Category: Unrelated Stories


Burrow

Awesome DUNE fan art by Balaskas on Deviant Art

Awesome DUNE fan art by Balaskas on Deviant Art

“Very funny, Chad,” Walker spat, kicking the dirt. A knee-high field of grasses curved out of sight, following the circular hull. Scribbling through the field was a barrel-sized scar of dirt, as if some alien had tried to form a crop circle but failed miserably. It had probably taken Chad and his friends the better part of the night to do it. Considering the sloppiness of the work, they were probably beyond drunk.

“What’s fun…woah…” Chad slowed, kicking at the disturbed soil and turning in a circle to observe the damage. His act was perfect, the picture of dumbfounded innocence.

“Yeah. At least last time what you guys did could be considered art. This…” Walker spat in disgust. “This is just vandalism. I have half a mind to turn you in.”

Walker would never report Chad to the boss. It wasn’t just that Cynthia, Walker’s niece, was sweet on the boy. Chad was one of the few guys who could go a full shift in the extra-heavy gravity of the fields. Good help was hard to find, especially when it came to manual labor.

“This thing goes deep… a few meters at least.” Chad was crouching, pointing a scanner into the tunnel.

Walker stopped and considered. Maybe Chad wasn’t lying. He was usually quick to take credit for anything he did, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

A tremor shook the ground under their feet.

“Asteroid strike. Felt like a little one.” He shrugged. “Probably didn’t even pierce the hull,” Walker said, doubting himself but trying to sound certain for Chad’s sake. The kid could get pretty flighty when he got scared. He also had a bad habit of jumping to unlikely conclusions.

Chad looked up, wide eyed, then crept away from the tunnel opening. “I dunno, Walker.” He stood up, brushing the dirt off his trousers. “That didn’t feel like a strike to me. It felt…” Chad’s face twisted into an odd expression that Cynthia inexplicably found charming. Walker thought he just looked constipated. “It felt…closer.”

Walker shrugged off the comment. It wasn’t a question he wanted to answer, and Chad’s hypotheses would just get wilder and wilder. “Well, get the diggers going. We need to fix this.”

Chad dutifully strode over to the equipment locker, his movements bogged down. The grass was only about ten meters from the outer hull, topping layers of water, gravel, and a significant layer of dirt that primarily served as radiation shielding for the station. Earth-normal apparent-gravity was several levels above them.

“Whatever is was, it was big,” Chad said. “What burrows like that? Bears?”

Walker reached around to turn off the digger’s auto-mode. The last thing they needed was for the machine to arbitrarily start re-plowing the entire field.

“Bears? Really?” Walker asked, shaking his head, “Just kids. If not you and your friends, then some punk adolescent with more free time than brains.”

Chad bullied the digger into smoothing out only the area that was disturbed. Walker reseeded it and they moved on to the next spot. “Me and my friends…nah. We have more finesse. You’ve seen our work.”

Walker let the boy drone on about his less-than-admirable escapades. Although technically some of them crossed the line from simple pranks to actual crime, they were all mostly harmless. Somehow, Chad had avoided any kind of legal action against him. Chalk it up to charisma; the same attribute that had snared Walker’s niece into agreeing to go out with him not just a couple of times, but disturbingly close to something that resembled a steady relationship.

Cynthia could do worse, he supposed.

Another tremor made them both stumble to the right. Over to their left, the grass was leaning as if something from underneath the roots pushed it up.

Walker took the digger out of Chad’s hands. “I think we need to…” he wasn’t sure what to say. Maybe a meteor struck the hull in exactly the right spot, in exactly the right way…

“There it is!” Chad yelled, pointing over Walker’s shoulder. He whipped around just in time to see something slither through the grass and burrow under the dirt again. “I’ll get ‘im!”

“What…?” Walker froze in disbelief as the youngster ran off through the grass, chasing the…whatever it was. He still refused to believe there was some “thing” digging up the grass. All the biologicals on the station were carefully screened. Sure, the occasional rat got through, but rats didn’t…

He wasn’t sure what rats did.

“Gotcha!” Chad bellowed, diving low. An alien screeching sound rent the air, echoing off the ceiling. The grasses waved and parted where Chad was wrestling with something.

“Emergency! We need security and a med team in field 42B!” Walker smacked his com, then turned and grabbed a shovel.

“Yeghagh!” Chad screamed. Walker stormed in, shovel raised over his head. Chad’s arms and legs were wrapped a pipe. A squiggling, squirming pipe just as big around as he was.

“AHGH!” Walker yelled, his voice several octaves higher than he thought was possible. He brought the shovel down hard, bashing away at the monster and not altogether sure he was avoiding Chad in the process.

“Woo!” Chad cried out, rolling away. “You got ‘im! You got ‘im, Walker, sheesh…” Walker started trembling, dropping the shovel as Chad stood up and wrapped him in a bear hug.

“Can’t…breathe…”

“Woah! Yeah. Wait till I tell Cynthy about this!” Chad said, smacking Walker on the back.

It was a worm. Ichor spilled onto the dirt. At least three meters of the monster lay on the ground, unmoving. The tail disappeared into the tunnel.

“…radiation, I’ll bet. I wonder how many more of them are out there?” Walker heard Chad saying, but he was turned away, talking to someone else. A dozen responders had magically appeared. One of them was shining a light into his eyes, asking him something.

Walker shook his head, shaking off the feeling of shock. “Fine. Just need to…”

He knew what he needed to do.

Chad deserved a commendation.

Chad deserved a promotion.

Chad deserved his job.

Lord knew, Walker didn’t want it anymore.

I cut back on my writing severely back in November when I found out we had to move in January. I have a couple of stories in my brain for The Cities of Luna that need to come out, but I really needed to get the cobwebs out first. That’s what this is… just a quick freewrite to shake out my brain.

I’ll be revamping the website soon. Since Under Loch and Key is mostly for fun writing like this,I may be cutting it off soon and making my public face as professional as possible. We’ll see.

MOON DRAGONS, the newest story from THE CITIES OF LUNA

MOON DRAGONS, the newest story from THE CITIES OF LUNA

 

BedElliot tried not to think about itching. The monitors, one at his neck, one at his waist, were annoying but temporary. Two weeks wearing them twenty-four-seven. Two weeks with no meds, no treatments of any kind, but it would all be worth it in the end.

He’d finally know.

He’d finally be well.

Bedtimes were intrusive, but only as much as was absolutely necessary. The nurse bot asked regular questions such as “Please rate your pain on a scale from one to ten” and “Are you still nauseated?” The actual human nurse added questions such as “Is it the kind of nausea that makes you feel like you’re going to regurgitate? Or it is more that you just want to sit quietly for a while until it passes?”

Elliot had become an expert in self-evaluation. Although it was sometimes hard to annunciate exactly what was wrong, between the bot and the human nurse he was able to establish a record of all the weird things his body did.

Sleep came with only a slight delay. It usually did.

Waking was uncomfortable. Elliot had a vague memory that, once upon a time, he’d wake groggily to the sun peeking through the curtains. With a stretch and a yawn, his bladder would tell him he had to get up. Although his warm bed was so comfortable and inviting that he longed to spend just another twenty minutes there, a hot shower was just as appetizing.

For years now, waking had meant something different.

Elliot felt the wakefulness steal his dreams from him. He tried to relax into it, dreading what was about to happen. He succeeded for about five minutes, and then it hit.

Something was wrong. Something dire and dreadful was threatening him. Adrenaline or something like it began to pump through his system.

Nothing is wrong.

Elliot took slow breaths.

I am safe here.

Elliot forced his mind to go blank, to wait patiently in a safe, peaceful place until whatever chemicals his brain was producing wormed their way through his body and out again.

“Lightheaded. Like my brain is being filled with helium,” he announced to the room, knowing the monitors would record and add the information to his diagnosis. “My body is floating from the waist up…” he had to pause. Speaking out loud was jarring. It disconnected him from what he was trying to accomplish. “…but from the waist down, it feels very heavy.”

He squirmed out of the position that had been comfortable, but no longer was.

“The tightness is all through my chest, head, and shoulders. But only the upper chest. Oh no…” Elliot visualized a downward flow of comfort going from the back of his tongue down to his stomach. He shifted position carefully. It worked for only a minute, then the heartburn hit him. “Heartburn,” he reported.

He sat up, then stretched his muscles. He drank the water waiting on his bedside table. Slowly, he rotated each ankle, urging circulation into his extremities. Maybe today would be a day for joint pain. Maybe not.

“The heartburn is subsiding. The tightness is back up in my head, although there are remnants in my arms, and the backs of my hands.” He closed his eyes, searching for other sensations. “I’m not electric today.”

Elliot shuffled himself slowly to the bathroom and emptied his bladder. There was no point in taking a shower yet. His body had other things to accomplish first.

He returned to bed, sitting on the edge and reporting the various symptoms as best he could describe them. He waited patiently, not knowing whether he had five minutes or fifty. In the two weeks he’d been monitored, it continued to fluctuate. He hoped they would find some kind of pattern or causality. It was annoying.

Fifteen minutes later he returned to the bathroom. He was glad he didn’t have to describe what he’d just done. The monitors measured what they needed to measure, and the machines would evaluate his output. It was time for a hot shower, signaling the end to the worst of the morning’s trials.

Drying off was never instantaneous. He took the extra time he needed to make sure all the crevasses and foldable parts of his body were completely free of excess moisture. If he didn’t take that time, he’d end up with more discomfort, or even a rash. It was one of a dozen small things he did, not out of vanity or habit, but to maintain the delicate balance that kept him healthy. He found it all rather annoying, but it needed to be done.

He started getting dressed, then stopped. “Oh no, not again,” he said, then put his clothes on the bed and headed back to the bathroom.

A half hour later, after finishing what his body demanded he do and then cleaning up after himself in the shower, he went on with his day. The facility wasn’t exactly luxurious, but it had enough activities to keep him occupied. Elliot wondered whether the evaluation would show a major difference between his levels during the week he’d still been at home, and the week he’d spent at the facility. The doctors said they usually did. Of course. It was a clean, sanitary environment. Not that his apartment was particularly dirty, but it wasn’t kept sparkling every minute of the day. Elliot didn’t have to worry about fixing his meals or any of his regular household chores. Stress was minimal, especially with the promise that soon he would be healed.

The monitors came off that afternoon.

Soon. Just a few business days for the team to evaluate all the data that had been gathered, and he’d have an accurate diagnosis. They’d be able to find a treatment that, even if it didn’t cure him, would bring his quality of life back up to where he could be a productive citizen once more.

Soon.

I wrote this story as wish-fulfillment. With our family’s upcoming move, I’ve put my WIP to the side. Still, I promised myself that I would write something every week, even if it was just a bit of flash.

This counts.

I’d originally planned to have Elliot wake up at the end of the story, with no monitors and all his symptoms flooding in with no hope of respite. But it’s cheating to say an entire story is just a dream sequence. Instead, I leave it to the reader to wonder whether Elliot gets his wish of a healthy body, or whether it was all just wishful thinking.

Looking for something new to read? There’s a new story from The Cities of Luna with every full moon! I also have an urban fantasy novella called The House on Paladin Court, about a trio of immortals who keep a dragon locked in their basement. Also new is the next volume of the Biblical Legends Anthology Series: Deluge. My weird little story The Immersion of the Incorporeum appears in this one.2015 12 01 banner

The Shatterer

ShattererJade smiled with self-satisfaction to see Lara in the crowd. Not on the stage, not in the make-up room, not in any entourage, but in the crowd alongside all the rabble who blended together as faces in the crowd, unimportant individually. It had only taken a few words spoken in the right ear to shatter Lara’s career.

It serves her right, to think she can share the stage with me.

Lara hadn’t been the first aspiring diva to learn her lesson the hard way. They called Jade the shatterer for a reason. Not only could her voice shatter fine crystal, but she’d shattered records as she rocketed to the height of celebrity in not only the world of classical music, but modern pop as well. Once she’d reached those heights, she didn’t hesitate to shatter the hopes and dreams of anyone she viewed as a threat to her sublime position.

Only the most accomplished and respected entertainers were invited to perform at the Universal Station’s Grand Ballroom. The ceiling was a lovely facsimile of the starry void…as if the ballroom actually had a view of the stars, instead of being buried somewhere inside the vast and intricate orbital station.

Jade opened her performance, as usual, with a few of her cheekier numbers in the low end of her range. She absorbed the adoration of the crowd, consuming it like oxygen. She segued into one of the classical pieces, stretching her voice easily into a range most sopranos found challenging. The awe the audience exuded was palpable, giving her the energy she needed to reach the climax.

During the brief intermission, she stood while three attendants dressed her in the dark angel costume she’d wear for the second half of her performance. The wings were annoying, but spectacular.

The song began with her voice piercing the inky blackness, the ballroom lit only by the very realistic starscape above. As the spotlight found her, she rose on the floating pedestal, the special effects perfectly complimenting the gradual rise of her voice as she transitioned from one key to another.

Her sycophantic congregation gave her everything she craved. She almost felt that her wings could carry her away, buoyed on the praises of the crowd. She hit the high note in a blaze of glory, holding it for a record-shattering span.

When she finally let go, expecting a moment of stunned silence followed by thundering applause, her ears were confused by a cacophony of sound. She peered into the darkness below, shielding her eyes from the spotlights, but she couldn’t see anything other than a mass of churning bodies.

They were screaming in terror.

And then she heard it. The crack. Jade looked up, seeing the spiderweb of fractures in what she had thought was an artificial viewdome.

The whoosh of air was instant, the glass fell away from her. She followed, carried by her angelic wings. In another instant, there was silence, and absolute cold. She soared to the heavens, attaining heights she’d never dreamed possible.

For a moment, just one fleeting moment, she felt regret. Not for the cruel way she’d treated so many people, but for the fact that the note she’d projected hadn’t even been her highest or most powerful. And now…now the crowd below— some of them joining her in the icy void— would never get to hear it.

I needed a writing warm-up tonight, and I recalled that Jade, a friend from high school, had asked to be killed off. I hope I have done so in a spectacularly satisfactory way.

Genie of the Neti Pot

neti purpleFrances used the palm of her hand to cover the large opening of the little plastic neti-pot and she put a finger over the spout. Gently, so as not to disturb her aching head, she shook it so the little packet of salt would dissolve. Carefully, she leaned over the sink, tilted her head, and inserted the spout into her right nostril.

The sneeze came out of nowhere. With the intake she sucked saline into places it should not be, and the blast made bubbles in the neti-pot. Coughing and sputtering, Frances held onto the counter for dear life as she wiped at her face.

“I wish I was over this cold already,” she grumbled to herself.

“Your wish is my command!” came a voice directly behind her.

She whirled to see a heavily muscled man in a turban and silk vest standing in her bathtub. Well, he wasn’t actually standing… his yellow pants ended in golden smoke that never seemed to dissipate.

Frances gasped, then realized that her nasal passages were perfectly clear. She took a few deep breaths. Her head didn’t hurt anymore. The snot was gone, as was the urge to cough. “I can breathe!” she exclaimed.

“You are over your cold!” the strange man, whom she assumed was a product of her fevered brain, said. “You have two wishes left.”

“Wishes?” she looked him up and down. “You’re a genie?” Genies were dangerous. Every story (well, all but the Disney ones) she’d ever read about genies had them causing more trouble than blessings with their wish-granting.

She’d have to be careful. If it was real…which it probably wasn’t…but…

“Where’d you come from?” she asked, wondering whether her clarity was the result of her newly-mucus-free head or some dream psychosis. Nyquil didn’t usually give her that bad a hangover…

“You have freed me from my prison! For that, you have my eternal gratitude, and three wishes.” He put his finger against his cheek. “Two wishes, now that you are over your cold.”

Frances looked around the bathroom. She did have a few very old perfume bottles, but they were sitting on the shelf with a heavy layer of dust. “What prison?” she asked.

The genie gestured to the neti-pot with a flourish.

“The neti-pot?” Frances asked, picking it up. It still had some saline and snot floating around. “But…it doesn’t have a lid! How could you have been trapped? And it’s not that old. It was probably manufactured in the last year.”

“Never mind that,” the genie said. “It’s magic. It doesn’t have to be logical.”

“Well, gee, in that case…” Frances decided it was worth making a simple wish. The worst that could happen would be that she’d wake up and find herself buried in blankets with three cats trapping her in. “I wish my whole house was clean.”

The genie snapped his fingers. Suddenly, the bathroom seemed a little brighter. The grime that had accumulated on the light fixture was gone. Frances stepped out of the bathroom. The stains that had been in the hallway rug when she bought the house six years ago were gone.

The genie followed her out. His legs were looking slightly more human, but his feet were still nothing but smoke.

Frances sat down at the computer. She had to google ‘how to outwit a genie’ before making her final wish.

Her dating profile was still on the screen. There were three messages from men she was trying to politely ignore, and three more messages from strangers she’d had yet to check out. “I wish one of these would turn out to be a decent guy,” she muttered, then quickly clamped her hand over her mouth.

The genie was gone. She checked every corner of her immaculate house, but there was no sign of the fairy-tale being. Frances picked up the neti-pot. She rubbed it. Nothing happened. She cleaned it out with hot, soapy water, then rubbed it again. Nothing. She mixed up the saline again, put it in her nose, and blew.

She just made a mess.

Shaking her head, Frances sat down at the computer again. She clicked the first message and instantly hit Report/Block as the image of a rather hairy and ungroomed penis stared at her. She took a deep breath, then clicked the second message. It started off well enough, but the words ‘…pretty, for someone your size’ and ‘You know what you should do?’ led her to relegate that particular match to the ‘ignore until you’re really desperate’ file.

There was one left. Frances clicked. She assumed that he was the scruffy-looking man standing between the guy in the Batman mask and the man dressed up as Superman. Scruffy-looking she could accept, embrace even. She would even hug a nerf-herder if he remembered to put the toilet seat down and didn’t say ‘what?’ every time she spoke to him.

The next picture showed him looking much more cleaned up, sitting behind a table on a stage with several people who looked familiar. She looked more closely. One of those faces belonged to the writer on one of her favorite shows. ‘My sister told me I had to get all dressed up if I was going to be on the panel,’ he said. ‘I don’t usually look like this.’

At least it didn’t say ‘my mother.’ She looked at his profile. He was a grip for the show, as well as being an avid blogger who rated and reported on everything zombie.

Frances closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, her head was still clear, her house was still clean, and the seemingly perfect dating profile was still up on the screen.

“Well…” she said to the cat, who had just wandered in. “What’s the worst that could happen?” she asked, and clicked ‘reply.’

~*~

Sometimes, before writing, I need to warm up. Sometimes, I need to get some silly idea out of my head before I sit down to write the ‘real’ stuff. This was fun to write! And my neti-pot does say ‘genie-style.’

 

Real

Melissa Surreal

They weren’t real.

Not yet, anyway…

Lissa nurtured the tiny beings, shaping their lives, balancing their needs, their wants, their desires with what was plausible.

She had not created a fairyland.

Not this time…

A thousand years earlier, she had created a fairyland…a place with magic and dragons and wishes that came true…

A place that did not stand the test of time.

A place where the threads of reality were hopelessly frayed, the paradox of its very existence tearing apart the world from within.

Having created that fairyland, though it failed, it had given her a new possibility. New tools to make something…not better. Nothing was better than the world she’d loved and lived in for a millennia. To make something… stable. Lasting. Self perpetuating.

It was safe.

Lissa scried, spying on her creation. She desperately wanted all to be right in their world, but that was simply not possible.

All was right in the fairyland… a thousand years ago. Then it frayed.

Her new world could not fray. She imbued it with permanence.

She gave them free will.

She laughed at the irony that her creation did not believe she existed. For soon, she would not.

Lissa reached out to her little ones, her beloveds, those she had created. Those she had allowed to suffer and overcome and rejoice and do it all over again a million times.

These…she would make real.

The light from the scrying glass lit her face.

She was glad they did not believe in her.

She did not want them to mourn her.

Slowly, she gave herself to them.

She exchanged her own reality for theirs, until she herself was nothing but a fable, a character to live on in legend, as fiction.

And they lived on.

This story was totally inspired by the picture. My friend Melissa recently posted it on facebook, even though it’s a couple of years old now.

Melissa is a true writer’s friend. In particular, every once in a while I have a weird question that requires some research, and she jumps on it, searching out weird facts for me to weave into my stories.

Thanks Melissa!

WWHBThis story isn’t related to any others I’ve done, but Lissa reminds me somewhat of Jane, the sorceress in What Would Have Been, the serial I posted on the blog back in 2012.

The Anemone of My Enemy

576px-Hepatica_transsilvanica_flowerQuirt Quickfinish eyed the white picket fence with suspicion. It was all that stood between him and Bliss.

Well, that was an exaggeration.

A white picket fence, a garden full of deadly genetically engineered blooms, and three tiny barking dogs stood between him and the cottage door. Once inside, he’d have to vanquish his arch nemesis, Dr. De’Devious, and then he could have Bliss.

Well, technically he’d already had Bliss.

Bliss of the ample bosoms and inadequate corset was the only woman who, when he proved his name, had declared “Wow!” instead of the the usual “What? Is it over already?”

Well, Dr. De’Devious was’t really his arch nemesis. She was Bliss’. Why, he had no idea.

Anywho…

Quirt fastened his gas mask and checked the ammunition in his super-soaker. Weed killer from the dollar store mixed with his nana’s best moonshine should kill anything.

First, the dogs.

Well, he wasn’t going to kill the dogs. But one package of super-chewy puppy treats had the three of them trotting off to their respective doggie houses to savor their snacks.

Next, the picket fence.

Well, he couldn’t just open the gate. It was probably alarmed. The gazebo looked rather startled, too. Vaulting over the fence was much more manly.

Quirt landed in a pocketfull of posies and they instantly attacked. His gas mask took care of the noxious fumes, and the super-soaker soon turned the delightful flower bed into a sandbox.

Next, the lawn.

Well, he couldn’t walk on the cobblestone quicksand. He was too smart for that. His armored thigh-high crocs protected his feet and legs from the deadly razor grass, and soon he was within reach of the front porch.

Purplish blue flowers as big as his head turned towards him. The tiny yellow spines in the center squirmed in an alarmingly prehensile way. The long, thin stamen quivered, then shot out at him, bouncing harmlessly off his leather duster.

Now that the anemone was disarmed, he removed his gas mask and started cooing to it. “Who’s a pretty flower? Who’s the prettiest blossom in all the garden?”

The blooms rotated, watching him, but not attacking. He took a plastic bag out of his inside coat pocket and tossed a marshmallow to one of the blooms. The prehensile center snatched it out of the air and stuffed it into the gaping maw in the center. He tossed more to the other blooms, and soon they were begging for more.

“Can I help you?” said a voice from the porch.

Quirt looked up to see a pleasantly curvaceous woman wearing a polka dot dress standing in the open door. He tried to step onto the porch, but the anemones were cuddling up to him, begging for more. One had worked its way up his leg to his crotch, which unfortunately was responding in an embarrassing manner. He might be willing to tup anything with two legs, but he’d yet to tup something that had none.

Well…nevermind.

The woman glanced at his crotch. “You’re Quickfinish, aren’t you?” she asked.

“I…how do you know who I am?” he said, fighting off the flowers and stumbling onto the porch.

“Bliss told me all about you. She’s mad because I stole her last boyfriend, but she still tells me everything. Come on in.”

She turned and went into the cottage, and Quirt had no option but to follow. He couldn’t vanquish her from the porch while she was sitting in her living room.

A loud thump sounded from upstairs. Three short thumps, then three long, then three short.

“Don’t mind that. It’s just the dogs,” De’Devious said.

Quirt raised an eyebrow, then followed the alleged mad doctor into her kitschy kitchen. She opened a cupboard and took out a bottle with a cork stopper.

A voice from upstairs called out “It’s been four hours! You have to take me to a doctor!”

“Is that the boyfriend you seduced?” Quirt asked, wary. Her bobbing cleavage and confident manner was certainly seductive…

“I never said I seduced him,” she answered innocently. “So. Take a swig of this next time you and Bliss are…well, next time you set eyes on each other.” She placed the bottle in his hands and yelled towards the kitchen stairs. “I told you not to take so much! Now either hop yourself to the doctor or wait patiently for me to come take care of you!”

The noises from upstairs abruptly stopped.

“There. All will be forgiven now,” the mad doctor smiled and patted his hand warmly.

Quirt read the fine print on the bottle, his eyebrows arching as he walked out the way he’d come, looking with regret at the three puppies sniffing around the patch of sand that had once been a bed of beautiful blooms. He vaulted over the picket fence again, eager to test De’Devious’ product.

Bliss did indeed forgive De’Devious. When she and Quirt were married, though, she insisted he take her name instead of her becoming “Bliss Quickfinish.” Mr. and Mrs. Everready lived happily ever after.

In wedded Bliss.

Yes, this was just for fun. Glenn said something about “The enemy of my enemy…” and I took off from there, stealing a high school classmate’s secret mad-scientist identity for the antagonist-turned-heroine.

Redheads

Shadows by Sharyn Yee

Shadows by Sharyn Yee

It was a redhead again. Everything else was right; the perky breasts, the come-hither look… but it was not supposed to be a redhead. Ever.

Shawn exited the Rorupurei and checked the settings. Everything he could control was exactly the way he always had it. Unfortunately, since the possible combinations of both appearance and action were infinite, much had to be left to the algorithm to figure out.

You’d think something simple like hair color could be selectable…

He went in again, and there she was. Her back was to him, and she was dressed for desire. A thong that was more jewelry than underwear, some kind of arm coverings that weren’t gloves, but they laced up like a corset, and matched the lacy thing around her neck. There was probably a fancy term for them, but knowledge of women’s fashion was not his strong point.

Her eyes smoldered from beneath a black veil, attached to a hat that covered her…

Red hair. Why did the computer think he wanted a redhead all of a sudden?

Shawn tossed the interface across the room and took his bottle of lotion into the bathroom to finish what he’d started the old fashioned way.

At just the wrong moment, his sister’s voice came over the intercom. “Shawn, are you coming up for dinner? It’ll be ready in about half an hour.”

Frustrated beyond hope, he yelled instead of pushing the button. “Yeah!” At least he’d get fed if he couldn’t get laid. Living in his sister’s basement had its advantages.

Φ

It was getting too cold to bike over to Jay’s house for gaming, but one of the guys was usually willing to pick him up. Being legally blind meant he would never be able to drive, never be able to impress a chick with his sweet ride, never be seen as the dependable, helpful type of man a girl wanted to date. Real girls, anyways…

“Wait!” Jay commanded as Shawn and Dave, his driver of the day, arrived on the doorstep. “Answer this truthfully. Last Sunday, when you bedded down for the night in the castle ruins, did you leave Barrowmaster in your bag of holding, or did you take it out to sleep with?”

“I took it out. I always sleep with Barrowmaster at hand,” Shawn answered confidently.

“It’s like his teddy-bear,” Dave added, prompting a snicker from the group already inside.

“Enter then. And partake of pizza,” Jay said, opening the door and sweeping his arm out in a gesture of generosity.

“I brought the Dew,” Shawn said, lifting the twelve-pack and putting it on the table.

“Did anyone bring ginger-ale?” Lyndsay asked, munching a breadstick. It looked phallic to him, but he chased that image away and blamed it on his poor eyesight. Lyndsay had enough to put up with, being the only girl in the group. She didn’t need some pathetic loser nerd who lived in his sister’s basement harassing her. Or staring at her, something he knew he did without realizing, but fortunately his friends were all used to kicking him under the table or poking him with a (sheathed, usually) katana to remind him of his manners.

“Here you go sweetie,” said Rob, handing her a can.

Sweetie? They’d been on, what, three dates, and he was already calling her sweetie? Rob, the pathetic nerd who lived in his parents’ trailer house with his my-neck-is-redder-than-yours white trash sister, was dating Lyndsay, one of the only females to ever come anywhere even close to his circle of friends.

Shawn ignored his usual chair and instead sat where Dave’s rather herculean mass would be between himself and “the female” as he preferred to call her. Even though she hadn’t laughed at his cute idea of a nickname, only smiled that long-suffering smile she aimed so often at him, he continued to use it. If he stopped, he’d have to admit he was being nice.

He’d have to admit he liked her.

In the three months since she’d moved to town and started gaming with them, he’d had plenty of time to tell her how he felt. She’d even come over to his apartment a few times to get help with her tablet or laptop. He just couldn’t bring himself to actually ask her out. The possibility of rejection was just too…preordained.

Shawn did his best to ignore the female as the dice rolled and the adventurers attempted to predict what the DM would throw at them next. He was fine until Dave got up and disappeared in the bathroom for twenty minutes.

“What is your real hair color?” Jay asked Lyndsay, whose hair was currently a bright blue. It had been purple when they’d first met, and changed frequently.

“She’s a real redhead,” Rob answered. The smugness in his tone was obvious. Shawn focused his eyepiece on Lyndsay, who was blushing furiously and trying her best to ignore the guys.

“I’m going to see if there’s any ice cream left,” she said, getting up.

“That’s it, woman. Back to the kitchen where you belong.” The words left Shawn’s mouth before his brain had a chance to censor them. It was stupid. It was rude. It wasn’t even remotely funny, even though he’d meant it to be.

Rob smacked him on the head with a rubber mace, defending his girlfriend’s honor.

Φ

When Dave dropped him off at home, Shawn fell into bed without bothering to undress. He awoke a few hours later and coded until his fingers started cramping. He reached for the Rorupurei interface, not caring whether it insisted on providing him with a redhead. A redhead, like every girl he’d ever crushed on hard. Like every girl who’d ever crushed him back, and not in a good way.

His shadow lover was there, as always. Ready to laugh at his stupid misogynistic jokes. Ready to stand on a pedestal or wrestle in the mud, whatever he wished for.

But now her hair was bright blue.

This story was inspired directly from the above picture by artist and friend Sharyn Yee. Actually, it was her husband James‘ idea to pick one of her pictures, then each write a story based on it. I invited my friends Geri and Gwen along for the ride as well. Below are the links to the stories they wrote. I’m interested in reading them myself…I made sure I didn’t peek at theirs until mine was finished!

Geri Bressler, NC-Narrations wrote “Shadows”

Gwendolyn Wilkins, Kius Lady, wrote “Do Not Fear the Shadows”

James Yee, AKA Gozer the Carpathian, wrote “The Meeting”

Stretching the Truth

61417main_spitzer-062804-browse“I’m jealous of the schizophrenics.”

Trillium nodded and smiled gently at the man on the couch. Not just a literal couch, but a figurative one as well. It was anachronistically stereotypical for a psychiatrist’s office, but she found that her patients liked it.

Necalli fell asleep on the couch on a regular basis. Regular meaning several times per session, as he tended to slip in and out of consciousness randomly. The disability forced his retirement from Everest Exploratory, although as a work-related injury the company was taking very good care of him.

Trillium waited patiently. Sometimes Necalli was only thinking. Sometimes he slept, but often he awoke speaking as if he’d been having a conversation in his dreams and was simply continuing the conversation into his waking world.

She thumbed through his file while she waited. He had at least five complete sets of memories; she could understand the comment regarding schizophrenia. She’d heard similar things from other explorers.

“…because I can remember the fight. I can remember her saying those awful things and walking out on me. But she can’t. Of course she can’t…because she didn’t walk out on me. The other Layla did.”

“Do you think you subconsciously did something to change your personal timeline during that trip?” Trillium had asked the same question of him during every visit, and she always phrased it a different way. Inconsistencies in answers were not necessarily indicative of deception; they might also be indicative of confusion or a loss of control over which memories were currently accurate.

“It was my primary concern.” Necalli had given that answer before. The official mission report told a different story, but Trillium suspected he treated her couch as a confessional, whether or not his sins were real. The fight with his wife had been traumatic for him. When he next traveled back, an opportunity presented itself, and he instigated an unauthorized change. A personal change. He returned to find his wife hadn’t left him. The fight, although it happened, had diffused quickly instead of escalating. A complete set of memories flooded him, acknowledging the alterations in the timeline.

Trillium itched to open the curtains, but she knew that it might trigger Necalli’s more violent symptoms. She found the view of the distant Milky Way soothing. Her office window framed the idyllic scene, looking through the end of the city with its parks and colorful architecture below, above, and all around. The bubble in the distance was aimed perfectly at the Milky Way Galaxy, humanity’s home. Asgard Station spun demurely, creating what its inhabitants interpreted as gravity and making the spiral galaxy light-years away appear to spin.

“I need to go home. I need to know which wife is there…” Necalli said suddenly. Only moments before, his eyes had been closed and the monitor showed he was in REM sleep. He stood unsteadily and lurched towards the door.

“Steady there…” she said, jumping up and inserting herself under his arm to help him. “Your wife is right outside the door. She brought you here today.”

“Oh,” Necalli said, exhaling and deflating. He seemed stretched somehow, but Trillium interpreted that as her own interpretation of his mental state. “I like it when she brings me here today.”

Trillium experienced a distinct sense of deja vu, even though she was certain he’d never said that before. When he was gone, she checked her records. His wife had never brought him to his appointments until today.

That was new.

She drew the curtains and frowned. She’d been in the same office for eight years, and yet the view seemed somehow altered. It was as if they had built onto the end of the city and pushed the bubble out just a bit farther. Even the Milky Way looked more distant than usual.

Trillium shook her head. She just needed some fresh air. She’d been counselling chrononauts all day, and it always left her just a bit discombobulated by the time it was five o’clock somewhere.

The air smelled sweet and cool, just the way she liked it. She stopped to peruse a cart of fresh fruit and listened to the laughter of a young couple passing by. Her stomach flipped when she heard the words “deja vu” in the midst of their laughter.

Trillium took a deep breath and cleared her mind. She was attaching meaning to trivial events that held no significance whatsoever. Asgard station was a paradise, halfway between the Milky Way and the Pegasus galaxy. They hosted a wide array of scientific endeavors that had very good reason for wanting to be far away from any civilized world, and they profited greatly from it.

Like Everest Exploratory. The company had certainly made her wealthy, doing what she loved. It was worth the so-called risk of living on a space station in the middle of nowhere. It was worth sharing a city with various temporal agencies that would never be sanctioned inside a solar system.

And it was safe. It always had been, in more than a century of temporal exploration. And although she had dozens of patients with multiple sets of memories, she knew which memories were real. She knew which memories were true.

But are we stretching the truth?

Trillium thought the fruit vendor had said the words, then she realized the words only formed in her own mind. She reached for an apple…

…and reached.

…and reached…

…and reached.

This is one of THOSE stories. The one that creeps into my brain and starts knocking around, demanding to be written. After typing it into the blog, I thought “Maybe I should have kept this one? Maybe I could have sold it…”

Well, too late. Into the blog it began, into the blog it stays.

Of course, as is, it is a rough draft. Barely edited for spelling and such.

I would LOVE to hear some constructive criticism on this one. I think I might even link it up with Write On Edge this weekend… and I’ll post it in the Speculative Fiction Writers’ Community on Google Plus.

Questions I have in particular: Is it a complete story? Does it feel like it’s just a part of something else? (I really want it to stand alone, but this is a danger with short stories) Does my lack of explanation of the tech leave you lost, or is it OK?

In case you’re wondering, it’s just shy of 1,000 words.

Thanks! I am looking forward to reading your comments.

Were-worf

WorfEdwin had been standing in line for ages. It would be worth it though; he’d missed getting Wil Wheaton’s autograph at the last three cons, he wasn’t going to miss out this time.

He glanced up at the sky nervously. He’d been late taking his medication, and was already feeling much more anxiety than usual. It didn’t help that bikini-clad Leah-look-alikes kept stopping by to have their picture taken with the wookie behind him in line.

A bored looking guy in a baseball cap and official con tee shirt made his way down the line, counting fans as he went.

No… they wouldn’t… they said there would be plenty of room and no need to sell tickets ahead of time…

It was the worst thing about the big cons. Standing in line for hours was never a guarantee that one would actually get in to a particular event.

“Four hundred ninety-nine… five hundred.” The man handed Edwin a sign saying Line Ends Here. “Sorry folks, but the fire marshal has decided the room can only hold five hundred. We’ve added an event to the main hall, though, a panel on the abuses of canon in fan-fic…”

Edwin didn’t hear the rest of what the man said. He was drowned out by the cat-calls of the crowd.

Edwin held the sign like it was the one ring…his precious.

A mournful, gurgly wail interrupted his reverie. The wookie, in perfect make-up, looked down at Edwin from an impossible height. The guy looked like he used no prosthesis to attain the character’s necessary height.

Edwin’s gut churned. Let the wookie win… said the voices in his head. The sun hadn’t yet set, and the full moon already peeked from behind the clouds. Edwin’s head throbbed, and he knew it was already too late.

“It’s all yours!” he said, shoving the sign at the wookie and running.

“Hey, sorry… dude!” the wookie called after him. “I didn’t mean to scare you! I was just staying in character…”

Edwin waved in what he hoped was a friendly way and cursed the lack of phone-booths in today’s society. Then again, as as all-glass booth, they never had been good for changing in anyways. Superman was an idiot. He needed to find a bathroom.

Fortunately there was no line for the men’s room off the main lobby. He could already feel the bone protrusions pushing themselves out from his skull. He barely made it into the handicap stall before his shirt began to rip as his chest expanded.

Another red shirt bites the dust… he thought as he pulled the remains of his TOS shirt off and tossed it in the trash.

“OW!” He struggled with his jeans, which were far more resistant to the change. “Ow ow ow ow ooooooooowwwoooooo!!!!!” he shouted through gritted teeth as his tighty whities dug into his flesh before they, too, were ripped to shreds.

“Are you OK?” came a duo of voices from the direction of the bidets.

“Just… yeah. Just practicing my wolf call…” Edwin called back, hoping no one would notice his shredded underwear on the floor near the door.

He braced himself against the wall as the last of the changes racked his body, leaving him naked and trembling.

When it was done, he took a few deep breaths and cleaned up all the fabric scraps, stuffing them into his backpack. He removed his STNG uniform, the one designed to fit his larger form, and got dressed.

Fortunately there was no one else in the bathroom then, and he rejoined the crowd in the convention center lobby as they all flowed from one event to another.

“Oh! Nice cosplay. Mind if we take a picture?” asked a girl with trill-spots he suspected might be actual tattoos, not make-up. Her friends were dressed as dabo-girls.

“Sure!” Edwin said with a grin, opening his arms as all three of them posed against him, fingers on his chest and showing lots of leg.

It might be hard to keep a job. It might be a huge inconvenience in every other aspect of his life…

But sometimes it was good to be a were-worf.

Space Opera

A_night_at_the_opera_in_the_year_2000,_cartoon_by_Albert_Robida,_ca._1882Ben grabbed the steering wheel as his apprentice vaulted out of the flier from the driver’s seat, plunging through a dozen layers of traffic.

“Anakin, you’ll be the death of me yet…” he muttered, barely managing to get the vehicle under control before rear ending a floater full of turnips.

He scanned the heavy traffic. Their quarry was nowhere in sight.

Neither was Anakin…

Ben turned on his lift signal and merged into the traffic overhead. It was moving faster, being a through-lane. He couldn’t slow down to scan the area, but at least he was moving fast enough to get a good view of the entire place.

He pushed a button on the console and a feminine mechanical voice informed him “Anakin’s vital statistics read as normal. He is stationary at level four, coordinates…”

The voice was cut off by Anakin’s own voice. “Ben! You have to get down here…NOW!”

“Bloody hell…” Ben cursed and dove, defying the law of gravity by moving faster than the planet pulled him, and defying the laws of traffic in a dozen other ways.

Finally, he saw his young apprentice. “Nooo!” Ben screamed when he realized what Anakin had in mind.

“Ben, we have no choice…” came Anakin’s voice over the comm. Ben could see him in the distance, standing there, resigned to their fate.
“Anakin, the cost… it’s just too much…”

Ben pulled the flier up to the docking platform and reluctantly handed his keys to the valet.

Anakin patted his back gently. “I know. Valet parking is expensive. And you worry they’ll scratch the paint, but we’re late and we really have no choice.”

Ben sighed and straightened his bow tie, casting one last glimpse as a stranger in uniform drove his baby away. “You’re right, Anakin. It has to be this way.”

Together, they headed towards the entrance. Ben imparted just a few additional words of wisdom to his young apprentice, although apparently Anakin had already learned them well.
“A Jedi is never late to the opera.”

Just for fun! I participate in several Flash Fiction groups. It’s always fun, and a great exercise or warm-up for adding to the WIP.

The Speculative Fiction Writers community on Google Plus just began doing a weekly picture prompt, which I’ve dubbed SFFF (Science Fiction and Fantasy Flash.) This is my story for the week.