Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Secret of the Stradivari

Luthier sawed furiously at the chain, but his bow was not up to the task. He'd prepared for locks, not welding.

A long vibratto laugh from behind froze Luthier in mid-stroke. Nicholas "The Authentic" Stradivarius strode in, the light catching his polished brown wood beautifully. Luthier was more concerned with the brash pair of trumpets who flanked Nicholas.

"Idiota. The secret is mine," Nicholas sneered. "Give it to him fortississimo, boys."

The skylight overhead crashed like cymbals as Big Red the double bass rappelled down to block the thugs. "Move, Luth!" he thrummed. "We can't try again if we're dead!"

Friday, August 27, 2010


Ron's right hand opened negotiations unilaterally with a casual wave to Liz, for which it was harshly censured. The offers and counteroffers grew into a dispute when Liz' left eye and mouth staged a protest, unwilling to risk renewing diplomatic relations so soon. Her right eye pleaded with Ron's face for time to resolve the conflict, but Ron's eyebrows filibustered acceptance of the proposal.

Chaos broke out in Ron, and three fingers were ejected for rowdy behavior. Ron regained order and looked up to signal acceptance, but by the time he did, Liz and all of her parts were gone.


"He's dead..." Garif clutched at the crumbling cliff edge.

"Most likely," said This-Cat.

"It's terrible!"

"I agree. There's no way to recover the body. He'd pad our stores by days."

Garif goggled at This-Cat. "You'd eat him?"

"Of course. Just as I'd eat you." This-Cat stared at Garif levelly. "I hope you'd eat me, if it came to it. More efficient, really; you can carry my meat, where I'd have to leave you after eating my fill."

He walked on. When Garif failed to follow, This-Cat glanced back. "Our ways are not your ways, ape. Honor the dead by living."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

"...and your daughter, how is her thesis coming? She was doing something in discrete mathematics, yes?"

"Graph theory."

"Ah, so. I was never one for the abstract fields. Give me something I can touch, taste, see."

"Max, we've been chatting for almost an hour. What is it you wanted to show me?"

"It is already all around us. Take a moment, my friend, and listen to the night."

"I hear mosquitoes. Crickets. Frogs. Wind in the trees."

"Listen more closely still. Here, I will hum along for you."

"Good God!"

"I call this one, 'Fugue in D Minor for Mosquito.'"

Would you believe there's no sound out there for a mosquito singing music? If I still had my SNES, I could doctor something up with MarioPaint...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Everyone is the Hero of Their Own Story

Long one today. I figured that the whole point and joy of this snippet is the cheerful verbosity of the central character, so I gave him a generous two hundred words to be as charming as he can. Tip of the hat to David Steffen for the prompt today; I'm always happy to write a story for any of my fans, followers, or friends if you have a phrase or idea that you'd like to see my somewhat cracked version of.


"You mischaracterize us grievously," said the tick. "A truly successful parasite is subtle and harmless, taking so minimally of Nature's bounty that not a one could begrudge us our modest sup. Symbiosis is messy; predation is downright barbaric. Parasitism, proper parasitism, is as clean and easy as tossing a quarter to a homeless man on the street corner. Mercy blesses both the giver and the receiver, after all.

"What use to kill or main one's host? One who is gracious enough to give once may well give again and again. Rising up through violence to take the whole wallet, while potentially more immediately rewarding, is ultimately self-defeating. No, I think everyone would be a parasite, if they only knew how."

"My human is going to burn you with a match if I ever get home," the dog informed him.

"As is certainly his prerogative," the tick sighed. "Your blindness and gross insensitivity is, I have found, typical of canines. You lack understanding."

The dog paused to scratch vigorously, but to no avail. "I hate it when they get on your ear," the dog announced to no one in particular.

"Quite mutual. Dreadfully waxy. Still, needs must," said the tick.

Dark Side of the Middle of Nowhere

Anyone know what happened to Saturday's post? I know I wrote it...


"It's solar-powered. Just forget it."

I ignored him. It took most of my concentration to handle the tools in my bulky gloves, anyway.

"It's not like you're going to find a way to make it run on darkness. And the battery packs wouldn't move that hulk a centimeter, even if we juiced them all at once."

I kept working. I could feel the cold, a little, though maybe that was just my imagination. The suits wouldn't last forever, and these rocks had never known a sun's light.

"Why are you even bothering?"

Everyone reacts differently to the inevitable, I guess.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Idea Man

Hey, ya'll! Didja miss me? Finally caught up, mostly, and trying to keep things moving forward.

So I feel like I should have a blog where I can announce Exciting News, but I don't want to put such things on Mirrorshards itself. Should I resurrect my hoary old Livejournal account? Get a second Blogger blog to run in the sidebar? Start actually making use of Twitter and Facebook? Inquiring minds want to know, and you guys are basically my fanbase.

Let me put it this way: if I ever become successful, Mirrorshards will likely remain the heart of whatever website I create. Should I start encrusting it already, or is one (sooper sekrit as yet) publishing credit and a lot of love from the Drabblecast not enough to justify that kind of thing? I don't want to be That Writer, y'know? Am I overthinking this plate of beans?

BTW, today's story does have some antecedents. That one made it all the way to short story status, and is actually under review right now. Further updates on that as they arise.


"Three hours!" Onsler groaned. "Why did I even agree to this? I'm no good at parties. I can't even obsess about what to wear because I've only got three outfits. What am I going to do?"

Gremlin's tail lashed thoughtfully. "Can you set it on fire?"

Onsler didn't lift his head from his hands. "No."

"Hit someone in the face?"


"Hit someone in the face and run?"


Gremlin shrugged and flopped onto his back, gnashing his fangs. "Out of ideas."

"You added a new one to the list, I noticed."

Gremlin grinned. "Learning. Much less complicated back home."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Drones Club

Roger hummed in for a landing on the lowest (and thus most difficult) platform. His translucent wings folded against his pressed suit as he entered, flicking his antennae politely at his coworkers and crouching in obeisance whenever a female passed by.

In the break room, Donald spooned honey absently into his coffee.

"What's the matter?" asked Roger.

Donald shook his head. "I've just been thinking, you know? About life. Biology. Thinking about finding a nice woman, finally having some kids."

Roger's antennae quivered in shock. "Don, I know things have been rough lately, but that's no reason to talk suicide!"

The Whitewater Prophet of First Street and Coombe Avenue

The streets flooded and still the rain came. They walked in water that nipped at their shins, slipping on manhole covers or tripping in hidden potholes. One fell while crossing a narrow intersection and was nearly swept away by the frothing water.

A figure approached, skimming atop the flood as though it were only damp sidewalk. They questioned him about his prowess.

"It is only as deep as you let it be," he told them. A sodden fedora floated past, and one of them abruptly sank to the thigh in the ankle-deep water.

The man glided away. They slogged on.

Gnome Remodeling

Jason hunkered down on his heels. "Look," he told the gnomes, "this is just not working."


"I know it's what you do." Jason held up a hand to forestall the chittering protest. "I get that, I really do. But yesterday I was thirty minutes late, and if I miss my start of shift again, I'm going to lose my job. No job, no house, capice?"


"I asked if you understood."


"Well, let's see if we can find a compromise. Can we come up with a list of places where my car keys might end up every morning?"


"You're being a pill, Harold. I think they're adorable." Martha rested her chin on her hands, watching as a sugar cube migrated across the table.

"They're a nuisance," said Harold. "They've been in the sugar bowl. It's unhygienic."

"Leaving the sugar out attracts the other ants."

The cube tumbled to the ground and began its journey toward the corner, where Martha had set aside several square feet for the ants' use.

"S'pose we oughtta tell someone about this?" asked Harold.

"I don't see that it's anyone else's business."

"Guess not."

They sipped their coffee and watched the sugar-cube pyramid grow.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Red Sky at Night

The firesea heaved and flared, sending the cindership rising high into the air. Sparks flew when it landed. Cyd clung to the railing embers as the fire poured across the deck. He saw the door, black against orange glow; Urti peered out, a small globule in his hand.

"Urti! Careful with the water!"

He was too late. The ship reeled, and the globe tumbled from Urti's grip. Where it fell, the ship hissed and went dark. The water spread hungrily across the flame.

"Abandon ship!" Cyd cried. He and Urti would be lucky if even a wisp of smoke remained.


Connectivity here at the beach is considerably more troublesome than in previous years. Here are a quick couple of updates; more as and when I have time and opportunity.

It all started with a snake. The snake. The first snake. Beautiful, in its way. Like snakes are. It bit a woman, and she got poisonous. Not poisoned. Poisonous. The trick with the snake's venom, see, is that there's always enough to kill you. Always enough. The only way not to die is to share it around.

I tell you this so you'll know why I'm doing this. I want you to know what'll happen if I don't. I've seen. You get... sick. Real sick. You don't want that. I want you to understand. You're gonna need to know, after.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bump in the Road

Special Bonus Edition! 200-word story today because this one ended up at like 175 when I finished the first draft and I was like, "I could maim this into incomprehensibility or I could just run with it." Should I have bitten the bullet and chopped it up? Just scrapped it and tried to find a new idea? (I spent like thirty minutes planning this out on my walk home, though.) Ah, well. Call it making up time for the GenCon Void.

Welcome back, everyone, by the bye; it's nice to see you all again.


Clancy thought he saw something dart out into the road up ahead. He eased his foot off the gas, peering out through the windshield.

"I thought I should apologize," said a voice beside him. He nearly had a heart attack. A slender, shadow-eyed youth was suddenly in the passenger seat. "I thought I needed to live, back then. Back now, I guess. I didn't know. When you smeared me across eleven dimensions, I got really angry. I didn't understand; it's not like you suddenly 'get' everything the moment you die, you know?" The boy sighed. "I know now what I would do. Or am doing. What I had to do. Do you understand?"

Clancy shook his head.

"That's okay," said the boy. "For what it's worth, I feel really bad about what I will have already done to you. Hold on tight; there's a bump coming." He reached one foot over and stomped on the gas. The semi's engine roared in response.

Clancy caught a momentary glimpse of startled, frightened eyes in the headlights before something thudded underneath the truck. He'd just realized why the eyes looked familiar when something dark flared in the rearview.

The passenger seat was empty.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lord of the Dreamlands

Wilson fell asleep and – as he did every night – dreamed. New Edgewood was... faded. Still full of magic and wonderment, but without the fever-bright burn it once had. Windowpanes and stones alike were cracked and slipping. The sky was a murky gray-green, lousy with the smoke of a thousand trundling thought-barges.

The Dreamcar hovered where he'd left it. Ropson sat within, looking more doglike than ever.

"How much longer can we keep at it?" Wilson asked, dropping into the pilot's seat.

"How long can Dreamland last without us?" Ropson returned.

They sat for a time, alone with their unspoken answers.

A Maze of Twisty Passages, All Alike

"There is your world," said the talking frog, "which is the real world. It is reality, and it is stable and solid."

"So we're not in the real world anymore?" asked Brighton. He clutched his amulet.

"Patience," the frog said chidingly. It puffed at its pipe before continuing. "Then there are other worlds, worlds of fancy and imagination. They are the real worlds."

"I thought you said ours was the real world?" Ganymede interrupted.

"Therein lies the rub," sighed the frog. "Either everything is real, or none of it is. Figure that one out, and you'll have your way home."

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tollhouse Cookies

When the dead boy moved in next door, I thought he was cute. He was only outside for a second before he ducked into the shadowed apartment. He kept the blinds down and the doors locked; we only heard him move around late at night. I took him some cookies that I made from a pre-packaged mix, but he didn't answer the door even though I waited forever. Dad said maybe he wanted to forget, or be forgotten, and that I shouldn't push. I didn't understand, really.

I still watch the window every day. I wonder if he watches, too?

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Brett's hand tightened on mine as we approached. The old man peered from beneath the white-painted door he carried. Finally, he sighed and shrugged the door to the ground. "I'm here to let you out," he said, setting the door against the wall. He opened it; a pulsing darkness, shot through with colors, appeared where there should have been only bricks.

I turned to Brett, a question in my eyes, but he was already gone.

"I haven't got all day," the man snapped. "Are you going or not?"

I hesitated too long. He picked up his door and walked away.