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.”


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.


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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.


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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—”


“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?”


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.


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.


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.”


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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.


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