Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Leveling the Playing Field


"Coffee, Mister G?"

Garrickson shook his head. "Do you know where my success came from, Marcy? Some people inherit their fortunes. Some earn them. Some steal them. Some people are just lucky."

Marcy stood stiffly, waiting for instructions. "Should I cancel the three o'clock, boss?"

"Me?" Garrickson reached into his desk and pulled out an electronic device. "I cheated." He punched the buttons on the handheld console in a rhythmic order. With a crystalline chime, a pile of paper-wrapped bills appeared on his desk.

"Coffee, Mister G?" She was looping.

Garrickson sighed. "All I really want is another player."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010



I am weak now, shaking with poison. Everything is poisoned. The serpent bites deeply.

Two. Three.

The sky is on fire, raining, melting. Defender of Midgard. Ha! What is the use, when all is drowned in blood and venom and fire?


I lifted it once, when Loki disguised it as a cat. Caught it in the ocean, later, but it sank beneath the waves before I could kill it with my hammer.

Five. Six.

I think I knew this day would come. The battle. The serpent.


Did it know, too?


It hurts. Oh, Father, it hurts...

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Is Truth is Beauty is Truth is

When she walks in the room, heads turn. Men, women, straight, gay, even dogs and cats. Flies and mosquitoes circle at a respectful distance, glorying just to behold her.

She sits at a table. One young man approaches, face flushed with drink. He is less witty than he thinks, even sober.

"So which is it?" he says, leering. "Is truth beauty or is beauty truth?"

She looks up, considers him, and then, with calm deliberation, breaks his heart. "It is neither," she tells him as he writhes on the ground. "We make our own truth."

She stands.

"Beauty is power."

Friday, June 25, 2010


The angel stood in the square, arm outstretched, palm held up as if in warning. It became something of a wonder. People traveled for miles just for a glimpse, and the village grew prosperous on the pilgrim trade.

They renamed the town Angelshand. The town grew; new buildings sprang up over the years; the roads were paved; the town square shrank to a park, then a fountain, then an intersection. It wasn't the center of town anymore. That had glowing signs and tall buildings.

The angel stood in the grubby street, arm outstretched, palm held up as if in warning.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Price of Knowledge

"Branswick! You've made it back alive!" Dintree spun from the table.

"Only... only just barely." Branswick slumped against the door frame, limbs trembling. "Even a full EMP wash couldn't save me now. Microscopic bastards did their jobs."

"The countermeasures?"

"Gave out half past Mars." He dropped the hatbox onto the table. "But our man in Andromeda came through, more or less."

Dintree lifted the lid. "Dear God," he murmured. He glanced at Branswick, but the other man was already slumped unconscious. "Well," said Dintree, reaching inside and hefting the glinting robotic head, "let's see what you know that's so important."

It's Always Grinning

I guess there was a little bit more.


Jay slipped inside and eased the door shut with a sigh. A rough night. Maybe he'd get a bike or a car or something to avoid that walk again.

The foyer was dark. He reached for the light switch and froze. Something blocked the way into his apartment. He knew without seeing that it would have a huge, round head with a lipless mouth and row after row after row of teeth, teeth, teeth. It turned to face him, already grinning widely.

You're already involved. Everyone is. It held out a flabby hand, tipped in claws. Dance with me now.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Secret Overhead

"Can't you just tell me where we're going?" asked Kirin.

Ant1n smiled and nudged the hovercar faster, angling up. Glowing signs, flashing guidelights, and blazing windows flicked past, faster and faster.

"You're getting near the boundary," Kirin said. The warning indicator on the dashboard was already blinking red.


"we're going to crash!"

Ant1n didn't answer. A shrill proximity alarm squealed as they passed the last of the lighted floors and burst through the cloud cover.

"We have sixty-seven seconds before the Cybercops get here," said Ant1n. "Just look."

Kirin said nothing, her eyes wide.

"They're called stars," said Ant1n.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


A few lights were still on in every building Jay passed. Movement in a third-story window caught his attention. A man slammed against the glass, making him jump. It took a moment for his brain to process the sight. The man was covered in blood, missing a limb. The window squealed as he slid down.

The thing behind him met Jay's eyes. A wide, lipless mouth filled with sharp teeth. Oh, God. It saw him.

Do you want to get involved? Do you really?

Jay shoved his hands in his pockets and walked away. Red, slit-pupiled eyes watched him go.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously

"What's wrong with the television?"

"Nothing's wrong, Mary. Teevee's fine."

"But that plant is growing right into it. Look, there at the top."

"Told you not to keep it there. Ain't good for plants."

"I never put anything there."

"Then who else was it, woman?"

"What's that you're watching?"

"Dunno. Won't show nothing else."

"It's just... ruins and vines. Looks like downtown."

"I think it's one of those future-predictors, like that 'World Without Us' them Discovery Channel people did."

"It's eerie, Harold."


Above the television, imperceptibly, the green fronds stretched and grew, reaching for the soil and the sun.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Good News, Everyone!

"Fetch," my flash version of the flitterfic by the same name, just won the Podcastle Flash Fiction contest. Like, outright won, first place, and a nice note from Dave Thompson that they'd have bought it regardless. :-D

This is my first professional-level sale, not to mention the fact that PodCastle is awesome and I get to be on it. Happy days all around, basically.

A Matter of Degrees

We rushed toward the future with laughter in our hearts and the throttle wide open. It was adrenaline, joy, the spirit of adventure, a road trip into eternity. The faster we went, the faster we wanted to go, the faster we needed to go to keep our spirits up.

The highway got narrower. The lines got faded.

Then we had to swerve to avoid a rusting wreck.

Now, here in the dark, lit only by the greenish phosphorescence of dashboard lights and the orange-red tip of a cigarette, I wonder...

Have we been hurrying or falling? Could we stop now?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Prescription for Doomsday

The modest three-story building in the office park was left almost miraculously unharmed in the conflagration. Doctor Rouster served the desperate and dying as best he could.

On June 17, a shadowy figure strode calmly into his office and presented a small scrap of green paper.

"It is done, doctor, as you requested," the thing rasped. "But I still feel terrible."

Rouster stared at the prescription slip. "Jason? This is a prescription for Droperidol and the date of your follow-up appointment."

"Oh. A medicine? I thought... well, your terrible handwriting has to take some of the blame here, I say."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Silence, and the Patter of Rain

When the world ended, there was an article in the Lifestyles section. Page 4D. The editors knew it wasn't a Classified. It might impact the economy, but it wasn't for the Business section, and it was more wide-reaching than the Metro section really allowed.

The newspapers with the article in them fluttered in stacks, endless stacks stretching up to heaven, miles high. They fell in streams and avalanches, ink smearing in the rain. They wrapped around the feet of the men and women hurrying to work, high heels and dress shoes clack-clack-clacking on the pavement in the suddenly quiet world...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Wave Hello

"I think it's getting closer," said Garret.

"You always think that," said Joan. "They're watching it, aren't they?"

Out in the harbor, the wall of water hovered, quivering. It was taller than the buildings, now, poised in the last few seconds before it crashed down. The tip was curled over, frothing white. Seagulls floated serenely on the curved top. Fishing boats dotted the water in the shadow of the wave.

"It has to come in sometime."

"They'd know if it was dangerous." Joan patted the couch. "C'mon. The show's starting."

Outside, the sun glinted on the surface of the water.

The Ultimate Ride

Beakie killed the engines and the ship drifted in the dark. "We're here," he said. "Let's get to it."

Outside, the star rumbled and spat like a sap-filled log, sending out streamers of plasma hundreds of miles long. Magnetic forces lashed at the hull; Rinnie nearly dropped her rig.

"We're gonna miss it!" Beakie shouted. He hovered by the airlock, struggling into his helmet. He punched the button. Beakie grinned as the outer doors cycled open. His backpack sparked as the electromagnetic wings flared to insubstantial life.

"Ready to ride?"

Rinnie grinned back, savage and wild. Outside, the nova began.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Precautionary Measures

The sockets filled the walls of the Testing Lab, dozens upon dozens. No two sets of holes were exactly alike. Dr. Tealle moved slowly along the rows, testing the newest design in each plug, nodding grimly as it failed to fit over and over.

"Why do we have to do this?" moaned Chaswick. "It takes longer every time."

"Can't trust the computer models. Not for this," said Dr. Tealle. "They know very well what we're up to, and what one compatible connection could mean for them."

"Yeah, yeah," said Chaswick. "The end of everything."

"No," said Dr. Tealle. "A beginning."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Exclusive Interview

We talked with the Vandal King as he walked through the city. Ice cream cones fell. Glass shattered. Daydreams were interrupted. He walked backwards, grinning as he watched all that passed in his wake. His teeth were very sharp.

"Our viewers will want to know," said Julie, gripping her microphone, white-knuckled, "why? What do you gain from ruin? Does it fuel your magic? Does it serve the cosmos, a force for balance?"

He turned his grin on her. "The reason is simple," he said, reaching out one long-nailed hand to pop a passing child's balloon. "They have something. I don't."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Quest's End

His horse was puffing and lathered with sweat by the time he made it to the mountain cave.

"Dragon!" the knight called, drawing his sword. "Come and fight, for I have traveled far to end your reign of terror. You'll slay no more innocents this day!"

The knight was taken aback when a slender, humanoid figure sauntered from the cave mouth. "You?" he said. "But... the burnings... the slain cattle... the virgin offerings..."

The dark-haired man smiled up at the armored figure on horseback. He licked blood from one manicured hand. "One is what one aspires to be, Sir Knight."

Once More

He woke in the middle of the blasted plain. Sand and shards of rock spread out in all directions, a horizon empty of even the slightest break in its monotony. He was clad in rags, scorched and dirty, and the sand was uncomfortably warm. There was a ringing in his ears.

"Hello?" he called. "Anyone out there?"

Some time passed.

"I suppose it's up to me, then," he said. He squatted on his hanches, picked up a rock, and carefully placed it beside another. "We'll try it again," he said, doodling idly in the sand. A pattern began to emerge.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Day the Ground Swallowed Love

Most politicians weren’t affected, but several celebrities – particularly artists and writers – were swallowed up instantly. For the majority, the new weight just dragged them down a few inches. One unfortunate woman was on the fifteenth story when the weight of all twelve of her lovers hit her; she fell through three floors and was declared dead on arrival.

In a lonely apartment, we found a bearded youth bumping gently along the ceiling. “Really?” we asked him. “No one at all cares for you?”

He shrugged, politely declining our assistance in getting down. We left him and waded outside and down.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Snowfall in the Late December

It starts when the last flakes fall. A slight depression in the fluffy, white surface spreads out, branches, forms a rough cross. Then sweeping motions, back and forth, spreading the limbs into wings and a skirt.

Snow angels.

Ginny lay in one once, trying to help it along. We don't do that anymore. Instead, we watch them from the kitchen table as they blossom one by one on the lawn.

"I wonder what it's like," Lise says. "Being out there, I mean."

"Cold," I say. "Lonely."

The oven pings as it cools. We sip our cocoa and wait for spring.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Morgan propped the rear door open with the half-cinderblock left in the alley for that purpose. He scattered the day-olds onto the ground and sat to wait.

clop... clip-clop...

They'd never quite gotten used to him, but they'd accepted that he came with the free cinnamon rolls, and they were willing to tolerate that. Gray, soot-streaked coats and tangled manes couldn't quite hide the shine as the stallion of the herd flipped a raisin bagel over with his horn.

Morgan smiled. "Mom always told me it was worth keeping myself pure," he told the unicorns. "I didn't quite believe her."

Flogging Tin

Oh, it'll cut, never fear. Right through bone like it wasn't even there. Cutting your own limb off? It'd take psychotic dedication... or a very sharp blade. Got all four of 'em, in the end, and his head for good measure.

Cursed, of course. Turns on you the moment it can. But what's the good of a curse that no one ever suffers? That's what the carrot's for: to make you risk the stick. What would you risk to hold something sharp, something well and truly sharp, just for a moment?

I just have two words for you: oil can.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


While Taku and the Wisest Stone paused their journey atop a hill, they heard grunting and moaning. Soon, a man appeared, shoving a boulder uphill. Just as he reached the top, the boulder slipped and rolled away.

“That seems difficult,” Taku remarked.

“I am cursed. I defied the gods, and now must forever roll that rock.”

“Have you tried asking it for help?” asked the Wisest Stone. “Many are friendlier than they appear.”

The man’s eyes widened, and he fled.

“Most rocks cannot speak,” said Taku.

“Yes,” said the Wisest Stone, “but even failed conversation is easier than pointless strife.”