Saturday, May 28, 2011

He'd Love to See Them Try

"Some people wonder about your choice of career, given the circumstances. What do you say to them?" The news anchor was cheerful, even as around them the chicken carcasses spilled down conveyor belts into the machinery. The smell was incredible.

Cuthbert's red comb quivered as he cocked his head from side to side. "When I first started," he said, clacking his beak, "I faced a lot of opposition, and not just from humans. If some other hyperintelligent chicken is out there and has a problem with me, well... they can stop me. They can speak up, come forward, and stop me."


Stronger than steel, they say. Impossibly strong, spider-silk is. A cable thick as your wrist could drag a battleship. Thick enough and it could drag a planet. A trap to catch the stars and stop them in their courses. A net to hold the universe in place.

A single strand trails across the canyon. Is it a bridge to the other side, or is it holding the Earth together at the seams?

It may be that it is so. For now, a thousand microscopic spinnerets send out a thousand hair-fine threads, weaving a web to catch the wind...

...and fly.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Strange Charm

"Everything has a place," said the God of Gravity, "and that place is with me." It breathed in, and things began to fall.

"Look," said Newton, hurling himself in a wide arc to avoid the god's gaping maw, "I know you want to help, but you're only complicating things."

"I defy causality!" said the Quark.

"And that's very impressive," said Newton, ducking a hurtling rock, "but I need to focus."

The Quark bounced up and down vaguely. "Have you seen Higgs?"

"Okay, you... just... just go wait in the car."

The Quark cocked its head. "I've already always been there."

Thursday, May 26, 2011


The filing cabinet blew on her fingernails. They could, she decided, still use some buffing.

"Come on, baby," said the swiveling chair. "He'll be gone for a month. He doesn't need to know."

"That's the seventeenth attempt he's made this week," the accounting books remarked. The water cooler hooded his eyes and tried to look detached and aloof.

"We saw," said the computer monitor.

"Woah! WOAH! AAAAAaaaaah!" Something flushed and fluttery barreled out of the managerial offices, tumbled headfirst to the floor, and skidded out into the hall.

"What was that?" asked the fax.

"Pink slip," said the answering machine.

Sun and Moon, Midnight and Noon

The children of dawn run with wild abandon. They whoop and holler, shriek and giggle. They have races, rushing to beat one another over the tops of hills or dodging through the maze of foliage in some forgotten forest, striving to touch ground first. They push and taunt, shout encouragement, dare one another to run sideways or to slow down for even a moment.

They never do.

Dawn rushes on, vibrant and vital, and the children laugh. Beneath the laughter, though, is the knowledge of what awaits them should they stumble. For behind them, always, come the children of night...


"Welcome!" the grizzled pirate cried. An exotic dancer, a glowing-eyed skeleton, and what looked like a teddy bear with steel claws stood to greet the newcomer.

"Where am I?" the stranger asked.

"This is where deleted characters go," the skeleton rasped. "The darkest corner of the collective subconscious; real, for we are created, but empty; without life, without purpose."

"The Author banished us," said the teddy bear, flexing its claws. "So we wait."

"For a chance to be useful again?"

The dancer laughed. "Magnanimous, this one."

"Ah. So you lurk around, sabotage her ideas, and infect all her new stories until she regrets creating you?"

"Er..." The pirate glanced around. "Mostly we hide her car keys."

"I clogged the toilet once!" the teddy bear piped up.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


The pack circled him, cracking their knuckles and snickering. "We are Wolf, little thief," said their muscular leader. "Whose are you? You stink of Tiger."

"Cat," said the thief. "House-cat."

The Wolves roared with laughter. "Little puss-puss!" one cried. "Shall we fetch some milk?"

The leader plucked at the thief's hand. "Such soft, velvet pads!" he chuckled.

The thief smiled. There was a blur of motion, and the pack leader staggered back, clutching at his spilling innards.

"The first lesson Cat teaches," said the thief, leaping atop the fence with one bloodied hand, "is this: the claws are always there."

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"The Cowboy, the Horse, and the Scorpion" at the Journal of Unlikely Entomology

My story The Cowboy, the Horse, and the Scorpion is now available at the Journal of Unlikely Entomology.

Thus far, it is the only story featuring Vincent and Horse that I have written, but I was seriously toying with the idea of doing more standalone pieces, set at various points in Vincent's personal timeline. (Vincent is an updated version of the protagonist of my unbelievably crappy and hopefully eternally unpublished novella, but I might raid that story for a plot to write a shorter, tighter piece, for instance.)

What do you nice folks think? More Vincent, or leave it be?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Victoria's Secret

Gasping and panting, the two courtiers stumbled into the hall, slamming the gilded doors behind them. Lord Trebulo's stiff collar was undone; the Marquis of Trevaire's sweat had smeared his makeup.

"I think she almost got me," said Trebulo. "Check my back. Is my cape still there?"

The Marquis only puffed, doubled over, hands resting on his knees.

"Congratulations, m'lords!" said Capere the majordomo. "These audiences with the Queen can be so trying." He proffered a tray. "Fresh lemon-water?"

"Merciful heavens, yes."

"The steel teeth were bad enough," Capere said conversationally, "but these new wheels... well, it's hardly fair anymore."

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Following the New Paradigm

The wolves bayed outside the conference room. Tom crept forward, knife at the ready. Paul struggled against his bonds, but the telephone cords were strong and tightly knotted.

"I've got obligations, you must understand," Tom said, eyes wide and pleading. He glanced at the door. "I have to deliver positive outcomes. The shareholders demand results. The system is sick, Paul, but I'm only another cog in the machine. You know that, don't you?" He licked his lips. His hand quivered as the blade touched the exposed flesh of Paul's neck. "I don't want to have to do this," he lied.


Huitzo sat down in front of the red pieces. "Coal before fire," he said.

His opponent gestured with an idle claw. "Blood before bile."

"Oh." Huitzo stared at the board. The twelve checkers were arrayed in neatly offset rows.

"They solved this game, you know," said the demon. "Checkers is a series of binary options, each decision leading to two further possibilities, until you reach the end and your only choice is to go back the way you came. Every one of those outcomes is completely mapped, now."

Huitzo pushed a piece forward.

"That's the wrong move," said the demon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tough It

"Look, Mister 'Smith,' we can do this easy, or we can do this hard," Sergeant Moffitt growled, leaning in.

"You'll be sorry," the thin man tittered, "when the Spider arrives. He knows. He's coming."

Moffitt sat down heavily. "Buddy, I'm offering you a deal, but it won't last forever. Now are you gonna play ball?"

The perp didn't answer. Just stared up at the ceiling, giggling. Moffitt scooped up his diet-allotted container of cottage cheese. Not staring at the ceiling, he realized, as he swallowed the bland foodstuff. Something closer. Something right over Moffitt's head. Moffitt turned, craning his neck...

Four and Twenty

The Pieman blinked his eyes, rheumy cherries in a flaky crust. Hot red juice dripped down his foil tin as he grinned welcome at his supplicant. His mouth was a crimson gash. He was fresh from the oven.

"Speak," he said, his voice the high-pitched piping of steam forced through a crack. "We are listening."

"Please, sir," said the groveling peasant. "The money... I've been working the mulberry bush, sir, but..."

"We can," the Pieman interrupted, "perhaps make alternate arrangements. Money is not necessary. We will also accept... thumbs."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Kitties Play a Game

When I woke up, my cats were staring at me intently. That's pretty normal. The feathers on their heads were new, though. Also the handcuffs on my wrists and ankles.

"Oh, great god Quetzacoatrack!" said Boots. Talking was new, too. "We give to you this puny human! Eat his heart, oh wingy sir pants-"

"Hold on," said Smokey. "I thought we were Indians."

"Native Americans," I corrected automatically.

"Whatever," said Smokey. "But, like, bravos and Tony Hawks and stuff."

"Whatever," hissed Hambone. "As long as they cut out hearts."

"Indians do scalps," Boots said.

"Hearts or get the fuck out."

Made to Be Loved

He was made to be loved. Everything about him was adorable, delectable, utterly kissable, from his crooked smile to the way he shyly ducked his head to the gentle waves of brown curls that dropped down to frame his face just so. Wiser heads might have predicted the outcome, might have known what would happen when something so pure of purpose is created.

"After all," he would remark in the later years, often with crimson rivulets trailing down his perfect fingers, "adoration is adoration and worship is worship. Does it really matter how you got it once you have it?"

When the Demons Rose

"You know what the worst part is?" asked Lula, as she stood and walked to the other end of the bench.

"The waiting?" Ruso mugged as if for a rimshot. The snail chugged steadfastly onward, now making its way toward Ruso.

"Sort of, actually," said Lula. "It's just... I thought there'd be brimstone rains and screaming mobs. Instead, we have traffic jams, plastic-sealed air vents, and you can't sit still outside."

"At least it's not mosquito season. We'll get used to it."

"That's what I'm afraid of," Lula sighed, raising her foot as another snail futilely lifted its razor-toothed maw.


Marty's soul made a squelching sound when he pulled it out. It didn't come from the heart; more the kidney area, really. Possibly the appendix. He held it up in both hands, cradling it like it was delicate blown glass. It was certainly precious to him; it was the core of his being, the quintessence of everything he was and could ever be; it defined him as he defined it, and there could be no dividing line, no separation, no point where one left off and the other began.

"Is that all?" Louise asked. "I thought it would be cuter."


Oh, hey, Blogger's back.

Right. Well, when I get home tonight (read: 7 a.m.) ya'll get a whole week of flitterfics all in one go. You lucky people you! (Friggin' Blogger.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


"So people used to be bigger, just like the tigers and the lizards and the elephants?" asked Susie.

"That's right." Daddy hitched closer. "Everything was bigger then. We call them 'megafauna' now, from the Latin words for 'big animals.'"

"How come?"

"Well, English was a combination of Anglo-Saxon and Norman languages, so-"

"No, Daddy," Susie giggled. "I mean why is everything smaller now? Is it because the universe is shrinking?"

"Don't be silly, sweetheart. That Big Crunch theory is nonsense; the universe is fine. Didn't they teach you that in school? Now mind your head; here comes the moon."

B.T. (Before Titania)

The call was low and mournful, echoing across the frozen wasteland. Eric shivered and glanced up at the unmoving sun.

"What was that?" he asked.

Werner shrugged. "Probably a unicorn. Help me set up the salt circle; we have to make sure the snow doesn't melt and disrupt it."

"A unicorn? Sounding like that?"

"Well, a woolly unicorn, yes. And that means there will be hunters. You remember who lives in Faerie, don't you?" Werner busied himself spreading the tarpaulin.

"The Fair Folk? Faeries?"

"Close," said Werner. "Remember, time really does move more slowly here. Try Asutraleopithicelfs, Cro-Goblins, and Gnomanderthals."

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Her hair is an endless river of night, a glossy, star-flecked black. It fills the forest behind her, a record of every step she has ever taken. It snags on branches and tangles in brambles. Birds nest in it. Rivulets break away, flowing into rabbit burrows and fox dens, tributary strands that gradually dwindle. She stands here, one foot lifted, waiting for her hair to grow long enough for her to place it down and raise the other.

I stand before her with my silver shears. Her eyes are wide, brimming with tears.

I wish I knew what to do.

...For Science!

There was a time that I meant it, every shining-eyed word. The future was so bight that we'd all need triple-reinforced smoked-glass goggles (with attached breathing apparatus C-37). My head was full of gears and levers and steam valves, without room for fears or worries. How could I have foreseen the endless, pointless struggle? Every generation needs re-enlightenment, it seems.

I tug on my leather gloves. I heave my rocket-pack into place. I flip down my goggles.

"Did you think it would be easy?" Experiment 715Q asks from its aquarium.

I ignore it. "Today is a glorious day," I mutter...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

"Necessities" and "As Fast As You Can" at Daily Science Fiction

There will be additional stories later today, but for now I realized I never linked to my flash fiction piece "Necessities", recently given its permalink place at Daily Science Fiction. They use FB for commenting, so if you like it, you can comment (belatedly) here.

Another of my stories ("As Fast As You Can," about superheroes, alchemy, the undead, and regrets) will be the featured weekend story at DSF on May 13, so if you're not signed up to get those e-mails, now's your chance! (For all that the quality is obviously somewhat erratic, I've enjoyed my 'subscription,' as it were.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Asphalt and Time

It started with the little one-way alleys. They crept away in the night, and no one noticed but rats. Then the residential streets disappeared, leaving everyone trapped with their loving families. After that nightmare, the big multilane roads faded, and at last the vast and gleaming highways fled. There’s only one place now, all of us crushed together, cheek to jowl, skyscrapers and ranch homes and hospitals, factories and farms. We can’t travel, but we pass things along.

I wonder sometimes what it’s like wherever they ended up, where it’s all roads and no destinations, and the traffic never stops…

Beauty and the Beast

She was beautiful. She knew that. It was the source of the whole problem. A beautiful girl must have a suitable death. Long illnesses were unacceptable. Mere traffic accidents, unthinkable. Violence was potentially viable, within certain limits. It was the lack of control, the variables, that made it risky.

Ideally, she would stand on a great height, face down a monstrous presence, scream dramatically, and fall to a tragic end. And now, at last, she was ready. She stood atop the skyscraper, watching the tiny people below. The ground trembled, as under the impact of a mighty foot. She smiled.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Also Popular with Childcare Professionals

Trissa sat in the violet chair and half-disappeared behind a puff of pollen. "Ack!" she said. "Oh, this does smell nice." She brushed the petals with the back of her hand. "And so soft!"

"That one isn't available in hypoallergenic, I'm afraid," said Wendy, their salesperson. "It can be a lot of fun for kids. Assuming they aren't allergic."

"What's this one?" asked Robert, sinking into a plush red bloom.

"Sir, be careful! That's..." Wendy trailed off. "It takes some acclimatization. That's our home office model."

"It's lovely," said Trissa, as Robert began to snore. "What's it grown from?"


Honest Opinion

"It works!" cried Doctor Geisteskrank. Bartlett looked up from the account books with bags under his eyes. The doctor was standing beside a vibrating crystalline tuning fork.

"What is it?" asked Bartlett.

"A lie reflector! It not only detects lies, but actively repels them. No more dithering around. What do you think?"

Bartlett opened his mouth. "It's..." His voice caught. He glanced down at the accounts and felt an overpowering urge to scribble through several lines.

Doctor Geisteskrank ducked the heavy account book. He heard the crash of shattering crystal. "What was that for?"

"You wouldn't believe me," said Bartlett.