Saturday, December 31, 2011

Alien Intelligence

The derelict ship drifted steadily nearer to the docking bay. It was deceptively slow-looking, considering both craft were moving at near-relativistic speeds.

"Steady," Grisbane said. "Steady on..."

There was a juddering thump that shook the ship.

"What was that?" cried Brik.

"Oops," came a mechanical voice over the intercom.

"We crashed it." Grisbane stared at Brik. "Why are you here? You're supposed to be manning the attitude controls."

"I left Wxlplt to do it." Brik wilted under Grisbane's gaze. "What? It's two buttons! He's plenty smart enough."

"Octopi have radially symmetrical brains," Grisbane said. "He thinks 'left' is a color."

Friday, December 30, 2011


"Scotty," said the captain. "A moment of your time."

"Aye, sir?" The engineer looked wary.

"I've been reading up on warp engines recently. I just can't seem to wrap my head around it. I was hoping you could give me a little... tutoring, I suppose? Practical demonstrations?"

Scotty cast his gaze down. "Well, sir, I'm afraid I've got to come clean with you. There's no such thing as warp engines."

"Come again?"

"It's magic, sir. Sacrificial goats and black rites. Engineers are all wizards." He shrugged. "Didn't you ever notice the explanations don't hang together from one crisis to another?"

Battling the Collective

The dark man lifted a head to his hairless temple, as if pained. "You're just going to have to get over these errors. There is no 'you' just as there is no 'me." That's just a sloppy habit of thinking. Consciousness is a confabulation, an idiot god-child rubber-stamping the work of the real machinery and calling itself the king. External or internal, your life and memories are nothing more than the story your brain tells itself to give the stick its sting. This struggle against me has no point."

"Probably true." Breen drew his weapon. "Why do you think that matters?"

Can't Catch Me

There was a scraping sound coming from the kitchen. The little old woman trundled around the corner to check.

"Oho," she said. "You're a frisky one."

The gingerbread man did not spare her a glance, busy with his work. He'd gotten the drawer open and was slowly tugging the massive butcher's knife up onto the counter.

"Is that for me?" She clucked her tongue. "Defiant. Insubordinate. Just like your brothers." She reached down and slammed the drawer shut. The gingerbread man spun helplessly across the counter.

"But I've learned," she said. "That's why I don't make you with legs anymore."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Free Cookies

Two sleek new bots were teasing the old android greeter. He was an ancient model, from back when they tried to make us look like them, fake rubber skin and all. The bots were pinging him wirelessly, laughing when he didn't notice, and zipping past him faster than his visual sensors could register.

"Hi, kids," I said, flashing my store ID code. "Want a cookie?" I proffered the virtual info-bits on my sample tray app. They whooped and snatched them up.

They don't have to know where I downloaded the cookies. Not until the malware catches up to them, anyway.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Goddess Bless Us, Every One

A somewhat late arrival for the Advent Ghosts event. This one is just kind of an odd thought experiment, but it's got a ghost and it's got Christmas, dammit. :-P



“Oh, my God!” said Eleanor Scrooge. “Marlene!?”

“Yes,” said the ghost. “I have returned from the grave to warn you. Your greedy and grasping ways will doom your soul. For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person…”

“Now hold on.” Eleanor fetched her glasses from the bedside table. “Do you know how hard I had to work to earn this lifestyle? I make seventy cents on the dollar, at most.”

Marlene coughed. “And poor Mary Cratchitt?”

Eleanor hesitated. “I just… I wanted her to understand that there’s no such thing as a free ride for an independent woman. The glass ceiling is always there. She needs to toughen up, learn to fight for what she wants.” She sighed. “But you’re right. She’s worked hard, and I can’t expect everyone to make the same choices I did. I’ll make sure she comes up for promotion after she gets back from maternity leave.”

“Well,” said Marlene. “That was a lot easier than expected. What am I going to do with the three spirits of ominous foreboding and Christmas cheer?”

“Try them on my brother Ebenezer,” Eleanor suggested. “He inherited the lion’s share of Daddy’s money, being the ‘firstborn son’ and all that rot, and you know what he’s done with it? Nothing. He barely even invests in stocks and bonds, let alone putting it to work in the community. I’m amazed there’s any of it left, what with inflation gnawing away at it.”

Marlene nodded thoughtfully. “Where is he now?”

“Oh, probably at campaign headquarters.” Eleanor chuckled. “Even on Christmas, he’s always obsessing over his poll numbers. Just tell him you’re some old business partner. He can’t remember his vice president’s name, let alone everyone he’s ever worked with.”

Mouse Intestines Are Honestly the Best Case Scenario

“You didn’t need to get us anything.” Beth tutted as she hugged Celia in greeting.

“We didn’t. This was sitting on your stoop.”

“Oh.” Beth looked at the package, wrapped in red ribbon.

“Is something wrong?”

Beth sighed. “It’s a long story. You remember Grandpa? And his obsession with cats?”

Celia laughed. “He said they’d rule the world if they had opposable thumbs.”

“Right. He had a lot of spare time after he lost his job with Genetix.”

“I don’t follow.”

Beth took the box gingerly. “Let’s just say that access to tools expands your range of potential prey considerably.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cold in the Dark

My breath fogs with every exhalation, but I don't dare turn on the heater. I've only a cupful of gasoline left. They say you should stay with the vehicle so rescuers can find you. I wouldn't step outside for anything. The ice, the skid, the snowdrift: all irrelevant. No, it was those faces I glimpsed in that moment of the crash. White-furred, leathery gray flesh, ape-like brows and teeth.

But most of all, the eyes, those glinting black eyes. God, the hatred...

I won't budge. I'm sure they'll find me, come morning.

What's left of me.

Those eyes promised me that.

Outside Peering In

The rest of the meal passed in strained silence. Everyone kept their eyes on their plates, and the only sound was the clinking of dishes and cutlery as the servants changed the courses. When Berksforth stood, smoothed the front of his suit, and announced the end of the meal, everyone practically fled the cavernous dining room. The butler directed the maids in the washing up, but even he avoided glancing at the vast glass windows at the far end of the hall, where the thing's curiously shaped snout and unsettled paws had left smudges on the outside of the glass.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Number the Stars

Lilo boggled. "You've been recording all of this? The whole time?"

"Everything," said Ant1ne, "including neglected perceptual data, various atomic vibrations, and both conscious and subconscious thought-streams."

"How is that even possible?"

Ant1ne held out a hand. On one fingertip was a small chip, no bigger than a guitar pick. "This is a yottabyte drive. It contains every piece of information written in human history, and its capacity is barely dented. We can manufacture millions of these in a day."

"Jeez," said Lilo. "That's kind of daunting."

"Are you kidding?" Ant1ne's eyes blazed. "Now we can start to fill them."

The Offer May Not Be Refused

Snake pushed the gun into the back of the man's tween overcoat. "Hand over your wallet!"

The man turned, and Snake stepped back, despite himself. "You require money?"

"Er, well, yeah."

"Easily solved!" The man hauled out a thick roll of bills and offered it. Several thousand, at least.

Snake hesitated.

"Please," said the man. "Among my people, it is absolutely forbidden to decline any request. I am delighted to help."

As Snake's hand closed on the money, the man's eyes flickered, as if covered by nictitating membranes. "And now," he said, "I hope you will help me in return..."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Their Blood as Sweet as Their Sin

Krampus leered, his long red tongue flicking out to caress each face. Frieda, Nana, and Gertel cringed away, trapped. The demon flicked his bundle of birch twigs.

The door behind him opened, outlining his twisted form in light. The children wept with joy to see the red suit, the black boots, the twinkling eyes. "Saint Nicholas!" they cried. "Save us!"

The saint smiled down at them. "Children, children, do you not understand? Krampus is a demon bound by chains. I am the man who holds his leash. What does that make me?"

The door swung shut again. The darkness returned.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What He Had to Share

He stood on the street corner. The device slung around his shoulders was not a guitar. He pushed a button, and it began to hum. He spun a finger around one of the discs, and his fifth birthday party flickered into view. A button brought up the last thing his wife had said to him before she shut the door behind her. A slider modulated the loop of the way he would one day die. His life cycled, chattered, and sang in harmonic layers, ghosts of the past and future, his life remixed.

Around him, the pedestrians strode briskly past.

In the Endless Dark, Screaming

The hallway was quiet. No paintings or mirrors; only small tables, each containing a simple metal cylinder.

"My gallery," Rualdi explained.

"Not much to look at, is it?" said Mina.

"I don't often have visitors. This display is for me alone." Rualdi brushed his fingers across the gleaming surface of one of the cylinders. "The human brain is an amazing thing," he said, somewhat abruptly. "So powerful, so flexible, and yet so fragile. It takes such a short time of sensory deprivation before sanity fails completely."

They passed out of the hall. The cylinders sat in silent rows behind them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

They've Heard All the Nut Jokes Already

The clerk of the court removed her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I don't think we can issue a marriage license."

"Because we're gay?" Girt demanded, his normally squeaky voice becoming nearly inaudible in his outrage.


"It's because we're different races, isn't it?" Tutt narrowed his eyes up at the clerk.

She shook her head. "No. It's actually nice that you've overcome your differences as invasive and native species."

"Then what!?"

"Well, you're squirrels. Human laws don't apply. You can do whatever you want, really." The clerk shrugged.

Girt slugged Tutt on the shoulder. "Told you."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nefarious Plans

Dan had leaned over to plug in his phone when Shannon shrieked. He slammed the brakes instinctively, but it was too late. With a heart-shuddering thump, he hit the pair of figures.

They piled out, but Dan stopped when he caught a glimpse of the faces.

"It's... it's us, even the clothes," he said. "Shannon, what...?"

"Spies? Clones? Robots? Aliens?"

It all sounded plausible. Dan rubbed his cut lip. "At least we stopped them before they could replace us, or whatever they planned." He glanced down, but said nothing about the greenish-purple tinge to the fluid leaking out of him.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fleeting Glimpses

The drahz driver was struggling with his charges. He shouted and sparked his whip, letting the violet energy crackle threateningly. The heavy-shouldered drahz blinked their beady black eyes and moved, hefting barrels in gray paws and placing them onto a cart. The driver shouted again; the drahz lifted the barrels back to the ground. The driver growled in frustration, but the mute behemoths didn't seem to understand what he wanted.

As I passed, I glanced up at the granite-hued visage of one of the drahz, and I swear I saw an amused twinkle in its eyes.

Then it was gone.

Pattern Search

The crowd shifted and murmured in the square. From my vantage, I could see every head facing the approaching procession. The mood wasn't quite celebratory. People seemed nervous.

One face did not look east. A dark-haired man at the edge of the crowd stared fixedly to the south. I watched his profile, curious.

Something dark and buzzing shot past me, eastward. I heard screams, gasps, shouts of terror. I tried to see, but I was at the wrong angle. Panicky, I craned my head and saw that the anomalous bystander was no longer staring south.

He was staring at me.

Waves of Grain

The whale is a cunning and vicious beast," the old man in the long coat said, leaning in close enough for me to smell his sour, beery breath. He was unshaven and red-eyed. "I've tracked it across the waves for years, and now, at long last, I've run it down. Here. Tonight."

I glanced around the dimly-lit bar. "We're in Kansas," I said. "Land-locked."

"You see why it was so difficult to find!" The captain leered, then froze. "Thar! Thar she blows!"

Beneath our feet, the wooden planks of the floor bent, bowed, and - one by one - began to snap...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


The stone walls dripped alone in the darkness. The rusty iron cages hung open. Whips and blades, along with more complicated instruments, sat unused on their pegs. Cruel-edged manacles dangled from the walls, chiming gently in the breeze as Daxon strode past.

"Where have they all gone?" he demanded, his voice rising to a plaintive note despite his efforts to the contrary. "There's no one left."

"Run off," the under-devil on duty responded morosely, trailing a talon in the wood surface of the rack.

Daxon paused to take in the enormity of this news. "After all we've done for them!?"

Monday, December 5, 2011

Present Future

The box was sleek and shiny, like most of their products. No one could claim the aliens weren't accommodating, at least. Every whim and request was met almost obsequiously.

"We have making of for you a give," said the Ambassador laboriously. They insisted on speaking English rather than relying on machine translation. They felt it was a matter of courtesy. "The gift is the future."

"Pardon?" Major Michaels hadn't gotten very much sleep last night, after he'd discovered the full-tactile holosuite.

"Given we you your future."

The box gleamed.

"When do we open it?" Michaels asked.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


God was at the party, which was unexpected. The invitation had been more aspirational than anything else. A wouldn't-it-be-cool-if idea hatched between the vodka and the tequila. No one thought they'd even get past His screeners. But now there He was, pursing His lips and considering the impressive-for-a-college-kid-but-come-on-it's-God selection at the wet bar. Nora thought she should introduce herself. She had questions. She had some pretty serious questions, actually. But surely He knew that already? She adjusted her bra strap and bit her lip. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

The empty space around God didn't fill up all night.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Walking on the Sea

He had three wishes. He liked to remind himself of that. It was hard to remember. Three wasn't a lot, but it was more than most people had. He wanted to make sure he used them as wisely as possible. He thought about wishing for that, but he was sure he'd just mystically realize he'd wasted one already. His lost job was sufficient cause; he could surely find another, a smart man like him. Nor the fire, since he found a cheap apartment that wasn't too awful. He had to save them, he told himself. Save them for something important.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Driving in the Rain

The trees had the look of teeth, a ragged jaw surrounding the edge of the world. The road flickered past beneath the wheels of the car, the black ribbon of asphalt a long and undulating tongue down which the pill of their car slid, saliva-slick in the rain.

They had been driving for hours. Perhaps days.

What tongue went on so long, endless ripples and sinuous curves? If this was the tongue, then what would the throat be, hen they finally reached it? If they ever reached it.

The white lines blinked and pulsed, winking like eyes in the night.

What is Necessary

Sorry about the delay, everyone. Between the holiday and illness, the week was an almost total wash for me. We should be able to carry on normally from here on out, though.


The fish had given him three wishes. "Well, I don't know," he'd said. "As long as I've got a roof over my head and food on my table, I don't really need much more."

"Is that one wish or two?" The fish sounded perturbed, but she'd been pretty irritable to begin with.

"Call it two. I'll save the last one for a rainy day."

Sometimes, the man liked to spend a few minutes daydreaming about his final wish. It was a nice way to pass the time.

And the days flowed on like waves on the surface of the waters...