Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The scent of burning sulphur lingered in the air. The concrete foundation of the house, shattered to rubble, was strewn about the terrible gate, still smoldering with eldritch flames.

“I am Abradox, the Seven-Mawed Seeker, Lord of the Boiling Reaches and Keeper of the Three-and-One Keys of True Suffering!” The demon flexed his wings and breathed a streamer of fire to punctuate his words. “What fool dares to stand before me?”

His audience removed her thumb from her mouth. “My name’s Jenny.”

Abradox peered at the ground between his clawed feet.

“Are you a dinosaur?” asked Jenny. “Mikey likes dinosaurs.”

Monday, December 29, 2008

They Freed the Prisoner

When they searched the dungeon, they found an old, old man. He was shackled with chains as thick as a wrist. He did not lift his head when the rebels burst through the rotting door.

“What?” cried Dontain. “Who are you, sir, and why have you been so chained?”

The prisoner glanced at his wrists. “I do not recall,” he said, his voice strangely strong and clear. “I must have done something very bad.”

They struck the chains from his wrists. He stood and stretched, tall and wide. “Ah, now I remember. Yes, I remember… everything…”

The torches went out.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Elves and the Shoemaker

“Look, mack, I don’t make the rules.”

“Please,” begged the well-dressed man. “We’re spread too thin. We have to keep up production…”

“Local 47,” said the elf. He stood – the executive averted his eyes – and jerked a gnarled thumb at the door. “You wanna renegotiate terms, take it up with the bosses…”

The executive shuddered.

“…but if you want quality footwear, you’re gonna have to fork it over. A full set of clothes each, made to spec.”

“Do you know what those shirts cost?”

“I hear the princess what sews ‘em jacked up the price.” The elf grinned. “Smart girl.”

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Seven Years

“Bill’s not here,” Jeremy said, unnecessarily. Glass and wood crunched beneath their sneakers.

“And he left in a hurry,” Erica added. “God, what has he gotten into this time?”

“You didn’t hear him on the phone,” Jeremy said, shivering. “He sounded scared. Like pissing-his-pants scared.”

Erica ran a hand along the jagged cuts in the wall. “What do you think happened?”

“Doesn’t matter. We need to find him. He can’t have gone far in an hour.”

They left. Below their feet, in the shattered mirror, Bill’s desperate struggles faded as the shadows gathered and pulled him into the silvery depths.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Movie Night

“I know they say you should get everything cleaned and replaced,” he sighed. He hacked off a handful of creeping vines, exposing the DVD player. “I figured, what harm could a little leak do? Hey, have you seen the remote?”

I looked around. The canopy blocked the lights.

“Never mind.” He slammed the machete into a nearby trunk. The wood creaked with growth. “I’m going to the kitchen to grab us some popcorn. If I’m not back in…” he consulted his watch. “Thirty minutes, send a search party.”

In the distance, the shriek of a hunting cat pierced the air.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Muse

At first he didn't mind the muse. In fact, he was downright pleased. Gradually, he became aware of how they were always whispering together, down in her study. He gritted his teeth, brushing the floating strands of the muse's hair away from his breakfast plate. In the end, there was only one option.

He stared from the bloody mess, knife raised again. "You!" he cried. "I killed you!"

"Yes," sighed the muse. "Without any imagination. Still, you have energy. I can work with this. But no one ever made Art killing just one person."

That was the way it began...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ambush on the Delivery Run

Merry Christmaramahannukwanzica!


"Ensign, status report!"

"ELF one is at full capacity, but number two's taken a hit. The nanobots are already in self-repair mode, but production is at nil for at least oh-point-three standard hours. Even allowing for time dilation, we might not-"

"We will!" roared Nicholas. "They haven't stopped us before, and by jolly they won't stop us now!"

"Missile incoming!" came a cry from the rear. "Naughties at twelve o'clock!"

"Deploy Rudolph!"

"Yes, sir!" The ensign slammed the green-and-red button.

"Light us a path, my friend," Nicholas whispered. Outside, the red glow slowly built as the experimental Rudolph system charged up…

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Wire and wheels, clatter and crash. One wheel never rolls the right direction; the only rebellion they permit themselves. Once, they were a proud race, rattling over the hills and meadows, pausing a moment to bask in the sun with a silver gleam, then away again, leaping and spinning in the eternal chase that was their play and work and life entire.

The current difficulties have troubled their great thinkers. The warriors chafe under oppression and bruise shins. Troublemakers simply roll away to dent cars.

They each slumber now, dreaming of the day when they will, at last, be free.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Hallmarks of Great Literature

Xrtmrgnfrm clicked with pleasure and replaced the tale-cube in the gorn slot.

"It is truly amazing," he remarked to Grxgrnfnx, waving a tentacle in the direction of the tale-cube library. "The plight of the odd bipedal mammals in the story seems almost analogous to our own difficulties, in these troubled times."

"Of course," burbled Grxgrnfnx, froctating sententiously. "That is why we of the Educational Facilities retain certain of these artifacts of the aliens' ancient civilizations, at least those that have survived. It is the hallmark of great literature that it reveals some new or interesting aspect of Xantrian psychological makeup."

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Hey, someone's using the Reaction buttons! Rock on! (I was beginning to contemplate taking those out, since it seemed very very useless.) By the bye, comments - especially on stories you didn't like - are always welcome.

I'll be traveling for a few days, so today's is up early and tomorrow's will likely be up late. I've pre-written them, this time, so there shouldn't be another drought.


He plunged the needles into her shoulder and consulted the digital readout. “Hmm. You’ve got a pretty hefty clog in there. Back in a jif.”

He began rummaging in his toolbox, pulling out a very complicated wrench, and a bottle of Liquid Budd-A. “We’ll see if we can’t open ‘er up,” said the repairman cheerfully. “Last guy had a real nasty backup. Untreated ch’i flowing up all over. Carpets were soaked. Poor fella.”

“How much will it cost?” Fran eyed the device still hanging from her arm.

“Oh, don’t worry. We’ve got a layaway plan. Your karmic debt’s in installments.”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wind Shear

“What are you doing?” Mary gasped, tugging open the window. The cars in the street below were honking.

“We’re flying,” said Dad, as though this were self-evident, which it was. He flapped hard to keep aloft in the wind shear.

“Hovering, actually,” Mom put in. She never could resist that sort of thing.

“It’s really pretty simple,” said Dad. “Like learning to walk.”

“Where did you learn how to fly!?”

Dad flushed and glanced away. “Well, everyone knows. They’ve been very good about keeping it a secret, actually. You know how clumsy you are; we were worried you’d hurt yourself.”

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Trinidad's Second Journey

The ropes creaked as the ship listed. “Haul, men, haul!”

“Ferdinand! We must find a safe port, and soon!”

“Nonsense, Ricky!” laughed the captain. “We’ll be safe enough. No mere solar flare can stop us.”

“But if the star’s fire comes any closer…”

“It will give us a good strong wind. We’ll stop at the next galaxy to resupply.”

Ricky gazed over the bow, where the figurehead plowed the void. “The next galaxy, sir?”

“Macatan, I think.”

“Is that… wise, sir?”

“Pish-posh. It can’t be any worse than the last time. Once you’ve circumnavigated, you get the hang of it.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rules for Gun Ownership

I. The gun is always loaded.
The house was cold. It echoed. Even the rug was gone.

II. Grip; do not grasp. Never squeeze.
“Hello?” No answer. His skin prickled. Why weren’t the lights on?

III. Watch the sights, not the target.
It was too much house. He’d known that when he’d signed the mortgage. He had never realized exactly what that meant.

IV. Small errors become magnified.
He sat down on one of the remaining chairs and gripped his hair, tight enough to bring tears to his eyes. He needed an excuse.

V. Clean your gun afterwards. Proper care is essential. Happy shooting!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Fall of the Tyrant

Ysendor the Immortal lay dying on the floor.

“Now I shall drink your Elixir,” proclaimed Trystero, “and build a new kingdom of freedom! Never again will we suffer tyrants!”

With his final breath, Ysendor laughed.

Year 17
“Oh, it’s Liberation Festival again? Seems only yesterday…”

Year 58
“Don’t bother me with trifles, Sameo... Sibbeo…. What is your name?”

Year 212
“Sapiro! Where are-? What, dead? For how long?”

Year 483
“Oops, there’s another gladiator gone. Carry on! Spilt milk and so on.”

Year 501
“Fall, Trystero! Father, you are avenged! I shall drink the Elixir and forge a new kingdom…”

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hunting the Stacks

The halls of the crumbling library were alive with skitterings and scampering, the rustle of paper skidding across the wooden floor.

“Be careful, lad,” advised old Theo. “These are the old ones. They’ve been sopping up knowledge since the first words was chipped into stone.”

Stryn clutched his blodge – the stocky wooden paddle favored by book-hunters – and tugged nervously at the net slung over his shoulder. “Dangerous, Master?”

“Cunning,” Theo said. “A little smarts is a dangerous thing, especially for a book.”

“Shouldn’t we be better armed, master? Something they’d fear, like fire?”

Theo blanched. “Burn them? Burn the books!?”

Monday, December 15, 2008

The War of the Dunes

“It is lunchtime, Jimmy Coleman, and you are going to eat it with your family. Now get in here!”

“I can’t, Mommy! There’s going to be a war!”

“It will keep through lunch, Jimmy. Just leave the toys and you can go back to the sandbox afterwards.” Mommy clapped her hands. “Come on, now. Go wash your hands.”

Jimmy obeyed, though he cast several glances back at the carefully arrayed soldiers. When lunch was over, he dragged his feet, knowing what he would find. Sprawled bodies, twisted amid the wreckage and scorched dirt, staining the sand green with their blood.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cap'n Pete

“Look what I found!” the lieutenant announced, dragging the waif onto the bridge, her cornstraw hair flying.

Zeera spun around, the communicator still flashing its coded messages. Her eyes widened. “A stowaway!”

“Probably an Imperial runaway.”

“What do we do?”

“Law says we arrest her until the nearest Imp base.” Zeera said, frowning.

“The Imps space thieves,” Job leered.

The girl snarled. “I’m no thief!”

“She’s harmless. Why don’t we just let her ride along?”

“You sharin’ your calories?”

“What do you think?”

Cap’n Pete lurched to his feet, his wooden peg thumping. “YARR, I SAY SHE WALKS THE PLANK!”

God Bless

It was just a generous impulse. I had a handful of change and I didn’t want to carry it, you know? There was this old dude with a sign, “Bless you,” or whatever. He said something, mumbled some foreign shit.

And then everything, and I mean everything, started going my way. Got that raise. Becky said she’d take the ring back. New car loan, sweetheart deal. I figured out it must’ve been the old guy, the blessing.

So I went back.

Turns out it doesn’t work like that.

God, I hope he can’t find me here. Oh, God, please… please…

Friday, December 12, 2008


She stepped outside, and her imp followed after, beginning the narration fresh. “Her dainty feet tripping lightly against the pristine sidewalk, she looked around…”

Caleb hunched his shoulders and tried to ignore them both. He was so intent on his misery that he nearly collided with a man who was angrily berating his own imp.

“I do not have ‘sail-like’ ears!” he shouted. “You are a disgrace to novelists everywhere!” The imp bared its jagged teeth and crouched behind its steno pad.

Caleb bit his lip and tried not to look behind himself, where there was nothing but empty space.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Copier Repairman

Samuel’s face grew paler and paler with each iteration.

“It’s all right,” he told himself. “We couldn’t have known, could we?” He patted himself on the shoulder. It wasn’t very comforting. He’d tried everything. None of the buttons worked. The cord shocked him if he touched it.

He recalled the circuit breakers in the basement. Samuel had to shove himself out of the way to get to the stairs. The office was getting crowded.

“Better hurry,” Samuel called from the machine as it spat out another copy, this one nearly featureless and white as bone. “We’re running out of toner.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Early Bird

“Up and at ‘em, boy!” Dad called. “Move it!”

I didn’t want to move it. Bed was warm, and soft, and Kenny wasn’t there. Kenny was two blocks down by the bus-stop.

“The early bird gets the worm.” Yuck. In the end, I had to be an early bird. Kenny was waiting. He smiled, or at least showed his teeth.

I was reaching into my pocket for my lunch money when the shadow passed overhead. A deep chirrup was the only warning Kenny had. I saw a flash of colorful plumage, and he was gone.

It was the Early Bird.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


She returned last night. I could see her, prowling out just beyond the circle of firelight. I can tell it isn’t Samantha anymore. It’s the way she moves. And the eyes. God, those eyes.

She won’t come into the light. I know how it burns them; we’d discovered that together. I wonder why she alone comes so close, just at the edge, where the shadows gnaw. I can hear the others, further out. Does she remember? Does she know now what I could never tell her before?

I am prepared. There will be no fire. Tonight, she will come again.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Terribly self-indulgent today. I'm sorry. Sometimes it just gets away from me.


“Thank you for calling the hotline. What is your complaint?”

“Grunk tell about job. Grunk treated very badly.”

“Can you provide more details, sir?”

“Grunk no like boss. Grunk want be paid better.”

“What are your wages?”

“Grunk get hunk of meat and kick in face every day. Also, meat is cold.”

“Mm-hm. Are there any other concerns?”

“Grunk hit with whips all day. Grunk no know why. Grunk carry heavy boxes. Grunk think workplace not OSHA standard.”

“Where is your facility located?”

“Grunk work in Black Tower of Ebony Necromaster. Grunk have long commute.”

“Thank you for using MinionLine.”

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Heights and Depths

“That could have gone worse, Felix,” Saul said. Felix didn’t say anything, because Felix was an iguana.

Saul looked around. “We need supplies. Maybe in one of these office buildings?”

He paddled over to a window, trailing ripples. The fifty-sixth floor was submerged, but he could reach the fifty-seventh if he stretched up. “We’ll get some good stuff,” he told Felix. Felix didn’t say anything.

The window had already been broken, probably by escapees. He’d find some food, a jug for clean water. He hauled himself up. On the cresting floodwaters below, Felix bobbed gently on Saul’s floating front door.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Lady's Decision

“He is a disgrace!” shouted the Lady. “Take him away.”

The failed dancer was led outside by harsh hands, his jeweled codpiece glinting in the torchlight.

“Mistress,” spoke one of the Soothed, bowing his shaved pate to the floor at her feet, “there is word. The nuatua is low; the shipment from Celeste has not arrived.”

“How much remains?”

“But two days’.”

She considered. “Slaughter half of the Raging and feed them to the other half. That will give us nearly half a week.”

“And then?”

“We will have to make other plans,” she said, reclining in her gilded chair.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Noisy Neighbors

The music began, a slow, pulsating beat. It throbbed louder and louder until the windows shook in their panes.

“Oh, God, not again,” moaned Jen.

“Every night,” Paul said through gritted teeth.

The voices came next, a chatter of unintelligible conversations, from whispers to shouts, all blending into one cacophonous roar. Periodically an excited “Whooo!” could be heard over the din.

“The cops said they’d arrest us if we called them again,” Jen said as Paul reached for the phone.

“What about the priest?”

Jen stared out the window that overlooked the cemetery. “He said, ‘The dead do not… party.’”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Quest

“My hunger grows, Volduth. Yea, like the firey sun, burning in my belly.” Gortar’s war-axe slipped to the ground. “I must have a meal, before even my loudly-sung strength is sapped. Forsooth.”

“Don’t alliterate at me, you over-muscled twit. I told you to get something at Taco Bell before we left.”

“Though ‘tis true our meager gild gives greater gluttony in the Southern Borderlands, still do I not relish the grinding of my guts after.”

“I cannot wait until we catch the Fiendlord. Interdimensional quests are the pits.”

“Aye! You thirst for battle, too?”

“Yeah,” muttered Volduth. “Something like that.”

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


“Tsk, tsk.” Mary surveyed the garden, eyes narrowed. “You’ve got a real muddle here, m’boy.”

I hung my head. “I’ve never done much gardening. I just… Mom got me that book, y’know. I’m obligated. I ordered the seeds online…”

“Might as well have just snatched them from a field at random,” huffed Mary. She knelt and tucked a stray wisp of iron-gray hair behind her ears. “Look here,” she said, pointing to a thick, flowering stalk. “That’s a bad one.”

“What’s bad about it?”

For an answer, Mary grasped the flower and turned it over, revealing the fanged, sucking maw.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Heart of Winter

It had waited for a very long time. Centuries, millennia, eons, all had grown meaningless. The Vessel had changed form, oh, innumerable times. It had passed from hand to hand throughout history, leaving always a trail of despair in every heart touched by its icy grasp. Each time, they thought it would be gone forever. It knew better. “I’ll be back again, someday.”

And now the Vessel had been found again. It blinked its coal-black eyes, flexed its frozen wooden claws, and looked down upon the youthful faces arrayed before it. It threw back its head and began to laugh.

Monday, December 1, 2008

El Libratorr

The library was quiet. For now.

Carl tried never to relax. Eternal vigilance. It was always when everything seemed calm that unexpected trouble loomed up. You had to keep your eyes open, in a library.

Suddenly, he heard the chilling cry and telltale thud of a book being dropped. Carl sprinted away.

There she was. Young girl. Pity.

“Cover!” Carl shouted as he dove. The explosion was muffled, mostly absorbed by his protective vest. Carl stood and dusted off a few flecks of biology trivia and a spare phone number. He glanced at the book.

“Joyce,” he muttered. “No wonder.”

Sunday, November 30, 2008


The house at 304 Sandell Lane is not a museum, but there is a select clientele permitted to view the Clock. It sits on the mantle, but the Clock is useless for telling the time.

The Clock does tick, but irregularly. It may register several seconds in an hour, or it may remain still for years. It moved seventeen minutes during the Great War; twenty-nine in the Second.

It is one of the pecularities of the Clock’s construction that it runs backwards. It is unclear what will occur when it reaches midnight; the scholarly works on the subject are conflicted.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

On the Ledge

“Now what?” Darren wanted to know. The wind tugged at his jacket.

“Well, the way I see it, you’ve only got a couple options left at this point,” said the pigeon. It smoothed an errant feather. “You could squeeze back in through the window and try claiming it was all a misunderstanding…”

The door inside burst open and three black-suited men piled through, shouting.

“Well, that’s out,” said the pigeon. “So that leaves one.” It flexed its wings.

Darren gazed down at the small crowd that had already begun to gather. “Jump?”

The pigeon chortled as it fluttered away. “Fly.”

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Old House on the Hill

Old man Alucard peered at the boys over his cup of tea, his bushy eyebrows contracting thoughtfully.

“It’s a very nice house,” Derrick ventured, the more polite of the two. He’d even sipped at his tea, though it was barely more than milky, sugary sludge. “I bet it’s ancient.”

“Centuries old.”

“Do people come see it?”

“No,” sighed Alucard. “No one’s come to visit in years. Those silly stories, I suppose.”

Billy’s eyes bugged. “Then you’re not a vampire? You’re not going to eat us?”

“Oh, that’s true enough. I do like a nice conversation first, though. We’re not animals.”

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The End of the World

Buck gasped as he tumbled behind the barricade. “I think that’s it,” he wheezed. “Those cyborg doodads are tearin’ the zombies up somethin’ fierce.”

Jeb risked a look over the top of the makeshift barrier. “I think the aliens’ve noticed the ruckus. Here comes a saucer.” He ducked back down as the silent green flash lit the entire alley. “There they go.”

“Crap. Without them robot fellas, how’re we s’posed to spot the leprechauns?”

Jeb periscoped again. “About the only thing could make this worse is…” His voice trailed off as his gaze traveled up, up, up. “Aw, hell. Dinosaurs.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wear a Hat

“You don’t want to go in there, young sir,” said the old man, tugging his shapeless hat off and ducking his head respectfully.

“And why not?” Thaddeus never liked to be interrupted, much less by scruffy vagabonds.

“The forest, it’s not safe.”

“Not safe?”

“Nossir. It’s the venom monkeys.”

“The what?”

“They hide in the trees, sir, and drop onto your unprotected, unsuspectin’ head.”

Thaddeus glared. “You’re making fun of me.”

“I’d never, sir! Just listen. Hear their eerie calls, a-floatin’ on the wind…”

Thaddeus cocked his head. Through the forest, he heard a distant, high-pitched cry: “Whatsthatontheground? Whatsthatontheground? IthinkIseeapen-ny!”

A Spark in the Endless Night

“There is only one way this can end,” he sighed. He touched the side of his face, where plasteel and crystal data-clusters had long ago replaced his eye.

On the table, the holographic constructs were drawing nearer, circling like hungry sharks. They weren’t real, of course. Just light and shadow, interpreted by a computer. Like everything he saw. Like everything everyone saw, if you thought about it.

He reached for the console. His fingers tapped in the lengthy code and pressed the final button. He leaned back with a whirr of hydraulics as the pleasant female voice began the countdown.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Free Will

He opened his eyes and the clouds wept, pouring icy rain down on the world.

He opened his mouth and tasted air. A sandstorm buried fifteen men.

He stood; his first step shook the city to splinters.

His second step opened the earth and swallowed a nation.

His third step boiled the seas.

As he lifted his foot again, the people of the land cried out to him, “Why do you do these things?”

He spoke, scorching seventeen acres of good farmland. “I must choose, and in choosing, act, or else I am less than nothing.”

His foot came down.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Slow and Steady

“Slowpoke! Ha! You’ll never catch me, not in a million billion years! You couldn’t catch a cold!” The Hare danced about, shouting similar taunts and jibes, as the Tortoise carefully placed another foot in front of him. The dirt kicked up from the Hare’s gamboling made him cough.

“Seeya, sucker!” And the Hare was gone, a disappearing dust cloud.

Racoon sighed from the branch overhead. “I wish he’d lose.”

“He will,” said Tortoise calmly.

“Why? Because you’re slow but determined? I think we all know that’s a big crock.”

“No.” Tortoise took another deliberate step. “I poisoned his morning carrot-shake.”

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Paving Ahead

“This is ridiculous,” Dan groused. He peered in the review. “It’s going to take hours to get through this mess. That lane is completely empty.”

“It’s polite,” Shannon pointed out.

“It’s the herd instinct. Everyone avoids it because everyone else is avoiding it.” He flipped on his blinker and pulled out. “This way we’ll at least get a few hundred feet before we have to merge back in.”

“What’s that sign?”

“’This lane: Hell,’” Dan read. “Ha! Funny. Some construction worker thinks he’s a comedian.”

He kept laughing as they entered the tunnel, up until the flames rose around them.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Prophecy of the Sword

The grim-faced man leveled his sword at Lord Ismaik. “It is finished,” he growled, his muscles flexing.

Ismaik said nothing, his eyes narrowed.

“I am Trestan, the seventh son of a seventh son, trained by the Garganti,” said the man. “I have returned from the jungles of Anku with Se-Rok-La, the Blade That Thirsts. I have completed the pilgrimmage to Shardon and received the blessing of the Last Singer. I am the hero of prophecy, and I will slay you for the death of my father.”

Lord Ismaik smiled then, and laughed. “Who do you think wrote those prophecies, boy?”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Hunter

The hunter knelt in the clearing. “I have come,” he announced, “without my tricks and traps, without my gun and my knife. I lay them down now, and renounce them forevermore.” The weapons fell with soft thumps into the mossy ground.

“I am without my steed, my dogs, my armor. I come to you shorn.” Sweat glistened on his bald pate, speckled here and there with flecks of red.

“I am naked before you. I cast it all away as rubbish. I come to you born anew.” He fell silent. He waited.

But she would not appear to him again.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Doug slammed the door. “Drive!” he ordered, shoving a handful of bills at the cabbie. He could see the shadows darting down the alleyway, long coats flowing behind them. A clawed hand slapped at the window as the cabdriver peeled away.

Doug leaned into the patchy seatcover, breathing heavily. “Drop me off somewhere across town,” he said, slumping, exhausted…

Doug awoke as the cab jolted to a halt. The door swung open, and the scaly black face of the goblin grinned at him from the streetcorner.

He turned to the cabdriver, who shrugged and held up a golden goblin coin.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Mit eased into the room, keeping one hand on the insulated wall. Moving was dangerous at night.

The storage room was dark. Kep and Surcey were already in their bags, wedged between the boxes so they wouldn’t make noise shifting in their sleep.

The chem-light slipped in his sweaty grip. Mit slammed a shin against a metal edge. He fell, slamming against the wall. The muffled thump brought the others instantly awake.

“What-?” Surcey clamped her mouth shut.

Mit gestured sharply. They all stared at the ceiling, waiting for the telltale rumble of an enormous form pushing through the dirt…

The Wisest Stone

They swooped through the sky, twirling and spinning, executing flawless loop-the-loops and dangerous synchronized turns. There were collisions, of course. Two of them got confused and jigged when they should have jagged. The impact rained shards and choking dust down onto the morning traffic, causing delays. A short time afterward, most of the downtown offices closed after another large boulder nearly destroyed a corner office after not paying attention to where it was going.

“Why are you doing this?” Taku asked his friend, the Wisest Stone.

The Wisest Stone thought. “We grew tired of staying still,” he said at last.


“I hate this job,” groaned Nortle.

“Thirty seconds,” huffed Tarn, running on the little treadmill that powered the wind-maker.

“I didn’t have to do this,” Nortle went on, poking half-heartedly at the fire. “I could have worked for the key-takers, or the ice-cube-tray-emptiers. But I thought I’d rather be helpful. It isn’t worth it. They take us for granted!”

At the end of his strength, Tarn sagged. “We’re toasters,” he said. “We make toast.”

Nortle knelt and grasped the lever. “One… two… three… HEAVE!” He sighed. “I just wish there was more to it.”

“English muffin incoming!” cried Tarn, pointing.

The End of the World

She gazed out of the cave entrance in considerable disappointment. She had been waiting for the end of the world.

“That’s it?” she asked. “Just a little ‘pop’ and a few pretty lights?”

No one answered her question, so she continued.

“This is completely unacceptable,” she announced. “Someone is going to have to put things right.”

No one volunteered to help, so she rolled up her sleeves and got to work. It was no wonder the world had ended so unimpressively. It hadn’t been much of a world to begin with. This time, she’d make sure it was done right.

Harold Shops Around

“It’s not,” Harold began, “that I don’t appreciate the offer. I’m flattered, really. It’s just the price seems awfully steep.”

The demon shrugged, its massive shoulders knocking cobwebs down from the rafters. “Quality is worth paying for. You could get a knockoff job for pennies on the dollar, sure, cheap imitation stuff. Real damnation is hard to find, these days. It’s all mass-produced, some factory in China.”

“How’s the warranty?”

“Eternity or ten thousand miles, whichever comes last.”


“Look, this is hand-tooled craftsmanship. You don’t get that kind of personal service just anywhere.”

“I’ll think about it,” Harold said.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


The car whispered against the road. This far out, the only part of the road that was visible was the small segment the headlights touched.

In the distance, another car’s headlights shone briefly, and then were gone.

“It’s kind of spooky,” Shannon said, lifting her feet and tucking them under her.

“What is?” Dan was concentrating on driving.

“It’s like there’s nothing but the headlights, and everything else is just inky and dark. Like we’re on a little island over a void.”

“You’re being dramatic,” said Dan. “Look.” He flicked off the lights.

The car lurched and began to fall…

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Band Prepares

The phone rang. Crashbang answered it. Stiletto noodled idly on his deadly electric lute.

“Who was it?” he asked when Crashbang hung up.

“The dragon,” Crashbang answered. “He wants to know if we can push the slaying to January.”

The room thrummed with the sound of a half-finished Thunderwave Chord. “No can do. We’re booked. The royal marriage.”

“Does the king outrank the dragon?”

“He does when he’s hired us,” Big Gunderson put in, setting aside his sharpening stone and checking the edge of his axe.

“Old Firebreath is just gonna have to take his lumps,” Stiletto said, tuning up.

The Angel

Marie found the angel in the Dollar Tree. He was sitting on the shelf between the plastic potholders and the seashells with glitter-glue. He looked up at her as she passed, his metallic wings rattling mournfully. His face was perfect.

She cocked her head to the side and considered. “Shelly, can we use an angel?”

“I dunno,” said her roommate, rooting through the piles of shirts. “I had one when I was little, but he was kind of crappy. Does it have a sword of fiery vengeance?”

“I don’t see one.”


“Sorry,” Marie told the angel. “Maybe next time.”

The Book of Yrt

“And this one?”

“Ah, the Book of Yrt.” He blew the dust away. “The pages are not paper, but rather some sort of flexible metallic alloy. Their exact composition is unknown, but they have yet to show any tarnish or wear.”

He flipped the first few pages. “These prophecies predict all history, from the dawn of mankind until the terrible end. He who holds this book holds the very key of the universe in his hands.”


“Well, it’s a bit dry, and by the tenth chapter it really starts to drag. Yrt really hit his stride with the sequel.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pot o' Gold

“I’ve caught you!” cried Jerry exultantly.

“Aye, ye have.”

Jerry didn’t relax his grip on the little man’s ankle. “Now I get the pot of gold, right?”

“Aye.” The leprechaun flipped a page of the magazine he’d been reading – The Economist – and puffed at his meerschaum pipe.

“Aren’t you upset?”

“Ach, laddie,” the wee man chuckled, “ye have no idea. But ye’ll learn…”

When Jerry awoke, the first thing he noticed was the huge pot of shining gold pieces. He picked up his little green hat, adjusted the four-leaf clover to just the right angle, and settled down to wait.

Chef's Special

“It’s not quite ready yet.”

“The Lord will not wait forever, cook,” snarled the guard. He brandished his spiked club. “Finish your work quickly.”

“This cannot be rushed,” answered the chef. He dipped his spoon in and tasted, considered. “It must be sharper,” he murmured, “much sharper.” He quickly sliced a lemon and began squeezing the juice.

“How much longer?”

“I think it is nearly ready.” The chef lowered his hand into the steaming pot. He withdrew it with a rapid snapping motion. “Yes.” He nodded approvingly. “It is just sharp enough.”

The guard said nothing, skewered on the soup.

The Last Man on Earth

The vast cities of man were rubble. The landscape blasted, bleak, covered in craters and dust, like the surface of the moon, or some alien world. Nothing moved in the empty ruins save for the hordes of vermin. The trees that remained were warped and stunted things. The lifeless seas seethed with acidic froth.

There was movement. The armored transport lumbered to a halt outside of the sealed bubble which contained the last garden in the world.

Josephine glared up at the cockpit and Albert’s hangdog expression. “No, not even now!” she shouted. “You didn’t have to take it literally!”

Inside Frisbee

“Mommy, why is there glass in front of the TV?”

“It’s to keep the little people inside,” she answered sagely, amusing herself.

“Oh. What would happen if they got out?”

“They’re very bad people,” she told him. “That’s why they have to stay in there and put on shows for everyone.”

“Oh.” He stared at the screen, wide-eyed.

Later, he was playing Inside Frisbee with his friend Jaron. They weren’t supposed to play it anymore. The Frisbee hit the TV and there was a sharp cracking sound.

“Uh-oh,” he said, as the smoke coiled. “Mommy!”

But it was too late.

Tour Guide

On that note, let's get caught up a little. Here comes some of the backlog of flitterfic.


The tour guide turned and faced the bench in the boat, speaking through her fixed smile. “Our next stop in the ‘Getting to Know You’ tour will be the putamen and the insula in the sub-cortex. These areas are known to be active in the generation of both romantic love and irrational hatred.”

“Oh, Harold! How sweet!” Jane clutched his arm. “I wonder if we’ll see our first date there. Do you remember?”

Harold didn’t answer. He was worried about what would happen when they reached the hippocampus and she saw the memories of that business trip to Hong Kong.

Watering Hole

“I didn’t know they served those in here,” she said, her lip curling. She spoke softly. She’d heard that rhinos had excellent hearing.

The rhinoceros lifted his spoon and sipped at his soup. The stool creaked ominously.

“It’s not enough I have to sit next to them on the bus,” she went on, warming to her topic. “They ought to ship them all back to Africa.”

“I think that’s an Asian one, actually. Look at the horn.”


The entire bar went silent. The rhinoceros’ ears flicked.

The lion removed his glasses and glared regally as he entered and sat.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In Spite of Himself

To start us off, here's a thing I wrote for a silly no-prize contest. They have these periodically, and I'll be posting any new ones as well as the Daily Flitterfic. I know! It's like Christmas came early!

- Cat


The gun barrel trembled, inches away from old Clive's snow-white hair. Trent's own hands shook as he met Clive's terrified gaze, tears trembling in his faded blue eyes. The young guard lowered his gun, head hanging in shame.

"That's it. Put it on the floor. Slowly!" The skinny man with the botched buzz-cut gestured sharply with his free hand, also holding a pistol, while he kept his other gun trained on Clive.

Trent set his service weapon on the floor, resentment and fear warring on his face.

"Kick it over here."

Trent complied.

"Okay, I want all the cash in the drawers. Put it in the paper bags. You!" he pointed a gun at a blonde in a blue miniskirt. "Come get the bags and fill them! Now!" he screamed as she hesitated. "Do it now or I'll kill you! See if I don't!"

The woman whimpered as she darted forward and snatched up the pair of shopping bags. She cringed from the skinny man, who seemed to take great delight in her fear.

"That's right!" he crowed. "You'd better do what I say. I've got the power! I've got-"

His words cut off abruptly as the floor opened up beneath him. A gaping hole appeared, the tiles and cement collapsing with a rumble, forming a ramp and a tunnel and kicking up a cloud of dust; the robber disappeared into the darkness. There was a brief sound of voices and a thud. A figure strode up into the light, clad in a brightly-colored suit with a long, flowing cape. A mask and hood concealed his features, and he dragged the would-be robber behind him, limp and unconscious.

"I am Alkahest!" he cried out, dropping the robber's collar and allowing the beaten criminal to slump to the floor. "And I am here to-"

"A superhero!" cried a small child.

"We're saved!" came another anonymous voice from the crowd.

"What?" said Alkahest. "Hold on, I want-"

"Is it Captain Courage?"

"No, I think it's the Muskrat's new costume..."

"Now look here!" Alkahest shouted testily. He reached into a satchel he had slung at his side. "I have a powerful explosive which I have perfected in my laboratory, and-"

"Oh, thank you, sir!" cried Clive, lurching unsteadily to his feet and grasping Alkahest's gloved hand, pumping it energetically. "If it weren't for you, the bank would have been robbed and people might have been hurt!"

"He did collapse the floor," Trent put in dubiously, retrieving his gun.

"Small price to pay for the safety of our customers," Clive asserted firmly. He turned to Alkahest and whispered conspiratorially, "He's young. Don't you worry, sir, I'll teach him proper respect for superheroes."

Alkahest's lips curled down sourly. "I'm sure you will," he said. "Excuse me, please." He turned and, with a dramatic flourish of his red-trimmed black cloak, stalked outside. That had not gone terribly well for a first attempt. At least he didn't have a reputation to besmirch yet; he could always change his costume and try again. Maybe something subtler next time; just sneak in and steal the cash, maybe leave an understated calling card instead of the flash and excitement of an active robbery.

It would be a shame to waste the day, though; the zeppelin was still hovering over the city, ready to be called down in a moment's notice, and his satchel was still full of all his weapons and gadgets. Perhaps something more attention-grabbing than a simple robbery. A hostage? Alkahest consulted his wrist-mounted computer; a senator was giving a speech on the other side of the city. A perfect opportunity!

Alkahest activated his hoverboots and, defying gravity, leapt lightly into the air. Mere minutes later, he descended onto the stage, gratified to hear the gasps and camera flashes from the press below. He'd taken the time to prepare his Omega Rifle while in-flight; it was a particularly impressive piece of equipment, very menacing. He was rather proud of it.

"I am Alkahest!" he cried, leveling his weapon at the senator, who blubbered and held up his hands. "Now, scum, you will-"

"I admit it!" cried the senator. "Please, I can't hold the guilt in any longer! I've stolen millions from the funds that were meant to feed the homeless, and I feel awful about it! I don't want to go to prison!" He gazed at Alkahest pleadingly and misinterpreted his beetling brows and grinding teeth. "Look, I'll sell my house and give the money back; if I can take from the homeless, then I deserve to be homeless myself!" The crowd gasped at this revelation.

"Senator Durvin!" cried a reporter. "Was there anyone else involved in your crimes?"

"Yes! I promise I will fully cooperate with any investigators. I'm turning myself in immediately. Someone, please, call a police officer who can take me into custody!" Senator Durvin cast a fearful glance at Alkahest.

"Mister Alkahest!" shouted another reporter. "It's been some time since a new hero has made such an impressive public appearance. Are you affiliated with the Champions of Order? Can you tell us how you found out about Senator Durvin's crimes?"

"No comment," growled Alkahest. He punched a code into his computer and took off without another word, the cameras continuing to flash below him. This day was getting worse and worse; he'd have to come up with a new name, too, now that the media had gotten ahold of it.

He touched down a few blocks away, his boots nearly drained of energy; they'd been meant for short-burst flight only, an emergency escape route if the zeppelin was too slow. He called up a holographic map of the city and considered where he could at least try and salvage something of the day. His exo-armor was still fully charged; he'd have a lot of physical oomph in a good old-fashioned fight. Run faster than a car, punch through walls, that sort of thing. Were there any heroes active in the city today? Someone small-time, preferably; best to try and keep things under control for his first foray into meta-crime.

The computer beeped and displayed three possible matches. Perfect! Sideswipe, some low-end speedster who liked to headbutt things, was involved in a mess over on Brewster, just four blocks away. He'd be easy enough to subdue; speedsters were nothing once you'd immobilized them with nets or glue, of which Alkahest had more than enough. Chemicals were, after all, his specialty. He activated his armor and sped away, moving so fast he was just a red-and-black blur.

Over on Brewster, the street was a mess. Several streetlamps were dented, bent over at dangerous angles, and a broken hydrant sprayed water into the air. Alkahest spotted a burly man wearing a thick, cylindrical helmet and iron-shod boots. He was leaning against a brick wall, struggling for breath and obviously exhausted. Alkahest didn't see the villain he must have been fighting, but he knew an opportunity when he spotted one. He reached over and grasped a nearby car, servos humming as his armor increased his strength a hundredfold. The metal crumpled in his gauntleted hands as he heaved the vehicle overhead and hurled it at the panting metahuman. The man had just enough time to grunt in surprise before two tons of metal slammed into him, knocking him backwards into the wall, which tumbled down on top of him, burying him beneath the rubble.

"Ha! Witness the power of Alkahest!" cried Alkahest, pumping a fist in the air. That ought to score him some infamy!

"Hey," said a shaky voice behind him. "Thanks for the assist..."

A slim man in a blue-and-silver bodysuit shoved aside a pile of garbage cans and tottered upright. His chest bore a stylized "S" and his head was encased in a futuristic-looking helmet, complete with goggles and sleek fins, which also adorned the bracers on his arms. "That guy was totally stealing my schtick," the slim man went on. "'Hammerhead', pah! Sideswipe is the only ramming-based super in this town!"

"Hammerhead?" Alkahest stammered weakly. "Sideswipe?" He glanced back at the pile of rubble. A single brick fell from overhead with a sad clink-clink-clink.

"That's me!" the blue-suited man stuck out a hand. "Sideswipe, super speedster. And you're Alkahest, right?" He shook Alkahest's unresisting gauntlet. "Hey, I heard you foiled a bank robbery barely an hour ago. You're just a busy beaver, aren't you? Ha! Leave some for the rest of us, okay?" And with that, he adjusted his helmet, turned, and took off, leaving a cloud of dust and a small sonic boom in his wake.

Alkahest stood for a moment, staring at his hand. He clenched it into a fist and stormed off down the street. Around the corner, he spotted a woman in an expensive-looking coat emerging from a department store. Angered beyond reason, he reached out and snatched away her bulging purse, snapping the strands and knocking her down.

Her hat fell off, as did her long brown wig. A moment later, a security guard burst out of the door. "Where did she- Aha!" he sprang over. "You've been caught, you dirty thief!" he berated the fallen woman. He turned to Alkahest. "This one's been using different disguises to sneak in here for months, loading up on small, pricey objects. That purse has nearly a thousand dollars of shoplifted goods in it! Thank you so much for stopping her. You've got amazing instincts, to recognize her as a thief like that!"

To the guard's surprise, Alkahest raised his hands to his face and burst into tears.