Extras

  • Donald Tillman jumped behind the counter of the closed Burger Grab fast food restaurant as bullets shattered the countertop’s wood and laminate. The portly recruiter for the Bernardino Collective was hunted by his greatest achievement, Jennifer Taft.

    “Jen, let’s talk!” Tillman gasped, unused to the physical exertion and stress. From the shadows, Jennifer answered with another gunshot that blasted wooden splinters onto Don’s bald head.

    “You lied to me, Don,” said Jen. “You lied to all of us!”

    Donald tried to fish his cell phone from his jacket pocket but couldn’t find it. Don realized he had left it on the restaurant table he was sitting at when Jennifer jumped through the glass window, aiming her firearm. He was in the middle of texting headquarters with an update on the operation when Jennifer arrived. The promises Don made in the text regarding Jennifer’s mission now seemed over- optimistic.

    Jennifer made no sound as she moved in the dark. Don was scared. Jen would kill him, and the sad thing was Don knew he deserved it.

    Don had recruited Jennifer and her classmate Diane a few years back at Harvard. They had taken tests and done interviews for job opportunities with the Bernardino Collective; both passed a rigorous background check. The two college seniors tested well, with multiple language skills and an aptitude for problem solving, exactly what the Collective wanted.

    The Collective advertised as a human resources marketing firm, but in the final interviews, Don told his two prospects a secret: the Collective was an ultra-covert, off-the-books American spy organization. With a smile, Don had asked them to serve their county.

    “Please, Jen. Let’s talk.”

    “You sent me to kill Diane. But she told me everything. She told me the truth, Don!”

    Jen and Diane were roommates at The Facility in Upstate New York. The two shared the remote 400-acre campus with about thirty other recruits also right out of America’s top colleges. The two-month curriculum included the expected training in spycraft, firearms, and hand-to-hand combat, but mostly focused on communications and psychological manipulation.

    Don was at their graduation. He personally gave Jen her first assignment.

    Jennifer had expected an exciting overseas adventure, and was surprised and disappointed when Don told her she was heading to the small town of Saline, Kansas, where she would be deep cover as a Burger Grab restaurant manager. But Don was encouraging.

    “There’s some bad shit going down in Saline. Domestic terrorism. I’ll brief you later, but this is an important mission, Jen. We need our best on this one.”

    Jen hated the work and the rural locale, but she kept her cover, often receiving coded instructions from Don asking her to investigate possible local terrorist bases that always turned out to be empty warehouses. And the restaurant was running well, even though Jen found her low salary and shitty benefits burdensome. To maintain cover, she couldn’t receive her Collective wages until after her mission was complete, but Jen was proud to sacrifice for America.

    Jen didn’t know where Diane or the other Facility trainees had been assigned; she hoped somewhere glamorous. But then Don had shown up yesterday and told her that Diane was stationed in Cambria, six hours away. Like Jen, Diane was investigating domestic terrorism in a small town, with a similar cover at another Burger Grab.

    And then Bob told her that Diane had turned, that she was working with the terrorists. Bob asked his stunned protégé to terminate Diane. He held her trembling hands in his, told her it was necessary, that she would be saving lives. Bob left coded instructions and a gun in an unmarked car outside Jen’s restaurant, and promised her a better assignment after the awful business was finished. He would wait for her at the restaurant.

    And now Jen was back. “Diane figured it out. The Collective isn’t a spy organization. It really is a consulting firm. And its biggest client is Burger Grab.”

    Risking everything, Don stood up from behind the counter to face Jen, his hands up in surrender.

    “You know how hard it is for fast food chains to hire quality managers on the wages they pay?” Don was caught; the best strategy was to come clean. “It was my bold idea. Recruit the best and brightest by appealing to their idealism and fantasies, plus the whole expense is a tax write-off.”

    “And when they get wise, you have them kill each other when an agent ‘goes rogue’!”

    Don could see the tears in Jen’s eyes. “Please don’t kill me.” “I won’t.”

    Don sighed in relief until he heard the footsteps behind him.

    “But I will,” said Diane. Burger grease was the last thing Don smelled.

     

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Blood #1
  • The doorknob on the machine was higher up than it was before he turned it on. That’s how he knew it had worked.

    As he opened the circular door, smoke curled out. He trudged over the lip of the door in pants that were now too big for him. He didn’t think that far ahead. But he had thought enough to leave a small mirror on the work desk. He was staring at his 12-year-old face, one that he had not seen—except in photos—for three decades.

    Gone were the worries! The troubles! The doubts! There were problems in the world, he still knew that on some level, but the grown-ups would handle them.

    And while they were busy taking care of everything, he would do what he came to do.

    Grabbing chips and soda, he plopped down in a beanbag chair. His wife and kids were visiting her family for the weekend so he finally had the entertainment center to himself. He hadn’t watched the newest Star Wars yet because he wanted to watch it through the eyes of a child. From the first notes of the orchestra keying up the iconic theme, to the final frames of CGI glory, the movie washed over him like the Force. Sound effects he’d heard a thousand times—a blaster striking a Storm Trooper’s armor, a light saber warming up—echoed in his soul.

    The next day, he watched classics from his childhood, Krull and Beastmaster, without the irony or criticism that infects an adult mind. In between movies, he broke out his son’s video games. With younger reflexes, and a mind for weaknesses and combos, he dominated them in a way he couldn’t when he was older.

    But all good things must come to an end. As Sunday evening crept in, and the pizza ran out, it was time to return to his home body before his family came back. He cleaned up his fun stuff and returned to his lab. When he stepped into the machine that made it all possible, he looked at the mass of buttons and levers and had a startling realization: He didn’t know how any of it worked. The technology to change a person’s age was only known to by his adult brain.

    He heard the front door open and his son’s voice call out, “Dad! We’re home!”

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Penultiman #1
  • Brad checked Emily’s dive mask. It was secure, but Emily’s pupils were large and black. She was high as a kite. He wanted to make sure the scopolamine patch was still on her arm, but Emily had already zipped up her shorty. No matter. Her eyes confirmed she was in no shape to dive. Do not operate heavy machinery, Brad had read on the drug’s information sheet. Scuba equipment wasn’t exactly heavy, but the intent of the warning was to keep people from doing dangerous things. Scuba diving can be dangerous.

    Brad’s mind was clear and focused. He helped Emily into her buoyancy control device, looking every bit the conscientious dive buddy. “Mask—check! Fins, check! BCD— check!”

    Emily smiled wanly, but Brad’s performance was really for the benefit of the other divers and crew. He then double-checked his own gear because his partner was too spaced out to help.

    “Where are we?” Emily asked.

    “Almost to Colombia Deep.”

    “I mean . . . are we in Mexico?”

    Brad glanced around, but no one had heard her over the roar of the motors. “Yes, dear. This is where we got married eight years ago. Good times, no?”

    Emily stared at the tropical blue horizon. If Brad had asked that question yesterday before she’d applied the seasickness patch, she might have rolled her eyes because they were about to start the process of dissolving their troubled marriage. The only reason she’d agreed to accompany him on this trip was because she loved being underwater almost as much as he, and she thought it might be her last opportunity for some time. She loved it even though she often got sick and chummed the fish. Bonine just didn’t cut it, so Brad suggested she ask her doctor for something stronger. Her doctor failed to warn her just how potent scopolamine was, though, especially on one so slender. After a few hours wearing the patch, she was so stoned she didn’t know she was high.

    The boat slowed and circled until they finally dropped anchor at the reef Miguel had promised. They would dive to ninety feet, swim along a wall, gradually ascend to thirty feet, ride the current for another twenty minutes, then slowly ascend and take the safety stop at fifteen feet to off-gas the rest of the nitrogen absorbed from the compressed air. Surfacing too quickly could result in decompression sickness, which might cause mild nerve damage or, sometimes, excruciating death.

    Emily had been on enough dives that she rolled off the side of the boat into the water effortlessly. She then surfaced, deflated her BCD, and jackknifed downward to begin her descent. Brad watched her swim away from him, impressed by her form. But he saw she forgot to check for him. As buddies, they were supposed to be within ten feet of each other in case of gear malfunction or some other problem. She seemed to be shadowing the divemaster. Miguel had decades of experience, Emily had maybe six dozen dives under her belt. Brad leveled off at about forty feet and watched his buddy load up on nitrogen.

    This isn’t on me, he thought. She got the patch. And she deserves to get bent for threatening to go after half my assets. That wasn’t really the case—California divorce law determined the financial outcome; Emily had threatened nothing. If anything, she wanted an amicable split so they could remain friends and continue to do things like go diving together. But Brad needed to win, and he wanted to cut her loose. Permanently. He watched her fin beside a hawkbill turtle. Pretty.

    Pretty deep, he thought. She’s probably got nitrogen narcosis on top of the scopolamine high.

    On the ascent, Emily lost control of her buoyancy. She’d sucked up so much air at depth that her tank was near empty and acted like a balloon. Brad saw her look frantically at her beeping dive computer and struggle to slow her rise, but she practically shot to the surface, blowing through the safety stop. Brad finned over, trying to appear as if he were helping her. Miguel caught up to them and pushed her to the boat. Beto hauled her up with one hand, ripped off her mask, and lunged for an oxygen bottle. Brad hoisted himself onboard and watched as his wife died. It was ugly.

    On the ride back to shore, he buried his face in his hands as someone patted his back. He wasn’t hiding tears, though. He was smiling. He’d just committed the perfect murder.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Billionaire Island #6
  • The stranger’s name was Zachary Ulysses Griffin, and when we first laid eyes on him, he was steering his immaculate 1972 Buick Riviera into the parking lot of Clarence and Mattie’s Seasoned Skillet.

    The Seasoned Skillet is where most of Franklin goes for breakfast when it’s too hot to fry bacon in your own kitchen. Clarence and Mattie are without question two of the least gifted cooks in Franklin, but they compensate for their food’s lack of quality by offering generous portions of it.

    When Zachary stepped into the establishment every eyeball in the place rolled in his direction. He looked as cocksure as a Marlboro cowboy as he sauntered up to the counter, took himself a seat and ordered a cup of coffee.

    Like the rest of us, Mattie was curious as to what could possibly bring such a charismatic stranger to Franklin. Unlike the rest of us, Mattie has never been shy about sticking her nose into the personal affairs of a total stranger. She poured him a cup of weak, lukewarm coffee and commenced to peppering him with questions about everything from his birthplace to his hat size. After learning that Zachary preferred boxers over briefs, Mattie finally got ’round to posing the question that we were all so desperate to have answered.

    “What brings you to Franklin?”

    We all stopped grinding our teeth on burnt toast and leaned a little in Zachary’s direction so we wouldn’t miss a word of his response. He took a sip of his coffee, winced, looked Mattie dead in the eye and said, “I’m here to slay your vampire.”

    Now, folks in Franklin have had a ringside seat to a whole lotta oddities that defied science, reason and propriety. As a result, we’re not too quick to dismiss even the strangest and most peculiar of notions as out-and-out nonsense. But there are two things about which we remain absolutely certain: time travel is hogwash and there’s just no such thing as vampires. (Our list used to consist of three things but the tragedy that befell Jada Navarro’s quinceañera proved that pterodactyls are definitely not extinct and definitely not vegetarians.)

    Anyway, upon hearing that Zachary fancied himself a vampire hunter, Mattie emitted an involuntary snort that spoke for just about everyone in the diner. She refilled his cup with more of her watery blend and politely informed him, “There’s no such thing as vampires.”

    Whereupon Zachary smiled at Mattie from across his cup of unpalatable coffee and made her blood run cold with the simplest of queries.

    “Are you sure?”

    Those three little words floated through the Seasoned Skillet like a bunch of dandelion seeds riding on a warm breeze. They drifted into our ear canals, spun ’round our cochlea and came to rest deep inside our brains. They might have withered and died there, but Zachary was quick to nourish them with plenty of fertilizer.

    He turned on his stool and regaled us with thrilling tales of the vampires he’d dispatched and the grateful people who scrawled poems about his adventures. But his most harrowing recitation was the story of a town filled with skeptics who came to ruination because they could not accept the fact that a bloodsucking monster could be hiding in plain sight.

    At this point Randy Patton—he teaches math at the high school—had heard just about enough from Zachary Ulysses Griffin. Randy stood up from his plate of undercooked eggs, interrupted Zachary and firmly reminded us that vampires simply do not exist.

    Zachary was clearly agitated by Randy’s impertinence. He slid off his stool, tossed a crumpled fiver on the counter and headed out the door while throwing an ominous, “You’ve been warned,” over his shoulder.

    For a little while it seemed like that was the end of it. But that afternoon, the seeds Zachary planted began to germinate.

    Carter Gibbs was in the process of shoplifting a bag of chocolaty Butterfingers from Siddig’s Market when he caught sight of Mattie loading two dozen bulbs of garlic into her shopping basket. Mattie tried to claim that she was preparing to whip up a tub of tahini sauce, but given her aforementioned lack of culinary skills, she was clearly being dishonest.

    Mattie sheepishly confessed that Zachary’s horrific tales had put a scare in her. And while she didn’t necessarily believe in vampires, she also didn’t see the harm in stringing together a garlic necklace as a purely precautionary measure.

    After Carter slithered out of the market with his ill-gotten candy bars, he immediately spread the word about Mattie’s purchase. And as you might expect, that led to an all-out, full-blown, no-holds-barred run on garlic.

    Within an hour every store in town was hanging a “No More Garlic” sign in the window. That left a lot of fearful people clamoring to get their hands on anything that might protect them from the evil creature of the night that was undoubtedly living right next door.

    Fortunately, the trunk of Zachary’s Buick Riviera was practically bursting with garlic bulbs, holy water and pointy wooden stakes. And as luck would have it, he was willing to part with the tools of his trade for just slightly

    more than the retail price. We were in a frenzy to fork over cash for everything he was selling, when Randy Patton elbowed his way to the front of the crowd.

    Randy Patton has never been one to raise his voice. He usually lobs his pertinent observations at us while standing a healthy distance away from whatever fracas might be taking place. But on this day, that changed. Randy clenched his fists, took a deep breath and expended every bit of it when he let loose on the whole lot of us.

    He read us the Riot Act for allowing our actions to be governed by irrational phobias and falling prey to a mendacious, fear-mongering charlatan who had never glimpsed, encountered or slain a vampire, because vampires simply do not exist.

    At this point Zachary Ulysses Griffin had heard just about enough from Randy Patton. He was a blur of motion as he whirled around, yanked a wooden stake from the trunk of his car and plunged the pointy end of it straight into Randy’s chest.

    To be sure, Randy was most times an annoying know-it- all. But he was also the man who’d dedicated his life to teaching our sons and daughters the value of trigonometry. And the sight of him bleeding heavily from a massive chest wound was more painful than anything a vampire could have ever done to us.

    When Randy fell to the ground Doc Mendoza was by his side in the blink of an eye. She did her best to stop the bleeding while Bumpy Tate called for an ambulance. And as they sped Randy to the hospital the rest of us trailed behind them with all the speed we could muster. But Clarence and Mattie stayed behind. They had to clean up all the wooden stakes and garlic we’d hurled to the ground in their parking lot.

    Though the vampire-killing stick didn’t turn Randy into a cloud of smoke and ash, it did fracture two ribs and collapse a lung. But Doc Mendoza says that after a few weeks of physical therapy, Randy’ll be back to teaching young minds about cosines and tangents.

    As for Zachary Ulysses Griffin, he disappeared. In all the confusion he must have hopped into his immaculate Buick Riviera and sped out of town. We don’t imagine he’ll ever return to Franklin. After all, we are more certain than ever that vampires do not exist.

    But we have concluded that there are some monsters capable of hiding in plain sight.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Captain Ginger Season Two #6
  • Greetings, Terrans! If you’re from Proxima Centauri: “Gymkhana kelp scissor-pox!” Or if you’re reading this on Venus: “C-Can’t breathe! The air is made from *choke* acid!” Let’s unseal the air lock and review some books . . .

    Edgar Rice Burroughs: Barstool of Jupiter

    US Cavalry Officer John Barstool gets drunk and is mysteriously transported to Jehovis, “that plus-sized planet that astronomers and smarty-pants call Jupiter.” Here, he is befriended by the eight-armed, tangerine-colored warrior, Boris, and falls in love with Princess Dora Explora (“She was petite, generic, and dressed in a tinfoil swimsuit—just how I like ’em!—I was instantaneously smitten!”). But Barstool’s passion for Dora is unrequited. Before Dora can thaw, she’s abducted by air pirates in a flying tram-car and he vows to get her back—“Whether she likes it or not!”

    Written in 1934, the science is every bit as iffy as its depiction of women: “Being a large planet, Jupiter’s ground was spongier and its atmosphere thinner, allowing me to leap forty-eight feet into the air and skewer three of the pirates with a single thrust of my shishk—Jehovean for ‘a very long sword’!” Jupiter’s Great Red Spot turns out to be “an enormous button mushroom, but crimson and seen from above,” and Barstool battles a creature that is “part mountain lion, part owl; has blue, yellow and brown spots, fifteen legs, and a pair of little hands on its head instead of antlers.”

    Burroughs’ popularity was waning by the 1930s, so to boost sales of Barstool he included cameos of his best-selling jungle hero, Marvin the Ape-Man, and dinosaur hunter “Tricky” Rick Dickens from his Peculiar books. “I’m a terrible, terrible writer,” ERB once confessed in an interview, adding with a chuckle, “But I recently bought Sacramento with my royalties, so.”

    Philip K. Dick: The Bloodshot Red Eye

    1985. The west coast of America is a surveillance state following a coup by the Fascist Bureau of Investigation. Downtrodden used-cushion refurbisher Ted Schlub is a virtual prisoner in his own apartment in the Greater Oakland Dominion (GOD), where he takes abusive video calls from his three vindictive ex-wives, repairs old pillows (there is a shortage of soft upholstery following an atomic war with Mao Bloc), and has convoluted metaphysical arguments with a bad-tempered talking kettle called Pete.

    When an enormous, bleary, bloodshot eye appears in the sky over the Golden Gate Bridge, Schlub starts hearing telepathic messages in the music of Mozart. It seems the composer is alive and well and composing psi-arias in a nudist commune on Tau Ceti. Wolfgang Amadeus tells Schlub to quit taking his mandatory state-prescribed meds and start listening to opera, as they’re designed to make you crazy. The meds, that is, not opera. Though now that I think about it . . .

    Can Ted make his alimony payments, lead a naked, Mozart-themed uprising against the FBI, and convince his kettle to boil? I’ve no idea—I never got to the end. And neither did PKD: he stopped writing it after he had a vision in which Green Martian Jesus joined him in the bathtub. His editor, Brian W. Walrus—and his loyal, out-there sixties readership—never even noticed the book’s abrupt ending on page two: “And with that, Wanda tucked my socks into her belt and evaporated.”

    Like most of Dick’s work, this is a book so weirdly prescient that it could’ve been written yesterday, right? Er, nope.

    Philip K. Dick: Hubris, Inc.

    Written in six hours during an amphetamine binge, Hubris, Inc. has the exact same plot as The Bloodshot Red Eye, except the protagonist is a telekinetic plumber, Joe Bleek, who leaves his android wife for a sentient opera called The Goose of Cairo. Most of the dialogue is in German. Terrified that the authorities were using tiny robot grasshoppers to bug him and might consider the novel seditious, PKD tried to burn the manuscript. But he was so stoned, he set fire to a cookery book instead. Originally published as an Ace double paperback, paired with Panhandlers of Titan.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Billionaire Island #5
  • Ingredients:

    1 cup butter (cashew works best) 2 eggs

    1 cup brown sugar

    1 tsp vanilla

    2-4 tbsp of loose lavender Earl Grey tea

    2 cups flour

    1 tsp baking powder

    1 cup milk

    1 pinch of salt

    Cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and tea. Mix in dry ingredients, alternating with the milk. Bake in a cupcake pan for 25-35 minutes at 350 degrees. Top with candied orange peel.

    Candied Orange Peel

    1–2 medium oranges 1 cup sugar
    1⁄2 cup water

    Cut the peel of 1–2 medium oranges and remove as much of the pith as possible. In a medium saucepan, bring 1 cup of sugar and half a cup of water to a simmer. Add the orange peels and lower the heat. Stir frequently. Let the mixture cook for anywhere between a half an hour to an hour, or until sugar mixture thickens into a heavy syrup. Place the peels on a rack or parchment paper to cool. Place a few of the candied peels on top of each cake. Save the leftover syrup for other recipes or use as a drizzle on cakes.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Ash & Thorn #4
  • As Susie awoke early on a Tuesday morning, she felt something different. There was something...loose. She opened wide and reached her finger in, touching it gingerly. Upon poking it with her finger, it wiggled. It was loose.

    Of course she knew that this was going to happen sooner rather than later. She was hardly the first kid in her class to lose one, and her parents had told her all about putting it under her pillow for the fairy. Who even knew if that was real, though? Susie had recently stopped believing in Santa Claus, so she was skeptical about whether or not the fairy was real, too.

    Susie’s mom burst in a few moments after she woke up. Her mother was already dressed and ready for her work day, as she seemed to be every morning.

    “Mommy,” said Susie, “Look. It’s loose!”

    Susie opened up and her mother looked.

    “Oh wow, sweetie. That’s great! Your first one. I can’t believe my baby is growing up this quickly! Are you excited to put it under your pillow for the fairy after it comes out?”

    Susie took a moment to think, and then nodded. That’s probably what her mom wanted her to do.

    Her mother smiled and held out her hand, wiggling her fingers at Susie.

    “Come on, Susie. Breakfast is on the table. I got an early start on the day and whipped up your favorite—French toast!”

    Susie grinned and went with her mother. French toast was her favorite.

    At school, right before lunch, Susie approached her teacher, Ms. Mullen, about her discovery.

    “Does it hurt, Ms. Mullen?” she asked.

    Ms. Mullen was young and usually very cheerful, the very picture of what a kid like Susie wanted from an elementary school teacher. She had fantastic cat’s eye glasses, and always wore colorful chunky costume jewelry. It was fantastic. But even though she gave Susie her most cheerful smile, her voice quavered just a touch.

    “Well, Susie. It might hurt a little bit, but it won’t hurt for very long. It’s afterwards that’s strange.”

    Susie’s brow furrowed.

    “What do you mean, Ms. Mullen? Will I miss it?”

    “No, it’s more that, um, it’s a little complicated. It will feel strange for a long time after it.”

    Ms. Mullen’s face threatened to drop for a moment, but she managed to hold onto her teacher’s smile. She brought her hands up over her desk and unconsciously wrung them a little.

    “Susie, I wish children didn’t have to lose...”

    She drifted off and looked behind Susie, her wringing hands trembling slightly before she seemed to compose herself.

    “Never mind, Susie. It’ll be okay. Head off to lunch; it’s spaghetti today.

    Susie nodded and scampered off. Ms. Mullen seemed a little odd, but grown-ups could be like that. And soon enough, Ms. Mullen’s concern left her mind. After all, it was spaghetti day. And just like with breakfast, that was her favorite.

    Ella hung upside down on the jungle gym, her long dark ponytail hanging down towards the soft padding that had recently replaced the pea gravel that covered the area of the playground. It was recess time and Susie wanted to talk to Ella about her experience with the fairy.

    “Susie, the fairy is definitely real. Who else would have given me twenty dollars?”

    Susie thought that Ella’s parents, who lived in a house with a three-car garage and a pool, were more likely the benefactors, but she kept that to herself. It wasn’t nice to say things like that. But it did put her anxiety a bit at ease. At least once it came out, she could put it under her pillow for some spending money.

    “You’ve got a loose one, huh?”

    Grayson, a very boastful boy who didn’t have many friends, had come over to Ella and Susie. The two girls usually humored Grayson to some extent. Even though he was a fibber, he was nice enough, and didn’t deserve the derision he seemed to receive.

    Susie nodded at Grayson.
    “Lemme see!”
    Susie reached her hand up and wiggled it to show him.

    “Yep, it looks like it’s gonna come out anytime now. You know, when I lost my first one, it ended up taking too long.”

    Grayson leaned over and grinned, as if he was telling a secret, instead of a likely lie.

    “I tied a string around it at one end, and the other end to my brother’s bike. He rode as fast as he could and POP, out it came.”

    Ella, still upside down, grimaced.

    “That’s gross, Grayson.”

    Grayson looked hurt.

    “Well, it’s true! I could do it for you too, Susie. If you wanna.”

    Susie shook her head, trying her hardest to look like she wasn’t also kind of grossed out.

    “No, I can wait.”

    Grayson shrugged and began to walk off. “Suit yourself, Susie. If you want the fairy now, that’s what you gotta do.”

    At this point, Ella transitioned her upside down hang into a skin-the-cat, landing neatly on her feet inside the jungle gym.

    “He’s so weird. There’s no way he did that.”

    Susie nodded, and absentmindedly reached up to wiggle it. “Yeah, so weird.”

    Ella looked at her, and her face scrunched a bit.

    “It is different though, after you lose it. And the fairy is real.”

    Susie nodded.

    Ella frowned, looking on Susie with what looked to be pity.

    It was bedtime, and Susie was dressed in her favorite unicorn pajamas. Her mother had just finished reading her a story. They were reading from a book about prairie life, which Susie wasn’t very interested in. She didn’t say anything to her mother though. It wouldn’t be very nice.

    “All right, Susie. It’s time for bed. How was today?”

    Susie produced a soft smile, “It was a good day, Mommy.”

    Her mother pointed at her face.

    “Is it getting looser?”

    Susie poked at it gently.

    “I think so, Mommy.”

    Her mother looked closer, scrutinizing Susie’s visage.

    “Oh yeah, could be any time now. Remember to show us when it happens, and put it under your pillow.”

    “Okay, Mommy.”

    Her mother smiled and stroked Susie’s hair.

    “Okay, sweetie.”

    Her mother turned out the light, which tipped the night light to come on in a soft white tone.

    “Goodnight, Susie.”

    Susie leaned back in her bed, and pulled the covers up under her chin.

    “Goodnight, Mommy.”

    Susie awoke, but it wasn’t morning yet. Something felt strange to her. She didn’t feel something loose in her head anymore. Susie reached her hand up and tried to find it to wiggle. It was gone. She looked around in her bed, and there it was. White, shiny—and with her perfect brown iris staring back at her. And for a moment, she could only see her halogen-tinted room with half of her sight, but that soon began to change.

    On one side of her vision, the room began to swirl and tint a deep sickly purple. She felt something moving, crawling around in her skull, making its way towards the surface where it used to be in her head. She heard a slight cracking, and something burst wetly forth, tendrils brushing her cheek. The purple in the air began to deepen, and she started to see things she’d never seen before.

    Something shimmered in the air around her, more damp, dark tendrils coming forth from nowhere, a twisted gift of her newfound sight. The appendages writhing in her socket drew towards their larger twin, drawn to the only-now-seen horror. Susie almost screamed, but instead she took a deep breath. She had known what to expect, at least from seeing those that had lost theirs first. She had seen adult eyes her whole life, and so she knew what hers must look like even as it squirmed around against her eyelids, forcing some slime to run down her cheek . Her mother and father didn’t neglect her education, and she knew what would happen next.

    Finally, a sort of core to the tendrils burst forth from nothingness. It had a great maw, filled with row upon row of unnaturally long teeth, serrated and gnashing, moving around the mouth like a sickening carousel. It drew towards her, all slurping and gnashing.

    She held up her hand shakily. Contained within was her offering—perfectly round and glistening.

    The Eye Fairy had come, and in its tentacled grip was a dripping twenty-dollar bill.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Ash & Thorn #2
  • Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Dragonfly and Dragonflyman #3
  • With just a few additions to your home bar, you can make these on-trend cocktails for you and your friends... but probably just for you.

     

    Impending Doom

    • 2 ounces cask-strength Scotch

    • 1 teaspoon Demerara or raw sugar

    • 1 piece lemon peel

    Mix first two ingredients in a mug (metal is best, to prevent general immolation). Add lemon peel as garnish. Carefully ignite. Watch it burn. When it is done, you have nothing.

     

    Ante-Revolution Fizz

    • 1 shiny penny

    • 1 bottle Cristal champagne

    • 1 whole lobster

    Flip coin 100 times. If it is either heads or tails 99 times, serve yourself the Cristal in the finest stemware, garnished with the whole lobster. If not, live in a tent under an overpass.

     

    Pacific Garbage Patch

    • One Long Island iced tea

    • 117 plastic straws

    Serve Long Island iced tea with battery of straws. Discard straw after each sip.

     

    #metoo

    • 11⁄2 oz. vodka

    • 1⁄4 oz. cranberry juice •1⁄4 oz. triple sec

    • 1⁄4 oz. lime juice

    • 1 lime wedge

    With first four ingredients, prepare Cosmopolitan. Garnish with lime. Throw against wall. Call lawyer, therapist, Mom.

     

    Get Woke

    • 1 pint of your city’s most difficult-to-obtain boutique craft beer

    • Sanctimony

    Drink slowly, preferably in overpriced urban outdoor beer garden, while patiently yet passive-aggressively explaining exactly what is wrong with the outlook of those around you. Repeat until you “feel seen.”

     

    He Who Shall Not Be Named

    • Misc. liquor/liqueur

    • One large bag Cheetos

    Initiate news blackout. Pour an inch or two (or three) of each available liquor/liqueur into pint glass, jar, or any other receptacle. Lack wherewithal to stir, much less shake. Drink accompanied by Netflix and entire bag of Cheetos, eaten one by one while studiously avoiding looking at them, lest any be anthropomorphic.

     

    Climate Change

    • One large ice cube, carved into sphere

    • 18 oz. gin

    Set ice aside. Drink room-temperature gin slowly while feeling helpless. Try not to picture a polar bear swimming and swimming and swimming because there is nowhere to go.

     

    The WWIII

    •1 nation, divided

    •1 ascendant demagogue

    •1 fresh alliance of dictators

    •Sprinkling of military parades

    Shake first three ingredients well. Garnish with militarism. Serve in a pit of despair.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    EDGAR ALLAN POE`S SNIFTER OF TERROR #3
  •  

    Miss Mordicant’s School for Pestiferous Youth

    Reforming the villainous, vile, and uncouth

     

    A is for Alice, igniting delight

    She burned down the town to light up the night

     

    B is for Brandyce, sent there to dwell

    For stuffing his family into a well

     

    C for Cordelia, lost in a pique,

    Who stitched Nanny’s mouth so she couldn’t speak

     

    D is for Dillon, for choosing to give

    A few local fellows the end of a shiv

     

    E is for Elsinore, now in the mew

    For ladling arsenic into the stew

     

    F is for Fenrir, precocious and small

    Who punctured his great-uncle Max with an awl

     

    G is for Gladys, admitted the day

    She pushed granny’s wheelchair straight into the bay

     

    H is for Humbert, who needs to reform

    After tying his Pop to a pole in a storm

     

    I is for Izzy, hauled off in a huff

    For marching her siblings straight off of a bluff

     

    J is for Jasper, mischievous lad

    When sharing contagion, gave all that he had

     

    K is for Kate, (the Duchess McGannon)

    Caught shooting step-siblings out of a cannon

     

    L is for Lemuel, sly little fox

    “Inflated” his grandfather’s life vest with rocks

     

    M is for Myrtle, who one afternoon

    Bludgeoned her math tutor with a bassoon

     

    N is for Nevin, who garnered reproach

    For trampling friends ’neath the wheels of his coach

     

    O for Octavia, frail and asthmatic

    Caught storing bodies in trunks in the attic

     

    P is for Paul, choleric and lean

    Roasted his kin and picked their bones clean

     

    Q for Quintessa, both lovely and fair

    She finished her grandparents off with a scare

     

    R is for Reese, who liked to disport

    In casualties of the asphyxiate sort

     

    S is for Stella, who thought it a ripper

    To feed all her cousins into a wood chipper

     

    T is for Thaddeus, nimble and quick

    Walled up his kindred with mortar and brick

     

    U is for Uli, who took inspiration

    From Robespierre’s method of exsanguination

     

    V is for Vlad, a gadabout heller

    Mowed half his classmates down with a propeller

     

    W, Walda, gave Auntie the blight

    By lacing her corset a little too tight

     

    X for Xavier, a grim little chap

    Doffed Papa’s head along with his cap

     

    Y for Yolanda, so helpful, so nice

    Directed her fellows straight to the thin ice

     

    Z, Zacharias, achieved all his wishes

    By sending his household to sleep with the fishes

     

    Miss Mordicant takes them, no matter their sin

    Redirecting their passions to something akin

     

    She carefully molds them all, grim, sly, or raucous

    To fill corporate boards and political office

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Terror #6
  • Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Terror - Season 2 #6
  •  

    **BZZZTTTT**

    And so, as our power dwindles to zero, this will be the final transmission from the SS James Cameron of the Western Earth Spacefleet, Captain Calvin Walters reporting. I'm sorry that we on the Cameron were interrupted in our mission by tragedy, but we knew what we signed up for. We knew there was risk, but the pursuit of peace and scientific knowledge was more important. We have no regrets. Fortune favors the brave. Signing off.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    This is Captain Calvin Walters again, of the SS James Cameron. An update: Turns out our power situation was not as dire as estimated. I'd forgotten that, just as a car's gas tank is not bone dry when the needle hits E, there are extra power supplies when our indicators read 0%. Just to dummy-proof things, I guess. Which makes me the dummy, since I'm the one who cut off the life support of the rest of the crew some time ago, hoping to save power for a last-minute rescue. Listen, we all forget things, right? We're still at the end of our power, just not the end end. Crap.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    Which means we are still open to the idea of rescue.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    This is Captain Calvin Walters of the SS James Cameron. At this stage of our mission, I would like to recommend citations of valor and meritorious service, posthumously, to the entire crew of our ship. They gave their lives for the good of humanity. I'd also like to recognize Lucy and Charlie Brown, the naked mole rats who kept us company through so many long days in space.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    To clarify, I am not recommending citations of valor for the mole rats. That'd be crazy. Sorry to disappoint the critics out there.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    I'd like to send my warmest regards to my wife, Dr. Avni Joshi. Ours was a marriage of convenience to advance our careers, of course, but she was a good sport, and always upbeat, and a damn good scientist. I wish her well.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    And I apologize for letting the rumors about a girlfriend named Tiana circulate without my stopping them. It was just a macho thing among some of the flyboys, and I regret if it caused anyone pain.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    Boy, this is way more power than I thought I'd get.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    I regret also those long hours I wasted reading Master and Commander and the other novels of Patrick O'Brian. The British Imperial Navy holds few lessons for our work in space, but it looked kind of captain-y, so I kept it up. Same with the fake pipe.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    In retrospect, installing the slushie machine in the galley was a mistake. It ate up a huge amount of power, and the crew was over the novelty quickly.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    From the perspective of space, with near-infinite darkness in every direction, you gain a bit of wisdom about the struggles we have on Earth. What we let divide us is so miniscule, tragically. Donuts and crullers are good. And so are cronuts. It almost doesn't need to be said, but sometimes it does.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    Baseball was killed by robot umpires. We scientists have to own that. Also, the many killings committed by the robot umpires in the final weeks of October last year. Our fault.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    Don't ask me how I got "Electric Avenue" stuck in my head. Haven't heard that one in years.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    The worst thing about space? Government-issue Q-Tips. Seriously. The worst.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    Scientists are focused on details, systems, and patterns, but up here in space, to convey the majesty and power of everything we behold, it would take a poet. Too bad I cut off his life support system with the rest of the crew. If I find Patterson's notes, I'll send them along.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    Ringo Starr was Earth's luckiest person of the 20th century. Come at me.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    Can you remember your high school fight song? I can't. Am I losing my mind?

    **BZZZTTTT**

    Shit. Power keeps increasing. I feel like I'm trying to leave a party, y'know, jingling my keys.

    **BZZZTTTT**

    Where's the “delete” button? Isn't there a . . .

    **BZZZTTTT**

    This is Captain Calvin Walters of the SS James Cameron. I have just received word that our ship will be rescued in six hours by the SS Octavia Butler in the Western Earth Spacefleet command. Please disregard all transmissions that may have been received in the past 30 minutes. They were notes for a novel.

    **BZZZTTTT**

     

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Dragonfly and Dragonflyman #5
  •  

    Every kid knows the story of how Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s foremost Founding Fathers, proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that lightning and electricity are one and the same, in a remarkable, historical experiment involving a key, some string and the ever-changing sky itself!

    But how many know the true circumstances of Franklin’s audacious demonstration, or how a gigantic electric sky bear played a pivotal role in this historic scientific breakthrough?

    It all began on a stormy summer night in June 1752, when 47-year old Benjamin (“Ben”) Franklin, the renowned polymath and humorist nicknamed “The First American,” embarked upon an ill-starred attempt to unlock the front door of a cloud he’d mistaken for his Philadelphia home following a hard night’s chess-based carousing and debate with fellow Freemason, Enlightenment political theorist, and comedy Scotsman, Dr. William Smith, the Episcopal priest and editor of ‘The American Magazine or Monthly Chronicle for the British Colonies’.

    Somewhat the worse for wear, and having mislaid his trademark pince-nez, Franklin found himself uncharacteristically bamboozled by a simple meteorological phenomenon. Somehow misconstruing the storm cloud gathering overhead for his sturdy ground-based cottage environs, the esteemed Justice of the Peace for Philadelphia was naturally dismayed to discover his erstwhile domicile hovering several thousand feet up in the air and rain, high above his balding pate!

    As the tempest grew in intensity, Franklin reasoned that the safest place for him was indoors—and swiftly devised a plan that was to change scientific history.

    If he could somehow contrive a method by which to open the door of his currently hovering domicile, the pseudonymous “Richard Saunders”  felt certain he could pull the house back down to earth, hoping to draw it close enough to climb through the door, find his bed chamber, and go to sleep, praying to “Powerful Goodness” (his name for a God in which he could not bring himself to believe, except during episodes of existential crisis and fear like this one) that the whole damn sickening thing would stand revealed as a rarebit nightmare come the dawn.

    But the key was tucked away in his breeches’ pocket—and the lock was now far above the ground! The only major scientist to side with Christian Huygens’ wave theory of light was now at a loss. 

    Fortunately for the face on the $100 bill (or “Benjamin”), he’d maintained a small but lucrative sideline in the sale of party novelties, such as Swanee whistles, silly string, confetti cannons, and, as luck would have it, balloons!

    In no time at all, the wily secretary of the American Philosophical Society had tethered his front door key to a swiftly inflated festive balloon. But how to retrieve the key when its work was accomplished and entry achieved?

    Dame Fortune smiled once more on Franklin after a quick search through his bag of tricks uncovered an aerosol can of fluorescent spray string, ideal for his purpose.

    As he lofted his bizarre confection of twine, balloon, and house key into the raging storm, he saw before him a stupendous sight destined to change destiny forever!

    It was then Franklin understood: what he’d assumed to be the roaring of thunder was, in truth, the snarling, yet still comprehensible, curses of a vicious, formidably intelligent, and phenomenally outsize sky bear, with eyes, teeth, and claws of living lightning!

    As far as the clinically obese Philadelphia Postmaster could discern, the Brobdingnagian bruin was several hundred feet tall and seemingly made of a dark, cloud-like material. Unlike its terrestrial cousins—those conventional, ground-based bears that tend to favor a cave-dwelling lifestyle—this airborne representative of the species ursus had made its home in the vaults of the heavens themselves!

    And it was angry, with a capital A!

    This is MY house, not yours! the bear made clear in a series of awe-inspiring utterances that rocked Franklin on his cobbled heels. YOUR house is behind you! Trying to break into MY cloud-house using YOUR front door key will never work. But you have my word—the nation of electric sky bears will leave you alone if you leave us alone! Take my assurance that lightning is electricity and begone!

    To be honest, Franklin’s description of the beast is lacking in further detail and does not suggest that what he witnessed was anything other than a cloud; certainly, his report contains no identifying features of any kind of animal.

    Is it possible that Franklin, the noted author, satirist, and “cautious abolitionist” who had already confused his house for a cumulonimbus, made the understandable error of mistaking a second cloud for a wild sky animal on a gigantic scale?

    Whatever the reality, there’s no doubt that the alleged bear played a pivotal role in the advancement of human knowledge, and that’s a big plus in anyone’s CV!

    The story has been filmed as Son of Sky Bear, starring Montgomery Clift, Bradford Dillman, and introducing John Cassevetes as Geronimo.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Captain Ginger #1
  •  

    Once upon a midnight dryly, while I pondered Bill O’Reilly,

    Raging at the media’s crimes, the failing Times, with rhymes, unsure,

    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a slapping,

    Like Jake Tapper, crudely rapping, tapping towards my chamber door.

    “Some reporter,” muttered I, “a loser that we should deplore,

    “Only that, and nothing more.”

     

    Ah, distinctly, I remember; as we’d shambled toward November,

    A candidate for head of state, a fate I didn’t rate before.

    Here was I, the leader Trump, but on this stump, in deep a slump,

    Against old Crooked Hillary, no artillery, in a losing war,

    Among the proles, I’d dug deep holes; and all the polls were rightly sure

    That I’d become the next Al Gore.

     

    There and then, I flung the shutter, to hear a cryptic Russian stutter,

    In swooped a quaintly face, a tainted gaze of stately yore.

    Not one to fear a food with gluten, he, a shirtless cowboy mutant!

    T’was the Putin, highfalutin, hooting with a garish roar,

    Perched upon his stallion, a battalion, at my chamber door!

    There he sat, and nothing more.

     

    “Sir,” I cried in rapt delight. “What swift boat brings you here tonight?

    “What lures you to my doorstep, here in lockstep, in these times unsure?

    “Ruler of the Russian nation, master of assassination,

    “King of Pandemonium, and polonium - that fatal spore:

    “I need a break, some news that’s fake, to stake the Clintons to the floor!”

    He just smiled and nothing more.

     

    In my keenly altered sanity, a time I should be watching Hannity,

    There came, in stages, Facebook pages, rages like none saw before,

    Great waves of made-up Clinton news, long lists of phony Clinton views,

    Conveyed by bots, a million clots, projecting plots from Manifort,

    And hackers, young attackers, truth-hijackers in a cyber war

    Shouting, “Lock her up... forevermore!”

     

    To win my electoral fight, there came dark billions from the right,

    And stolen mails, with cruel details, cold entrails on a killing floor.

    They came in peaks from hacker geeks, with foul techniques, on Wikileaks,

    We won the day, though facts still say, our rivals scored two million more.

    The Putin grinned, my fealty pinned, to win our electoral score,

    “Quote the Putin: Evermore!”

     

    And now the Putin, ever seeing, guards his tapes of myself, peeing,

    While Democrats, the filthy rats, fling brickbats at my White House door,

    Beyond the cheering, and the sneering, four years of electioneering,

    A prisoner’s life, a furious wife, as critics pound upon my door

    The Putin waits, with darker fates, to boil my name down to its core,

    And own my soul... forevermore.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Edgar Allan Poe's Snifter of Terror #2
  •  

    I encourage all employees to make themselves feel more at home by bringing personal items to the office and I try to leave the matter of decorating one’s workspace to the discretion of the employee whenever possible. However, recent events have made it necessary to draft the following policies and guidelines regarding desk eels:

    1. Eels should not distract co-workers. Bringing an eel to work can be a powerful act of self-expression, particularly when it can perform tricks or is brightly colored. However, it should be remembered that this is first and foremost a place of work and eels that bare their fangs or attack people may be considered to be intimidating or disrespectful by your coworkers. If your eel exhibits such behavioral problems, please leave them at home.

    2. Eels should be attended at all times. Many employees like to bring their eels to the lunchroom where they can compare notes and chat with fellow enthusiasts. Though we encourage this sort of camaraderie, we have experienced increasing problems with people leaving their eels in the break-room sink, in cupboards, or forgetting them in other places throughout the building. As a result, the janitorial staff has to spend precious time every morning trying to reunite them with their owners. Just like everyone else, the janitors have a job to do around here, and looking after your eel isn’t it. Please keep your eel either at your desk or in the designated aquatic play pen outside the copy room.

    3. No poisonous or electric eels of any kind. This should go without saying.

    4. Do not feed other people’s eels. While your eel may enjoy an occasional Ritz cracker, other eels may be allergic to salt or on a strict macrobiotic diet. So though well intentioned, feeding another person’s eel can cause bad blood between co-workers. There was an incident just last week where one employee fed a colleague’s eel a piece of his turkey sandwich, not knowing that his co-worker was trying to raise the animal in a vegan environment. This resulted in a formal reprimand being entered onto the first employee’s permanent record.

    5. Do not allow your eels to eat other people’s pets. It is often said that there are just two kinds of people in the world— eel people and clam people. While the eel people definitely seem to be in control around here, that doesn’t mean that we should be disrespectful respectful to fellow employees who are clam owners. And the best way to show respect is to not allow your eel (or indeed, encourage them) to feast upon the clams of others. We all have to live together, folks.

    6. Do not name your eel after co-workers. Though most people are eel lovers, there are those who consider them to be ugly and menacing in appearance, so to name your eel after a co-worker may give them the wrong impression. Also, please try to refrain from giving your eel any names of an ethnic origin that you yourself are not a member of.

    7. Eels, yes. Water moccasins, no. This goes even for non-poisonous water moccasins. A snake is not an eel and I’m sure we can all agree that there’s something fundamentally wrong with a snake who can swim on top of the water. Also, no wolf eels. They aren’t true eels, anyway, but rather members of the Anarhichadidae family. Antisocial and surly by nature, the last thing we need around here is to let a bunch of wolf eels set the pace for company morale.

    I don’t mean to ruin anyone’s fun, but if we all observe these simple rules of eel-etiquette, I’m sure we can all be efficient and productive workers while still having a good time.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    CAPTAIN GINGER #3
  • The stones wait, forgotten amongst weeds and brambles and drifts of dry, cracked leaves, as snow gently falls, blanketing over them in a hushed hiss. The names carved into them have all worn away, only the traces of dates and symbols remain. A single half skull sits in the midst of their uneven ring, browned and cracked, dug up by some animal and left to rot in the open air. Its eye sockets look up to the bright gray sky with hollow silence.

    The snow falls all day and covers the small, neglected cemetery in shimmering white. It continues to wait for night to come as the snow slows, then stops. The light fades into a peachy, golden, afternoon. It glints off rooftops in the slight distance, a village or town that has forgotten the others that used to live there. The sun sets a dull red.

    Darkness sets the snow aglow in the light of a half moon, cold and blue and beautiful. It falls on her face, a soft gray translucency, against the starry sky. She walks over the ground without steps, the dark strings of her hair streaming in the brittle, bitter wind.

    She passes through the stones, long fingers sweeping against their tops, recalling names that no longer matter to anyone else, including her own. They help her remember and stay rooted to this world instead of the next. She is not ready to leave yet and has not been since the fire and all that came after.

    Her eyes, deep pits of shadow, show just a pinprick of light at their centers, blinking and fading, like slowly dying stars, staring past everything and piercing the nothing beyond. Her mouth, wide and thin, is frozen in a cracked and unforgiving frown. She is empty now, so empty, a pit of gaping, aching, craving, need.

    There is only one stone she stops for, one stone she sits by, one stone she touches with a longing, soft, sigh. It is a small stone, a little cross that lists slightly to one side. She hums to it and weeps for it and watches it as the hours while by.

    Then she hears the cry.

    That pale gray head turns at the sharp, wailing, sound of it, piercing across the snow covered clearing beyond the graveyard. She knows that cry. It wraps itself around her heart and she is moving towards it, fast, a blurred shadow among shadows.

    She is remembering that cry from before, a hungry sound, a plaintive sound, full of desperate longing.

    In the clearing, set in the middle of a different kind of stone ring from the monuments she left behind, is a small bundle. The cry from it is growing weaker, sadder, as though it knows that no one is coming for it. She looks down from her grayness and sees a small, pale, scrunched, face, with lips turning a faint blue. Tears have frozen to its cheeks as the mouth lets out ragged, hiccupping sobs.

    “Shhhhhh.” She says to it, her voice cracked from disuse. “Shhhhhhh.”

    The child stops crying and looks up and smiles. It reaches two arms up to the gray figure who stoops and lifts it into her transparent arms. She looks into the child’s eyes, blurry with tears, as it sticks a chubby hand into its mouth for comfort. It sucks on its fingers listlessly, eyelids drooping, it’s wracking breaths slowing to ragged, shallow ones.

    She coos to the child, whispers soothing nonsense and nothings. She knows it is a girl child, sickly, so small and pale for her age. It is cold in her arms but she does not feel it. She only feels the weight of it, the little limbs grasping at her, the round head pressing against her arm that is not, technically, there.

    She takes it away from the fairy circle, back to the dead forgotten stones, to the place where her own daughter is buried. She sits in the middle of the faded monuments and rocks the baby whose eyes drift closed. She sings it a lullabye and touches its icy, round cheek. It makes a soft rattling sound in its throat and goes still.

    When its eyes open again they are dark like her eyes, with tiny pinpoints of light deep within. It looks at her with knowing now, and smiles with tiny, sharp, glittering teeth. It is gray like her, empty like her, and it is hungry.

    She smiles and takes it towards the village in the distance, the village it came from, the village that left it to die and rot, alone, among the stones.

    She takes it to feed.

    Originally Appeared in:
    Issue Appeared In:
    Planet of the Nerds #4