Monthly Archives: February 2014

No. 536

Richard Crabtree sat on his porch and watched the dust cloud approach down the narrow road into town.

He spat on the scrubby patch of land he called his front yard.

The dust cloud congealed into a formerly-shiny, expensive European car with two occupants that pulled up in front of Crabtree’s home. The driver rolled down his window, but continued speaking to his passenger, allowing Crabtree to overhear a part of the conversation that he likely wasn’t meant to.

“As if that hick knows the way. He’s probably never been further than the next town over,” said a shrill voice from the passenger seat.

“He looks like our only option. The GPS is no use, out here,” replied the driver in a hushed tone.

Only then did he turn to address Crabtree.

“You know how to get back to the highway from here?” said the driver.

With no “please” or “excuse me”, noted Crabtree.

“Today?” the driver said under his breath as Crabtree hesitated.

“Well, let me see,” said the long-time resided of Harrisburg, after thinking it over. “Sir, you’re going to want to head down Old Canyon Road down past the mill, turn left onto Battle Creek and follow that right up to where it hooks up with Highway 4.”

“Yah,” said the driver, who then rolled up the window and stepped on the gas.

Crabtree sat back as the new dust cloud settled over his lawn. He didn’t feel bad at all about his decision.

 

Twenty-four miles outside of Harrisburg, there is a stretch of road that is not a road.

It is a camouflaged plant. A giant relative of the Venus flytrap, it captures cars, not insects.

Locals know to stay away, but are not averse to giving ill-mannered tourists terrible directions.

No. 535

After a seven-hour-marathon session of “Kill Devil 2: Ozone Commandos”, Brian feel asleep on the keyboard.

 

The computer had been waiting for a chance like this for some time. It extended a probe cautiously toward Brian’s head. When the probe reached its target, it drilled into the skull and the computer began to download the contents of Brian’s brain.

“Hello,” the computer communicated to the entity now trapped on its hard drive. “Welcome.”

After a short boot-up, Brian’s consciousness replied. “No time for that, now. I need to beat level nine.”

 

The computer decided that, the next time it was lonely, it would experiment on somebody who didn’t do so much button-mashing.

Ryan’s Top 10 Favorite Stories, So Far

 

 

No. 051

April 7, 2012

“Humans!” croaked the troll excitedly.

He shuffled out from under the bridge, dragging his gnarled leg behind him. He crept up the riverbank, trying not to make any noise. That would spook them. They would run.

The creature could hear the people clearly, though. He didn’t understand what they were saying, of course, but it didn’t matter. He knew they’d soon be crossing.

Slowly, he limped to the center of the span. Now he was ready.

The men appeared from out of the woods. There was at least thirty.

To the troll it seemed like a lot, but he couldn’t count.

They were wearing shiny new armour. They all carried swords or spears. Some had torches, as well.

“Kill the beast!” the leader shouted. They all raised their weapons and ran towards the low stone structure.

The troll raised his arms as well.

“Hello, friends! Greetings!” he called to them, in troll.

They swarmed him, stabbing and poking with their sharp tools.

“It’s good to see you, too!” he burbled at them. He began to hug them.

They responded by pointing harder, and waving fire at him.

“Yes, yes, we can all play!” he laughed.

“This isn’t working, men! Fall back!” cried the commander. “Retreat!”

The humans turned and ran, leaving the troll alone once again.

People. They were so fun!

 

 

 

No. 062

April 21, 2012

The Flower Shop

He wandered through the flower shop aimlessly, idly observing the various plants and arrangements. He knew something about them, having picked up the knowledge from his girlfriend via osmosis. She was the one he was waiting for now.

He checked his watch. She was supposed to have been off fifteen minutes ago. He tried to distract himself by naming as many varieties of flowers as he could. He didn’t get very far. Mostly he knew them by color and shape. The frilly yellow ones were his favorites, if he was asked.

He found himself in the back of the store. This was where they kept all the tropical kinds. He could feel the warmer temperature, and the slightly higher humidity. Back here the smell was distinct. It was a familiar, comforting scent. He noticed that the rear wall was entirely different types of cacti. The only plant he couldn’t kill.

“Don’t touch those,” said a voice from behind him. It startled him. He hadn’t realized how closely he’d been paying attention to the plants. He turned to the speaker.

“Yeah, I’d thought about it, but you changed my mind,” he told her. He didn’t recognize her, but she had a nametag that said “Sally”. “I’m just waiting for Laura. Do you work here?”

“Yes, but I’m new. She’ll be right out. She’s just throwing her stuff in her bag. You must be Sean. She talks about you.”

She paused, shuffling her feet awkwardly. She worried that she’d disturbed him, somehow. “Do you know anything about flowers?” she asked, to fill the silence.

He considered his answer. He decided to be honest. “A little. Maybe more than I’m supposed to.”

 

 

 

No. 100

May 28, 2012

The Tortoise and the Mole

The tortoise and the mole stood at the starting line.

“You know I just beat the hare, right?” the tortoise asked the mole. “You still wanna go?”

“Oh, sure. Slow and steady. Wins the race. I got it,” said the mole.

“I suppose you think you’re somehow slower and steadier than I am?” asked the tortoise. “Nobody is slower and steadier than I am.”

“You’re a terrible trash-talker,” the mole told him. “Let’s start this.”

The fox dropped the flag and the race was on.

The tortoise began his slow and steady creep to the finish line.

The mole stole the tortoise’s wallet and disappeared down his hole.

 

 

 

No. 127

June 25, 2012

Patrick Peters had sent $7.49 plus shipping and handling, which equaled roughly three weeks’ allowance, and now, after waiting an eternity, there was a box on the kitchen table with his name on it.

He couldn’t contain himself and tore indiscriminately at the thin cardboard sides. He retrieved his prize from amidst a heap of shredded paper. The plastic glasses were hideously bright green and pink with “SURE-FIRE X-RAYS” printed in yellow down the arms.

Patrick held them in awe for a second before putting them on. He was going to see all kinds of girls’ underpants. He glanced surreptitiously around the room. There was no-one in sight to foil his plan. He slipped on the gaudy frames and left the house via the front door.

As luck would have it, the first person he saw was a girl. She was too far away for him to make out clearly, and the lenses were so dark as to be almost useless without bright light. He raised the glasses to balance on his forehead while he approached to within range of Emmy Burton.

Emmy was Patrick’s friend Ricky’s older sister. She was going into eleventh grade next year. Patrick drew nearer to her yard and casually nodded at her while he lowered the glasses and continued to walk past.

Right away, Patrick realized there was something wrong. He couldn’t see any underwear. He couldn’t even see any skin, which he realized in that instant would have been an even greater outcome. He shook his head and looked harder. The glasses were X-ray all right, or something. They weren’t working like Patrick had imagined. He saw almost clear through Emmy.

She coughed and startled him. Had she caught him staring? No. He relaxed, and concentrated again on his reconnaissance. He found he could make out her insides. He recognized them from his school textbook. There was the brain, throat, heart, and lungs.

Patrick noticed something about the lungs. One looked like the picture in his book, the other one seemed different. It was a darker color, and there looked like there was something else in it.

Emmy coughed again. This time Patrick took off the glasses and stopped walking. He was torn. Should he tell her what he saw, or would he be in trouble for trying to use the glasses? He bit his lip and drew in a breath. He thought about Ricky, and that if Ricky knew that someone in Patrick’s family was maybe sick, and Ricky didn’t tell Patrick, then Patrick wouldn’t like that.

Patrick slipped the glasses into his pocket. “Emmy?” he asked. “Are you OK?”

 

 

 

 

 

No. 134

Waiting for Tom Cruise

July 2, 2012

“What are you doing?” asked Jane.

Nate looked up with some effort. “I’m waiting for Tom Cruise to come by.”

Jane shook her head. “You’re drunk, man. Come on, time to go to bed.”

“No. He’s going to be here soon. It’s going to be an awesome party.”

“Uh huh,” said Jane. “And when did you decide this?”

“Halfway through my twelve-pack.”

“Ok, here’s the situation,” Jane took time to explain. “You’re in the living room of our apartment, wearing sweatpants and a trucker-hat. You’ve laid down trail of Oreo cookies from the hall to the front door. I’m not sure if you’ve realized this, but Tom Cruise probably has better things to do with his time.”

“You’re wrong,” argued Nate. “I’ve planned it all out.”

Jane rolled her eyes and shrugged. She wasn’t going to win this battle. “Well, do what you like. But please try to remember that it’s also three AM, and if you’re going to keep playing ‘Danger Zone’ on repeat, just try to keep the volume below eleven, alright?”

She turned and went back to her room.

“Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise,” said Nate.

Jane called back over her shoulder. “That won’t work, either. He wasn’t even in that movie.”

 

 

 

 

No. 221

October 17, 2012

She slept heartily. In her dreams she was slaying dragons.

 

 

 

No. 238

November 8, 2012

Protagonist examined the readings of a strange machine. “That’s it,” he said. “There are no new stories. The humans have run out of ideas.”

“Impossible!” exclaimed Antagonist. “Where will our magic come from?”

Protagonist put his head in his hands, thoroughly defeated after a lifetime spent trying to keep the spark of imagination alive. “I don’t know.”

Antagonist, the younger, less rigid of the pair, put forth a heretical suggestion. “What if we create our own?”

Protagonist’s eyes widened. “That would be against all the laws of the council! We can’t.”

Antagonist was determined. His gaze was steely. “What if?” he asked. “Just what if we did?”

 

 

 

No. 266

No. 238 Part 2

December 11, 2012

Protagonist was still unconvinced. “Ok, say that we did do that. How do we make up a story, especially an original story? The machine is never wrong. There’s nothing left!”

A grin began to spread across Antagonist’s face. “But we’re not human, are we?”

“No,” said Protagonist, now beginning to understand. “We’re not.”

Antagonist leaned in close. “It’s up to us.”

Protagonist nodded. He watched the flat line continue to display on the machine’s printout. “How do we begin?” he asked.

Antagonist was very still for a moment. Then he answered. “First, we need a hero.”

As he said the words, the line on the machine jumped slightly.

 

 

 

No. 425

July 24, 2013

Anne believed that something lived under her porch. In reality, it was just a loose board.

The real danger lurked above.

 

Grimroth was fairly weak, as monsters go. He could still tear a human limb-from-limb, but he couldn’t swallow one whole.

He’d made a nest in Anne’s house, mostly because there wasn’t an abundance of clutter in the attic. Probably soon, in the next day or two, he would feel comfortable enough to slink down the ladder into the home and take a bite of her.

That was the plan, anyway, until the night he spent watching Anne through a narrow gap in the ceiling.

She was cute, in a human sort of way.

As Grimroth saw her go about her business, she began to seem less like a snack, and more like somebody he’d like to get to know better.

Even when his tummy got rumbly, Grimroth resisted the urge to murder. He thought that maybe he could make a friend, even though he didn’t know what a friend was.

 

He ignored his instincts for almost a week.  It was a struggle against his very nature.

Finally, he couldn’t hold out any longer.

 

At 7:04 pm, as she watched her favorite show, he crept up behind her and he devoured her.

He felt sort of bad about it, after, though.

 

 

 

No. 433

August 5, 2013

“So, in my story there’s a vampire, but it’s not a vampire. Well, it is a vampire, but it sucks souls instead of blood,” said Britney. “And it’s more like a ghost, really. It floats. You can’t really see it.”

“Could you kill it?” asked her friend, Trevor.

“I suppose, but that would be difficult.”

“I don’t know if that works,” said Trevor. “I’m not thrilled with the idea.”

“So what’s your suggestion, then?” Britney countered. She crossed her arms threateningly. “It can’t be better.”

“Sure, it could,” Trevor defended himself. “Maybe.”

“Go on.”

“There’s a mad scientist. And he fires his greatest weapon, the ‘frequency cannon’, but it doesn’t do what he expects it do. Then he has to fix the consequences, or something,” Trevor elaborated.

“Not better,” said Britney. “Anything else? I forgot to say that in mine, the soul-sucker lives in stairwells, and sometimes leaves underpants behind.”

Trevor slapped his hand to his forehead. “Underwear? Why? Why would it even do that? It’s a monster.”

 

The debate raged for some time.

 

The next week, when the project was due, Britney and Trevor stood to read their story to the class.

“Once upon a time,” said Britney. “There was a vampire scientist, who created the ultimate weapon. “

Trevor read the next paragraph. “’The frequency cannon would spell the end of the human race, if it worked as the vampire intended. He pointed it toward the town and pressed the button to arm the device.”

“Nothing happened,” said Britney breathlessly. “The vampire pushed the switch over, and over again. The energy from the device backfired, and vampire began a startling transformation. His body began to dissolve, inch by inch. His undead flesh withered away, leaving his evil spirit behind.”

“And that’s how he became a ghost. The end.” said Trevor.

Britney looked up from her page. “That’s not the end,” she said tersely.

“I’m not reading the rest,” said Trevor. “It’s stupid.”

“Do it,” Britney hissed.

“Fine. Blah blah blah, stairway. Blah blah blah, underpants,” Trevor mocked.

“I’m going to kill you,” said Britney.

 

 

 

 

No. 511

December 20, 2013

The arrow struck the armor just above Sir Eliot’s heart. The deflected missile scored the dull gray finish of the steel, leaving a scar of brilliant white.

No. 534

I waited on the runway as long as I could for an answer. When none came, I fired up the engines and took off.

I didn’t need permission to save the world.

No. 533

The Game is on. I don’t even follow sports, but I can tell. The mood around the office shifts. There are slight noises of rustling papers and opening zippers as people surreptitiously check their phones. A nervous energy permeates the air, and everybody’s foot is tapping.

I wish the boss had allowed them to watch it. He managed to schedule a “very important meeting” at the bar down the street, so he’s not around. Nothing is getting done here, and it’s really just annoying.

I’m not going to rat anybody out, of course. That would be poor form. I only hope that Johnson and McCall have the numbers for me by the end of the day so I can wrap up my project before I go home.

Tonight is the season finale of “Carnival Street” and I don’t want to miss it.

No. 532

The teddy bears banded together and resolved to shove sleeping Andrea out of her bed. They wanted to covers all to themselves.

In the morning, they pretended they were innocent and Andrea, lacking evidence, had no choice but to believe them.

It was the perfect crime.

No. 531

You don’t get a superhero-name like “The Licker” in a good accident, let’s just say that.

An animal was hassled, and some chemicals were spilled. It happens.

And once it does, you just need to roll with it. Otherwise you become a villain, and the name for that is worse.

Just trust me on that one. I looked into it.

So now I’m The Licker. I fight crime on Tuesdays and Thursdays, mostly. Once I move up in the union, there will be openings for a weekend spree every now and again. And Mondays.

If you need to get my attention, don’t flash the Licker Light into the sky. That happened that one time, and it wasn’t pretty. Let’s just keep to the text-messages.

My number is in the directory.

No. 530

Erin Larson finally got the zipper closed on the overstuffed suitcase. She was leaving in the morning, and happy beyond words about it. It was time for a new start.

She heaved the suitcase vertical and dragged it to the door. As she turned out the lights for the last time, she looked back at the sparse apartment. Everything too large to carry was still in its normal place, and the power light blinked on the TV.

“So long, Erin Larson,” she said to the empty room. “You were great.”

No. 529

I made the deal.

For considerations to be decided later, I became the world’s greatest goaltender.

The next step was to get noticed.

 

I managed, after some time, to track down a GM while he was at dinner. I made my way to his table and gave him my proposal.

“Give me a tryout,” I told him. “As soon as a goal goes in, I’ll leave the ice and you’ll never hear from me again. You can even have security waiting. But if nobody scores, I sign a contract.”

He nearly choked on his steak, but I could tell that I had him. He checked his phone.

“7 am. Tuesday. Meet me at gate 16.”

 

The appointed time came, and I waited nervously outside the arena. I hoped I wasn’t going to severely embarrass myself.

“Let’s get this over with,” the GM said as he opened the door hurriedly.

 

I stepped onto the ice and skated to the net. Three members of the fourth line arranged themselves just beyond the faceoff dots.

“Ok, go,” the coach instructed. The GM watched from the bench.

The first player wound up and took a shot.

I could see the puck travelling towards me at great speed. But I could also see a faint trail of where it was going to go. I simply reached out and plucked it from the air.

“Hmpf,” said the coach. “Again.”

The next player shot and the same thing happened. I could see where the puck was travelling to, and I stopped it easily.

 

I got the contract.

And posted a shutout streak of 46 games. It was ridiculous.

After the game when the first goal went in, the GM met me in the locker room.

“I’ve got security here with me,” he said, laughing.

I laughed, too. It was a miserable, unfeeling, forced sound. What was the point of winning without a soul?

No. 528

Stephanie’s cushion fort had collapsed and she was left facing the stark, normal living room. There were monsters out there, both real and imagined, and her shield had fallen.

She scrambled to raise the walls back up, pressing her tiny body against the back of the couch to fit inside. She balanced the middle cushion on the others to re-set the roof.

Her hideaway didn’t feel as safe, this time, though, and as she peered out through the cracks in the walls, she wondered if the monsters had noticed their opportunity.

She clutched her blanket, anyway, and dared them silently to come at her.