Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Unlimited Lives

Mario waved his arms, trying to explain. "It was the weirdest dream. All the colors were different, and I could move, but I wasn't moving because of buttons on a controller, you know? It was like... I was the controller, except there wasn't actually any controller at all."

"Dude," said Yoshi, "you can't move without a controller. That's what moving means."

"I know! But it's like... I didn't have to obey the controller anymore."

"You make it sound like the controller dictates our actions," Yoshi scoffed. "The button gets pushed because that's where we want to go. That's free will."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Where Shall I Turn?

When God came back, He wasn't what most people had been expecting. He packed up the planets and the stars, put the sun back in its box, and shook the ground out like a rug. He plucked out the trees and wrapped a rubber band around them, folded the mountains, and mopped up the sea with a sponge and a bucket. He coughed, then gathered up lives and souls, plucking them out and tossing them in glittering piles. When we shouted and cried out, He spared us a glance.

"Theft? Injustice?" He rumbled. "These are all mine. They always were."

Monday, June 27, 2011


Guzman swung the door open. "And this is where we store our vintages for aging." The shed was musty and dark, filled with row after row of casks.

Brioche tapped one of the barrels. It clanked dully. "Metal?"

"Titanium alloy."

"Isn't wood more usual? I'd think you'd have trouble with the flavor, with corrosion..."

Guzman nodded. "We've had to find a workaround for some of that, yes, but it's necessary given the unique properties of our materials."

Brioche knocked at the cask more strongly, brow wrinkled in confusion. Under Brioche's hand, the surface shuddered under a return blow.

From inside.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

First Contact

The speakers growled and chattered gibberish. "Someone tell me what I'm listening to," said MacMullan.

"Well, we keep watch on a number of frequency bands, as you know..." Vittier began.

MacMullan snapped his fingers. "Skip it. Digest version."

"It's a signal that appears, to our best calculations, to be originating from somewhere in Ontario." Vittier pointed to the map. "We're not sure how they boosted the signal so much. It's aimed at SZ104.5.12, an A-class main sequence star. It... it seems to have been answered. We intercepted a response."

"Someone's communicating with ETs?"

"Yes, sir." Vittier coughed. "In Klingon."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Train a Child Up in the Way He Should Go

A man can bend a tree if a child but bends a twig. That, Grigor reflected, was the simple truth of it. A child exposed to a variety of foods learned to enjoy exotic flavors. A child encouraged to ask questions learned curiosity and creativity. Harshness and discipline begat austerity; love begat kindness. Thus the cycle continued.

"Pay attention," said Grigor. He placed an eighteen-inch piece of sharpened wood into Toby's pudgy hands. He pushed a button, and the next slide popped onto the screen. "We'll start with an easy one. Notice the pale skin and, most importantly, the teeth..."

Because They're So Delicious

"Rrragh! Mmnomnomnom." Jackie popped the little yellow cracker into his mouth and crunched happily.

"I don't get why they have little eyes and mouths now," said Beverly. "It's weird."

"It's the snack that smiles back!" said Dom. "Every two-year-old loves them."

"Everything has a face on it these days. The mascots are just the food with googly eyes drawn on."

Dom ate a cracker reflectively. "Everyone needs to eat someone sometimes, I guess."

Jackie snatched up another goldfish, bouncing excitedly in his high chair. The trembling of the crackers that remained could just have been aftereffects of those vibrations.

"Grar!" said Jackie.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


The pickup truck purred softly to itself, halogen bulbs illuminating the road ahead. Buck scratched under his hat. Toby was poking at a flaccid, greenish lump, its tentacles sprawled across the center line.

"What're you gonna do?"

"We're rich, Buck." Toby looked up, eyes gleaming. "We killed us an alien."

"Ain't nobody gonna pay for no flat aliens, Toby. They want 'em alive. And what if it's got friends? Angry friends."

Toby grunted and stood. "Shit. Could be messy." He snapped his fingers. "I got it! We ain't killed an alien, Buck."

"We ain't?"

"Nope. We ran over a critter."

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Boy Who Never Grew Up

"The worst part is knowing it's even possible, y'know, doc?" The youth scrunched into the overstuffed chair. "If I went off my meds, even for a day, I could fly again. I feel it, even if I don't believe it. That's what really bothers me."

"And have you had any more... hallucinations?" asked the psychiatrist.

"No," Peter lied, glaring at the fluttering fairy over the doctor's shoulder.

"Good. Well, we'll see you next week, okay?" He began shuffling papers – the traditional end to their sessions. Peter wasn't watching. He was staring at the window.

"I don't believe that," he whispered.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

To Worship the Traitor King

Vyrin pressed the knife against Cayra's throat, drawing a red line. "True betrayal reverses all intentions, all loyalties; the Turnabout King always wins; that is why I will survive when you have not."

He backed away. The rest of the party watched in agonized silence, unwilling to risk Cayra's life.

"Idiots," Vyrin sneered as he reached the stairwell. His arm moved sharply. Everyone shouted. Vyrin's face paled.

Cayra danced out of the circle of Vyrin's arms. He slumped to his knees, his knife stained with his own blood.

"How?" he gurgled.

"You said it yourself," said Cayra. "Every intention reversed."

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Million Ducks and a Twelve-Inch Pianist

The world was filled with peas, mountains and fields covered in tiny spheres. Windows had burst. Cars were stalled. Muffled voices emerged where the unlucky had been caught outside, unawares. Everything smelled green.

In a small room that had once been a bar, two men and a woman were buried waist-deep in legumes. Thousands upon thousands of happily quacking mallards surrounded them. The woman held a battered Arabian-style brass lamp. One of the men carried a miniature piano and a tiny tuxedo-clad man, like a living doll.

"After the first two," said the bartender, "I would've thought you'd know better."

Thursday, June 16, 2011


"I am cursed," said the drunk man. He lifted his gray head, blinking muzzily. "I have visions; I see the future."

"Did no one believe your prophecies?" said the other... man? Woman?

"Bah!" The drunk sneered. "I made no prophecies. They wouldn't have listened. Why would anyone believe me? No, it has been my lot to drown my sorrows and suffer my visions alone."

"I have the gift of hindsight," said the other. "Let me show you." A single, pale finger touched the drunk's sweaty forehead. His eyes widened.

"Oh, God," he said. "I... I didn't know."

"You could have."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Simple Machines

"Gravity doesn't stop. It's exponential," said Newton. "Everything is falling, all the time."

"I'm not!" said the Quark.

"You don't count," snapped Newton. "It only stops when the force is countered. You don't stand on the ground; the ground holds you up. And even that is illusory because whatever holds you is falling, too. What was it Archimedes said? A long enough lever and a place to stand can move the world?" For a brief moment, Newton tumbled headlong in silence and darkness. Or, for all he knew, flew perfectly straight. "It's the place to stand that's really the problem."

The Twenty-Eighth Floor

"There's a couple things you gotta know about the Tesseract Building, Shorty," said Rowlie, winching down to the next floor and spraying foam onto the glass. "One, there's a vicious cross-breeze comes through here, 'specially in summertime."

They started scraping the foam away, gradually revealing the interior. Shadows shifted in the unused office. Shorty abruptly realized that the was not seeing a darkened room, but some opaque, glistening body pressed against the glass, a pulsing red mass... like a tongue... A huge exhalation of breath fogged the window from the inside. Shorty dropped his scrubber.

"That's the other," said Rowlie.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Merest Fraction of a Soul

"I don't know about this," said Brenda. She glanced nervously behind her as the incubus pushed her chair in. He winked.

"Hon, it's fine," said Jon. "It's like fast food. A little bit every now and then won't hurt much."

"But it does hurt?"

"Madam," said their waiter, materializing in a puff of brimstone, "there is no pain at all here. We offer the finest earthly pleasures in a strict transactional mode. The most succulent meats, the most delicate glazes..."

"I'm vegetarian."

"How wise. Healthy and moral." The waiter smiled, revealing razor teeth. "Shall we start with a salad, then?"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Just Not All That Impressive

"I was expecting, y'know, black robes and a scythe. Like, a skeleton and a horse and stuff?" Ria waved her hand vaguely.

"Sorry," said Entropy.

"Or, I mean, okay, death and chaos, so like colors and 'woah, crazy!' and bouncing around all over the place?"

"No," said Entropy. "It's just me."

"But you're so... gray." Ria examined him critically. "Aren't you the ultimate end? The heat-death of the universe? The final conqueror?"

"Yes." Entropy shrugged. "I don't really do much. I don't have to. I just... wait."

"Doesn't it get boring?"

Entropy considered this. "I don't know," he said at last.


"This is the newest model," said the salesman. A red-skinned demon clung to the top, tiny ebony claws blending with the perfect blackness of the screen. "It uses quantum computing and has tons of, um, memory gigs. Very fast. Very powerful."

The imp cocked its head and stared at Brad. "When the world burns, I will lick the filth from your intestines."

"That, um, that's just quantum... foam... flux," the salesman explained. "You should disregard anything it says. Standard quirk. The perils of early adoption!" He chuckled weakly.

The imp's tongue was black. It blinked in time with Brad's heartbeats.

The Last Comic

Grady was drawing his webcomic by firelight. Eeny, Meeny, and Big Crunch were arguing, like always.

'Rock is best,' said Big Crunch, predictably.

'Scissors!' cried Meeny.

'Paper is the scariest,' said little Eeny. Grady drew Eeny's eyes very large. 'Paper is sharper than knives, but it fits through the smallest crack. Paper can carry the orders to advance. Or to launch...'

Grady stopped drawing. The fire would burn out by morning. Not that he'd see sunrise through the radioactive dust cloud, of course. He crumpled the comic and threw it into the flames.

He couldn't think of a punchline anyway.

The Spaces Between the Spaces

"Behold!" said Doctor Geisteskrank.

"It's a pile of dirt," said Bartlett. He blinked. "Er... with a hole in it." More holes appeared as he watched, visible through the glass like ant-farm tunnels.

"Quantum moles," said Doctor Geisteskrank. "If subatomic particles can move without passing through the intervening space, then it follows that something must be making the tunnels for them. Quod erat demonstratum."

"So... they tunnel through anything?"


"I notice you've stored them next to the power source for the piranha-bear containment grid."


"Nothing," Bartlett sighed, as the lab plunged into darkness and the alarms began to sound.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pre-Loaded with Audiobooks

Claire hovered at the edge of the alley. Eventually, the dealer sidled up to her. He'd known she was there all along, but he liked to make them wait.

"You lookin' for a high, little girl?" He tugged his coat open and revealed the rows of sneakers and replacement laces lining the inside. "Shorts, socks, the works. Sweatbands, even."

"I've got all that," Claire said. "But it's just not enough anymore."

"Oh, an expert, huh? I got something real special for hardcore runners." He reached into a pocket and retrieved a slender silver music player. "You can go for hours."

Neon Orange Death

Down they went, through the layers of Parmesan and Romano, down into the depths. At any moment, the crust could open beneath their feet and dump them into a simmering pool of hot brie, or a pocket of soft Limburger might shift and bring down an entire branch, trapping the miners in the fetid, redolent darkness until their inevitable suffocation. Most feared of all was the toxic byproduct of the ore-refining process. It leached into the moon's surface before catalyzing the cheese into a high-pressure pocket, ready to be unleashed by a stray pickaxe strike.

They called it "the Whiz."

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Trail Behind, the Trial Ahead

"We're well out of that," said Professor-Doctor-Master Bartolomeo, removing his armored cap. "No more venom monkeys."

Vittri, who had doffed his own the moment they floated above the treetops again, forked another morsel of vaporgrass up to Gordo, their bloatfrog. Gordo's prehensile tongue snatched it up, and they lost a bit of altitude as he farted happily. "We got away clean, sir, and clear sailing ahead. Nought but ocean now."

Bartolomeo froze in polishing his glasses. "Ocean, did you say?"

"Yes, sir."

"Quick, lad! The fender paddles!"

"Why, sir?"

Bartolomeo pointed down, where needlelike forms leapt amid the waves. "Pokefish!"


Hey, you know what happens when the internet connection at the office goes down over the weekend? Jack diddly, which means we get two of our four 12-hour shifts completely unconnected, which means even though *I had this written in time for Friday*, I couldn't post it until today. Grr.

The quest ended as it had begun, in a dusty, disused room in the bottom of a library.

"At last," Cal whispered, lifting the book from the stone sarcophagus that had contained it. "At last I will know." He brushed his hand across the embossed cover, curiously warm. "I'll know what this has all been about. My life until now will finally have meaning." He opened the cover. His expression froze.

The frontispiece was a map of the library and its grounds. Cal's route inside was clearly marked. Below, in faded script, were the words: "This is where it begins."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Illusionist

"Now be sure, ladies and gentlemen, to watch my hands closely. I don't want to fool you. I want you to know. We have here a simple deck of cards. Examine it, by all means. Observe the table, solid above and beneath." He rapped the wooden surface. It echoed.

"There is nothing up my sleeves." He rolled up his sleeves, and there was... nothing. Emptiness. It hurt to look at.

"Remember, please," said the magician, as his clothes sagged and crumpled to the floor, as his face grew translucent and his voice attenuated, "that I have never lied to you..."

Business Envelops

By the time the firefighters arrived, the office park was gone. There was no sign of a fire.

"Huh. Weird," said Lewis. The only thing remaining was a small cardboard box and a handful of white rectangles scattered around it. "Ha! Look at this. Some knockoff brand misspelled 'envelopes.'" He picked up one of the fallen papers and began to open it.

Moving swiftly, Rupert knocked it from Lewis' hand.

Lewis glared. "What gives?"

"I want to stay employed," said Rupert. "It might think the fire department is a 'business,' too."

Around them, the envelopes quietly digested their latest meal.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ultimate Justice Team

The alarm went off in headquarters. The viewscreen flashed a stylized hamburger, an angry red. The Carnivore Alarm. The Hanky-Panky and Rudeness alarms remained silent.

"Someone in Des Moines killed a cat to eat," Cosmique said, reading the data. "Is this really what we need to address?"

Omega sat in his metal captain's chair. "There is no war. There is no crime. The world is at peace. We laid out the rules. We made it perfectly clear, and yet they persist in misconduct." He stood, smoldering with his undying alien energy. "We will teach them, yet again, until they learn."

And the Sky and the Ground and the Cold, Cold Air

He sat on the floor of his apartment. The wind whistled through the window, cold and taunting. He had no furniture. The carpet in the corner was torn up a little at the edges, but his bleeding fingers had failed at the task in the end, leaving crimson smears on the padding. He stared outside. There were sirens now, on the street where his furnishings were piled and smashed from the fall. He had not achieved lift. He was still too heavy.

He looked around. The bare apartment contained nothing else.

He stood. He breathed in.

He began to run.