Saturday, January 31, 2009

Fishing the Deep

The ship rocked as something vast and shadowed passed beneath.

“This is the real test,” said Old Verin. He waved at the bank of computers, flashing and whirring under the protective canopy. “They’ve found him for you, but it’s yours to catch him. If you’ve got the touch.”

Jum looked at the array of equipment and swallowed heavily.

“Just remember: the Kraken ain’t your enemy. He’s your partner.”


“S’right. He wants to be caught. It’s part of the web, the beautiful symbiosis of predator and prey. No, the real enemy here,” Verin leaned in, “is that damnable game warden.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Playing Pretend

“Splendelicia the Princess was waiting in her tower, because she knew the handsome Prince was coming to save her,” said Sally.

“But then a giant robot landed and fired rockets and lasers at the Prince! Pew-pew-ka-BOOM!” Billy gestured descriptively.

Sally glared. “But the Prince had a magic sword and melted the robot.”

“Which released the hyper-smart velociraptors who built it!”

“And then Splendelicia used her magic necklace to call a flood to wash the monsters away!”

“But the velociraptors had an earthquake machine and the ground swallowed up all the water!”

The argument intensified. Outside, the chaos and screams continued.


Late, I know, I know. I wasn't expecting to get called into the office this evening...

“I think it’s time ye knew,” said Rumplestiltzkin. “I’m nae yer real father.”

“I’ve always kind of suspected,” said the prince, looking down. “The height, for one. And I can’t walk through walls or spin straw into gold.”

“There’s more, lad. I stole ye from yer true ma years and years gone. Mind, I’ve always done me best fer ye.”

“I can’t complain about my life here.”

“I didnae want there t’be anymore secrets.”

“Can I ask why?”

“Ach, well, ye were such a cute baby, and it’s verrae hard to catch a wife when ye’re a wee magic gnome…”

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In the Trenches

“All right, men, this is our last chance.” Coach chewed on his cigar and paced. “We will push through German lines and hold until reinforcements arrive.”

“Can’t we just call in air support, sir?”

“Treaty of Pittsburgh forbade it, son, you ought to know that. We’re on our own until the third quarter. You, Thompson! Your squad will bypass the cheerleaders here,” Coach sketched on the whiteboard, “and circle around. Watch for that machine-gun nest on the twenty-yard line. We’ll gain the high ground and, by God, we’ll hold it!” Coach’s eyes gleamed. “This, gentlemen, is how football is won!”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Road Trip

“Beer?” Ssam said, reading down his list.



“Two for everyone.”


“In casse we end up with… y’know, company.”

“Right. Good thinking. Ssnackss?”

Ssidney held up a small, squeaking wicker cage. “Ssumatran,” he said significantly.


“And check thiss out,” Ssidney said, opening up the car. “Heated sseatss. We can keep driving all night, even in the cold.”

“Thiss iss going to be the besst weekend ever,” Ssam said, nodding. They turned as the door opened and Ssteven came out, fangs extended with irritation.

“Ssarah can’t come,” Ssteven said, making a rude gesture with his tail. “She’ss molting.”

Monday, January 26, 2009

Tales of the Blight IV

The ground trembled. They said the end was coming. He had been waiting.

The horizon was bare; the treatments were to blame for that, their miraculous “cure.” Much good it had done. Blighted and blasted and, now, finally, dying. Everyone who could had left at the first warnings. After the quarantine, the vultures, messenger ships orbiting at safe range, taking last transmissions and final bequests.

He’d had nothing to say.

The ground shifted again. He sat down on the ledge, rested a hand on the rock, the land’s exposed bones, and softly began to sing a dirge for his home.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Zombie Apocalypse

They crowded together, moaning faintly. Everyone knew the monsters were out there. They’d already slaughtered everyone. People barely had time to lurch unsteadily upright before being buried under the waves of attackers.

The beasts were savage. Feral. Like and yet horribly unlike themselves. They had a special fondness for the head, it seemed. This basement was the last refuge; everywhere else, the city belonged to the conquering hordes.

A pounding of feet. A heavy thud at the door.

The lock couldn’t hold. The door burst open, and the cornered zombies wailed as the mob poured in, waving shotguns, torches, axes…

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The God of the Laundromat

“O Lord, accept these, our offerings to you.” The young couple, already firm acolytes of the faith, bowed before the god who smiled upon them, pudgy cheeks glowing.

He picked over the array, finally selecting a single token sock with his long, long chopsticks. He gestured; the rest they could keep for themselves.

The temple door jingled open and a newcomer entered. Rough. Untutored in the Way. He ignored the god, moving straight to the washing machines. The god’s smile faded and his worshippers quivered at his wrath. The heathen would be lucky to escape with even one shirt untorn.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tales of the Blight III

Eventually, the landing capsule popped open and Sahr emerged. Overhead, the transport roared as it lumbered back out of the upper atmosphere.

It would not be coming back. Not for him, anyway.

"Another new one?"

Sahr turned. "I'm a biogeneticist researcher-" he began.

"Save it." The grizzled wanderer waved a hand. "All you are is a lonely dead man."

"But… the work… the research…"

"Gets old fast." He gestured sharply. "You died when that capsule touched contaminated soil. It's all over but the waiting, now."

The sky flashed with light. The transport had broken free and fired the main thrusters.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tales of the Blight II

"Look at these," Lieutenant Smythe ran a gloved hand over the objects in the tray, shimmering beneath a slick red coating. "Implants. Grafts. Replacements. Metal, plastic, vat-grown, gene-tech, artificial." He picked up a disc with three silvery cords. They ended in ragged strands where they had been torn loose.

"And the drugs, the holos, the crystals… We've taken it all away, and what is left?" Smythe regarded his audience, who made a bubbling sound.

"Nothing," Smythe hissed. "You're not even human anymore." He dropped the implant with a clatter, tugging off his gloves. "Disgusting."

He left, shutting off the lights.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tales of the Blight I

Janine looked up from the commlink. Her mouth opened as though to
scream, but only a whisper came out. "No…"

Terill fairly leapt over the seats. "What's happened?" When Terill
was upset or worried, he spoke in tight, clipped phrases.

"They've quarantined Luxen."

"But we just-"

Janine shook her head. "We didn't make it out. Missed the window.
We're blacklisted." She punched a few buttons and brought up the

"'Shoot on sight,'" Terill read. "How much fuel do we have?"

"Eight days."

They both stared at the console screen for a time as the ship drifted
through the void.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Camino del Rey

Crumbling stone underfoot. Below that, only the sky.

The mountains sneered down upon us. The walkway had been built long ago. The mountains had since reclaimed it, but still they were once defeated. That is why they were angry.

Carmen walked ahead of me. He was always surer of foot. Through hairpin turns, across gaps and narrow ledges, he led, and I followed.

He stopped, and I stumbled. He was staring into the abyss; the walkway ended here.

He turned to me, a smile on his lips. “We go where the trail leads,” he said, and stepped off the edge.


Third day in a row of unusual inspirational sources (beyond me just staring at the screen and letting my mind wander.) This time, Mark Simmons of Burning Zeppelin Experience has thrown out a prompt involving a video that made me want to hide under the bed. (I'm not exactly acrophobic, but I am very clumsy and have terrible balance, so high places make me very nervous.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Dungeon Delver

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When I saw Bellam – gods, the years have been unkind to him – I never… Well, I thought of happier times. Save the princess, defeat the warlord, retrieve the treasure; sex, violence, and greed. It never mattered why we went, just that we went.

It doesn’t matter now.

Wooden door. Iron hinges. Kid’s stuff. I’ve done this a hundred, a thousand times before.

Pain. The ring digs into my palm. The other hangs around my neck; I’ve never taken mine off.

She did.

And now we are here.

Knock, knock, boys. We’re going down.


Inspired by a contest over on which I don't have much investment in, but which did provide today's spark. You takes 'em where you finds 'em, I say.

Willing Disbelief

“Away!” she shrieked, her hands like claws, her illusions of beauty scattered and torn. She fled to the darkest corner, sweeping into the suddenly visible rafters. The musty, pungent scent of the house was clear now, only a lingering undercurrent of flowers and fruit remaining.

He stepped forward, the floor creaking. The small atomizer rested on the table. He lifted it, let the light play on the fluid within.

She hissed from above, covering her withered face. “You have seen the lies. Begone!”

He looked up to her, smiling. “I would rather be fooled.” He opened the bottle and inhaled.


Had an Internet outage when we arrived home last night, hence the lateness of the previous fic (which should have been yesterday's.) Also, some strange news:

Full disclosure:
Some dude hawking a beauty product called Ageless Fantasy randomly e-mailed me. My site had popped up in his Google Alert because it's labeled as "fantasy" and I'd finally used the word "ageless" in a story. He wanted me to write about his perfume, which supposedly makes you "smell young."

I told him that we have five readers, maybe one or two of whom I don't know personally. On the flip side, I found the idea of a perfume which could keep you young forever to be an intriguing idea. Thus, this fic.

Hooray for the bizarrely interconnected world of the future!


The pounding continued. “Please, I’m desperate!”

Jolette opened the door and the man fell inside, whimpering as he hit the floor. She gasped when she saw his face; even beyond the bruises, the man’s skin was a pale bluish-green, his eyes orange and oddly angular.

“You’re an alien!” she gasped.

The alien dragged himself further inside. “Shut the door, quickly,” he pleaded. “I’m being chased by six thugs, four lynch mobs, three government agencies, seven doctors, and sixteen…”

“An alien?” Jolette purred. “That’s fascinating. You look so human…” She stroked his cheek.

He looked up at her. “Seventeen,” he sighed.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


The officer flashed his light. “Do you know who I am?”

Sean blinked. “No?”

“Good.” The officer scribbled in a little notebook. “Do you know why I pulled you over?”

“I have no idea.”

“Excellent.” The officer wrote more and then tore off the top sheet of paper. “This is your citation,” he said, folding it up and tucking it into his pocket. “You can’t tell anyone I stopped you.”

“Can I see it?”


“Well, how much do I owe?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Why not?”

The officer stared over the top of his mirrored lenses. “It’s a secret.”

Friday, January 16, 2009


Philosopher’s Stone Wonder of Alchemy!
Eternal Youth!!!

I regarded the sign with amusement. The dusky man behind it, an ageless thirty, smiled at me without hope.


“No thanks,” I said. “Business slow?”


“No one’s gullible enough?”

“Oh, there are always some willing to try anything that promises money and beauty.” He sighed. “But every customer who has ever bought has demanded their money back.”

I smirked. “Gave up when it didn’t work, eh?”

“Everything I sell is true and genuine,” he bristled. “I myself am seven-hundred-and-thirty-six years old. No, they returned it because it worked. “

Thursday, January 15, 2009

March of the Dark Army

The last rays of the sun disappeared over the horizon. It was time.

The Dark Army roared. Korzak roared with them. The drums began. They would march forward soon, march on one of the last human bastions. Here in the front lines, the fighting would be brutal, the losses tremendous. It was Korzak’s role to play. The spiked helm, the savage tattoos, the broken tusk; all of it was simply what he had to do.

She would never have anyone who was not a warrior.

Korzak roared and marched, waving his jagged blade, thinking of green skin and dark eyes…

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chasing the Moon

She withdrew from me, pulling her veils over herself. The light dimmed. She was coy, but I could wait. I had little else to do; my world was shrunk to four feet by ten. The oars were shipped. I floated.

I was patient as a stone. I had nothing else to be, not anymore. When at last she peeped out of her cloudy bed again, I quickly scooped her up in a handful of water. For a moment, I held the moon in my hand.

Then she was gone, and I opened my hand to let the water trickle out.

A Great Fall

“Mother G, look at this mess.”

“I think we messed up big-time, Carl.”

“Shut up! Look, we can fix this. Hand me that big piece over there. We’ll start from the bottom.”

“Gross! I’m not touching that!”

“Dammit, Kenny, I’ll report you myself!”

You pushed him.”

“It was your idea!”

“How was I supposed to know? He was always on about how hard-boiled he was!”

“All right, all right. We’ll come up with something else. We’ll just say… he fell. Right? Sitting on the wall, that round rear of his… They’ll buy that, right?”

“They’d better. Here come the horses.”


“Life is complex. That is, any system with a sufficient degree of complexity gradually approaches what we would consider life; growing, learning, reacting. Breeding.” The professor massaged the bridge of his nose. “Computing, mimetics… the idea of sentience, of consciousness, arising naturally from a decision-making process… of life springing not from a chemical soup, but from an idea. Like germs, in the dark and unswept corners of our minds. Contagious.”

He wiped at his face and turned back to the blackboard, empty now. He could feel the wriggling lines, like leeches in his head. “God help me, I never thought…”

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gold Digger

Laurie glared, hands on her hips. “What I don’t understand is why you were tunneling under my house in the first place.”

The mine-captain twisted his cloth cap in his hands. “Can’t help it, miss. We‘uz diggin’ fer gold, miss.”

“Under my laundry room!?”

“Might be as how we’s a bit lost, miss.”

“Well, fix this mess and get a move on! Of all the nuisances…”

“Er, miss?”


“You’ve nowt seen a dragon about, have ye? Big scaly fellow? Breathes fire? Bit evil?”

“Why would he be in my basement?”

The mine-captain shrugged. “Never can tell, with dragons, miss.”

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Blasted Land

The land is barren, baked clay dust shifting over mountain rocks. Nothing green can be seen for miles around.

When one sleeps on the blasted plain, one seems to awaken surrounded by lush foliage. Distant animal sounds draw nearer to the sleeper as the dream goes on. Those who have the nerve have said eventually there are footsteps that approach from behind. Turning to behold their source awakens one instantly.

One brave man remained until the footsteps stopped behind him. He said he felt a touch on his shoulder before he, too, awoke.

His companion, braver still, they never found.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Duel

“I am a young man, both parents slain by foul deeds, wielding a mysterious sword which I inherited, found with me when the monks discovered me on their doorstep.” He flourished the blade, which sparkled. “You are an ancient master of the art who has never taken a student, for none have been worthy enough. There is only one way this can end.”

“Ah, but we are in a modern, possibly a post-modern story,” rejoined the withered old man. “Genre conventions may be defied, even inverted, solely for the sake of pre-empting expectations.”

And then the crocodile ate them both.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Just When You Thought It Was Safe


“Raise… fifty.”

“Call and raise. Fifty.” Chips clattered into the center of the table.

A pause. “You’re up, Chaz.”

“I’m thinking!” Chuck peeked at his hole cards again. Sign of an amateur, he knew. The chips gleamed in the smoky light, taunting him. All he’d lost and more. Could he risk it?

“Step it up, partner,” sneered Joachim. “You’re guts-nothing anyway.”

“Busted,” agreed Copious Dave.

There was a splash, and a sound like a suitcase snapping shut. The remaining card players watched the fin disappear back into the carpet.

Joachim brushed the red from his cards. “Call,” he said.

Kings in Pajamas

“Kings,” I explained, “need a nation of their own to rule.”

He pointed to his action figures and stuffed animals, arrayed in clusters around his bed. Rather, his throne.

“Kings are born that way. It’s a family trait.”

“Probably someone in our family was important somewhere.”

“Kings don’t wear short pants.”

“Did so. Puffy ones. With tights.”

I sighed. “Well, even if you are a king, you still need to wash up for dinner. Mom made potatoes.”

“I hafta finish my speech, Dad.”

I nodded permission. As I left, I could swear I heard a murmur, like a gathered crowd…

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Reign of Terror

I could hear them, outside the door. That horrid high-pitched squealing, and the slithering sound of their movement, like someone squeezing mud through a sock.

“Hell with this,” I snarled. “I am not going to sit here and die!”

“You saw what they did to Gerald. Oh, God, his face…”

“I don’t care. I have to do something.”

I picked up the can of hairspray and Gerald’s lighter. “I’ll see you later,” I told the gathered refugees.

I kicked open the door and spewed out flame. I heard their shrieks. That was how the end of the Marshmallow Peeps began.


Roger held his hands stiffly overhead. He could feel the cold wind reaching down his sleeves, but he didn’t dare move, even to shiver.

“All right, now slowly - slowly! - reach down and pull out your wallet.”

Roger eased his arm down with as much speed as he dared. If he’d had a gun… but he didn’t. Nice moves, he chided himself. Now you’re being robbed by this… animal.

“Ain’t personal, bub,” chirped the squirrel as Roger flopped his wallet onto the ground. “Gotta stock up for winter, you know.” With a flip of his tail, he was gone.

Monday, January 5, 2009

If Wishes Were Fishes

A lamp was burning, the fiery glow leaking out through the cracks around the door. Inside, the man sat at his desk. The overhead lights were off.

At his left elbow was a stack of paper squares, perhaps five inches thick. He selected the topmost sheet and readied a pen. Tear tracks stained his cheeks. After a moment, he began to write, a short sentence of a few words. Then, slowly, he folded the paper, folded again. Gradually, he shaped it into a crane.

Twenty-three paper cranes lay scattered on the floor behind him.

He reached for the next sheet.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Unveiling

“My friends, ladies and gentlemen of the Court, esteemed members of the Aetheric Brotherhood, I give to you… Gargantron!”

With a flourish, Professor-Doctor Alberton tugged on the golden cord. The red curtains tumbled to the floor. The audience gasped audibly.

“Sir, have you gone mad?” came a voice from the back. “Have you forgotten the Computational Algorithm Disaster?”

“Please, sir,” said the professor. “I am no fool. There is no computer-brain involved, but merely a minor aetheric spirit, summoned and bound to servitude. Completely harmless!”

With a rumble and the scent of sulphur, the jagged black hulk trembled to life…

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Wish Granted

The genie was human-shaped, albeit ten feet tall and clad in a flowing robe. All around the massive cavern, birds twittered and chirped, fluttering from perch to perch in the half-lit depths. The supplicant held his string of one thousand folded cranes, the ends dragging on the floor.

“There is,” the genie was saying, “a grain of truth in it. The secret is not how many cranes, but how they are made.” He held up a hand. A bird landed on his outstretched finger. “For every wish that is granted, a thousand others must be sacrificed, to never come true.”

Friday, January 2, 2009


Brad grabbed ahold of his makeshift spear with both hands and placed his boot on the shiny carapace. It crunched sickeningly as he withdrew the rusty nail.

“That’s another one,” he said, kicking the black wasp corpse aside. “Does this nest ever end?”

Doctor Geisteskrenk pushed on the drywall that hemmed them on both sides and fiddled with a small metal box. “Another foot, I’d say.”

“Thank God,” sighed Brad.

“And then, on to the termites!”

Brad grimaced. “You know, Doc, you could just call the exterminator.”

The doctor blinked. “But I already have the Structural De-Magnification Ray,” he protested.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Frank watched the body writhe on the floor, flesh twisting and reshaping before his eyes. "It's horrible," he murmured.

"Still, it's the only way," said May, behind him. "'Suffer not a witch to live.' He was an abomination."

"It's... how he reacted to the silver. It was like chemicals. Acid. He... burned."

"It's a very painful death," May said. She rested a hand lightly on Frank's shoulder. "He was... your friend, wasn't he?"


"I'm sorry."

"How did you know?" Frank asked. "I'd never suspected-"

"No," May gurgled, her speech garbled by her growing wolf's snout. "You never did."