Monday, October 24, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Dearest

Ever the optimist, Janie wore capri pants and a light blouse. Helios blessed her for it. The sun shone down, warming what started as an icky day.

Most of the irritating people she expected to pester her in the office early in the day had planned for weather and dawdled around in a precipitous mood. They never quite made it to her desk.

When eleven thirty rolled around, she grabbed a jacket and headed out to a cafe three blocks away.

Usually the cafe bustled with activity. The threat of rain must have kept everyone away, she thought. Oh. Not quite everyone.

A handsome but unusual looking man with a shaved head and brown skin sat at a table by himself. He glanced at her and grinned.

She smiled and looked away but he waved her over. Janie joined him.

“I’m so glad you came here today. I was beginning to think I would have to eat all alone and here I am spending lunch with a compelling young woman,” he said.

Janie couldn’t place his accent. She couldn’t place him at all but his charm, Oh, his charms.

“I’m Janie,” she said.

“You can call me Rus,” he laughed.

When the waiter came and took their order, she asked if Janie and Rus wanted the extra garlic.

Janie shrugged involuntarily. “No, I take supplements for that. Thanks though.”

“I’ve already had some today,” Rus laughed.

His eyes were always filled with laughter. She felt it ran up his ears, there was so much of it.

The waiter took their order and left them alone.

“Not a fan of the fangs, are you?” he smiled.

She shuddered. “No. I don’t get why people think they’re romantic. Living on the blood of humans … yuck.”

“Some people think the age difference is a little creepy.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Doesn’t bother you as much?”

“No, I’m ok with older men.”

He laughed, heart light as a feather.

They ate a light lunch and Rus charmed her into taking a walk with him.

A loose brick tripped Rus and he fell over into the alley.

Janie shrieked.

For the moment Rus stood in the darkness, he looked … like a wrapped dead body.

“I’m sorry, Janie,” he smiled. “I didn’t mean for you to find out this way. It’s not something you tell someone in the first five minutes you know them.”

“That’s really … weird. I didn’t know mummies … like vampires. I—”

“It’s ok. It’s a shock, I know. There used to be more of us but humans ground many of us into powder to make a certain dye. Only a few of us escaped.”

“Hey!” a voice behind them shouted. “You’re the one who shouted, right?”

She shook her head, “No!”

The stranger swung a shovel with the tag still on it.

Rus’s eyes flashed red.

The man sunk to the ground, dead.

“With powers like that, how could they get you?” Janie said.

“I’m vulnerable if I go to sleep,” he shrugged. “And certain times I must sleep. We were sacred in my time and the kings and royal family still had elaborate protections considering the time.”

“So, you’re—”

“I hate to interrupt you, my dear, but we’d better part and leave before someone discovers the corpse.”

“Tomorrow? At the cafe?”

He smiled. “If the sun is shining.”

#99

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Hedge Witch

On this thirteenth birthday, Joshua’s grandma snuck him into his grandfather’s library. His grandfather wouldn’t have minded had he been alive, but Joshua’s parents might.

“You can have any three books in this library—any at all—provided you read three that I choose first and give me some proof you’ve read them.”

“What? Like a book report?” Joshua loved reading, but hated book reports.

Grandma laughed. “No. I’m sure you’ll have some ideas what to do as proof once you’ve read them.”


Joshua worried about his grandma. She had given him a handwritten book of spells.

It didn’t include any nonsense about meeting with the devil at a crossroad at midnight, but it definitely had spells and incantations.

He set it aside for a few days.

And then he punched a school bully out of school. The bully told Joshua he was going to press charges. If there was any chance a forgetfulness spell Joshua had seen would take care of the situation … well, Joshua would do it.

He gathered the ingredients, practiced the incantation, and tried very hard not to feel silly. The next day, the cast the spell on the bully. To Joshua’s surprise, it worked. Of course, the bully couldn’t even remember his name, but still.

Joshua put the book away for a few weeks just to be on the safe side. Once it was clear he wasn’t going to be blamed for the bully incident, he practiced magic with a fervor.


Joshua had always enjoyed werewolf stories and motifs. After mastering dozens of spells, he came across one to make himself a werewolf.

It seemed like the perfect project to prove to his grandma that he had read the book, too. He had to master spells and potions throughout the book in order to pull it off.

Weeks of preparation went into the project. He set the day before the full moon as his goal for completion. His werewolf charm would let him change whenever he wanted to and with some effort he could stay human on the full moon.

Still, it was traditional.

He asked called his grandma and asked if she could come by the next day. She agreed and he set the spell in motion.

When she came over, he stopped holding the transformation back.

Instead of changing to a wolf, though, he changed to a hedgehog.

Grandma busted out laughing. “Oh, Joshua. I can’t tell you how many witches I know who have become werecats the exact same way. In a few more books, I’m sure you’ll figure out what you did wrong.”

Joshua sighed. He was pretty sure he knew what he did wrong. He ambled off to play with Pete, his pet hedgehog.

Being a werehedgie wasn’t nearly as bad ass as a werewolf but he decided it was still pretty awesome.

#98

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Zedula's Acolyte

One day the prophet of the goddess Krabbit brewed a pot of what we shall call tea. He—his name was Zedula—did this every day and so it’s only barely worth mentioning.

However, just after brewing the pot, someone knocked on his door so hard that the pot tipped over and spilled all over the floor.

Zedula said words which were, fortunately, forgotten.

He picked up the pot and poured the last drippings on the mud floor before starting another pot boiling.

Someone knocked again.

“Go away. No new messages from Krabbit today,” he shouted.

“Can I come in?” a voice said.

“Are you Zedula?”

The voice paused. “No.”

“Are you Krabbit?”

“No, most certainly not!”

“Well, then. You may not come in. Go away.”

The voice returned daily to disturb Zedula’s tea. Zedula developed excellent hand eye coordination and eventually saw the knocks as a sort of tea timer.

After a few weeks, Krabbit visited. She is invisible but showed herself to Zedula as an older Ztedot to Zedula to make their visits more pleasant.

“Hello, Krabbit,” he said. “Just in time for tea.”

Just then, Zedula’s tea timer knocked.

Krabbit’s eyes grew wide.

“Please put your eyes back the way they were,” Zedula said. “They’re quite disconcerting that way.”

Krabbit’s eyes returned to normal Ztedot size. “What was that?”

“Someone who keeps knocking on my door and demanding an audience.”

“Can I come in?”

“See? Exactly like that.”

“What do they want?”

“Well, in mostly. After that, I’m not sure.”

“Humor me?”

Zedula poured Krabbit and himself cups of tea and then shouted, “Oh, alright. Come in you gigantic butt rug.”

Krabbit maintained her composure. Mostly.

A youngish Ztedot walked in and promptly abased himself before Zedula. The Ztedot kneeled down and began chanting something which sounded suspiciously like, “Oh wise and powerful prophet of Krabbit.”

“Hey, now. You’ll set us off our tea if you keep that up,” Zedula said.

“I didn’t know you had company, prophet,” the Ztedot said. “I can come back tomorrow.”

“No, no. Please don’t. Besides, the only reason I let you in was because—uh, Karulo asked me to find out what you wanted.”

Krabbit smirked.

“I want to follow in your footsteps. To be your successor one day.”

“I’m pretty sure you’re doing it all wrong,” Zedula said.

“Please teach me. I’ll do anything you want.”

“What I want is for you to go away and stop knocking my tea over. It seems what I want and what you want are at irreconcilable odds.”

“I—I could make your tea!”

“That would take all the fun out of tea.”

Krabbit put a hand on Zedula’s arm.

“What?” he asked her.

“Let him study with you,” she said.

“But why? He’s the exact sort of person… Krabbit put me here to avoid dealing with.”

Krabbit froze the acolyte momentarily.

“It will blow his gasket a little too much to hear this too early. I think you’ll do a better job of teaching me to deal with the Ztedots if you have someone who treats you the same way they treat me,” she said.

“Oh, alright.”

Krabbit unfroze the acolyte.

“Ok, what’s your name?” Zedula asked.

“I’m Merrapput, oh holy one.”

“First lesson: never call me that or any of the other bizarre things you’ve been calling me. Krabbit calls me Zedula. You are no better than she is.”

Merrapput looked shocked. “I—”

Krabbit smiled. “I see you’re too busy today, Zedula. Tell my friends to prepare for a rough winter.”

“Good bye, lady friend of pr—Zedula,” Merrapput said.

“Good bye, Seedling.”

The next day Zedula addressed the Ztedots with Merrapput by his side.

“I have spoken,” Zedula said with sarcastic gravity, “With Krabbit. She says it will be a tough winter.”

Later, Merrapput asked Zedula when he’d spoken to Krabbit.

Zedula rubbed his head. He had the sneaking suspicion Merrapput was a little oblivious.

“You know Krabbit is invisible,” Zedula said. How do you know she’s not occasionally inaudible?”

#97

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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Debbie Dangerpants

Anton ordered the LIT and Wilson ordered a fashionable beer.

Wilson started on his beer as soon as the bartender slid it across the bar.

Anton looked skeptically at his LIT.

Wilson laughed. “What?”

“Hotel bars, never quite trust them.”

“It’s an LIT. What could go wrong?”

“Yeah, and I bet the bartender has never heard of Long Island.”

“Dude, why’d you—”

Wilson looked away, jaw agape.

“What?”

“It’s her, dude,” Wilson whispered.

“Her who? And why are we whispering?”

“Debbie.”

“Debbie who?”

“Debbie … dangerpants.”

“What the hell? You’re not serious about this are you?”

“Isn’t she exactly what I described to you?”

Anton surreptitiously looked at the woman. “No.”

“Oh, come on.”

“You said she had raven hair.”

“Well, ok, I got that detail wrong.”

“This woman is a natural redhead. Also, you said she was just a little shorter than you.”

“Dude! She’s totally almost my height.”

“‘Dude,’ our bartender fits that description better.”

The bartender—a man with stylishly miss-managed hair and more than a few day’s stubble—glared at Anton.

“Oh, crap. She needs help.”

The woman left her drink on the bar and walked to the entrance, phone in hand.

“She’s calling someone and doesn’t want to be rude. If not being ‘That American’ means she needs help, you should help me first.”

“No, no, no, dude,” Wilson whispered. “She’s doing spy stuff.”

“How the hell do you figure?”

Wilson didn’t answer. He walked to the wall and put his back to it.

Anton watched him stare around the bar and guessed Wilson had an eye out for anyone trying to harm his favorite ‘spy.”

Anton stood up and walked to the bathroom. After he zipped up, he heard shouting in the other bathroom. A woman shouted “Oh, come on, Melody. You know dad always said I’d get the car!”

He couldn’t hear the responses. “Must be talking on her cell,” he muttered.

Anton walked out of the bathroom. The woman Wilson focused his creepy attentions on no longer stood in the entrance.

Wilson nursed his beer, looking straight ahead at bottles of liquor.

‘Debbie’ stepped out of the bathroom.

Anton sat next to Wilson.

“You want to talk about it?”

“Debbie’s real. I swear.”

Anton sighed.

#96

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Bludgeon of Regret

A club about one and a half meters long.

Its base structure is tleeka wood infused with a preserving regret spell. Fortunately, regret magic has been forgotten so this regrettable weapon can never be duplicated.

The wood of the club has been reinforced with three slender metal plates which run from just above the handle to the uppermost edge of the weapon. The nails which fasten the plates to the wood are rumored to have a regrettable gleam, but it is the opinion of this researcher that the placebo effect plays a role in this fanciful speculation.

Hurd the Mighty commissioned the creation of this weapon after noticing how bright, talented, and annoying Krezzik was. Hurd had no interest in the weapon beyond its usefulness in teaching young Krezzik a lesson.

Krezzik dropped the club on his toes about half an hour after completing the weapon and regretted it instantly and permanently.

The spell intrinsic to the club’s operative magic converts however much regret the wielder is willing to bear into additional force. Since no one wielded the weapon in it’s fall onto Krezzik’s toes, he was obligated to a considerable amount of regret. And, of course, commiserate levels of toe pain.

The club wouldn’t give you more regret credit than you were likely to live long enough to pay off. It rightly guessed Krezzik had a good seventy years left in him.

Hurd the Mighty died in child labor and didn’t leave enough money behind to pay for the club.

Krezzik regretted making the club even more-so. He didn’t sell it, though. The club’s mechanism was forgotten when he died. His estate sold the club to pay off debts.

The first buyer worked for a bank which found foreclosure an easier method of destroying its enemies. It sold the club for what would have been a fairly cheap price for a non-magical club. Urick Velsicn bought the club and was promptly attacked by rival war lords.

The bludgeon of regret determined Ulrick wouldn’t live long and he didn’t. He also died with no regrets.

His eldest daughter, Gamma, inherited the weapon. She was told it had been her father’s favorite, but Gemma’s uncle had stolen his actual favorite: a dagger blade named Yrri. He’d been told it was elven steel. You and I, of course, know it was no such thing.

Gemma was no fool and as soon as she was strong and talented enough to wield the bludgeon of regret skillfully, she challenged her uncle for the blade.

While she didn’t know the secrets of her father’s bludgeon any better then he had, she wanted only enough strength to slightly kill her uncle. She managed that easily and regretted it for about two months. Why she regretted it at all, she could not say. Things had gone well for her in the aftermath of her uncle’s death.

She even found taking over her father’s trips to his concubines quite pleasant.

When she grew old and it was time to pass all of her conquered land, goods, and livestock on to others, the forgotten bludgeon went to the great granddaughter of Gemma’s uncle. The granddaughter knew nothing of it’s history in depriving her of a great grandfather so it was both a kind gift and a final “cluck you” to the man who tried to steal Gemma’s birthright.

Chaffa had occasion to use it only once and didn’t manage to pick it up before being perforated by crossbow bolts. The intruder, Mylan, carried the bludgeon off with her money and a few fineries.

He discovered the power of the bludgeon after killing a fly cracked a mountain, but didn’t discover the connection between the regret and the power until he had accrued twenty years of regret.

He tried to kill himself with the club but it barely tapped him, not wanting to give up the emotions Mylan had inadvertently promised.

For three hundred years, the bludgeon passed from owner to owner making its users powerful, feared, and thoughtful.

Its last known owner, Mick Yearly, intentionally lost the bludgeon on a coming of age quest he intentionally failed so he could become an actor.

We are led to believe he didn’t regret a thing.

#95

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Abandon

Humanity—the rich, influential, and those useful to the rich and influential anyway—left me behind.

Not just me. Millions like me. Poor people and those with no allure.

The meek inherited the Earth but they didn’t leave us much left when we came into our own.

The oceans would kill a normal human and the important people killed so many pieces of the food chain that it’s all we can do to tend the Earth and keep it up.

It’s not all bad, though.

I’m a geneticist. I created a series of useful viruses to modify the abandoned to make up for the holes in our ecosystem.

None of us are unchanged. Some live in the ocean, others replace wild predators. Almost all of us can digest the standard toxins and output healthy soil.

Sixty years since they left and Earth looks almost good again. We look nearly alright. Some of my more adventurous progeny have even built a star drive.

They’ll find the other children of Earth some day.

I’m faced with a choice.

I can unleash a virus that will give my children—my beautiful grotesques—the sniffles but wipe out any unmodified human who contracts it.

Or I can let the people who abandoned us go.

If not for their innocent children, the choice would be a simple one. But if it weren’t for my innocent children, I might not care at all.

The vial slipped from my hands. I reached to grab for it ... but maybe I’m not so meek after all.

#94

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Pressed Flowers

Thirty or so of them called out in utter writhing pain.

“Tell my wife she’s the elegance of moon light,” a man cried.

“You’re no Shakespeare,” Jamie said. She flicked a wrist recorder on. “Try to keep your screaming down a bit. It’d be a shame if your rambling drown out someone truly eloquent.”

Tears of uncomprehending streamed down his face.

The second attendant, Perrine, scowled.

Their screams died down as machines removed the last liquid from the bodies.

“Status?” Jamie said.

Perrine checked her monitor and looked up. “100% compliance.”

Jamie engaged the transport. The bodies whirred out of existence.

“Five minutes before incoming,” Jamie said.

“You really think it’s ok?”

“Think what’s ok?”

“Recording them like that.”

“The most painful and—thankfully—impossible to remember event in anyone’s life and you think traffic attendants are the only ones who should hear the beautiful prose it produces?”

Perrine frowned. “It’s not right.”

Jamie’s console buzzed. “Incoming.”

“That seems early.”

“Yeah, about three minutes.”

The sarcophagi filled with bodies. Jamie and Perrine checked the feeder tubes on each.

“Everything cool on your end?” Jamie asked.

“Yes, but don’t think we’re done with the conversation.”

Jamie engaged the hydrators.

Liquid filled the bodies. When they reached 99% of full, Perrine turned life support on.

Thirty bodies gasped in quick succession.

The passengers roused gradually and left the transport room in an orderly, if groggy fashion.

A young man stopped at Jamie’s controls to shake her hand. “Thank you so much for everything,” he said.

When the passengers had all exited, Jamie cracked a grin at Jamie. “See?”

#93

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Friday, July 8, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: How to Play Hipster Tag

Not precisely a story, but I've established some precedent for this sort of thing.

Hipster Attack:
1. For this game, you must be in a public place where other people are around. Playing Hipster Tag in your house is far too mainstream.
2. Look for a hipster.
3. Point at the hipster and shout “Hipster!” like a cross between a battle-cry and a monster truck announcer.

Hipster Hipped:
1. If you are identified as a hipster, you must fight back.
2. Examine your accuser and pick something about them to be hipster about. For instance, if your accuser is wearing a collared shirt, shout back, “I wore dress shirts ironically before your mom knew what drool is!”

Hipster Battle:
1. All participants continue as in step 2 of Hipster Hipped until all but one of the hipsters runs out of insults. The remaining hipster is “too hip to live.” Also, that hipster wins. Buy that hipster some PBR.

Bonus: If you identify a Hipster and they don’t know Hipster Tag, you get ten points and also get to shout, “It’s called Hipster Tag. You’ve probably never heard of it. It’s too underground.”

#92

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Museum of Aardvark

“Can we go to the museum of aardvark?”

There’s a lot of things you expect as a parent. Explaining where babies come from, why the sky is blue, why mommy and daddy lock their door at night for an hour sometimes.

You know, the obvious stuff.

That one really threw me for a loop though.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, sweet,” I shrugged.

She tugged my sweater and dragged me to the computer. Gabby was already way too good at computers. In a few clicks, my six year old pulled up a website for the museum.

The site looked looked like it had been designed in a WYSIWYG from about ten years ago, but the dates for upcoming events showed stuff happening in the next few weeks.

“So, where’s it at, kiddo?”

She clicked on a link at the top and scrolled down to a set of directions.

Corner of such and such in a part of the back woods I’d never been to.

“So, can we?” Gabby asked.

“Some day, baby.”


I’d hoped she would forget about it but the subject came up every few months.

Something in me didn’t want to go. I couldn’t explain it at the time and explanations now seem like weak after-the-fact rationalizations.

Her father asked why I didn’t want to take her and I asked him the same question right back. He said he’d love to but she wanted her mother to take her.

I gave up fighting it and one Saturday, she and I packed up the car for a mini road trip.


The directions led us to a little plaza filled with odd, scam-sounding storefronts. The hair on the my neck tingled when I saw the “Refuge Community Book Store.” I suspected they wouldn’t carry Vonnegut, LeGuin, or Hawking in a place like that, however charitable their intent.

I couldn’t chicken out then, though. Gabby wanted it and her father had guilted me into the trip.

She waited patiently while I gathered a few necessities and she dashed out of the car as soon as I popped my door open.

“Not so fast, young lady!”

“Ok, mom!”

I don’t think I walked that slow with her hand in mine since she was three.

The Museum of Aardvark’s storefront windows were covered in foil on the inside. The blinding light of the sun shone off them.

The sign, to my consternation, said they were open. I pushed the door open with my free hand and we walked in.

A woman who seemed maybe 20 or 22 waved at us from the counter. “Y’all are the first guests we’ve had all day. Err, well, I guess the term is patrons.”

Gabby and I walked to to the counter, which displayed about fifteen different plush aardvarks and a blue penguin with bright yellow button eyes. They hadn’t bothered to adorn the rest of the store front. Just a few coats of dark brown paint on every wall.

“Two, please,” Gabby said.

“Of course, ma’am,” the woman said. “One child and one adult … that’ll be twelve dollars.”

I reached for my purse and pulled out a pair of fives and a pair of ones. I handed the money over.

The woman pulled off two tickets from a roll, tore them in half and gave each of us a half ticket.

“This way, please.”

She led us into a dark hall way and waved us on.

Gabby and I walked past the woman and to the first display.

As a vegetarian, I’m going to have to assume the stuffed aardvarks they had were either incredibly realistic recreations or ethically sourced. In either case, I guess that’s the sort of thing I expected.

Which makes my trepidation about the museum so odd.

Sure, if that’s all the museum had been it would have bored me to tears. Gabby’s Saturday cartoon marathons did worse than bore me, though.

We browsed through the dioramas of the aardvark’s natural habitat and read information on their cultural significance throughout the ages.

They even had a display about how common a double-a grouping was in various languages including Dutch, Afrikaans, and—of course—English.

I have no idea how long we spent going through the museum, but I felt a little ripped off as we approached the end.

Gabby must have sensed my irritation. “C’mon, mom. You’re going to love what’s coming.”

Instead of bemusement, I felt a slight twinge of fear and trepidation. My daughter knew something I didn’t. What if she didn’t know how much I hated certain things?

We reached a library. Visitors were invited to read whatever intrested them for as long as they liked. I felt disinclined, but Gabby insisted I pick out a book.

I picked Why I Am Not An Aardvark by Harper Jennings. I hadn’t planned on reading the book. I wanted to humor Gabby though.

“What’s it about, mommy?”

“Well,” I flipped back to the first page and started reading.

I am not an aardvark because …


I noticed Gabby’s absence even before it clicked that the museum disappeared.

“GABBY!” I shouted.

The rolling hills of grass under a star-speckled night didn’t answer.

I kept shouting.

A small animal started, looked at me, and then walked off slowly. The color looked vaguely brownish in the vague moonlight. It looked like one of the aardvarks from a display I’d seen earlier but I couldn’t be sure.

It flexed its toes and scampered on.


because I have a thumb and I am awake during the day.

Gabby looked at me expectantly.

“It’s a book saying why humans aren’t aardvarks, dear.”

She frowned. “I think you might be taking it a little too literally, mom.”

The vision—episode? Whatever. It couldn’t have been real, I thought. I put the book down and found another one.

Why I Am An Aardvark by Eloise McCann.

I took a deep breath, opened the book, and flipped to the first page.

I found myself in wide open country. Looked like maybe Kansas. Green, green, green. Close-trimmed grass. Hotter than it had any right to be. It coud have been a golf course, but wasn’t.

The light forced my eyes into a squint. A woman in overalls walked up.

“Now, what in the hell are you?” she asked.

She seemed so tall. I hadn’t feared her until she’d gotten so close. Just a few feet away.

I ran but fell to all fours and found, for the first time in my life, running on fours felt natural. But so very drowsy.


I set the book down. I didn’t see Gabby. After the weird events, I didn’t worry too much about Gabby being hurt, but I wanted her with me. I closed Why I Am An Aardvark and looked around the table. A pop-up cartoon aardvark stared at me from the position I’d last seen Gabby in.

After a moment’s hesitation, I took three steps over, and read.

Many believe the aardvark has magical powers—


I couldn’t see anything but myself. Unless a bit black expanse of nothing suddenly qualifies as something. I couldn’t tell where the light that let me see myself came from. If the experiences hadn’t felt so real, I might assume the contradiction resulted from the hallucination.

“Hello?” I called.

No echo, no response. Just dead open space that ate my words as I said them. “Is anyone out there?”

I thought, with panicked realization, “Oh, no. I never checked the title of the book!”

“HELP!” I shouted. “I’M IN HERE!”


I didn’t pop back in the museum. I sat in a large chair in a room furnished like you might see in a movie. Some old rich guy’s lair. Leather. Leather everywhere. It smelled like cigars, pipes, whiskey, and musk.

No one else inhabited the room. I walked to a door and opened it. “Hello?”

I entered the hall. Someone had kept the wood paneling up. I didn’t envy the cleaning staff one bit. They’d polished every inch of it from running board to ceiling.

“Hello? Anyone in here?” I called.

I heard a bustling noise near my feet and just barely caught sight of a thick brown tail rounding a corner. I followed it into a room.

The room I stepped into wasn’t a room. A cloud went on forever in any direction. After the empty expanse, this seemed tame, but I hadn’t seen Gabby in so long.

“Gabby? Has anyone seen my little girl?” I called to the audience I felt so sure watched on while I strugged with the senselessness of it all.

“What do you think, Michael?” a voice said. It shook the air around me.

“What do I think? About what?”

“About the creature in our grasp?”

“Hey!” I said. “Where’s my girl?”

“She is clearly an aardvark,” Michael responded to the first voice.

“An aardvark? What? Just let me have Gabby back, you jerks!” My heart thudded in my ears.

“She’s trying so very hard to be something else, though.”

“It doesn’t change the facts—”


I startled. I stood over a book with a pop-up aardvark looking up at me. It grinned knowingly. I thought I saw a wink.

A something brushed against my leg.

I looked down. Gabby. I knelt down and brushed her hair out of her face.

She didn’t open her eyes. “What is it, mommy?” she mumbled.

“It’s time to go,” I said.

She squirmed a little and stood up. “Ok.”

We waved to the cashier on the way out and packed into the car.

“Did you have a fun time, mommy?” she asked.

There’s a lot of things you expect as a parent. Answering that question after the experience I had— Well, it wasn’t one of them.

“I’m not really sure. I’m glad you were with me, though.”

Well, what else can you say? I sometimes harbor the suspicion that an aardvark is staring back at me in the mirror and I really wish you’d never pestered me to go to the Museum of Aardvark?

Not really the sort of thing you say to a kid you want to have a happy life.

#91

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Friday, June 17, 2011

little i lamb

little i little am
a little dye for a little i lamb

Who dyed this sheep blue as sky?

Sheep come in two colors
Sure the white ones are often dingy
And the black ones gray with wisdom

But who dyed this little ewe blue?

it isn’t dye, says a voice,
the white paint wore off
this is an indigo sheep

There’s no such thing!

says you! The sheep rears up
And climbs the great blue,
Invisible except against clouds
a little i lamb named me

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Lord Kittenscowler

“Do you have a kitten preference for your room?” the Guest RelRep asked.

Lord Kittenscowler chuckled.

“Oh, I’m so very sorry, sir.”

“No offense taken.”


He stumbled into the dark room and crawled into bed. He cried himself to sleep.

He woke content. The warm sun cast an optimistic ray across his bed. Then he opened his eyes.

Every inch of the hotel was covered in kittens. Lamps, posters… even a ray gun.

He’d failed to impress a girl and hadn’t even really scowled at the kitten. The title had stuck. He loved being a lord.

But he missed kittens.

#90

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Tuesdays

“Is there such a thing as the Tuesdays?” Jim, who always wore his red shirt on Tuesdays, mocked.

“If there is, I think George has them bad.”

George smirked as he ran copies and double-checked the collation like Fred had demanded.


Claire sat down. “Not hungry today, George?” she frowned.

George shrugged. He’d barely touched his tortellini.


“You seem so down today, George. Did something happen at work?” Ann asked.

“No, dear. Nothing in particular.”

George regretted more than anything taking drugs with a time traveler.

And he’d only been warned about bad trips … not about boring ones.

#89

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: The Wooden Gun

Angela walked through the metal detector. It binged. She wondered what she had forgotten. Couldn’t possibly be anything too bad.

“Ma’am, I need to look inside your bag.”

She handed him her purse and wondered how he got away with the bear necklace.

He pulled it open and raised an eyebrow.

She looked inside. Damn it, Michael. The kid had put a wooden toy gun in her purse. He had made it himself. It looked like a tourist trap gun cut from a plank and painted brown. The edges of the handle were work and chipped.

The guard pushed the toy aside. If he had known how dangerous it was … she laughed to herself.

A pair of tweezers set the alarm off. The guard let her have her purse and the tweezers back.

She walked into the meeting room.


As always, the meeting ran long on words and slow on results. Angela tried to remain alert. The meeting probably wouldn’t run into trouble, but she’d been hired to make sure any trouble went the good side’s way.

She fingered her bird necklace and read the crowd for signs of danger.

The meeting hit a recess.

“Hey, Angela,” a voice called. She turned to look and hands grabbed her necklace from behind and tore it off.

She inhaled sharply, not daring to scream for help.

Hardly a soul here knew.

She reached for her bracelet and heard a crunch.

Artie, she fought back tears and activated her bracelet.

It transformed from a series of wood beads to an electronic shield surrounding her and expelling unwanted objects from her vicinity.

She spun around, grabbed the wooden knife from under her shirt, and triggered it. It flashed for an instant and turned into a tactical throwing knife.

Angela tossed it at the gray haired man who had stolen and destroyed her necklace.

It caught him high in the rib cage. He smiled and reverted to a small Santa statue.

The smile worried her. She turned around and spotted Nancy Telling running her fingers over a little wood soldier.

A soldier with only one arm.

Angela swore. Nancy was too far for Angela to throw her knife at.

Nancy activated the soldier and a familiar man appeared.

His left arm stopped above the elbow and his right arm held a powerful semi-automatic.

He took aim at someone … a diplomat, surely.

Angela pulled Michael’s wood gun out of her purse and activated it.

Michael’s gun was a piece of art if it worked. The revolver shaped piece of wood turned into a sleek sniper rifle with magically silenced bullets.

She took aim carefully, exhaled, and shot the soldier’s head.

He crumpled to the floor and turned into a headless toy soldier.

Angela flicked Michael’s gun and it turned back into a wood toy. She tucked it in her purse and stayed low.

Nancy looked confused for a moment.

Then she spotted Angela. Nancy pulled out a pencil and flicked its eraser. It turned into a long metal want. Deadly.

She lowered its aim to Angela and began an incantation.

Angela’s bracelets wouldn’t deflect nearly enough magic to protect her.

She ran.


Angela woke up.

“What’s going on?” she asked the people standing around her.

“You were very lucky today, miss. A crank attacked you but a bear broke into the building and stopped her before she could do serious damage.”

She looked at the security guard who had screened her earlier. He winked.

#88

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Sarah

I’ll admit my system has flaws. Blocking her last name from my news feeds meant I missed out on some Monty Python news.

And, of course, there was the whole “being the last person to find out about an alien invasion fleet” bit. Really? Every last article about the aliens had to include that dumb quote of hers about seeing space really well from her back yard in Alaska?

You have only yourselves to blame.

Especially for the rapid spread of their zombie plague. If only you hadn’t suddenly remembered that the fluoride that could have protected the population from the virus was a mind control drug from the government.

I’m rolling my eyes here just in case it’s not getting across.

Is it true they’re only destroying us because she talked to them and we clearly took them seriously?

The misery of it all is that you’re not cognizant enough for me to enjoy the look on your face when I say I told you so.

Well, at least that misery won’t last much longer.

#87

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Alternate Ending

Recreated from events recorded and transmitted by the mobile of Helena Garret.

The destroyers floated at precise distances from each other in a circle encompassing the island of Dr. Essex. The sky barely allowed a single puff of a cloud to mar it’s pristine blue.

Director Helena Garret rode in a tiny boat from one of the ships to land. Her curly brown hair fluttered in the wind and her face showed no sign of worry.

When the craft landed, she hopped off and ran up the beach. She slowed to a measured walk when she approached Dr. Essex’s house.

“Doctor!” She shouted. “We need to speak to you.”

A man with very tall spiky black hair, orange pants, thick glasses, and a floral shirt came out of the house. “What?”

Director Garret walked up to him. “Sir, the world needs you to stop. You’ve destroyed two oceans already. You have to come with me.”

Dr. Essex laughed.

“Well, I guess there’s no reason to wait,” he said. He pulled a car door opener from his pocket and clicked the button.

The sea fell around the destroyers.

Garret gasped. Her ships would—

“No,” she whispered. “It can’t be.”

She turned to face the hole. Everything sank into it.

The perfect teal blue sea looked like glass. It fell into the hole. The Triton succumbed first. The black hole grew more quickly.

The footage stopped.


“That, class, was the destruction of Earth, humanity’s home planet. Are there any questions?”

A girl with red hair and freckles raised her hand.

“Yes, Rebbecca?”

“Why did he do it?”

“I’m not sure that’s a question I can answer. However, cornered animals are dangerous.”

#86 - Coincidence, I assure you.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: A Quiet Evening At Home

A whir Johnson hadn’t noticed slowed and halted.

“Heh. The droids are shutting down for the night,” Marie said.

Johnson nodded.

Maria’s eyes flickered and she slumped over.

A red dot under the forehead covering blinked amber while Maria’s files consolidated and she received memories of a quiet evening at home with a non-existent partner and children.

Johnson laughed. The laugh sounded hollow to him in the suddenly still office.

Walking through the robots unnerved him. Sometimes he wondered if he was really human. Simple paran—


Johnson arrived at his desk at 8:01 and wondered where the time had gone.

#85

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Jock Stuart

It's been awhile (probably more than a year) since I've included anything on the blog that was creative without being primarily written work. So, here's me performing the folk song Jock Stewart or as I prefer to spell it, Jock Stuart. (Read more!)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Grits Melancholy

“The croissant maker is down again, ma’am,” the lady behind the register said.

“Damn it all to hell,” Elinor said. “I know it’s not your fault. I’ll have a cappuccino and grits melancholy instead.” Elinor stood straight and composed.


“Down again?”

“Yep. Third time this week.”

“Might be time to put this one out to pasture.”

“Oh, it’s still got some life left in it.”


Franny, the name the croissant maker had given herself, didn’t feel tired. Maybe retirement would help with that.

She wasn’t sure how she’d like being turned off. What was the old subroutine she’d run when she was young and the sleep feature was too new to be certain? It started “now,” she remembered that part.

The man had unplugged most of Franny’s parts. She couldn’t feel the noise of the network anymore. What if someone wanted a … well, she’d forgotten what they always wanted out of her, but that was only natural from time to time. Especially when you reached Franny’s warranty date. Everything would be ok, wouldn’t it?

He unplugged her sensor board. That had happened before, but she was still scared.

“Now, I lay me down to …”

#84

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Flossing

One time I heard about a guy with sensitive gums like mine who flossed every day for three months because his dentist told him he should.

Three days in, he woke up with blood on his lips and all over his pillow. When that continued for two weeks, he called his dentist. His dentist told him to give his gums a rest, so the man quit flossing. At least while he was awake.

In the morning, he discovered wads of used floss in the growing pools of blood around his head.

His dentist recommended he contact a psychiatrist, but he was spending too much on his dentist bills. He put the call off.

Until he woke up with exsanguinated bodies in bed with him. His teeth had become vampires.

So I don’t floss every day, just in case.

#83

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Friday, April 15, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Miracle Cures

When folks tell you dragon turds have magical properties, they’re not lying.

You’ve heard it cures noses and constipation. Who’s ever heard of a dragon with a stuffed up nose or a dragon that couldn’t smell? And I assure you, no dragon suffers from slow bowels.

Now, a nose cured with dragon turd will smell, but I should warn you … it will only smell dragon turds.

Those who take dragon turds for constipation will be relieved. Also, their intestines will fall out in five painful days.

Dragon turds have magical properties, sure. They’re just not what you’d call good ones.

#82

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Ghosts

I don’t believe in ghosts. Don’t give me that look. They’re all real bastards so why should make the effort.

I’ve seen them all my life. They’re just figments. But, like I said, bastards.

One time when I was nine, I spent half a summer visiting with Uncle Rupert only to have my parents show up and ground me because the cops found his corpse floating half way down the Mississippi.

Worst trouble of my life up to that point all because Rupert couldn’t have been bothered to keep me in the loop. So what if the stiff would have been a little lonely.

I never got to do any traveling by myself after that.

Not until I was eighteen and applied to the farthest away college I could fathom.

The ghost sitings were worse there, but I figured out most of the ghosts right away. Even 90s fashion went out of vogue pretty quick.

One of the ghosts looked like a near-stereotypical nerd from the mid-80s.

I borrowed some anti-psychotics from someone who didn’t have any interest in using them. Didn’t help. I worried about the nerd anyway.

During my second year, I took a light summer load and made it my project to figure things out. Medication didn’t help, so I tried meditation, standing on my head, all that stuff. Even tried to get a priest to exorcise me. That didn’t go over well. He thought I teased him.

On a whim, I tried a different approach. I researched the nerd’s life. Tim Peterson. He’d died in 1982. ODed on stimulants. Teased by classmates and bullied by his parents whenever his grades dropped below a 100.

I sent letters to his parents and classmates. Tim faded away and I had a much better fall semester.

The other ghosts still haunted me, but I’d gotten rid of one. I could get rid of the others.

I even finished my degree on time.

Looking back on it all, I feel so naive. On the last day of class, I spotted someone out of the corner of my eye. It looked so much like Tim. Out of place in any era.

My heart skipped a beat.

I didn’t see him again, but I try not to spend any more time at my alma mater than I must.

The memory of Uncle Rupert intruded more and more often. I had to go back to St. Louis.

I didn’t tell my family or anyone else either. The story of my “adventure” spread pretty wide amongst my acquaintances and I didn’t want to hear about it.

The young girl on the Metro Link could be a ghost. So could the goth with no gadgets visible who sipped coffee at a café. I could never tell for sure.

I breathed in deep and slow. The air flowed out of me like so many old movie ghosts as I knocked on the door.

#81

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Asteroid no. 5 (part three)

This week's Bedtime Story is my 80th so far. It's also a special three-parter. If you haven't read part one and part two yet, read those first.

We carried the critter into the station. My stomach lurched when we stepped into gravity.

The critter didn’t weigh much considering its size. Maybe two hundred fifty grams.

James kept his station pretty bright so I flicked off my hand-light experimentally. The critter meandered a bit in our hands, but didn’t fight us. I put the light in my pouch and took my helmet off.

“Where do you keep your scanner at?” I said.

James took his helmet off and led me down the hall.

He strapped the critter in. The straps over it made it so much less disconcerting.

The machine thought about its answer a good while. Maybe five minutes. Then, the answer it gave didn’t make much sense. ‘Black body-like anomaly. Check sensor calibration.’

“What the hell does that mean?” James said.

“Not a clue. Too bad the net’s crap out here.”

I grabbed a chisel and hammer from my suit’s pouch and chiseled off a chunk.

The bit I got measured about four centimeters at its longest and didn’t move around at all. The critter didn’t react to losing a piece of itself.

“Jeez, Scrumpy. That coulda gone bad.”

I shrugged and pocketed the sample. “Well, what do we do now?”

“Crack open a beer and report in.”

“Suits me,” I slipped out of my suit and followed him to the locker.

The locker sat only about five meters away from the scanner so we noticed pretty quick when everything went sour. The critter struggled against the straps. We ran back just as it snapped the first strap and broke free.

It bounced off a wall, smashed into the ceiling, and disappeared. No flash of light, no trace of where it could have gone. Just gone.

An alarm blared. James chased the problem down and tore a panel open. Whatever the creature did, its little teleport gag perforated bits of logic board and wire.

“Anything important?” I yelled over the alarm.

“Just the Sterling generators for all the farms on this wing.” He slammed the panel shut and punched the wall.

I backed up a step and put my hands up.

James logged into the panel and shut the alarm off.

The ventilation hummed, but I heard something else too. Like the patter of … rain.

“Did you hear something?” I said.

He looked at me and his eyes narrowed. “Damn it, get down!”

I slumped to the floor and watched as panels all up and down the corridor strained and cracks formed in windows on the outer walls.

I held my breath. The sound of the critters zapping straight out of Asteroid no. 6 stopped.

We ran to the nearest window and peered out as thousands of dots of nothing from Asteroids 5 and 6 shot in straight lines to the distance.

James fiddled with a control on the wall for a moment, then hit it. “Not fast enough. Looks like they headed out of the star system though.”

“Small blessings, eh?”

A window five meters down hissed gently.

“Small enough.”


It’s been maybe five months. It took James and me the better part of three to patch up the damage done to our stations and farms.

We kept up with quota, but AgriCorp3030 still tried to hold us responsible for the damage. The critters didn’t just glom onto our stations, though. They hit thirty five asteroids and fifty stations.

The president of AgriCorp3030 tried to pull some back door nonsense about compensating James and me for the sample so they could seize it, but hell if I want those things called Scrumpies. We escaped with our skin and our prize.

And if we figure out how the creatures worked, me and James, we’re following ‘em.

Well, following them out. I think I could live the rest of my life without running into them.

#80c

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Asteroid no. 5 (part two)

This week's Bedtime Story is my 80th so far. It's also a special three-parter. If you haven't read part one yet, read that first and stay tuned for next week's conclusion!

“Hold on a sec,” James said. He turned around and attached a micro-filament line to the airlock door. “The map of this place isn’t worth the paper it wasn’t printed on.”

We pushed off and shined our lights into the dark.

Six kilometers in, we reached a cavern bigger than most stadiums. James and I pitoned our suits to the cavern wall and pushed off.

The miners left behind several tons of equipment behind. Much of it probably still worked, but the corps did an audit about twenty years back and discovered salvaging and shipping equipment often cost more than making new stuff.

They should have sold the salvage rights to Mom & Pop’s, but they said the taxes would kill them. I call Bolshevik Shippers, but I needed to focus. Cavities like that one are perilous to the inattentive traveller.

The suit sensors would pick up some stuff, but a stray piece of equipment might still get by and smack your helmet. Even if it didn’t breech, a concussion could ruin your month.

My wrist buzzed. I looked down. “Damn! James!”

He looked back. “What?”

“Radiation is spiking.”

He looked at his wrist and fiddled with the controls. Guess he’d forgotten to turn it on. He pointed the sensor around the cavern and picked out the red zone.

James engaged his jets for a microsecond.

“What the hell are you doing?” I yelled after him. Yelling over a comm is kind of mean since it’s not necessary.

I followed after him. The suits had to protect us from decently high radiation anyway.

Patches of dark obscured my vision. I couldn’t quite make them out. For a moment, I thought I was blacking out.

We neared the radiation spike. I expected to see a TRZ9 core, but I didn’t really see anything but patches of nothing. The floor around the core looked like starless space. It couldn’t be, but it looked like it.

James’s light lit up the whole area so my hand wandered a bit. I glimpsed movement out of the corner of my eye and looked at it. A patch of dark grew under my light’s beam.

I tapped James’s shoulder and pointed at it. He tapped his thrusters and floated to my light.

“I just scanned it,” he said. “I got nothing. Like literally nothing. Get over here, would you?”

It took a steady hand (not to mention a clever maneuver to keep our lines from tangling), but I kept the light shined on the spot and floated over.

The spot of nothing shrunk to the size of the beam. Minute tendrils slunk past the edges. I felt sick.

James nodded at it and reached down. The creature ignored his touch. He grabbed one edge and I picked it up from the other side. It felt like flowing rock. No matter how hard we gripped it, it only flexed if it felt like it.

We hooked our lines to our suit winches and engaged the return.

The trip back took maybe an hour. The creature followed us contentedly so long as we kept a light shined on it. I tried not to look at it too closely when it passed between me and James.

It looked for all the world like a hole had opened up through him and bare space. Then the sickening tendrils flicked, it creeped me out less.

James fingered the airlock open and we stepped in. Air whooshed in. It felt a few degrees colder than usual. I thought it was all in my head.

Continued

#80b

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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Asteroid no. 5 (part one)

This week's Bedtime Story is my 80th so far. It's also a special three-parter. Enjoy!

I remember the first time they became too much to ignore.

The food locker I liked to keep food in had run a bit low on pastries. I’d gone a few days without but, after the third farm came in 10% above quota, I felt I’d deserved a treat.

I flipped the low switch on the grav and pushed down the hall. It’s nearly a kilometer to the next locker so I had to kick off a few more times to reach it. I’ve cleared the major obstacles from this run already, but my heart still thuds in my ears every time I make the trip through the dark.

We’re not supposed to read up on the mental ailments afflicting people in solitude. I have though. Vague shapes on the corner of reality … surely a sign I should be spending more time at the socials.

I held my breath and held my arms out to stop myself on the locker. I looked around. Nothing. I breathed a sigh of relief and unloaded the snacks from the locker.

“—tation five, station five, come in, station five,” James’s voice crackled across the divide.

I swore. I’d forgotten to carry a comm and all the section went unpowered when not connected to the interchange. He’d be worried sick.

My time back was two minutes faster than my best record.

I clicked on the set and broadcast, “Station two, station two, this is station five, come back. Come back.”

The sound of cosmic radiation filtered through the set for a moment. “Hey, Scrumpy.”

“Hey James. What’s up?”


James invited me to an impromptu social. His station was running above quota on two farms—7% total—and he felt like celebrating. Probably also curbing the loneliness. Given my periphery, it seemed like a good idea for me too.

I suited up, aimed the magne-grapple at his station, and fired. Two minutes later, the cable pulled taught. The zip light flashed red twice and turned green. I latched myself to the zip and sped across the dusty vacuum.

When you first start pulling these deep space duties, you plan conversation topics for the next time you breath the same air as another human.

I’d given that up five years prior.

James had come on three years ago from another asteroid cluster. We’d met dozens of times and never got to the subject of how many years

I skipped the small talk. Twenty minutes of discussion-free munching and I broached the subject. “You ever get space madness, James?”

He pondered. “Like just anxious over nothing?”

“No. Like seeing things that aren’t there.”

“Maybe. I been seeing a few things lately.”

“Like what?”

He hesitated.

“You know I’m not going to tattle and I wouldn’t be asking if I didn’t have a reason,” I put a hand on his shoulder.

“Scrumpy … I’ve been seeing critters.”

“Bigger than rats?”

“Bigger than foxes.”

I whistled. “They might be real.”

“Scrumpy, you been holding out on me?”

“No. I thought I was going loopy until today.”

“I been seeing ‘em for practically weeks.”

“Damn. Sorry, James.”

“You think we should go look at ‘em?”

I put my helmet back on as answer and made my hand into a cocked gun.

He took the hint and lead me to the armory.

While he put on his suit, I picked through the supply of 90-year-old salvaged weaponry and decided on a few with cells made in my life time.

I tossed James a ShockEE and a ray gun and kept a heat knife and another ray gun for myself.

James led into a disused back wall airlock. All these stations used to be mining platforms before their asteroids were picked clean of the easy-to-mine material. The old airlocks mostly don’t work and who wants to climb in an unlighted space mine?

I think all of us space farmers have done a bit of prospecting here and there though.

James and I stepped through the lock. He turned his helmet overhead on. With no atmo and deep darkness just in front of me, I felt a crushing paranoia similar to looking on bare space on a walk outside.

Continued

#80a

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Thunder Bunnies

“Are you coming to see the thunder bunnies?”

“I think I’ve heard of them. What kind of music do they play?”

If Jack hadn’t been so cool, he would have known they weren’t a band. Being oblivious to pop culture was very in just then and he was just that way anyway. He didn’t know when the cool came. He wouldn’t miss it when it left.

Coolness had been uninvited. It confused him. A puzzle, but not one worth solving.

“God, you are just too much,” Micky said, irritation and awe measured equal.

His unaffected obliviousness, anxiety about odd things, and cool all stuck around.

Coincidentally, so did the thunder bunnies.

So, ten years later, Martha McCool (not her real name) invited him. “Hey, Jack. You wanna come see the thunder bunnies?”

“They’re still around? No one ever did tell me what they were. Except not a band.”

“They defy simple explanation. Like you.”

Jack hated things like him. Especially and specifically himself.

He rolled over and she attacked his naked back with skritches and kisses.

“So you’ll go?”

Of course he’d go. In his own way, he loved Martha. A dozen yuppie houses so similar you couldn’t tell them apart, but there was something about her and all the other people he’d loved over the years.

In the stands at the San Quentin stadium, Jack and Martha awaited the event. Jack caught admiring glances. He thought they might be staring at Martha until she went to the restroom and the stares continued.

It reminded him of Micky. Why had a man like Micky loved Jack? A man who could think of his lovers as identical houses with something almost unnoticeablely special to them.

Martha returned.

The pre-show bored Jack. Some of the music was alright, but the magic show disappointed them both. Jack grew anxious, worried he wouldn’t feel obligated to even fake amusement for Martha’s sake when the time came.

A hush washed across the audience.

He felt the anticipation leak off the audience like razor-lined kite wire. The stadium lights dimmed and the PA played an ominous throb of bass. The only light in the place came from a few people turning of their mobiles.

The main lights flicked on and the bass cut out. The stadium barely bore the silence.

Jack wondered what they meant him to see. The whole place stood motionless. He could just barely see the wind whip little dust balls on the dry clay dirt.

The little dust clouds grew. They chased one another across the stadium floor, crackling in the quiet.

Soon, the clouds grew large, but they maintained the perilous speed. The crackling grew deep and penetrating.

A cloud chased through the seats opposite Jack and Martha’s. The audience on that side ducked low and screeched.

Jack fought the urge to ask Martha what was going on. A murmur bubbled out of him, but even he couldn’t tell what he’d said. The clouds shrunk a little, but oscillated more rapidly and loudly. Jack could feel their vibration through his lungs and all the dust, smoke, and pollen of thirty years was shook loose and drifted toward his diaphragm.

The bunnies purred and chased all over. Jack’s intestines growled when they passed. It felt like dying and everyone joined in the sweet tantalizing misery.


“Well, what did you think?” Martha asked.

“I don’t really know yet.”

“I figured you’d say that.”

But he had a pretty good idea of what he thought about it. People loved the thunder bunnies for the same reason they liked him. They felt something. It didn’t have to be pleasant, and it wasn’t. It’s just you could feel it.

#79

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Delayed Bedtime Story

Hey, y'all. I'm going to be late on a Bedtime Story this week. I got so caught up in my other projects that I forgot I hadn't yet written the next story in the Zedula series. I may skip this week depending on how the projects go.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Zedula's Calling

Krabbit, goddess of the people once known as Seedlings, sent her creatures a warning: I’ll be visiting you all a week from Tuesday. As long as you’re not hurting each other, I don’t really care what you’re doing. However, if you’re going to be embarrassed by something, please don’t be doing it then as I’d rather you didn’t have any new hangups.

Naturally, all the Ztedots*—the Seedlings’ new name—gathered in the place where Krabbit had last been sighted.

* ze’dätz

Krabbit wandered her world for a bit and found the quiet somewhat disquieting. After a few minutes, she figured out where all her creatures had gone.

“Why are you all bunched up like this?” she asked.

“It seemed like a good idea,” one of the Ztedots nearish the edge said.

“And all of you are here?”

“Yes,” the Ztedots answered. “Except Zedula.”

“And why isn’t Zedula here?” Krabbit did not hope for a sensible answer. She sighed silently.

“He said he’d just put a pizza* in the oven,” said one Ztedot. “And it’d be a shame to waste it.”

* The meaning of this word has been lost. It is translated to a popular snack food in the locale of every translation. The translators argued between chicken nuggets and pizza. Pizza won out as it doesn’t necessarily require eating things that can suffer.

“But he had more than a week’s notice!”

Clearly, some of her people were irritated with this Zedula person.

“Alright. You all stay here. I must go speak with Zedula.”

Krabbit meandered through the clouds until she found a house with smoke coming from the chimney.

She entered the house. “Zedula?” she said.

“Who’s there? I don’t see anyone.”

“It’s me, Krabbit.”

“Oh, fancy you visiting my house.”

A bell dinged.

“Just a second,” Zedula said. He opened the oven and eyed the pizza for a moment. He sniffed three times and pulled the pizza onto the counter. “In another five minutes, it’ll be cool enough to eat! Mind if I sit?”

“No, by all means.”

Zedula pulled a chair out and sat in it. “So, what brings you to my house, goddess?”

“All your people said you’d refused to come, Ztedot.”

Zedula laughed. “‘Seedling’ is fine by me.”

“I think I will call you Zedula if you call me Krabbit.”

“Fine by me, Krabbit.”

“So, what brings you to your world today.”

“Your people seemed a little too quiet. I thought I’d check up on them.”

“A sensible precaution.”

“So, why didn’t you come to see me?”

“Well, you didn’t say to, and I couldn’t think of anything more embarrassing then standing around waiting for you to show up so I figured I’d probably make a pizza instead. Then everyone got really upset and I decided I definitely had to make a pizza instead.”

“Hm. Mind if I join you for pizza?”

“No, be my guest,” Zedula said.

Krabbit appeared as a middle-aged Ztedot and took a seat.

“Is that what you really look like?” Zedula asked.

“No, of course not. I look like what I looked like just before I looked like this.”

“Ah. Like nothing. I see.”

“I just figured it’d be less disconcerting to see a Ztedot eating pizza then to see a goddess eating pizza.”

“Possibly.”


The goddess Krabbit approached her weary followers. “Attention, Seedlings,” she announced.

The Ztedots grumbled at this.

“From now on, if I have something to say, I’ll say it through my prophet Zedula.”

The crowd was silent for a moment.

“Are you sure?”

“Isn’t there anyone better?”

“Do we ask him if we have any questions about how we should live?”

Krabbit breathed in deeply. “Yes, no, and maybe. Good day.”

Since the crowd couldn’t see Krabbit had gone, the Ztedots continued to plead for half an hour. Then, as they’d already waited four hours for her return from Zedula’s house, they went home.

And quite a few of them made pizza. It’d been on their minds all day.

This is the story of Krabbit’s first prophet, Zedula. He was appointed in the middle half of the third age of the Seedlings.

#78

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: The 15th Charm

Gappa sighed. He’d made fifteen tries in the past ten years. Fifteen. “This kid,” he said. “Has got to make it.”

He hated being part of a pantheon where the trickster god had been successfully chained. His fellow gods were such spoil-sports.

But maybe this kid would do it. Smart enough to release him but not so smart she figured out it wouldn’t work in her favor to do so.


Any child old enough to understand has special toys. Usually just one or two.

Maxie had twelve.

She had a tenuous hold on the English language, so it would be futile to ask her why those twelve were so special.

Like many children, she had a great number of toys so her parents never wondered why she had twelve odd ones. They did wonder whether her attachment to them was normal, but they let it slide.

The one she called Gop whispered to her from time to time. Her questionable English skills didn’t pose a problem. Gop didn’t speak English.

He told her something very much like this: “Take all the other special toys and put them in the dog’s cage. Lock the door, rub all their heads, and call their names.”

Maxie had intelligence. Quite a lot of it too, but her attention span hadn’t gelled yet.

By the time she had all the toys out of the room, her mother noticed her and put her down for a nap.

Maxie dreamed about big, big, BIG monsters made of stone and metal. They pounded the ground with their feet and made her giggle. When she woke, she took all of the special toys and put them into the dog’s cage. She put Gop in the cage too.

She rubbed their little heads one by one, “Pazzsha! Bo-po! Meela! Koucha! Dannu! Yeye! Tuntun! Geela! Hazchu! Ippy! Poga! … Gop!

The major gods of a pantheon you’ve never heard of all appeared in the crate. The family dog weighed roughly 60 lbs. His crate could uncomfortably accommodate perhaps one incarnated god.

Maxie shrieked with delight. “Bombom!”

The gods argued amongst themselves.

“This is all your doing, isn’t it, Gappa?” asked the creator goddess.

“Probably,” Gappa answered.

“You are probably the worst trickster god I’ve ever heard of! You managed to be tricked by a three year old!”

“C’mon, kid, let me out.”

“No!” Maxie said.

“She sounds like she’s made up her mind,” Gappa said.

“She’s an infant,” the god of war said.

The goddess of lumpy fruit scoffed. “That doesn’t mean anything. Infants can be very single minded between naps. And I don’t feel like waiting for her next nap to finish. Besides, I think someone has their toe in my ear.” She shook her head and bit wildly in the general vicinity of the offending foot.

“Do we really need a goddess of lumpy fruit?” Gappa asked. “I’ve never heard of any other pantheon with—”

“Yes, we do,” muttered the god of soiled nappies.

Maxie laughed at the gods but grew weary of their bickering. She stuck a finger at them, curled her lips, and grunted, “Ha!”

The creator goddess sighed. “Give her what she wants.”

She hadn’t said it to other gods but to the substance of the universe. Which was, in hindsight, probably not the best move she ever made.


The gods of the forgotten pantheon made for very imaginative—if grumpy—playmates.

Gappa, her most favorite at all, seemed especially grumpy.

#77

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

VD2011: And Yet I Wonder

Most years when I have my act together, I try to make a special project for Valentine’s Day. Most years, I’ve written stories.

I’ve written about Buddha and black market love tokens, Robotic dating services gone awry, hell hounds that encourage safer sex, and human-alien hybridization to cure over-active empathy.

I hope you’ll love this story. It’s about a monster.


God. I don’t even know what to write. They’re going to kill me.

I told the lady I wanted to write my story, so I guess I’ll focus on that. Hope I finish it before they come for me.

Calm down, calm down, calm down.

I’m Giselle PĂ©ronne. Everyone calls me Gis. I’m a twenty-five year old demisexual woman.

On February 14th, I walked to the store to pick up some supplies. I’ve hated everyone so long I didn’t have any reason to worry about the monster. How many of you even know how easy it is for misanthropes to shop on Valentine’s now? And, no, not all demisexuals hate humanity.

I picked up my groceries and a bottle of wine to celebrate my blissfully safe holiday. When I walked out of the store, I spotted a dark-haired woman.

She walked her baby in a carriage. The monster ran up to her and its mouth engulfed her head. The woman fell over. I caught a glimpse of the pool of blood around her head.

I guessed she died, but didn’t stick around to find out. If love for a child was enough to tempt the monster, even someone like me might be in danger.

My heart raced and I walked home as fast as I dared.

I locked and bolted the door behind me and turned all the lights out. I never heard whether it was attracted to lights, but I took no chances.

I drifted off to sleep and woke up several hours later. The sun had set while I dozed. I turned the TV on.

“The monster has been sighted in Chelsea. Viewers are advised to stay indoors.”

I flicked the TV off and breathed a sigh of relief. Nowhere near my house. I needed a cigarette. I pulled the pack out of my purse and stepped outside.

The neighbors’ voices carried through the quiet. Arguing again. Great holiday for it, but I didn’t want to hear it. I walked up the street and lit the cigarette.

The clock had struck nine and the city feigned abandonment. No cars on the road and just me outside. I never heard leaves rustling in the city before.

I shivered—half with cold, half with a feeling of creeping doom.

Somehow, I knew. Maybe it’s just confirmation bias, but I knew it would show. It did and I knew I couldn’t get away.

My heart pounded. I tried to think. What could I do? The craziest thought popped in my head: “What if I loved myself and it?”

I held my breath and focused all my vague misplaced love. It walked closer. I lost my nerve for a moment and closed my eyes.

Breathe in, breath out, love. Breath in, breath out, love. Love, love, love, LOVE.

The breeze hit my face. I opened my eyes. I couldn’t see the monster anywhere.

“What the—”

I looked down.

My arms— covered in thick black fur.

I ran home and peered in the mirror. Somehow, the monster merged with me or I merged with it.

“Wow, everyone’s going to be so happy,” I thought. “Except me.” I sighed.

My life as a human ended, so I figured I may as well enjoy my wine before I let everyone know the good news.

I took my time and then tried teleporting. It’s not as easy as the monster made it look. In six attempts, I made it close enough to a TV station to walk the rest of the way.

The street was empty. I banged on the window.

“Hello! I’m not the monster. I know I look like it, but I’m not. I need to talk to you!”

I felt a slight sting on my neck and fell to the ground. I woke up in a prison cell. Probably a few hours later.

Someone had handcuffed me. I stumbled to the bars.

“Hey! I need to talk to someone. I’m not the monster!”

Police milled about the station. They all ignored me.

“Hey! Come on! “

I yelled for maybe ten minutes. An officer approached the bars, but not very close. She’d pinned her wiry brown hair under her hat. Her name tag read ‘Pam Baker.’ Pam looked 40, or maybe 30 and a heavy smoker.

“Are you in charge around here?”

She pointed to the bars. Someone had threaded them with a glowing blue wire. “That’s to keep you from teleporting. Corridor Stamp Corp. says that’ll keep you in. No more phasey-woo.”

“I’m not the monster. I—I dunno, I absorbed it or something. It won’t eat anyone again.”

“Sure, doll. I’m not going to get close enough to the bars to find out whether you’re telling the truth or not.”

I swore. “Come on. At least tell me what’s going to happen to me.”

“I don’t know. That’s up to Corridor. Don’t worry. I’m sure they’ll get a huge fine for creating you in the first place no matter what happens so you’ll get your revenge. Sort of.”

“Damn it,” I said. “That’s not revenge. That’s a slap on the wrist!” Well, I might have said a few other words.

“Sorry. Nothing I can do. I’m just in charge around here.”

“Can you at least get me a paper and a pen. I want to tell my story.”

“Sure, whatever.”

She walked away. I had no confidence in her. I collapsed on the floor near the bars and listened.

I only picked up bits and pieces.

“I wonder if—”

“—execu—”

“It’s so—”

“—all these years—”

I wanted to cry. Did this monster even have tears? Yes. Thick cloudy tears pooled on the concrete around my head.

Pam returned and tossed a pen and a pad in the cell.

I scribbled out what you’re reading. If anyone can read this, I’ll be surprised. Corridor didn’t design this hand with writing in mind. I guess they designed it with lawsuit-free hugs in mind.

That’s my story and I don’t know what else I should say.

They’re going to kill me. If you’re reading this, they’ve already killed me. Maybe you’ve killed me. So, my final message to you all … to all of humanity:

I love you all. I hate you all. It’s all hopeless. And yet … I wonder.

Torn newspaper page with picture of a shaggy humanoid monster with vaguely heart-shaped eyes. Headline: Valentine Monster Escapes! Subhead: Anti-teleportation field fails, monster still missing. Body: Chicago, Illinois. The dreaded Valentine's Day Monster escaped confinement in Brooklyn early this morning. The creature, first created ten years ago in a lab for Corridor Stamp Corp., has focused its attacks on happy couples in love on Valentine's Day. Police spokesperson Gerald Keating announced the creature left a note behind. The contents of the note have not been revealed to the public, but insiders suggest the veracity of the note is considered questionable.
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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Rendezvous with Grandma

Premise suggested by Matt Staggs.

“Don’t squirm. And remember what I told you. Grandma hates—”

“Viv. She likes being called Viv.”

“Ok. Viv hates the retirement home just like you do so don’t give her a hard time about it, ok?”

“Sure, mom.”

The train stopped and Tirzah and Kath stepped onto the platform.


Kath looked over the sitting area for her mother. She spotted Viv in the bright orange jumper Kath had tried to throw out several times. It made her mother look like a convict.

Viv waved. She scrunched down to do it. The wave was more for Tirzah than for Kath.

Tirzah pulled Kath’s arm forward. “C’mon, mom.”

Viv had saved them seats. Kath chose a different seat and pulled out her cell.

“Sorry, mom. I told you I would have to do some business while Ti—we visit you.”

“It’s ok, dear.”

Kath put her ear buds in and put on music. The chairs were incomprehensibly uncomfortable. Kath tolerated it for ten minutes. “Uh, I’ll be back in a few, mom.”


“Well, now that your mother’s out of the way, do you want to go on an adventure?”

Tirzah scrunched her nose. “An adventure? What kind of adventure can we go on without leaving the building?”

Viv laughed. “I didn’t say we wouldn’t leave the building, but I can think of one adventure we can have without leaving.” She winked at her granddaughter.

Tirzah eyed Viv suspiciously. “Ok, you’ve got my attention. What did you have in mind?”


Viv led Tirzah down a corridor. Her forcefield cane buzzed the floor lightly every other step.

They played nonchalant while passing nurses, orderlies, and janitorial staff.

“Where are we going, Viv?” Tirzah asked when the last of the staff was out of sight.

“The coast is clear?”

“Yeah.”

Viv thumped a laundry chute door with her cane. “Ready?”

“Are we really—” Tirzah’s eyes grew wide.

“Sure are, kiddo.”

Viv twisted her cane off and jumped in the laundry chute. Tirzah jumped in after her.

The laundry chute had smooth metal walls and evened out to a slight precipice every few floors.

“Oh my god,” Tirzah shouted, “This is like the biggest slide ever!”

Viv squealed with delight.


Kath dried her hands with a sigh and walked out of the restroom. She didn’t have any new messages on her cell. No interesting news stories. The celebs were all quiet.

She walked to the sitting room. She couldn’t see Tirzah anywhere. Viv was out of sight too.

“God damn it. Where did those two—”

The front door busted open. Twenty armored teenagers stormed in.

Kath dropped to the floor. “What the fu—”

The elderly and their visitors stopped and looked at the entrance.

One of the two youths pulled a device from his pocket and pressed a button.

The visitors and elderly gasped.

“WE ARE THE YOUTH LIBERATION FRONT. YOU ARE PAWNS OF YOUTH OPPRESSION. YOU WILL COMPLY WITH OUR ORDERS. WE WILL NOT HARM YOU.”


Tirzah landed on Viv in a laundry cart.

“That was so much fun, Viv. Can we do it again?”

“Sure thing, Tirzah,” she laughed. “You know you’re my favorite granddaughter.” She pulled herself up and rolled over the cart’s edge.

“I’m your only granddaughter, Viv.”

Viv laughed. “The only one you know about anyway. Here, grab my hand.”

Tirzah grabbed the old woman’s hand and pulled herself out of the cart.

A klaxon sounded twice.

“Whoops. Looks like we’re in for it now, pardner.”

Tirzah giggled.

“THIS BUILDING IS UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE YOUTH LIBERATION FRONT. YOU ARE PAWNS—”

Viv swore.

Tirzah pulled out her cell. “No signal. Check yours.”

“Me either. Looks like we’re in a whole different sort of trouble, kiddo.”

“Must be the Faraday shield,” Tirzah said.

“I always thought it was a stupid idea to install those in buildings. The temptation to use them is never a good idea.”

The laundrobots nearby paid no attention to the interlopers or the announcements.

“I have an idea,” Viv said. She popped the back off her cell and fiddled with the controls.

She reattached the back, taped the phone to the body of a laundrobot, and broke the bot’s case open.

Viv poked inside the bot, set a few controls, and closed it back up.

“Alright, get on with you,” she kicked the bot lightly.

It rolled away.

“Well, we can wait here if you want,” Viv said.

Tirzah looked depressed.

“Or we could try to stage a rescue?”

“Yay! Let’s do that.”

“You’ve got the right stuff, kid.”

Viv and Tirzah pried the doors off a cabinet with the Elderly Riot Supply kit. They pulled out the crowd control net and a few Zap guns.

“Hey, these things have been stunted. Nothing above a 2,” Tirzah pouted.

“It’s ok, kid. You can still rapid fire them. Harder to kill someone, but we don’t have to do everything on our first adventure.”

Viv and Tirzah took the elevator. When it reached -10, the elevator stopped.

“Looks like they figured out the elevator,” Viv said. She twisted her cane back on, selected the extensor, and lifted the elevator ceiling tile.

“Hold onto me,” she said.

Tirzah grabbed Viv’s waist. Viv collapsed her cane and aimed it at the floor. She hacked the cane control and pressed the button. The two shot up through the ceiling and grabbed onto the roof.

“Whoa. That was almost as much fun as the chute.”

Viv and Tirzah scrambled to the shaft ladder and climbed up.

“Maybe it would have been better if you’d gone first,” Viv said.

Tirzah laughed. “I don’t know. You’re like some kind of action hero, Viv.”

Viv pulled her cane out and pushed herself up with it. “Glad you’ve got so much confidence in me.”

A door ten floors up opened and the shaft echoed with YLF charges.

Viv’s cane slipped and she teetered. “I’m going to fall dear, step as far to the—”

Tirzah crumpled under Viv. They fell several feet.


Tirzah woke on a suspensogurney with a nurse standing over her.

The nurse wore a beard and has his nose pierced. “Just hold still, dear. I’ve got to finish your scan.”

Kath held her hand.

“Is Viv ok?” Tirzah asked.

“Oh, she’s fine, baby,” Kath said. “She fell on you though.”

“What happened?”

“The call your grandmother made went through and the police filled the home with sleeping gas.”

“The scan shows she’s ok. A few bruises, but no broken bones, internal bleeding, or concussion. Lucky kid,” the nurse said.

“Thanks, Anso,” Kath said.

Tirzah crawled over the edge of the gurney and stood on the floor. “Viv?”

“Hey there, dear,” Viv said. She shuffled toward Tirzah. “Broke my cane on the way down,” she laughed.

Tirzah hugged her grandmother’s waist and looked up. “Can we go on another adventure soon, Viv?”

“Only if you promise we can break out of this joint for our adventure. The laundry chutes aren’t as fun your second time, I promise.”

#76

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Friday, February 4, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Transformations

Humans imagine wizards to be wizened old men. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding, though not as unfortunate as their view of mermaids.

No, wizards have chubby little torsos and long spindly limbs. They look at humans like we’d look at homo heidelbergensis.

Wizards often live high in the mountains and send their children to far away schools. Emma Lee Tannon, a young wizard, couldn’t go to school. Her father decided she needed more time, but she could study using internet courses while he tended to his day business.

Three months into her course on transformations, the course started on living transformation. After months of practice, Emma transformed rocks into cabbage and bread into lava like second nature. Her father hadn’t been pleased she had practiced the bread-into-lava thing at the table.

She barely wait to try living transformations. Emma practiced the spell several dozen times before skipping down the mountain to find a victim. Father forbade her to transform goats.

A little town of humans perched on a nob of the mountain. Emma had seen it many times before, but never went inside. She sneaked through the brush and looked around. One very short nobby human chopped wood.

Emma pulled her want out and spoke the incantation. The human wobbled and made strange noises.

It fell over.

“Hm. I’ll just have to try again,” she said.


“How did your school go today, dear?” Father said.

“It went great. I’m nearly done with all my homework.”

“Emma Lee.”

“Yes, father?”

“You have to take responsibility for your actions, you know.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean.”


Emma marched down the mountain and rounded up all of the humans she’d transformed. She wasn’t really sure how her father had even noticed the difference.

They didn’t look so different with chicken heads.

When they were all rounded up and she’d walked them home, she set out some corn. She laughed to see them bend at the waist and peck at it.

#75

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bedtime Stories for Weird Kids: Dreaming of You

“Hey, I need to talk to the manager on duty,” I said. I didn’t recognize the voice so it was probably one of the new employees.

“Can do,” she said.

I hadn’t heard the hold music in about six months. Easy listening covers of Elton John hits ruin my hold experience.

“Hello?” Jack was on duty.

“Hey, Jack. I need to call out today.”

“Who is this?” he sounded confused.

“It’s Angela.”

“Sh—. No, Angela. Unless you’re bleeding, I need you in here today.”

“None of my clothes—”

“Have you turned on the TV?”

“No.”

“Well, turn it on, and then put on whatever you can manage and I’ll bring you some clothes in the back plaza ten minutes before your shift starts.”


I drove more cautiously than usual on the way to work. I’d checked my license and it had changed too, but what I put on didn’t really count as ‘clothed.’

The world didn’t notice, though. They had other things on their mind than the sight of a burly hairy man barely wearing a pink robe.

Jack stood outside the back door when I arrived. He had a bundle of clothes and looked nervous.

I pulled up alongside him and rolled the window down.

“Wow, you weren’t kidding. Uh, I was expecting you to be a bit smaller, and I’m guessing you’ll need shoes too.”

“Yeah.”

Five minutes later, he had a pile of clothes more appropriately sized and some shoes.

I think I felt more self-conscious changing in the plaza than I ever had before. Wrong parts.


I don’t think I’ve ever had a weirder day at work. Everyone walked around wide-eyed, head down.

Most of my customers called me ma’am. I took my name tag off and borrowed Mike’s tag since he’d called out.

They still called me ma’am.

At 3:30 PM, Jack told me to take my break.


Only about one in every hundred people had switched genders. The news said about half of all people had experienced some side effect or another, though.

And all the dogs and cats could talk.

I walked out of the store and decided I felt like deli subs for lunch.

A few minutes into my walk, I spotted a nose-less, ear-less, but still completely male Mike. I squinted to get a better look. That bastard. He called out like he had a major problem!

I wanted to haul off and punch him, but I noticed a dog. I don’t know if I thought the dog might be a witness against me, or if I really just wanted to talk to a dog.

“Hey there, pup,” I said to the Boston-Terrier. “My name’s Angela. What’s yours?”

I knelt down beside him.

“My name,” he said in the most cutesy-wootsiest voice I’d ever heard, “is Shut Up. And some other things. I forget. Snacky-wacky?”

“Sorry, Shut Up. I haven’t got anything on me, but if you’re still around after I finish my lunch, maybe I’ll bring you some.”

“Thanks!”

Some old guy with a long beard and a cane shuffled in my general direction. I’d lost track of Mike so I walked toward the deli.

A camera crew had set up a scene with a reporter. I tried dodging their scene—no sense in being a jerk—but they stopped me.

“Ma’am, can I ask you a few questions?”

“How can you tell I’m a woman?”

“Your clothes all look like they haven’t been washed yet. I just guessed.”

“Oh. Well, I guess—”

A little boy shrieked behind us.

The reporter and camera crew swung to face the boy’s scream. The old guy flew. He’d tucked his cane under his arm, and his long beard flipped in the wind.

I ducked behind the camera crew. They weren’t interested in me anymore. Their new story was better.

It all seemed pretty familiar, so I dropped to the ground and posed like one of those sky divers you see in photos. I flexed my mind a particular way and, sure enough, floated awkwardly into the sky.

My dream flight had always been clunky. I landed as softly as I could on top of a building. I made a very loud WHUMP when I hit.

I touched the roof, ran my fingers over the rough concrete. It felt so solid. But if I had my dream powers there, I must have been asleep. Right?

If I was sleeping then, none of us have ever woken since. I switch gender every other day, Mike loses and gains body parts. Jack wakes up as a two-year-old some days.

And that old guy? Well, if you stick around here long enough, I’m sure you’ll see him.

#74

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