Category Archives: Mini-Stories

No. 578 – A Halloween Special

Thomas Granger’s crime was brewing moonshine, not the murder for which he had been accused.

A fourteen year old girl in the town of Apple Grove had died of alcohol poisoning, and somebody had remembered once seeing a still behind Granger’s home. Never mind that the victim had stolen the liquor from her uncle, who had procured it from a man in Kettle Hill. Once Granger’s name was mentioned, his fate was sealed.

 

The mob descended on Granger’s remote cabin with torches. Thomas and his wife, Myrna, managed to escape the flames. Their young children, Jack and Ruby, were not so lucky. Overcome by smoke, the little ones expired, steps from the door.

Sated by the flames, the angry townsfolk left, not knowing that Thomas and Myrna were still alive. Not knowing that they had made a grave mistake.

 

Thomas and Myrna were overcome with grief. Pledging to avenge Jack and Ruby’s deaths, and recognizing that there was nothing they could do in the face of an entire town’s resistance, they killed themselves in order to return to Apple Grove as vengeful spirits.

 

The horror began. The townsfolk were swiftly and brutally attacked, sometimes as many as a dozen a night. They were all but defenceless against the power of revenge.

Something had to be done.

A deal was made, and the town was surrounded by a mystical wall. Thomas and Myrna’s phantoms were trapped outside, and Apple Grove was trapped inside.

 

For 200 years, nobody could pass in or out of the shield and life in Apple Grove changed little. Eventually those inside forgot the reason for their isolation. When the last person who remembered passed away, the barrier dropped, and the residents of Apple Grove became vulnerable, once again.

Because Thomas and Myrna had not forgotten. They had waited patiently, biding their time until they could return.

The dead were still in the mood to kill.

No. 576

Andrew died. It wasn’t fair. I’d still had questions that needed answering, and then he was gone.

It bothered me for a long time.

Over the years I picked up information, here and there. Spells. Various hexes. Incantations. I tried them all. I was almost certain that there wasn’t any magic left in the world.

But this time, this time I allowed myself to hope. Just a little bit.

I’d paid dearly for the old book with the ritual, and was careful to lay it out of the way of the candles and blood that I would need for later.

I cleared a space in my kitchen and carefully followed the instructions. Turns out that the hope and the darkness were enough.

Andrew appeared, whole, looking better than I remembered. He walked in like he hadn’t been in the ground the last 14 years.

Strangely, I felt nothing as he came around the counter and sat down at the table. I’d feared the worst. The whole “Monkey’s Paw” deal. But this was like he’d just woken up after hitting the snooze alarm too many times. He was groggy and his hair was tousled, and that was it.

And here I was. Older. Maybe wiser. All the questions that had seemed so important at the time were suddenly and unequivocally rendered moot.

I sat down beside him and he looked at me.

“Hey,” he said.

I took a deep breath, and asked him the most important thing that I could think of.

“So. Now that you’re back, what do you want for dinner?”

He grunted noncommittally, and we stared at each other quietly over a bowl of ornamental fruit.

No. 575

There are 38 leaves left on the tree in the yard. Fall is a decent gust of wind away from being over. I am not looking forward to winter.

In the lawn maintenance business, there’s not much business when the weather turns. In other places, some crews can turn to snow removal to pad the books, but around here winter means 6 months of cold rain.

This past season I had some setbacks, financially. Pay for new equipment. Pay for the damage one of my guys did to some kind of fancy fish pond. Pay for some other things. I did a lot of paying, is what happened.

Now I’m standing in the kitchen – not my own kitchen—drinking this awful store brand instant coffee, and wondering how I’ll make it through until there’s leaves on that damn tree again.

“How are you doing, honey?” she asks as she steps up behind me, wrapping her arms up over my robe.

“Good,” I lie. “Really good.”

She turns to get her own coffee. I finish mine and put it down on the window sill.

One way, or another, I won’t be around here to see that tree turn green.

No. 574

In 2014, dinosaur cloning is invented

In 2016, a number of dinosaurs escape the lab and establish colonies in a threatened rainforest area. Due to misguided animal-rights protests, hunting is not permitted on the grounds that the dinosaurs themselves are, by population size, endangered.

By 2020, the dinosaurs are proven to be an invasive species and are overrunning the ecosystem. Their already unstable DNA is allowing them to adapt much faster than the modern species. They are taken off the endangered species list. Hunting is allowed.

By 2030, they have spread. Dinosaurs are now one of the only classes of animal on the planet.

By 2037, humans are in decline.

 

 

“Open the gates. It’s time to go out.”

Christina Foster heard her father’s voice over the camp public address system. She reflexively tightened the strap of her Kevlar vest and double checked her rifle.

The giant rusted doors on the perimeter wall began to open. Foster watched the yellow warning lights flash as the final line of defence was relaxed just long enough for the team to leave.

She stepped out into the long-abandoned street, in the middle of what used to be Phoenix, Arizona.

Somewhere, off to the left, she heard the clatter of clawed feet on broken concrete.

The team was not going to get very far on this trip.

“Dinos, 10 o’clock!” one of her partners shouted. She couldn’t tell if it was Mandalay, or Stock.

Foster pointed her rifle and squeezed the trigger, sending bullets screaming through the empty windows of a former department store. A dinosaur staggered out, before collapsing to the ground within feet of the group.

It was a small one. Nothing like what would be attracted by the sound of the guns and the smell of fresh blood.

“We need to hurry,” Foster told her team. “Or we won’t make it back. Come on. Follow me.”

No. 573

The itch behind Commander Thompson’s right ear began to intensify. He couldn’t scratch it through the helmet and tried his best to concentrate on the empty red vistas of Mars in front of him. The rover bounced over a rock and Thompson shook his head to focus on the drive.

“Hey watch it,” said Simpkins over the radio. “I almost fell out.”

“I didn’t sign up for a demolition derby,” said Spears. “How come you didn’t drive like this on the way out?”

Thompson ignored them both. He had to get them back to base so he could scratch.

 

Dinner was the usual rehydrated mush. The trio of astronauts didn’t speak to each other as they ate. Thompson noticed Spears and Simpkins looking at him. When they saw him, they pretended to study their plates.

“What?” Thompson asked.

The itch throbbed. Thompson knew instinctively that if he scratched it, they would know.

 

Thompson blasted up into space in the escape rocket. He shivered, doing his best to align the guidance grid to the proper coordinates for a rescue. He had Spears’ blood on his hands. Or was it Simpkins’?

He told himself that he couldn’t have helped it. They came at him, didn’t they? He was only defending himself.

More words hissed into Thompson’s helmet. “Mars Rescue One, this is Deep Space Base, do you copy, over?”

He reached forward and increased thrust to maximum. He had to destroy Deep Space Base.

It was the only way to stop the itching.

No. 572

The rain started as I turned down the comedy row at the video store. I’d already been through action and, although dramas were next, I didn’t feel like one of those. My idea was to skip directly to sci-fi if comedy didn’t work out.

But the weather fouled my plans somewhat. I’d walked from home and didn’t have an umbrella, so now I had some time to kill if I wanted to stay dry. I picked up “Martian Fighters 2: Revenge of the Red Planet”, and circled back to drama to browse.

“Hi,” she said from over in the S-section.

“Hey,” I replied, because I’m cool like that.

“What are you watching tonight?” she asked, nodding at the case in my hand.

“’Martian Fighters 2’,” I told her.

“Is that the one where the astronaut goes crazy and imagines he’s Earth’s only hope?” she asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t think so. I’ve only seen the first one, though.”

“Maybe I’m thinking about something else,” she said.

She put down the box she was holding, and walked over to me. “Do they have any more copies of that one?” She pointed at my movie.

“Lots,” I said. “New release.”

“Great!” she said, as she brushed by me on the way to sci-fi.

“Good,” I said. Because I’m cool like that.

You can see why the rain was important for me. If I hadn’t waited, I never would have talked to her.

After that, I went home. It was still raining, so I got pretty soaked.

“Martian Fighters 2” was ok. It’s certainly not as good as the first one, because I think they rushed it into theaters, but it’s alright.

I can’t wait to pick another movie. Maybe she’ll be there next time, too.

No. 571

The tracks in the snow went around the cabin, but never approached it. Dani could see them through the frosted window.

“Amy,” she called to the next room. “Come and take a look at something.”

“What?” asked Amy over the steam from her mug of hot chocolate. “Why did I have to come all the way over here?”

“Look,” said Dani.

Amy wiped the window clear and peered out. “Snow,” she concluded. “I know that already. Remember this morning when it snowed?”

“By the trees,” Dani urged.

Amy checked again. She looked for a long time. Then she left her hot chocolate on the sill and went to the window on the other side of the cabin. “They go all the way around,” she said.

“Yup,” Dani agreed.

“When did you notice them?”

“Just now. Then I called you.”

Amy swallowed hard. “Maybe we pretend they’re from a deer?”

Dani nodded quickly. “Just a deer. A big deer.”

“They don’t get too close.”

“Right. Deer are afraid of people.”

“Exactly.”

Dani picked up the mug of chocolate. “Here’s your drink,” she offered, trying to lighten the mood.

Amy pulled a blanket from the couch over her shoulders. “Not super thirsty anymore.”

“Just a deer,” Dani confirmed once more, for the record.

“Lock the door,” said Amy.

No. 570

The book dropped onto the table with a dead thump. “I finished it,” said Steve Larson.

His girlfriend, Rita, didn’t look up from her cereal. “So you hated it, then,” she observed.

“Just a little bit,” Steve confirmed. “Wasted a week. I guess that’s what I get for taking your brother’s advice.”

“You knew what you were in for when you picked it up,” Rita said with her mouth full. “You’ve seen his shelf, right?”

Steve grunted, unwilling to admit that Rita was correct. He had not opened the cover with high hopes.

“Why do you do that to yourself?” she asked.

“Dunno,” said Steve. “I think I just wanted to be nice.”

“You were trying to impress him,” she said.

Steve was silent.

“I’m right,” said Rita, slurping the last of the milk in her bowl.

No. 569

Only the crazies suggested that the sound did not originate on Earth. Everybody else tried to explain it as far-away industrial machinery radiating tones that were trapped by an inversion layer of cool air. The noise was like nothing anyone in Sharpsburg had ever heard and, against the odds, the crazies were correct.

Far away, up into the darkness, the puppeteer of the star Sirius was frantic. The strings that supported her star were rubbing together, resonating and interrupting the deep silence of space. She was concerned that the people on the blue planet would realize that their night sky was a vast and complex illusion.

No. 568

It was a dark and stormy night. Lindsay Granger was having none of it.

He jumped slightly at the sound of nearby thunder, and made the final adjustments on his masterwork.

The weather machine.