Grandma always let me mix the batter. I was at that age when boys were icky and the only males I liked were composed of gingerbread. Daddy didn’t count because he ranked above the others of his sex.
Every so often Grandma would come over to hem and haw over the smoothness of the mixture until the consistency was just right. Then she showed me how to roll the dough onto wax paper with long, smooth strokes of the battered wooden rollingpin. Dented cookie cutters helped me to make shapes – Christmas trees, ornaments, candy canes, circles and stars – but my favorites were always the gingerbread men.
We’d shove them in the oven, and I’d pretend I was the wicked witch trying to bake Hansel and Gretel. When the sweets were done, I’d put them on paper to cool. Later that day, when Mom would get home, we’d sit around the table – three generations of women – and bite their heads off one by one.
Frank drove with seeming carelessness to his job in the big gleaming building downtown. Every time he sat behind the wheel and drove the silver lined streets to his office, he was reminded of how far he’d come. The ghosts of his past were banished to the shadows – places he no longer frequented. Highrises lined the boulevard like silent sentinels.
One day after lunch, filled with benevolence for all beings, he decided to return to work by an alternate route. With the characteristic care and foresight that helped him rise among the ranks of his peers, he placed the extra food he’d ordered on the passenger seat, drove to his former haunt, pulled alongside a vagrant, and offered the crumpled brown bag along with his own wide grin.
Frank noticed only the indigent’s beatific smile as the man descended upon him like the angel of death. When he awoke on the pavement in the pungent clothes of his attacker, he remembered nothing else. Without memories of his former life, without home, without family, he consumed the contents of the crumpled brown bag and wondered where he’d get his next meal.
The secrecy, the excitement of sneaking behind her husband’s back, gave her a rush like nothing else – especially since she knew full well her lover could kick his ass in a New York minute. But what would be the point? He’d only be accused of picking on a cripple – no matter how resourceful the cripple might be. Besides, divorce was out of the question; Daddy wouldn’t hear of it.
But when loverboy stripped off those fatiques and leather – YUM. She just couldn’t help herself. She loved bad boys, and he’d been very naughty.
That evening, Hephaestus munched popcorn and mulled over suitable punishments as he watched the VHS of his wife’s antics. Oh to hades with it, he thought. He’d had dalliances of his own. Besides, judging from the tape, the love of Ares was punishment enough.
The hunter stalked the high school dance like a panther stalked its prey.
Through the foilage, he peered at the festivities within. He brushed aside golden curls and watched the roiling sea of taffeta and tuxedos amid a riot of streamers and tinsel. A lone banner declared it was ‘A Time to Remember.’
On the building’s west side, the social outcasts grouped together, casting furtive glances at the dance floor. Spiked punch did little to alleviate their anxiety. One awkward teen looked especially forlorn as the object of his desire crossed the makeshift stage to accept her crown.
Outside the gym, the camoflauged youth pulled a gleaming silver arrow from his backpack, fitted the deadly instrument into his bow, and waited. The crowned couple descended the stage and danced amid a wide circle of admirers. The King spun his partner westward, and the hunter loosed his arrow – into the heart of the unsuspecting girl. She stumbled, fell from her partner’s grasp, and was caught by her most unlikely suitor.
Amazed, he pushed his horned-rims up the bridge of his nose and helped the girl to her feet. “You fell…”
She looked into his deep brown eyes and smiled. “Yes, I did.”
Then the King pushed the outcast away, grasped the girl once again, and resumed the dance. It was too late. Eros’ shaft had hit its mark.
The god slung his bow over his shoulder, zipped up his hoody, and smiled.
Every writer has his muse, but not all keep them locked in a cage. The creature glared at his jailer from his small prison, knuckles almost white from gripping the bars, though the rest of his skin glowed a healthy, deep emerald – proof to his captor that he took good care of his charge.
“Everyone knows that aliens live much longer in captivity than in the wild,” said Vincent Saint James.
“That’s parrots, you ninny,” said Fremd, blowing back long thin tentacles than had fallen across his eye. “And that’s not proof that enslavement is preferable to freedom-”
“Yeah, yeah, here, Cyclops-”
“The name’s Fremd”
“Whatever. Have another sardine, and tell me what happens in the next scene.”
The alien glowered at him, then took the fish and complied. Until he made it back to his home planet, the New York Times Bestsellers List would have to do. Too bad the idiot couldn’t get his name right. He’d love to see it plastered along bookshelves across this miserable planet.
The girl ran inside, the rain drops spattering her coat where they missed her bright red umbrella. She retracted the canvas, shaking off the excess, before placing it in the stand near the door. Approaching the tiny window, she signed her name and took her seat.
Within minutes, she was called and shown to her room, a lone cubicle of bare white walls. Soon only a thin sheet of paper shielded her from the cool vinyl bed of the exam table. Upon the doctor’s appearance, she bared her body and soul, her tears falling like the rain outside the window.
The probing instruments and cold steel exposed her, transported her to a different place, a different time. The thin shell of her life shattered with the memory.
The exam over, she covered herself with cotton garments, dried her face, and walked outside.
As she walked, the sun played upon her flushed face and swollen eyes. A passing motorist noticed and thought her the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.
The team fought to make their way to the city’s core – the urban center from which youth, poverty, and violence radiated outwards, burning the denizens of the burgeoning metropolis. The city elders had hired the special squad as fumigators to rid the city of its pestilence. This new ‘cure’ only fueled the already disquiet and discontent masses. Not satisfied, never satisfied, the elite could never quite control the lower classes. Like vermin, they survived, mutated, took on new forms to rise again and strike back against their oppressors.
The love of Pharaoh’s daughter demanded a heavy price. He struggled to breathe, but the tight wrappings constrained his chest, sealed shut his eyes, and stopped his mouth – the scream from deep within his soul would never escape.
Her name echoed in his mind. She had condemned him – as she had her other lovers. The daughter of Pharaoh preyed on men, lured them with her charms, and bound them with her beauty. Those foolish enough to love her always paid with their lives.
If he could have moved his lips, he would have smiled. Even now, he suspected his lover planned her father’s demise. With marriage and the Pharoah’s death, she would have all she desired. The loose ends of her past would be tidied away, under wraps, where they could not rise to haunt her bright new future.
Standing on the precipice between life and death, the man remembered – kissing his wife, holding his son, everything that made life worth living. The Market crashed, and he’d lost it all. After the house was taken from him, his wife and son soon followed.
Each step that led to this moment had seemed so inconsequential – until the last. It was true. Your life passed before your eyes.
He closed them now, felt the wind catch within the folds of his jacket like wings – an angel in flight.
The woman huddled in the corner of her ornately furnished Safe Room, her arms wrapped arout her shoulders, hugging herself. After a lifetime spent seeking fame and fortune, she wished to God she’d settled for fortune alone. Wealth had provided her with the safe room discreetly hidden behind a false wall, alarms, monitors, and security cameras discreetly hidden in every room.
Fame inflicted her with the home invaders that now rendered her security useless. Through the monitors and impregnable steel walls, she viewed the intruders – faces hidden by ski masks, guns at the ready. They methodically searched the house, until they stood outside her little boy’s room where Dylan cowered beneath his bed.
Clutching his teddy in her hands, she reached out and typed the password that would take her to her son.
The dark-haired beauty examined the painting of a young woman embraced by a swan; amusement and repugnance battling across her face. The museum curator noticed her interest and approached.
“Wonderful; isn’t it?” he said.
“Leda and Zeus; right?”
“Yes, the god loved her in the form of a swan,” answered the curator. “A lovely myth.”
The woman arched an eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“Of course,” said the curator. ‘A beautiful white bird seduced the Queen of Sparta.”
“But… she thought that was sexy?”
“Well, Hera, the wife of-”
“Oh, figures. Cheating bastard shapeshifts so he can bonk another woman.”
“But that union created legends! Helen of Troy, Clytemnestra, their twin brothers -”
“Yeah, but the method! ‘Hey baby, wanna lay my eggs?’ – Worst pickup line EVER.”
“Good point, but-”
“How could a bird force Leda to do anything? He must have offered her one hell of a bribe.”
“Yeats wrote that-”
“Though I suppose Zeus was out of touch with mortals already. Olympus is a long way from Sparta – by altitude anyway.”
Hera left the curator red-faced and spluttering. The goddess of marriage looked forward to watching Zeus squirm when she mentioned her trip to the art gallery, though his infidelity was so ridiculous she could barely keep a straight face. Turning into a swan? As if her husband wasn’t already a bird brain.
Bordering the wastelands, the survivors huddled in wrecked buildings, trying to save the detritus of their once towering civilization. The solitary stragglers of the West found each other by taking mutual refuge in the hollowed and burnt shells of skyscrapers, department stores, and libraries. Fortifying what was left, they scrounged what remained of their past to take solace in tales read ’round the warmth of oil drum fires.
Over time, even these sanctuaries fell to the hordes that surrounded them. Soon, only one solitary stronghold remained to shelter the last of the survivors. Those inside struggled to save their own flagging humanity.
Her eyes fluttered open to rest upon the lone figure. She stretched, long limbs partially entwined in silken sheets. Sweat from the previous night’s exertions still glistened on her skin.
“Come back to bed, love,” she said, but the shadow remained fixed before the dawn-soaked window.
She extended her legs once more, rising from the bed with fluid grace to stand by his side. Leaning against him, their sweat mingled as their bodies joined once again. Her arms curled around his shoulders.
“It was a mistake,” he whispered.
His chest rose and fell heavily as she stroked his flesh and nuzzled his neck. “How can you say that?” she asked, planting kisses between each word. “It can’t be wrong for us to be together like this.” Her tongue licked salt from his neck, found his jaw, his chin.
“It’s wrong,” he said.
“It’s not wrong for wolves to prey on rabbits; is it?” She took her lover’s face in her hands. “Now that we’re the same, we’ll hunt together. We were meant to share… everything. ” Her hands grabbed his hair, pulling his face down to hers. She sucked his lips, nipping the flesh. His passion rose, breaking free to match her own.
His fingers traced the four long strips torn into her side. Already the wounds were beginning to heal. Despite himself, he longed for the next full moon – with her by his side.
The flickering porch light had annoyed her for months, but when the hunky electrician started fiddling with her wires she didn’t mind one bit. “It was a loose connection,” he said and screwed the cover back into place. “But I think I’ve got it fixed.”
“I don’t know,” she answered in her silkiest voice, eying the collar of his shirt and his conspicuously absent wedding ring. “I think I saw some sparks.”
He looked at the light, glowing brightly in its glass sheath. “No, there aren’t.”
The willow grew near the brook, and the girl had often climbed its branches in her youth to gaze into the cool clear water. Despite her father’s prohibitions, she found her only solace in its branches. The constraints of rank and privilege had always weighed heavy on her young shoulders: she often spoke to the tree and confided her deepest thoughts to its silent branches.
When she grew older and her father died, she fled once more to the willow’s embrace. She felt her father’s presence there – scolding her even as she searched the waters for a peace she no longer possessed. The branch she perched upon broke, giving beneath her and falling into the crystal blue water.
She knew she should swim. Instead, she opened her arms wide – her tresses a golden halo, her dress spread like angel wings. The water caressed and carried her, and while it bore her up she sang snatches of old tunes. When the weight of her clothing pulled her down, the songs of her childhood ceased – along with dreams and guilt.
The tree, ever her friend, had provided her escape.
Bud stumbled outside and watched the stars churning in the heavens. His breath floated skyward in big white puffs in the evening chill.
“Duuuuuude,” said Dan.
“Hey, watch this,” said Bud, inhaling sharply. He let out a long slow breath. Both men watched the resulting stream dissipate into the heavens.
Dan swigged his beer. “I can do better than that.” He bent forward, angled his butt skyward, and let rip. The resulting noise and odor doubled both men over with laughter.
Bob sat in the snow and waved a hand in front of his face. “Hey, you could have warned me!”
“Could you see it though? I always wondered,” said Dan.
“Naaaah.” Bud produced a lighter from his pocket. “But do it again!”
Dan snorted but angled his body appropriately. The resulting blue flame licked his clothes and singed the hair on Bud’s hand. Both screamed, the lighter fell, and Dan dropped into the snow – extinguishing the fire with a hiss.
Both men stared, horror stricken, at the large burn mark over Dan’s crotch.
“What are you going to tell Gina?” asked Bud.
“Ever heard of spontaneous human combustion?”
“That’s not real; is it?”
Dan grinned. “Yeah, but she’s drunk too. I think she’ll buy it.”
She wandered through the tiny space; the deafening noise of the crowd drowned out everything except her pulse beating against her skull. Aunt Phyllis shouted something about her medical history. Cousin Bryan assaulted her with his newest dissertation topic. Her parents bombarded her with the latest gossip.
A miraculously unoccupied corner beckoned, and she sat. Her earbuds drowned out the din. Mp3 ocean waves washed over her. She forgot her pounding head, lulled by the roar of a beach she’d never visit.
She slept. A smile crept across her face. In her dreams, the apartment emptied, planes departed, and she sat alone in blessed silence.
The day Laurie took the dingy looking greyhound to Miami, I was in New York. My job prevented me from accompanying her, though I insisted she not drive alone. A woman travelling by herself on long isolated stretches of road would make an easy victim.
My fears proved to be unfounded. I lost her – not to a solitary accident on some lonely highway but a multi car pile up on I-95. Surrounded by her fellow passengers, she died alone.
All my life I’d lived in a giant sprawling metropolis of skyscrapers, flashing neon, and asphalt highways. Most days were spent either at my apartment or my office or somewhere between the two. However, I’d always dreamed of open skies and wide spaces. So when a friend of mine invited me to go camping, I jumped at the chance.
My parents had never been the outdoors type. The most time I’d spent outside as a child revolved around the spinning wheel at the elementary school playground. As an adult, I was too embarrassed to admit to my friend that I’d never camped in my life. Determined to camouflage my inexperience, I loaded my truck with a self inflating tent, copious quantities of trail mix, and a case of water. I looked forward to learning my way around the campfire over the next few days.
Unfortunately, the weekend away didn’t include the mosquito repellent I’d forgotten to pack or bathroom facilities. I did learn that poison ivy makes lousy toilet paper. When I returned home, I kissed the plaster walls of my tiny apartment, had a long soak in the tub, and thanked the gods for calamine lotion.
Betty held the small piece of cardboard with shaking hands, the accumulated grief of thirty years alone spilling onto the words with large wet tears. She reread the message, sent from her long dead love during the business trip from which he never returned.
Darling, I miss you. Sales here are great but wish I were home. Hope you and the kids are okay. I can’t wait to see you again. Love, Phil
The old woman let the square of paper slip from her fingers as she laid back in her husband’s old recliner. She closed her eyes and took her final breath. Her last words echoed through the empty rooms.
Kayla contemplated her folly as she observed the growing queue outside the Base liquor store. She’d started the day feeling ill, though they’d invited friends to come over that evening to celebrate her birthday. After telling her husband to postpone the festivities, she forced herself to go to work.
During the day she recovered, so she walked to the barracks on her break and told the CQ to tell her husband that the party was back on. Envisioning a folded note taped to the bulletin board, she left, secure in blissful ignorance of what she’d done.
At the day’s end, she returned to pick up her husband and friends. That was when she discovered the large letters scrawled on the dry erase board: Party at Kirby’s house!
The mass of soldiers arrived at her house happy and boisterous, and grew more so as bottles emptied and noise increased. Julia Child’s spirit magically appeared in their kitchen in the form of faux gourmands making beer-eggs from the scavenged remnants of her refrigerator. Her chihuahua snuck drinks behind the backs of ecstatic drunks who turned to find their glasses empty. The bathtub became a bed, and her birthday became an event.
With the dawning of the new day, hung-over celebrants made their way back to base. Kayla cleaned the previous night’s mess, tended her ailing dog, and resolved never to trust in the discreetness of the barracks’ CQ again.
Never argue with a woman holding a sharp instrument.
Klara’s internal monologue ran through her head as she watched her reflection in the vanity mirror. Vanity was an ironic name for it, considering the atrocity it revealed to her increasingly horrified gaze. She sat frozen and helpless in the face of the other woman’s superior strength, questionable sanity, and unnervingly sharp shears.
No wonder that barbers and beauticians had reputations as confidants. Sitting in the chair, letting someone near your head with such a weapon for an extended period of time, by necessity was an act of trust. However, Klara had never been a good judge of character.
“I know you wanted the sides long originally, but it’d be a shame to cover that pretty face of yours,” her captor crooned. “Now, tell me honestly. Do you like the mullet, dear?”
She was clearly insane. Klara silently recalled her mantra, nodded her head, and paid the twenty bucks.
Never argue with a woman holding a sharp instrument.
Amid the happy chatter of soon-to-be-free students, the girl wished she were anywhere but there.
The other girls in the locker room compared bra sizes like women compared diamonds, while she hugged her books to her chest. Time stretched before her. After changing into shorts and tee, she joined her classmates amid the red dirt, lined up like the condemned before the firing squad. Each team picked players, but her outcome never varied. Consigned to whatever group chose last and banished to the outfield, she stood, waited, and prayed the ball wouldn’t reach her.
Agatha’s tiny grave fit her perfectly. The pink box protected the contents of her body from the assault of elements and scavenging animals. Birds would not peck her innards to line nests, crows would not steal her bright button eyes, and her cotton skin would not degrade from rain and snow.
The family, clad in mourning, assembled in the backyard to witness the somber event of Agatha’s interment. Molly’s little brother sniggered but quickly hushed with a look from his mother. The girl recited a short prayer and placed Agatha in a Hello Kitty shoe-box, then lowered it into the hole. She threw daisies over the top before using her plastic beach shovel to cover the cardboard coffin. The deed done, everyone left except for one small mourner.
Molly planted a white cross on the grave and prayed again, hoping the funeral would be enough to put Agatha’s spirit to rest. Without a priest, she didn’t know if the doll would find her way out again. The girl shivered.
She knew she shouldn’t have used the doll to play tug of war with the puppy. If she did come back, Agatha would never forgive her.
From the back window, the puppy watched them bury her newest treat. She wondered if it was a bone.
Karla blew a stray strand from her eyes as she shivered in the cold, gloved hands buried deep within the pockets of her bulky jacket. Her breath proceeded her, though the line itself hadn’t moved in the hour she’d been waiting. In fact, it had grown, the queue stretching around the block. She craned her neck to view the nexus, listening to the growing murmur that traveled toward her like rumor in the wind.
Three uniforms approached the front of the line, the leader with keys in hand. The first two unlocked the doors and let the first few people inside, while the third sat down behind a nearby iron kettle with a conspicuously labeled sign. He rang the bell, calling Merry Christmas to disgruntled shoppers as they entered and left the establishment. Karla envied his heavy white beard and hat. Her own face froze, the biting wind blew snow into her eyes, but she resolved to stay her course. She refused to contribute to the metal drum, resenting its presence as she prepared to lighten her wallet in the cause of childhood memories. Santa flashed her a grin. Despite herself, she threw a handful of coins into the container. They made a satisfying clanking sound when they hit bottom. The man thanked her.
She smiled, despite herself, and walked inside to the glowing warmth of consumerism and January headaches.
The pale figure scratched his head with one taloned hand and regarded his brother. “Igor,” it said.
“Boris,” said the other creature, stepping from the shadows. “I knew you’d come back here eventually.”
“I could say the same about you,” Boris replied. Moonlight reflected off the surface of his marble skin.
Igor approached, though not a single leaf crunched beneath his feet. “Can you blame me? This was our home… long ago. ”
The other creature’s stillness remained unbroken. Electricity charged the atmosphere. The wind sang a mournful tune through trees whose leafy garments lay strewn upon the ground. After a few moments, Boris said, “I do.”
“I had no choice. The plague would have taken you… It was the only way.”
“Save my life by taking it? How can I thank you, brother?” No warmth lingered in his eyes for the companion of his ancient childhood.
“I sickened too. Our kind cannot consume infected blood without some risk. I almost died the truth death…”
“What a comfort that was as I fought to survive the wound you gave me.” He touched the scar on his neck.
“What can I do?” Igor asked.
“Finish what the plague started. Never again will you inflict this monstrosity on another to stave off your own weakness.” He grinned. “Don’t worry, old friend. I promise to be more merciful than you were to me. I will only kill you.”
The thief crept quietly through the house, like a cat stalking its prey, until he spotted the object of his desire. Sneaking out hadn’t been easy, getting past the guardians more difficult still, but with his objective in sight his goal would almost certainly be accomplished.
How long had he lusted for this? Time had become a blur as he’d planned and schemed his way toward this moment. The item beckoned him. He reached for his prize.
His fingers barely grazed the outside of the container when he was blinded by a dazzling light. While his eyes adjusted, he cast a sharp, guilty look at his captor. “All right, young man,” commanded his mother. “I’ve had just about enough of this. You’ve earned yourself TWO nights without dessert.”
The pilferer hung his head in mock shame. Little did she realize, he knew where she’d hidden the Halloween candy.
The two maids had been inseparable since the cradle. Hermia’s outgoing nature and natural charisma complemented her friend’s shy and quiet personality, and Helena never begrudged her friend’s popularity. She preferred the company of books to most of the addle-witted boys of Athens. But when her own fiancée’ cast her away to chase her lifelong friend – the gloves came off.
The abruptness of his change of heart shocked everyone. Throughout his courtship of Helena, Demetrius barely noticed her friend. In fact, during the Duke’s engagement ball, he’d paid more attention to Hermia’s father; The two men conversed the entire night.
Only days later, he asked The Professor for Hermia’s hand in marriage. Surely some art swayed the motion of Demetrius’ heart. Helena knew he wasn’t so shallow as to be lured by the wealth and position of Hermia’s family.
Still- she’d seen his eyes when he met Hermia’s father. The Professor was an impressive figure. However, the way he favored Demetrius made her… uneasy.
All was fair in love and war, and Helena intended to win at any cost. But who was her rival? The fair Hermia or The Professor?
The sweet aroma hung heavy in the air as the creature watched the young girl collect flowers. Roses, violets, and daffodils lined the path she strode, but the strongest scent by far was jasmine.
The girl’s loveliness exceeded that of the garden. Her hair flowed down her back like a cascade of shimmering gold. Milky white skin, rosebud lips, and sea green eyes attracted the demon to her. The bushes rustled slightly as the fiend leaned closer, mouth open, fangs exposed.
“Who’s there?” called the girl. She dropped more flowers into the basket and turned toward the sound. No one answered.
The demon returned to his realm. Overcome by the shadowy reflection of the heaven he’d left behind, the banished angel clutched one thin jasmine strand. His punishment had not rid him of the desire for love and beauty, only the ability to experience it. Hot tears stung his cheeks, even as the flower in his hand withered, filling the air with the smell of burning jasmine.
The day started out hectic. Dave went in to work at the Army base, although he’d need to leave before the day was through, and Judy’s family arrived at the apartment early to help prepare for the big day. She adjusted the puffy white dress and veil and waited anxiously for her husband-to-be to return.
When he finally arrived, out of breath and anxious, he explained how his sergeant had screwed up. While Dave had barely escaped, his class A uniform hadn’t. After a hurried trip to the mall for a tie to go with the mismatched clothes he’d borrowed, the wedding party arrived at the Courthouse with minutes to spare.
The groom actually said I do four times because the Judge paused for long periods while reciting the ceremony. When she did reach the point that required his response, silence stretched for a full minute before his finalanswer.
The bride waited until the Judge finished speaking.
Everyone rode back to the apartment for cake and conversation. When confections and family were gone, Dave took Judy in his arms and they both thanked fate they were lucky enough to find each other.
I’m not hurting anyone.
I’m just buying shoes (probably made in Chinese slave labor camps)
or eating lunch (of slaughtered animals)
or having dessert- (made with cocoa harvested by child slaves)…
I didn’t know.
I didn’t want to know.
I just want to be left alone.
I work hard. Don’t I deserve to live my life without
getting hit over the
head for every little thing?
Who was it that said, “Life’s about the little things…”
Oh, Shut up. I’m a responsible person.
I’m a responsible person-
I pay my bills, my taxes, donate to charity-
So I’m not responsible for the way the world is.
It’s everyone else
The timer on Jackie’s cell phone buzzed. Billy Ray would want more money for this one. When the John finished his transaction and zipped up, Jackie pulled her skirt down and surreptiously took his photo. He refused to pay the extra cash, so she also photographed his license plate as he drove away. Once the note came in the mail, he’d pay.
After saving and emailing the photos to Billy Ray, she put his cell phone away. She paused to powder the scars of her profession before she left the alley. The corner summoned her. If she didn’t hurry…
The golden youth sat upright, drenched with sweat, silken bedsheets coiled tightly round his muscular frame. His brothers held each other to keep from doubling over with laughter. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, Morpheus glared at his fellow triplets.
“Ha. Ha. Very funny.” He hung his feet over the side of the bed and kicked his two brothers, who promptly fell.
“Yeah, it is,” assured Phobetor, wiping tears from his eyes as he struggled to disentagle his wings from those of his brother. “Right, man?”
The other god chuckled, brushing himself off as rose from the floor.
“Seriously guys, can’t you play a different joke every century of so?” Morpheus spread his own wings and dried himself with a snap of his fingers. “Give it a rest.”
Phantasos folded his arms across his chest and sighed. “But that’s just it, bro. The god of sleep can’t get a good night’s sleep… It’s just too good to pass up.”
“What makes you think I won’t do the same to you?” said Morpheus.
“Because you never have,” said Phobetor. “Face it. Nightmares are our specialty. You just don’t have it in you, dude.”
“What are you going to do? Throw poppies at us?” said Phantasmos, glancing at the vase next to the ivory bed.
Morpheus smirked. “Nope. I’ll do something better.”
An eternity lies
I can’t wait for the dawn
to dispel the demons of the night-
the monster under the bed
and the boogieman
hiding just out of sight
into nothing more
than a pile of clothes
or oddly placed stuffed animals.
Mama says its just my
that the dawn changes nothing-
only reveals what was there all along.
I know better.
Children see the things that adults turn away from.
They say that in space no one can hear you scream. Charlie wished that were true when she thought of the horrors of the camp cafeteria. Unfortunately though, the space station’s artifical life support clearly conveyed the moans and cries of the afflicted.
The dominant form of life here continued to be microscopic. Food poisoning consigned more than half the campers to their sleeping bags, but at least she didn’t need to worry about being picked last for zero gravity volleyball…
Though resurrected mummies are commonly believed to fear cats because of their otherwordly connections, the true reasons may be much less exotic. “We’re deathly allergic to them,” alleged *Akhanaten – a 3,000 year old mummy – in a recent interview. While he venerated cats during his human lifetime, he currently suspects the allergy to be linked to the mummification process itself.
Scientists and mystics, however, are still considering supernatural connections. “After all,” Professor Eshe deAtman of the Egyptian Science and Supernatural Studies Institute said, “accounts that a cat steals a person’s breath by sitting on his chest bear a striking similarity to the concept of Ammit consuming a person’s heart.” When reminded of the Egyptian reverence for cats, she replied, “Feline mummification involved the bodies being stuffed with sand. The connection to the Sandman legend is obvious.”
The Sandman could not be reached for comment.
*Akhanaten, a servant in his previous life, spoke through a translator because of the advanced decomposition of his jaw from poor mummification. He is currently seeking legal recourse.
JoAnne hated grocery shopping. Though she couldn’t wait to leave, she took the longer route to the next item on her list so she would bypass the cold and sinister department in the store’s back.
Dammit. They’d moved her son’s favorite cookies to the rear endcap.
She breathed deep and turned the cart around. Her son hung onto the handle and wrinkled his nose at the cases of meat. Soon the large tank nearby drew his attention. “What’s that, Mom?” he asked, pressing his small hand against the glass.
The aquarium’s only occupants piled together, stacked upon each other with claws bound by large thick bands. No cheerful animated divers or sparkly castles graced the freezing water.
“Those are lobsters,” she said, though what she really thought was They’re doomed.
Though their cold induced lethargy pained her, she knew that all too soon they would know heat. “Let’s go,” she told her son, grabbed a box of cookies, and turned the cart around, anxious to leave the Happy Time Grocery’s meat department.
The little boy waved farewell to the lobsters and ran to catch up with his mother.
In her wake, her neighbors shopped and picked out the creature’s they’d have for that night’s family dinner.
She fanned herself in the sweltering heat of the church and dreamed of the vegan spring rolls she would order for lunch afterwards. Her godless ways condemned her to hell, according to the man onstage, but all she cared about was the man she sat next to.
He sat in the pew and held her free hand, devotedly trying to save her soul while listening to the preacher condemn it, and dreamed of cheesburgers.
The service ended. They exited the building together, hand in hand, and drove into the day.
Ralph and Gary reeled away from the tapping at the driver’s side window. Fumbling for the unseen latch, Gary opened the door. Thwack!
Horrified, he stepped out and over the body of a prostrate cop. The officer held his head and peered at Gary through great billows of smoke that poured from car’s interior. Sitting up, he glanced back at the rock – annointed crimson by his head. “What the hell did you do that for?” he asked. From the passenger side, Ralph stumbled out, waving his arms to disapate the clouds.
“Just having a smoke, dude,” said Gary. Sweet aroma saturated his clothing.
“From cigarettes! I swear!” said Ralph.
The officer closed his eyes and rubbed the lids. “Yeah, right. Why did you assault me?”
Befuddled and confused, Gary asked, “Assault?”
“You slammed me with the door.”
The giggling that ensued annoyed the crap out of Officer Bart. “Oh man!” said Gary. “No, dude, my windows don’t work.”
Wobbling, the policeman stood up and brushed himself off. He told the two men, “Okay, turn around and spread ’em. You’re under arrest.”
The two obeyed, snickering uncontrollably. The officer read them their rights. When he asked, “Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?” Gary turned, face suddenly serious. “Does this mean we can’t take our munchies with us?”
Bernice thought she looked like a damn owl. Her pupils seemed like walnuts behind the large oval lenses. However, on her meager retirement, they were the only new glasses she could afford. Swallowing her pride, she walked out the door for the first time and headed to the bank.
At the crosswalk, Bernice tapped her foot until the light changed and the stick figure indicated her right of way. With her head down, she crossed with the crowd, embarrassed by the gaudy plastic frames.
The gunk on the street didn’t attract her attention too much until she noticed a glowing trail leading into the bank. A tall, handsome man stood behind the help counter.
Following the path of light, she found herself staring into his impossible golden eyes. He beamed at her. “Hello, Bernice,” he said, offering his hand.
“I’ve been waiting for you.”
She examined her glasses.
The pealing sound of his laughter filled the room as he took the lenses from her. “You don’t need these anymore,” he said. “You have perfect vision now.” Then he took her hand, spread his wings, and flew with her into the golden sunset of her life.
The clerk held the antique up for closer inspection. “’Hard to say,” he muttered. “There isn’t an SD card or chip…”
“But it works on electricity; right?” she asked.
“If it works,” he said and brushed the top off with his fingers. Dust bunnies scampered across the floor.
She’d read about these contraptions but never seen one before. Its quaintness appealed to her – the huge black plastic box with silver metal and shining lenses. She couldn’t wait to get it home, tear it apart and inspect every detail.
Brushing some of errant bunnies from her shoulder, she feigned indifference. “Well, if it doesn’t even work…”
The man reached out to her receding back. “Wait,” he said.
Raising one eyebrow, she turned back. “Yes?”
“Tell you what,” he said. “It’s been gathering dust here long enough. I can’t seem to unload the damn thing. I’ll let you have it for a buck.”
Her voice was level. “I don’t know,” she said. “It might not even work…”
“Oh, hell,” the proprietor muttered, “You got me. Take it. I’m sick of looking at it.”
Kat took the contraption. “Thanks,” she said.
She meant it. The camera would make the perfect planter for her daisies.
The Count of La Rue Morgue sneered at his servant as the zombie entered, carrying the wine glass filled with dark, thick liquid. “You may go, Alfred.” The servant shuffled through the stone archway to the ajoining kitchen, within earshot should his Master call again. “It’s impossible to find good help these days,” said the Count, wiping crimson stains from the white lace of his shirt.
Laughter cut through the silence like shards of broken glass. “It’s impossible to imagine them ever leading a revolt against the aristocracy,” said the Countess. “The only brains in their heads are the ones they eat!”
Another creature said, “Don’t be so sure, my lady. The nobles of France thought the same thing before they lost their heads; did they not?”
“Oh, don’t remind me,” muttered the Count. “I’m still ambivalent about that revolution. All that glorious blood! But the rabble rising to overthrow their betters…The thought still sickens me.”
“Perhaps it’s not wise to keep so many,” said another guest. “Intelligent or not, we can still be outnumbered.”
Now it was the Countess’s turn to scoff. “Indeed! As if they would want what is in our heads! They only crave grey matter, Geoffrey, and living grey matter at that. What would a dull witted beast want from the emptying of our skulls?”
Revenge, thought Alfred, sharpening another blade.
Sarah picked up the conch shell and hefted its weight in her hands.
“Can I see? Can I?” asked Katie. The little girl stood on her toes, sand digging between them.
“I’ve never found one this big before. It’s pretty heavy,” her sister said, handing the shell to Katie. Its size equaled that of the little girl’s head.
She held it close to her chest and peered closely at it. “Why does it look so rough?” she asked, curling one hand around to feel the coarse texture, like worn stone.
“Oh,” said Sarah, overflowing with the knowledge of her years, “that’s just from the wind and water and stuff like that.”
Katie frowned. “I though it would be prettier,” she said.
Sarah reached down and turned the shell over, exposing its smooth, pink opening for the little girl’s inspection.
Katie gasped. “It is pretty!” she said.
Sarah smiled. “Doesn’t mom always say that beauty’s on the inside?” She bent down and placed the opening next to her sister’s ear. She titled her own head close, and the two girls listened to the cool, clean ocean waves together.
Lewis and Clark had nothing on Professor Charleston Hedgewig. While the explorers merely crossed a continent, the professor mapped minds.
“This will pinch a little,” he said, inserting the needle into her arm.
“Doctors always say that,” she said, wincing. “When do I get paid for this study anyway?”
“I should think you’ll get your check soon,” said the professor. “Have you made out your will?”
Her eyes widened. “Will? What… why?”
He fiddled with the monitor and made some notes. “Nothing. Just a joke. Please go through the questionnaire carefully. Be sure to read and answer aloud since I’m recording the data. And remember, be honest. This is for posterity, you know.”
She raised an eyebrow but obeyed his instructions to the letter. The doctor followed the images on the screen without comment, barely containing his excitement. The injections worked far better than even he imagined – mapping the neural pathways more precisely than ever before.
After the test was over, he instructed her to leave. “Please send in the next subject,” he said. She nodded, closing the door behind her.
The doctor reflected on the unfortunate side effects of the injections. If only the subjects survived longer, he could learn so much more. As things stood, he was pushing the field of neural research beyond anything achieved before. After all, sacrifices must be made in the name of science.
When she saw the small jello pyramid, she knew she’d waited much too long to clean the fridge. Tiny green creatures bowed before the surprisingly rigid structure, prostrate with piety.
Then they spotted her.
The descendants of some particularly nasty leftovers screamed in terror at the sight of her. Well, some of them did. Others cowered behind either the lime colored pyramid or an open box of baking soda. Many ran to a tinfoil monstrosity covered by mold spores, but for all she knew it might have been their nursery. Still others gathered weapons to defend themselves against the coming onslaught. Their wise men (wise molds?) had prophesied of the time of the coming of the great blue bottle, unleashing its deadly spray, and the monster who would one day wield it. They stole toothpicks from ancient leftovers and waved them at her.
Sally sighed and sprayed the cleaner, wiping out the beginnings of a promising new civilization. She really needed to clean the damn fridge more often.
The flowered hat drooped around her face as she preened in front of the full length mirror. “How do I look, Agatha?” she asked.
Her friend declined to comment, though Molly thought she detected a look of disapproval. Agatha’s dress of white lace seemed the height of fashion, and it wouldn’t do to underdress for the party.
The girl returned to the old wooden trunk and rumaged through its contents. After flinging a bright red boa around her shoulders, she retrieved her neon orange sunglasses from the battered top of an old table. Her Barbie high heels clopped against the attic floor as she wobbled back to the mirror. Over the rims of her darkened lenses, she appraised her appearance once more. “Yup,” she told the doll. “I look fancy.”
“Oh alright,” he said, grabbing the fruit from her and pulling out his pocket knife. He used it to peel the bulbous green skin away from the milky center.
“You haven’t had this before, right?” she asked, staring at the cream colored pulp.
“I just always though it sounded gross,” Josh said. “There’s all sorts of stories about it tied in with Hawaiians and the mutiny on the Bounty and even some weird god’s head.”
“No, literally the head of a god. Like we’re eating his brains or something.”
Kaylee wrinkled her nose. “Gross.”
“Plus, it just doesn’t look good.”
“Yeah,” she said, “but sometimes looks are deceiving.”
He bit into the fruit.
“So…what’s it taste like?” she asked.
“Braaaaaaaiiiiinnnnnns,” he said, tackling her. They both fell, laughing.
“Remind me not to let you watch any more zombie movies,” she said, grabbing the fruit and taking a bite. She turned to Josh. “That’s not what brains taste like anyway.”
“Really?” he said. “And how would you know?”
“Experience,” she said, grabbing his hair and biting into his skull. She sat munching, red speckling her chin. “Oh, don’t look so surprised,” she told the corpse. “I already told you – looks can be deceiving.”