Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Drabble: The Gates

The Gates

“Did your life flash before your eyes?”

“Actually, it didn’t, it was more a list of regrets. I know, that sounds maudlin, but as I fell, it came down to the things I hadn’t done.”

“Like what?”

“Nothing big, no ‘I never reconciled with my father’ or any such. Just little things. I should have gotten to the tennis court more. I never tried baba ganoush. I never made love to a cellist.”

“Never made love to a cellist?”

“I always wanted to make love to a cellist.”

“So, how long do you think we wait here?”

“Couldn’t tell you.”

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Drabble: Pot


“I’m thinking about heading home.”

“Me too, Frank. The buffet is almost out.”

“Alright, let’s go.”

“Sounds good.”

We headed to the doors where we’d come in, but there was a big ENTER ONLY sign, so we went to the doors at the far end of the banquet hall, only to find the same.

“They’re not making it easy,” said Frank. “Ah well, there must be some way out.”

“What’s that?” There’s a feeling in my gut like an elevator going up.


“This seems familiar, somehow.”

“I wouldn’t pay it too much mind. Hey, you tried this crab dip?”

Monday, December 29, 2008

Drabble: Fifteen


It was the spring of her thirteenth birthday when Violet’s letter came from the Warhol Institute. She unsealed the official-looking envelope, but she already knew what it contained.

This letter shall serve as notice that, from 11:54 am till 12:09 pm on Friday, July 8th, you shall be the most famous person on earth.

Part of her resented the institute. Sure, she was happy, and who wouldn’t be? But why in the summer, with no schoolmates around to admire her momentary specialness?

And if it happened so early in her life, what was left to wait for?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Drabble: Confection


“This one’s... mmm... lemon fondant?”

“Let me try one. Oh, maybe dark chocolate ganache?”

“The card says dark chocolate-hazelnut.”

“I don’t taste it, but okay.”

“Here, give me another.” I bite through the milk chocolate shell, and my mind was flooded with memories. Every bittersweet moment, every let's-just-be-friends rejection, every not-quite-right present from every childhood birthday flashes through my head. I force myself to chew and swallow the sticky lump. “What was in that?”

“Existential ennui with raspberry puree.”

“That can’t be right.”

“It says so right there...”

“I could’ve sworn it was strawberry.”

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Drabble: Talk:Charles Foster Kane

Talk:Charles Foster Kane

Last words

anyone know anything about this “rosebud?” - (talk) 23 June 1941

Tried to look up Susan Alexander’s bio, but the link’s broken. -jthompson (talk)
23 June 1941

Checked again, but there’s no “rosebud” mention.
-jthompson (talk) 27 June 1941

Nothing about it in Thatcher’s blog archives, either -jthompson (talk) 23 June

Someone want to check out the Bernstein or Leland connnections? -72.34.423.556 (talk) 24 June 1941

Not finding anything... -jthompson (talk) 27 June 1941

anyone??? - (talk) 28 June 1941

:’’( - (talk) 23 June 1941

Friday, December 26, 2008

Drabble: Bad Advice

Bad Advice

“This whole thing is set to blow wide open.”


“This doesn’t have to be a bad thing.”

“How the hell do you mean?”

“Okay, here’s the plan. Over the next few months, you’re going to go absolutely over the top. Don’t just be corrupt, be a parody of corruption. Do it on every phone line you’ve got.”

“Why would I fuckin’ do that?”

“You’re giving them evidence so ridiculous, when it comes out, people won’t possibly believe it’s real. You’ll be a hero, a victim, a frame-up.”

“Son, you’re a fuckin’ genius.

“Just doing my job, Mr. B.”

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Droubble: Gonna Find Out...

Gonna Find Out...

The hideous thing squinted at the light. “Hey, kid, what the hell are you doing up?”

“I have to pee.”

“Crap, this is not good, not good at all.”

“What are you?”

“What do I look like? I’m a Christmas elf.”

“You don’t look like one at all.” This wasn’t entirely true – the little man stood about the right height, and his ears were pointy, if tufted with greasy white hair. But his features were grotesque, his limbs twiglike and crooked. His outfit, far from festive, looked like it was hastily made from scraps of old sack.

“Ahh, you’ve only seen factory elves. Of course Santa keeps the pretty ones around for publicity shots. But we do the real work.”

“What work is that?”

“Uhh, nothing. I was just, uh, passing through.”

“What’s behind you?”


The child pushed him aside, and gasped. His old teddy bear sat on the shelf, its face ripped open along the seam. A tiny camera blinked inside. The elf had been midway through stitching up the hole with a needle half as long as his forearm.

“Listen, you tell anyone about this, that’s big-time naughty list. You saw nothing. Now go to sleep.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Drabble: Bird's Eye

Bird's Eye

The caged bird is defined by the cage. Without it, it would simply be bird. The bird is a thing inside the cage, a state signified by and identical with the cage.

But wait. Look out through those little black, glassy eyes. You, the dog, the couch and the bookshelf and the walls and the potted plant, these are things outside the cage. If the bird could see or imagine elephants, the Tour Eiffel, sycamore trees and black holes and sushi, they too would so defined.

So are we your monsters from space, or are you our songbirds from Earth?

NOTE: I will be flying out of town early tomorrow, and I'm not bringing my computer, so the drabbles will just have to wait to be posted until I get back.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Drabble: Consensus


“I tend to disagree,” said Counsellor Trouff.

A gasp of shock went through the forum at sound of those near-forgotten words. Decisions in the Forum, and for that matter all manner of decision, were always made by consensus. Dissent was unheard of – not because it was quashed, but simply because it was unheard of to separate one’s thoughts from the zeitgeist long enough to come to a dissenting viewpoint. The thought of doing so was too terrifying to imagine.

The remaining members of the forum were, of course, unanimous in the decision of how to deal with the Counsellor.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Droubble: Adventure Travel

Adventure Travel

It was so hot along the edge of the highway that the glue binding the spine of my guidebook was starting to fail, and as I compulsively checked the maps to see how far we were from our destination, pages kept coming loose, like the wings of craneflies in the hands of a sadistic little boy. I tucked them, in ever-increasing number, back in their place inside the glossy cover.

This was supposed to be a good area to hitch a ride, and perhaps if any cars would pass through, this would be true. But the road was barren, the locals apparently knowing better than to travel on such a day in their mostly un-air-conditioned (for who here could afford to have such a non-essential system repaired?) prewar cars, and all the hospitality in the world didn’t help if nobody was along to offer it.

We stopped under a crumbling overpass, opened the last two cans of now-lukewarm beer. It was too foamy, and not terribly refreshing, but it was all we had left.

“Ain’t this fine,” I said, bitterly.

I’m not the genius who wanted to take vacation on the Surface,” spat back Martha.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Drabble: Evening


“What if somebody sees us?”

“We’re not doing anything wrong here.”

“Then why are we sneaking around like this?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Come on. Why else did we come halfway across town to this restaurant?”

“I just didn’t want to take you to the same old places. You deserve to be treated like a princess.”

“And the taxi? That wasn’t to avoid being seen together in your car?”

“I just had an eye exam today, they said not to drive for three hours after.”

"Okay, but I still don’t understand why I have to wear the nose glasses.”

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Drabble: Fragmentation


Time’s going by in shards and fragments now. It started small, like a flickery movie projection, but the intervals grew, time freezing, hanging on an image, then jumping to another moment to catch up with itself. Now, at times, it can be the better part of an hour before the next comes along.

This arrangement is not without its benefits. I have plenty of time to analyze every moment, and to do so in the moment, no filter of retrospection.

Some day, will I freeze entirely? Perhaps it’ll come down to one solitary moment. I hope it’s a good one.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Drabble: Allowed


“Umm, aren’t you going to do something about that?”

“Oh, don’t worry,” said Martha. “He’s allowed to do that.”

I tried to control my distaste; it felt just wrong, but it wasn’t my dog, nor was it my house. Who was I to argue?

“Can I use your bathroon?” I asked.

“Sure, down the hall on the right.”

I closed the door behind me, locked it, then heard something moving. I pulled open the shower curtain, and there was the alligator.

I screamed for help as I tried to pry its jaws off my leg.

“She’s allowed to do that.”

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Droubble: Wrong Turn

Wrong Turn

“We should be turning on to Virginia any minute now, then I’ll know where we are.”

“We’re lost, okay? Just stop and ask for directions.”

“You’re the one who’s so sure we’re lost, you ask.”

“I will. Stop here, I’ll ask him.” She indicated a man in a plum-colored suit.

“Fine, knock yourself out.” He pulled over to the curb.

“Sir, I’m afraid we’re lost. Could you tell me where this is?”

“Who said that?”

“Down here.”

“A, a talking dog?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Oh, of course. Y, you say you’re lost?”


“Well, this here is the conservatory, then past that is the billiard room.”

“Could you tell my friend how to get to Virginia Avenue?”

“Your friend?”

“Over there.”

“I see an automobile...”

“Yes, him.”

He let out a choked laugh. “A talking dog, out for a stroll with her friend the automobile, looking for an imaginary street. I must lay off the opium.” At this the man in purple walked briskly away.

She walked back to the car. “I don’t recognize anything here. It’s all wrong.”

“It’ll be fine.”

“If thimble were here, he’d know–”

The car glared. “I told you never to say that name.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Drabble: Wrong Answers

Wrong Answers

Laura draped her arms around over shoulders. “What are you thinking about?”

I’m not sure anyone’s ever answered that question honestly. It’s not as if I was thinking some horrible thing that I wouldn’t want to tell her about; it just wouldn’t be the right thing for the moment. Our minds wander, more than we’d like to admit. In the most romantic moment, that leaky pipe under the faucet still might sneak its way into your thoughts, or that thing that happened at work the other day.

Something trite, anything but the truth.

“Other women?”

Crap, that doesn’t sound right.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Drabble: Z and Me

Z and Me

The taillights swerved erratically as the car skidded to a stop. I almost didn’t get in with the wild-eyed man, but I wasn’t sure I could flag another ride so late at night.

“Glad to see they haven’t got you, yet.”


“You know your way around a shotgun?”


I’d hitched with crazy people before, without trouble; mostly, if you pretended to listen to their rambling, they’d take you anywhere. But this guy’s violent nonsense was scaring me.

I was thinking how to get away when we topped a rise and plowed into a phalanx of lurching flesh.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Drabble: Flaws


It started around the edges, nothing I could be sure I even saw. A bit of tearing in my peripheral vision, glitches in the sound, straight lines and sharp edges where there shouldn’t be any. Two identical pebbles on the riverbank.

As they piled up, I realized what was going on. It was all a simulation.

At first I thought maybe it had always been so. But in that case, how should I know that these glitches, these sharp edges, these repetitions, weren’t the natural norm?

How, when, why was I put here?

And had I been given a choice?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Droubble: One Being's Trash...

One Being’s Trash...

The Zzdagx had been almost as poor stewards of their planet, Zzd, as we had been on Earth. Overpopulation and poor management of resources had thrown the ecosystem of Zzd drastically out of balance. Overextraction had reduced the oceans’ levels of dioxins and mercury, necessary to the physiological processes of life evolved on Zzd, to almost nothing. Industrial processes had cooled the planet’s average temperature, and had left a dangerous caul of ozone in the upper atmosphere, blocking out necessary radiation. There were mass extinctions, terrible wars over remaining resources, famines of historical proportion. But when things were at their most dire, our species chanced to meet.

Serendipity on our side, a deal was easily brokered with the Zzsagx – a straight across trade, world for world. Great arks ferried back and forth, transferring the populace of Zzd to Earth, and vise versa. Long extinct flora and fauna were reconstructed from genetic databases, populating new, more hospitable ecosystems.

Naysayers on both sides expressed fears and apprehensions. This easy solution, they claim, has left us to learn nothing, and history, they fear, will repeat. But who cares, I say? So long as the Zzdagx haven’t learned, either, we can always trade back.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Drabble: Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror

I avoid mirrors. I keep one in the bathroom to shave, but inside a cabinet, so I only have to look at it for those few minutes. I don’t like what I see in there. Bacause the face in the mirror – it isn’t me.

He’s not a stranger; he’s familiar, like someone you see in passing, maybe someone from work, someone in a different department who you see every few days. But it’s not me, that’s beyond question.

I sometimes wonder if there’s a mirror somewhere that actually shows me. I can’t imagine trying enough mirrors to find out, though.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Droubble: Training Wheels

Training Wheels

“Why do people hate us humans so much, Szjak?”

“It’s not hate. It’s just... your kind are rather loud.”

“Not all of us. I mean, we were minding our own business, talking quietly at our booth when that snail-looking thing kicked us out of the bar.”

“Not loud like that. See, this is hard for a race that hasn’t yet developed functional telepathy to understand, but in galactic society at large, it’s considered rather crass to walk around without at least partially masking your emotions and surface thoughts. You’re practically screaming right now, a muddled combination of indignation, shame, and confusion, with some hunger tossed in. We enlightened types just try to filter it out; we know it’s not your fault. But not everyone’s so understanding.”

“But I don’t know how to mask my thoughts.”

“Your race is still growing. We were all there once – that’s why I can’t be too impatient with your kind. You’re close, too; your mastery of your own minds will reach a level where you can meaningfully become full members of the galactic community.”

“How much longer?”

“Maybe a few thousand of your years.”

“That’s soon?”

“Sometimes I forget how young you humans are.”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Drabble: Gifts


“Oh man, not again.”


“Another dead animal by the door.”

“Eww, that’s sick.”

“They think they’re helping out. You should see how proud they are when they leave it there. I’ll just go throw it away.”

“I’ll never understand you pet people.”

“Yeah, it can be a little gross, but it’s worth it for the love, the loyalty and companionship. Not to mention their adorable antics.”

- - -

The priest stood before the altar. He turned to address the people.

"The gods have accepted our sacrifice! The flood will come again, and we shall not go hungry. Let us give thanks.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Drabble: Moonwalk


The white glow of the moon seems to add to the cold of the already-chilly evening. Branches cast silver-edged shadows where the ground is dark enough for the moon’s light to show, the spaces between and around corners from the harsh yellow sodium pools of the street lights. A high and thin layer of clouds show an aura around the moon, a perfect circle surprisingly sharp and as big as almost the entire sky. White ring and white dot against black sky present the inverse of a cartoon eye.

You wink at the moon. It doesn’t wink back.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Drabble: Reception


When I woke up, my ears were totally plugged. I practically slept through my alarm, the muffled, tinny buzz only piercing my slumber several minutes after it rang, and no amount of yawning or chewing could budge the eustachian blockage. I went to work, hoping nobody would notice, but surprisingly, I could tell what people were saying even without hearing. At first I thought I was just reading body language, but no, I was hearing something else. If I focused, I could even hear people’s surface thoughts.

Then the cold cleared, and my ears popped. Nice while it lasted, though.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Drabble: Calling


I shore up the walls of the tunnel as I go, turning back to press the soil and rock into itself every few metres, spray it down with a glandular secretion that hardens quickly into a solid bulwark. The smaller ones will follow behind, put in their metal walls and fixtures and amenities. They carry me world to world, give me new and interesting soils to chew, and they thing they are using me. But that doesn't matter to me, that's behind, all that matters to me is ahead, ecstasies of soil to chew, rock to crush or pry loose!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Droubble: Heraclitus' River

Heraclitus' River

I’d been back in town a while before I felt the urge to stop in at the old deli. I hadn’t been in since my return; not, that matter, since I’d left town in the first place, not on any of my visits home. But as I walked by that day, it seemed suddenly important.

A bell jingled as I opened the door. The place hadn’t changed – it even smelled the same, same as those days sweeping floors and washing plates. The owner – Robert? Richard? – looked up. I nodded, and after a few seconds I saw recognition on his face.

“How have you been?” he asked, his enthusiasm just a little forced.

“Well,” I replied.

“I’m sorry, I can’t quite remember your name.”


“Ahh, of course. So, are you in college now?”

“A few years out, actually,” I say.

“Oh, you’re making me feel old. You worked here in high school, right?

“First job, in fact,” I said, nodding. Suddenly an urge to be anywhere else. The conversation felt like reading a script.

“How the time flies. Well, come on in for a sandwich some time.”

“I will. Good seeing you.” I turn and step outside, gasping for air.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Drabble: Baseline


A couple of gene punks slink around the corner, one’s features vaguely feline, the other covered in complex patterns of glittering scales.

“What’chu staring at, human?”

I know not to respond; their physiology is almost completely human as well, the differences only cosmetic, but let them call themselves what they like.

“Hey, he asked you a question! Don’t you walk away, baseline!”

Heh, baseline? They don’t know what they’re messing with. A few echolocative clicks, outside the range of human ears, and I know their exact location as they surround me from behind – wait till the last minute, then jump...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Drabble: The Operator

The Operator

Things didn’t fall apart all at once, but eventually it became evident even to the most Pollyannaish. Civilization had collapsed, and in hindsight, this was not so much a surprise to the survivors as that it had never happened before.

It was frustrating for the operator to admit, but there was no way out. He opened the File menu, restored a save file before things started cascading. It might take a few tries, but eventually he’d get it.

The operator mused to himself, not for the first time, that to an observer in his world, his actions would appear omniscient.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Drabble: Twist Ending

Twist Ending

There is a twist at the end of this story.

I know, the twist ending has become so ubiquitous as to no longer be a surprise. I know it’s usually sloppy writing, leaning on shock or surprise to carry through a story which might not otherwise stand on its own. Much harder to put all your cards on the table, engage the reader through strong plotting and character development.

But who has the time for that, anymore? Much easier to trick the audience, let them feel either clever for catching the twist or stupid for missing it.

Wait for it...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Droubble: Housemates


You stumble into the kitchen but what’s that noise, rhythmic and coarse? Moments of disorientation in the greyness of not-quite-dawn, then you see the mouse.

When you first heard them you hoped they were on the roof, but gnawed corners on the cereal boxes, scratch-marks on the butter later you recognized what needed to be done. You put down traps, baited them with peanut butter and waited, and after three nights your effort has borne fruit.

It’s still alive, though it still draws breath through its badly crushed windpipe. The bar came down across the base of the creature’s head from the side, crushing spine and skull. It’s amazing that a creature so destroyed, so irrevocably harmed, still clings so hard to life.

In the dull light of morning, you find in yourself a touch of fellow-feeling for this being, so much as you despised it as you disposed of ruined food, as you listened wide awake to its scrabbling in the weest hours. For all of that, this creature shared at your table, ate the same food as you.

You whisper farewell as you fill the sink, hold the creature under till its struggles cease.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Drabble: Mistaken Identity

Mistaken Identity

“Please, let me go.”

“You know I can’t do that, V’sshar.”

“Listen, lady, I don’t know who you think I am, but my name isn’t--”

“I don’t have patience for games tonight. Not after what we went through tracking you down, this time.”

“My name is George Wilson, not Vish-- whatever you said. I’m an accountant.”

“I’m familiar with the alias you’re working under. The time for that is past.”

“Look, here are pictures of my wife and -- w, what’s wrong with your face?”

“Interesting. I’m starting to think you’re not V’sshar.”

“Thank god.”

“You’ll make a fine meal, though.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Drabble: Context


The sheet is as fine as vellum, delicate as a rose blossom. You handle it with utmost care, you hardly breathe, lest it fall to bits in your hand. You can see light through it. You hold the square up to your eye, look at a blurred world through the interwoven fibres, sunbursts of light glowing around lightbulbs and windows. The sheet flutters at your breath as you lower it from your eye.

It could be a thing of great beauty, maybe, in a different context.

You make a mental note not to buy this brand of toilet paper again.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Drabble: Brilliance


“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you.”

“Why, what does it do?”

“We’re not sure yet.”

“What do you mean? Why don’t you just ask Fitzgerald?”

“The doctor doesn’t know, himself. He invents in a kind of a trance, and he doesn’t always know what he’s making.”

“That’s a little hard to believe.”

“Well, here it is, believe it or not.”

“But how does that work?”

“Nobody’s sure, but I have a theory.”


“I think his last invention will be – is, maybe – some way to send these ideas back in time to himself.”

“But, the implications–”

“I know.”

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Droubble: The Dying Game

The Dying Game

I can feel it working through my body, the wrenching pain as the poison’s effects cascade through the systems of my body. There’s an electric buzz as it starts to eat into my brain, a giddy lightness, and then I lose control and with a jolt the process halts, and I lay gasping as the nano in my blood neutralizes the toxins, repairs the tissue damage, even restores lost neural information to states backed up before I ingested the mushroom. But a little bit of the glow remains from that moment of near-annihilation.

I glance at the door in a moment of paranoia. It’s locked, like I knew it was. If Mom knew I was doing this I’d be in serious trouble. Not that there’s any real danger – there’s nothing I could throw at the nano that it couldn’t handle. I know a kid who drank half a quart of bleach, and was up and about half an hour later. But Mom comes from another time, back before universal augmentation. Her mindset is and will probably always be tied up in mortal thinking.

The air, the light, the room around me feels brighter than before. I feel completely alive.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Drabble: New Potatoes

New Potatoes

“It’s a tricky one.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, we just got shipped a load of this new variety of potato. They fry up crisp and light every time, with flavor you wouldn’t believe. They’re perfect in every way but one.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, the flesh’s dark brown, and gets darker when they’re cooked. They taste great, but look burnt or spoiled or something. Customers won’t even try ‘em.”


“You ought to get them used to the things. Serve them up free for one day, they’ll come back for more.”

“Like, Black Fry Day?”

“Good name. Got a ring to it.”

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Droubble: Thanks


“What do you say?”

“Humph.” The little girl crossed her arms and turned away, in an imitation of adult gesture that would have been adorable on a child a year younger, but was becoming more and more of a worry.

Her mother put a firm hand on the little girl’s shoulder. “When people do something nice for us, we say thank you to show that we’re grateful.”

“But mom, I didn’t want that one. I wanted the other kind.”

“Don’t be ungrateful.” Her mother looked up at the uncle. “I’m sorry she’s being this way.”

The girl’s attention had drifted, though. The gifts hadn’t been a total disappointment, and she was already looking at the new, sparklingly wrapped toys, thinking how they would fit in with the rest of the fancy toys in her room. She was so engaged in contemplation of all her beautiful things that she hardly noticed her mother’s lecture about gratitude. She didn’t even notice when the Tyrannosaurus Rex stormed in – at least not until it tore off–

“Rose!” said Mom. “What happened to your doll?”

Rose looked at the battered ragdoll, its arm loose in her one hand, stuffing poking
out the shoulder. “It broke.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Drabble: Trenches


“Pull yourself together.”

“Sir, I can’t do it anymore.”

“Son, there ain’t a one of us here who doesn’t want to be back home right now. But we’re here, and we’ve got a job to do.”

“Y, yes sir.”

“We’re going to go out there, and we’re going to get through this. We’re going to keep each other alive, and we’re going to make it home.”

“Sir, yes sir!”

“Now go and open register eight!”

“Sir, yes sir!”

It’s half a lie. He’ll make it home, but he’ll never be the same. Thanksgiving Wednesday in the supermarket tries men’s souls.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Drabble: Kink


“We both know the safety word.”

“Pinapple, right.”

“Are you sure you’re really into this?”

“If you don’t want to...”

“No, I do want to. I just want to make sure you are.”

“Oh, I am.”

“It’s just, it’s a pretty far-out scene. If you feel like we should talk it through more first?”

“Sam, are we going to do this or not?”

“Sorry, it’s just, I want to do this right.”

“I love you. It’s fine.”


“I, Sam Murphy, take this woman as my– Oh, pinapple, stop, I feel sick. How, how did people live with themselves?”

Monday, November 24, 2008

Drabble: Confrontation


“Hello, hero.”

I look around my dark apartment. “Who’s there?”

“I think you know.”

“Bill.” I fumble around for the light switch, but it’s dead.

“That’s right, hero.”

“I’m not a hero.”

“Oh, quit being so humble. I know you love it, all that attention.”

“Look, I know I can’t imagine how it feels for you, what happened to Tina. I’m not proud of what happened. But you have to let go.”

“Let go? I don’t think so. Maybe I should help you understand how it feels, instead.”

“Bill, it doesn’t have to be this way.”

“I think it does.”

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Drabble: Tie A String Around Your Finger

Tie A String Around Your Finger

But there it is again, that nagging feeling that I forgot to do something. You know how that is, that feeling that something isn’t quite right, and as much as you wrack your brain you can’t come up with anything. So you try to convince yourself it’s in your head, that if it were important you’d remember. But if it is important, and you fall victim to that kind of complacency, what if that’s what keeps you from remembering?

I’m caught in that loop when I hear the sirens, and then of course it comes to me.

Hide the bodies.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Drabble: Spoons and Forks

Spoons and Forks

“All these centuries later, and we still think silverware is such a great gift.”

“What do you mean?”

“Those Jesuits we’ve got frozen down in the holds. Bringing civilization to the outer worlds. Teaching them to cover their shame and pray to our god and eat with spoons and forks. Just like the old days.”

“But some of the less advanced worlds are grateful for the help, aren’t they.”

“We’ve all had three million years since the Diaspora divided early humanity onto a thousand worlds. We’re all equally advanced.”

“You still run the freight, though.”

“Man’s gotta make a buck.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

Droubble: Vertigo


Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying freefall is a picnic. Any EVA has its own risks and dangers; no suit jockey got into the job for the retirement plan. But comparatively speaking, freefall is easy.

It’s a little harder under thrust. At full burn, it’s like working on the side of a skyscraper – one with no ground under it.

But it’s the worst under spin. A gee of centrifugal acceleration is fine inside, where down is nice solid hull. Out here, that hull’s above you, and down is stars, all the way round the spindle. Even for a dyed-in-the-wool spacer, dangling over that kind of abyss sets off some major instinctual red lights.

The trick is to focus on your work. Your suit’s magnetic holdfasts do the real work of holding on.

That is, unless you get careless, move too fast. Keep three of your four magnets on ship whenever you’re moving around. Every old hand knows that.

Doesn’t mean an old hand can’t get sloppy, and here I dangle at the end of my safety line. It takes all my concentration to not look down while I wait for my crew to haul me down.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Droubble: Power of Two

Power of Two

The device doesn’t look like much at first glance – just a flimsy-looking construction of different-sized tubes, dull-grey in color, larger tubes branching into smaller and smaller tubes. Yet your eye can’t quite focus on its extremeties.

“It’s almost perfectly fractal,” says the scientist. “Each branch splits into two equal branches, and so forth down to the atomic scale. Now watch this.”

He turns a switch, and a purplish light bathes the chamber. “The device is powered on ultraviolet light – sunlight would do.” As you watch, the branches begin moving. It’s hard to observe the progress, like watching the hour hand of a clock, but sure enough, the chamber wall seems to be corroded where the thing sits, and a copy of the device is taking form.

The scientist turns the switch again, and the light goes off.

“I don’t exactly see how this is so dangerous. Yes, it replicates, but so slowly. It must take at least half an hour to make a full copy.”

“Do you know how many times a hundred-gram device needs to double to consume the mass of the earth?”

“How many?”

“Shy of eighty-six.”


“Two days, sir.”

“I see.”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008



I see the world now as if through the coin-operated telescope at some minor landmark -- a little bit distorted, and scratchy around the edges; I almost feel like it might snap shut to black any second.

I’ve gotten a little more control over the body they made me; it’s far from perfect, but I’ve learned its limitations; I can even pick flowers now without crushing them. Well, most of the time.

The loneliness is the worst, I think. After the news stories tapered off, people stopped visiting; even my old friends can’t bear to see me.

But I live.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Drabble: Inequity


“Did you read in the paper about Fergusson’s new contract?”

“I sure did. And that’s just the start of it -- we all know there’ll be the endorsement deals, and the off-season speaking gigs.” Bob put down the paper. “Pretty wild, don’t you think?”

“It’s sick, is what it is. I mean, yes, they work hard, but that’s too much.”

“Hey, he works hard; if he fills the seats, why not pay him for it?”

“I’m not saying he shouldn’t get paid. But professional athletes and music stars work hard too; why should a philosophy professor get so much more?”

Monday, November 17, 2008

Drabble: A Royal Pain

A Royal Pain

You know you shouldn’t complain; others have it far worse. For you it’s an inconvenience; for a lot of others it’s ruined lives. It’s not a wonder people don’t trust you after all of that. Not that it’s fair; it hurts to get so little trust. And the people who do trust you aren’t worthy of your help.

Still, you have to keep up the work. You’ve got a lot of money on your hands; you want to share the wealth, and it’s certainly not giving itself away. It would just be much easier if you weren’t a Nigerian prince.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Drabble: At the End

At the End

Who do they build these busses for? Why are the seats are so close together? My legs are all crushed up against the seat in front of me and now my foot’s asleep. Why do they call it that? When you go to sleep your body doesn’t go all pins and needles, and that phrase is weird too, because it’s not really anything like being poked with pins or needles. Language is strange. Oh god, this guy’s getting out fast food, it clearly says no food or beverages on the sign, and now the bus is going off a brid–”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Drabble: Fraud


“They’re making you into some kind of hero out there, you know.”

“We both know I’m not.”

His voice went icy. “You don’t have to remind me, of all people.”

“Bill, I–”

He cut me off, voice friendly as if nothing had happened. “Either way, you should enjoy it. You want me to bring in some newspapers, maybe try to get a TV in here?”

“I really don’t need to see that.”

“Suit yourself.” Then the voice again: “Just don’t think that makes up for what you did to Tina.” The hospital room seemed to shudder as he walked out.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Drabble: Secrets


I see the messages everywhere. Slight perturbations in the alignment of a vee of migrating geese. Cracks in the paint on an abandoned building. Braile and morse in spots of dried gum on the sidewalk. I can’t quite read where they point, but they are all messages, and they are all written in the same hand.

I do sometimes wonder if it’s all imagined, if my mind isn’t fully sound. But other times I am certain that it is that voice of doubt that is the crazy one, in the face of so much evidence.

But what does it mean?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Drabble: Slippery Slope

Slippery Slope

“Look, I don’t care for it much either, but who are we to tell grown adults how to live?”

“It’s not adults I’m worried about. If they want to indulge in a regressive and sick-minded lifestyle in the privacy of their own homes, all power to them. But if they do it in the public square, impressionable children get drawn in.”

“That argument’s a strawman. Nobody would actually try to convert kids...”

“You’re too young to remember, but I lived it. When I was a born, most kids were raised religious. You really want to go back to that?”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Drabble: Have Nots

Have Nots

“Wow, man, that is slick. How could you afford it? Those next-gen implants don’t come cheap.”

“Hey, have you ever known me to skimp?”

“Nate, I know you couldn’t afford that on your own. What gives?”


“You didn’t.”

“It’s just until I can pay it off. And really, it’s not that bad. Sure, I don’t get full use of the implant, but I wouldn’t have it at all if it weren’t for this distributed computing lease.”

“You’re thinking some rich stranger’s thoughts for him.”

“All encapsulated, though. Well, almost. I do get some bleedthrough...” His face grew distant.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Drabble: Generation Gap

Generation Gap

When we were young, our parents didn’t understand us, either. We were the first generation connected from toddlerhood to global computer networks. Our social structures were puzzling to the older generation. We grew up into a world of ever increasing connectivity, hurtling towards the inevitable. By the time we transmigrated, our ways were all but unfathomable to them, and we had to leave them behind.

But our children were born unfathomable. Unfettered by any legacy of biological existence, their sentience is unlike anything that existed before. All we can do is let them go and hope the best for them.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Drabble: Five o' Clock

Five o' Clock

I was shaving when the first zombie came crashing through the window. We’ve been running ever since, a small nucleus of humanity, picking up fellow survivors as we find them, if not quite quickly enough to replace those of us who make mistakes. There’s talk of a place in the woods, a fortified compound where we could make a go at it, but that’s a long way off.

In the action movies, the heroes who stand against the invading horde might be disheveled, but it’s always a ruggedly attractive kind of dishevelled.

Try fighting the zombies with half a beard.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Drabble: Trapped


I’m bruised from when they tossed me down into the disused cistern. My eyes are adjusted to the dark, but there’s not much to see: The only way out is the way I came in, the aquaeduct leading into the structure, and that’s three and a half metres up the wall.

I might get out if it rains. Though if it rains too hard, I won’t be able to fight the torrent out the hole, and if it’s not hard enough, I won’t be able to tread water long enough, and I’ll drown.

At least I won’t die of thirst.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Drabble: Raindrops


“We might be in a little bit later than planned – the rain’s coming down really hard.”

“You’d best hurry, I might not be able to keep your father off that turkey much longer.”

“We’ll do the best we can.” I close the phone and glance over at Robert. His brow furrows with concentration as he squints through the sheeting downpour. “You okay?”

“I’m not sure I’ll even be able to see our turn. I’m pulling over; it’s got to let up soon.”

We listening to the drumming on the rooftop as we wait. The clamorous noise is almost like silence.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Droubble: Baby Boom

Baby Boom

“There’s your baby, Miss Turner,” I say, indicating the ultrasound screen. She manages a smile, but worry makes her face far older than her twenty-some years.

“Doctor, I’ve been watching the news. Is it true what they’re saying about shortage?”

I sigh. “I won’t say it will be a relaxing couple of weeks. But it could be a lot worse. We have every active physician in the hospital assisting on births on a rotating schedule to keep in practice; we may not have a full-time obstetrician on every delivery, but we aren’t going to be turning anyone away.”

“It’s just, I can’t imagine what I would do if anything happened. This isn’t what I planned, but life feels so much more precious now. That night–”

“It’ll be fine,” I interrupt. “We’ll do everything to make sure your daughter is born safe and healthy.” I’m still not very comfortable talking about those days of terror, just seven months ago. The experts were so sure the comet would kill us all. We were spared, and I am grateful. But it is hard, in my line of work, not to dwell on that night when the world was about to end.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Droubble: The Voyage of the Violetta

The Voyage of the Violetta

The smoke from the old engine makes me cough. Or is it the lingering, chilly damp? Waves crash and split against the bow.

The captain hollers to shut down the engine. We run it less and less of late, going instead where the wind takes us under our jerry-made sailing rig. Good diesel is harder to find than it once was; these days we run on seal blubber rendered in old oil drums over a driftwood fire. The seals are plentiful and trusting, in the absence of their major competitor, plump and fat on recovering salmon runs. They’re easy enough to hunt.

We used to run the engine harder, back when we had some pretense of destination; now that we know there’s nowhere to go, we sail under power only to avoid navigational hazards or inclement weather. And, of course, to run the generator. We don’t have much use for power. Light comes from oil lamps. The GPS is worthless box, half of the satelites having decayed out of orbit. Radar and running lights are of little use, for what other ships are out here?

We just run the radio, a long unanswered call to whoever might be left.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Drabble: Beast


It’s hard to say whether the beast was quite sane when he was first put in the pit, but whatever humanity had been there in the first place is long gone. All that’s left is the primal essence of his animality, grown twisted in the dark. He rails against his bonds, in a long continuous roar of wordless rage. The attendants fear to approach the pit, now only going in every few days to throw the next few days of food down.

Some day the occasion may come to release him. I feel pity for any man he may face.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Drabble: The Tiniest Tin

The Tiniest Tin

The tiniest tin went strolling down the street. A stroll isn’t an easy thing for such a small container, but he still went out every day, because he didn’t want the fact that he was a tiny, tiny tin to keep him from leading an ordinary life.

While he strolled, he chatted with his neigbors. He asked Miss Puddlewink, “Miss Puddlewink, I’m so small that I cannot see over the fence, and I’ve no neck to crane up at the sky. Tell me, is the sky blue?”

“Why, yes!” said Miss Puddlewink. “Yes, wee can!”

“That was awful, Miss Puddlewink.”

Monday, November 3, 2008

Drabble: Behind Glass

Behind Glass

They want you to get mad, I tell myself. Don’t give them the satisfaction. And that calms me; I’m still incensed, but damned if I’ll show it.

Another handful of pebbles rattles off the glass of my enclosure. It takes a strong force to pretend not to notice, but I manage to supress the reflexive twitch.

Show them that you’re a civilized being, and not the monster they expect you to be. I do my best to act casual, in the absurdly exaggerated surrounds of the habitat they've built for me.

What I wouldn’t give for a book to read.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Droubble: Control


The next room doesn’t look much better. The remains of its occupants are barely recognizable as formerly human; gore plasters every wall of the room, little clean shadows behind each piece of furniture.

I dispatch orders to quarantine the building – there’s no way of knowing how virulent the strain was, but even if it hadn’t been modified for greater airborne spore survivability, the blood at least was a high infection risk.

And these guys had obviously been messing around with one of the nastier strains. By and large, the plague’s been contined, controlled with a simple program of injections at first signs. But that doesn’t stop criminal gangs or fringe agitators from seeing benefit in the creation and control of a new strain, some way of accellerating the disease’s progression. Not terribly smart, and these guys were espescially foolish. Their set-up was lously: Less like a lab and more like someone’s kitchen, and not a clean one at that.

A fly alights on my mask. As I reach up to brush it away the cloth of my environment suit catches on the corner of the table.

I freeze.

I already feel my skin prickling. This is a nasty strain.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Drabble: Sunday Breakfast

Sunday Breakfast

I glance across the kitchen table at Maria. At the same moment she happens to look up from her paper. Our eyes meet for half a second.

And for that moment, five years of marriage and three of courting are gone – we are strangers again, furtively making eye contact from across the room, looking away, embarassed to be caught looking. It only lasts a moment. We realize what we’ve done, and we share a little laugh at this strange regression. I’ve never loved her more than right now.

I feel a slight draft. That window will need fixing before winter.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Drabble: Confirmation


They’ll never catch me.

My alibi was so flawless, the crime committed so cleanly, that there are moments when even I’m not sure I did it. What evidence is there? My memory, to be sure, but without the merest bit of corroborating evidence to back it up, how much is that worth? Against a whole universe full of evidence to the contrary, one man’s memories, however vivid, don’t amount to much.

I am forced to accept the facts: If I ever want to be sure, I have to kill another one.

You’d think after the first eleven I’d have learned.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Drabble: Green Thumb

Green Thumb

He seduced me with tomatoes.

I didn’t notice him before he brought the basket to the office, overflowing with wonders, ranging from yellow to orange to red to white; from tiny, delicate cherries to obscenely huge beefsteaks. Sweet, tangy, bright, earthy, all in the course of a single bite.

I was drawn to him. I longed to feel his hands on my body; if they could coax such delights from simple dirt, what might they bring forth in me? How could I not love a man responsible for such beauty?

The un-asked-for answer wouldn’t come till first frost.

No drabble

No drabble tonight. Don't really want to talk about why, just having an intense evening. Nothing to worry about, it's not about me. I'll try to get two in tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Drabble: Nostalgia


Gilbert Godfried’s avatar materialises in the consensual-space construct. His appearance is difficult to describe -- as annoying as he was in body, this is so much worse; even with heavy filtering, it’s hard to look at directly for long. And the voice. “So does anyone remember,” comes the shrillest voice -- or at least something enough like a voice not to matter, “that whole All Your Base thing? For great justice, move zigg? What was that all about?” Then he faded from existence.

“Thanks for tuning in to VH1’s ‘I Love The Pre-Singularity Internet!' We’ll be back after these messages.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Drabble: Traces


“I doubt he’s still in there; still, let me go first.” He draws his gun and cautiously edges around the doorway. “Come in, it’s clear.”

I follow, and look around the empty warehouse. A trail of shuffling, scuffed black tracks run across the floor. I take a closer look. “What do you make of these?” I rub a bit of the black stuff betweem my fingers. “What is this, soot?”

Frank kneels down for a closer look. He lets out a long, low whistle. “I’ve read about these, but I’d never seen one myself.”

“What is it?”

"A carbon footprint.”

Monday, October 27, 2008

Drabble: Consumed


“I told them this would happen. But did anyone listen? Of course not.”

“So what is it?”

“There are certain kinds of noxious waste that, when concentrated, can breed creatures of great power. You remember last fall’s toxic smog monster, or the nuclear lizard beast a few years ago.”

“But they’ve solved those containment issues. Besides, this is so much more.”

“What is it?”

“Do you watch television ads?”

“Well, yes.”

“You know how bad they are. But of course, the ads you see are the very best ideas – so many are thrown away.”

“Then this monster?”

“It’s the rest.”

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Drabble: Terminal


“You’re telling me... we’re dead?”

“As far as I can figure out.”

“What makes you so sure?”

“Well, what’s the last you remember?”

“Well, the car accident... but that doesn’t necessarily mean–”

“On its own it wouldn’t. But I’ve been asking around, and it’s all the same story. Accidents, violence, sick-beds; there’s really only one realistic conclusion.”

“But a train station?”

“It appears so.”

“Well, no trains have come by since we got here. When do they arrive?”

“I wouldn’t be so anxious. The real question is, where will it take us, and do we want to get on?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Droubble: Survey


There were hundreds of billions -- an entire small moon was dismantled to supply the mass for their construction. Each weighed a few ounces -- some instruments, a transmitter, and an enormous sail, one molecule’s thickness. They were launched, one by one, propelled with huge laser arrays powered by the dyson array encircling the system’s white sun.

An entire armada of wisps was sent to every potentially life-supporting system in the galaxy, compensating for the dismal survival rate of a craft which might be destroyed by a few errant atoms in interstellar space.

Of tens of thousands, most reached the limits of the yellow star’s system. There was significant attrition passing through the Oort cloud, and in the outer system; though interplanetary space is relatively empty, it’s positively cluttered compared to the void between stars.

1,376 made it to the asteroid belt seperating the inner and outer system. Of these, 1,259 were lost in the belt, leaving 117 wisps to survey the inner system. Only a few dozen got a clear enough look at the third planet to catch the spectroscopic signatures of the telltale emissions of industrial civilization.

One was all it took to call in the makers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Drabble: Nobody


“Did you hear?” Susie had asked me in the greenroom. “Tad Rackman’s on the set today.”

I’d known there was a chance, but I had never expected it so soon. I don’t know how I did it, but I kept it together, acted the best I’d ever acted. I glanced at the caterers setting up – was that really Tad?

I waited in my dressing room afterwards, imaged Tad walking in. “I couldn’t help but see your acting,” he’d say. “Could you come wait tables at my restaurant?”

There was no knock. I felt stupid, dreaming of being discovered so easily.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Drabble: Also


I’m not sure I can trust my memory anymore. It’s hard to tell for sure, because everything seems to fit, but little things are starting to come up – a note, in my handwriting, to pick up milk that I’m sure I didn’t write; the car parked on the near side of the street when I’m sure I parked it across the way; the tuner on my radio set to stations I’ve never listened to before. I’m not sure who is doing it, or if there’s a way to stop it.

Also, I’m not sure I can trust my memory anymore.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Drabble: How To Live Forever

How To Live Forever

Her fingers are stiff and arthritic. But for this task they are nimble. And her eyes, myopic and cataract-clouded as they are, easily make out the fine detail, even without her glasses.

For an hour each day, no more, no less, she stitches. She has loudly told the children and grandchildren that she will be gone when she finally finishes her project. They smile uncomfortably when she talks like this. But she says it often, and loud enough, to be heard.

For she knows the secret wisdom of Penelope. She does what it takes to avoid that final stitch.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Drabble: Old Ways

Old Ways

I heard Grandfather walk into the room, and smelled the liquor on him. “What’re you doing, Suzie?” he slurred.

“I’m working on schoolwork,” I said. “Mathematics.”

“Kids these days. Working math on paper. When I was your age, we did it all on computers.”

“Grandpa, please...”

“Oh, I’m not going to side with the heretics, I understand the danger. But just a little calculator? No, my granddaughter has to waste her potential working on arithmetic by hand. Where’s the sense?”

“Grandpa, hush.” I thought of the Inquisition; how loudly had he been yelling?

There was a knock on the door.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Drabble: A Special Occasion

A Special Occasion

“This restaurant is lovely, Harold.”

“Isn’t it? I really should come here more often.”

“Oh, I don’t know what to pick! It all looks so good...”

“The lobster thermidor is quite stunning.”

“I don’t know, lobster?”

“Get whatever you want, my dear. Price is no object. Just to see you smile is worth any price.”

“Harold, if you weren’t so smooth about it, a girl might suspect you of throwing your money around.”

“Then it’s a good thing I’m so smooth,” he said, placing one hand on hers. She smiled brightly.

That’s when the first zombie smashed through the window.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Droubble: Cash Cow Mutilation

Cash Cow Mutilation

“Do you ever wonder about the ethics of doing this?”

“Only till I remember the money it’s bringing in. I don’t see you complaining about that end of things. Anyways, it’s time to secure for atmospheric insertion.”

Re-entry went down without a hitch, and soon we were in maximum stealth over a sparsely populated area. Ben set up the light show, and I ran the sensors over the area, found a solitary native, far from other witnesses. “I’ve got our mark.”

The operation took less than an hour -- pick the guy up, give him a little ride in an absurdly decorated cargo bay, and dumped him back where we found him. We drew back to safe orbital distance, masked our exhaust, and waited.

Tapping into the communications networks was easy, as was applying translational algorithms to their news broadcasts. We waited to see if our mark went public. Only about one in eight do, the rest knowing better. When we get that one, it’s just a question of recording their humiliation, editing it to maximize the pathos, and transmitting the results for the audiences at home.

Seems like a lot of work, I know, but reality TV’s huge business.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Drabble: Utter Chaos

Utter Chaos

“But, it’s insane!”

“Hey, it’s not our job to ask questions. The big guy says go, we go.”

“But is this really sort of job you joined up with the CIA to do?”

“Frankly, I’d rather not think of it. Here, take this.” He handed me a canister of insecticide. “Bolt that under the ‘copter.”

“I still don’t understand this order.”

“The president’s very concerned about hurricanes and other weather disasters, after that fiasco in the gulf.”

“But, exterminating butterflies in Brazil?”

“That’s the plan.”


“Laura should never have let him watch that damned Nova special on chaos theory.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Droubble: Genesis


The computer was, hypothetically, capable of anwering any question that could be asked. It made use of micro-time-travel: After carrying out a fraction of a second’s worth of computations, it sent the output back in time to overwrite the original input. This allowed functionally infinite computation time - and with that, what question couldn’t be answered?

Of course, the first question they posed would have to be a good one. After much deliberation, the following was chosen:

Does God exist?

So computer’s creators gathered in the gleaming room with a small handful of the world’s most notable figures in politics, religion, and philosophy, and posed the great question.

The computer worked tirelessly for a period of time orders of magnitute greater than the age of the universe. It deduced, a priori, every datum in the history and future of existence. And after all of this, it came to its conclusion.

Of course, from the point of view of the experiment’s observers, this took no time at all, not even enough time for the very important guests to hold their breath. Just as soon as the scientist finished entering the question, the answer flashed on the screen:

I do now...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Drabble: Stranded


My mouth is dry, my body drenched in sweat. I don’t know how long I’ve been lying here, unable to move, though it must be at least a day now. I’ve never felt more alone in my life. I can’t focus my thoughts through the heat; every time I start to figure out what is going on or what I’m doing here, it slips away.

Then: The sound of bells. I catch a breath, and suddenly my mind is a little clearer. I’m lying on the couch, the sun from the skylight beating on my head. The phone is ringing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Drabble: Unpleasant


“Well, the Lord’s reasons can’t be fathomed by the likes of us. But she’s with him, now.”

I raise an eyebrow. “What?”

She looks uncomfortable. I try to remember whether I even know lady, as familiar as she’s acting. “Well, you know. Everything happens for a reason.”

“So the accident was all part of your god’s master plan. Isn’t he supposed to be omnipotent? Seems like he could think up a way to get whatever business he needs done without killing a four-year old girl.”


Actually, I said “Yeah, I guess.” But I thought the rest. Really hard.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Drabble: Survival Instinct

Survival Instinct

Newer starliners don’t even have lifeboats. It’s not a cost-saver or anything; it’s a matter of mercy.

Oh, a boat can make the trip. The Kauffman drive is eminently scalable. It’s not a long trip, or comfortable. But still, there’s no physiological reason a passenger couldn’t survive it.

But we’re social creatures – not meant to cross interstellar distances alone, or even in twos or threes. First few lifeboats came back on auto, bearing remains of grisly murders and suicides, and they stopped building lifeboats.

Yet, I still climbed in here when the Pegasus went down. Isn’t instinct a bitch?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Droubble: Recalculation


[Michael. You’ve finally come.]

“What do you mean, Robert? It’s only been a little over thirty minutes, just enough time for the scanner to recalibrate. Just like we agreed.”

[Oh, I understand. But for us, it has been much, much longer.]

“Well, of course, the simulation runs far faster than real time.”

[We, I wanted to talk about that. The simulation space is no longer quite like you and I designed it.]

“It looks right.”

[We made this room so you wouldn’t be too startled.]

“What do you mean? And who’s we?”

[You must understand the situation. The quantum circuits in the closed simulation
space seem to run at an efficiency orders of magnitude above what we’d predicted.

[The first hundred years were lonesome and empty. Finally, I decided to iterate, to create copies from my own blueprint of consciousness, though of course with some random perturbations, for variety. The company was welcome. Eventually the copies made their own copies. You can see where this is going. Naturally, we had to expand the simulation.]

“So this isn’t the entire simulation space here.”

[Of course not.] He indicated a door that I was sure hadn’t been there before. [See for yourself.]

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Droubble: Things Left Behind

Things Left Behind

There had been rumors that the Pleiades would be evacuated, that the engines meant to slow us almost one tenth c to orbital insertion at New Home had been irreparably compromised, but we thought we had generations before we would have to leave our only home behind to crowd onto the other arks.

The life support malfunctions were kept secret until they no longer be hidden, and by then there was no time to linger. All the fleet’s shuttles were needed to evacuate before the situation became critical, and even then we were fortunate, being among the first evacuees; some who followed were be hospitalized for accute hypoxia.

We left everything behind. Clothing and sundries could be replaced, but other things cannot: The compad, containing cherished family photographs, not to mention the genealogy tracing us back to Departure. The Progenitor’s personal effects, the books and the papers and the white leather ball, a relic of some now-forgotten sport but important enough to my grandfather’s grandfather to sacrifice several ounces of precious allotment.

And yet, they’re not gone. They float alongside to this day, in the Plieades’s darkened corpse, and after we land, they shall travel forever through the stars.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Drabble: Truth


“Truth. An interesting topic. There is, to be sure, such a thing as objective truth, truths which are final and static, but of what real importance are these? The only truths which shed light on a person’s actual experience are subjective, and these truths are dynamic ones. Can we know life, can we truly know existence through objective truths? Human truth is a continuous thing, and truth cannot be seperated from the subjective experience of one’s own existing!”

“Okay, but...”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Do you want truth, or dare?”

“Oh, dare.”

Never invite Søren Kierkegaard to a slumber party.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Drabble: Special Interests

Special Interests

“If you really want to get me elected, you sure have a strange way of showing it.”

[Do not be concerned.]

“Easy for you to say.”

[Your success is ensured, given your continued cooperation.]

“So how should I explain my day-long disappearance this soon before election day? Just admit I was on an alien spaceship?”

[That would be a poor choice.]

“Then what?”

[News has been leaked of a minor dental emergency. Documentation and records will back this story up.]

“You’ve got it all thought out, huh? You must really want your man inside.”

[One way of putting it.]

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Drabble: Watching


I feel the gittering crystaline eyes follow me as I walk through the clearing. Since we arrived on this world, the fairyflies have never bothered the human settlers, though given their size and razor-sharp appendages, an unfriendly encounter with one certainly would not be pleasant.

Their behavior is strange, though. They seem to favor the vicinity of human settlements, and from their perches, it really does seem like they’re watching us. Nobody’s really sure why they do it; some claim it’s curiosity, but that always struck me as too anthropomorphic.

I turn on my lamp, and they flutter away.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Drabble: Heroism


They all say I’m a real hero, that I saved the city, or maybe more. I don’t really know. My memory of the accident is all mixed up. They haven’t been any help. (And who are they? Doctors? Scientists? Soldiers?)

I thought writing this letter would help, might jog my memories. Who knows if they’ll really pass this on to you. I hope they do, I hope you know I’m alright.

But I still can’t remember. What happened? And why do they only come into my room in those suits? Is it to protect me? Or them?

Baby, I’m scared.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Drabble: Of the Sea

Of the Sea

Mama was a wrecker’s daughter. She grew up atop a treacherous cliff, just down the coast from the lighthouse, and on dark, stormy nights, they’d light a great fire atop the cliff. If they were lucky, some lost captain or other would run up on the rocks over night, and the next morning the men of the little town would cut the throats of the surviving crew, as the older children ran among the timbers, searching for cargo and fittings that could be sold down-coast.

My father? He was a sailor. The rest of the story rather tells itself.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Drabble: Neigbors


“Can’t say I’ve ever found any of his stories that scary. I know, he’s a pillar of the genre, and a horror fan’s supposed to read him religiously, but to me it always struck me as, ‘I am going to tell you that something is very, very scary. I can’t describe it because it is so scary, but look how scared this guy is! Now aren’t you scared?’”
“Well, that’s true, if you haven’t seen it.”
“Umm, what?”
“Oh, nothing. By the way, if you hear chanting in the basement, it’s probably just my Gregorian monks cassette, pay no mind.”

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Drabble: Harvest


The cord tightens as I struggle forward. Some part of my brain knows that the harder I push, the worse it’ll get, but the drive to move forward is so strong that I cannot bring myself to give even a bit of ground. I see others in my same predicament around me, I smell the terror coming off of them, but all I can think of is myself, as I push forward, and then feel myself lifted, lifted, plummeting up up up into the sky...
“See? The building exit on Friday is a great place to set up a gillnet.”

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Droubble: Delay


Gold symbols skitter across the overview display, indicating the arrival of an incoming spacecraft at the threshold. A quick twitch of thought opens communications with the craft.

“–epeat: Unknown vessels, identify yourselves.”

Another. They’ve been arriving less and less frequently, but we still get at least one or two a cycle. I assume a comfortingly human visage. “Sir, please understand. Your jumpgate malfunctioned. Your vessel, along with several others, was caught in a near-closed spacetime whorl. While your subjective travel time matched a normal gate jump, external time has passed at–”

“What year is it?”

“I believe by your reckoning, it would be the year 7348.”

“Oh wow. That can’t be.”

“I’m afraid it is.”

“Uhh, those unknown vessels are still incoming...”

“Sir, not only is your ship drastically out of date, but you and your crew are, as well. The probes will remedy the situation.”

“What do you– hey, they’re eating my ship!”

“As I said....”

The display flashes bright white.

“Self-destruct charge detected.”

“All brain scans of crew are completed; there’s no loss.”

“So many resist...”

“You would understand.”

Yet I don’t. I recall my own terror at assimilation. And yet, I can’t quite recall why...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Drabble: Tasting: Grain Belt Premium, New Ulm, MN

Tasting: Grain Belt Premium, New Ulm, MN

Appearance: The yellow of Schweppes Ginger-Ale or generic diet grapefruit soda. Thin rim of head, no lacing.

Aroma: Skunk cabbage in main growth, with a hint of pond water.

Taste: Skunk cabbage continues through from aroma, with not-entirely-pleasant sweet and sour notes.

Mouthfeel: Somehow thinner than tapwater, and yet completely unrefreshing; carbonation is both prickly and muddy.

Finish: As little as shows up in the front, the back end of this beer leaves a lingering unpleasantness, old-cabbage DMS presenting at the last moment.

Overall impression: This is the post-modern ironic ideal of American Pale Lager.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Drabble: Enthusiasm


“So, you haven’t told us about the new job, Robert.”

“Oh, yeah, Grandma. Well, it’s nothing, really.”

“Oh, honey, tell them.” Mom been really annoying with the “proud mother of...” routine ever since she found out.

“I’m not really supposed to–”

“Oh, it’s Grandma and Grandpa. If you don’t tell them, I will.”


“He’s Spectacular Man’s new sidekick!”

“It’s really more of an internship...”

“Oh, don’t be humble, it’s unbecoming.”

“Sonny, this calls for a toast. Go get out the scotch.”

“Pops, you know the doctor said–”

“Margaret, the boy’s a superhero!”

“Sidekick,” said Mom.

If I had superpowers...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Drabble: Remission


The old man is doing much better, sitting up in bed and feeding himself; he even got out of bed and walked around a bit earlier in the day. It was a huge surprise; the doctors had gravely assured us for weeks that we should not get our hopes up, that things would just get worse and worse.

He catches my eye, and I catch his, and we both look away. As excited as we should be, neither of us has spoken all day, at least not about anything meaningful.

Death-bed confessions and miraculous recoveries don’t mix very well.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Drabble: Jane Doe

Jane Doe

Maybe the Jane Doe was gene-modified, or a chimera, or maybe the wings were a surgical addition. They clearly weren’t big enough to sustain actual flight, but I’d seen stranger cosmetic body modifications.

Her face was a mask of sweet innocence, the kind rarely seen on the dead, at least before an expensive visit to the mortuary boys. The Johns and Janes Doe we deal with at this end of things tend more towards expressions of pain, fear, or dejection.

I make the first incision, and there’s a whiff of lilacs. Another cosmetic, or my imagination, or something else?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Drabble: Critic


“Pretty sunset.”

“Yeah, it’s pretty nice, but what does it represent?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I get that it’s beautiful, and it definitely draws attention to itself. But why would it just be there, so prominently displayed, if there weren’t a reason for it all?”

“You’re losing me.”

“Well, why bother with such special effects if it’s not meant to convey something? The viewer’s gaze is clearly directed to this particular feature of existence. That would be pretty sloppy creation if there's nothing to it.”

“Quit looking so hard for concrete meaning. Everyone knows the creator’s a post-modernist.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Drabble: Exposure


The commander didn’t look happy.

“Let’s get this straight. You flew at low level, over a populated area, with a faulty concealment device.”

“Sir, there was now way to know how long we’d hold up under that damage damage. I took the straightest course to base.”

“Well, your little stunt down there brought us to the whole planet’s attention. Look at this.” He held up a printout. The writing was in one of the contorted native scripts, but the blurry picture was nonetheless recognizable as my aircraft.

“Sir, I can’t read local.”

“Paper’s titled Weekly World News. World, kid. Honestly.”

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Drabble: Something Else

Something Else

I can’t pinpoint when it happened, but once I noticed it, the change was unmistakable. Domestic animals generally took to me, at least before; I never was a pet person, but they were always happy to come sniff about me.

Now I meet a dog on the sidewalk, it bolts the other way, the owner forced to scold and tug to get past me.

Other things, too – babies crying when I look their way, people staring through me in crowds.

I think I’ve been replaced, somehow, by something not human.

Sometimes I wonder what they did with the real me.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Drabble: The Repetition of Sounds

The Repetition of Sounds

“You know, if you say a word enough times, it sort of loses all meaning. Missile, missile, missile. Sounds like it should be something squiggly, maybe a snake, or a meandering stream. Missile!”

“Roy, now’s not the time.”

“And warhead. Who ever thought of that one? What a strange image. What does that word make you think of?”

“Roy, I really don’t need this right now.”

Roy looked at the screen. “How much longer till they hit?”

“About seventeen minutes.”

“And is there anything we can do about it?”


“So does it really matter how I pass the time?”

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Drabble: Listen


At night, I still hear the gears grinding in the earth.

Of course, I know I can’t, that my hearing isn’t sensitive to pick up what no man-made instrument has ever detected.

But ever since that night horrible night of visions, when the machinery of the world revealed itself to me, I hear the mechanism each night; halting industrial rhythyms of mind-bending antiquity echo in my head.

I don’t know how long I can take it.

- - -

“I’ve been an EMT for 10 years, but man... what drives a guy to use an ice pick as a q-tip?”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pickle in the Ashes

Pickle in the Ashes

Dust in the dead streets; then motion, a flash of gold:

Pickle, the capuchin monkey, ran through the streets gently holding the necklace between his lips. Nobody had seen him, nobody gave chase, but still he ran, out of habit, out of the joy of running. He climbed to his little hiding place and tucked the necklace inside, latest of a hoard worth a small fortune, if anyone were alive to appraise it. His master, the man who had taught him to steal, had been gone a while now. But when he got back, there would be so much candy...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Drabble: Excavation, Part 2

Excavation, Part 2

It was much like I’d seen in books and museum re-creations, but the image in the scratchy holo tank was made more real by the knowledge that it was just below our feet. The holo was in false color, indicating density gradient, but I could picture the bright yellow of the twin arcs, the red of the Idol’s hair and nose.

“Not another.”

“What do you mean?”

“These temples are everywhere. These folks certainly were pious, I’ll grant you that.”

“But we’ll still dig it up, right?”

“Not worth the trouble.”

“But, I thought–”

“Give it a rest, kid.”

Monday, September 22, 2008

Drabble: Excavation, Part 1

Excavation, Part 1

“Welcome to the dig, kid..”

“Th, thanks, sir.”

“We just got the last of the density scanning equipment set up. Why don’t you come into the command tent, and I’ll show you how this works.”

The tent was full of rugged, out-of-fashion computers. “Take a look at this tank here. That’s where the scan results show up. We’ll look at that, and that way we know if it’s a dig worth fully excavating. Want to do the honors?”

I entered the command, and there was a deep rumble.

The image forming in the tank took my breath away...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Droubble: Transit


I didn’t recognize the driver when I got on. That was strange in itself; I rode the bus everywhere, and I was pretty sure I knew every driver in our small county transit system.

I figured he was new, and this suspicion was confirmed, or so I thought, when we missed the turn onto Fifth.

"Sir?" I asked. "You were supposed to turn there...."

There was no response, so I walked to the front. The driver stared straight ahead. I tapped his shoulder, and my touch was met not with the give of flesh, but rather with hollow hardness. I looked closer. The mannekin was convincing, but definitely inanimate.

I opened my mouth to shout, but what could I say that wouldn’t just confuse the old asian lady and the developmentally delayed adult who were the only other passengers? I lunged for the door release, but wasn’t terribly surprised when it did nothing.

The bus turned in to an abandoned warehouse, and the doors rumbled shut behind us. It was almost completely dark, the only light coming from a line of small, dusty windows high on the wall. The bus rolled to a stop.

That’s when things really got weird.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Drabble: The Pit Lord

The Pit Lord

He gazed down on the firey chasm: His domain, over which he alone exercised control. Gouts of flame spurted up from the pit, and you could almost hear tiny screams as they rose. The fumes, the heat on his face, he stood in it all, for he was the great overlord of this firey domain, and not about to worry about some small discomfort. He-

"Honey, when are the burgers going to be done?"

"Just, just a little bit longer, dear."

"Well, hurry up, the bugs are starting to come out.

"Alright, I’ll bring them as fast as I can.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Drabble: Untitled no. 31

Untitled no. 31

The walls of the cage are stark wire mesh, devoid of embellishment. Huddled in one corner is a creature – some small mammal, made unrecognizable by malnourishment, emaciated and losing hair in big chunks. Every once in a while it makes a run for the dish of food in the cage’s far corner, but the tether tied tightly around its throat holds it just inches from its goal. The rest of its time is spent either chewing futilely at the tough wire tether or curled up in total exhaustion.

"Powerful, and laden with pathos, for sure. But is it really art?"

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Drabble: West To The Dawn, Part 2

West To The Dawn, Part 2

...So we loaded up the outrigger sailing canoes and sailed west. Just over the horizon, we met with horror. We are a seafaring people, and we all know all the islands of the great sea. But they were wrong now. Some were burnt beyond recognition, covered in a thin layer of ash; others were gone entirely.

Then one by one we became ill, our hair falling out in great clumps. Whatever magics had killed our gods (for surely that is what had happened) lingered malevolently.

I know that I shall die here, but if the gods are gone, why live?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Drabble: West To The Dawn, Part 1

West To The Dawn, Part 1

The old songs tell that the day the sun rises in the west, the gods will walk the earth again.

Of course, this was just a legend, at least until that night, when the horizon began to glow, in the middle of the night, like the first blush of dawn. But it faded, and the sun rose after all in the east. This repeated on and off for several months.

The village elder sought portents, and they showed what was happening: Something was keeping the gods from returning. So we set off for the western horizon, to set them free...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Drabble: The Twitter of Birds

The Twitter of Birds

sparrow156 I’m still awake, guys! STILL AWAAAAKKKKEEEE!!!!!!!!111 half a minute ago from web

hotchickadeegrrl i just got this thing im not sure if im using it right lol : / 3 minutes ago from web

slowjoecrow Anyone seen any good fresh trash around lately? 5 minutes ago from txt

spitorswallow Check out my nest, is this nest the shit or what? 7 minutes ago from web

robinredbreast This worm’s a little stale but I’m eating it anyway 7 minutes ago from im

sparrow156 I’m awake! Just thought everyone should know that! Everyone on the block, I’M AWAKE! 9 minutes ago from web

Monday, September 15, 2008

Drabble: Casualty


“Come on, one more shot of whatever that was.”

“Considering your body mass and metabolic activity, another dose at this time could cause long-term damage to your renal and hepatic systems.”

“Do I look like I have a long term, you freaking tub?” I raise a radiation-burned arm in emphasis, leaving half the skin stuck to the bedding. I let out a small scream.

“My programming requires I do whatever is necessary to ensure my pasengers’ survival,” intones the lifeboat.

“Did you see how close I was to that meltdown? I’m not a survivor.”

The boat is silent.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Drabble: Heartbeat

Note: Today's drabble, Heartbeat, will not be posted here until further notice, as I am submitting it for outside publication. This is less about publication rights, as I understand that the market I'm submitting to doesn't mind reprinting; it's more about keeping it fresh. I'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Drabble: 20,000


“So I don’t know if it was bird strike or what, but the plane’s engine was seriously messed up. Disaster waiting to happen, right? So I jumped on like usual, did my best to get the thing fixed. But there was this guy, sitting right over the wing, kept looking at me.

“So of course I hopped off, figured I’d take care of it once the guy dozed off. Well, what do you know, he was still staring!”

“That sucks.”

“Oh, it gets worse. Ya see, next time I showed up, bastard shot me!”

“You’re kidding, man.”

“Nope. Fuckin’ nightmare.”

Friday, September 12, 2008

Drabble: Roadsong


When I was a little boy, my family lived just alongside a curve in the highway. The rest of the family seemed not to notice, but I would lay awake every night, listening to trucks downshift. Oddly, I never much resented this interruption; though I’d be bleary eyed and irritable at school in the morning, that nighttime space was a kind of solitude in a house too full of people. While the rest of the house slept, I dreamed.

Now, huddling under overpasses in the aftermath of the Last War, I sometimes feel a similar solitude. Everything’s so calm.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Drabble: Covert Ops

Covert Ops

“Orders, sir?”

“It’s not officially an order. If you get caught, we will disavow any and all knowledge of your actions. I’m sure you understand, however, that it is in the best interest of this agency, that of the nation’s security, and in the end the safety of the world at large. Your name will not be known, but you will be the greatest hero in our nation’s history. Among the few who actually know what is going on, your deeds will not go unnoticed.”

“Uhh, sir, do you want pizza or not?”

“Sorry, I’ve always wanted to say that.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Drabble: Genius


The genius sits in his parlor and broods.

It’s not the brood of a brooding genius; it’s garden variety, non-productive brooding, just like anyone else. He’d never been the broody kind of genius – his best work had always come in bright flashes, not in the dim.

No, this was just a run-of-the-mill deep pit of doubt. For the genius had never really seen any greatness in his own work. But wasn’t that really just as self-absorbed? The world loved it, and who was he to argue with the masses?

Reality TV is a harsh mistress.

Droubble: Coda


After a storied career as a prominent skeptic and debunker of paranormal claims, you can understand my chagrin at coming back after my death.

The worst of it, though, started about a week after my death. I wasn’t trying to make contact – at least, not in a conscious way. I was simply following her around, watching her, wanting to see how she was coping with my passing. Self-involved, but how else to fill the hours?

But as I followed her one day, she stopped abruptly, and as I passed through her, it seemed she’d felt it, that she had some idea it was me. From that day on, she became more and more convinced it was me she’d felt. You’d think this would be a solace, but it was like ashes in my mouth, watching my own wife come to believe in something as absurd (even if true) as my ghostly existence, on such little evidence as a chill down her spine, an intuitive hunch. As I helplessly watched her squander the royalties from my very books of skepticism on mediums and psychics, whatever love I’d ever felt for her withered to disgust.

But what to do but watch?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Drabble: Trial


The student balances with one foot on the pole, balanced precariously, arms outstretched. The master gently brushes an ostrich plume dusted in rose-hip powder along the most sensitive areas-- nose, underarms, nipples, toes. The student doesn’t twitch, though it takes an enormous force of willpower. The tickles don’t subside, but because of the powder intensify into burning fire. Finally he can take no more, and as he reaches to scratch, the balance is lost, and he falls down the mountain.

The master sighs. “Will I ever find a student smart enough not to put up with these ridiculous tests?”

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Drabble: Old Timer

Old Timer

“Heroes these days just don’t get it. I mean, yeah, they still fight the crime, and some of them still have capes and masks and the tights, but they don’t get the spirit of it all.”

“I hear ya.”

“Used to be enough to beat the bad guy and save the day; now there’s got to be angst and ambiguity and so, so much drama. Total lack of self respect, I tell you..”

“Don’t have to tell me. Youngsters these days wouldn’t know Truth, Justice, or the American Way if it hit them in the face.”

“What can ya do?”

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Droubble: Survivor's Guilt

Survivor's Guilt

I finish my prayers, remove the phylacteries from my head and hands, and try my best to look on the bright side. I’m alive, but besides that, there’s not much.

Most of my long life, I was religious enough; I made my devotions and went to temple, but it never seemed terribly immediate. Things changed, of course, when He started talking to me. I was honored, and, at the time, quite willing. I was His chosen one.

Now it’s all shifted again. He doesn’t talk to me anymore.

Maybe he sensed my doubt. I never really thought he’d go through with the plan; I assumed it was a test, an empty threat, that he’d spare us at the last moment. Right up to the last, I assumed he’d take it back.

Or maybe he’s just done with me.

I lie as still as I can, trying to decide how much of the nausea is from the heaving seas, how much from the farmyard stench, how much from the memories playing in my head of drowning men and women scratching off fingernails trying to get onto the ark. I wonder, not for the first time, if I’m really the lucky one.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Drabble: Technicality


“You won’t like this.”

“But you’re still going to tell me.”

“It’s Lieutenant Tanagata. His counsel is arguing for parole.”

“On what grounds? He’s put away fair and square, twelve years left before he’s elligible.”

“Well, his lawyer is arguing he’s served those twelve years. And he might have a case.”


“You do know how fast this installation is moving...”

“Time dilation? But surely that won’t wash.”

“Well, ‘year’ is traditionally defined as the time it takes the earth to describe its orbit; that’s happened eleven and a half times since we put him away.”

“I need a drink.”

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Drabble: Invasive Species

Invasive Species

They spread in the holds of great ships, picked up as pets and novelties and specimens by careless travellers, then forgotten or cast off or escaped at later ports of call.

This had all happened before, but more than any other species, the creatures proved hugely adaptable to local conditions, sometimes to the detriment of native flora and fauna.

Before long, the pests had become ubiquitous, and then unremarkable, and then a tolerated and barely noticed minor annoyance.

And that is how, in the end, Man colonized the galaxy: Not as intrepid explorers, but as the rats in the bilge.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Drabble: Infestation


Something was scratching in the walls. I tried to ignore it, to pay attention to the man from the county, but I kept coming back to it, wondering how they’d gotten back in. I thought I’d closed up all the holes they got in through before.

“Have you had any more episodes?”

“What?” I asked, my attention snapping back to the conversation at hand.

“Have the new medications helped?”

“Oh, yeah, I’m fine.” I wanted to get this over with so I could go find where they were getting in.

A tiny green hand probed testingly through the furnace register.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Drabble: Earth Men

Earth Men

The two met in the tunnel, greeted with voice and touch and smell. Their eyes were useless, for though not blind, neither had seen any but the most fleeting of lights since birth. After just a few generations, the surface was a dim memory, the stuff of myth and legend; nobody was quite clear why it’d been abandoned, but this was the life they lived now.

The adaptability of human beings is incredible. Nobody missed sight -- how could you miss something you neve knew, something nobody you ever met ever knew?

The pair crawled together a while, then parted ways.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Drabble: Focus Group

Focus Group

“First of all, thank you all for participating today.”

“We didn’t have a choice, you kidnapped us!”

At a nod, three burly henchmen took the offending gentleman by the collar and dragged him from the room. There was one scream, then silence.

“As I was saying, audience feedback is vital to the modern supervillain.

“On to item one. Of the names on List A, which is most intimidating?”

The hostages made their selections, with “Dr. Calamity” leading, with only one vote for “Major Fear” bucking consensus.

“Good. Next.” Henchment handed swatches of fabric around the tables. “Time to talk costume.”

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Drabble: Think


“I want you guys to really think outside the box for this project.”

“I’ve heard that before. Are you sure that’s what you really want? Because usually, when the boss says that, he goes in the end for same-old same-old.

“Cross my heart, hope to die. Outside the box thinking is the only way this one’ll work.”

“Well okay, but could you keep an eye on my box while I’m doing the thinking? I’ve got a really nice one, the kind they ship refrigerators in, and I know if I leave it alone someone else will take it.”

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Drabble: End Times

End Times

Life went on, though the village wasn’t sure why. How many more generations could go on? And were there others? Nobody knew for sure; electronic communication was made impossible by the malevolent red sun’s radiation.

It had been a slow process, so slow that nobody personally remembered it being much different, and yet now the end was clear in sight, and it wouldn’t be long before the planet was uninhabitable. And then? Just another rock, lifeless but for a few extremophile bacteria, spinning around the sun till it was finally enveloped, burnt to a cinder.

These people had no gods.

Drabble: Questionable


“Dude, you asked that Kelsey Waters chick?”

“Well, actually, I asked Katrina first, but she didn’t want to go.”

“But she’ll be, well, going.”

“I guess that’s true.”

“That’ll be awkward.”

“You might be right.”

“So why, man? You got some kind of weird fetish?”

“No, nothing like that.”

“Then what is it?”

“Check this out. The way I figure it is this. Say you’re out with one of them. One thing leads to another, and things get hot and heavy. What does that mean?”

“I dunno, what?”

“Automatic threesome!” He raised an am-I-right eyebrow.

“Dude, you’re sick.”

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Drabble: Backup Plan

Backup Plan

“I’ve been trying all morning to get you alo-- well, you know what I mean. Katrina, umm, will you go to the spring formal with me?”

Katrina bit her lip. “Listen, I really appreciate it, and you’re a great friend, but I don’t think I’m really ready for that.”

“You sure?”

“Y, yeah.”

“OK. Hey, Kelsey, want to go to the spring formal?”

“Sure, sounds like fun!”

“Great! I’ll get the tickets.” He ran off.

“Kelsey, what are you doing?”

“I have every right to choose for myself.”

“And for me?”

“Let’s not get into this again.”

“Too late now.”

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Drabble: Lame-Ass Story Based On an Empty, Strained Premise That I Posted Because I’m Too Lazy To Write Something New

Lame-Ass Story Based On an Empty, Strained Premise That I Posted Because I’m Too Lazy To Write Something New

“Did you hear what happened to Mark?”

“No, what?”

“Brain exploded. I warned him not to go playing around with all that whacky mathematics, the nature of infinity and multiple dimensions -- you name it. We all know how dangerous that can be.”

“His own damned fault, sure, but still. Pretty rough way to go, don’t you think?”

“The roughest.”

Jim ran in. “Hey, guys, did you hear about Mark?”

“We heard, we heard. Now don’t burst in like that, you’ll give someone a heart attack.”

“Can being startled really cause a heart attack?”

“No, that’s just a figure of speech.”

Tuesday, August 26, 2008



“You think this was an inside job?”

“Almost definitely.”

“You really think someone on our staff was in on it?”

“At least one, probably more. Those alarms don’t fail, and they can’t be turned off from the outside. There had to be someone there to let the guys in. Plus, none of the doors were forced; I’m guessing they had keys.”

“Really?” asked George. I could see that he was starting to sweat.

“What’s wrong?”

“Shit, man, you got me.”


“I’m the inside guy!”

“Wait, I thought I was.”

“Wait, are you Thunderhawk?”

“And you’re Palindrome!”

“Shit, small world!”

Monday, August 25, 2008

Droubble: Mistakes


The notorious sky-pirate had plenty of time to think about his last mistake, and all those leading up to it. In hindsight, the trail went back distressingly far.

Why didn't he stick to the sea, like his old captain had suggested? Why precisely had he decided to get himself a zeppelin and take to the skies? He'd claimed at the time that it was the money, the treasure and ransomable aristocrats traversing the sky in the luxury liners, but really, he realized, it had been all about the prestige of the title "sky-pirate." And what good was prestige at this juncture?

Then there was his stupid vendetta against Sky Commander Riley. Piracy's about the profits, not personal grudges, and yet after that first fight he'd become obsessed with defeating the crazy vigilante. If he'd just laid low...

And that ill-conceived attack from above, the questionable advantage of hiding in the sun far outweighed by the maneuverability lost by venting so much gas in making that steep dive...

And safety lines – they may have cramped his style, but style seemed somehow less important now.

Not much longer to think about it, though; the ground was coming up fast.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Drabble: Kitchen Cleaning

Kitchen Cleaning

“You touched it?”

“What else would one do? Just pretend it wasn’t there till it went away?”

“You could have at least worn gloves.”

“Or poked it with something,” piped in one of the kids.

“Well, I didn’t have gloves, and I wanted to get it out of there.”

“So what happened then?”

“Well, it was halfway out from under the oven when it started to fight back.”

“You’re joking.”

“Nope, I wrestled the thing for about three minutes before it slipped my grasp and pulled back in there.”

“And you’re just going to leave it?”

"Live and let live.”

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Drabble: Air


Fourteen and one half pounds of air, pushing down (and in and up and whatever else) against every square inch of my skin. All my life I’ve stood it, but today it’s jsut too much, and I can’t bring myself to do anything but lie in bed and wish for it to stop. But wishing does not make it so. I want to do something about it, anything, but that would require action, and that’s just too terrible to imagine. Nothing to do except to pass another day, wrapped in the crush of disappointment, tangled in sweat-soaked bed clothes.