Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ancient Arabian Brass

The men are arguing. My shape tonight is female, but plain and dumpy; nothing to excite my targets' interest. I stand, squeezing past the more loutish of the two. I rub the hammered brass ring on the front of my purse across his shoulders, once, twice, thrice. "Sorry, master," I mumble, slurring the word. I am thus summoned and bound.

He ignores me.

"Yeah, I wish my wife was that hot!" the lout says. I smile. I no longer have the power to rain destruction across nations, but I retain my fondness for wordplay. I can smell the smoke already.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A World Full of Weeping

The first layer is dead, insensate.

The second layer holds pain, flaring hopelessly, endlessly. The knife is barely noticed.

The third layer is hope, which is always found beside pain.

The next layers are the stories the onion tells itself. They are mostly lies, and can be disregarded.

The heart of the onion holds tears. The tears are not for itself, for its pain and sadness, its all-consuming, gnawing loneliness

The tears are for you, knife-wielder. The giver of mercy.

You are still trapped. Your heart is buried in layers.

The onion weeps, and you weep, too, never knowing why.


The seven angels – Sleepy, Happy, Dopey, Grumpy, Sneezy, Bashful, and the Lord of Hosts – were away working in the fires of Creation, and so Snow White was alone when the Serpent came to the cottage.

“I’ve brought you the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge,” the Serpent hissed. The middle-aged woman who carried it rolled her eyes and shared a wink with Snow White. “Eat it, and gain the wisdom and power they’ve withheld.”

“Wisdom is nice, I suppose,” Snow White said, fingering the apple. “But I’m really more in the prince market right now. Angels are neuter, you know.”

Monday, January 23, 2012

Out of Storage

Most of the warehouse floor was clear, but in the center was a vertical, wall-spanning spiderweb of shattered crates and broken things. Half-umbrellas speared rotten fruit glued by its sour juices to refrigerator cartons twisted like used tissues. In the center, claws of bent aluminum and jagged wooden splinters held a motionless human form. Blood dripped onto the floor with a steady, rhythmic beat.

"We defeated them," I hissed. "They couldn't have returned. Not so soon."

The head of the dangling figure turned its ruined face to me. "Did you think," it gurgled, "that no one would call us back?"

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Freeze Tag

"Come on in, kids!" Keri called. "This late in the season, the ice will be rotten. Spring is almost here."

"No, it isn't," said Wren. "We decided. Winter's our favorite."

"Well, decide your way inside. Supper's ready."

The game broke up reluctantly. "It'll still be here when we get back," Wren told the others. Keri smiled at the unconscious echo of her own words, but then Wren went on: "It can't go anywhere until someone touches base."

Keri held the door open while Wren trooped inside. Overhead, the clouds were gathering. Another winter storm? There had already been so many...


They crouched behind the brick wall, weapons in hand. Duke had a knife. Vince's gun had seven rounds left.

"Don't you hate it," Vince said, "when there's all this buildup and then they actually show the monster and it's just kind of silly instead of scary?"

"OH YEAH!" The wall exploded outward, and the rotund figure of the Kool-Aid Man appeared, showering them with brick dust. He crushed their minds and broke their spirits. He did unspeakable, nauseating things with their bodies. He drank their Radical Red blood and devoured their Purplesaurus innards.

But it wasn't scary. Not at all.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


He quested across mountains and rivers, through forests and deserts. He battled ogres and trolls. He slew a dragon and forged a shield from its impenetrable scales. He dined with undines and endured the hospitality of kobolds.

When he found the castle, it was sealed in a wall of thorny creepers. His muscles grew weary and his sword gummed with sap as he forced his way through. At last, he entered his beloved's tower room, and with his last strength bestowed a kiss upon her lips.

Her eyes flew open. "God!" she cried. "Can't you take 'no' for an answer?"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An Empty Frame

You can think what you like. The flickers you see out of the corner of your eye? Those "tricks of the light" that turn out to be "just the wind"?

I see you recognize those details. That means they know about you. That means they're following you.

They won't come out if they think you're watching. They're out there, right now, hiding just below the lip of the window, crouching just above the lintel of the door. If you watch, closely, unflinching, if you don't look away, you will see them reaching that first cautious hand back into view...

The Wrong Kind of Barrel

The carnage was terrible. Shrieking, gibbering apes leaped and flew, caroming off the walls and spinning away chaotically. The air was filled with shed fur and gobs of fluid. The noise and stench were enough to stagger a grown man.

Bertram cowered beside the massive gun and its cannon-sized bores. It was still whirring as it spun down, having overheated and jammed in a most appalling manner. "What were you thinking, Doctor? What are we going to do with all these animals?"

Doctor Geisteskrank looked chagrined. "I just thought, well, what could be more fun than a barrel full of monkeys?"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It May Have Been the Plan from the Beginning

Taku and the Wisest Stone encountered an itinerant monk. Taku asked after his mission.

"I seek Truth!" the monk said.

"That is admirable," said Taku. "Have you found it?"

"Oh, yes. I was gifted with inspiration, and I wrote for seven days and nights until I had gotten it all safely written down. I had pinned Truth to the page. There would never be any doubt again."

"Where is the manuscript?"

The monk grinned, his eyes hollow. "I burned it and scattered the ashes."

"Very wise," said the Wisest Stone. "You don't want to get that stuff on your hands."

Thursday, January 12, 2012


"Good Lord!" Vio leapt back from the puddle of slime and debris. He gasped when it extended a febrile eyestalk. "What is it?"

Yotl flushed a darker orange. "A homeless veteran of the Shhshs wars. Pass him by."

"Hunh," Vio said, glancing over his shoulder. "I've never seen a Shhshs without a shell."

"He is Zssvhs. He saved the last remnants of his kind when he shed his shell to slip between the joints of the flagship and manually eject the core."

"A hero!" Vio was aghast. "And he just lives on the streets?"

"He shed his shell," Yotl said.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Form and Function

He invents the most marvelous machines. They have gears and levers and buttons, some in vast profusion, others in ascetic simplicity. When he turns them on, lights flash and bells ring. Sometimes there are flames, smoke, or puffs of steam. Other times, there are marbles and dominoes that tumble and clash in complex, interwoven forms, setting themselves up for the next run even as they fall. In the end, however, each machine he makes does the same thing: it reaches up and turns itself off.

He appears confused if questioned. He says, "That's what all machines do, in the end."

Untitled #14, by Bongo

Tippet frowned as he and Burgess examined the painting. "I don't get it."

"I think it's marvelous," said Burgess.

"It's paint splatters. Not even a shape. It was literally painted by a monkey."

"He's an orangutan, not a monkey." Burgess clucked his tongue. "I think it speaks to something primal in the artistic form."

"And I think you're a gullible idiot. This is nonsense."

Burgess glared. "Or genius. You can't be certain."

In the glass fronted room beside them, the orange-furred ape dipped his long fingers into the pots of color and dabbed at a canvas. He might have been smiling.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The End Will Be the Beginning

"Hello," said the small, hirsute man who had appeared unexpectedly on the television screen. "I'm broadcasting this to apologize to as many people as possible. I swear I intended only to benefit humanity, to free us from the constraints of time and space." He sighed, and something behind him flared into eerie blue radiance. He hunched over, his brow thickening, dark hair sprouting on his face. "Now it's too late," he said, as the street sounds, the roar of engines and electricity, began to fade, "or maybe too early."

The television crumbled away.

Outside, the jungle was starting to grow.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Infected Must Be Killed on Sight

The rash started on her belly. It didn't itch, exactly. She rubbed at it every now and then, absent-mindedly, and each night, she checked it in the mirror to see if it was getting worse.

"Do you think this needs a doctor?" she asked Brent one day in the lab. She tugged up her blouse halfway. The subcutaneous lace-work made a distinct outline on her skin. "It looks like a kitten."

Brent's eyes widened. "How does it feel?" he asked carefully. "Does it hurt?"

"No. It feels... funny."

"My God," Brent whispered. "They've escaped containment."


"The cats. The LOLcats."

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Great Game

He was in a cabin. A shack, really. It was in the upper reaches of the most isolated mountain in the range, surrounded by old-growth forest whose nearest interactions with humankind were sporadic flyovers by distant jets. Nothing and no one were within a hundred miles of the site.

On a spindly, three-legged table on the dirt floor was an ancient Bakelite telephone. The cord was a frazzled stub jutting into the air.

It was ringing.

After four months, he gave in. He lifted the receiver and held it to his ear with a trembling hand.

"Tag," said the voice.


Am sick. Stories resume when am not sick. Is all.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Law of Contagion

There are two ways to avoid contamination. You see the bubbles around those men and women hovering over the fields? Yes, like this bubble of yours. That is one way. Not one speck, not one wisp can penetrate, and thus purity is maintained. It takes all of their time, checking and rechecking their bubbles.

The other way?

Those figures there, in the muck. No, I don't know their sex. Who could tell? They are so filthy, so engrimed that they are part of the pollution surrounding them.

Your bubble will disappear in a few moments.

Unless you stop it.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Terrible Lizard King at Allegory

"Terrible Lizard King," originally featured as an audio podcast at Pseudopod, is now available in text at Allegory E-zine.

I would just like to note, apropos of nothing, that the unsolicited reprint market for stuff that's already been in audio is really, really rough. I regard Allegory as being something akin to conservationists working to protect an endangered species. At least give them a few extra eyeballs this month!