Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lightblind at Toasted Cake

Hey, everyone!

My flash fiction piece, Lightblind (originally published in the Sparks anthology) is currently available in audio from Tina Connolly, over at Toasted Cake.  Her podcast does flash fiction audio on a regular basis from a bunch of authors who are better than I am, but this way you can pretend you're there for me.  :-)

*disappears in a cloud of three-month-old infant*

Winter Wonderland

The victim lay under an insulated blanket that was slowly frosting over.  "What gives?" asked the detective.  "It's fifty below out here.  I didn't even wear a jacket."

"It's not the weather," said the coroner.  "It's the body.  Some of it's still liquid.  We don't want anyone getting hurt."

"It hit melting point?"  The detective blanched, blue fading to white.

"That's not even the weirdest part."  The coroner leaned in.  "The hole in his chest was a handprint.  Like whoever killed him had a body temperature up around ninety, a hundred degrees.  All they had to do was touch him..."

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Father of Lies

When I left Starbucks, I found the Archangel Michael beating the living shit out of Satan. 

"Hey, now," I said.  "Ease up."

Michael sniffed and dropped Satan in a little heap beside me.  I was going to say more, but he flipped me off and launched into the sky.  Angels got wicked backwash.

"Thanks, man," said Satan.  He fussed with his suit, which was burned to rags.  "You realize that was a trick, though.  Now you're definitely damned for sure."

"Okay," I said.  "You want some of my brownie?"


He took half, and we walked down the street together.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


"What amazes me the most," my shadow said, gesturing widely - possibly at me, though it was hard to tell, cast up against the wall as it was, "other than that whole so-called 'third' dimension, which honestly sounds a bit whiffy if you ask me, is how you manage to get the bright lights to appear around you every time you show up.  Especially that big one, the one that moves in the blue field; it doesn't even have a switch.  It seems like just once you'd forget them.  Wouldn't that be weird?  Objects without light to cast shadows from?"

Friday, May 25, 2012

Vampire Boyfriend

Angeline wanted a vampire boyfriend more than anything.  She'd read all of the books, even the terrible ones, and they'd stoked her imagination.  Her friends told her she was crazy.  "Even if it were possible," they said, "it wouldn't work out.  He'd have all of eternity ahead of him; how long do you think you'd be able to hold his attention?"

It didn't matter.  Angeline knew what she wanted.  She had her eye on him, tall and pale, his expression holding the faintest tinge of sadness.  She followed him as he walked home.

Once she turned him, he'd be perfect.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Thin Blue(shift) Line

The station was quiet, a heavy smothering silence that stifled every attempt to break it.  Parsons was cleaning his weapon.  Jutes was doing the crossword.  Tersico bounced a rubber ball rhythmically against the wall.

The phone rang.

Everyone watched, wide-eyed, as Sergeant Cluise answered.  "Yes, ma'am.  Exceeding the speed of light?  In Newtonian space?  Confirmed?  Oh.  Oh, I see.  You want your local police, ma'am.  We don't handle fraud.  That's right.  Only if the laws are actually violated."  He paused.  "Not very often, ma'am."

Cluise sighed and set the phone down.  The others slumped, and the silence returned.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cause and Effect

"I just don't know what to do!" Marla wailed.  "The fire went out and I can't get it back.  I did the dance.  I sang the songs.  I went out after the falling-rain sounds, when the gods sometimes leave fires behind after their battles, but none of it worked and now I'm cold."

"Have you tried using friction between two rough surfaces to generate heat among small chips or threads of flammable material, preferably in the presence of a volatile chemical, thus encouraging the initiation of a self-sustaining oxidation reaction?"

"T'cha, Maureen," said Marla.  "I didn't know you were superstitious."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Political Animals

"The question," said the representative from the Arachno-Communist party, "is whether you even understand how badly your platform is beholden to the corporate interests.  The entire system is corrupted."  She groomed her mandibles superciliously.

"Look," said the DemoRatic diplomat, twitching his whiskers, "I didn't come here to trade political barbs.  There is a serious that affects us both, and it would be in everyone's interest if your people could provide some material support to the war effort."

"They're here!" shrieked an excitable shrew from the hallway.  Something splashed, the sound of moist limbs in jackboots.  "The Fishists are coming!"

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Deal with a Devil

"Everyone has a price," the demon hissed, dripping sulfurous slaver from its jaws.  "The only difficulty is in meeting it."  It gestured at Sandy, its black eyes losing focus briefly.  "She would let the world burn to save her mewling lover."  It laughed.  "Pity he wouldn't return the favor."  The demon pointed to Charles.  "He would slit all of your throats if doing so would give him the artistic transcendence he craves."  It turned then to Howard.  "And this one..."  It trailed off, blinking.  "Five dollars?  Truly?"

Howard shrugged.  "That's a minimum.  If I get a counter-offer, we can talk negotiations."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Higher Concerns

The god sat on a hill outside of the city, which was on fire as a direct result of the god passing through.  The hill wasn't on fire yet.  They sent me up to talk to him.

"So," I said casually, "handing out some justice, huh?"

He looked at me.  It hurt.

"Lot of... sinners down there?" I managed.

"You are fragments of nothing, wrapped in emptiness, spinning very fast," the god said.  "What you do with yourselves is not my concern."

"Well," I said, feeling blood trickle from my ears, "it's kind of a big deal to some of us."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Development Cycle

The aliens invaded.  They put up an app on their website.

(The aliens had a website, by the way.  It was kind of bare-bones.)

Millions of people downloaded it.  It was a great app.  Really useful.

The aliens were going to activate the mind-control chips.  Then they could rule the world.

But by then they were making a lot of money.  They thought maybe they could do better with version 2.0. 

That one only got three stars average, though.  The aliens launched a retaliatory strike.  They pushed the button.

And nothing happened.

The vampires had a new viral video out.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Grass-Snake

His grandfather was the Ice-Wolf, a dark and hulking brute who stalked the ends of the earth and brought them to heel.  His father was the Golden Lion, beloved in his glory and feared in his unpredictable wrath.

When he was born, the young prince, the soothsayer cast her jasper and bone dice and shook her head.  "He will be the Grass-Snake, twisted and cowardly.  Short-lived.  Harmless."

Though her pronouncement was not publicized, nonetheless - perhaps sensing something of the prince's nature - the wicked men of the kingdom surrounded him in his youth and strove against one another to claim his weak will for their own.  Though they scattered at the Lion's roar, they crept back ever and anon, clutching and prodding and whispering.  With every passing year, they fled less distance and returned sooner, and the Lion grew gray and weary, his terrible anger dwindling to toothless peevishness.

The Grass-Snake came to his majority and took a diplomatically advisable wife from a blithe and sunny foreign land.  In time, the crown passed to him, or more truthfully to his muttering advisors.  The Grass-Snake heeded his friends' advice, as he ever had, and the kingdom withered on the vine.

The little green snake that lives in fields and the banks of streams is not toothless, as popular conception has it, though what teeth it has are set far back in its jaw.  Its nip is no more dangerous to a human than the gumming of an infant.  It is an eater of insects, hunting crickets and beetles in its quiet way.  It bears no one any malice, not even its prey; it is too simple a creature even for that.

What the lurking viziers and confidence tricksters, the mockers and mountebanks did not recall - did not, perhaps, even know in the first place, is this: simple is not a synonym for stupid, and cricket-eaters have their place and their time even as lions and wolves.  Were it not for grass-snakes, the vermin would breed and breed in their way, and soon enough the land would fall to ruin.

In the halls, the loud-voiced and sly-eyed men carouse, spending money they never earned for their cruel and vapid games, chirping and singing until the small hours of morning.  Jaded, perfumed men and women attend them assiduously, even in the highest places in the palace.  The Grass-Snake huddles in the counting-rooms, his fingers stained with ink, a well-intended letter of warning crisping to ash on the hearth.  He has trained in all the gentlemanly arts.  He knows the location of the armory.

There are many kinds of insect, and many ways to hunt them.  The Grass-Snake knows them all.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Six Feet Down, Widely Spaced

The trees and vines grew in chaotic abandon, stretching outward from the cemeteries and lichyards, from the fetid soil beneath metal and stone.  Branches like pale bones clutched at the cities and artifacts of the living.  Cold fruit burned blue-pale in clusters among the shadowed leaves.

All throughout the land, panic and terror reigned.  No one had prepared, for all the talk of preservation, of memory and honor, of resurrection.  They had obeyed the rituals without thinking.  They had not paid heed.

One does not bury only the dead in the feverish warmth of the earth.

One also buries seeds.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Dead Man

The dead man walked through the marketplace with bowed head.  All averted their eyes.  He could have stolen, had he wished.  Who would stop a dead man?  Indeed, the goods he traded would not be touched until they rotted or were stolen by those more desperate than wise.

He paused at the landing-place.  Men, women, and children launched into flight beside him at every moment; his own wings hung in tatters on his back.

To fly is to live.  To lose one's wings is death.  This is the law.

The dead man shuffled back to his cave in the cliffside.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Split Hairs

"Well, the colony has been isolated since the Troubles.  Perhaps fifteen, sixteen thousand years," said Mirkovski.  "I'm dealing with a lot of unknowns here, not to mention a distinct lack of decent lab equipment."

"Isolation intensifies genetic drift," Kowel mused.

Mirkovski pushed his glasses back up.  "I haven't confirmed-"

"Are they," Kowel interrupted, "or are they not a different species?"  He rested a hand on his belt, beside his serrated combat knife.

"I..." Mirkovski swallowed.  "I think we may have encountered the first splintering, yes.  Homo xenosis, perhaps."

"Then our food supply problems are solved."  Kowel grinned.  "Tomorrow, we hunt."

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Branches Creaking Ominously Underneath Me

It's amazing that we're both here, when you think about it.  These sort of temporary islands, where enough flotsam accumulates to make a little shelter, and it all hangs together long enough to accumulate dirt and grow plants, well, they're relatively rare.  And for them to be colonized by animals is even rarer.  At most, you get insects, perhaps a bird or two.  Maybe a turtle.  But mammals?  Not a chance.  To find two mammals, well, you have to admit: that's verging on the miraculous.

That one of the two is a bear is, I think, simply evidence of divine sadism.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


It wasn't until the fourth week of our voyage that I realized the lump of rock in the cargo hold was alive.  It lifted a leathery head and regarded me solemnly as I maneuvered a grav-cart into place in one of the racks.  I stumbled under the impact of its gaze.

Roarke misinterpreted my surprise.  "They're amazing critters, aren't they?  Live for years on nothing but air and a few drops of water."

"Useful traits for a pet on a long voyage," I ventured.

"Pet?"  Roarke laughed uproariously.  "That's a week of protein there, boy."

The rock-turtle watched us leave.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Burden

My father was dead.  I carried, they told me, a terrible burden.  I had, perhaps somewhat naively, assumed this to be metaphor. 

"Here it is," the butler said, dropping the thing with a hollow, papier-mâché thud, "the family vampire."

It was withered and dry, curled in on itself until it was no larger than a toddler.  Sticklike arms and hands like dried twigs occluded the gaping holes in its face.

"A hundred milliliters of blood each day," he said.

"And if I don't?"  I watched the thing.  Malignant eyes glinted deep in the sunken sockets.

"I'd advise against it, sir."

Friday, May 4, 2012

Adaptive Radiation

"It's truly astounding," Brindel said.  "There are small cats and big cats; there are herbivorous cats; cats in the water chase after the nematodes; cats with skin flaps launch from fungal stalk to fungal stalk in the forest; cats have filled every gap in the local ecosystem.  Who knew it was possible to squeeze so much versatility out of one species?"

"When needs must..."  Her guide, Tomi, shrugged.
"And your people, they are descendants of the colonists on that original ship, the one that crashed and brought the cats?"

"Something like that," said Tomi.  She offered Brindel a bag.  "Mouse-puff?"

Thursday, May 3, 2012


After the chaos, after the terrible destruction and all the dying was over with, the turtle found himself in the darkness of the interstellar void.  He knew what to do if you found yourself dragged away on the tide.  He'd crossed oceans before, and this was an ocean, of a kind.  When you were lucky, you were washed ashore soon after, perhaps even close enough to make it home eventually.  If you weren't, well, there was always the chance of finding another beach on the far sid.

He held his head up, tucked his legs inside his shell, and waited.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Eternal Repose

The body lay face-down on a small patch of dirt, clear of vegetation.

"I dare you to touch it," Ellen said.

Chris shook his head.  "Nuh-uh."

"Poke it with a stick."

"Wait," said Mark.  "Look."  He pointed.

A fly buzzed in gentle circles around the outstretched hand.  It landed, and abruptly froze.

"Flies do that all the time..." Ellen started to say.

The fly toppled over, legs curled, wings stilled forever.  All around the body, they realized, was a ring of chitinous forms.  The body itself was perfectly preserved, untouched.

Chris paled.  He turned on Ellen accusingly.  "You touch it."