Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Rush Hour (200 words)

"I hate going to the City," Gareth moaned. "It was picked clean decades ago. It's not like we'll suddenly find an old Usian artifact or anything."

Ahead, the shells of skyscrapers quivered under a blanket of creeping vines and fungus. The encircling highways and overpasses were crumbled fragments.

"Just watch," Tito said. "You've never seen anything like this." He paused at the top of a hill and pulled out his grandfather's telescope. Overhead, the sun inched imperceptibly toward what had once been five o'clock. Sweat dripped from their foreheads.

With a heat-mirage ripple, the ancient roads were suddenly full of cars. Hazy, indistinct shapes moved inside the safety-glass windows. They lined the roads for miles, immobile. There was the faintest taste of exhaust in the air, and the ground trembled with the grumble-roar of a million impossibly idling engines.

Gareth gaped, but before he could so much as draw breath, the roads were suddenly as empty and ruined as before.

"It's briefer every day, the more the city falls apart," said Tito. He kept the 'scope raised, as if still watching the vision. "I wonder how long they've been coming here. Do you think the ancient Usians ever noticed them?"

Particulate Contaminants

"I don't like to drink the city water," said Aliss

"What, afraid of the fluoride?" Lem snickered.

"Well, part of it's the taste," said Aliss. "But you should see what comes out in my filters."

"That's probably the charcoal from the filter itself," Dave put in.

Aliss shook her head and unscrewed the white, plastic bulb from her faucet. She shook it. There was a thump and a scrabble of claws on metal before Aliss got the garbage disposal turned on. The squealing echoed as it faded down the drain.

The group was silent.

"I just drink soda," said Lem.


"I think the Ambassador is drunk," Ceu whispered. "He's acting very odd. When I tried to shake his hand, he just sat there, arms limp."

Bosiz glanced over at the mustached man by the punch bowl. The Ambassador was splashing one hand vaguely on the surface of the pinkish liquid, apparently watching the ripples.

"That's not the Sapiri Ambassador," Bosiz said. She pointed to the tiny gray nodules that ringed the man's head. "Those are."

"You mean...?" Ceu swallowed and rubbed his palms on his pants.

"The Sapiri are a parasitic fungus." Bosiz smirked. "You'll want to wash your hands."

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rescue Pets

Dan didn't say anything for a while after they got back in the car. Shannon's hair was smoldering slightly.

"It didn't say anything in the ad about the puppies being hellhound puppies."

"Just drive."

"Oh, hey." Dan pointed to a handmade sign. "Someone's got kittens. Maybe a cat would be better than a puppy, especially with the apartment."

They pulled over. Six sets of mad little kitten eyes tracked them silently.

"They're adorable," said Shannon. "What breed are they?"

There was a soft popping sound. One of the kittens evaporated in a puff of smoke.

"Cheshire," said the little girl.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


She opened up her chest and pulled out an arrow. The arrow's fletching was red, and the shaft was white as bone. She threaded it and sent it flying to strike its mark. There was a soft thumping sound as it drove home, the barbed tip sinking deep into flesh and fixing there. Her whale was harpooned.

He walked on, never noticing.

The thread of her heart rippled out behind him and dragged in the street. She grew paler as it left her.

All through the city, the lines criss-crossed and tangled, thrumming taut and white like a spider's web.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Big Bad Wolf

Jeannie ran, breath rasping in her lungs. The twisted man-beast's claws clattered on the asphalt behind her. She imagined she could smell the rancid blood on its breath.

Ahead of her, a door opened in one of the brownstones. "No, Gramma!" Jeannie shouted. "Don't come out!"

Gramma clucked her tongue and stood aside. Jeannie, too desperate to argue, fled inside. "Close the door!"

There was a thud, then a gurgling sigh. Jeannie spun to see Gramma calmly wiping a wide-bladed serving knife clean on her housecoat. "The family silver, dear," Gramma said. "As I recall, your sister always admired it."

Welcome Home

Okay! That was a longer absence than expected.

Archimedes Thomas Matthews Lee was born at 7:31 a.m. on February 18, 2012. He weighed 7 pounds and 10 ounces and was 21 inches long.

He also had his umbilical cord wrapped twice around his neck, and he wasn't breathing when he came out. My wife had to have an emergency C-section after the heart monitor detected some worrying symptoms (we'd been planning on a natural childbirth). Archie had dangerously low blood sugar and suffered several apnic seizures during his first hours of life. However, he pulled through it thanks to the swift and skillful responses of the doctors and nurses in the NICU, and right now he's off of all of his IVs and medication (except a maintenance dose of phenobarbitol, pending a second EEG on Friday). He is eating well and thriving; we expect him home next Tuesday. (It would be sooner except for that follow-up EEG and a short observation period to see if he has any reaction to going off the phenobarbitol completely.)

It could have been much worse. As it stands, it was kind of a rough couple of days.

But now I am back to dance for your entertainment and edification. You may resume throwing coins (or just buy some copies of "Splinters of Silver and Glass" for your friends and family; hey, we're going to be short half of our income for a couple of months here!)

It's nice to be back.

(Here is a photo set of Archie during his first few days, for those of you who are interested and have not already seen them.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More Advertisements: Sparks Anthology

My flash fiction story "Lightblind" appears in the Sparks anthology from Earthbound Fiction. It's Kindle-only at present, but having read my advance copy, I'd say it's worth the six bucks in terms of entertainment. It'll last longer than a movie ticket at half the price, ne? :-D

Besides, I like to encourage people who pay me money for stories. Sets a good precedent.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I'm just going to go ahead and put Mirrorshards on hiatus for now. My wife will be delivering our first child sometime within the next two days, give or take. (He was due on the 12th, and there are signs of impending labor even as I type.) Mirrorshards will be back in a week or so, once everyone is all settled in again.

See ya on the flip side.

- Nathan

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"Boll Weevil" Redux

My story from Parsec Ink's Triangulation: Last Contact anthology has been reprinted as part of Trifecta XX over at the Drabblecast. Go check it out! Let Norm Sherman's Jack-Nicholsonian purr lull you into a false sense of security...

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Free Kittens

The hand-lettered sign says "Kittens" and I stop my car to see. I look in the cardboard box and the box is empty.

"Kittens are everywhere," says the little girl. "You can have one if you want."

I look around and see that she is right. Kittens catch raindrops as they fall. Kittens chase the white lines on the highway. Kittens eat and drink and sleep and that is all and enough.

I drive home and find that I have scratched the vinyl off the steering wheel. For now, my claws are sharp, and I have not seen the world.

The Beast

With a flapping of leathery wings, the beast dropped to the ground in front of me, black and jagged. It reeked of burned flash and moldy bread. It turned a long, sinuous neck toward me, its eyes mere red slits in the nest of twisted horns and spikes that adorned its misshapen head. I didn't even notice the rider until he slumped from the thing's back to the ground at my feet. He was pale; aged and fleshless; clearly dead. From exposure? I couldn't say.

The beast knelt before me, offering the saddle to mount. Its eyes bored into mine.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Apathy of Evil

The iron gate slammed down from overhead just after they passed through the doorway. It bounced, wobbled, then fell undramatically over. Ahead, half of a trapdoor opened, easing down with a squeak of poorly-oiled hinges. The other half stayed up, firmly wedged. It was more solid than the floor, which sagged and groaned under their feet.

They pushed through the archway, a rotting spiderweb falling in dusty pieces around them. In the shadows under the stairs, segmented legs shifted, revealing dozens of bleary compound eyes. "If evil triumphs when good men do nothing, what will be left after me?"

Monday, February 6, 2012

Objects Found in the Pockets of the Deceased

- One (1) wallet containing: $43.00 in mixed currency; expired Nebraska driver's license (picture is not the bearer); Sam's Club membership card; coupon for $0.50 discount on store-brand margarine.

- Three (3) U.S. quarters.

- One (1) U.S. penny displaying image of unknown female. Motto in archaic French, awaiting translation.

- Box of matches containing: three (3) matches, one and a half (1.5) dead crickets.

- Pocketknife, folded. Blade is warped from heat.

- One (1) soul of perfect sadness, weeping. The soul's name is Evelind, and she burns with a fire that cannot be extinguished. Tastes of cinnamon and ash.

- Two (2) latex condoms, unused.

Wise One

Tiro and Pierce were watching the wizard gardening.  He didn't use magic for planting.  He didn't bring the flowers immediately to full bloom with a fertility spell, either.  Instead, he sprinkled them with water, then stood and walked inside.

"This is boring," Tiro groused.  He flicked through a basic teleportation spell and disappeared.

Pierce crept down.  The old man cracked his door at Pierce's hesitant knock. 

"Why do you not use magic," Pierce asked, "when it is so easy?"

"Wisdom has a price," said the wizard.  "I have seen the true shape of the world, and can bend it no longer."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bet You Anything

Greetings and salutations, shardies!  I have returned from the depths of Influenza.  To make up for my absence this past week, I have written for you a 1000-word story - TEN drabbles for the price of one!  Hope you enjoy it!

There may be sporadic interruptions in service over the next several weeks, as my wife will be giving birth to our first child sometime around February 12.  I'll try to toss a note up on the site when that happens so you can distinguish it from the usual interruptions in service due to laziness and forgetfulness.



The argument had been going on for what felt like hours.  They'd been at it when I came in, and they were still going three and a half beers later.  I was trying out a new bar, since I knew Vicki would be at The Rooster with all of her (formerly our) friends.

"The hell it is!"  That was the one in the raincoat, with the voice like gravel.

"I swear.  You think I don't know?"  His friends voice was almost squeaky, like a cartoon character.  It set my teeth on edge just to hear it.

"I'll bet you anything it isn't."


"You name it, I'll bring it."

"You're on."

"Because you're totally wrong!"

"Bet me I am.  I dare you."


"You don't have the guts."

I couldn't take it one second longer.