Saturday, October 29, 2011

From Out the Belly of the Wolf

"We must consider," the wolf's counsel told the jury, "Ms. Hood's prior conduct. A bright red cloak is an... eye-catching ensemble. And entering the woods, knowing wolves lurked there? Incautious, to say the least. She claims that tempting basked of 'goodies' was for her grandmother, an old woman in acknowledged poor health. Hearing all this, I asked myself, 'Is this truly a victim? Or a "party girl"?'"

At the prosecution's table, the woodsman leaned over to Red. "I could go get my axe again..."

Red felt the eyes of the jury on her. "I don't think it can help anymore."

What's in a Name?

The Young Master was heading out into the world to do his great deeds. The household gathered to confer their gifts upon him.

"These seeds will grow strong and healthy plants for you, wherever you settle," said Mr. Green.

"I have forged this dagger, so that you may never be unarmed," said Mr. Smith.

"This woven bags will hold everything you will ever need, and more," said Mrs. Webb.

Mr. Cox cleared his throat. "I have-" He paused as the others snickered and blushed. "Oh, for pity's sake!" he snapped. "It's a chicken. A chicken! You people are utterly childish!"

Thursday, October 27, 2011


The house was unpleasantly warm and damp, like a greenhouse or a sauna. It reeked, too, even outside of the basement. We conducted the investigation as thoroughly as we could, under the circumstances.

"Jeez, how long have these been here?" The bones were barely covered with a slimy, soupy mess. You couldn't even tell they were bodies.

"According to their neighbors, they were seen out and about two days ago."

"But these... I mean, they've been rotting for weeks, at least."

"Or..." I hesitated. "Or digesting for about twelve hours."

The house groaned, then. I refuse to say it belched.

The Last God

Who shall sing your praises, O Lord, with pipe and horn and tambourine, to dance in joy throughout the night?

Not you, O Faithful Revelers.

Who shall build your temples, O Lord, with towers and arches, glass and gold, reflecting your light unto Heaven?

Never you, O Restful Workers.

Who shall give the laws, O Lord, with wisdom and grace, counsel and guidance, that all may know your ways, delighting to follow them?

Anyone but I, O Obedient Children.

How then shall we serve you best, Lord of Procrastination?

You shall do all of these things, and more, Beloved.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Risks We Never Contemplate

"I can never feel wholly relaxed on your planet," the Ambassador remarked. The plastic tank containing his crystal matrix sloshed as he walked beside us on six robotic legs.

"If you're referring to the recent unrest, sir, I assure you-"

"No, no, you misunderstand." The Ambassador flashed an embarrassed turquoise. "I have every faith in your security forces. It's just... these oxygen worlds. Back home, we keep oxygen safely sequestered, deep underground. Toxic stuff. Hazardous. But here, it's a staple of life. It's astounding to us." He paused thoughtfully. "Everything is burning, all the time, and you never even notice."

And Cover Your Mouth When You Yawn

Used to be, when you sneezed, they blessed you. Sneezing meant your soul had fled the body, leaving it vulnerable to demons. Then germ theory came and everyone forgot.

I watched for years as the sickness increased. Not physical illness, but a spiritual plague, the demons multiplying with every pernicious bout of hayfever.

I came up with a solution.

Do you remember the first of Christ's miracles? That's right: water to wine. Win is holy. Alcohol purifies.

Here, have a bottle. My invention. Our salvation. Anoint your hands after sneezing. Listen for the screams of the damned.

Gesundheit. God bless.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


"We're very excited about the new photovoltaics," said Dr. Stoukre. "The latest materials to come out of the lab have some amazing properties, particularly with regard to light sensitivity. They practically scream energy when you expose them to sunlight."

"Not any other light, though," Newson put in. "Just sunlight."

"Oh?" Dr. Brenner blinked. "That's unusual."

"We suspect it's something to do with the... origin. We've had to stake three of them trying to work out the kinks."

"Luckily," said Newson, "there's always more idiotic grad students willing to sign the waiver. Three days later, we're restocked. Thank goodness for 'Twilight.'"

Burning Sensation

"Ye gods!" Rythia leapt nimbly back, drawing her useless blade.

All around them, tiny holes in the ground spilled out thousands of tiny lights, like stars brought to earth. They crept in meandering lines toward the small rise where Rythia and Loachim had made their camp, leaving blazing trails behind them.

"What is this?" Loachim snorted, tusks gnashing. He grasped their diminutive native guide on the shoulder. "Speak!"

"Just know," Rythia interjected, swatting experimentally at the ground with her rapier, "if you say 'fire ants,' then so help me gods, I will gut you where you stand and feel nothing."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pay for Things You Can Get for Free!

We have our 100th follower! Huzzah and acclamations!

To celebrate, I am hereby announcing that I intend to put out a Kindle version of the Best of Mirrorshards. Because I want to try out the whole Kindle book thing, mostly, and I'd feel ridiculous charging people for my stories sight unseen. This way, if people don't want to pay, they can just come here and read it for free to spite me. I'll be culling the archives (all 950 or so) and pulling out the best 100 stories to put into the book version, which will sell for 99 cents 'cause that's what all the cool kids are doing. (Buy 99 stories at one cent each, get the 100th FREE!)

But! My loyal fans! My beloved largely silent audience! I want you to have your own voice in this, too. Comment here with a link to your favorite one or two flitterfics and SHAPE THE VERY DESTINY of a tiny vanity project.


Satisfaction - and No More - Guaranteed

The waiter wasn't particularly attractive, but he wasn't ugly, either. He smiled just enough to keep short of rudeness. "Welcome to Mediocrity, the Middle-of-the-Road Restaurant! We guarantee you'll be neither upset nor overjoyed at what you receive. What can we get for you today?"

"What comes on the Leveled Playing Field?" Herbert pointed at the menu.

"It's a casserole. Noodles and meat and so on. Guaranteed palatable and nourishing."

"Sounds good!" said Herbert. "I like it with just a bit of salt. That'll be perfect."

The waiter's smile faded. His eyes narrowed. He reached down and slid the saltshaker firmly away.

A Temporary Solution

The last glimmer of sunset showed them their doom. The main horde had finally caught up, and the ancient mansion wouldn't last an hour against a determined zombie assault.

"Please," Trey said, holding out the shotgun, "I want a clean death."

"Wait!" Gertie pointed out the window.

In the twilight, a shadowy figure darted with blinding speed among the zombies. Heads exploded, limbs fell off, and in an impossibly short time, the undead assault was blunted.

"Thank you!" Gertie called to their rescuer.

He turned. "You may thank me properly. Later." He smiled, bone-pale, his fangs flashing in the darkness.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lessons From My Youth

The sword plunged in, sliding through the unarmored flesh like a hot knife through butter. The youth leapt back with a shout of victory.

A vast, clawed hand closed around his waist. "You know," said the monster, as the youth struggled, "there's a reason that spot doesn't get covered with armor. The reason is a secret. You want to know it?"

The youth gasped, turning red, then purple.

"It's because that spot isn't vital at all." The monster popped the youth into his mouth and chewed. "God, I love the video game generation," he said to no one in particular.


We pulled up to the tollbooth and I glanced at the passenger seat.

"What are you looking at me for?" the toad grumbled.

"I dunno," I said. "In the stories, whenever there's an obstacle, the magical animal says stuff like, 'Do exactly what I say and don't ask questions. Strike me dead and cut open my belly,' and then the hero finds a jewel or something in there and is able to pay the ferryman or buy a new horse or whatever."

The toad goggled. "Fuck that noise," it said. "Here, help me look on the floor for loose change."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Better Wells and Castles

"Unfortunately," said the guide, "this is as far as we can go."

"Afraid to have witnesses?" That was the snotty college kid. He'd spent the tour asking pointed questions and generally ruining it for those of us who came for family entertainment.

The guide smiled and shook her head, her tiara jingling. "Our processes are completely transparent, but some of the production work is hazardous. for example, you may be familiar with our line of blizzard-inducing pillows?"

A gust of frigid air brought the sound of angry honking from the distance.

"Those feathers have to come from somewhere; it's molting season."

Eternally Vigilant

We all watched the tiny figure cling to the overhead light fixture. It was black as tar except for the jewels on its mask. "So it doesn't try to attack you or anything?"

"No. It just... stares." Chet had lost a lot of weight. His hair stuck out at odd angles, as if he'd been tying it in knots.

"That's not so bad, then. Small price for violating that ancient burial ground, right?"

"I want to die," Chet said.

Reggie shrugged. "So do it."

"I tried!" Chet glanced over his shoulder and shuddered. "I think it called the paramedics."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mind Games

"Wait here." She stood up from the leather couch in a single, sinuous motion. Abel watched the shot appreciatively as she sashayed to the wet bar. Glass and ice clinked, and various liquids sloshed.

"One of these," she said, holding up the two glasses, "is poisoned. Choose."

Abel smiled and pointed. She handed it over. "You're dangerous, eh? I like it." He took a sip, and his lips went numb.

"You chose wrong." Her smiled widened to a grin.

He coughed and tried to speak.

"Where would the fun be," she whispered in his ear, "if it weren't real sometimes?"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

His Request

The bulldog walked into the living room where we were all sipping our postprandial coffee, tea, or "just water, thanks." I scratched his ears. No one else paid attention. Not that the conversation was interesting, mind you, but there's a certain level of self-absorption mandatory on these occasions.

The dog rolled his eyes up at me. "Haaaa... haaaa..." His breath was hot on my leg. "Heeeehhhpp..."

I shot him a glance. Had the dog just...?

"Heeehhp... mmmeeee..."

I looked around. Everyone was laughing about someone's quip. I forced a smile.

Eventually, the warm presence by my knee disappeared again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tit for Tat

Look, lady, no hard feelings or nothing. We didn't particularly want to knock over your apartment, you understand. We're freelance.

I wouldn't call us construction workers, no. We're sort of in the construction business, but more the other end of it.

"Wreck" is a little harsh. "Deconstruction," maybe. Yeah, we're freelance deconstructionists, and somebody wanted that building down.

Naw, I don't know who. Someone back at the home office could probably tell you. I'll put you in touch.

Sure, names and addresses. Public info, per the user agreement.

You'd be surprised. We get most of our business that way, actually.

Brick by Brick, Stone by Stone

Traffic was backing up. The rows of headlights already disappeared beyond the horizon. The workers themselves were barely visible, outlines in reflective tape.

Erich leaned out the window. "How long is this going to take, anyway?" he called out. "You've got both lanes closed off."

"Look," said the nearest worker. "We feel for you, we really do. You almost made it in. But the wall's going up; that's all there is to it."

He shook his head and returned to work, placing the heavy cinder-blocks in a neat row across the highway. Others came behind him, and the wall grew.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Where the Tubes End

The soda fountain sputtered and coughed a half-hearted stream into my cup. "Out of syrup?" I asked the attendant.

She frowned. "It's sick again." She turned over her shoulder and called, "Hey, Louie! Get the cattle prod and the tranquilizers!"

I chuckled dutifully - she was kind of cute, under the paper hat - but she didn't even crack a smile. Behind her, a grim-faced man donned a leather coat and pushed open a door marked "Employees Only." From the darkness beyond, I heard the rustle of scales and the wheeze of labored breath.

"I'll just take a bottled water," I said.

Going to Be the Very Best

As I sometimes do, I find myself with a story too far over 100 words to be worth anything once I've chopped it down. So here is a nice long story (200 words) for "today," as I scramble to catch up with my failures during my recent travels.


The knockout gas is effective. One might even say super-effective. The guards go down without a sound, and I slip inside. I ache all over; my muscles strain to drag my weakened bones along; I can breathe only with mechanical assistance; I ooze more fluids in more colors than I'd ever thought possible. But I cannot stop now, not when I am so close.

My zoological quest began when I was still very young and full of yearning. I gathered up animals, plants, and everything in between. I collected mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish; fungus and mold, insects of every description; even supposedly mythological beasts, ghosts and legends. I developed the technology to resurrect vanished species, the long-gone saurians and primitive amphibians. They all rest in stasis on my remote island compound, a veritable army of creatures at my command. Data on their forms and habits is retrievable from my handheld computer. But it wasn't enough. It can never be enough.

I reach the inner sanctum, and there I find my goal. A glass vial: smallpox. The last known supply, extinct everywhere but here.

I smash it.

I breathe in, and smile.

At last, at last, I've caught them all.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Standardized Tests

He tried to ignore the rumble as another section of floor dropped away into the abyss. The space around his desk was riddled with black holes, and the hungry wind that blew from beneath clawed at his ankles. He tried to focus on the task in front of him. The words swam in his vision, and sweat rolled down his forehead to make dark spots on the cheap paper.

Spandrel : Architecture :: Hiccups : ?

He nearly bit his pencil in half. This wasn't his field. Why? he thought bleakly, why hadn't anyone thought to train him for this?

His Only True Friend

He is famous now. More than famous, really. He's done miracles. He's healed the sick, revived the dead, or at least been present during extreme medical events, depending on your faith in modern media's reliability. Some people say he's divine. There are arguments about this, of course.

But without me, he's nothing.

Oh, he wouldn't know me. I'm not name-dropping. He'd save us all if he could, but he's already losing momentum, already heading into the media abyss in favor of the next banal piece of celebrity gossip. Without me, he'll fade away.

Without me, he'll never be a martyr.