Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thank you

And with that, we finish this year-long run. Thank you so much for reading, and check back time to time; I'll still be posting drabbles when I write them; just not every day.

Again, thanks!

Drabble: Such Sweet Sorrow

Such Sweet Sorrow...

“I’ve never been good with goodbyes.”

“You know, people always say that. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, ‘I’m freaking fantastic at saying goodbye. I rip final partings a new one. I am the king of fare-thee-well.’ Why do you think that is?”


“I guess it’s one of those things we all think we should be better at, the things that seem like they should be part of the standard human skillset, but that nobody sane would actually seek out occasion to practice.”



“Important interpersonal moment time, here?”

“Oh, right. Where were we?”

Friday, January 30, 2009

Newspost: As things come full circle...

Well, tomorrow marks one full year of these daily drabbles. It's hard to imagine I've been doing it that long, but there it is. There've been highs, there've been lows, and I hope there have been a few entertaining stories for you all.

Which brings us to the point. This was never intended to be a permanent engagement. When I first started, I thought I'd do it for a month; at the end of the month, I decided maybe I'd do it a little longer, maybe even a whole year.

Well, it's been a year, and it's time to move on. I'm not saying this is the end of the drabbling, but after tomorrow's story, I will be putting aside the "daily" part in order to focus more closely on my longer writing. Thank you all for sticking with me through all of this.

Drabble: Trailing Edge

Trailing Edge

“We’re getting close to the end of the trail, aren’t we?”

“It does look that way.”

“Any idea what you’ll do next?”

“Hard to say. You spend so many years fighting absolute evil, it’s not like you make solid plans for the future. I always half assumed I’d fall in battle against Dr. Ultimax.”

“Certainly never imagined it’d be like this.”

“Indeed. You throw a man into the sun, and he makes it out alive, you wouldn’t it’d be cancer that gets him in the end.”

“I almost feel like we should go pay our respects. You know, for closure.”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Drabble: From His Fingertips

From His Fingertips

Then one day the river slowed to a trickle, then stopped entirely. The people living on its fertile banks asked the gods what they had done to deserve this. Pray as they may, there was no answer. Some stayed, counting on a change before famine set in, while others set out across the wastes, hoping it was better, maybe, somewhere. The former died off waiting, the latter died off walking. Salvation came too late...

- - -

“Quite playing in that muddy ditch and come inside!”
“Okay, Mom!” The child tore down the great dam, lingering to watch as the torrent flowed down.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Droubble: The Library

The Library

The library is relatively intact, though as devoid of human activity as anywhere. I start in the reference section, helping myself to relevant pages from a gazetteer, in case flight from the city should become a necessity. I consider looking for books on agriculture and animal husbandry, but decide to leave that for another day; the card catalogue was long ago replaced by computers, which are of little use now. Besides, until the canned goods at the QFC run out, where’s the real urgency? It’s not like I’m trying to rebuild civilization. Not much I can do if I’m the only survivor, and I still haven’t seen evidence of others.

I grab a few novels – plenty of time on my hands now, and not much to do but catch up on my reading – and head for the exit. I have my wallet out, looking for my card, and when I catch myself in the ridiculous act it’s all real again, and I’m on the floor, crying, shaking, throwing up my canned peaches.

I lift myself up, put my wallet away. Then, on second thought, I take it out again, discard it in a dark corner. Too late for that now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Drabble: Enhanced


“Get up.”

I try to, but powerful waves of nausea force me back to the ground.

“I said, get up. Can you understand me?”

My head pounds with pain, and I struggle to form words. If I could, I’m not sure what I’d say, besides maybe to beg death.


“He lasted longer than anyone else.”

“I have to say, I don’t feel great about this.”

“All our volunteers knew what they were getting in to, and with the waterboarding fiasco, we dearly need new stress methods.”

“Still, three straight episodes of The Simple Life? How do we sleep at night?”

Monday, January 26, 2009

Drabble: The Science of Sin

The Science of Sin

“Ma’am, what is your group protesting?”

“The, the immoral research taking place in this department!”

“Are you sure you have the right building? This is astrophysics, not biochemistry or medicine or anything like that.”

“This is where the offensive, reprehensible work is taking place, so this is where we will protest!”

“But I don’t get it. What could they possibly be working on in here that has you so upset?”

“Why, it was just published last month. Did you not hear? Researchers in this very building are debating the possibility of naked singularities? I mean, the immodesty of it all!”

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Drabble: African Grey

African Grey

The parrot started squacking.

“Will you shut that thing up? Giving me a headache.”

The apartment was pretty bare. It’d be a quick job, no piles of garbage at least.

“Who’s gonna take the bird?” asked Hanson.

“What do I care? I guess it’ll go to a shelter.”

“Who’d want an old bird like that? Probably pining for the old lady, too; my aunt used to keep one, they bond for life.”

“Well, you got some bright idea?”

“Nah, I just wondered.”

The bird seemed to stare at me.

“Get the thing out of here, it gives me the creeps.”

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Drabble: Vanguard


The factory’s almost entirely automated. Our station represents the only direct human involvement in the whole process. What you do is, you stand right here, between these two belts, and you pick up a piece from one, and another from the other, and you screw them together.

Well, yeah, that could be done by a machine, easy as anything else here.

Why isn’t it? Well, there’s a certain element that still opposes a completely automated robot factory. In theory, if we stop work here, the whole process stops.

Of course it’s stupid, but hey, at least you’ve got a job.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Drabble: Directions


I went to the rack in the corner of the gas station’s little shop. There were dozens of brighly-colored road maps, highway maps of the state and the region and of various cities and counties. They were dusty; I guess nobody much bought them in this day of internet maps and iPhones.

Nestled down in the bottom corner of the rack, though was something much older. I carefully unfolded the browned, curled parchment. Now, at last, I’d the means to locate the ruby of Azkinoth.

“How much for this?”

“One fifty-nine.”

I pull out a buck and change.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Drabble: In Captivity

In Captivity

It was our fifth day in the sealed white room. The rhythms of food and drink, dark and light were becoming routine.

“But what do those, those creatures want?” asked Martha.

“I think I have a theory.” I glance around. “I think our captors are scientists, of a sort, observing human social behavior.”

“What do you mean, behavior?”

“Well, an adult male and female...”

“Oh lord...”

“Horrid, I know. Still, it may be our only way out.”

She wasn’t ready yet, but it was but a matter of time. The whole hoax had been expensive, but when it paid off...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Drabble: Willing


“Isaac told me what happened today.”

I look up at Sarah.

“Is it true?”

“Well, I didn’t–”

“Only because He gave you an out.”

“It was a test of my faith.”

“You were ready to do it.”

“That’s the point, I was ready, and then He provided the ram.”

“You were ready to kill our son, our miracle.”

“For the one without whom he’d never have been born.”

“So He can just take that away from us?”

“But He didn’t!”

“You’d have gladly done His will.”


“I don’t know if I can ever look at you the same again.”

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Drabble: To The Death

To The Death

The matador sweated. He’d already fought two bulls to exhaustion, though without his sword he’d been unable to give the coup de grace. But the bulls just kept coming. How long could he last before he was too tired to fight, before he made a fatal mistake?

He judged the animal’s charge, stood firm to the last, then stepped aside. Dust clung to his cape, to his sweaty skin.

The bull wheeled for another charge. The matador danced aside again, but this time just too late; the bull tossed its head and gored him through.

The crowd moo’d its approval.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Drabble: Gone


“Man, what do you make of this weather?”

“Uhh, what do you mean?”

“You know, this sudden fog.”

“What fog? It’s bright and sunny outside my window.”

I pull back the curtain again. “Strange, I’m socked in here. I can barely see the mailbox.” A chill runs down my spine. Our houses are two blocks apart.

“No way. I don’t even see any clouds. You’re pulling my le--”

The phone cuts off.

I notice that the door has blown open. I go to shut it, but I stumble at the gate, out in the fog, into blank white, floating away.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Drabble: Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

Years later, under guidance of my therapist, I’d piece together the story -- a tragic demolition derby accident, with a chunck of debris flying into the audience. At the time, all I heard was the grown-ups talking about the poor little boy who was killed by the monster truck.
Words are powerful in the four-year-old mind, espescially that “m” word. For years that imagined truck rumbled through my dreams, belching foul exhaust, headlights burning with menace. It’d already killed that little boy, and though I could never tell my parents, I knew it was coming for me next.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Drabble: Captain Amazing: Ne’er-do-wells Cower, Evildoers Repent!

Captain Amazing: Ne’er-do-wells Cower, Evildoers Repent!

Sam Stanwell was just a mild-mannered citizen before that fateful day, the day when he was exposed, by freak industrial accident, to the gamma ray beam. He didn’t know it at first, but changes were taking place in his body. His very DNA had been changed by the rays, and the cells of his body were changing, multiplying and regenerating at a blindingly fast rate. He was not like the normal humans anymore, for he had–

- - -

“–maybe three, four months to live.”

Sam stared blankly at the empty wall, trying to take in what the doctor was telling him.

Note: I will be out of town without internet this weekend. Expect new drabbles on Monday or Tuesday. Meanwhile, look closely at today's title.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Droubble: Doomed


The vision lasted about forty seconds. We all saw it. The official explanations ranged from exotic space-time phenomena to ESP to signs from God. It didn’t really matter. After seeing the vision, we all knew it for what it was: A vision of the future – not only that, the immediate future.

A pleasant vision it was not. Nobody agreed whether it’d been nuclear war or plague or natural disaster or divine retribution, but we all saw the silent, ruined city. We all knew what it meant.

A few fled to the hills, stockpiled food and weapons. But we most resigned ourselves to fate and tried to make the most of our remaining time.

The first few days had an air of carnival. The power went out before long – nobody had reported for work at the plants – so we reveled by firelight. The stores were closed, but so were the police departments, so we took what we needed.

Day five, we started to wonder what the bomb or the meteor or whatever was waiting for. Out-of-control fires swept through much of the city. Food was scarce. Fights broke out.

On the eighth day, the ruins had gone silent.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Touch

The Touch

It started when he was a boy. He loved taking apart broken ousehold appliances, putting them back together. Often the machines he took apart worked when he’d put them back together. He didn’t know how he did it, even what he did. He just had a touch.

He never got the hang of human companionship, preferring his quiet workshop. He learned to actually fix things, for his touch didn’t always work, but he only took enough work to live on. The rest of his time he worked on us.

Sometimes we miss him. Not the others, but him, at least.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Drabble: Save Yourself

Save Yourself

“Save the humans? Why in the seas would we do that?”

“I know I sound like a bleeding heart. I’ve no love for the things they’ve done – still do. But they’re on a road to self-destruction–”

“Let them at it!”

“You really think they’ll get there alone? Listen, some of them are trying. If we share our wisdom...”

“Or we could nudge them past the brink...”

“I hope for your sake the council didn’t hear that.”

- - -

A humpback spouts in the distance as I remove the headset. “What do you think they’re singing about?”

“Just noise, you ask me.”

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Drabble: Slippery Slope

Slippery Slope

I know that I’m sliding ever lower, but I can’t seem to find any way to slow my decline. I know it isn’t long before I hit rock bottom, but that doesn’t actually change anything. Maybe if there someone, family or a friend or just a kind stranger, were to reach out a hand, throw a lifeline, but no, I’m all alone in this, and my efforts to pull myself up are to no avail.

I sure wish I were speaking in metaphor; those rocks at the bottom look sharper, more literal, than any drinking problem ever could.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Drabble: The Polity

The Polity

It was supposed to be the salvation of democracy. It was recognized that voluntary voting overrepresented certain viewpoints while underrepresenting others. However, mandatory voting felt somehow undemocratic. Hence the Polity. A massive computer network of scanned and enrypted brainmaps of every adult citizen, overwritten every three months by new scans, which could be called at any time for an anonymous yea or nay. Every voice heard, and without any inconvenience to the masses.

How did it go wrong? Did the brainmaps vote themselves rights? No, safeguards prevented this. No, they were just too much like us. Too lazy to vote.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Drabble: Anomalous


It’s decidedly the wrong side of 4:00 am, and I’d like to be back in bed. I know that won’t to happen, though. I accept a cup of coffee from the twitchy grad student.

“So you say we got a signal back.”

“That’s the way it seems.”

“That can’t be. All the theory says Peterson shouldn’t be able to communicate from the other side of that anomaly.”

“Why don’t you come hear for yourself?”

I put on the headset, so I don’t hear him coming around behind me.

“The anomaly is hungry,” he says, as the club comes down.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Drabble: Daydream/Reality


The fires are beginning to die down in the distance, but I’m still not ready to leave my hiding place. Who’s to say if they’ve actually moved on, or if they’ve just run out of things to burn? I’m not about to go find out firsthand. I’ve seen what those lunatics do to the few of us who are still normal.

All my life I’ve read apocalyptic fiction, I’ve watched zombie movies, and I’ve even fantasized that I’d be the one surviving, the one who kept it together, while the others cowered.

But I never imagined it being this bad.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Drabble: Eye of the Beholder

Eye of the Beholder

Like most human beings, I’m tied in enough to my senses that usually my consciousness resides flat in the middle of my skull, right behind my eyes, right between my ears. But as a young man, I tought myself to move that sensation of consciousness -- just an inch to the left or right, at first, but soon I could be aware from any point. I’d move in to my ankle, and live as an ankle for a bit, or my right pinky, or wherever. It was enlightening -- an ankle thinks differently than a head.
I only got stuck the once.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Drabble: Figures and Forms

Figures and Forms

You float at the center of the room, except it’s so big “room” doesn’t cut it. Something about an enclosed space so large seems somehow larger than if there were no wall, larger than the outdoors. The walls of the room are oddly patterned, and although you can’t properly judge direction in this giant, perfectly spherical space, you can tell from the moving patterns that you are slowly turning. Or is the room? Or both? Would it matter one way or the other?

Whatever the case, the rotation is bringing something new into view. A chill runs through your body.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Droubble: Pitch


“You’re asking yourself, ‘Why do I need fame insurance? I’m just an average Joe.’ Well, listen, Joe, it’s folks like you who need it the most! See, back in the past, most people who got famous, and I mean really top of the line famous, also made a lot of money. They could afford bodyguards, secret retreats, the occasional few grand to pay off a reporter with an unflattering story. But in today’s world, every day each and every one of us runs the risk of making it big, and it doesn’t always pay or itself. But let’s say tomorrow you post a funny blog entry, or maybe a homemade video, just for the amusement of yourself and a few close friends. One of your friends sends the link on to one of his friends, and before you know it you’re a phenomenon. Do you think you’ll keep your job for long with all of those fans mobbing you everywhere you go? Now you need a personal secretary to manage your appearances, and guards to hold off your crazier admirers.

“And that’s why you can’t afford not to buy a policy today. Because it could happen to anyone, any time.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Droubble: Surprise Witness

Surprise Witness

“First Mutual Insurance claims that the damage to my client’s home was an act of God, and thus not covered under his policy. I would like to ask: What do we mean by an ‘act of God,’ in this day and age? Does it refer to a specific god, or is it general?

“Syntax and capitalization are of key importance here. Note the absence of the indefinite article, as well as the capitalized initial ‘G.’ In a general survey of the entire history of literature in the English language, one will find that this construction has a very specific meaning – namely, it is used almost exclusively to refer to the Judeochristian Yaweh, and rarely, by association, the Muslim Allah. If the contract were written, ‘act of a god,’ or ‘act of gods,’ it would be a different case entirely; however, the contract clearly states–”

“Excuse me, sir, but how is this relevant?”

“I was about to get to that. I propose to prove, by a preponderance of evidence, that the storm which damaged my client’s home was not caused by either Yaweh or Allah. Your honor, I call my first witness, one Zeus of Olympus.”

Thunder crashed in the distance.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Drabble: Aftermath


“I understand,” said the President, just loud enough for General MacDonald to hear. He knew MacDonald understood too, which is why he’d volunteered for the execution detail. Better than most anyone else present that day, MacDonald understood that President Greene had, with his decision, saved the world. If the invasion had played its course, there would have been nothing left to protect.

But one didn’t drop a nuke on a US city without paying a price.

“Blindfold, Mr. President?”

“It’s a beautiful day,” said Greene. “I’ll face it with my eyes open.”

“Yes, sir,” said MacDonald, tears in his eyes.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Drabble: Omnipotent


“I don’t think I can take this.”

“We’re here for you.”

“I, I just can’t understand why.”

“God moves in mysterious ways, they say.”

“You know what? That just doesn’t cut it anymore. Things were finally going well for her, life was beginning to go right, and then right out of the blue, bam, she’s gone. It’s just too damned random and unfair. If there is a god, some being deciding what happens to us, he’s a heartless bastard."

- - -

“Oh, that little shit is going to get it for saying that.”

“Joss, you’re talking to yourself again. Come to bed.”

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Droubble: Antiquing


“Are you looking for anything in particular?”

“I’m primarily interested in vintage bar glass, specifically Belgian brewery glass. But I’m happy to look around.” I use this line every time; nobody ever has any, so it guarantees time to browse. In actuality, I never know what I’m looking for until I find it. The divination is usually precise enough to find the store, but beyond that, I don’t know much, just that the object of power is no larger than my fist, no smaller than a walnut.

So I pretend interest, looking on every little shelf and in every display case. I’ve gone through the whole store and am on my second time around when I find it – a small elephant, cast in bronze, that’s throwing off so much power I can’t belive I missed it the first time.

I carefully maintain my nonchalance, making a show of turning the statue over, checking the price, even though I’d buy it for a grand, and my client would gladly reimburse me every penny.

“Any glassware catch your eye?”

“No, but I’ll get this. For my aunt.”

“Ahh, a wonderful piece.”

I suppress a smile; he doesn’t know how right he is.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Drabble: With the Dark

With the Dark

The puddle of black is so deep you can’t quite focus on it; your eyes just slip off it like greased teflon. No form to the substance, no play of light and shadow to mark edges or contours, because it’s all shadow. If you didn’t know any better you’d mistake it for a hole in the cabinet, a breach in the fabric of reality. You find yourself drawn to the black; it’s all you can do to keep from being trapped in the depths of the void.

“Yeah, Mike, that’s definitely not how you’re supposed to install the toner cartridge.”

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Droubble: Dream


The dream was like any other, a mish-mash of symbols with no clear narrative thread to hold it together. In fact, if it had been much less notable, we’d never have noticed. But as it was, some percentage of people mentioned the last night’s dream, around breakfast tables or water coolers, at which point everyone who heard would admit to having the same dream. Soon it was the top news story worldwide – over about a twenty-four hour period, everyone in the world who’d slept had shared the dream. Scientists tried and failed to explain it. Religious authorities and philosophers and just about everyone else tried to find significance in the dream’s images – the bear holding the balloon, the gravel pit, the gnarled tree – reaching, in the end, very little in the way of consensus.

The event was not repeated, and attention flagged. With nothing new to report, there was only so much to say; the event’s utter mystery, the thing which had made it so amazing, soon plunged it into obscurity.

One would expect such a shared experience to change the world, maybe even bring people together. But in the end, things went on pretty much as before.