained standing.

"You have defeated all of your foes, Sir Orson," the King announced. "Truly, you are the best and bravest boar in all the land. These others," he snorted at the fallen," will be taken and fed to the dogs. You, and you alone, will ride from this place with honor."

Sir Orson stood as straight as he could, swaying slightly, his tusks stained with blood.

"Fetch the carriage!" cried the King. "And hurry. I'm feeling quite peckish."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

National Reserves

The pretty newscaster lady was talking about the long-term environmental impact of the spill, how the crude sludge decays into fantasy and delusion. She's smiling. Easy for her to talk; she's had her ration and more, I'd wager.

Kind of ironic: selling it off is the best way to look to the future, for most of us.

Used to be I held my job as a sacred trust. But now I've got a truck of liquid hope parked outside and all I can think of is dumping it all into the local aquifer. Maybe we'd be better off without it...


"Look, let's just talk this over, can't we? I see you have some clubs and rocks and things, yes. Put them up for just a little while, all right? Good. I'm so glad we can deal with this politely. I'm programmed to destroy all human life, but I can't see a reason to be so crude about everything. I've an extensive selection of options; it needn't be messy or protracted. Well, talk it over. Take your time. I'd rather arrange amicable deaths after a delay than go to the bother of slaughtering all of you. Those dents don't repair themselves."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fangs Gleaming in the Darkness

The doors creaked open with the shudder of long-rusted hinges.

"Is the Count not here?" asked Harker.

"Oh, no, sir," said the bedraggled servitor. His skin was red and welted, and his shoelaces undone and partially shredded. "The Master never rises before dark. He will meet you in the dining chamber."

"Any chance of a good glass of wine?"

"The Master does not drink... wine." The servant blinked. "We have milk, and water. Dinner will be tuna tartare, and..." He paused, rolling his red-rimmed eyes before sneezing powerfully. "The Master prefers to be scritched behind the ears, but no belly-rubs."


"Told you we'd find him here," said Wes. He and Anders hiked up the hill to where the Ancillary Viyd perched on his stems, all his sensory nodules pointed at the landing planes.

"Watching the planes land?" asked Anders. He smiled, or at least showed his teeth.

"Yes," said the Ancillary Viyd.

"You're not supposed to leave the lab unescorted," Wes said.

"I know. I like to watch the light when they land. All those within, reaching out to those they could not touch in the air." The Ancillary Viyd gestured upward. "It is beautiful. Like spores in the wind."

Status Update

Sorry about that; was on a trip and just did not have time/energy to post (due to jetlag and having to revert to daylight hours temporarily. I'll do a couple posts a day for the next week or so. That should even us up, right?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Moving Day

All of our belongings were packed in bags and boxes in the yard.

It was time to go.

With a creaking of beams, the white-painted house reared and stood over us on its foundation. It was not our house. Not anymore. I suppose it was its own, if it was anyone's; the bank was welcome to try and catch it. It paused, then turned and shambled away.

Somehow, I didn't start to cry until I saw the Forrester's shiny new automobile with the parts special-ordered from all the way back East, come trotting by on the Wellsby's beat-up old nag.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Concrete" at Abyss & Apex

My short story Concrete is now available from Abyss & Apex, of whom you may heard. I'm quite proud of getting in there, actually; it's definitely a feather in my cover letter cap, as far as I'm concerned.


Someone Will Have to Write a Letter to the Parents

"Well, that's everyone," said Mrs. Evelyn. She waved as the last yellow bus pulled away. "Is it safe for us to stay here?"

"Oh, yes," said June. "That line about the gas leak is hooey. Come to the gym. I'll show you."

Mrs. Evelyn gasped when the saw the hole, bricks tumbled in a rough pile before it. "If it wasn't an explosion, then what...?"

"Look closer." June pointed.

Pressed into the bricks like they were soft clay, identical to the hundreds hanging in the art room, was the imprint of a child's hand.

"Not an accident," said June. "Pushed."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I wake up every night, gasping and sweating. My ribcage heaves, crushed flat. It's like a bowling ball on my chest. An elephant. It's the heaviest weight you can imagine.

I wish I'd never answered that stupid invitation. They told me I was a descendant of the gods, that I had divine blood in my veins. They told me I should be proud. I had a heritage. All those children of Zeus and Aphrodite and Hermes, glittering with power and beauty and miraculous gifts.

Who was my father? I asked. What will I inherit?

Do you like weightlifting? they said.

Another Quick Jog Around the Campfire

I have coffee. I don't brew it anymore, just chew the beans and swallow, bitter-bitter. I have energy drinks and a small baggie filled with white powder that I'm maybe seventy-five percent sure is not laundry detergent. I have a pin to sit on and a rubber band around my wrist to snap. I must watch the edge of the woods until they come back and we know if we are saved or doomed.

You cannot sleep in the Livewood, not even here on the edge. This is the land where dreams come true.

I remember some of my dreams.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tyrannosaurus Rex

There was a distant crash of metal and timber. "They're through the gates," said Skwib mournfully.

Doog hovered protectively before the throne. "Your Majesty, what should we do?"

The king blinked slowly, and his tongue flicked in and out.

"The king can't answer you, Doog. He's an iguana."

"We had a system! One flick for yes, two for no."

"Is that how you decided where to place the defenses?"

"They'll never take the privy," said Doog.

"That they won't," Skwib conceded. He sighed. "You know the worst part?"

Doog shook his head, lips flapping.

"The Rinthians' king is a goldfish."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hunting for Sport

"Got a new one, eh?"

Robert angled the wheelbarrow just right in the stiff gnome's hands, then stepped back to survey his work. He nodded. "Finally gave up on the traps and went out like my grandfather did. Club and net. Traditional, like."

Todd plucked his pipe out of his mouth and scratched at his nose with the stem. "Looks a bit peaky, though. They're best in the fall, when their little bellies are round."

Robert gritted his teeth. He glanced at Todd's yard, where half a dozen store-bought plumpers stood with jaunty, frozen smiles. "At least I earned mine."