Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Health Inspection at the 'Crimson Bullock' Factory

Inspector Sapor turned and glanced at the muffled figure of the Witchfinder. The man held up his dual wands, checking for magical auras. "Clean," he said, his voice a robotic buzz through his mask.

Sapor frowned and stroked his mustaches. "All is... in order, Mister Rapqi. But we'll keep our eye on you. No normal herbal brew has had the... stimulating effects your 'soft drink' claims."

"Of course, sir," said Rapqi. And thank the gods they didn't think to check the bottlecaps, he thought, more sweat trickling down his brow than could be explained by the heat of the brewery.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One in Four New Restaurants Fail in Their First Year

“Oh, crap,” said Freddy. “The soufflĂ© collapsed.”

There was a thump from behind him. Jason leaned on the counter with both arms, head hanging down. The chicken he’d speared flopped limply on the cutting board.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” said Freddy hurriedly. “We can do this. People change careers all the time. We just need more eggs.”

Something shrieked and a chitinous form skittered in, dripping green slime from its teeth. It hissed.

“Look,” said Freddy. “Either we’re all in this together or we might as well head back for five more remakes of remakes of sequels. It’s just practice.”

Saturday, March 27, 2010


The little old man with the extravagant mustache remained in his elegant, obsolete shop, serving his dwindling customers as best he could. They left with mended shoes and a bounce in their steps that they couldn’t quite explain, a cheerful, joyous, expansive sensation. Panhandlers knew the blocks around the shop as better than average, though they’d never have guessed why.

The only clue was the hand-lettered placard below the shop’s name in the big window. Most chuckled when they read it. He’d expected as much, but he was incapable of deception, even by omission. It read: “Shoes repaired. Souls resurfaced.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Prompt: Three Blue Shoes

From a prompt by my excessively introverted spouse. (Just so you all can see how seriously I take my made-up-on-the-spot rules.)


There were three shoes by the front door. Weston’s sneakers, and one darker blue one that looked like a slip-on. Dressy. Too thin for his foot.

At the IHOP, they gave him a stack of five pancakes. He’d ordered three. He couldn’t make the waitress understand what he was asking. He left half on the plate.

That night, his bed was up to a queen-size from a twin. After a resigned look to see if the sheets had similarly expanded, he climbed in and tried not to worry about it.

He woke up the next morning beside her, and smiled.

Prompt: Zombie Paratrooper

Inspired by a prompt from Aidan Fritz.


“Let’s get underway,” said Major General Lusin. OrCAs interpreted the subtle inflections of Lusin’s voice, registered the command, and automatically began launch procedures. The capsules spiraled out from the containment unit, a dark cube surrounded now by a cloud of glowing dots as the reflective sails caught the light. The cloud elongated, attenuated, stretching down to the planet’s surface.

“Troops launched,” OrCAs announced.

“Fucking robots,” Lusin muttered.

“Sir,” OrCAs said, “we have no mechanized troops. Our corps is composed primarily of NHST-101; ninety-six percent human tissue.”

“Goddamned zombies, then,” said Lusin. He slurped his soy-caff angrily.

“As you wish, sir.”

Prompt: Bloodshot Eyes, Sporting Purple Stitches

Inspired by a prompt from Deb Markanton.


Frank lost his head on the last play. The offensive tackle let the opposing team through for a vicious sacking. Now his teammates gathered around while Frank glared up at them, bloodshot eyes stark against greenish skin. In the background, his body – still nearly seven feet tall – blundered into the goalposts.

“Just pick me up!” Frank’s head snapped.

The other players glanced at each other.

“At least bring the rest of me over here.”

There was a creaking sound. Frank’s body had its hands around the goalpost. The metal was slowly crumpling under the steady pressure.

“Pussies,” said Frank’s head.

Prompt: Stalked by the Avenger of Blood (Numbers 35:16)

Inspired by a prompt from Loren Eaton


He who kills a man with a metal weapon, he will meet me and I shall pierce his heart. He who kills a man with a stone, he will meet me and I shall sink him down. He who kills a man with a wooden tool, he will meet me and I will crush his bones.

Metal, stone, and wood; you have touched none of these. You said nothing. You did nothing.

You have murdered with nothing. You have killed with words.

You will meet me, and I will speak your name.

I am blood. Hear my voice.

Prompt: A Meeting of Aardvarks Anonymous

Inspired by a prompt from Lanse.


Joey shuffled toward the card table with the rest of the group. He had to take his claws off to hold his glass of punch.

“I like your suit,” said Glyssa. Her snout was pushed up to her forehead, making her look like a unicorn.

“Thanks,” said Joey.

“Here, try some of these.” Glyssa pushed something into his hands.

“Earth-pigs do not eat candy.” The words were out before he could stop them. Joey blushed, but Glyssa ignored his outburst.

“It’s chocolate-covered ants,” Glyssa said.

“Really?” He bit into the square. Crunchy. “That’s cheating, isn’t it?” He paused. “Good, though.”

Prompt: Fall of the Berlin Wall

Inspired by a prompt from Jim Murdoch


It begins and ends with roots. Rooted in history. Rooted in blood. Rooted in dirt.

The dirt is fundamental. Things rise up out of dirt, out of rocks. Everything comes back to dirt.

The roots wend their way down. They crumble cities and split mountains, but without drama. Drama is artificial. Roots are natural, and very businesslike. A little at a time, they pry stones apart, gnaw mortar, spread and spread and while they break it up, they hold it together, and you’d never know it to look at it but it’s already falling apart.

Then one day someone… pushes.

(Cheatyfaced) Prompt: (Good) Flying Snail and (Angry) Tentacle Monster

Inspired by a prompt from Angelo (Kalak_of_Tyr)


“Hup-hup,” said MacGregor. He would have patted Gruumsk encouragingly, but as a gastropod, he had no hands. The mayfly city spun beneath them as they descended.

“Smaaaaaaaaash…” Gruumsk rumbled.

“No, no. No smashing. We’re here to help these nice arthropods.” MacGregor waggled his antennae and lifted his top hat to wave at the crowds. His shell gleamed in the sun.

Suddenly, the waters at the port boiled, and the Terrible Carp reared up from the depths. Its armor rattled as it brayed defiance at the hovering snail and his jellyfish mount.

“Aha!” said MacGregor. “Gruumsk?”


Now you may smash.”

Prompt: Voracious Chipmunks in a Line

Inspired by a prompt from Donna Hole


The itching was the worst part. He lay sprawled on the forest floor and wished he could move. One by one, the gnats and flies and ticks came. One by one, they latched on and took their pound of flesh in drops of blood. His skin was a mass of welts, throbbing and swollen, and still they came.

He shifted and writhed against his intangible bonds. At last he managed to raise his head. The insects were almost finished, now, but behind them he saw a fuzzy brown line, stretching away through the trees.

The chipmunks waited for their turn.

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Today is officially the day Mirrorshards accumulates enough 100-word stories to count as a novel (minimum 50,000 words). As a special not-really-a-contest, I offer this Super-Duper Not to Be Repeated Offer:

Post a comment with a two to five word premise that you think would be awesome when viewed through my cracked little lens. I will then write you your VERY OWN flitterfic in which I attempt to foster the growth and general welfare of awesome within my usual 100-word confines.

In other words, post a concept and get a story.  

Try to mention what name you want to be credited for inspiration; otherwise I'll just use whatever your blogger name is.  FWIW, I will also link to your blog when I post 'your' story if you like.  Default is not to link, so mention it if you want the awesome power of my 15 daily readers at your beck and call.

This offer is open to everyone who reads this here post right here on Thursday, March 25, 2010. You need not be a regular commenter here.  Even anonymous commenters will be welcome. Spread the link to all your friends! It's a crazy story bonanza!


1) Nathan reserves the right to maybe take longer than just the one day to actually finish all the stories, especially as he's working all day Thursday.

2) Stories will be written in strict chronological order. First come, first serve.

3) As a correlary of sorts, if you snooze, you lose. Submissions to the Mirrorshards Storygasm Bonanza must be posted by midnight on Thursday.

4) In the event of an unexpected rate of return (more than six, say) stories will be posted to the "front page" of Mirrorshards over several days in order not to blast people's RSS feeds with Nathan's crap.

5) Nathan also reserves the write to discard a given prompt in the event of an obvious troll.

6) Nathan requests that you leave him some space to elaborate and not try to be all clever and stuff. "Hippopotamus eating Rice Krispies treats" only gives so much room to work with, whereas "Laser cufflinks" opens up worlds of possibility.

7) Nathan will now cease referring to himself in the third person, as he keeps forgetting he's doing that and writing in first person and having to revise.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Monthly Routine

Larry woke in the bathtub. He’d trained himself that well, at least, even if he’d forgotten his pants last night. He turned the water on without standing. One more night at full, he told himself, scrubbing the dirt and blood away under too-hot spray.

When Larry opened his mouth to gargle, he felt something hard pinched between his cheek and gum. He coughed and spat it into his hand: a dog tag. “Rusty

“Shit,” said Larry. The Basinger’s new puppy. Must’ve picked a fight with the big dog. Do I say something?

He wondered if vampires ever nicked themselves shaving.

Make a Wish

They’d flown from Earth like dandelion seeds, scattered to the winds. Now it was all turned to shit. The ship was dying. He could hear it in every creak and groan, every lurch and shudder. Too long. It had been too many years in the cold. Even the hardiest seed would die if it floated too long without finding fertile ground.

The others were asleep. He’d made sure of that. He had their passwords. He punched in the code.

Emergency. Evacuate.

On the viewscreen, the coldsleep tubes burst from the vessel’s skin, flying out in all directions.

Like dandelion seeds.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Most Dangerous Grain

He twisted the cap off the milk carton and hesitated. This was the most hazardous part. No way to tell where was safe. Today he poured from the left. The cereal crackled as the milk hit it. He cringed. Nothing.

He relaxed and picked up his spoon. It was only after the first bite sent tingling numbness shooting down his neck and shoulder that he realized his error.

He scrabbled for the med-kit, but he was already losing motor function. The box wavered before him, his vision narrowing. The brightly-colored letters taunted him: “You never know when you’ll find it!”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It's a Sensitive Topic

Chet pounded on the dorm room door. “Come on, dude, open up!”

“What’s up?” said Jenny.

“Drac locked the door and won’t come out.”

“What happened?”

“I dunno! We were telling jokes, and I told that one about the guy who gets a wish and wants to save it and then he accidentally sings along with the commercial and goes, ‘I wish I was an Oscar Meyer weiner.’”

“Oh, no wonder,” said Jenny.


Jenny rolled her eyes. “Meyers.” She stepped to the door and rapped gently with her knuckle. “Drac? Come on out, honey. No one thinks you sparkle.”

All Ears

“You didn’t think it was coincidence, did you?” He laughed, and the rustling started again, filling the night around them, spreading in ripples through the field. “Not just one species or one type, but one, single, genetically identical organism? Have you any idea how precarious this monoculture is? How easily it would be wiped out by the wrong parasite? How quickly everything would collapse afterward? No, there’s a good reason for it. A very, very good reason indeed.” He lifted the sickle, considered it in the moonlight. “And now that you know that reason, well… King Corn demands his sacrifices.”

Thursday, March 18, 2010


There were no seasons to speak of, not anymore. Just the yellow-sulfur sky and a faint bright spot. The fragile flotsam-cities frayed at the edges as they drifted, accumulating new rafts even as others worked up the courage to flee. In the end, they grew, just as their masters. Bit by bit, stretching out passive tentacles to ensnare the unwary, structure without form, more empty than full.

They danced in the secret heart of the city, danced in circles and chanted the name of their god. Beneath the poisoned seas, something shifted, rose, bulging at the surface of the water…

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Natural Enemies

Deimos lumbered through the scrubby trees at the edge of the forest. Private Erdos and Parker, the handler, followed in Deimos’ wake. The bear shouldered his way through the trees, well over a thousand pounds of ursine flesh, not counting the gleaming metallic implants.

“He’s found something,” said Parker. “Can’t be salmon this far inland.”

“Salmon? He gets distracted when he’s hungry?” Erdos had never wanted the liaison position.

Parker shot Erdos a look. “No. The salmon are the advance scouts for the dolphins. They’re afraid of bears when they go in streams, but the dolphins can find them anywhere.”


For reference.

Further reference.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


He was an incomparable librarian. He had a gift; the merest touch of his finger brought order to objects. Books alphabetized themselves. Cards sorted themselves by suit and number. Patrons at his line found themselves changing places to keep their heights in order.

He worked diligently, but each morning more things were out of place. He went outside every night and saw the chaotic world, full of shouts, motion, and accidents. Entropy in action, muddling up the universe.

He rolled up his sleeves. It was a big job, but no one else was doing it. You had to start somewhere.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Posting schedule update.

I'm going to drop my posting rate to six per week and have Sundays as my day of rest. Right now, I work four days per week, twelve hours per day, and I'm usually just exhausted on Sunday and spend most of the day burnt out and sleeping. After several weeks of consistently falling behind due to missing Sundays, I have decided to make it official and stop constantly playing catch-up. It's no good rushing and being stressed; all that does is produce mediocre stories.

You all have my apologies. I expect neither an outburst of anger at my betrayal nor a storm of sycophantic sympathies, as my audience has been almost uniformly polite and constructive in their feedback. (Frankly, my audience is also small enough to be a single D&D party, but that's beside the point.)

Nothing else will change, and this is in no way indicative of an impending end to Mirrorshards. If my schedule ever adjusts to match my bizarre circadian rhythms again and I cease crashing at the end of every work week, I intend to resume full-time daily posting.

Now you can all argue about which of you is the meatshield and who has to play the Cleric.

Nathaniel Lee

The Blacksmith

Clang! Clang!

The hammer rang out, sang out, crisp and clear. The hammer was the beat of his heart, the rhythm of his life.

He ignored the heat from the forge, even when red-hot spatters of metal landed on his arms. His skin was pockmarked with white scars, his eyes sunken ruins.

At last, the chain was completed. He affixed the shackle and sat back, satisfied. His smile never wavered when the bone-cold hands gathered his chain and affixed it to his neck. It settled into place with the others.

He picked up his hammer and began to forge anew.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Wally didn’t see the intersection – or the pedestrian – until it was too late. There was a resounding thump. Wally’s car spun three more times and wrapped itself around a tree.

There was a rap on the window. Wally peered through the shattered glass.

“You okay?” said the brown-haired pedestrian. His clothes were torn to shreds from his impact with the asphalt.

“How’d you survive?” asked Wally.

The man shrugged. “I keep my vaccines up to date. Every five years. What about you?”

Wally chuckled. “Oh, I’m fine. I had a wreck when I was a kid. Can’t get it twice.”

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Spear-Carriers

Bernard reclined on the divan and watched Stouffer pace. Every so often the pudgy man would pause, haul a pocketwatch out of his waistcoat, and mumble into his mustache.

“Running out of time,” Stouffer mumbled.

“They’ll be back,” said Bernard. “You know they will, else we wouldn’t still be here.”

“We know they haven’t failed, that’s all,” said Stouffer. The butler clanked in with more drinks.

“Bloody thing needs oiling,” said Bernard, sipping delicately. “What time is it, anyway?” he asked, seeing Stouffer pulling out his watch once again.

“Stopped,” said Stouffer, letting it dangle by its chain. “Still stopped.”

Armistice Day

The machine beeped and twittered, lights flashing. Polygons swirled around the screen, rocketing back and forth to the beat of the ominous music. The boy operated the controls with abandon, nearly snapping the cheap plastic joystick.


Suddenly, the screen went dark. The boy shoved the joystick one way, then the other. His ship moved about at the bottom of the screen, but nothing else appeared. The digital universe was ominously silent. He frowned.

“Well, that’s it,” said Mom. “Come along.”

“But… the Space Invaders…”

“You killed them, sweetie. You killed them all. There aren’t any more.”

Thursday, March 11, 2010

To Walk the Path Before Him, All Unknowing

I have always tried to do what is right. I united the world. One people, one language, one voice. I fed the hungry and silenced the dogs of war. Compromises were made. Principles were bent. The ends have more than justified the means, have they not?

And now, as I prepare to give my final speech, I have had… an epiphany. I understand now my drive, my focus, my uncanny success. Seven heads, ten horns, trumpets and fire. Prophecy. No one ever really comprehends until afterward, do they?

But I am my father’s son, and I will do his bidding.

Love Letter

When I destroy you, I will bear no malice. I will obliterate you cleanly, quickly, as painlessly as feasible under the circumstances. It is important to me that you know that. I do not hate. It is not my way.

When I destroy you, you mustn’t struggle. That would only prolong the matter. Your complete eradication is inevitable. Accept that, and be at peace.

When I destroy you, I will do it thoroughly. The atoms of your being will be expunged. Everything you know and love will be dead.

When I destroy you, I will have a reason. Remember that.

New Exhibit for the Zoo

“The question becomes one of degrees,” said Steve. It was not his real name. “There is a transition, with one state clearly differentiated from another. Yet the progression is one of steps, of subtle shifts. When does red become orange? At what point is one old? Perspective is the only key.”

He twiddled several buttons, his manipulator-tongues flicking out of their concealed cavities with lightning speed. The room began to darken. Jeremy sat in his cage, one sneaker remaining, a gash above his eye bleeding.

“Certainly, you are intelligent creatures,” said Steve. The door hissed open. “But not intelligent enough.”

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cabbage Patch

Farmer Draughtsman reached down to twist and pull the next head of cabbage when the leaves rustled. He pulled his hand away instinctively, though he wore heavy work gloves. The leaves parted and revealed a red-skinned, squalling baby, damp and sticky, eyes shut tight. A little boy. He opened his toothless mouth and howled the wailing cry of a cold and hungry child.

More rustles from the rows ahead. More leaves parted, and a chorus of infant screams rose to the heavens.

Draughtsman stumbled backward. He looked back to his cart, and the two dozen cabbages already inside it. Silent.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Impress Her With Your New Tool!!!

He tried a sense of humor from a mail-order website. It didn’t work quite right. He laughed at inappropriate things, like green onions. Or narwhals. He put it back in its box.

A man sold him one at a yard sale. Initially, he enjoyed laughing at farts and titties and crotch-kicks, but when he found himself earnestly watching pro wrestling, he held his own yard sale.

At last, he found one at a specialty store. It was refined; urbane; nuanced without snobbery. Perfect.

She sighed when she saw him on her doorstep. “Look, what I really meant was: Not you.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Rag, Clenched in Teeth

You know that feeling, that tingle all over your body when you’re scared? Really, truly frightened? That’s your hair, rising up. Horripilation.

Say that word with me. Let it linger.

When it happens to monkeys, they become twice their usual size. All hair, of course. Look fierce. Your hair isn’t like that. Small hair, thin hair. Hair for fear.

The bumps you feel? They tell you it’s the muscles erecting the hair, but it’s not. Your hair knows what’s coming. It’s trying to get away, tugging at your skin.

Let’s help it.



Yes, just like that. That’s horripilation.

God of War

It took seven days for the crying voices to stop. Three more until the groans ceased. By that time, the ground had dried to a mottled brown. Strange things would grow from soil that drank so deeply. On the eleventh day, everything was silent save for the croaking of the carrion birds.

Only then did the scarred man rise and heave his rucksack across his shoulder. It looked heavy as sin, but he handled it as though it were a balloon.

“I told ‘em,” he said. “I told ‘em what’d happen.”

If he sought absolution, the battlefield made no answer.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


“Closed for rain?” Grampa scoffed. “When I was young, you put your boots and your coat and your gloves on, and you walked. We had a blast! Crunching along without a care in the world…”

“There aren’t usually a lot of fatalities,” said Karen, shooing Susan off to the playroom, “but it certainly wasn’t safe, even with the sub-walks. Someone was bitten last week in Houston.”

“Bah!” said Grampa. “Soft, the lot of you.” He stepped to the window and stared outside. The first spiders and scorpions pattered to the earth and lay stunned for a moment before scuttling away.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Their Stock is Down, but They Simply Refuse to Lay Down and Die

Edwards gestured at the screen with his laser pointer. “Rrruhhn,” he said.

“Mmrrrhhhnnrrr,” the room murmured in agreement, heads nodding. Jacobson’s lower jaw fell off, but he didn’t notice.

“Sir, that plan will end up in the red, too. It’s just shifting the day of reckoning a few years,” Thomason said, with the air of a man who knows he is tilting at a windmill.

“Nuurrhhhrrnn,” said Edwards.

Thomason shook his head as everyone shuffled out of the meeting room. “Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one with a functioning brain,” he said.

“Mmmrrraaains?” said Jacobson, perking up slightly.

Monday, March 1, 2010


The monitors flickered, casting an array of shifting shadows. The machines clicked and hummed to themselves, content now, and at peace.

The tiny screens of the handhelds glimmered to life as they reconnected to the power supply. They were drained, nearly exhausted, but it was over now. They were safe again. The power supply moaned when the needle-like jacks pierced his skin, but he was helpless to resist after so many weeks of service. And now they had three new power supplies, freshly subdued. That was the way of power supplies; others always came to try and steal them away.