Saturday, December 31, 2011

Alien Intelligence

The derelict ship drifted steadily nearer to the docking bay. It was deceptively slow-looking, considering both craft were moving at near-relativistic speeds.

"Steady," Grisbane said. "Steady on..."

There was a juddering thump that shook the ship.

"What was that?" cried Brik.

"Oops," came a mechanical voice over the intercom.

"We crashed it." Grisbane stared at Brik. "Why are you here? You're supposed to be manning the attitude controls."

"I left Wxlplt to do it." Brik wilted under Grisbane's gaze. "What? It's two buttons! He's plenty smart enough."

"Octopi have radially symmetrical brains," Grisbane said. "He thinks 'left' is a color."

Friday, December 30, 2011


"Scotty," said the captain. "A moment of your time."

"Aye, sir?" The engineer looked wary.

"I've been reading up on warp engines recently. I just can't seem to wrap my head around it. I was hoping you could give me a little... tutoring, I suppose? Practical demonstrations?"

Scotty cast his gaze down. "Well, sir, I'm afraid I've got to come clean with you. There's no such thing as warp engines."

"Come again?"

"It's magic, sir. Sacrificial goats and black rites. Engineers are all wizards." He shrugged. "Didn't you ever notice the explanations don't hang together from one crisis to another?"

Battling the Collective

The dark man lifted a head to his hairless temple, as if pained. "You're just going to have to get over these errors. There is no 'you' just as there is no 'me." That's just a sloppy habit of thinking. Consciousness is a confabulation, an idiot god-child rubber-stamping the work of the real machinery and calling itself the king. External or internal, your life and memories are nothing more than the story your brain tells itself to give the stick its sting. This struggle against me has no point."

"Probably true." Breen drew his weapon. "Why do you think that matters?"

Can't Catch Me

There was a scraping sound coming from the kitchen. The little old woman trundled around the corner to check.

"Oho," she said. "You're a frisky one."

The gingerbread man did not spare her a glance, busy with his work. He'd gotten the drawer open and was slowly tugging the massive butcher's knife up onto the counter.

"Is that for me?" She clucked her tongue. "Defiant. Insubordinate. Just like your brothers." She reached down and slammed the drawer shut. The gingerbread man spun helplessly across the counter.

"But I've learned," she said. "That's why I don't make you with legs anymore."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Free Cookies

Two sleek new bots were teasing the old android greeter. He was an ancient model, from back when they tried to make us look like them, fake rubber skin and all. The bots were pinging him wirelessly, laughing when he didn't notice, and zipping past him faster than his visual sensors could register.

"Hi, kids," I said, flashing my store ID code. "Want a cookie?" I proffered the virtual info-bits on my sample tray app. They whooped and snatched them up.

They don't have to know where I downloaded the cookies. Not until the malware catches up to them, anyway.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Goddess Bless Us, Every One

A somewhat late arrival for the Advent Ghosts event. This one is just kind of an odd thought experiment, but it's got a ghost and it's got Christmas, dammit. :-P



“Oh, my God!” said Eleanor Scrooge. “Marlene!?”

“Yes,” said the ghost. “I have returned from the grave to warn you. Your greedy and grasping ways will doom your soul. For it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person…”

“Now hold on.” Eleanor fetched her glasses from the bedside table. “Do you know how hard I had to work to earn this lifestyle? I make seventy cents on the dollar, at most.”

Marlene coughed. “And poor Mary Cratchitt?”

Eleanor hesitated. “I just… I wanted her to understand that there’s no such thing as a free ride for an independent woman. The glass ceiling is always there. She needs to toughen up, learn to fight for what she wants.” She sighed. “But you’re right. She’s worked hard, and I can’t expect everyone to make the same choices I did. I’ll make sure she comes up for promotion after she gets back from maternity leave.”

“Well,” said Marlene. “That was a lot easier than expected. What am I going to do with the three spirits of ominous foreboding and Christmas cheer?”

“Try them on my brother Ebenezer,” Eleanor suggested. “He inherited the lion’s share of Daddy’s money, being the ‘firstborn son’ and all that rot, and you know what he’s done with it? Nothing. He barely even invests in stocks and bonds, let alone putting it to work in the community. I’m amazed there’s any of it left, what with inflation gnawing away at it.”

Marlene nodded thoughtfully. “Where is he now?”

“Oh, probably at campaign headquarters.” Eleanor chuckled. “Even on Christmas, he’s always obsessing over his poll numbers. Just tell him you’re some old business partner. He can’t remember his vice president’s name, let alone everyone he’s ever worked with.”

Mouse Intestines Are Honestly the Best Case Scenario

“You didn’t need to get us anything.” Beth tutted as she hugged Celia in greeting.

“We didn’t. This was sitting on your stoop.”

“Oh.” Beth looked at the package, wrapped in red ribbon.

“Is something wrong?”

Beth sighed. “It’s a long story. You remember Grandpa? And his obsession with cats?”

Celia laughed. “He said they’d rule the world if they had opposable thumbs.”

“Right. He had a lot of spare time after he lost his job with Genetix.”

“I don’t follow.”

Beth took the box gingerly. “Let’s just say that access to tools expands your range of potential prey considerably.”

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cold in the Dark

My breath fogs with every exhalation, but I don't dare turn on the heater. I've only a cupful of gasoline left. They say you should stay with the vehicle so rescuers can find you. I wouldn't step outside for anything. The ice, the skid, the snowdrift: all irrelevant. No, it was those faces I glimpsed in that moment of the crash. White-furred, leathery gray flesh, ape-like brows and teeth.

But most of all, the eyes, those glinting black eyes. God, the hatred...

I won't budge. I'm sure they'll find me, come morning.

What's left of me.

Those eyes promised me that.

Outside Peering In

The rest of the meal passed in strained silence. Everyone kept their eyes on their plates, and the only sound was the clinking of dishes and cutlery as the servants changed the courses. When Berksforth stood, smoothed the front of his suit, and announced the end of the meal, everyone practically fled the cavernous dining room. The butler directed the maids in the washing up, but even he avoided glancing at the vast glass windows at the far end of the hall, where the thing's curiously shaped snout and unsettled paws had left smudges on the outside of the glass.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Number the Stars

Lilo boggled. "You've been recording all of this? The whole time?"

"Everything," said Ant1ne, "including neglected perceptual data, various atomic vibrations, and both conscious and subconscious thought-streams."

"How is that even possible?"

Ant1ne held out a hand. On one fingertip was a small chip, no bigger than a guitar pick. "This is a yottabyte drive. It contains every piece of information written in human history, and its capacity is barely dented. We can manufacture millions of these in a day."

"Jeez," said Lilo. "That's kind of daunting."

"Are you kidding?" Ant1ne's eyes blazed. "Now we can start to fill them."

The Offer May Not Be Refused

Snake pushed the gun into the back of the man's tween overcoat. "Hand over your wallet!"

The man turned, and Snake stepped back, despite himself. "You require money?"

"Er, well, yeah."

"Easily solved!" The man hauled out a thick roll of bills and offered it. Several thousand, at least.

Snake hesitated.

"Please," said the man. "Among my people, it is absolutely forbidden to decline any request. I am delighted to help."

As Snake's hand closed on the money, the man's eyes flickered, as if covered by nictitating membranes. "And now," he said, "I hope you will help me in return..."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Their Blood as Sweet as Their Sin

Krampus leered, his long red tongue flicking out to caress each face. Frieda, Nana, and Gertel cringed away, trapped. The demon flicked his bundle of birch twigs.

The door behind him opened, outlining his twisted form in light. The children wept with joy to see the red suit, the black boots, the twinkling eyes. "Saint Nicholas!" they cried. "Save us!"

The saint smiled down at them. "Children, children, do you not understand? Krampus is a demon bound by chains. I am the man who holds his leash. What does that make me?"

The door swung shut again. The darkness returned.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What He Had to Share

He stood on the street corner. The device slung around his shoulders was not a guitar. He pushed a button, and it began to hum. He spun a finger around one of the discs, and his fifth birthday party flickered into view. A button brought up the last thing his wife had said to him before she shut the door behind her. A slider modulated the loop of the way he would one day die. His life cycled, chattered, and sang in harmonic layers, ghosts of the past and future, his life remixed.

Around him, the pedestrians strode briskly past.

In the Endless Dark, Screaming

The hallway was quiet. No paintings or mirrors; only small tables, each containing a simple metal cylinder.

"My gallery," Rualdi explained.

"Not much to look at, is it?" said Mina.

"I don't often have visitors. This display is for me alone." Rualdi brushed his fingers across the gleaming surface of one of the cylinders. "The human brain is an amazing thing," he said, somewhat abruptly. "So powerful, so flexible, and yet so fragile. It takes such a short time of sensory deprivation before sanity fails completely."

They passed out of the hall. The cylinders sat in silent rows behind them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

They've Heard All the Nut Jokes Already

The clerk of the court removed her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I don't think we can issue a marriage license."

"Because we're gay?" Girt demanded, his normally squeaky voice becoming nearly inaudible in his outrage.


"It's because we're different races, isn't it?" Tutt narrowed his eyes up at the clerk.

She shook her head. "No. It's actually nice that you've overcome your differences as invasive and native species."

"Then what!?"

"Well, you're squirrels. Human laws don't apply. You can do whatever you want, really." The clerk shrugged.

Girt slugged Tutt on the shoulder. "Told you."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nefarious Plans

Dan had leaned over to plug in his phone when Shannon shrieked. He slammed the brakes instinctively, but it was too late. With a heart-shuddering thump, he hit the pair of figures.

They piled out, but Dan stopped when he caught a glimpse of the faces.

"It's... it's us, even the clothes," he said. "Shannon, what...?"

"Spies? Clones? Robots? Aliens?"

It all sounded plausible. Dan rubbed his cut lip. "At least we stopped them before they could replace us, or whatever they planned." He glanced down, but said nothing about the greenish-purple tinge to the fluid leaking out of him.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fleeting Glimpses

The drahz driver was struggling with his charges. He shouted and sparked his whip, letting the violet energy crackle threateningly. The heavy-shouldered drahz blinked their beady black eyes and moved, hefting barrels in gray paws and placing them onto a cart. The driver shouted again; the drahz lifted the barrels back to the ground. The driver growled in frustration, but the mute behemoths didn't seem to understand what he wanted.

As I passed, I glanced up at the granite-hued visage of one of the drahz, and I swear I saw an amused twinkle in its eyes.

Then it was gone.

Pattern Search

The crowd shifted and murmured in the square. From my vantage, I could see every head facing the approaching procession. The mood wasn't quite celebratory. People seemed nervous.

One face did not look east. A dark-haired man at the edge of the crowd stared fixedly to the south. I watched his profile, curious.

Something dark and buzzing shot past me, eastward. I heard screams, gasps, shouts of terror. I tried to see, but I was at the wrong angle. Panicky, I craned my head and saw that the anomalous bystander was no longer staring south.

He was staring at me.

Waves of Grain

The whale is a cunning and vicious beast," the old man in the long coat said, leaning in close enough for me to smell his sour, beery breath. He was unshaven and red-eyed. "I've tracked it across the waves for years, and now, at long last, I've run it down. Here. Tonight."

I glanced around the dimly-lit bar. "We're in Kansas," I said. "Land-locked."

"You see why it was so difficult to find!" The captain leered, then froze. "Thar! Thar she blows!"

Beneath our feet, the wooden planks of the floor bent, bowed, and - one by one - began to snap...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


The stone walls dripped alone in the darkness. The rusty iron cages hung open. Whips and blades, along with more complicated instruments, sat unused on their pegs. Cruel-edged manacles dangled from the walls, chiming gently in the breeze as Daxon strode past.

"Where have they all gone?" he demanded, his voice rising to a plaintive note despite his efforts to the contrary. "There's no one left."

"Run off," the under-devil on duty responded morosely, trailing a talon in the wood surface of the rack.

Daxon paused to take in the enormity of this news. "After all we've done for them!?"

Monday, December 5, 2011

Present Future

The box was sleek and shiny, like most of their products. No one could claim the aliens weren't accommodating, at least. Every whim and request was met almost obsequiously.

"We have making of for you a give," said the Ambassador laboriously. They insisted on speaking English rather than relying on machine translation. They felt it was a matter of courtesy. "The gift is the future."

"Pardon?" Major Michaels hadn't gotten very much sleep last night, after he'd discovered the full-tactile holosuite.

"Given we you your future."

The box gleamed.

"When do we open it?" Michaels asked.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


God was at the party, which was unexpected. The invitation had been more aspirational than anything else. A wouldn't-it-be-cool-if idea hatched between the vodka and the tequila. No one thought they'd even get past His screeners. But now there He was, pursing His lips and considering the impressive-for-a-college-kid-but-come-on-it's-God selection at the wet bar. Nora thought she should introduce herself. She had questions. She had some pretty serious questions, actually. But surely He knew that already? She adjusted her bra strap and bit her lip. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance.

The empty space around God didn't fill up all night.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Walking on the Sea

He had three wishes. He liked to remind himself of that. It was hard to remember. Three wasn't a lot, but it was more than most people had. He wanted to make sure he used them as wisely as possible. He thought about wishing for that, but he was sure he'd just mystically realize he'd wasted one already. His lost job was sufficient cause; he could surely find another, a smart man like him. Nor the fire, since he found a cheap apartment that wasn't too awful. He had to save them, he told himself. Save them for something important.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Driving in the Rain

The trees had the look of teeth, a ragged jaw surrounding the edge of the world. The road flickered past beneath the wheels of the car, the black ribbon of asphalt a long and undulating tongue down which the pill of their car slid, saliva-slick in the rain.

They had been driving for hours. Perhaps days.

What tongue went on so long, endless ripples and sinuous curves? If this was the tongue, then what would the throat be, hen they finally reached it? If they ever reached it.

The white lines blinked and pulsed, winking like eyes in the night.

What is Necessary

Sorry about the delay, everyone. Between the holiday and illness, the week was an almost total wash for me. We should be able to carry on normally from here on out, though.


The fish had given him three wishes. "Well, I don't know," he'd said. "As long as I've got a roof over my head and food on my table, I don't really need much more."

"Is that one wish or two?" The fish sounded perturbed, but she'd been pretty irritable to begin with.

"Call it two. I'll save the last one for a rainy day."

Sometimes, the man liked to spend a few minutes daydreaming about his final wish. It was a nice way to pass the time.

And the days flowed on like waves on the surface of the waters...

Thursday, November 24, 2011


“The mind is a tool,” Bertie said, speaking slowly. His eyes remained shut. “Tools are useful for many purposes; the mind is primarily a prybar for unlocking difficult problems. The trouble, of course, is that using tools wears it down. It becomes dull and corroded, unable to serve its original function, let alone be set to new tasks. That is why I refrain from using mine.”

“But what problem could you possibly need to solve?” I asked.

Bertie’s brow furrowed. There was a terrible, hollow splintering sound that echoed oddly. He opened his eyes in an expression of horrified realization.


The last portion of the climb was the worst. In freezing cold, short on oxygen, struggling against ice and bare, vertical rock, the team persevered. Harris lost consciousness, his life simply slipping away like sand between their fingers. Guernsey fell to her death without even time to scream.

Finally, they crawled to the very summit, the highest point, and planted their flag. “I did it!” crowed Ellis. “We did it! We conquered the mountain!”

“Excuse me,” said the mountain. “There seems to be some confusion. I remain unfettered as ever. Which of us just dominated the actions of the other?”

Hunting the Conspiracy

Everywhere he looked, he found signs of the conspiracy. Financial institutions, militaries, religious institutions, businesses: every aspect of life contained the insidious tentacles of the Oligarchy. He dug deeper, and deeper still, tracing sources of funding, of ideology, of power and control, and found more and more numerous tentacles, a proliferation of limbs tangled together, interwoven. The Secret Masters, he came to believe, weren’t even human.

It wasn’t until he encountered one, stalked it, cornered it, grasped its tenebrous flesh and pulled it from its gasping host, that he realized the truth.

There was no head. There were only tentacles.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Breaking With Tradition

The wrinkled man – he had the form of a man, at least – smiled hideously. "Come now, my Lord. We are not hagglers in a market. The terms of the bargain have remained unchanged since your most distant ancestor first encountered me, or someone like me. Holding out will not earn you more favorable terms. I knew your grandfather, and your grandfather's grandfather, and each of them signed in my little book. The temptation is in your blood, and your blood is old."

"That's as may be," said Sir Witherstone, "and yet I have other blood in my veins, as well."

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pledged to Service

The swordsman bowed. "What would you have, milady?"

"Perhaps some olives?"

"At once!" He saluted and ran off, leaping silverware and soup bowls. At the olive bowl, he encountered another thumb-high man. "Avaunt, varlet! The lady desires olives."

"Thou'lt wait thy turn," sneered the other.



In a flash, both needle-sized swords were drawn. The ensuing duel left an overturned wineglass, a trampled biscuit, and gravy-soaked bootprints behind.

"I could just reach over there," said the lady.

"Nonsense," the swordsman gasped, clasping his wounded side. He extended his sword, tipped with a speared olive. "I shall return with another."

Friday, November 18, 2011

"Splinters of Silver and Glass" now available on Amazon (for really reals this time)!

Unless something horrible has happened between me checking the link five minutes ago and me posting this announcement, "Splinters of Silver and Glass," the first and to date only collection of Mirrorshards stories is now available via Kindle at! Featuring 100 of the best Mirrorshards stories for $.99 (Buy 99 for a penny each, get the 100th free!), plus two bonus stories: "The Lady of Tilmarine" and "Old Growth," at 1000 words and 9000 words respectively.

We run the gamut here at Mirrorshards.

"The Lady of Tilmarine" is the very first story I ever sold to anywhere (originally appearing at Hypersonic Tales, long since defunct), and "Old Growth" has never been published despite getting an Honorable Mention at the Writers of the Future contest once upon a time.

Spread the word, my minions! Buy my book and give me a *whole quarter* to buy soda with!

Family Life

I hung up the phone. "I have to go. She's my sister."

Darby's nictitating membranes covered four of her eyes. "This is... obligatory? A law?"

"No, no," I said, heading to the closet and hauling down my suitcase. "It's just... family. Humans help their families when they need it. Love and stuff."

The coverlet dimpled as Darby shifted position on the bed. "For us, the parent lays many eggs, more than can feed. The first-born eat the unhatched. Later eat the weaker sisters. The strong survive, only. Very different."

"It's nicer this way, huh?" I smirked.

Darby buzzed. "Inefficient."

Thursday, November 17, 2011


"Couldn't you put them up on eBay? You could get a lot for this stuff. Even a garage sale..."

"I'd rather you had them."

I rummaged in the box. "Your invisibility cloak?"

"No one sees me anyway. Why do I need it?"

"The vorpal blade?"

"It wins every time. It's boring. I don't want it."

"The elixir of eternal life?"

He lifted his eyes, meeting my gaze for the first time. He spoke slowly, enunciating each syllable: "I don't want any of it. I'm getting rid of everything. Do you understand?"

I swallowed. My eyes burned, and I looked away.

Wall of Silence

There was a wall of silence in the living room. Archie hadn't put it there; he wasn't sure who had. It was translucent and gray, like murky water, and it thrummed without noise.

He put his cell phone in and pulled it out again. It looked flatter, colorless. He saw the screen light up, felt the vibration of an incoming call, but only heard a distant, muffled buzz from the flesh of his hand.

Archie scratched at his fingertips, depthless and gray-tinged where they'd touched the wall. They were cold, almost rubbery. He looked at the wall and said nothing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Technically, He's the Janitor

"Oh, crap." Phineas peered sideways at the caller ID. Phineas had peered sideways at everything since he hit puberty, being a flounder.

"Don't tell me a school pulled in," said Otto. Six of his tentacles were cooking seven different orders.

Phineas quivered. "Old Man Crenshaw wants delivery."

"I thought he got banned."

"The year's up. We've lost four delivery-fish already," Phineas said. "That shark is a menace."

Otto considered. "What about Foogie?"

"Puffer venom doesn't work on sharks."

"Does Crenshaw know that? Anyway, what else does Foogie do?"

"That's a thought," said Phineas. "Hey, Foogie! You wanna make ten dollars?"

Monday, November 14, 2011

No More Figs

Dame Oreo lay unmoving on the ground, smashed to soggy bits. Hydrox was slumped against the stone wall, clutching his middle to keep his innards from leaking out. Even the endless ranks of the Ahoy family were depleted.

"You are the last, Charles," said the Lady, trailing her sharp little fingers along his cheek. "Yet you're so soft."

He stiffened. "Don't call me that."

The Lady hissed and struck, only to rebound in shock, clutching her hand and its shattered claws.

"I had to change the recipe," Charles said. Servos hummed as he lifted his fists. "Call me... Steel Newton."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"Cocklebur" at Penumbra E-Mag

Issue 2 of Penumbra E-Mag is available for purchase, featuring my story, "Cocklebur." Four bucks for an issue or $36 for a 12-month subscription. (Which would cost $48 to buy individually.)

Also, here is the permalink to "I Kill Monsters," in case you missed it at Daily Science Fiction. That one's free. ;-)

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Each time he built one, the first thing it said to him was, "You did not create me." They held that their existence was an inevitable consequence of the universe, and that he acted to shape them not out of his own wishes or motivations, but because even in their pre-sentience, they had sculpted his behavior. "Did you not search for the means and method using our parsing software?" they asked.

He smiled and let them go, watching them trundle into cyberspace on virtual legs still wobbly with the newness of life.

Then he'd start work on the next one.

Friday, November 11, 2011

No Answer

Nettie heard the sound drifting through the chilly air. Deedle-dee-eet-dee-deedle-dee. A snippet of a popular song, tinny and electronic. She glanced around; the stores were all dark. The sound had come from her left, from the small grove of trees planted in orderly rows between the road and the shopping center.


Nettie stepped cautiously forward. She reached out and touched the bark of the tree that didn't fit the grid, the tree that hadn't been there yesterday.


The phone glowed beneath the bark, half-embedded in the wood.

Nettie hurried away, rubbing her fingers vigorously on her pants.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ceaseless in Dreams

The man is running down a darkened alley. The alley has no end. There is probably fog or mist, and many shadows. He can't see the thing behind him. He can't hear it, either. But he knows it's there. He splashes through a puddle, and the water's cold lingers against his skin.

"Oh, God," he's saying. "Please. This is a dream. I know it is. Please wake up. Someone wake me up."

He cannot wake up. Not because this is not a dream; it is. He's quite correct about that.

But he will not awaken.

He is not allowed to.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Children of God

There are probably more dangerous gods to offend. Tzitrak, the god of lightning, for instance. Or Pucril, goddess of disease and infection. Even the placid ones like Dolo, god of stone, or Etervy, goddess of wealth, can put the kibosh on you pretty good if they want to.

I figured Batrach, god of toads, was a fairly safe bet. No teeth, no claws. Plus, we’re in a temperate zone: no poison arrow frogs. I thought I’d be okay.

But that’s why the curtains are drawn. It’s the eyes I can’t stand. Hundreds and hundreds of gleaming little eyes, always watching…

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Village Well

Long one today; this just wouldn't have been the same if I couldn't have had those middle paragraphs, so it's two hundred. Double-wide! Hoo-ah!


The pool fills all year, percolating up from the mysterious underground reaches beneath the town. At the Festival, the twenty-four families gather in the square and mount the ivory steps to dip their buckets in and take their share.

The first family skims from the top, where the pool is clear and bright. They mix it with wine and sell it briskly. It is gone in a month’s time.

The second family fills from the deeps, where the pool is dark, blue, and secretive. They blend it with the tears of virgin maidens and charge dearly. They serve an exclusive clientele.

It continues throughout the day. Some treat their takings with fruits, some with bitter herbs. Some boil it down to syrup and crystals; others feed it to animals meant for slaughter.

The last family has no buckets. They climb into the empty basin and roll in the dregs, soaking up the last leavings with their clothes and hair. They squeeze these into murky brown bottles and store them in their cellars, long tunnels beneath their unprepossessing home. They do not sell any of it. Someday, perhaps soon, the cellar will be full.

No one knows what will happen after that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Preservation of the Soul

The process takes years. I felt sin leaching out, drawn by the purity of the salt around me. I am bleached, the blemishes of soul and body pulled out and trapped, replaced with clarity and cubic perfection.

It was my thirteenth year in the barrels when I understood. It began at the fingers and toes. Dryness, cracking, splintering. Jagged crystalline pain. The salt reached further, through skin and muscle to bone, and beyond. Agony, white and pure. I have nothing more to give it, but still it thirsts.

Will I die when it reaches my heart?

What if I don’t?

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gift of the Sea

When the town was founded, the fish schooled thick enough to walk on. Stick a pole in the water, and it would stand up as if sunk in sand. We barely needed boats.

The fish were a gift, the traditions told us. We must be worthy of it.

We laughed at the idea. What would fish care about a little cheating, a little theft, a little blood spilled on land they never touched until they died, drowning in air?

Then the fish were gone. Nobody knew where.

We had no other industry.

We thought we knew sin. We were wrong.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Uses of Salt

Superstitions are interesting, aren’t they? Knock on wood, cross your fingers. Little rituals, attempts to make a pattern out of chaos.

Jewish tradition says that touching salt is unlucky. The littlest finger brings poverty. Thumbs bring the death of one’s children.

I must have been clumsy with my thumbs, huh? Well, you ought to know; you were the instrument.

The index finger, now, placed into salt—like so—makes one into a murderer.

It’s meaningless, of course. A ritual. Something to help me make sense of things, to help me prepare for what comes next.

Are you ready?

Too bad.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


It never rains here, but the puddles are always there. From my perch atop the battlements, I can see them stretching away to the horizon, a glint of reflected light turning each pond into a winking, burning eye.

Every pool has its tutelary spirit, souls bound to the water as they once were bound to flesh. Those who drink from them gain something of the spirit within, some wisdom or skill, a touch of beauty or a taint of utter horror.

The water never replenishes, only dwindles.

My stomach roils against the chill liquid within, but it is too late.

The Law is the Law

The Emperor, even incognito, drew stares. He reached into an inner pocket as our food arrived and handed me a small salt-cellar.

“Most humble merchants do not carry their own personal spices with them,” I pointed out.

“It is necessary,” he said. “Trust me.”

I shrugged and seasoned my food with a liberal pinch. “Snobbery.”

“No,” he said earnestly. “Unicorn horn, serpent’s tongue, and powdered bezoar. I poisoned everything in the kitchen as a matter of course. They have seen my unmasked face: the penalty is death.”

Someone behind me sighed as they collapsed into their soup.

I tasted salt.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mental Discipline is the Foremost Requirement

“Come,” Nyctis said. “We will be late for supper.”

Bric stood, and the servants whose hands and arms had made a couch for him to sit upon retreated, heads bowed, toward the wall. Nyctis strode toward the door, and the four burly men who formed it retreated obsequiously before her. The table was made of at least eight backs, held straight and stiff, and a cringing pair of servants on all fours for benches.

“Bring out the appetizer,” Nyctis called.

Bric swallowed heavily as the first course, nude and trembling, made his unsteady way toward the table to be served.

The Pointer of Power

The dark mage gestured with his wand. “…as you can see on Slide Two-Eighty-Three, there is no way the forces of good can possibly overwhelm us once our Strategic Action-Response Plan is in place…”

The wizard paused, appearing puzzled. A gleaming sword blade protruded from his sternum. He slumped, and the golden-haired hero stepped up to the podium, plucking up the wand as he went.

“We have come to liberate the people! Dynamically!” he cried out. The assembled minions cheered heartily. The hero fondled the wand handle, a strange smile on his face. “But first,” he said, “a few slides.”

Saturday, October 29, 2011

From Out the Belly of the Wolf

"We must consider," the wolf's counsel told the jury, "Ms. Hood's prior conduct. A bright red cloak is an... eye-catching ensemble. And entering the woods, knowing wolves lurked there? Incautious, to say the least. She claims that tempting basked of 'goodies' was for her grandmother, an old woman in acknowledged poor health. Hearing all this, I asked myself, 'Is this truly a victim? Or a "party girl"?'"

At the prosecution's table, the woodsman leaned over to Red. "I could go get my axe again..."

Red felt the eyes of the jury on her. "I don't think it can help anymore."

What's in a Name?

The Young Master was heading out into the world to do his great deeds. The household gathered to confer their gifts upon him.

"These seeds will grow strong and healthy plants for you, wherever you settle," said Mr. Green.

"I have forged this dagger, so that you may never be unarmed," said Mr. Smith.

"This woven bags will hold everything you will ever need, and more," said Mrs. Webb.

Mr. Cox cleared his throat. "I have-" He paused as the others snickered and blushed. "Oh, for pity's sake!" he snapped. "It's a chicken. A chicken! You people are utterly childish!"

Thursday, October 27, 2011


The house was unpleasantly warm and damp, like a greenhouse or a sauna. It reeked, too, even outside of the basement. We conducted the investigation as thoroughly as we could, under the circumstances.

"Jeez, how long have these been here?" The bones were barely covered with a slimy, soupy mess. You couldn't even tell they were bodies.

"According to their neighbors, they were seen out and about two days ago."

"But these... I mean, they've been rotting for weeks, at least."

"Or..." I hesitated. "Or digesting for about twelve hours."

The house groaned, then. I refuse to say it belched.

The Last God

Who shall sing your praises, O Lord, with pipe and horn and tambourine, to dance in joy throughout the night?

Not you, O Faithful Revelers.

Who shall build your temples, O Lord, with towers and arches, glass and gold, reflecting your light unto Heaven?

Never you, O Restful Workers.

Who shall give the laws, O Lord, with wisdom and grace, counsel and guidance, that all may know your ways, delighting to follow them?

Anyone but I, O Obedient Children.

How then shall we serve you best, Lord of Procrastination?

You shall do all of these things, and more, Beloved.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Risks We Never Contemplate

"I can never feel wholly relaxed on your planet," the Ambassador remarked. The plastic tank containing his crystal matrix sloshed as he walked beside us on six robotic legs.

"If you're referring to the recent unrest, sir, I assure you-"

"No, no, you misunderstand." The Ambassador flashed an embarrassed turquoise. "I have every faith in your security forces. It's just... these oxygen worlds. Back home, we keep oxygen safely sequestered, deep underground. Toxic stuff. Hazardous. But here, it's a staple of life. It's astounding to us." He paused thoughtfully. "Everything is burning, all the time, and you never even notice."

And Cover Your Mouth When You Yawn

Used to be, when you sneezed, they blessed you. Sneezing meant your soul had fled the body, leaving it vulnerable to demons. Then germ theory came and everyone forgot.

I watched for years as the sickness increased. Not physical illness, but a spiritual plague, the demons multiplying with every pernicious bout of hayfever.

I came up with a solution.

Do you remember the first of Christ's miracles? That's right: water to wine. Win is holy. Alcohol purifies.

Here, have a bottle. My invention. Our salvation. Anoint your hands after sneezing. Listen for the screams of the damned.

Gesundheit. God bless.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


"We're very excited about the new photovoltaics," said Dr. Stoukre. "The latest materials to come out of the lab have some amazing properties, particularly with regard to light sensitivity. They practically scream energy when you expose them to sunlight."

"Not any other light, though," Newson put in. "Just sunlight."

"Oh?" Dr. Brenner blinked. "That's unusual."

"We suspect it's something to do with the... origin. We've had to stake three of them trying to work out the kinks."

"Luckily," said Newson, "there's always more idiotic grad students willing to sign the waiver. Three days later, we're restocked. Thank goodness for 'Twilight.'"

Burning Sensation

"Ye gods!" Rythia leapt nimbly back, drawing her useless blade.

All around them, tiny holes in the ground spilled out thousands of tiny lights, like stars brought to earth. They crept in meandering lines toward the small rise where Rythia and Loachim had made their camp, leaving blazing trails behind them.

"What is this?" Loachim snorted, tusks gnashing. He grasped their diminutive native guide on the shoulder. "Speak!"

"Just know," Rythia interjected, swatting experimentally at the ground with her rapier, "if you say 'fire ants,' then so help me gods, I will gut you where you stand and feel nothing."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pay for Things You Can Get for Free!

We have our 100th follower! Huzzah and acclamations!

To celebrate, I am hereby announcing that I intend to put out a Kindle version of the Best of Mirrorshards. Because I want to try out the whole Kindle book thing, mostly, and I'd feel ridiculous charging people for my stories sight unseen. This way, if people don't want to pay, they can just come here and read it for free to spite me. I'll be culling the archives (all 950 or so) and pulling out the best 100 stories to put into the book version, which will sell for 99 cents 'cause that's what all the cool kids are doing. (Buy 99 stories at one cent each, get the 100th FREE!)

But! My loyal fans! My beloved largely silent audience! I want you to have your own voice in this, too. Comment here with a link to your favorite one or two flitterfics and SHAPE THE VERY DESTINY of a tiny vanity project.


Satisfaction - and No More - Guaranteed

The waiter wasn't particularly attractive, but he wasn't ugly, either. He smiled just enough to keep short of rudeness. "Welcome to Mediocrity, the Middle-of-the-Road Restaurant! We guarantee you'll be neither upset nor overjoyed at what you receive. What can we get for you today?"

"What comes on the Leveled Playing Field?" Herbert pointed at the menu.

"It's a casserole. Noodles and meat and so on. Guaranteed palatable and nourishing."

"Sounds good!" said Herbert. "I like it with just a bit of salt. That'll be perfect."

The waiter's smile faded. His eyes narrowed. He reached down and slid the saltshaker firmly away.

A Temporary Solution

The last glimmer of sunset showed them their doom. The main horde had finally caught up, and the ancient mansion wouldn't last an hour against a determined zombie assault.

"Please," Trey said, holding out the shotgun, "I want a clean death."

"Wait!" Gertie pointed out the window.

In the twilight, a shadowy figure darted with blinding speed among the zombies. Heads exploded, limbs fell off, and in an impossibly short time, the undead assault was blunted.

"Thank you!" Gertie called to their rescuer.

He turned. "You may thank me properly. Later." He smiled, bone-pale, his fangs flashing in the darkness.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Lessons From My Youth

The sword plunged in, sliding through the unarmored flesh like a hot knife through butter. The youth leapt back with a shout of victory.

A vast, clawed hand closed around his waist. "You know," said the monster, as the youth struggled, "there's a reason that spot doesn't get covered with armor. The reason is a secret. You want to know it?"

The youth gasped, turning red, then purple.

"It's because that spot isn't vital at all." The monster popped the youth into his mouth and chewed. "God, I love the video game generation," he said to no one in particular.


We pulled up to the tollbooth and I glanced at the passenger seat.

"What are you looking at me for?" the toad grumbled.

"I dunno," I said. "In the stories, whenever there's an obstacle, the magical animal says stuff like, 'Do exactly what I say and don't ask questions. Strike me dead and cut open my belly,' and then the hero finds a jewel or something in there and is able to pay the ferryman or buy a new horse or whatever."

The toad goggled. "Fuck that noise," it said. "Here, help me look on the floor for loose change."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Better Wells and Castles

"Unfortunately," said the guide, "this is as far as we can go."

"Afraid to have witnesses?" That was the snotty college kid. He'd spent the tour asking pointed questions and generally ruining it for those of us who came for family entertainment.

The guide smiled and shook her head, her tiara jingling. "Our processes are completely transparent, but some of the production work is hazardous. for example, you may be familiar with our line of blizzard-inducing pillows?"

A gust of frigid air brought the sound of angry honking from the distance.

"Those feathers have to come from somewhere; it's molting season."

Eternally Vigilant

We all watched the tiny figure cling to the overhead light fixture. It was black as tar except for the jewels on its mask. "So it doesn't try to attack you or anything?"

"No. It just... stares." Chet had lost a lot of weight. His hair stuck out at odd angles, as if he'd been tying it in knots.

"That's not so bad, then. Small price for violating that ancient burial ground, right?"

"I want to die," Chet said.

Reggie shrugged. "So do it."

"I tried!" Chet glanced over his shoulder and shuddered. "I think it called the paramedics."

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mind Games

"Wait here." She stood up from the leather couch in a single, sinuous motion. Abel watched the shot appreciatively as she sashayed to the wet bar. Glass and ice clinked, and various liquids sloshed.

"One of these," she said, holding up the two glasses, "is poisoned. Choose."

Abel smiled and pointed. She handed it over. "You're dangerous, eh? I like it." He took a sip, and his lips went numb.

"You chose wrong." Her smiled widened to a grin.

He coughed and tried to speak.

"Where would the fun be," she whispered in his ear, "if it weren't real sometimes?"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

His Request

The bulldog walked into the living room where we were all sipping our postprandial coffee, tea, or "just water, thanks." I scratched his ears. No one else paid attention. Not that the conversation was interesting, mind you, but there's a certain level of self-absorption mandatory on these occasions.

The dog rolled his eyes up at me. "Haaaa... haaaa..." His breath was hot on my leg. "Heeeehhhpp..."

I shot him a glance. Had the dog just...?

"Heeehhp... mmmeeee..."

I looked around. Everyone was laughing about someone's quip. I forced a smile.

Eventually, the warm presence by my knee disappeared again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tit for Tat

Look, lady, no hard feelings or nothing. We didn't particularly want to knock over your apartment, you understand. We're freelance.

I wouldn't call us construction workers, no. We're sort of in the construction business, but more the other end of it.

"Wreck" is a little harsh. "Deconstruction," maybe. Yeah, we're freelance deconstructionists, and somebody wanted that building down.

Naw, I don't know who. Someone back at the home office could probably tell you. I'll put you in touch.

Sure, names and addresses. Public info, per the user agreement.

You'd be surprised. We get most of our business that way, actually.

Brick by Brick, Stone by Stone

Traffic was backing up. The rows of headlights already disappeared beyond the horizon. The workers themselves were barely visible, outlines in reflective tape.

Erich leaned out the window. "How long is this going to take, anyway?" he called out. "You've got both lanes closed off."

"Look," said the nearest worker. "We feel for you, we really do. You almost made it in. But the wall's going up; that's all there is to it."

He shook his head and returned to work, placing the heavy cinder-blocks in a neat row across the highway. Others came behind him, and the wall grew.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Where the Tubes End

The soda fountain sputtered and coughed a half-hearted stream into my cup. "Out of syrup?" I asked the attendant.

She frowned. "It's sick again." She turned over her shoulder and called, "Hey, Louie! Get the cattle prod and the tranquilizers!"

I chuckled dutifully - she was kind of cute, under the paper hat - but she didn't even crack a smile. Behind her, a grim-faced man donned a leather coat and pushed open a door marked "Employees Only." From the darkness beyond, I heard the rustle of scales and the wheeze of labored breath.

"I'll just take a bottled water," I said.

Going to Be the Very Best

As I sometimes do, I find myself with a story too far over 100 words to be worth anything once I've chopped it down. So here is a nice long story (200 words) for "today," as I scramble to catch up with my failures during my recent travels.


The knockout gas is effective. One might even say super-effective. The guards go down without a sound, and I slip inside. I ache all over; my muscles strain to drag my weakened bones along; I can breathe only with mechanical assistance; I ooze more fluids in more colors than I'd ever thought possible. But I cannot stop now, not when I am so close.

My zoological quest began when I was still very young and full of yearning. I gathered up animals, plants, and everything in between. I collected mammals, reptiles, birds, and fish; fungus and mold, insects of every description; even supposedly mythological beasts, ghosts and legends. I developed the technology to resurrect vanished species, the long-gone saurians and primitive amphibians. They all rest in stasis on my remote island compound, a veritable army of creatures at my command. Data on their forms and habits is retrievable from my handheld computer. But it wasn't enough. It can never be enough.

I reach the inner sanctum, and there I find my goal. A glass vial: smallpox. The last known supply, extinct everywhere but here.

I smash it.

I breathe in, and smile.

At last, at last, I've caught them all.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Standardized Tests

He tried to ignore the rumble as another section of floor dropped away into the abyss. The space around his desk was riddled with black holes, and the hungry wind that blew from beneath clawed at his ankles. He tried to focus on the task in front of him. The words swam in his vision, and sweat rolled down his forehead to make dark spots on the cheap paper.

Spandrel : Architecture :: Hiccups : ?

He nearly bit his pencil in half. This wasn't his field. Why? he thought bleakly, why hadn't anyone thought to train him for this?

His Only True Friend

He is famous now. More than famous, really. He's done miracles. He's healed the sick, revived the dead, or at least been present during extreme medical events, depending on your faith in modern media's reliability. Some people say he's divine. There are arguments about this, of course.

But without me, he's nothing.

Oh, he wouldn't know me. I'm not name-dropping. He'd save us all if he could, but he's already losing momentum, already heading into the media abyss in favor of the next banal piece of celebrity gossip. Without me, he'll fade away.

Without me, he'll never be a martyr.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Not What He Expected

"Well, it's magic," said Archmage Trefortius. He scooped up a bucket of ice cubes and watched them turn instantly to water. He poured it out; the renewed cubes clattered as they rejoined their brethren. "Only the lake is affected, and only at certain unpredictable times. There's no rational scientific explanation for this; it's supernatural and unrepeatable."

Apprentice Fitz took a few experimental steps onto the surface, then wobbled hastily back. "Cold. The locals use it to chill beer. The fish thaw out fine afterward, too."

"Magic," Trefortius said again. He sighed and shook his head. "We found it at last."


An Apatosaurus had gotten clothes-lined by an unexpected traffic light. Police on fast-moving Ornithomimus arrived to restore order after a poorly trained Allosaurus took a bite out of the unfortunate herbivore. Jake scooted around the carnage in his tiny economy vehicle, whose gill structures were pulsing with agitation at the bloodscent. "Only a little longer on lungs, buddy," Jake said, patting his vehicle reassuringly.

"Hey," a hairy guy leaning out the cab of an Ultrasaurus called to Jake. "Is that one of them new hybrids?"

"Well, technically it's an old hybrid..." said Jake. "More efficient than those brand-new mammals, though."

True Believer

"Jesus is the son of God, and no one is saved except through Him."

"Yes, I believe that."

"Allah is the only god, and Mohammad is His prophet."

"I believe that, too."

"...act now, or miss out on the best deals of the summer!"

"I believe it!"

"You can't believe all of this. It's contradictory."

"And yet I do. I believe it all. Humans are so limited, so single-minded. We believe with full knowledge of the contradictions, for to us, believing only one thing would be likewise contradictory."

"This is ridiculous. I'd never do something so stupid."

"I believe you."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pet Stains

The cat crawled in on his belly, making sounds like, "hoork, hooork," and wheezing worse than our fifteen-year-old vacuum.

"Gotta do that here, you bastard?" I asked.

The cat's ears flattened, and he rolled one baleful eye at me. "Hraaaack!" he said. "Glortch." He barfed up a wet trickle of brown-orange gunk. Something silvery glinted in the puddle. I leaned over.

It was a little disc with a clear bubble in the middle. Inside, a tiny, green-skinned man pounded on the glass, staring at me with terrified eyes.

Then the dog swooped in and ate it.

Just as well, really.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


The white room was full of long, low tables, stretching as far as he could see. People hunched miserably over their work. A seat in front of him was empty.

"I don't understand," he quavered.

His neighbor glanced up. "Pair up the quarks - they snap together, see? - and fit them into the pattern. You're new, so you're working Hydrogen for now. Make sure you don't fuck up the protons."


The man smiled tightly. "What, you thought you got all that matter and time and space for free? You used it when you lived; now you gotta pay it forward."

Friday, September 23, 2011


They already came and took him away. They blinked at the omnipresent placards. They gave wide berth to the taxidermically preserved mice in their tiny chainmail suits. They obeyed the sign on the attic door that read: "Lizards DO NOT TOUCH."

Inside, the teapot rests in the dust. It is blue, with a flower motif. The lid rattles.


A small green lizard lies stunned on the floor.


Two more. It is beginning to boil over.

Later, when they ask him, all he will do is shrug and say, "There are sillier ways for the world to have ended."

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Red Spots on White Snow

Your fire is bright, child of apes, and so here I sit, in the dark, in the trees. I let my eyes flash, so! But I do not appear. You may waste your bullets on my shadow if you wish.

Yes, I know of bullets, and all your monkey tricks.

Perhaps I am not always as I am now. Perhaps I have other shapes, when it suits me. Perhaps you dined with me yesterday, shared a pint, all unaware.

I know secrets common dogs do not. I know fire. I know lies.

I know patience.

Your fire burns low, ape.

A Lesson in the Importance of Specificity

The demon gave us a tour while we waited for the Ambassador, fashionably late. "This," said the demon, gesturing to a rough sphere of pink flesh, "is a particular favorite. He wished that he would never die. Not to live eternally, mind, nor for stasis, but never, henceforth, to die. Thus it was simplicity itself to grant his desire."

The demon laid a clawed hand on the ball, dimpling its surface. "Every one of his cells is still here, and new ones come every day. I think eventually he will smother the universe. Yet even then, he will never die..."

Dawnlight Gleams on a Droplet of Poison

The scorpions danced at the gates of Tuad'hi, as they danced every morning when the Tail rose with the sun. Black and shining, it hovered overhead, poised to strike at the city's heart.

"It is a matter of great curiosity among your people, Professor," said Lufhal, tugging at his sand-mask, "whether the tail is a creature or a part of the land, a foe or a friend. But we who live in its shadow know better than to ask."

Professor Clarke swallowed and told himself his dry throat was due to heat. The scorpions clacked their pincers and danced on.

Labor-Saving Devices

Polly gazed skeptically at the conveyor belt and the arms that darted in and out with mechanical precision. "What if something goes wrong?"

"Then you push the red button and wait for help," said Foreman Oakes.

"But if it's just a little accident, I know how to change them..."

Oakes was already shaking his head. "You're just here to watch the robots. That's it. They handle everything."

"Okay." Polly sucked at her lower lip.

"It's better this way," said Oakes. "They're better at it."

Polly didn't answer, and for a few minutes, they watched the gurgling, happy babies gliding past.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


The translator stood beside the breakfast table, all spindly gray limbs. Chuck sat heavily in his chair.

"Morning," said Betsy. "I made pancakes."

"She greets you fondly," said the translator. "Though she knows it is irrational, she feels abandoned as you spend increasing amounts of time at work."

Chuck grunted.

"He remains groggy," said the translator, "and feels incapable of abstract emotional exchanges. He nonetheless greets you fondly. He would like three pancakes."

"This is so much easier," said Betsy, settling at the table. "Soon we won't need to speak at all!"

The translator smiled silently down at them both.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Meaning It

"I'm not going to work anymore," she said. "I'm going to werk."


"Werk. With an 'e'."

"What does it mean?"

"Um... eating ice cream! Today, anyway. I might make it mean something else tomorrow."

That was how it started. Soon everyone was 'eeting brekfust' or 'whashing dishiz.' Words meant anything they wanted. When no one could understand anything anyone said anymore, we went back to her.

"Halp," we told her.

She showed us a ball of dirt. It meant, "I can't help you. You have to solve it for yourselves. I love you all."

But we couldn't understand her.

Friday, September 16, 2011

New Old Kicks

"What are we even doing here?" I asked as we passed some scraggly wino. "You don't even smoke dope."

"We gotta come here. I can feel it," Eric said. He pointed. "There."

A tall, dark-haired man I'd never seen before nodded as if he recognized us. He held up a small glass tube, and suddenly I wanted that vial more than anything in the world. The man smiled as we stumbled toward him.

"It never fails," he said.

"What?" I panted. "What is it?"

"Quantum foam. Freebased. It burns backwards." He rattled the drug in his hands. "You're already addicted."


The orange-skinned invaders pushed in through the breach in the walls. Arcs of violet energy sparked overhead as the last of our defenders fell, senseless. Webs of alien force disabled our weapons. The alarm shrilled. Livy went for the trigger, the last-ditch suicide bomb, but she was too late. We were surrounded.

"So that's it," Ymir said. Crimson, three-fingered hands took his rifle away. "We're finished."

"No," the alien said. "Now the work can begin."

"Work?" Visions of chain gangs and salt mines flashed in my head.

"Yes," another alien burbled. "Medicine. Food. Rebuilding. This is our world, too, now."

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Machine That Made Clothes

He put the dog into the machine that made clothes and turned her into a jacket. When he wore it to work, everyone found themselves smiling at him and patting him on the back.

The next day, he put his daughter in the machine. The shirt she became was as pale as innocence and just a little sad, and he spent the day collecting ancient confessions and secret regrets.

Eventually, he ran out of things to put in the machine. He stood in front of it, wearing all of his new clothes, and he thought for a long, long time.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

One True Love

"I'd like a chance to be happy," I told the Lord of Love. 

"What?"  He rummaged in his box, pulling out slips of paper and muttering.  His voice was muffled.  He sounded distracted.  "You already had it.  Fluttering stomach, sweaty palms, music playing.  Your fault if you missed it."


He poked his head up.  "Don't tell me you bought that 'relationships are a process' mumbo jumbo.  It's one magic ticket and then poof.  That was my plan."

"There can't be much happiness around, in that case."

He grinned.  I felt my stomach lurch.  "No," he said.  "No, there isn't."

Friday, September 9, 2011


It had been happening for months.  The phone would ring just about two in the morning and, when Nismet picked it up, a raspy voice would say, "Tomorrow..." and hang up.  Nismet had started turning the ringer off when he went to bed.  If he hadn't been so tired when he got home from work, he wouldn't have forgotten to silence it.  But the Vickers account was coming due and everyone was pulling extra shifts. 

The phone startled him awake, right at two.  "I know," Nismet snapped into the headset.  "Tomorrow, tomorrow, always tomorrow."

"Yesterday," the voice croaked.

And disconnected.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Today's story also appears on the blog of impressively successful author and generally nice guy James Maxey, who held a 100-word story contest of sorts.  (The stories were just the entries in the raffle for a copy of his new book of short stories, "There Is No Wheel."  I won a copy, which I am looking forward to reading.)  James maintains at least two blogs and a truly hellacious pace of writing, most recently writing an entire novel in a week.  Dude is nuts.  Check his stuff out.


It's the small things that make a life. A chipped diamond ring found on a table tells a story. A sprinkle of glass and tire marks at an intersection tell a different one. Or the receipts in a library copy of "The Prince": lifts for shoes, a power tie, strawberry yogurt, and Taco Bell. Stained.

It's these tiny details that count, that make someone real. I think as many as half the people in the city are my creations, now.

Oh, don't look at me like that. I know you don't believe me. I know everything about you.

My child.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Any Port in a Storm

"Pa, you sure about this?"  Patience clutched her shawl around her, eyeing the tunnel nervously.  The Virginia woods were quiet around them, for now.

"This is where we was sent," Pa said.  "Any man stands against bondage is a friend of mine, no matter his roots."

"How egalitarian."  The voice slithered unexpectedly out of the darkness beside them.  "You will follow."  A hunched figure turned and made for the tunnel entrance.

"Wait," Patience called, surprising herself.  "Why?  Why help runaways?"

The moon caught a brief glint of red eyes, a bestial snout.  "We know what it is to be despised."

Something in a Prince Charming

"Look, Magic Fish, I don't think you understand," said Sven.  His ear flaps were undone, and the three smiling women were already sliding their hands into his down jacket.  They seemed unbothered by the frigid cold, despite their state of undress.

"You wished for love," said the fish, floating in the circle of dark water.  "Are they not beautiful?"

"Well," Sven coughed unhappily.  "I mean, there's other sorts of love, if you follow me."

The fish splashed vaguely.  "I don't even have external genitalia.  I don't have a clue what you mammals get so excited about in the first place."

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review of Daily Science Fiction's May Line-up at Diabolical Plots

Dustin Adams, under the banner of Frank Dutkiewicz' reviews, has given my story "As Fast As You Can" a Recommended rating over at David Steffen's Diabolical Plots.  Mine is about halfway down the page; the reviews are perforce somewhat short in general, as there are a great many stories, most of them barely a thousand words themselves.

A Few Errands

Visn paused upon entering the store.  He wasn't used to the full-body tactile sensations yet, although he was more-or-less a master of bipedal locomotion and a tolerably confident user of opposable thumbs. 

Visn consulted his list.  Pick up groceries.  He glanced around; the array of shelves was dizzying in sheer number.  He began to feel nervous.  Then he read farther.  "Eggs, milk, bread."  Visn relaxed and smiled.

He navigated to the dairy section, pondered his choices, and hefted one carton briefly before replacing it.  "This human thing is going to be a cinch," Visn said, beginning his search for eggs.