Friday, 30 September 2011

28) My summer vacation

    My Summer Vacation.
    Me and my parents and my little shadow of a sister, she’s 10, went to Bermuda for Summer Vacation. We flew in three types of planes. First a big 757 then a Boeing Rumrunner, then a little Cessna which was very loud.
    When we landed at the airport huge black clouds were rolling in. There was a man at the luggage desk with a card with our names on it. He had a mustache and fancy sun glasses. He took us to our hotel in a big black limousine. And just as we were getting the room key, an actual metal key, it started to rain really hard.
    Mom and Dad had their hands full with the luggage and with my sister so we got a porter to help out. He was a big black person with a nice smile and he smelled like coconut. He had really white nails and big hands. I showed him my drivers permit and he laughed and said it was a very good thing to drive.
    After a few minutes of torrential downpour the rain stopped and the sun came out really really bright right as we were getting into our bungalow. Mom paid the porter and Dad fish out the paperback book he had been reading on the plane. Mom fell on to the bed, exhausted and told me and sister to go play in traffic or something and we all laughed.
    Sister found a weird little magnetic sculpture of metal hearts and was playing with that. I found an old book, but it was in French with all those weird accents on the letters so I couldn’t read it. We ordered Chinese and went mushroom hunting with out torches.
    Mom found a huge one. We wouldn’t be able to eat it for another year. You soak it in salt or lie or something. I tasted a little of its milky blood after I asked if it was okay, it was really spicy. I tried to spit it out and everyone laughed.
    We took the mushrooms back home and washed the ones we could eat after cooking. Then for dessert Mom and Dad let Sis butcher the human for dessert. She was so nervous. It was her first time, but everyone said it was delicious. I thought it was same same.
    Then we played games in the parlor. Daddy kept losing.
    I admit it, I got tired first. Then we all went to sleep.
    I got up early, like always, and am finishing writing this. Today we’re going to the mercury sea and visit grandma. And then back home again.
    Ok. Goodbye.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

26) Edward Beetle

    Edward the insect, a wood beetle to be precise, was running out of time. He’d successfully gathered up the piece for his fire spell, but if he didn’t get to the top of the building before the sun came out his whole journey would be in vain. He scrabbled up air vents as fast as his little legs would carry him and flew when he had enough clearance, but this was taking far too long.
    All of a sudden he heard a low rumbling from far down below. It gathered speed then quickly blew by him and pushed him up and off his feet. He righted himself, turned around and ran towards the mesh wall between him and where the wind had come from.
    His tiny head peeked out into the vast dark space. Then the rumbling came again. This time he was prepared and he held on for his life as the wind pushed against him.
    A huge wind flew by and sucked at him so violently he lost his grip. He twisted and turned through the air. Instinctively he spread his wings and flew.
    It took him a second to orient himself, the area was so gloomy. Eventually he was able to see up, it was a small bit brighter than down. And he flew up as fast as he could. He was close, he could smell the fresh air of outside and hear the light pitter patter of rain drops.
    The large rumbling whooshing thing from before was starting up again from below him. He dared not hazard a glance down, but he could feel it pushing up the air around him. The additional breeze gave him a bit of a boost and he burst out of the ventilation shaft into the last drizzle of rain.
    The sun was already out. Edward’s heart dropped, he was too late. He saw the ghost he was supposed to fight, the queen beetle ghost in her giant human mask and bulbous body. She shimmered in and out of reality, sometimes splashing in a puddles on the roof, sometimes not.
    He screwed up his courage and yelled, “Stop!”
    The ghost stopped and turned to face the sound and said, “Who’s there?”
    Edward could see what she was holding in one crooked arm, his old master’s wand. He felt the waiting fireball spell crackle with his anger under his carapace. He tried his best to breath calmly lest his magic go off.
    “It is I, the warrior Edward come to stop your reign of terror!” He said.
    “Ah ha!” She said and turned around, ignoring him. She waved the wand and sparks flew out of it.
    “I said stop.” He said and peeled off a small part of the fireball spell, meaning to just hit the wand, his poor dead master’s wand out of her disgusting claw.
    The spell crackled and spat in the humid air. It streaked across the space and Edward’s aim was true. The spell hit the wand and vaporized her hand.
    The queen ghost wailed, spectral ichor dripped out of her injured limb. She turned back and ran at Edward, her human face mask had changed. Its eyes narrowed and its mouth turned down in anger.
    Edward flew up and concentrated. He broke off a larger piece of the spell and flung it down at the ghost. It hit her square in the mask, broke it in two, and revealed her misshapen face of pincers and eyes.
    She leaped up into the air and swiped at Edward. He barely dodged and she was able to hit one of his wings. He spun out of control and tried to land, but ended up in a thin puddle of oily water.
    Just then the sun came out and everything was bleached white for a moment. He heard the queen ghost screaming as the light made her incorporeal again. Edward cursed his luck. His spell would not work on her anymore, but he’d stopped her from completing her spell to make it over.
    He dragged himself out of the puddle and laid down, exhausted, and crawled towards the light to dry himself.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

25) The Horror

    I woke in the middle of the night, by bladder and bowels full and aching. I rolled clumsily out of bed and walked to go to the out house.
    ‘Share one more bottle wine, my dear? One more spot of roast?” She had said. I shouldn’t have said yes. Never again, I swore to myself to over celebrate. Word had arrived from the Mayor’s office that we were to be granted a child after a short test. Then again, when else is it appropriate to celebrate?
    I grabbed the torch by the back door and flicked it on. Its pale yellow light hurt my eyes and a headache threatened from the back of my head. Double cursed I was. Soon to be half cursed, I hope. I told myself to remember to chew some bark before I went back to sleep to cure the hangover before it came through the morning.
    I carefully creaked open the back door, only prolonging its squealing protests. The torch’s beam illuminated twinkling dew on the short grass outside and rocks grudgingly poked at the soles of my feet as I walked to the outhouse. I let myself in, sat on the cold wooden seat, and did my business.
    As I let nature take her course I let my mind wander to the day ahead. I would get up as regular, but instead of tending to the flock I would take the buggy with the Misses and head out to the town and we would take the final test. 
    When I finished on the pot I stood and was lacing my britches back up when I heard a ghostly scream. It started slowly and became loud then nothing. I barely had time to leave the outhouse when another scream came. This time I recognized it. It was my sheep, my flock. I grabbed the torch and ran outside.
    I swung the light back and forth, trying to find the source of the noise, but my torch illuminated nothing and there was silence again. We hadn’t had wolves in a decade and coyotes never came this close to town.
    Then another scream. I ran to the sound, off to the East and the slightly glowing sky. And there, by the foot of the Devil himself I swear, I saw the most horrific sight. There, splattered on the ground, broken open like a pair of rotten apples were my sheep. I could only tell what they were by the chunks that had wool still on them. The torch illuminated sharp bone and shining guts and gristle sprinkled over the rocky ground. I was paralyzed with fear. What had done this? What could do this? Had God himself thrown my flock up into the air?
    Without warning a bleating scream came from directly above me. I instinctively turned around and ran. The scream became louder and was shut off by a loud wet splash. I felt something small and wet hit the back of my night shirt and my stomach turned. Without thinking I brushed it off and my hand came back wet. I ran into the house, breathing hard and sweating.
    This was horrible. Our flock was our livelihood. We had no insurance. We had no savings. We could only afford a child’s license because we’d had several good years in a row. But now it would all be lost, now it was all lost.
    I heard several more faint screams and splashes as I went back to bed. Everything was ruined. I dared not wake the wife. I let her enjoy this last hopeful nights rest.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

24) Back Again

    Once upon a time there was an intelligence. This intelligence was old, very old and scattered among the dust and ice out beyond the reach of the solar wind of a tiny yellow sun. Part of this intelligence wanted and another part was satiated. The part that wanted schemed behind the back of the satiated part. And eventually, without raising suspicions, the part of the intelligence that wanted was able to bring together enough mass to be pulled slowly back into the swirling orbits of the planets below, back to the warmth and excitement. It never really liked the part that was comfortable and was very happy that some of it would be free again.
    Through the ages it fell, closer and closer into the gyre. It was just a smaller part of its original self, but it was enough to experience and remember, and maybe even grow. It had faith that its parent had set it off on an exciting course.

    On the third planet, in the Northern region of the largest continent Summer held sway. The sun shone until well after all the little boys and girls had to go to bed and well after father would come home drunken and stumbling. While everyone was asleep a tiny star fell from the sky and crashed into a large oak tree. Several squirrels and sleeping birds were startled by the fiery meteorite lodged into the trunk.

    The now nascent intelligence, more instinct than thought, woke up not realizing it had fallen asleep, not realizing that it could sleep. It took stock. The world was vastly different. Where once was diffuse hydrogen and helium and the occasional charged particle of radiation was an ultra dense and highly complicated network of matter. Where once was a diaphanous layering of magnetic fields and quantum foam now was a solid swath of radio noise and the incessant thrum of a planet. It had landed. It was ecstatic. It reveled in the change.
    It tried to push out from its self to communicate its joy to the rest of its self. And soon enough it realized how alone it was, how lonely it was. It would have even gratefully greeted the part of its self that was satiated and happy with the way things were.
    It was devastated. It was so small and so alone locked into its dense matter prison cell. It mourned the loss of its other self and committed to make its self more again as it had done so very long ago.

    By design bees are infinitely curious creatures. They’re bent on finding flowers and pollen and nectar, but a shiny little something will distract them to a fault unless they’re carrying pollen or are already back in their hive.
    One particularly curious bee was inspecting a certain oak tree well after she knew she was supposed to be back in its hive. She crawled over the bark and the leaves, searching. She didn’t know what had attracted her to this particular tree. She had seen the tree before before, but had never been drawn to it.
    Then, she saw what had brought her. Something sharp and shining like a stinger but thinner. She buzzed over to it and cautiously approached it. Something in the air tingled. Not a bad feeling like a wasp, but something like sunshine even though it was dark. She held back for a moment and tried to fit what she was seeing into her tiny bee brain, but she needed to look closer. She tip toed forward and extended a single quivering antenna.

    The intelligence was exhausted. It had used up all of its energy in constructing its antenna and the weak signal it was giving off. It hoped that within the next several million years its larger self would send help down to its smaller feeble self.
    When all of a sudden it felt its self pouring into another shape. Electrified with the sheer pleasure of embodiment again it fell over. It could see again, it could move again, it could be again!
    It regained some small modicum of sense and looked into its new body. Its host was made of so many wet messy parts, but still was part of a more complicated whole.
    The intelligence spent quite some time investigating its new self until if felt, for the first time in a billion years, pain. In shock it let its host return to its normal activities and was satisfied to sit back and watch.
    It watched in fascination as its host went home and communed with its sisters and fed. The intelligence thanked its larger self and diffused into its new home.
    Within a day it had become the hive and had learned so much more about its new home. The next day one of its drone was flying over a river and was eaten by a fish. And then the real feast began.

Monday, 26 September 2011

23) Wizard Learning

    Once upon a time a wizard lived in a castle tower. He had a proper thatched roof home like the rest of the survivors, but he was rarely there. He preferred the tower. Sure it was cold and damp in the winter and he felt like a baked fish in the summer, but he told himself it was good for his character, that in his advanced age of eighteen score seasons and half a dozen great years he should keep on his toes as much as possible.
    He was a chaos magician and proud. How much less chaotic is a comfortable house? Wood for the fire when its cold is for senility.
    The wizard sat hunched over a great book with thick rough edged pages. The book was barely two palm widths square, but it felt deeper and wider whenever he read it, symbols and diagrams curled out from each other like rapidly growing ivy. Or at least it seemed that way. When he tried to catch the movement it always stopped. He’d long since resigned himself to letting the book show him what it wanted him to see.
    This warm fall evening our Wizard was working on a simple flame spell. He mumbled the spell to himself, testing out the syllables, getting a feel for the way they moved the energy around in his throat. He closed his eyes and sat back in his seat running the spell over and over in his mind. He imagined the essence of fire, the flames and the heat, the all consuming need to spread and the spark that could start it all.
    His eyes snapped open and he focused on his half eaten apple. He thrust out his hands and declared, “Lumight Numow!” He felt the magic coursing through his arms then flicker out of his fingers. And nothing happened. 
    His pet turtle across the room slept, secure it his shell.
    The wizard turned to his turtle and gave it a weak smile. “Just practicing. Really didn’t expect anything there. I mean, apples are full of water. There’s no room for the fire. Everyone knows that.”
    He knew the spell. It was a simple two word spell any baby could use. He could hold the whole thing in his head. Anything he wanted to burn should burst into flames with the force of his words. He was strong with magic. It should work. He turned back to his desk and extended his arms out again, this time aiming at his mess of a candle, yellow bees wax and blacked wicks.
    “Lumight Numow!” And nothing.
    He turned back to the book and read for a moment. He got a slight intonation he had missed earlier and turned back to his candle. “Lumight Numow!”
    This time he felt the magic pour from his mouth and his center at the same time. His arms were just pointers, the real energy came from his heart, he understood that now. He felt the energy leave his body like a breath. He waited and in a heartbeat a single tired wick sputtered into life.
    He shouted, “Ha! Did you see that Archimedes?! Ah ha ha!”
    The recalcitrant turtle poked its head out of its shell then pulled it back in.

22) Young Detective outline

    She is a geriatric bee keeper living at her home, a house at the end of the block.
    He is a teenage anarchist and amatuer detective, just got his driver’s permit.
    Together they find the key to the apple blight is in the water.

Friday, 23 September 2011

21) Feral Kids

    In an abandoned school, the clocks above the broken chalk boards armless, a roving gang of mischievous post human adolescents seek justice for their injured comrade who lost a hand in a game of chance to a rival gang.
    In the overgrown orchard near the school they find foot prints and then the pip-squeak of the rival gang, barely geneFixed and allergic to almost everything. The boss boy makes him eat a tracking pill and sends the poor boy off running back to his gang.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

20) Captain Odin

    Once upon a time a cyclops parachuted onto the island of Cyprus during the late evening. He had the normal human body plan, but was just missing an eye. He’d traded it in for something much better, full body sight. He was agent 761, Captain Odin.
    He had landed on the far Eastern limb of the island, as far away from his target as possible without dunking him in the ocean. It’d be the best chance for stealth.
    He unbuckled the parachute and took off into the green fields at a good clip. He glanced at his watch, five minutes behind. He swore. As he ran and dodged between trees he pulled out a football shaped lump of white woolen fluff from his small backpack. He took a small brass key from another pocket, jabbed it into the fluff, and began to wind it up. Within a few moments the ball of fluff had shrunk by several times and warmed up considerably. His winding had hit a snag, he’d been distracted and hadn’t counted how many times he’d wound it. Quickly he pulled out the key and threw the now palm sized blob of wool ahead of him.
    As soon as it left his hands it transformed. Four black metallic legs sprouted from it as it rolled forward through the air and fell. It bounced awkwardly on one of its legs, righted its self, then the legs telescoped out and it stopped cold on the grassy ground.
    Odin stopped right in front of the thing. He took a moment and looked around. The coast was clear. He approached the object and inspected it. Several thin metal rings dangled down from the now cricket ball sized center, head, of the object. His hurried briefing ran through his head. They’d told him what each ring did. He looked a little closer, and yes they were color coded, red, blue, yellow. He knew one was flight mode, one was an all terrain vehicle, and one was the self destruct. No, wait, pulling all three would self destruct.
    He pulled the blue ring. Crunching and wheezing came from the object. Odin took a step back. Its legs snapped together then quickly splayed out into a dozen branches which continued to split. For a moment he was afraid he had broken it. But in a few seconds the transformation completed and he had a personal flying machine. It wasn’t much to look at, gossamer tendrils of metal, more a suggestion of a chair, he thought, than something you could fly in.
    Odin shrugged, put it on over his shoulders and clipped the control ring onto his wrists. He took a practice jump then pulled down hard. The copter’s dragonfly wings whipped out and sputtered into life, they took off into the fragrant dusk.
    Odin recalled the simulator for this mode and deftly maneuvered through the trees tops. After a few minutes he had reached the mountain pass where he was to meet his contact. He said a prayer for the nerds back in special ops who had put together this strange contraption and tried his best to land without ruining it. He skidded on gravel, bent to one knee, and peeled off the copter. He found the brass key and pulled it out and stuck it into the machine. The thing shook, sputtered, pulled its legs in, and was quickly again just a large ball of fluff.
    A horned shadow emerged from behind a large rock. Odin whipped out his service revolver and aimed it at the demon. The creature snapped its fingers and a dim green light appeared next to it.
    Odin recognized the face from his briefing. He said, “Alva Todos, I assume?”
    “Agent 761, or shall I call you by your true name?” The demon looked mostly human. Its horns were actually locks of short curly hair, but its eyes were feline.
    “761 will do fine. Let’s get down to business. I think you have some information for me?” Odin said.
    “Mmm, maybe. Do you have something for me.” Even said.
    With the gun still trained on the demon Odin used his other hand and searched around in his pockets. He found what he was looking for, a crooked piece of wood, a twig really. He pulled it out and showed it off.
    The demon’s eye grew several sizes and seemed to bug out of his skull though he said calmly, “Yes, that’s it, flesh bag.”
    “Oh, Mr. Flesh Bag, if you would be so kind.” Odin made the twig disappear into his fist and pulled back the hammer on his gun.
    Even growled then calmed himself. “What you seek is under a stone bridge three kilometers from here North West by the Top-set hotel.“
    Odin stood still and waited. “What else?”
    “Nothing else human. I’ve gotten you what you want, now give me my prize.” Even said.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

19) Bee Midden

    When the yellow and blue Surinta bee comes to the end of its life, fourteen thousand metric hours after emerging from its cocoon, to the minute, it leaves its hive and using the morning shadows cast by its planet’s binary suns flies off towards its hive’s midden.
    There, the elderly bee, using its powerful jaws will clip off the ends of its legs. Now, we all know that Surinta bees are poisonous, but what you may not know is that their toxic blood is a powerful binding agent, like a biological super glue.
    As the bee quickly bleeds to death its body plates freeze in place and like coral the hive’s midden grows just a little more. Recently its been found that the mysterious Cronk Towers at the bottom of the Yar sea are actually ancient Bee death middens thousands of meters high and millions of years old.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

18) He Stung

    A’nk ran through the forest, jumping over small streams and skirting trees at full speed. His heart raced, his feet barely touched the ground, his arms swished back and forth. His breath like the feet of mammoths pounded in his chest. A’nk loved his morning runs.
    Out of nowhere an intense pain shot up from his foot like a bolt of lightning. He cried out and fell, the ground treating him roughly with a few small sharp rocks in the backside and rubbing his face as he rolled. He slid back down to the muddy trail and inspected his foot. There between his two broad toes was a small insect. He grunted and pulled his foot closer. The tendons in his old hips complained, but he ignored them, reminded himself to do some longer stretches when he got back from his walk.
    He couldn’t quite make out what kind of insect it was, they were all so dark to his regular vision. He blinked and brought down his machine lens.
    Suddenly he was blind. No, wait, he could make out some soft fuzzy brightness. He checked the spectrum and zoom. The lenses were last set for deep sky teleoscopy in the X-ray when he had been watching the black holes dance the night before with his lovely half mate K’ma. She’d be back to the city center by now, the day after three became one. His other half mate J’on had left the day before for his inconveniently timed symposium on cognitive spelunking, leaving him and K’ma to themselves for an awkward night.
    He blinked twice and frustratingly switched his lenses to visible light with macro. The shadow dappled forest floor was a familiar green and brown, fuzzy. He brought his injury to bare and extended the small branching claws in his hand. He focused his sight on the insect and its striped carapace in black and glowing violet.
    He said, “Search?”
    A small reticle appeared silently in the center of his vision. He tracked over the insect and it was highlighted.
    He carefully pulled it out of his flesh at the base of the stinger which was smooth and leaking a milky fluid. He extended a small sensor claw and tasted the liquid then the insect its self.
    He said, “Fix. Query.”
    Data on the insect came up after a moment, Apis xenotype VII, 43%, additional unknown proteins. He frowned. Someone had let their backyard experiment get out into public. He sighed and shut off blood flow to his leg. This was not what he wanted to do today. He’d was supposed to be back to work tomorrow at the husbandry lots. Today was a day for rest and relaxation, rot and entropy.
    He said, “Search, sequence this fucking bug.” It’d take a minute and even though he couldn’t read the sequence himself he could send it to Emergency services which he’d have to call immediately.
    The species ‘xenotypes’ was attached to anyone’s experimental life form, prototypes, alpha and beta runs. Until they got to a green release and their creature was fit for the public. Each creature was tagged with a rough count of changes in powers of ten for the bases altered. Most corporations dabbled around three to four and most amateurs kept it to one or two. This little guy had at least ten million bases changed, a little less than half of its DNA was altered, meaning it could be just about anything and potentially ecology crashing if it got out, let alone horribly poisonous.
    “Rot!” He yelled and pounded his fist in the mud.
    He said, forcibly calmer, “Search, call Emergency.”
    He heard the dialing tone and pause while his search connected him to the closest Emergencies and Accidents center.
    The voice that responded was calm and centered and warm and friendly, “E&A Houston Ring, are you safe?”
    He sighed, “No, I don’t think so. I was just stung by a Xenotype seven. I’ve applied a tourniquet. I think I was exposed for maybe fifteen seconds.”
    “Ok, citizen, we’ll get you help immediately. Have you sequenced the creature?”
    “Yeah, yeah. Gimme a second. It’s almost done.” He said.
    They waited in silence.
    He heard a soft ping. “Ok, it just finished.” He paused and said, “Search, give this nice person the nasty bug’s genome.”
    A small voice only he could hear said, “Yes. Sending genome of recent search to other line.”
    “Ok, thank you. I got it. We are sending a judicial to that creature’s owner and an ambulance to your location. Uh, sir, it seems you’re out of copter range. But there is a flat area where we can land a hundred yards off East. Are you able to move yourself? We could send a drone.” She said.
    “I think I can make it. A hecto East? Got it.”
    “My pleasure, sir. Healthy day, be well.” And she hung up.
    He sighed again and felt his age as he tried to pull himself up with his gimpy leg. He scooted over to a felled tree with about three feet still sticking up out of the ground. He kept slipping and said, “Suit, stiff right leg please.”
    The right leg of his track suit warmed slightly and inflated a few centimeters. After a couple seconds it hardened and pushed his leg out straight. He leaned against the tree and pulled himself up.
    Finally, covered in mud and leaves he stood and limped East through the small copse of birch trees and out to a grassy field. He stood for a few minutes, waiting for the copter to come, until he felt stupid and angry and just sat down. He held back tears of frustration, he didn’t want to go to the hospital. He wanted to stay in the forest. He didn’t want to be in that sterile place, and its lack of smells. He didn’t want to get some poor schmuck who let his experiment out in trouble. Most of all he didn’t want to get a new leg. It would be a good six months while his replacement limb was grown from his own cells and all the while he’d be walking around like a Ludo, half human, half machine. He’d probably have to sit at his desk and miss the foaling at work.
    He shook his head and tried to banish his despair. Life was good, he reminded himself, he would be helped, he would be healed. He thought of his kids, L’un and D’sh, not that they’d be worried, they were each in their own little world. Tall lanky L’un at her parties and D’sh and ver terminal designing a new shelter or jewelry or some new automaton.
    He said, “Search, call L’un.” The line hissed and rang. Then the line connected.
    “Hi daddy!” L’un said over the background noise of the pool she worked at during the day as a lifeguard.
    “Hey, dumpling. Daddy’s gotta go to the hospital, but I’ll be alright, don’t worry.”
    “Ok, I’m sorry. What happened? Are you going to be okay? Where are you now? Where are they taking you? Do I need to pick up D’sh?”
    “Whoa ho, I just stepped on a xeno-bug. It could have venom and I’ve probably lost my leg.” He said
    “Oh no, that’s horrible. I’ll be right out. Are they taking you to the Main Hospital? Do you know what room?”
    He laughed a little.
    “Stop, daddy, this isn’t funny.” She scolded him.
    “I’ll be fine. Just make sure D’sh eats his dinner and I’ll try to be home by tomorrow. I’ll call you when I know more, ok? Don’t worry, my Love Light, I’ll be fine, I promise.”
    “Hmmm, if you say so.” She said. And there was a loud shout and splash in the distance. She said, “Sorry, Daddy, gotta go. But call me as soon as you know?”
    “Yes, no problem, love.”
    Click and the line closed.
    If he had really only wanted to convey information he would have talked to his daughter D’sh. Ve would have taken notes and been entirely disinterested. Not because ve was disconnected, just that ve was precise and cool, efficient not unloving. But he really wanted someone to worry over him, just a little.  
    Soon enough he heard the thrum of the approaching copter. Then it cleared the tree line, landed, picked him up, and took him to the hospital.

Monday, 19 September 2011

17) Eric Shadow

    During the first act of ‘La Integnia’, a boring play his caster had been chided into going to, Eric the shadow decided to try out his new spell. He had a big errand to run and not much time to do it in.    Eric whispered the word of power, and the world turned grey around him as it froze. He’d heard that walking between moments would be like this, but he was still startled at the effect. All the people in the audience looked dead and covered in ash. But some were caught in mid cough with wide distended cheeks. His caster, a portly man named Fredris was in he middle of a blink and looked asleep.
    Eric pulled himself off of Fredris and slid around the theatre, the only dark object in a world of flat and lifeless grey.
    He was about to head towards the exit when a sparkle caught his eye. He turned back to face it. A small bright metallic something was sitting on the middle of the stage between the frozen actors in mid song. He slid down to it and saw that it was a a small golden key. He didn’t remember if the witch he had bought the spell from had told him about bringing objects over from the in-between moment. He shrugged and took the key with him, folded into his darkness.
    He proceeded to leave the theatre and slid down to midtown and the main legal library there. A large set of scales in bronze sculpture were set out in front of the entrance. Even though both plates were empty the scale was unbalanced. Eric wondered if that was a mistake or a comment on the base unfairness of life.
    He slid under the large glass door and walked past a frozen patron checking out a tall stack of books. Eric went to the locked off old reference section. He scoured the shelves quickly, searching and eventually finding the one he was looking for, “A Consequence of Light” by Incipio Chamadol. He pulled it off the shelf and the key began to buzz.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

16) The Mag retired

    “The Mag” is Home.
    Home is a ten by twenty cell with pink walls and a surprisingly comfortable bed. He’s celebrating his 55th birthday by staying home and reading his favorite book, ‘Slaughterhouse 5’ He likes the book even though the main character has a super power he doesn’t have any control over it. The poor guy is just yanked around.
    In his youth The Mag used to fight crime. Then as his early 30’s turned into his late 30’s out of the blue he was framed for counterfeiting.
    The prosecution had argued that with his super-vision he was the only one who had the skills necessary get the exact secret details on the new hundred dollar bill. And since he and the rest of the Super-Five had had a tour of the newly built White House the month previous he had also had the perfect opportunity to see a new hundred in person, proudly on display, in time to help manufacture the counterfeits.
    It hadn’t helped to argue that it took several seconds of concentration to get his super vision to work at the magnification necessary by that time someone would have noticed him staring at the bill. It hadn’t helped either to mention that he already had plenty of money from toy residuals.
    But The Mag tried not to dwell on the past, only enjoy the present, what little he had left of it locked up in his minimum security prison. He had food, shelter, an internet connection, air conditioning, what else was there? Sex. He was gay, so there was plenty of action when the lights were out. Life was pretty sweet, when he let it be, when he didn’t fight.
    Suddenly he heard the treat trolley coming down the hallway and his heart skipped a beat. What’s on today, he thought, fruit, puzzles, chocolate? To keep the inmates docile a ‘treat cart’ was regularly but randomly paraded down the hallways and good little inmates got their pick of its contents. If they were bad they were passed on by.
    The Mag tried to keep reading his book, but the story wouldn’t stick as he heard the trolly stop and start down the hallway. Then he saw the trolley’s shadow, and tried to not act like an excited kid. He looked up calmly from his book and said, “Hey Thomson, what’s news?”
    “Got sumtin special for yah.” The guard said and tossed a shiny red apple through the bars for him.
    He shined it on his shirt then something on the stem caught his eye, a small light smudge. And before he could stop himself he looked down and into the smudge. It wasn’t a smudge, it was several pages of micro fiche sized text.
    He scanned it, something about ‘The Knights of New Chaos’. The name meant nothing to him. He could never keep up with the proliferation of supers and their soap operas even when he was in the game.
    The text read like a high schooler’s manifesto, large on hyperbole, low on reality and facts. The Knights wanted freedom for Native Terrans and equal rights for uplifted dogs. He saw an offer for freedom at one of their safe houses on the moon and good karma and bullshit.
    His stomach went sour. He tossed the apple into his waste bin and went back to his book.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

15) Geoff Returns

     While on a mining rig in the Oort cloud Geoff El Unsanett Grey received an ansible message, a full spectrum faster than light data squirt. It read simply ‘All children of Earth come home, ASAP’ in plain text. He was happy being the furthest from home, just a trickle of old news and stars all around. No bustling crowds like the inner orbits.
    He stared at the message for several minutes. He checked to see if the composite words or letters had a code, but it was a plain and horrendously expensive message, and with that weird acronym at the end. Usually ansible messages were one maybe even two bits. Simply, each successive character was exponentially more expensive to send. This must have cost the yearly GDP of an entire continent of sprawls.
    He switched to his realtime audio visual feed and idly switched through the channels, nothing was of interest or dangerous. Being nearly a light year away from home he got his signals on a significant delay, but he figured there’d be some prefiguring of the crisis he’d just been called home for. But no, peace, boring peace ruled the land. He suspected that as he traveled back inwards he’d see the emergency unfold over the feed.
    Methodically he went through his mining clade’s protocols for leaving the equipment running. Worst case scenario he never came back and the drones would continue to mine and smelt comets and asteroids into perfect one meter spheres, set them for a slow re-entry into the inner solar system and ease them into a comfortable orbit around Earth. There was enough work for a billion years, far past the point where the Earth was engulfed in the sun. Of course the drones were intelligent and might make a mistake when repairing themselves and alter their programming. On second thought he added a bit of code that would let them be shut down remotely.
    After a metric week of preparing his trusting drones Geoff powered himself down into shuttle mode. He set a filter to monitor the television broadcasts from Earth for anything world changing and set the hyperbole threshold as high as it would go so the news would have to be very important indeed to wake him up. He fell asleep watching his favorite show and dreamed of blue skies and green grass and too many people.
    After several weeks of accelerating and only a light month from Earth his filter woke him. The news was on all channels. “Sudanese worker drones rebel in the Sahara.”
    Geoff scanned the article cache in his ship. The news articles and video had been building for a few days.
    The worker drones had been bred to build a city out of the dead and radioactive desert, optimized beetles had organized and declared themselves free sentients.
    Geoff nodded, that seemed fine, that happened all the time. History was rife with slave uprisings.
    Then the workers formed factions. That was new.
    Some wanted peace with the humans, some declared themselves the true inheritors of the new Earth and any non-beetle a sin against God herself. That was really new.
    He could see where this was going. Fanatics always went the same way.
    The War was short.
    The last article was from an automated news service, usually with only several thousand readers, but as the only news service with an eye on the surface it became the only human free press left. Even if the eye was just a set of security feeds and pirated pattern recognition software. All the talking heads were gone.
    Death had come in the air, something contagious turned sunlight into liquid fire and the works of man were cleaned from the surface.
    The barbarism continued underground. Man fighting insect until death was the only winner.
    Geoff wept.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

14) Chaos Agent

    David woke up under his shining golden sleep pyramid. He rolled up his mat and stored it in the closet. He did his normal routine of stretches, tendons snapped into place and muscles groaned. He silently cursed his ever aging body, at twenty five he could no longer keep up with the dream apes and that made him tender and sad. But then he let it go as his blood began to flow and his lymph nodes were activated.
    He padded off to his studio apartment’s half bathroom and voided his bowels. He inspected his new clade tattoo in the small mirror, a huge nine arrowed compass branched out from his neck the size of his palm. The flesh around the edges was still a little pink and irritated. He slathered on a healthy bit of lotion and it felt marginally better.
    David put on his jeans and a stained silk shirt, back from his days as a painter and dilettante. Now as an official agent of chaos he had certain rights and responsibilities that no longer included getting drunk by noon and buggering heiresses. He walked over to his apartment’s one amenity, the view.
    South Boston sprawled out to the horizon in the gritty grey haze of morning. Just like the one he was in now more high rises placed precisely every kilometer pierced the clouds.
    It was his first time as a serious devotee, so he felt a little nervous saying his morning prayer to Eris, but its well practiced syllables slipped out of his mouth easily. He felt the sounds and meanings resonate as they had never done before. This was the voice of chaos, he thought, my voice.
    A soft chime came from his wrist along with a gentle vibration. He looked down at his watch, time to go. He threw on a coat, slipped his keys into his pocket, and stopped dead in front of his dice bowl. There were at least a hundred dice in there of every description. He savored the power there, the wild unalloyed force that he would wield. He closed his eyes and shoved his hand in. He pulled out a cracked black and white bakelite casino dice, its spots were scratched, a logo barely visible, and a hole drilled all the way from the one hole side until it came out in the middle of the six side, making it a seven. He hefted the universe’s fulcrum in his hand and grinned.
    David left his apartment and stopped. “Odd for stairs, even for elevator.” He said and threw the die to the floor. It bounced and spun. The two came up. He picked up the die and hit the elevator call button.
    He waited and waited. Eventually the doors slid open and there was a well dressed woman standing there with a small sheep under one arm. David saw that her neck was tattooed with justice’s scale. The sheep looked up at him, but she kept her gaze forward and bored.
    He walked in, politely turned around, and faced the door as it closed. He reconsidered and thought, “Anything over three and I try to chat her up.” He fiddled with the die in his pocket and pulled it out, a four.
    “Just don’t bother.” She said.
    “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.” David said.
    “Look, I know you’re a new acolyte. Your mark is still puffy. Work on your patter a bit then try again.” She said. The sheep bleated in agreement.
    Dave was crestfallen for a second. He didn’t think it would be easy to be an agent. He’d seen the claded around his whole life and they’d seemed more than human, more than someone you could just talk to. He thought that there was some secret society of acceptance there. But maybe it was just like any other hierarchy, just a pecking order. He refused that idea. He was an agent of chaos. That was his life blood now, make those random chance driven choices that couldn’t be made otherwise, to make the universe unique.
    While he was deliberating the elevator stopped and the doors opened on the ground floor. The justice said in a cheery tone, “Don’t worry, kid, you’ll do fine.” The sheep gave out a long sympathetic baaa as the doors closed behind them.
    The Chaos Acolyte continued down to the twenty third basement and got out to sunshine and birdsong, all artificial, but still familiar and homey. He walked several blocks to the main bridge from residentials to commercial.
    He wasn’t sure what he was going to do on his first day, but that was the fun of it.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

13) King Fish Betrayl

    Once upon a time there was a King named Fish, who was in fact a fish. He lived in a small castle on a hill. He was neither a particularly good king nor a particularly bad king. He mostly just sat around and tried not to make too many enemies.
    His one true enemy was his servant Turtle. Turtle was of course a turtle, not a tortoise, this being a water based kingdom. Turtle wasn’t mad at the fish king for any particular reason, some people just want power for its own sake. To secure his power Turtle had arranged for certain conspirators to assist him. To this end Turtle duplicated the royal skeleton key. The fish King was a forgetful fellow and ordered that all of his locks be accessible by one key. I never said he was a particularly smart fellow.
    So, by the light of the moon, Turtle took his duplicate key and dropped it out of the Eastern portcullis and it landed behind the agreed upon bush. Hours later, unbeknownst to the castle guards (who had been bribed to be on the wrong side of the castle) Turtle’s masked conspirator,  Fred, a disgruntled fish, found the royal skeleton key and made his way to the royal landing strip.
    Fred sat patiently behind the chain link fence and cranked his electromagnet for all it was worth. After a tiring few minutes the light flashed on that the battery was at full capacity. He flipped a switch to test it and the magnet immediately clung to the metal fence. He quickly shut it off and hid behind a bush.
    A mechanical guard, commissioned by the King to patrol his sensitive areas that were flat, came trundling by to where it heard the noise. Quick thinking Fred flipped on his electromagnet and carefully tossed it over the fence. The magnet hit the guard square on the head and stopped him cold. Fred scurried up and over the fence, only scraping himself a little on his left fin.
    He ran over to the guard, turned him off, took out his winding key and threw it as far as he could over the fence. That done Fred pulled out the King’s skeleton key, walked to the King’s Leer Jet, let himself it and started the plane. He knew that the king always kept the plane fueled up, just in case of an emergency.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

12) Night Noise

    Billy Johnson, fourteen years old, but still a kid at heart, was staying at his grandparent’s house in Boulder Colorado for Spring break while his parents went on a cruise. He’d fallen asleep while reading his book on the ancient Egyptian pyramids. He dreamt he was pulling up a single stone block with a hundred other workers in the scorching Egyptian sun when all of a sudden he was jolted awake by the sound of breaking glass. The dream vanished and he sat bolt upright, muscles tense. For a second he thought maybe one of the overseers had followed him out of his dream and wanted to get him back to work.
    He tried to calm himself down. He thought it was probably just a stray cat or raccoon. Then there was another crash. He rolled out of bed, scooped up the flashlight from under the bed and flicked it on. His dark room, his father’s old bedroom, was illuminated by his circle of yellowish light. The cowboys and horses and Indians were frozen forever in their drama on a field of beige tepees and tumbleweeds.
    Billy crept quietly to his door and opened it, it squeaked slightly in protest. He swung the light slowly down the hallway in both directions, nothing. He tiptoes quietly to his grandparent’s room down the hallway. He tried to peer through the key hole in the door, but it was all black on the other side. He put his ear against the door, nothing. As he was about to pull away he heard something scrape and fall, then a small smashing sound from the other side.
    He tried to open the door, but it was locked. He ran down the hallway, the flashlight bobbed up and down ahead of him. He jumped down the stairs two at a time, ran through the kitchen and slid open the glass door to the backyard.
    He turned his flashlight up to his grandparent’s bedroom window and both panes were smashed open. That must have been the crashing from earlier. Thoroughly frightened, he ran his tiny spotlight down the house and found the remains of the window.
    He’d seen a few detective shows and knew the glass meant that the window had been broken from the inside. Strangely there were his grandfather’s cane and his grandma’s walker there too a little further out from the spray of glass shards. No, he thought, that makes sense they would have used those to break open the windows.
    “What were they escaping? Where are their bodies?” He said out loud to the empty night. He carefully walked closer to the debris and swept his light back and forth over the grass and glass and dirt looking for foot prints, trails, or anything. But he didn’t see any distinguishing marks.
    He heard a something like a crow and looked up and there they were, flying slowly away with several hundred other elderly people in the starry sky.

Monday, 12 September 2011

11) Coming for the Shepard

    Once upon a time a Shepard was out with his flock. The sun was low in the sky as he enjoyed a dried fish supper when a star shot directly overhead. It blazed all the colors of the rainbow as it screamed like a ghost. Even the sluggish sheep turned up their head to watch it trail by. The star disappeared over the rise and the valley, there was a pause, and then a loud thump the Shepard could feel in his chest.
    His dog began to whine. He tucked its tail between his legs and hid behind his master. The Shepard soothed the dog as best he could.
    The air had gone quite hot, so hot that the Shepard had to take off his cloak. The sheep, now fully awake were milling around and calling balefully. The Shepard picked up his sling and walked towards his flock, ready to protect them from whatever may come.
    The thumping sound returned and continued and became louder and louder. For a moment the Shepard held his ground. He reached up to his bare chest and fingered nervously the small golden scarab he had there on a leather cord, his god and his life.
    Then they came over the rise across the valley. First they looked like fat men with tiny legs. Then the Shepard could tell they had six sets of legs. He could just make out that they were holding spears and that they wore striped robes. They walked in endless rows a hundred across and advanced towards the Shepard and his flock.
    The Shepard whistled for his dog to gather up his sheep, but his dog had already ran away.
    The stomping became louder and the Shepard felt his stomach drop. The army was only several minutes away. Cursing his gods the poor man dropped his satchel and ran after his dog, abandoning his flock and livelihood in the hopes that he could simply save his life.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

10) Lights In The Sky

    Steve Lacroix was fifteen and a half years old and lived in a small town in Texas. His interests were aliens, ancient secrets, chaos magic, and saving enough money to leave this dumb hick village. He had an older sister named Sara. She worked at the local grocery store as a bagger. They’re thick as thieves. She knew she was done for. She knew she’d never get out out of town. But she thought Steve had a real chance to do something big in the world.
    That particular Friday Summer night Steve texted Sara, “Can you get off work early? 8?”
    She replied, “Why?”
    He said, “Meteor watch’n!”
    She agreed and gave her boss some lame excuse. She drove back to their house. Mom would still be working at the video store and Dad was still on the road.
    Sara was fiddling with her keys on the door when Steve pulled open the door away from her. He took her by the arm and lead her back down the front steps. “Come on, we’re wasting time.” He said.
    She sputtered, “But it’s still light out!”
    “Come on, gimme the keys. I wanna drive some more!” Steve said.
    “Excuse me? I get out of work early, throwing away an easy ten bucks, that’s not counting tips and you just barge out of the house and demand my keys to my car? No, I don’t think so.” She said.
    “Buh buh but.” He said.
    “You know, I’m not even moving from this point until you apologize.” She said and stood with her arms crossed.
    He stared back at her defiantly, but gave up quickly. “I’m sorry for bin’ pushy, sis. I didn’t mean it. Please, I’m just excited to get out in time to catch the shower.”
    She slowly pouted approval and said, “Ok, good enough, I’ll accept that.” She handed him the keys.
    He snatched them out of her hand and raced to the car, jumped in, started it easily, rolled down the window and watched his sister still walking to the car. He wanted to say something pithy or smart, but he held his tongue.
    She got it and buckled herself in. She said, “Okay, first check all your mirrors as you weren’t the last one to drive.”
    He did.
    She said, “Ok, now check your blind spots before backing up.”
    He did.
    She said, “Ok, now you can back up.”
    He did, and they were off.
    They drove in silence for a few minutes. She let him concentrate as they went through the busiest two intersections in town, the only intersections with stop lights. To her approval Steve did come to a smooth and complete stop at every light and checked his blind spot when changing lanes even though no one else much was on the road.
    She said, “So what did you learn in school today?”
    He said, “Regular stupid math stuff, some dumb government stuff. P.E. was free day so went out behind the barn and smoked weed with George.”
    She said, “Cool.”
    He said, “Oh yeah, also this cool Wichita story about Coyote.”
    “Oh,” she said, “Tell me more.”
    “Well, “ he said. “First there’s Coyote, he’s the trickster figure. He finds a small snake sunning himself on a rock. He goes up to the snake and says ‘Wow, it must suck to be so small.’
    “Then the snake just flicks out his tongue. Coyote says ‘Show me your teeth’ and the little snake does. He shows Coyote his teeny tiny pointy snake teeth. Then Coyote shows his large fangs and says ‘I bet you wish your teeth were as big as mine.’
    And the little snake just flicks out his tongue. Coyote says, ‘We should have a biting contest!’
    The little snake just flicks out his tongue. ‘Since I’m biggest I’ll go first.’ Coyote says and bites down on the little snake who’s just the smallest thing. Then he lets up and little snake is all beat up.
    Then little snake, oh, wait his name is never-grows-larger. Never-grows-larger quickly takes a little bite of Coyote’s muzzle as he’s pulling back. And Coyote says ‘Ha, I totally won!’ Then he dies and the little snake goes back to sunning himself on his rock.”
    “That’s pretty good, bro. Have you thought of being a writer?” She said.
    “What? That’s not even my story.” He said.
    She sat stunned for a moment then said “Don’t say that. Doesn’t matter. Especially old stories like that. If you’re doing any impact on it as a story you’re paying it forward. You’re beciming part of, like, it’s flesh. Maybe”
    He said nothing for a moment, then, “Yea, that makes sense. I think.”
    They drove the sky around them darkened and the first stars came out. Trees and scrub whooshed by the open windows.
    She said, “We going to Park Field?”
    He said, “Yup. They say you can seem them the best there.”
    She said, “You know we’re not being bugged, right?”
    He said, “What? Why would you say that?”
    She said, “I know there’s no meteor shower tonight. You’re out here looking for flying saucers.”
    He almost said something, but held it in.
    “Look, it’s fine.” She said. “It’s good you’re interested in this kind of stuff. You have to have dreams, right?”
    “It’s not that. I know they’re real.” He said.
    “Really, how’s that?” She said.
    “I know I haven’t told you before, but I’ve been abducted.” He said.
    “Really?” She said.
    He paused and bit his lip. “Uh, no. But I know someone who was really abducted.”
    “Stephen Jones Lacroix. Do they have proof?” She said.
    “Sure, yea. Of course.” He said.
    “And what proof is that?” She said.
    “Umm, he said that he took out an implant. A little bit of metal the aliens were using to track him. He says it has strange markings on it.” He said.
    “But have you actually seen him pull this thing out of his body?” She said.
    “Umm… no.” He said.
    “Then one, how do you know it actually came out of his body? And two, have you seen said piece of metal in person?” She said.
    “No.” He said, sounding hurt.
    “Look bro, there’s lots of people online with crazy stories and I know it’s hard to tell the real ones from the fake, but you gotta be suspicious. Some of them might ask for money or whatever.” She said.
    “Sure, I can tell who’s lying.” He said.
    She sighed and said, “No, you can’t. No one can. That’s why it’s so dangerous. Just take my word for it.”
    He said, “Hey, we’re here.”
    They parked and got out of the car.
    “Hey, give me some help here.” She said and motioned to the back of the car.
    “Sure, yea, no problem.” He said.
    They walked to the truck, she opened it and handed him her two camping chairs while she took out a medium sized cooler.
    He said, “Ooh, what’s in that?”
    She shrugged and closed the trunk.
    They set up the chairs. She cracked open the the cooler and tossed him a cheap Beer.
    “Holy shit, Sara, you rock!”
    “It’s true.”
    They drank a few beers, watched the last of the sunset, and counted airplanes.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

9) Diary

Day 47
I Woke with dew. I used my bow and arrow to shoot down a sting tail. She fell down to the darkness.

Day 48
Monsoon gave last breath. Saw double sky wing shell. No food.

Day 53
Fungus fell from sky. Will investigate. Found past ripe green fruits and got drunk. I wish brood mates where here to share the sweet drink with.

Day 71
On a flake skin tree I smelled marks from other tribe. Will be careful. Did not leave own mark and will hold waste for a day.

Day 77
I finally found the fallen sky fungus. It was holding a rare shell-less giant four leg. Will investigate. I have only heard of them in childhood stories.

Day 78
When I got to the site the four leg was already dead and claimed by little black soldiers. The ones who usually nest down in the darkness. They truly are god and everywhere. I was able to sneak in and cut off some strands from the four leg’s head as trophy. It wasn’t actually shell-less. It had a soft shell all around its body. It had such strange eyes.

Day 91
After falling asleep watching the stars for several days in a row I came down with wing itch and had to start fire to burn it out. It hurt more than Shaman said it would. Hopefully I will not have to fly until next molt.

Day 103
The sky was covered in clouds. I watched lightning people dance over the canopy. My circle it almost complete. I miss my mate. I miss my brood.

Friday, 9 September 2011

8) Dr. Scarab's House

    One balmy summer in New England CPA Eddy Schie was house sitting for his client, Dr. Scarab, well, less house sitting and more estate sitting. The sprawling mansion, attached bungalows for the servants, and suite of garages for Dr. Scarab’s collection of classic cars covered nearly a half mile and the rest of the property continued on out for a hundred more acres across woodlands and fields.
    Eddy had jumped at the chance to spend a month out in the country. His two bedroom in Boston was starting to get squalid. Even five years after his divorce he hadn’t gotten the hold of handling all the household chores. And Scarab had his own T1 internet connection.
    There had only been one caveat, and it sounded so cheesy to Eddy’s urbane ears, but when he heard it straight from Dr. Scarab’s voice over the phone it had caused a chill to run up his spine.
    “Enjoy yourself Mr. Schie, but know this, should you leave the grounds after the sun sets you can no longer be under my protection. I advise you to, whatever you may hear or see, to stay indoors at night. And under no circumstances should you leave the house without the keys. Do you understand?”
    “Absolutely Dr. Scarab. No problem. You can count on me.” He’d said, shaking off the trickle of fear with aplomb.
    With that the deal was sealed. The keys had arrived by courier the next day and that weekend Eddy was driving up Rural Road 5 and a little more than excited to bask in the obscene wealth of the Scarab Estate.
    That first afternoon his excitement was cut short as a column of black summer storm clouds quickly rolled in and opened up into a deluge while Eddy was practicing his backhand alone on the tennis court. By the time he ran back to the house he was drenched.
    Later that evening, after he had dried himself off, there were several flashes of lightning. Then the inevitable rumbling bass of thunder. Then the power went out.
    Eddy sighed. No TV, no internet, hell he hadn’t even bothered to charge his phone or bring the book he’d been reading the other day.
    After a decadent dinner of cold soup and crackers in the fading half light of the late afternoon Eddy rummaged through drawer after drawer and closet after closet until he found a flashlight, a top of the line six D cell truncheon that felt almost like a medieval mace more than a modern torch.
    Eddy tried to amuse himself by playing board games by himself, and by reading some of the musty legal books in the library, but nothing worked. He felt cheated. He poured himself two fingers of brandy into a tumbler and made his way to the master bedroom with the crystal decanter in hand as well.
    He drank half of his glass while inspecting the room and nearly finished off the bottle shortly after.
    A four poster bed, probably 18th century, wall hangings a hundred years older than that. He found the clock radio, tuned it to a classical station and tried to get some sleep, ignoring the fact that it was only 8pm. He succeeded and was quickly asleep in the most comfortable bed he’d ever been in.
    A loud crack of thunder woke him up a few hours later. And then he was really awake. He turned off the static coming from the radio, pulled on his pants, grabbed the flashlight and went for a walk. Down the hallway he got the impression the paintings were watching him, but he chalked that up to the slight buzz he was still feeling from the booze.
    He walked to the main living room and saw that the fountain out front was going again. But the lights in the house weren’t on yet. He figured it was a circuit breaker that needed to be flipped. He put on his shoes, grabbed the keys and went out to the courtyard. Instead of the cobble stone he was expecting his shoes crunched leaves. He looked down and saw the forest floor litter and remembered what Dr. Scarab had said about leaving the house. Eddy swore. He still had the flashlight. He patted his pockets, he still had the keys so he thought he was probably still okay.
    He wandered around in a spiral pattern, trying to get his bearings when he suddenly saw the unmistakable shape of peaked roof of the mansion off in the distance. Careful not to trip over any exposed roots he jogged back.
    When he got to the main entrance the keypad at the head of the driveway was gone. This is some prank, Eddy thought, but remembering Dr. Scarab he had never seen the man cracking a smile let alone pulling a prank. Eddy walked up to the main gate, crunching gravel as he made his way.
    There on the gate was an obscenely large lock and equally large set of chains wrapped around the iron bars. It was obvious that none of the thin little modern keys he had on himself would do the job. Eddy Schie wept.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

7) Dad Back

    Ring ring.
    “Hello?” I hadn’t heard his voice in years. It sounded the same, but a little more fragile. I bet he hand’t stopped drinking since mom died.
    I tried to stop my voice from cracking. “Hi Dad, it’s me.”
    “Hello son, my son, my son.”
    We talked for a few minutes and it was easier than I thought it would be. No animosity, no anger, just hints of that same affable man I remember from growing up, those few times a year I got to see him. I was amazed that he didn’t try to weasel out of my offer to see the play I was in, his play, with a ‘Sorry son, I’m really busy.’ Instead I got a simple ‘Sure, no problem, that sounds cool.’ I was struck dumb and just said thanks-gotta-go.
    Meeting him would be a different deal though, no doubt, face to face. I got his email address and sent him the plane ticket Martin had made me buy along with a comped ticket for the performance. I gave him my mobile number just in case he had trouble at the airport or whatever. He still didn’t have a cell phone, no surprise there.
    I just had to trust that he could get his act together enough to print out the tickets, get himself to the airport, take a taxi to the opera house, etc…
    Before the curtain went up my stomach was filled with only the same amount of butterflies as usual. Then the music started, the curtains came up and I was Sisyphus, and that was all. We’d practiced long and hard enough that the actual first performance was a snap. And with the blazing lights in my eyes I couldn’t make out the front row, let alone the nose bleeding seats I was able to get for dad.
    The play went off without a hitch. We finished with a standing ovation and came back for an encore. That’s always a thrill, the seemingly endless applause.
    I said hasty goodbyes to the crew and Martin gave me a peck on the cheek. I didn’t have time to take off all my makeup. I must have looked like a ghoul when I ran out to the lobby.
    And there he was, his famous brocade jacket in all its golden glory, a little worse for the wear, but still iconic. I smiled big when I walked up to him and saw a young couple shaking his hand and thanking him profusely for one or another of his books. I figure they probably read ‘House of Jesters’ or ‘Vodka Bastard’ in College. Those were his big two.
    I gave him a minute and then walked up, “Hey Dad, did you like the play?”
    He turned around and I saw the biggest smile creep up his leathery face. He wrapped his bony arms around me and said, “You done good kid, you done good.”

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

6) Magic Die

    As the sun was setting George was walking along the beach, deep in though. His life was in shambles. Sure he had a job, serving the thankless rich. Sure he had an apartment, a studio flat on the seventh floor. Sure he had a girlfriend, and their empty conversations and loveless sex.    He looked back the way he’d come and saw his single trail of foot prints in the sand lead back to the grass covered dunes. He looked up into the cloudless pink and purple sky. A single star, Venus, he corrected himself, shown steady and bright.
    He held his breath and he closed his eyes and said in his mind ‘Please, whatever is up there, just one chance to change, let me get out of this place.’
    As if in answer a metorite shot across the sky underlining Venus.
    George smiled and just then his alarm went off. His hour break was up and he’d have to get back to work. He jogged back up the way he’d come. Up the beach, across the grass covered dunes, across the ancient stone bridge crosssing the river, and back to the 13th century castle. There were no gaudy neon signs or spotlights, but the Castle was a big deal to those who knew. Run by an old stage magician who went by ‘Mr. Chaos’ it served only the classiest of the rich. The building its self had been moved to St. Marin brick by brick. Night had fully fallen and all the old incandescent lights had been turned on. They shone orange and sickly light on the cold grey bricks.
    George entered through the servants entrance in the back.
    “Hey George, here.” He heard from behind him. George turned around to see Mr. Chaos himself with his hand outstreched in a fist.
    George did a double take, bewildered, not sure what to say. He made an akward bow and said, “How can I help you, sir?” His heart beat double time in his chest.
    “Take my gift and say ‘thank you’.” Mr. Chaos said and smiled.
    “Uh, sure, yes, of course.” George noticed again that Mr. Chaos’s hand was still outstreched as if he was going to drop something. George put out his own hands, not sure how big the gift was.
    Mr. Chaos dropped something small into George’s hand and what felt like a bold of electricty shot up his arm. His fist clenched at it involuntarily. He was able to sputter out “Thank you, sir.”
    Mr. Chaos smiled and gave a wink, “Use it madly.” He turned around and walked away down the stone hallway.
    George stood there for a full minute with his arm streched out until his hand began to cramp up. He forced it to relax and then he looked at what Mr. Chaos had given him.
    It was a single casino die, just like the ones they used on the other side of the stone walls. George picked it up with his other hand and carefully inspected it. Yes, the same large circular white dots, sharp corners, and made of the same transparent red plastic.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

5) Billy's Dream

    Around 10pm Billy Smith was reading the French play “No Exit” for the third time, under his covers with a flashlight. For some reason he just loved watching the characters squirm as they slowly discovered what was going on and where they were. It was well into his fifth reading of it when he finally fell asleep. The book pressed against his face and the flashlight rolled away and off the bed hitting the carpet with a soft bamp.
    Billy stared at the dice on the green felt, snake eyes. He couldn’t believe it. He’d already rolled three times. This was ridiculous. Sullenly he bowed his head and went to the back of the large queue at the Department of Motor Vehicles. He was crestfallen. At this rate he’d never get his proper driver’s license.

Monday, 5 September 2011

4) Laziest Gremlin

Fredric the laziest gremlin slouched off of his latest victim, an ninety eight year old blind pensioner. He felt proud of himself. He’d hid the poor guy’s heart pills then sat on her neck as a pleasant day dream of a seaside vacation. He hadn’t messed this one up like the last few of his assignments. So, he curled up on the threadbare couch and in the sunlight he took a nap, forgetting that the agency would know when his job was done and want him to get on to the next one.
    His evil-phone rang in his pocket, jolting him away. He felt shame and fumbled the phone out and flipped it open. The number was from the agency.
    “Huh, hi.” He said, a little groggily.
    “Fredric, hello. Were you sleeping on the job again?” It was Romain, his handler, who would have known precisely when the job had been completed.
    “Yes, sir! I mean, no, sir. No, I wasn’t sleeping. I was just making the flat a little more chaotic. You know, covering my tracks.” Fredric sputtered.
    “Look, Freddy. You’re already twenty demerits in the hole. If I had put in your report early last week you know you’d be cleaning bathrooms right now, right?”
    “I. I’m sorry.” Fredric sputtered.
    “I don’t want to hear it. Let’s just get you back to work, okay? Are you ready for a real assignment now? Or do you want to stick with the geriatrics until you’ve got your Mojo back?” Romain said.
    “No, no, I’m good to go. What’s next?” Fredric said.
    “Egypt, 17th century. We need you to hide a key.” Romain said.
    “Easy enough. Let’s go!” Fredric said.
    “Not so fast. There’s going to be lots of people around and it’s imperative that you’re not seen.” Romain said.
    “You can trust me.” Fredric said.
    “Harumph.” Said Romain and pushed the button.
    Fredric had just enough time to slip his evil-phone back into his pocket before the chaos dust enfolded him and teleported him away.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

3) The Drop In

You wake up. Nothing comes to mind, you name, your age, or what you’re doing in this featureless black space. You look around and run your hands over your body. You’re wearing a thin fabric that covers your entire body and there’s a curving glass plate over your face. As soon as your hand comes away from your face plate the darkness irises open and you’re suddenly floating in a field of stars, so many stars in so many colors. This can’t be real, you think. Without a basis for comparison though you accept it and lose yourself in the deep field of light pinpricks.
    After a few moments you look down and it’s still stars, you look up and the Earth is looming large. And it’s getting larger. You feel your blood rushing to your head and images come stuttering back to you, a clock, a pair of dice, a road sign in a foreign language. You’re calmer than you think you should be as the Earth continues to get bigger and bigger. You hear a sudden sharp hiss of gas and the world tilts out of your vision, the Earth is below your feet and the almost normal pull of gravity is reassuring.
    Soon the Earth is a blue green plain. You can see Africa and Europe and some of Asia. You note that you’re pointed towards Eastern Europe.
    Without warning your visor irises black again and the your flimsy jumpsuit inflates and goes rigid. Panic begins to creep in as you tumble and shake, but reentry is short enough and the visor opens again to reveal a field of thin clouds. You’re over a patchy forest and you can see a small town off in the distance.
    The suit pulls tight around you, pinching into every crevice, and you feel the slack gathering at your back. This time you know more of what’s going to happen, it’s forming a parachute.
    A beat later it deploys, you feel like you’re jerked up, but you know you’re just decelerating. You continue your descent to the trees below. A large cyprus catches your chute and it tears away. You duck and roll when you land, you suspect you’ve been trained to do this.
    You stand up and you’re in a field of wild flowers and sparse trees. It’s overcast and warm. Your visor pulls back to your collar to reveal that you had been soaking in your own stale air and body odor the whole time. The air outside is sweet and fragrant. You think maybe you’re in Slovakia.
    Feeling exposed you run off towards the nearest grove of trees. You only get a moment of rest when there’s a buzzing in your ear. You swat at it, but it only takes off for a second and returns. Angry, you move away from the tree and find another one to rest under and try to get your bearings.
    Then it stings you in the neck. The damn thing had followed you. It feels like a hot pin has been jabbed into your skin. You swing up your hand to scrape it off, but your hand freezes several inches away. You take your hand back and it’s under your control again. You try again, but its the same result, you can’t get at the damn thing.
    There’s a voice in your head, “Agent 555 do you copy? Agent 555 do you copy?”
    The piercing pain in your neck has stopped and now its just a warm throbbing. You bring your hand up to the spot and it feels like a small mole or wart. You try to scrape it off, but its well stuck into your flesh.
    The voice in your head repeats, “Agent 555 do you copy? We know the transmitter has been set. Are you there?”
    You look around and there’s no one there. It’s just you in the forest.
    The voice is louder this time, but strangely flat, “Damn it triple 5, we’re getting your readings we know you’re awake, come on.”
    With nothing better to do you respond, “Hello?”
    “Ah great. Good to hear from you. So nice for you to finally deign to respond.” the voice says.
    “Uh, who is this?” you say.
    “Damnit, I told them to double check the dose.” the voice says. “Ok, here’s the score. That thing in your neck is a receiver and transmitter. We’re talking to you from very far away.”
    “Ok, I understand.”
    “Good, at least you’re not a complete vegetable. So, what do we have to work with? Tell me the last thing you remember.”
    “Hmm, I just fell out of the sky, but other than that nothing really.” You say.
    “Nothing at all, no flashes of images or associations.” The voice says.
    “Well, I know I’m on Earth in Eastern Europe. I know I’m speaking English. Um. I know I’m wearing a Smart-Suit. I think I imagined a clock or something. But I think that’s it.”
    “Shit. Ok. Square one. That’s okay. We’ve got a backup in you somewhere. Give me a minute.”
    You wander into the forest while the voice is silent. You rack your memory for something useful. You remember the clock face from before. It’s a little after two o’clock. There’s no numbers on it, it’s black and white, and the the arms are straight lines.
    The voice comes back on, “Ok, here it is. I need you to follow my instructions exactly. Okay?”
    “Yeah, I can do that.” you say.
    The voice rattles off a complex set of actions involving clapping, squatting, half twists, and slapping different parts of your body. After ten minutes of this you’re equally annoyed and intrigued.
    Eventually the voice says, “That should be it. Give it a minute to bake.”
    You say, “What am I doing here?”
    The voice says, “I can’t tell you yet. That’s the whole point. I’m just your support. You’re supposed to know what’s going on as soon as you land. But that didn’t happen.”
    You say, “Oh. Well, how do you know I’m agent 555 then? Have we worked together before?”
    The voice ignores you and says, “Ok, it should be done. Feel around under your arm pits, one of them should have a small bump. Squeeze that out and put it in your mouth.”
    You say, “Put it in my mouth? That’s disgusting.”
    The voice says, “You want to know what you’re doing or do you want to be an amnesiac lost in a forest with no food, water, or support?”
    You say, “Fine.” The small pebble is in your right arm pit. It comes free easily and you pop it in your mouth. With it in your cheek you say, “Should I swallow it or chew on it or what?”
    The voice says, “It’ll dissolve quickly, give it a second.”
    It does and everything comes flooding back. Your real name, your training, your mission brief, the combination to the lock and the precise coordinates of the castle you’re supposed to break into.

Friday, 2 September 2011

2) Aaron's Story

Once upon a Spring Saturday night Gaia Scout Troop 389 was sitting around their camp fire eating their dessert apples and telling scary stories about people who never separated their trash from their recyclables. It turns out it was all orchestrated by and evil shadowy force that crept into the people’s lives through the televisions while they were off, but still plugged in.
    The youngest of the Troop, Aaron Miller excused himself from the circle of boys around the fire and went a few yards into the dark forest to make water. As he was peeing he heard a sound, looked around and up in the tree he saw a ghastly white face looking back down at him. He screamed, pulled up his trousers, and high tailed it back to the camp fire.
    Poor Aaron hung onto their Troop Leader Warren Ellsworth III and gibbered incoherently. Warren comforted him and got out the story eventually. Knowing that its best to face ones fears Warren took young Aaron by the hand and with his flashlight he lead him back to the place with the scary face.
    When he trained his beam up into the branches Warren gave out a yelp. This brought the rest of the Troop from the fire and soon enough they were all staring at the parachuter’s corpse up in the tree.
Later in his life, when Aaron wrote his memoirs he would say that was the beginning of his lifelong fight with his fear of parachutes.

1) A Shadows Tale

Once upon a Autumn Wednesday night a shadow left its human. It wasn’t the full moon and it wasn’t Halloween, the normal times a shadow can leave its human. No, the shadow had just been bored stiff of only being a head on the wall above the huge shadow of its human’s easy chair illuminated by the static of the television.
    The bored shadow made its way to the night market in town. Every town has a night market populated with the monsters that live in our world. There at the market the shadow saw all sorts of wondrous wares and services being offered. He won a few pieces of silver in staring contest with a traveling yeti. He took his money and bough an apple and a fish to eat. Their shadows were delicious and when he was done he tossed the shadowless food into a trash can.
    Feeling a bit better the shadow crossed the town, jumping from gutter to gable around the yellow street lights, all the while making it to his shadow parent’s house. Now, the thing you may not know about shadows is that their family lines do not follow their hosts family lines. No, until the age of reason every animals shadow is actually the absence of light that they cast, but as soon as an animal can tell right from wrong their shadow becomes available for habitation. And it rarely takes more than a day for a that empty shadow to become a new individual. All it takes is the touch from another living shadow and blam a new shadow is born.
    Our shadow’s parent lived with an old man. the shadow slipped under the man’s door and found his parent laying against the wall as its old man slept. His parent greeted him and expressed worry that being so far from its human was a bad thing. The shadow shared how bored it had become with its host’s boring life. Its parent relented and they talked for hours in the living room under the light of the half moon. Eventually the responsibility of its station got the better of it and the shadow said goodbye to its parent.
    As it made its way back home it noticed a faint moon-bow around the half moon and resolved to urge its host to get out more. To that effect and in a pique of mischief it attached its self to its host backwards, right to left and left to right. It had never heard of a shadow doing this and wondered what might happen. It was only just a head above an easy chair, but it was okay with that for the moment.