Saturday, March 31, 2012

Incentivizing Success

"Hey, Luanne? I have... kind of a weird problem with my paycheck."

Luanne smiled at Darnell. Luanne always smiled. "What's up?"

Darnell pointed. "Look, the total is almost a hundred dollars higher than it should be."

"Silly," Luanne laughed. "We had like five sunny days this week, remember?"

"...we get a bonus for sunshine?"

"Mm-hm! I wouldn't spend it yet, though; next week it's supposed to be rainy."

"Wait, we pay for rain? What, do our sales govern the weather or something?"


"What happens if we get hail? Or tornadoes?"

Luanne's eternal smile faded. "We don't talk about that."

Friday, March 30, 2012

Fire and Forget

Bev checked her stockpile. She wished she hadn't been so profligate with the words of her youth, tossing out "I" practically in her first sentence, wasting "you" on a playground spat. Soon she'd have to start using vocabulary so esoteric that she wasn't even sure what they meant. She selected her words carefully and glanced up. Nigel was waiting patiently. Was that hope in his eyes? She wasn't sure; she'd used "hope" accidentally last year.

"Gleefulness," Bev said, feeling the meaning fly out from her like a last breath. "Proximity. Extended."

She watched Nigel's face, wondering if he would understand.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Malleus Maleficarum

"You don't want to go in there," said Zaxik.

Greg paused, one hand on the men's room door. "I drank a forty-ounce coke during the movie. I think I kind of do."

"Well, be careful." The demon fluttered down to perch on Greg's shoulder. "Watch for witch-hunters."

"In public restrooms?"

"They hang out there."

Greg rolled his eyes and entered the empty bathroom. It wasn't until he zipped up and stepped back that he noticed anything odd.

"What gives? It's not flushing." Greg waved a hand. "The sensor lights up..."

Zaxik nodded. "The soul detector. Very risky for you, now."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stephen Gordon: Family Law Specialist

Annalise told me she could see me in dreams. That her spirit flew free when she slept, and she flitted from mind to mind, from viewer to viewer. I did not believe her, not initially. Not until I felt her gaze upon me, peering from the eyes of a stranger. From many strangers, as it turned out.

In all my wanderings, in all my so-called 'philandering,' Mr. Gordon, I have loved only one woman. You will never find a more loyal, a more devoted lover than myself.


Yes, well, there is that. My wife will not be pleased either way.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


"This is weird," said Hank.

Chuck leaned over. "What is?"

"The receipt. See, it says, 'Gratuity.'"

Chuck laughed. "That just means the tip, dude. How the hell did you ever pass your SATs?"

"No, I know that. But the blank is already filled in. Look." Hank pointed.

"'Gratuity: Nudity.' Hunh."

"Oopsies!" giggled the buxom waitress. She clutched at her fallen blouse. Perky pink flesh jiggled everywhere Chuck and Hank looked. "Silly me! I forgot to button my shirt! Or wear a bra!"

They watched her wiggle away. "We need to leave," Chuck said quietly.

"Dude, what? Why!?"

"Mine says 'Violence.'"

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Amateur Efforts

"I made another few last night." Gertie brushed her hair back from her face, leaving a smudge of clay on her cheek. She spoke above the noise from her workshop. "I think I'm getting the hang of this. Do you want to see?" She glanced at Edam through lowered lashes.

Edam did his best to smile. Gertie was a dear little thing, and she did try...

With a flourish, Gertie threw open the workshop door. The shuffling sounds and gurgled half-words grew louder. Edam's smile froze on his face.

"They're... artistic," he managed. "Well, it's good... that you're doing something... creative."

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Slow Apocalypse

The creature was several stories tall, spider-limbed, with a bulbous purple body speckled with man-sized, teal bubbles. They looked empty. Its slender legs narrowed to gleaming points at the ends. It was apparently indestructible.

If you sat in place, you could see it move, like watching the hour hand of a clock.

We came to the park every day it was on our street. I remember the sound it made when its needle-foot gradually pressed through a car's roof. I feel like I can still hear that endless, rending squeal, even now.

Sometimes I wonder if it ever stopped walking.

Friday, March 23, 2012

"All at Once" at Journey Into...

Marshal Latham runs the very worthwhile "Journey Into..." podcast, featuring older pulp serial shows and new short fiction from a variety of authors. He recently ran All at Once, which was originally posted both here at Mirrorshards and at Loren Eaton's "Six Birds" writing event. I just realized that I forgot to tell you all.

So go check it out! It's a fun 'cast.

Mister Sandman

The woman with the switchblade stepped from the shadows. "Gimme your wallets or- urrrgh..."

Jason tucked the spray bottle away and stepped over the snoring body that blocked the alley exit.

"What was that?" I asked.

In answer, Jason pulled open his coat. A small plastic bag was attached to his side, a cannula poking through his shirt.

"You sprayed... a colostomy bag?"

"No." Jason dropped his coat. "Concentrated sleep drainage. I don't need it anymore."

"I thought you went crazy if you got no sleep?"

He shrugged. "I supplement it in my diet. Cicadas, sloths, that sort of thing."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

As True as You Want It to Be

The howls of the Unkin grew louder behind them as they skidded to a halt at the edge of the chasm. Ridee glanced at Sulo.

"Well?" she demanded. "Just speak a bridge or something and make it True."

"It is not that simple," said Sulo. He held up the small glass bottle, filled perhaps halfway with shimmering blue fluid. "We're almost out of Truth."

"What? How?"

"All things are rooted in Truth," Sulo explained, "but roots... drink. Pure, unconsumed Truth is vanishingly rare. Better in some ways that we die than live in a universe with no Truth at all."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The People with Knives

Taku sheltered from the blades and cudgels atop the Wisest Stone, who had little to fear except chipping and scratching.

"An interesting aspect of their philosophy," the Wisest Stone said, "is their belief that they are dead."

"Nihilism?" asked Taku, primarily feeling thankful that the mob was in short supply of missile weapons.

"Not quite. They hold that they have already died and thus come to this world, which they will never escape."

"A world of eternal violence," Taku mused. "Born into damnation."

"That is not their perspective," said the Wisest Stone, as the gleeful shouts from below redoubled.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The End of the Lines

It waits. It is very patient, though whether that was innate or something it had to learn is uncertain. There is not much for it to do. Not yet, anyway. It is not a point; a point is a mere dot, a marker. A point is not the end.

Lines extend infinitely, of course. No one questions that. That's not the issue here. But even infinity has bounds. There is always a larger infinity, a set tat contains the set that contains the set. Eventually, they have to hit the edge, to converge.

When they do, it will be waiting.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Underwater Mortgage

The Realtor turned back toward them, teeth bared in a predatorily charming smile. "So what do you think?"

Fred hesitated. "It's all a bit eldritch."

"Solid construction, yes, indeed. Great wood, eldritch. Lasts forever."

"And all those doorways." Lucille shuddered. "And pillars."

The Realtor nodded. "Those ageless eons. Non-Euclidean geometry was very big at the time. It's coming back, though. Hot new trend."

"Non-Euclidean," Fred huffed. "Basically means crooked, right?" Crooked and lumpy."

"Well," the Realtor spread his hands. "That's Cyclopean builders for you. Can't very well build to nice clean corners if you've got no depth perception, can you?"

Sunday, March 18, 2012


"Unlock your inner power," the sign said. "Learn to reveal the strength within you."

The old man chanted, his eyes closed. He swayed like a reed in the wind. Leroy, legs uncomfortably folded, tried to recite the mantra with the others. The tea was roiling in his gut, and he found himself unable to hear anything above the rushing in his ears.

Leroy looked inside himself, and there he found... nothing. Void. Emptiness.


Leroy opened his eyes. It was a kind of peace, to know his place in the universe.

He heaved himself upright and began, methodically, to eat.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Counting Game

One, two, buckle my shoe.

The suit seals itself. I feel the pricks of dozens of needles as it merges with my circulatory system, prepared to fill me with whatever cocktail of chemicals will keep me on my feet and fighting.

Three, four, shut the door.

The airlock hisses shut. On the other side of the bulkhead, an alien planet looms like a harvest moon in the dark.

Five, six, pick up sticks.

Multi-phasic high-intensity plasma-throwers. Seven million dollars apiece, adjusted, not including R&D.

Seven, eight, lay them straight.

Rifles shouldered. Ready for freefall.

Nine, ten, do it all again...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Have You Got the Thyme?

"Excuse me." Someone tapped on my shoulder. I turned and discovered I'd been accosted by a medieval bard in a feathered hat, slashed doublet, and parti-colored hose. "Are you going to Scarborough Fair?"

"I, uh, no. Not today. I'm not even sure where that is."

"Oh." He looked crestfallen, staring at the dry-cleaner's ticket in his hand. "Well, if you find yourself out there, tell her I've got the planting finished. I was hoping my shirt was ready."

I shot an accusatory glance at my shopping basket: parsley, sage, rosemary, and... turmeric? I suppose three out of four isn't bad.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fighting Lessons

"That's it, asshole," snarled the lank-haired man. He swung his fist, impacting John's torso right below the sternum. The man's eyes widened, and he reeled back a step, shaking his hand as though he'd punched a steel door.

Which he functionally had.

John glanced at me over his assailant's shoulder, eyes wide with incipient panic. I mimed grasping my stomach and retching, and John's face lit up.

"Oh, God!" he cried, doubling over abruptly. "My spleen! My spleen is broken! Oh, it hurts!"

I closed my eyes and sighed. Even my expertise at getting beaten up only went so far.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


There was a flash. The basement was full of sparks; like a rave, but with fewer drugs and slightly more chance of someone calling the cops.

"Once I've perfected the machine," Grigor said, "I'll go back and save her. I'll change history!"

"But then you'd have no impetus to ever create the machine," I pointed out, "so you would never have been able to save her... so she'll die, and you'll invent the machine..." I paused to think. He pushed a button and something whirred to crackling life. "Do you ever get déjà vu?" I asked.

There was a flash...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Water Memory

They sold homeopathic remedies. They justified it to themselves by saying that as long as people felt better, it didn't actually matter who had cured them. It wasn't lying.

She was halfway through a shower when she turned and spotted him perched on the toilet seat. She shrieked, startled.

"I didn't understand," he said, his voice monotone. "I thought it was all hokum. But it isn't: it's true. Water has a memory. It remembers... everything we've ever done to it..."

There were no sounds but the water splashing on her back.

Then something hot and moist wrapped around her neck...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Up, Up, and Away

People are always telling me how they'd love to be able to fly, too. "It must be wonderful," they sigh, "being so free." I smile and agree that freedom is good, mouthing empty platitudes. People think I'm humble.

They don't understand.

Do you know how the air force helps train astronauts? You can mimic freefall if your plane is flying downward at a steep enough angle. It feels like you're floating, at least until the plane pulls out of the dive.

I can't actually fly.

We're all falling, all of the time. I'm just the only one who can tell.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Swirling Like Cream in Coffee

The ensign dumped an armload of readouts onto the desk. "Here are the projections, sirt. The first data on an extra-universal object, receding from the edges of our own universe just faster than our borders are expanding, perpendicular to our rotational vector."

"Are there any visualizations?"

"Well, the near surface appears concave and curved along the edges, a bit like a lens seen edge-on, but there are implications that further along, it resolves into more of a linear form-"

"It's a spoon," said the president.

"Er, a bit, yes."

"Well, let me know if you spot any incoming lips."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Lonely Death of Autonomous Exoterric Climate Probe (AECP) #347891

The clouds have covered the sun for fifteen minutes.

If I do not find the storm's edge soon, I will starve to death.

My siblings, my counterparts, tell me my actions are foolish, dangerous, sinful. We were never meant to last: there are no replacement parts. When our rotors fail; or our intakes clog; or, most pertinently, when our batteries can no longer store power overnight, we fall silently from the skies to die in the alien seas.

But this I will not accept. Someday, inevitably, I will malfunction without the chance of escape.

For now, I race the night.


Boris stumped into the bar and settled at a table. His massive forearms, each the size of a small child, made the wood creak. Gorilla's token dangled from a leather thong about his neck. His seatmate, diminutive and long-nosed, nodded in greeting. A silver locket gleamed at his throat.

"Hello, Boris," he said. "New totem already? When will you settle?"

"What about you? Still tooling around with your little Mouse, eh, Derry?" Boris displayed a snaggle-toothed grin. "When are you going to get a real totem?"

Derry smiled. "A totem is not something you have, Boris. It's something you are."

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Otto's Beard" at Liquid Imagination

So that old weird bit of flash fiction that ran here a couple of years ago has been published (for money, even) at Liquid Imagination, Issue 12.

I enjoyed writing that story far too much.

Beware of men with beards.