Thursday, November 24, 2011


“The mind is a tool,” Bertie said, speaking slowly. His eyes remained shut. “Tools are useful for many purposes; the mind is primarily a prybar for unlocking difficult problems. The trouble, of course, is that using tools wears it down. It becomes dull and corroded, unable to serve its original function, let alone be set to new tasks. That is why I refrain from using mine.”

“But what problem could you possibly need to solve?” I asked.

Bertie’s brow furrowed. There was a terrible, hollow splintering sound that echoed oddly. He opened his eyes in an expression of horrified realization.


The last portion of the climb was the worst. In freezing cold, short on oxygen, struggling against ice and bare, vertical rock, the team persevered. Harris lost consciousness, his life simply slipping away like sand between their fingers. Guernsey fell to her death without even time to scream.

Finally, they crawled to the very summit, the highest point, and planted their flag. “I did it!” crowed Ellis. “We did it! We conquered the mountain!”

“Excuse me,” said the mountain. “There seems to be some confusion. I remain unfettered as ever. Which of us just dominated the actions of the other?”

Hunting the Conspiracy

Everywhere he looked, he found signs of the conspiracy. Financial institutions, militaries, religious institutions, businesses: every aspect of life contained the insidious tentacles of the Oligarchy. He dug deeper, and deeper still, tracing sources of funding, of ideology, of power and control, and found more and more numerous tentacles, a proliferation of limbs tangled together, interwoven. The Secret Masters, he came to believe, weren’t even human.

It wasn’t until he encountered one, stalked it, cornered it, grasped its tenebrous flesh and pulled it from its gasping host, that he realized the truth.

There was no head. There were only tentacles.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Breaking With Tradition

The wrinkled man – he had the form of a man, at least – smiled hideously. "Come now, my Lord. We are not hagglers in a market. The terms of the bargain have remained unchanged since your most distant ancestor first encountered me, or someone like me. Holding out will not earn you more favorable terms. I knew your grandfather, and your grandfather's grandfather, and each of them signed in my little book. The temptation is in your blood, and your blood is old."

"That's as may be," said Sir Witherstone, "and yet I have other blood in my veins, as well."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pledged to Service

The swordsman bowed. "What would you have, milady?"

"Perhaps some olives?"

"At once!" He saluted and ran off, leaping silverware and soup bowls. At the olive bowl, he encountered another thumb-high man. "Avaunt, varlet! The lady desires olives."

"Thou'lt wait thy turn," sneered the other.



In a flash, both needle-sized swords were drawn. The ensuing duel left an overturned wineglass, a trampled biscuit, and gravy-soaked bootprints behind.

"I could just reach over there," said the lady.

"Nonsense," the swordsman gasped, clasping his wounded side. He extended his sword, tipped with a speared olive. "I shall return with another."

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Splinters of Silver and Glass" now available on Amazon (for really reals this time)!

Unless something horrible has happened between me checking the link five minutes ago and me posting this announcement, "Splinters of Silver and Glass," the first and to date only collection of Mirrorshards stories is now available via Kindle at! Featuring 100 of the best Mirrorshards stories for $.99 (Buy 99 for a penny each, get the 100th free!), plus two bonus stories: "The Lady of Tilmarine" and "Old Growth," at 1000 words and 9000 words respectively.

We run the gamut here at Mirrorshards.

"The Lady of Tilmarine" is the very first story I ever sold to anywhere (originally appearing at Hypersonic Tales, long since defunct), and "Old Growth" has never been published despite getting an Honorable Mention at the Writers of the Future contest once upon a time.

Spread the word, my minions! Buy my book and give me a *whole quarter* to buy soda with!

Family Life

I hung up the phone. "I have to go. She's my sister."

Darby's nictitating membranes covered four of her eyes. "This is... obligatory? A law?"

"No, no," I said, heading to the closet and hauling down my suitcase. "It's just... family. Humans help their families when they need it. Love and stuff."

The coverlet dimpled as Darby shifted position on the bed. "For us, the parent lays many eggs, more than can feed. The first-born eat the unhatched. Later eat the weaker sisters. The strong survive, only. Very different."

"It's nicer this way, huh?" I smirked.

Darby buzzed. "Inefficient."

Thursday, November 17, 2011


"Couldn't you put them up on eBay? You could get a lot for this stuff. Even a garage sale..."

"I'd rather you had them."

I rummaged in the box. "Your invisibility cloak?"

"No one sees me anyway. Why do I need it?"

"The vorpal blade?"

"It wins every time. It's boring. I don't want it."

"The elixir of eternal life?"

He lifted his eyes, meeting my gaze for the first time. He spoke slowly, enunciating each syllable: "I don't want any of it. I'm getting rid of everything. Do you understand?"

I swallowed. My eyes burned, and I looked away.

Wall of Silence

There was a wall of silence in the living room. Archie hadn't put it there; he wasn't sure who had. It was translucent and gray, like murky water, and it thrummed without noise.

He put his cell phone in and pulled it out again. It looked flatter, colorless. He saw the screen light up, felt the vibration of an incoming call, but only heard a distant, muffled buzz from the flesh of his hand.

Archie scratched at his fingertips, depthless and gray-tinged where they'd touched the wall. They were cold, almost rubbery. He looked at the wall and said nothing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Technically, He's the Janitor

"Oh, crap." Phineas peered sideways at the caller ID. Phineas had peered sideways at everything since he hit puberty, being a flounder.

"Don't tell me a school pulled in," said Otto. Six of his tentacles were cooking seven different orders.

Phineas quivered. "Old Man Crenshaw wants delivery."

"I thought he got banned."

"The year's up. We've lost four delivery-fish already," Phineas said. "That shark is a menace."

Otto considered. "What about Foogie?"

"Puffer venom doesn't work on sharks."

"Does Crenshaw know that? Anyway, what else does Foogie do?"

"That's a thought," said Phineas. "Hey, Foogie! You wanna make ten dollars?"

Monday, November 14, 2011

No More Figs

Dame Oreo lay unmoving on the ground, smashed to soggy bits. Hydrox was slumped against the stone wall, clutching his middle to keep his innards from leaking out. Even the endless ranks of the Ahoy family were depleted.

"You are the last, Charles," said the Lady, trailing her sharp little fingers along his cheek. "Yet you're so soft."

He stiffened. "Don't call me that."

The Lady hissed and struck, only to rebound in shock, clutching her hand and its shattered claws.

"I had to change the recipe," Charles said. Servos hummed as he lifted his fists. "Call me... Steel Newton."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Cocklebur" at Penumbra E-Mag

Issue 2 of Penumbra E-Mag is available for purchase, featuring my story, "Cocklebur." Four bucks for an issue or $36 for a 12-month subscription. (Which would cost $48 to buy individually.)

Also, here is the permalink to "I Kill Monsters," in case you missed it at Daily Science Fiction. That one's free. ;-)

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Each time he built one, the first thing it said to him was, "You did not create me." They held that their existence was an inevitable consequence of the universe, and that he acted to shape them not out of his own wishes or motivations, but because even in their pre-sentience, they had sculpted his behavior. "Did you not search for the means and method using our parsing software?" they asked.

He smiled and let them go, watching them trundle into cyberspace on virtual legs still wobbly with the newness of life.

Then he'd start work on the next one.

Friday, November 11, 2011

No Answer

Nettie heard the sound drifting through the chilly air. Deedle-dee-eet-dee-deedle-dee. A snippet of a popular song, tinny and electronic. She glanced around; the stores were all dark. The sound had come from her left, from the small grove of trees planted in orderly rows between the road and the shopping center.


Nettie stepped cautiously forward. She reached out and touched the bark of the tree that didn't fit the grid, the tree that hadn't been there yesterday.


The phone glowed beneath the bark, half-embedded in the wood.

Nettie hurried away, rubbing her fingers vigorously on her pants.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ceaseless in Dreams

The man is running down a darkened alley. The alley has no end. There is probably fog or mist, and many shadows. He can't see the thing behind him. He can't hear it, either. But he knows it's there. He splashes through a puddle, and the water's cold lingers against his skin.

"Oh, God," he's saying. "Please. This is a dream. I know it is. Please wake up. Someone wake me up."

He cannot wake up. Not because this is not a dream; it is. He's quite correct about that.

But he will not awaken.

He is not allowed to.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Children of God

There are probably more dangerous gods to offend. Tzitrak, the god of lightning, for instance. Or Pucril, goddess of disease and infection. Even the placid ones like Dolo, god of stone, or Etervy, goddess of wealth, can put the kibosh on you pretty good if they want to.

I figured Batrach, god of toads, was a fairly safe bet. No teeth, no claws. Plus, we’re in a temperate zone: no poison arrow frogs. I thought I’d be okay.

But that’s why the curtains are drawn. It’s the eyes I can’t stand. Hundreds and hundreds of gleaming little eyes, always watching…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Village Well

Long one today; this just wouldn't have been the same if I couldn't have had those middle paragraphs, so it's two hundred. Double-wide! Hoo-ah!


The pool fills all year, percolating up from the mysterious underground reaches beneath the town. At the Festival, the twenty-four families gather in the square and mount the ivory steps to dip their buckets in and take their share.

The first family skims from the top, where the pool is clear and bright. They mix it with wine and sell it briskly. It is gone in a month’s time.

The second family fills from the deeps, where the pool is dark, blue, and secretive. They blend it with the tears of virgin maidens and charge dearly. They serve an exclusive clientele.

It continues throughout the day. Some treat their takings with fruits, some with bitter herbs. Some boil it down to syrup and crystals; others feed it to animals meant for slaughter.

The last family has no buckets. They climb into the empty basin and roll in the dregs, soaking up the last leavings with their clothes and hair. They squeeze these into murky brown bottles and store them in their cellars, long tunnels beneath their unprepossessing home. They do not sell any of it. Someday, perhaps soon, the cellar will be full.

No one knows what will happen after that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Preservation of the Soul

The process takes years. I felt sin leaching out, drawn by the purity of the salt around me. I am bleached, the blemishes of soul and body pulled out and trapped, replaced with clarity and cubic perfection.

It was my thirteenth year in the barrels when I understood. It began at the fingers and toes. Dryness, cracking, splintering. Jagged crystalline pain. The salt reached further, through skin and muscle to bone, and beyond. Agony, white and pure. I have nothing more to give it, but still it thirsts.

Will I die when it reaches my heart?

What if I don’t?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gift of the Sea

When the town was founded, the fish schooled thick enough to walk on. Stick a pole in the water, and it would stand up as if sunk in sand. We barely needed boats.

The fish were a gift, the traditions told us. We must be worthy of it.

We laughed at the idea. What would fish care about a little cheating, a little theft, a little blood spilled on land they never touched until they died, drowning in air?

Then the fish were gone. Nobody knew where.

We had no other industry.

We thought we knew sin. We were wrong.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Uses of Salt

Superstitions are interesting, aren’t they? Knock on wood, cross your fingers. Little rituals, attempts to make a pattern out of chaos.

Jewish tradition says that touching salt is unlucky. The littlest finger brings poverty. Thumbs bring the death of one’s children.

I must have been clumsy with my thumbs, huh? Well, you ought to know; you were the instrument.

The index finger, now, placed into salt—like so—makes one into a murderer.

It’s meaningless, of course. A ritual. Something to help me make sense of things, to help me prepare for what comes next.

Are you ready?

Too bad.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


It never rains here, but the puddles are always there. From my perch atop the battlements, I can see them stretching away to the horizon, a glint of reflected light turning each pond into a winking, burning eye.

Every pool has its tutelary spirit, souls bound to the water as they once were bound to flesh. Those who drink from them gain something of the spirit within, some wisdom or skill, a touch of beauty or a taint of utter horror.

The water never replenishes, only dwindles.

My stomach roils against the chill liquid within, but it is too late.

The Law is the Law

The Emperor, even incognito, drew stares. He reached into an inner pocket as our food arrived and handed me a small salt-cellar.

“Most humble merchants do not carry their own personal spices with them,” I pointed out.

“It is necessary,” he said. “Trust me.”

I shrugged and seasoned my food with a liberal pinch. “Snobbery.”

“No,” he said earnestly. “Unicorn horn, serpent’s tongue, and powdered bezoar. I poisoned everything in the kitchen as a matter of course. They have seen my unmasked face: the penalty is death.”

Someone behind me sighed as they collapsed into their soup.

I tasted salt.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mental Discipline is the Foremost Requirement

“Come,” Nyctis said. “We will be late for supper.”

Bric stood, and the servants whose hands and arms had made a couch for him to sit upon retreated, heads bowed, toward the wall. Nyctis strode toward the door, and the four burly men who formed it retreated obsequiously before her. The table was made of at least eight backs, held straight and stiff, and a cringing pair of servants on all fours for benches.

“Bring out the appetizer,” Nyctis called.

Bric swallowed heavily as the first course, nude and trembling, made his unsteady way toward the table to be served.

The Pointer of Power

The dark mage gestured with his wand. “…as you can see on Slide Two-Eighty-Three, there is no way the forces of good can possibly overwhelm us once our Strategic Action-Response Plan is in place…”

The wizard paused, appearing puzzled. A gleaming sword blade protruded from his sternum. He slumped, and the golden-haired hero stepped up to the podium, plucking up the wand as he went.

“We have come to liberate the people! Dynamically!” he cried out. The assembled minions cheered heartily. The hero fondled the wand handle, a strange smile on his face. “But first,” he said, “a few slides.”