No. 610

The world record for a fall without a parachute is 33,333 feet. That’s an oddly specific number, I know. That’s why I remember it. I don’t remember the woman’s name. I think she was Russian, or Ukrainian, or something. Eastern European, anyway. I’m pretty sure that she has since died. That seems unfair, somehow.

I’m procrastinating, so I take out my phone to check the facts. Her name was Vesna, and she was twenty-two when it happened. She was Serbian.

I’m thinking about falling because it feels like I am. Like Vesna, I don’t have a parachute. I, for lack of a better description, sold mine. Then, I turned the proceeds into a flaming disaster. It’s 2017, and yesterday I bought a travelling circus. Exotic animals. A train, which I think runs. A tent. And a name that means very little to millennials.

You could say I did it on a whim, or that I’m a thrill-seeker. Perhaps those things are true. I was certainly more confident in my choices twenty-four hours ago. Now, I’m waiting to give my keys to the lady who bought my car, and she’s late. It’s given me time to think about Vesna, and my stomach doesn’t like it. After Car-lady arrives, I’ll have my two suitcases, my “investment”, and 279,069 miles of railroad track in North America to ride around on.

You may wonder how I know that particular number, also, but I’ve just Googled it. I’m starting to wonder if Car-lady will show up. Oh man, I wonder if she wants to buy a Toyota and a big top?

No. I’ve got this. Vesna lived. I like road trips. Tigers are cool. I’ve got this.

I might barf, but I’ve got this.


No. 609

How many times did it bite you?


Ah, rub some dirt on it. You’re ok.

Aren’t these poisonous?

The word you’re looking for is ‘venomous’, but no. You’ll be just fine.

Are you going to do something about it?

What do you mean?

Like, since it attacked me.

Ha! These things are endangered! We’re more concerned about whatever filth you had on your arm making him sick!

You told me to rub dirt on it.

I didn’t want the rest of the dirt there to be lonely.

Give me a refund.

Do you know how much vet bills will cost? No.

So you aren’t going to do anything.

I’m starting to think about asking you to leave the property.

I’m never coming here again, anyway.

Look, do you want me to let him bite you an eighth time?

Rory and the Kitty Cat


“I’m going to snuggle you,” said Rory to the cat.

“Absolutely not,” said the cat.

Rory didn’t speak Cat, so she snuggled the cat anyway.


“I’m going to snuggle you,” said Rory to the cat.

“No,” said the cat.

Rory didn’t speak Cat, so she snuggled the cat anyway.


“I’m going to snuggle you,” said Rory to the cat.

“You may scratch my chin, only,” said the cat.

Rory didn’t speak Cat, so she snuggled the cat anyway.


“I’m going to snuggle you,” said Rory to the cat.

“You may scratch my back and chin, only,” said the cat.

Rory didn’t speak Cat, so she snuggled the cat anyway.


“I’m going to snuggle you,” said Rory to the cat.

“You may scratch my back, chin, and sometimes belly, only,” said the cat.

Rory didn’t speak Cat, so she snuggled the cat anyway.


“I’m going to snuggle you,” said Rory to the cat.

“For three minutes, and then I’ll bite you,” said the cat.

Rory didn’t speak Cat, so she snuggled the cat anyway.


“I’m going to snuggle you,” said Rory to the cat.

“Ok,” said the cat.

Rory didn’t speak Cat, so she snuggled the cat anyway.

The cat snuggled Rory back.

No. 608

The moment after Mike realized that his boss was a snake-man, he felt like kicking himself for not realizing it sooner. The forked tongue. The beady, lidless eyes. It was all so obvious, in retrospect.

Now, Mike had to figure out a way to kill the monster without getting charged with murder.


If Mike goes to the library to research the perfect crime, choose number 1.

If Mike tries to goad his boss into attacking him so that he can claim self-defence, choose number 2.


1. Mike chose not to confront his boss that evening. Surely the library would have ways to fight snakes. What Mike should have done was use Google, because he was hit by a car and killed just across the street from the library, where, curiously, all the books about killing snakes had already been checked out, anyway.


2. Mike crept up behind his boss with a broken-ruler stake held just behind his back. “Hey, you giant, ugly reptile, I know your secret!” he shouted from just outside his boss’ office door.

Mike’s boss slithered out to meeting him. “Well, that’s too bad, Mike. I had you on the short-list for promotion. Now, I guess I’ll have to eat you.”

Mike turned his head to make sure the security camera caught what happened next, so that he would be acquitted of any crime. The hesitation was his greatest mistake. His boss lashed forward with surprising speed for a man, but relatively slow reflexes for a snake. Mike was first bitten by venomous fangs, then devoured whole, but still conscious. According to the official account, Mike had left to go backpacking in Europe.


No. 607

“So, let me get this straight,” said the chicken to the pig. “Your name is ‘Ham’, but you don’t have any idea what’s going to happen to you?”

“I still don’t understand what you mean,” said Ham. “I like my name.”

The chicken shook his head. “They’re going to eat you. ‘Ham’ is a kind of meat!”

Ham laughed. “That’s not true. It’s short for ‘Hammond’. Ham is a good name.”

“I feel like you’re grasping at straws here,” the chicken sighed.

A horse wandered in from the field. “What are you guys talking about?” it asked.

“Ham, over here, he doesn’t think he’s going to end up as, well, ham,” explained the chicken.

“Yeah,” said the horse. “That’s a strong possibility. And bacon. He’ll end up as ham and bacon.”

Ham was upset. “Why are you saying this to me? Why are you being so cruel?”

The horse pointed his nose at the chicken. “Nugget just learned what his name means, and he’s sort of taking it out on everybody.”

“Shut up,” said Nugget.

“I’ve seen this a couple of times,” said the horse.

“Really?” asked Ham.

“Mmhm,” confirmed the horse.

“How come you’re not concerned?” asked Ham.

The horse rolled his eyes. “What’s my name?”

“Beauty,” said Nugget, with some resentment.

“That’s right,” said Beauty. “Nobody eats a ‘Beauty’.”

“Well, this is just unfair,” declared Ham. “Why aren’t we doing anything about it?”

“It’s not really my problem,” said Beauty.

“I don’t have teeth,” said Nugget.

Ham stomped his foot on the ground. “We’re just going to give up and be dinner?”

“Not my problem,” said Beauty.

“You just said that,” said Ham. “You’re not helping.”

“I can’t fly,” said Nugget.

Ham couldn’t believe it. “You guys are the worst.”

“I bet you’re delicious,” said Beauty.

Ham ignored him. “I have too much to live for. And I have teeth. And I can dig. Nugget, you’re useless, but you can follow me out of here, if you want.”

Nugget perked up. “I do want.”

Ham looked around. “Ok. Give me fifteen minutes, then meet me by in the far-corner of the yard.”


Beauty watched from a distance as the others wriggled under the fence and disappeared into the woods. He leaned down to take a bite of grass. “I bet a fox gets them,” he said, to nobody in particular.

“What was that?” said Angus, the bull.

“Nothing,” said Beauty. “Don’t worry about it.”


No. 606

The sun baked down on the nearly deserted beach. Two men were sheltered beneath a small, improvised lean-to.

“You’re attracting ants,” said the man on the left.

“Classic ‘man versus nature’ conflict,” was the reply he got.

“That’s not helpful,” the first man insisted.

“Oh, I’m sorry we’ve been stuck here for two weeks eating bread and Cheese Whiz you found in the cooler, but sure, ants are our biggest problem. You know what? I don’t even think this is real Cheese Whiz. I think it’s a knock-off brand, like your ridiculous ‘Somy’ GPS that stranded us here. Now we’re lost on a totally charted island, but we don’t know which one. Those ants, though.”

“If they’re leaf-eating ants, they could wreck our shelter.”

“The shelter? Have you tried burning it down? That will get them.”

“I’ve considered clubbing you with driftwood. Many times.”

“’Man versus man’. Now the conflict is getting intense! Are you scared to do it? Could we add ‘man versus himself’ to this heady mix of drama?”

“Just shut up. Maybe you never made it to shore after the wreck. Missing, out to sea. It’s the perfect crime. I didn’t want to have to kill you.”

“How noble.”

“What did I just say about shutting up? And what about these ants?”

The other man said nothing.

“Good,” said the man on the left.

He stopped talking to himself while the body beside him continued to rot.

No. 605


“There’s not much I can do for you,” said the young man at the reception desk. “All I have here is a note suggesting that your book isn’t publishable.”

“There isn’t anything else to the message?” said Donna Harden. “I can’t talk to your boss?”

“I’m sorry,” said the man. “You have to understand that we see a lot of submissions.”

“We?” Donna asked. “Did you see my story?”

“’We’ is this office,” said the man. “I really am sorry.”

“I have a copy here,” said Donna as she rummaged through her bag. “What’s your name? Maybe if you had a chance to look at it?” She placed a short stack of papers on the desk.

“My name is Andrew,” said Andrew. He looked around Donna to make sure there wasn’t anybody else waiting in the lobby. “Normally, we don’t do this, but it’s slow today.” He picked up the papers and began to flip through.

“Well,” he hedged, “I understand the note, now.”

“What do you mean?” said Donna.

“This isn’t publishable. It’s just pictures. There are no words.”

“But there’s a story,” said Donna.

“They’re very good pictures,” said Andrew. “But we’re not that kind of company.”

“So, you would…,” Donna prompted.

“I would add some words,” said Andrew.

“Right.” said Donna. She gathered up her story and began to walk toward the exit. She made it about halfway to the door before she turned back to Andrew. “I’m an illustrator,” she said. “Do you want to add the words?”

Andrew smiled, and shook his head. “It’s your story. You’re the only one who can tell it.”

“Thank you,” said Donna.

“I look forward to reading it,” said Andrew.

No. 604

Sophie Fraser was covering the overnight security shift at the library. Although she was making overtime pay, and was now owed a favor by her co-worker, Don, Sophie couldn’t figure out why a library needed security. As such, securing was not her highest priority for the evening. There was a couch in the children’s reading room, and Sophie decided to investigate further.

She woke up 45 minutes later. She swung her leg down onto the floor and almost slipped on a book. She read the title as she picked it up. “The Living Garden”.

Feeling that it belonged a long way from the children’s section, she looked around for its proper place. The Dewey Decimal System proved impenetrable, so Sophie left the book on a cart next to the animal section. She made another cursory loop of the stacks, for security purposes, and, finding nothing suspicious, returned to the couch.

After another brief nap later, she awoke feeling groggy. She sat up and her foot hit something on the floor.

“’The Living Garden’,” she gasped. Sophie reached for her pepper spray and shouted into the cavernous building. “Who’s there?”

There was no reply. Sophie threw the book across the room and curled into a nervous ball on the couch. Don had better not be messing with her. He’d claimed to have concert tickets. “Don, if that’s you, I’m going to stab you,” she yelled.

Then, there was a noise. Sophie couldn’t tell if it was a book hitting the ground, or muffled thunder from outside. It did nothing to improve her mood. “If I can get the check-out desk, there’s an office with a lock,” she told herself. “I’ll just stay there until morning.”

She carefully stepped down off the couch, and slowly crept toward the front of the building, keeping one hand on her pepper spray the entire time. Nothing jumped out at her, and as she approached the sanctuary of the locking office, she recognized that the strange noise had, in fact, been thunder. Still, she took no chances, and locked both the button on the door handle, and the chain at the top.

Breathing hard, Sophie checked her watch. In just over two hours, the librarians would arrive and she could go home. She pulled a rolling chair out from under a desk and sat down, in an attempt to relax. She began to think that perhaps Don owed her more than one favor.

An hour passed without incident. The dark, warm room, and comfortable chair began to have almost the same effect as the couch. Sophie, despite the nerves from earlier, began to grow sleepy. When her chin hit her chest, her eyes snapped wide open, as she fought the sensation. She sat up and yawned. Just as she finished, she noticed that there was something on the previously-clear floor. She leaned forward, afraid of what she knew the object was.

“The Living Garden”.

Sophie screamed and screamed.

No. 603

“I can’t pee here,” whispered Amber.

“Why not?” asked Lynn, who was squatting behind a tree stump.

“There might be a bear watching.” Amber gestured at the surrounding foliage. “You never know.”

“It’s a long way back to the car. Even longer to a toilet,” Lynn cautioned.

Amber shivered. “I just can’t go.”


Becky sighed and stole a glance at her watch. She leaned over the armrest to address her friend, Cindy. “This is the worst play ever,” she said, just loud enough for everyone around her to hear. The lack of “shushes” seemed to confirm that her opinion was a legitimate one.

Becky rolled her eyes. “You’re the one who said we needed more culture. Let me remind you that I suggested we see ‘Terror in the Sky 2’ in IMAX.”

“’Terror in the Sky 1’ wasn’t my favorite,” said Becky.

“I thought the original ‘Terror in the Sky’ was amazing,” said someone from behind them.


“Oh, look, it’s the Pope!” shouted Lynn.


“Oh my gosh.” said Cindy. “This is so bad.”

Becky had already turned around to face the conversation hijacker. ’Terror in the Sky’ is so overrated,” she insisted. “Now everyone is on the Terror-in-the-Sky train. It’s just a knock-off of ‘Deadly Visitors’.”


Tankorp laughed to himself and tapped his ventral tentacle lightly on the containment field separating him from the humans.

“Are they adapting well?” asked Velbu, as he approached his colleague from the Captain’s pod.

“They suspect nothing. The environmental replication filters are working perfectly,” said Tankorp. “With any luck we will have this batch back to Bartron 9 for the opening of the exhibit.”

Velbu leaned closer to the containment field. “That’s good. Very good. Verisimilitude in the behavior of the specimens is of the highest priority to the patrons. Do you have any other concerns?”

Tankorp placed his dorsal tentacle on Velbu’s headfin, a traditional gesture of honesty. “I am worried about the one called Amber. It does not seem able to vent its waste. That could lead to internal complications.”



No. 602

“I’ll do it tomorrow,” said Aurora, fully intending to not do it tomorrow. She slammed her bedroom door, and pulled back the sheet covering an oddly-shaped lump on the floor. Putting her arms carefully through each strap, she lifted a small jetpack onto her back.

She tugged her goggles down and pushed open the window. She was more than halfway out before her mom grabbed her and dragged her back inside.

“Trying to run away, again?” Mom asked. “You won’t get very far with that pack. It’s only got fuel for three minutes. Give it here.”

Aurora sighed and shrugged off her means of escape. The jetpack fell to the ground with a thump. Aurora pushed it toward her mom with her foot. “Fine,” she muttered.

“Now do your homework,” said Mom. “If you apply as much effort as you do into your attempts to skip school, maybe this semester you can get your mark up in Advanced Superheroics.” Mom took the pack and closed the door as she left.

Aurora sat down on the edge of her bed and sprawled across to grab her textbook. “Maybe I’d try harder if we learned about death rays,” she told nobody in particular.