Monthly Archives: March 2013

No. 343

The light in the old hangar cast a sickly yellow glow on the two occupants. Rain lashed the tin roof, the first sign of an approaching storm. All flights at the airport had been cancelled, leaving an old man and a young man to take shelter and wait.


“Have you heard of the ghost plane, boy?” asked the old man. “Every year, on the same night, a fog rolls in from the ocean and the runway lights dim. Then a plane comes in to land.

“We don’t see it on the radar and, when it rolls to a stop, it vanishes. We can never prove it arrived. But it comes.

“Some say it’s Amelia Earhart returning home. Others say it’s the last man back from the lost Flight 19. I can’t rightly say who, or what it could be. It makes the hairs on your neck stand up.”

“I’m not afraid,” said the young man.

“No, not now, you aren’t. But the first time you hear that engine, and every time after that, you will be.”

No. 342

“Honey, I just got back from the post office,” said Alan Mersey. “I picked up your package, but I think they sent the wrong book.”

Kyla Mersey looked around the corner from the upstairs office. “What did we get?”

Alan checked the title one more time, just to be sure. “’Care and Feeding of the African Banded Pit-Viper’,” he told her.

“Wow,” she said. “That’s not even close.”

“Can we return it?” Alan asked as he came up the stairs.

Kyla clicked around on the sender’s website for a moment, reading the terms and conditions. “No,” she said, finding the relevant information. “Since we ordered during a sale.”

“Is there anything at all that we can do?” Alan pressed.

Kyla shrugged. “We could buy an African Banded Pit-Viper.”

Alan leaned forward, intrigued. “How much is one of those?”


Twelve-to-fourteen business-days later, a courier arrived at the Mersey’s front door. “I’ve got an animal here for you,” she said when Alan opened it. “Just sign here.”

Alan did so, and a medium-sized box was handed over. “Thanks,” he told the departing messenger.

“Be careful when you open it,” said Kyla, with the book in hand. “It’s highly venomous.”

Alan was, and soon had the lid ready to be opened. Slowly, he and Kyla lifted the cover up.

“Oh, come on!” exclaimed Alan. “This is ridiculous.”

Inside the container was not the expected reptile, but a small, furry creature.

“Wombat,” said Kyla, correctly identifying the Mersey’s new pet.

No. 341

 “I’m sorry, I can’t help you,” said the butler who had answered the door of the stately home.

I was confused. “This isn’t 1947 Albert Crescent?” I asked one last time, to be sure. I’d been trying to get a straight answer for almost ten minutes.

The butler took the ornate card with the numbers listed on it from my hand and examined it. His inspection included turning it over and, oddly, sniffing it. “I’m afraid not,” he said. “What I can tell you is that 1944 Albert Crescent used to be directly across the way. They pulled that building down some years ago. Maybe that’s the one you’re confused about.”

I looked where he directed. There was only an overgrown lot with an old concrete foundation in the center. “Thanks,” I told him. “Maybe I’ll try to call somebody.”

The door closed, and I was left alone on the porch. I was almost certain that I had the right place. It’s true, there were no house numbers on the exterior, but it was the only structure on the street and the butler’s “across-the-road” story seemed dodgy. What was stranger still was that I hadn’t even told the man why I was looking for 1947 before he’d turned twitchy and nervous.  

I had a gold coin in my backpack, as well as written instructions on exactly when and how to deliver it. I only I had to find the location to deliver it to. The person who’d given it to me had been very, very specific.

When the phone number I’d be given connected directly with a “not in service” message, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

I’d been duped. There had never been 1947 Albert Crescent, just an elaborate ruse to lure me here.

I heard a rustle in the bushes.

The door seemed very far away, now. I broke into a run, screaming as loudly as I could and hoping that the butler would hear me.

Word Choices for No. 340

No. 340 is a Mad Lib! Select words according to the descriptions on this page, then click to the story and fill in the blanks!

1 (ADJECTIVE ending with EST)





6 (ADJECTIVE ending with EST)







13 (VERB ending with ING)

14 (NOUN)




18 (NOUN)

19 (VERB)

 20 (VERB)

21 (NOUN)

22 (VERB)


Now go to the story to find out what happens:

Blank Form for No. 340

Fill in the blanks with the words you chose from here:

Lex Orbis is the world’s (1) __________ spy. Last year he stopped (2) __________ attempts to take over the (3) __________, and seven (4) __________ -scientists with (5) __________.

His (6) __________ foe, by far, is Sabrina. Sabrina is a (7) __________ assassin whose (8) __________ for Orbis is tempered only by her (9) __________ love.

Their first encounter was in a (10) __________ (11) __________ in (12) __________. Lex was on a case and Sabrina was (13) __________ her first (14) __________.

Throughout their careers, their paths have crossed many times. Every meeting is more (15) __________ than the last. Most recently, Sabrina left Lex stranded on (16) __________

It was only with the help of a (17) __________ (18) __________ that Orbis was able to (19) __________ by the skin of his teeth.

Orbis has tracked Sabrina to her hideout. In order to get in, he must first (20) __________ a (21) __________ and then (22) __________ the guards. The battle will not be easy. She is waiting for him, and she’s just as (23) __________ as he is.

Now read my version:
Let me know what words you picked in the comments!


No. 340

Lex Orbis is the world’s (1) bestspy. Last year he stopped (2) three attempts to take over the (3) world, and seven (4) mad-scientists with (5) doomsdaydevices.

His (6) greatest foe, by far, is Sabrina. Sabrina is a (7) deadly assassin whose (8) hatred for Orbis is tempered only by her (9) twisted love.

Their first encounter was in a (10) small(11) cafe in (12) Switzerland. Lex was on a case and Sabrina was (13) planningher first (14) mission.   

Throughout their careers, their paths have crossed many times. Every meeting is more (15) violentthan the last. Most recently, Sabrina left Lex stranded on (16) the International Space Station.  

It was only with the help of a (17) Russian(18) astronaut that Orbis was able to (19) escape by the skin of his teeth.

Orbis has tracked Sabrina to her hideout. In order to get in, he must first (20) put on a (21) disguise and then (22) overpowerthe guards. The battle will not be easy. She is waiting for him, and she’s just as (23) clever as he is.


No. 339

If it wasn’t the coldest day of the year, it was close. We were at Dana’s, like usual, when there was a knock at the door.

“Tourist,” said Bill Worsley.

I nodded. Nobody from Fox’s Landing comes through the front door at Dana’s. I sipped my tea and watched to see the stranger enter.

As Dana passed us to open up, she pointed and half-whispered a warning. “Be nice.”

You listen to a girl like Dana.

“Welcome to Landing,” I told our guest after he got in and shook himself off. The man had a hungry look about him. Maybe he’d been on the road too long. It’s a drive from anywhere to Landing. I suppose that’s why we like it here.

 He resisted the urge to get some kind of fancy drink, though. I think Dana respects the ones who order regular.   

The man seemed surprised to hear that Dana ran the store. Maybe we all got used to her being on her own after her parents died. It doesn’t seem like so long ago if you think about it, but time passes slower here. There’s less ways to fill it. It’s been five years since she opened the Coffee shop.

Bill started winding the man up. Like I said, there’s less ways to fill time here. Dana caught him just before he got to the punch line, like we haven’t heard it all a hundred times before. “No, Dana, We were just telling the visitor here that you’re ninety-five years old.”

So she threatened to ban us for a third time. At least this one wouldn’t be my fault.

Audrey Harris asked the man’s name.

 “James Docker,” he said as he pulled his chair a little closer to the table. It was our cue to introduce ourselves.

Bill went first, being the talkative one.

I followed. “Frank Macklin.”

Docker’s handshake was solid.

Emily Wills said her name, but so quietly that I don’t think Mr. Docker heard. In any case, he called her “Emmy” directly after.

Oddly, Dana didn’t come back from the kitchen very quickly after bringing Docker’s coffee.  Sometimes she gets like that. I have a feeling she’s embarrassed that she looks so young. But that’s my granddaughter for you.

With introductions complete, we settled back in to our conversation. I kept my eye on Docker.

You can tell the moment that somebody decides to stay in Landing. For our new friend it was just after his second cup. I think I knew it before he did.

No. 338

Fox’s Landing wasn’t a small town, but it wasn’t a large town, either. Every resident could gather in the square with plenty of space left for visitors.

I can’t tell you what possessed me to stop there that night. I saw the glowing “Vacancy” sign in the window of the motel and pulled over.

The morning was cold. I was the only one in the street. I’d asked the man at the front desk where I might find a cup of coffee and he’d told me to head three blocks “toward the bridge” to Dana’s Coffee. Of course, I had no idea where the bridge was, so I made an assumption and walked downhill.

It was unsteady going. There was a thin layer of ice on every surface. I stopped myself from falling more than once, but I eventually found the right storefront.

The hours on the window said Dana’s was open, but the door was locked. I rubbed my hands together and knocked. After a moment’s wait, it opened. I was greeted by a girl who appeared to be no more than seventeen years old.

“Are you open?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Come on in. You must be from out of town.”

“How’d you guess?”

“All the regulars come in through the kitchen until at least ten.”

I peered over her shoulder. It must have been true. I counted at least four other people sitting at a table in the middle of the shop.

“Come in,” she told me. “What can I get started for you?”

I looked briefly at the menu above the counter, but went with my gut. “Black coffee, please. Dark roast, if there’s a choice.”

“Sit anywhere you like,” the girl told me as she went to get my drink.

One of the men at the table motioned for me to join them. “Welcome to Landing,” he told me. “Don’t worry. Dana will have your drink real soon and you won’t have to stay for too long.”

“That’s Dana?” I asked, nodding at the girl.

“Sure is,” said another man. “This is her place.”

He saw the surprise on my face.

“She’s older than she looks.”

Dana returned with my cup. She gave the men an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “Are you spreading lies about me, again?”

“No, Dana. We were just telling the visitor here that you’re ninety-five years old.”

She looked at me. “Twenty-four,” she said. “It’s a game they like to play.” She gave me the coffee and turned back to the regulars. “I don’t want to have to ban you all for the third time.”

They laughed. “Don’t worry. We’ll be good.”

She returned to the kitchen.

“She’ll do it, too,” the second man admitted to me.

“I’ll bet,” I said. I sipped my drink. The coffee was good. Maybe I had time for one more before I got back on the road.


No. 337

The International Space Station had been taken over in an act of cunning treachery. The crewmember responsible, a sleeper agent, was now threatening, for reasons known only to her, to crash the space lab into a major city.

Lex Orbis had been called on to retake the ISS. He was currently stuffed into a Soyuz capsule, approaching the Station at thousands of kilometers per hour. The plan was that Orbis, once in range, would leap out into space and enter the station through the airlock.

At the appointed time, Orbis zipped up his spacesuit and turned to shake hands with the other man in the capsule. “Wish me luck, Boris,” he told the Russian, who, incidentally, knew no English. Then Orbis threw open the hatch and jumped.

Floating free across the void, Orbis had time only to wonder if, perhaps, the taser he’d brought along with him would be enough to subdue the rogue astronaut.   

Seconds later, he hit the side of the ISS and grabbed a support. He clambered over the surface, trying to avoid passing over any windows. He reached the outer door and pulled the emergency handle to let himself in. It worked, and Orbis was soon safely inside.

Now came the hard part of the mission. He’d been told that the mutineer had smuggled a gun on board, and was willing to use it, despite the risk of puncturing the hull. As soon as Orbis unlocked the inner airlock, he’d have mere moments to make his move.

Drawing the taser, he took a deep breath, then kicked the hatch open and dove through.

There was nobody there. All the lights were off and the entire capsule was lit by the glow of a single computer screen. Orbis floated slowly through the empty modules, making sure he was the only person aboard.

When he returned to the computer, the display had changed. There was a message on it.









“Curses!” Orbis swore. They hadn’t told him his opponent’s name. It was Sabrina, Orbis’ old nemesis.

He threw the taser across the compartment angrily, and looked for a way to reboot the guidance system.

Failing to find one, he went with the only other option he could think of. Returning to the airlock, he swiftly cleared both doors and crouched on the lip of the outer hatch, watching the world spin beneath him.

“Boris,” he called over his radio. “I’m going to need a pick-up.”

Then he jumped back out into the void.

No. 336

The fire had jumped across the valley, and now formed an impenetrable wall around all four sides of the stranded group of hikers. Crews were trying desperately to reach them, but were driven away by the heat. The last option was a water-bomber dump directly on the hikers’ position in an attempt to suppress the flames long enough to reach the trapped party.


“Base, this is Dragon 768. We are on approach to the target. Confirm release at grid 27?”

“Roger, Dragon. Grid 27.”

Mike Harrison keyed the radio toggle again. “Copy, Base. We’re going in.” He pushed the control column forward and the enormous plane began its run.

The hot air rising off of the fire made for a bumpy ride.

“Wait until I give the call before hitting the release,” Harrison told his co-pilot, Andrew “Ace” Carol. “They don’t have time for us to go back and refill.”

“Gotcha,” said Ace in his usual laid-back manner.

Harrison often remarked that, when Ace wasn’t flying, it was hard to tell if he was alive.     

Ace claimed “energy conservation”, if he defended himself at all.

The aircraft was seconds from releasing its liquid cargo when Ace sounded the alarm. “Fire warning on the number two engine,” he called, simultaneously pulling the extinguisher handle.

Before Harrison had a chance to respond, Ace made another announcement.

“Fire in number one, too.”

“Leave it,” Harrison commanded. “We need to make the drop. Get ready.”


The hikers watched the plane fly toward them. One wing was trailing a cloud of dark smoke. The aircraft started to wobble as it got closer. Then the belly opened up and released the water over the fire. Several of the hikers were knocked down by the deluge.


“We’re empty,” Harrison shouted. “Cut the engine.”

Ace did as he was told, and the plane lurched sideways as it lost thrust on one side.

Harrison saw the problem immediately. “I can’t correct. We don’t have enough altitude. Hold on.”


Rescue crews reached the hikers just as the bomber hit the ground. Luckily, it crashed just ahead of the fire.  


Harrison lifted his head and looked at the shattered flightdeck. He couldn’t quite remember what had just happened. He felt someone pulling at his shoulder strap and looked slowly in that direction.

It was Ace, who had a nasty gash over his eye, but otherwise seemed to be in good shape.

“We need to go,” he told Harrison. “The tail’s already going up. I don’t want to get cooked.”