Lunch Thief

It’s been a long and stressful morning in the lab, trying to crack the same intractable problem. It feels like I’ve been at this for years with no progress. But that doesn’t matter because it’s time for my mid-day feed. I take my lunch bag out of the bottom left desk drawer and open it.

Instead of a too-light (I’m trying to lose weight) supply of food that I remember putting in there, the sole content of the bag is a note, scrawled on the back of an old torn notebook page. Damned grad students.

I unfold the note, wondering what sophomoric nonsense is written there. My eyebrow rises when I see my own spidery scrawl.

Thanks for the lunch, loser me. Consider it my reward for solving the Problem.

I stare at the note in frustration. What the hell does that mean? I turn the note over to see if there’s any clues as to which student forged my handwriting.

The other side of the page is dated October 4; it’s April now; I guess they cannibalized one of my old notebooks to… wait. I don’t remember writing this, either. In fact, it looks like… AHA!

There in my own handwriting is the solution to the Problem. With this breakthrough I can create a working time scoop in a couple of hours! And I know what past artifact I’m going to take first: yesterday’s lunch was really good, and I’m hungry. The best part is I don’t even have to write a new note to taunt my past self. I can just use this one.


Fluid Leak

The human seems to be completely fooled by my holographic disguise; he is reacting as though I am a member of his species. He reaches out a hand toward me.

“Doc, you gotta help me!”

I give him a cursory scan. The integument on his lower abdomen has separated and is oozing red fluid; the situation seems to displease him. While technically I should minimize interaction with the local life forms, the image of my disguise is to be that of a care practitioner; failing to act would jeopardize my 'cover'.

I am about to speak to him when I notice another human landing on the walkway. He says something about being ‘stabbed’ at a high volume and begins groaning. This species seems to be rather accident-prone. In the case of the second human, literally. I return to the matter at hand.

“Please open your garment, sir.”

He does; his integument is definitely ruptured. I take a quick sample of the fluid and then ensure his optic sensors are focused on me.

“Turn off your fluid pump, please.”


“Turn off your fluid pump to minimize the leak. The liquid it emits will otherwise impede repairs.”

“What the hell are you talking about, Doc?”

I touch his thorax superstructure and administer sufficient voltage to disable his fluid pump. As anticipated, the rate of leakage slows. A quick thermal weld seals the damaged tube, but the human seems to have entered hibernation mode. I can restart him later.

As I locomote to the other man I note that human movement is inherently unstable. That may be the reason he fell. There is a small pool of red fluid around him. I rotate the man so his damaged section is more accessible. His problem is immediately obvious; there is a piece of sharpened metal disrupting his integument. I remove it and the leak commences gushing much like the other man's had.

This time I know what to do. I shut down his fluid pump immediately and weld the damaged fluid line. It would be best to allow the system to cool down before restarting him, I think.

I update my log file; humans appear to have an extensive internal fluid network of unknown purpose. I stand up and scan the area for more of the creatures; further experimentation is required.

Carnival Ship

This is a bit of backstory for my one published work, but it seems to read okay on its own.

The Golden Carnival lies in black outline against the actinide pinpricks of the stars. Its silhouette and the spiderwork of the airshield look worse for wear even though they’ve been left unattended for five years. Ever since the raiders killed her crew and left the husk of the ship on this asteroid.

Stefani calls me on my suit radio.

“Are you sure you want to do this, Sooki?”

“Yes Captain. This is where it all began.”

I turn on the gravity belt that would keep my feet pointing downward and allow me to walk. Then I check the pressure seals and air supply on my vacuum suit and step out the airlock into my past.

The utility station at the carnival entrance is in good condition; I hope this works. Two standard power cells should light the place up for about an hour. I say a silent prayer.

There are a few sparks from the airshield, but I didn't think it would work anyway. Otherwise the place awakens in a fountain of bright lights, looking just like it did when I first saw it as a child eighteen years ago.

I start at the Roller Coaster. There’s no way the thing still works, but it’s lit up as though it does. Rissa used to fling out bits of food and try to hit patrons as we rushed over them; I used to struggle to keep my stomach contents inside where they belonged.

Oddly enough I preferred the Spin Ride. If I closed my eyes it just felt like gravity; Rissa said it was boring. It still works so I take the two-minute ride, imagining Rissa lying across my chest and pressing on me with all three G’s the ride generated. That’s when the tears start.

I almost spot her in the Hall of Holograms, our images being stretched and squeezed and rendered in three-dimensional detail. But she’s not here.

We grew up working the carnival learning about life and work and fun, about machines and how to make them work when they broke, about how to operate a starship, about boys and how they could… well, learning about boys.

And through it all Rissa and I were a team. She was from the same world as me, sold to the carnival owners at the same time. We matured together and through some miracle were both sold to Stefani together. Life was a grand adventure, even for slaves.

In the Fun House I sneak into the back, carefully checking even though I know nobody’s watching. The blankets and tarps are still piled in the usual place. I remember lying back to back with Rissa, the warmth of her flesh bringing me confidence as the boys on either side of us introduced two curious girls into the ways of womanhood. They left afterwards, so Rissa and I enjoyed the afterglow huddled in each others’ arms.

Just like she wanted, this is the place. Where she first got laid is where she’ll lay forever; that sort of dark humour is so like her. I carefully place the urn holding her ashes.

“Good-night Clarissa. Rest in peace, my friend.”

DNA Double 4

This story has been posting on Mondays since February 15. Nancy Bellarmine has found out that she is not quite as human as she thought she was.

Skye plunks down across from me in the cafeteria; as usual there’s a malodorous squelch when she sets her paper lunch bag down. I’m not vegan or anything, but my rule is that meat shouldn’t smell like dead animal with mustard.

“You were totally out of it in Science today, Nan.”

“You noticed?”

“Everybody noticed. It was when Mrs. Abrogast asked you to identify that picture of an asteroid and you said it was ovaries. You were up late looking at those files, weren’t you?”

“Yeah, a little too late. Then I had a nightmare about it.”

“You should have a piece of toast with melted limburger just before bedtime; it keeps bad dreams away.”

“It keeps everything away!”

“It doesn’t keep Washington away.”

I raise an eyebrow.

“Not like that! I didn’t mean that! He’s not my boyfriend, okay? He just likes limburger!”

Watching her face turn red and everyone turning to look at her gives me my first real laugh of the day. That’s a lot of protesting for a boy whom I’d never met before yesterday.

“Anyway, Nan, did you find out anything?”

“No. Yes. Maybe. Apparently her name wasn’t Kathryn, it was April, and she was an alien or mutant or something. Do you remember Science last year when we studied sex?”

“Don’t you mean Health?”

“No, Biology. All that stuff about chromosomes. Remember, boys are XY, girls are XX? Well she was an XZ. I looked on the internet and only birds and reptiles have a Z chromosome.”

“Does that mean she was part lizard?”

“Yuck, no! I don’t think so. I hope not. I have the same DNA as her, remember?”

“Maybe you’re part chicken. Try clucking and laying an egg.”

“Skye! I am not a chicken!”

Once the attention dies down, I decide that this conversation is over. We eat lunch in silence.


Skye takes it up again on the way to the mall after school.

“You know, Nan, those files didn’t say you were awful or anything; in fact they say you’re better than normal. That’s what ‘transhuman’ means.”

“Maybe, but… Wait! You read them?”

“I looked through them. Washington got them for me, remember? I didn’t even try to understand what they said, except that you’re somehow better than us mere mortals. Have you noticed any super powers recently?”

“My hair grows fast.”

“That’s it?”

“As far as I can tell. If I concentrate I can make it grow an inch in about five minutes. If I do it too much I get hungry.”

“Can you make it move?”

“No, but I can make it come out straight or curly. Lighter or darker, too; I had blonde hair for a bit this morning.”

“That’s awesome! If someone puts gum in your hair you can fix it in no time flat.”

“Did we just time travel back to the third grade?”

“No, think about it; if you want to change your hairstyle you can just grow a new one! No need for dye or perms or any of that stuff. If you have a bad hair day you can just shave your head and start over from scratch. It’s actually pretty cool when you think about it.”

“Skye, I no longer think of myself as the weird one.”

“I mean it, Nan. Look, life has dumped this on you and I don’t think it’s going to go away any time soon. You might as well make the most of it.”

A Wedding, with Crocodiles

“… let him speak now or forever hold his peace.”

The preacher glanced over the congregation and waited the required two seconds while I stared down at my lovely bride Rhianna in her white dress and veil.

“Then, by the power–“


I whirled to face the door, now lying off its hinges at the back of the church. Mary, my ex-wife, raised the rocket launcher to her shoulder and fired. With a colossal roar Rianna’s head exploded, spraying fragments of skull in every direction. The minister and I were thrown backward and someone in the congregation screamed.

“I object; the bride is out of her head.”


“What the f--k yourself, John? When did you start shacking up with this b-tch, an hour after I left? You didn’t notice that she was a f--king supernatural monster? Or were you too busy f--king the supernatural monster to notice?”

“What are you talking about, Mary? You just blew her head off with a f--king rocket!”

“Did it slow her down, John?”

While Mary was reloading I turned and looked. Rhianna was shaking herself and growing a new head. I watched as the night-black hair, dark eyes and ruby lips I’d fallen hopelessly in love with on first sight of her returned, the only sign of her recent decapitation being a red fringe around the top of her dress.

“My God, Rhianna, you’re a vampire!”

She sneered at me with venom in her eyes. “I am not a vampire, you overfunded piece of meat! Like many reptilians, I regenerate. The only thing I want to suck dry is your bank account!”

I laughed out loud and pointed at Mary.

“Then you should be marrying her! She got everything in the divorce!”

Mary fired another rocket up the center aisle, blowing the altar to marble shards. Rhianna pushed me lightly toward it.

“For once, Johnathan, I will take your advice. Nasser! Osiris! Finish him!”

She stalked up the aisle as two huge crocodiles emerged from the nursery. Several smaller crocs followed them and started chasing the congregation. The guests panicked and filled the aisles, yet somehow Rhianna slithered through them like a reptile through still water. Mary’s voice rose above the clamour.

“Get out of my way! I can’t get a clear shot!”

I looked around for a weapon but there was nothing other than the large altar cross with corpus. I grabbed the heavy crucifix and presented it forcefully toward the big crocodiles.

“The power of Christ compels you!”

They didn’t find it very compelling.

Finally I had to use it as a bludgeon, swinging it hard and calling out “Sorry, Jesus!” with each strike. But the damn crocs were fast for big dumb reptiles and I only got in a couple of glancing blows. It did keep them occupied while the church emptied, though.

Finally the crocodiles backed off and I looked around. The only ones left inside were Me, Rhianna, Mary, the crocs, and a half-dozen bloodied corpses. Mary stood there slack-jawed, Rhianna’s arm around her waist. I remember that dazed expression from when I first met Rhianna.

My former fiance’s sultry voice carried up the aisle.

“Thanks for the tip, John. Don’t come after us or I will have you eaten.”

Then she and Mary turned and walked out, followed by the crocodiles. As they left I couldn’t help but think that once again my ex-wife got everything and left me with the bill.


DNA Double 3

Fifteen year old Nancy Bellarmine has found a set of medical files on a girl who looks like her and has the same DNA as her, but died before Nancy was even born.
Part 1 was Feb 15, Part 2 was Feb 22. See the pattern?

I wake up suddenly, my heart pounding in my chest. I’m soaked in sweat and my breath is coming in ragged gasps. I have a death-grip on the front of my nightgown. As the panic subsides I realize I’m sitting in bed. I pull my knees up to my chest, hug them and start crying.

I’m not human.

But if I’m not human then what the heck am I?

All those files; they’re about her, but they’re also about me. I can feel it. The pictures of her look exactly like me. But that makes sense, I have the same DNA as she does. Does that mean my insides are just as screwed up? Does that mean I only look human?

What about my life? What about my memories and all the stuff that makes me an individual? What about Nancy Bellarmine? Do I even exist?

The written documents raised a lot more questions than they answered. They’re reports on me – on her – but so much of it is in long Greek words that aren’t in the online dictionary and the few that are involve medical disorders. I have no idea what it really says except for one word.


It’s like in those superhero movies; I’m a mutant, the next step in human evolution or something like that. And that means people are going to hate me. I just wish the whole thing came with super powers like it does in the movies. What happens if I go all flesh-eating zombie on people, or break out in green skin and warts?

I wish I hadn’t looked at those files.

A shiver grabs my back and shakes it. A sense of coldness soaks through my spine and then my entire body. When my teeth start chattering I realize it’s time to do something about it.

The shower is warm and wet, more water sluicing down my body but this time in a good way. The aroma of the body wash is soothing and the action of scrubbing down my skin with the loofah is scraping away the alien and leaving nothing but the old Nancy, the one who isn’t scared and alone and ashamed. I take the time to wash my hair too, as much to extend the warmth and comfort of the shower as for general cleanliness.

When I finally shut the water off Mom’s banging on the bathroom door.

“Nancy honey, are you all right? It’s two o’clock in the morning.”

What can I say to her? No Mom, I’m not all right. I’m a mutant monster; any second now I’m going to sprout tentacles and tear you apart. I grab the edge of the sink and make up a half-lie.

“I’m fine, Mom. I just had a bad dream and woke up all sweaty and disgusting.”

“Do you need to talk about it?”

This time it’s a complete lie.

“No, I’m okay. I’ll be all right.”

I take my time drying off, doing a careful inspection as I go. Nothing seems to be missing and there’s no extra body parts sticking out. It’s not until I take the towel off my head and start the quick-brush of my hair that I notice it’s about two inches longer than when I went to bed.

I am such a freak.

No Alligators

I called out to her, “Doctor Susa?”

The dark-skinned raven-tressed beauty turned toward me, her brown eyes pinning me in place. Her deep green dress had a hemline just low enough to hide her panties and a bodice just high enough to keep the police at bay. Her strappy wedge sandals and crimson smile completed the come-hither effect from head to toe, and left only one question: why was she in the storm sewers?

“Ah, Doctor Anderson; I was hoping you’d come.” She put just a little too much emphasis on the word come.

“What are you doing down here? The alligators…”

“It’s all right; I know how to handle the wildlife down here.”

The way she said handle made me want to be part of the wildlife. Not that it would help: gators see us as a source of meat and that’s about it. Sometimes you get a guy like me who respects them and whom they respect. That’s why they call me the Gator Whisperer, and that's why the city called me in to deal with their alligator problem.

“Doctor Susa –Rhianna– it is totally unsafe for you to be down here. Three sewer workers have already been killed; the gators have obviously got a taste for human flesh. That’s why the city called me in to assess the situation and give recommendations on how to control them.”

“But Jeffrey, there’s no need to control the alligators. They’re all dead.”

“I sincerely doubt that. The environment down here is totally protected and they have no natural enemies. They’re not going to just die off.”

She sashayed toward me in a way that made me repeat two kids and a loving wife like a mantra. When she rested her slender arms on my shoulders I almost forgot the words.

“Read my lips, Jeffrey; there are no alligators down here.”

Just then I heard the rumbled chuff of a mature bull ‘gator.

“Then what was that?”

“Oh, that? That’s Nasser, one of my crocodiles. He was just saying that you smell delicious.”


“Well, you do.” She licked her lips in anticipation. “You’re pretty big, so he’ll probably leave some for me. Do say hello to Steve Irwin when you get to the other side.”


DNA Double 2

Part 1 was posted on February 15, a couple of entries down from here. Fifteen year-old Nancy Bellarmine has been told that she has the same DNA as a woman who died years ago.

- - - - -

A week of searching has turned up one picture of Kathryn Abrams. It’s one of those photos the police use when they want the public to come forward with tips about someone. Kathryn Abrams had a fake driver’s license on her when she died in 1999.

The thing is aside from the overdone updo and the California tan she looks like a twenty-year old me. I still have no idea who she was or why she had my DNA. When I asked my friend Skye about it she came up with the same list I had: time travel, clone, other-dimension me, or alien imposter. All impossible. But she asked her friend Washington, a guy with some incredible search-fu, to look into it.

Mom suggested we visit New Orleans on her vacation. I said sure and she started planning. I still want to get to California, but her deflection the first time told me that wasn’t going to happen.

This is soo frustrating!


“So I heard from Washington.”

We’re halfway across the mall parking lot with nobody around, so I stop and take Skye’s hand. “And?”

“He found something, but he won’t tell me what it is. He wants to meet us at the Bowel Movement.”



Which gives us zero time for shopping. We turn around and head out to the free-standing restaurant at the far edge of the parking lot. The sign says BurgerMeister, but nobody calls it that.

Washington is easy to spot; he’s at one of the outside tables with his laptop out. With his black jeans, black tee, and near-black skin he looks like a shadow with eyes or something out of a scary movie.

He pulls it closed as we jog up.

“Hey Washington.”

“Hey Skye.” He looks me up and down, which makes me feel a little bit weird. “You must be Nancy. You look just like your picture.”

“So what did you find?”

“Payment first, Skye.”

Payment? She didn’t say anything to me about payment. Washington hands me his phone with the camera app open.

“Okay, but on the cheek.”

“On the lips, girl. Considering what I got it’s worth it.”

“It had better be.”

The two of them lip-lock and I dutifully take a couple of pictures. After half a minute or so Skye starts thumping his chest.

“Washington! That was a hell of a lot more than I promised!”

“When you see it you’ll know it was worth it; I am the master, after all.”

“Yeah, sure.”

After pocketing his phone he opens the ‘top. A few clicks later the screen fills with a picture of me. A naked picture of me.

It’s one of those clinical pictures of people like you’d use to make a CGI model; front, back, both sides, close-up of the face. It’s not porno but I push the lid shut anyway. That’s way too bizarre.

“Where did you get this?”

“You have it taken, girl? We could probably get some better– oww!“

I stop driving my thumb into his shoulder joint.

“Where did you get this picture?”

“Chill, Nancy! It’s not you, she just kinda looks like you. I really doubt you looked like this twenty years ago.”

“Twenty years ago?”

“Yeah. The file’s date-stamped 1996. All of them are.”

“All of them?”

“Yeah, there’s a whole folder, plus a couple of doc files that talk about medical stuff. Somebody was seriously studying this girl.”

“What do you want for a copy?”

“You really look like that?”

“Close enough to creep me out.”

“Then it’s free. I’m just not deleting my backup.”

I seriously consider beating his head in with his own laptop.

“What would it take for you to delete it?”

“Too late girl. The genie’s already out of the bottle,” He gives me a quick look up and down. “And I can never un-see it, not that I want to.”

I fight down the urge to throttle him and gouge his eyes out. He’s right; if he can find it once, he can find it again. I just want to get this over with.

“Don’t share it or post it anywhere, okay. That would be awful!”

“You have my word as a gentleman.” He closes the picture and then hands me a USB stick. “It’s all yours, Nancy. Pleasure doing business with you.”

Skye returns to my original question.

“Where did you get this, Washington?”

“Deep web. You know, the places where little kiddies and their search engines don’t go.”

“Then how did you find it?”

“I told you, I'm the master. But if you really want to know where I found it, it’s going to cost a lot more than a kiss.”

“In your dreams, boy.”

I take Skye’s hand. “Come on, let’s go.”

“It’s okay, Nan, you go. Washington and I have some things to talk about. You probably want to look at that stuff anyway.”

“Okay, bye.” She’s right; all I want to do is go home and read this. As I leave she’s sitting down next to him. A lot closer than I would. I try not to think about it as I start for the bus stop.


I stare at the spectacle before me in utter disbelief; a part of me thinks ‘udder’ disbelief but I quash it.

“You have got to be kidding.”

Sooki chews her lower lip. “I don’t know, Chief. The brochure says vodimorphs can be trained to do a number of tasks.”

“It also says if you squeeze their breasts you can get milk. Fresh is one thing, but I don’t drink straight from the cow, especially not if she’s a member of my crew. Tanni, on the other hand, would be too busy sucking to fly the ship.”

Sooki laughs. She’s been pretty morose since Rissa’s death, especially since they were best friends. Unfortunately, as captain I have to bury my grief and think of my ship first. That’s why we’re here at the slave market.

A man with a predatory smile oozes up and stands too close to me.

“Good morning, Miss…?”

Captain Stefani Danger. I’m a bit confused by your demonstration. Why do you have your cow-people riding bicycles?”

“It shows off both their power and their agility. A vodimorph is strong, graceful, and of an even temperament. And unlike other morph species you can even breed the females.”

“With other vodimorphs, I assume.”

“Or with humans if you prefer. Of course the offspring will be sterile, but it allows a single vodimorph to assist in many ways.”

“And allows multiple generations of slaves, which is against the law.”

“They are not slaves, Miss Danger; they are livestock. That’s what Imperial law says about all morphs. Otherwise it would also be illegal to eat the offspring.”


“Yes, they’re an excellent source of protein and are unable to contract or transmit any human disea… urk!”

I lift him to tiptoes by his lapels. “You are talking about eating sentient creatures?”

“Ah, you’re one of those.” He pushes away from me. “It’s all perfectly legal, Captain. If you can’t live in this century it’s your problem, not Morphco’s.”

Sooki drags me away before I pull out my bolter. This guy desperately needs a 20-gram low-velocity slug in the head, but it wouldn’t be worth the legal hassle. I’m about to turn back and do it anyway when she pulls my face down and kisses me.

“What’s that about, Sooki? I thought Tanni was the only one into girls.”

“Tanni’s into anything breathing. I just did it to get your attention. Focus, Chief; we need a new navigator. This is not the time for a crusade.”

I sigh. “You’re right. I can’t solve all the galaxy’s ills in one day, can I? Well, back to business. My online search showed an eleven-year old human Coreworlder with her Level One Navigator certification, name of ‘Enna’. Let’s see if she’s still available for purchase.”


DNA Double

The man came up and shook my hand; he looked more like an accountant than an FBI agent.

“Miss Bellarmine; it’s a pleasure to meet you in person.”

“Uh, the same; call me Nancy. Can I ask why you called me here, Agent Carlson? You said on the phone there was something you wanted to discuss.”

“Yes. If you could follow me to an interview room.”

“Am I wanted for something?”

“No, no, at least not that I’m aware of. We just need your help with a few questions.”

I must be wanted for something. Police never ask ‘a few questions’ without a reason. At least that’s what happens on all the cop shows. I follow him into the interview room with more than a little trepidation. I wonder why he didn’t invite Mom.

He opens a file folder and looks at it. “Does the name Kathryn Abrams mean anything to you?”

“No; should it?”

“Are you sure? Perhaps she’s an aunt, or a cousin. Anything at all?”

“Sorry. My mother was an only child; I don’t have any aunts or cousins that I know of. My father ditched her before I was born, so there could be something on that side. Who is she?”

“We were hoping you could tell us. Her body was found in a crashed car at the bottom of a cliff in California.”

“That’s awful! But why do you think I’d know about her?”

“She and you have a DNA match.”

“So she’s related to me?”

“Not exactly; according to the DNA, she is you.”

“That’s not possible! I thought everybody had different DNA.”

“That’s what we thought, too. But the two of you are an exact match.”

“That’s weird.”

“It gets weirder. She died seventeen years ago.”

“Okay, something is definitely wrong. I wasn’t even born then. There’s got to be some kind of mistake.”

I feel like I just stepped into the X-Files. How could someone with the same DNA as me even exist? That’s just plain crazy.


“Mom, can I ask you something?”

She looks up from the TV. “You just did, dear.”

“Do you know a Kathryn Abrams?”

She grips the remote so tightly I think she’ll snap it. After a half-moment her hand relaxes.

“No dear. Why do you ask?”

“Well, I met a guy today who said I look just like her. I thought maybe she might be related to Dad.” I hate lying to her, but she’d freak if she knew I’d been asked down to the FBI office.

“I sincerely doubt that, dear. Your father was never out west.”

What? How does she know about that? Oh crap, maybe I’m in one of those spy stories where everyone’s been lying to me all my life. I have to play it cool; maybe that way I can put off the guys in dark suits coming.

“Okay. Just a thought.”

I start heading for my room when Mom calls again.

“Nancy, I have two weeks in July. Would you like to go on a vacation?”

“Sure, Mom. Any thoughts on where?”

“I was thinking we could go see your grandmother.”

“Mom, West Virginia is so boring. How about Disneyland?”

“I’m not made of money, dear.”

“How about Las Vegas?”

“I am not taking my fifteen-year old daughter to Las Vegas. What’s this sudden fascination with the west coast?”

“I just want to go somewhere different; somewhere on the other side of the Mississippi. How about Texas?”

“I’ll think about it. Now go get ready for dinner.”


I plunk down my backpack and take out my tablet. According to the internet, Kathryn Abrams’s death was reported by police out of Crescent City, near the California/Oregon border. Something tells me that going there might shed more information on the woman with my DNA.

The trick is getting there without being caught.



The flip chart in the hotel lobby catches my attention; somebody has drawn a tombstone on it, as well as a fairly well-rendered skeleton. Bold block letters of red and green read, “Cadaverpalooza!” Scrawled underneath in blue is, “Party on, life is too short to do otherwise!” Below that in black is “Everyone welcome: living, dead, or in-between.” The muted sound of rock music is coming through the door to the Founders’ Room.

I’m in town for the night; tomorrow morning I’m driving the late Jorgen Vandermeer back to Dayton, where a pine casket and twenty square feet of real estate are waiting for him. Until then I have some free time.

About forty people are here, mostly between the ages of fifteen and twenty. A deejay is spinning tunes and several people are dancing; a small table of food and drinks rests largely unattended to one side. I would have said 'youth club dance' except for the three people in scrubs at a table to one side. They’re either the world’s weirdest chaperones or something is up.

A girl of about seventeen in a tie-dyed sack dress and bare feet grabs my hand and pulls me onto the floor. We make quite the couple; her a pretend hippie and me in my black three-piece with the polished shoes. Thank God I haven’t totally forgotten how to dance.

As the music fades she looks up at me, “Little early for the funeral, aren’t you?”

“Huh?” Not the most eloquent response, but she laughs. It’s musical.

“Mom made me pick out a fancy dress for my big day. I told her to bury me naked; that way lots of guys will show up for the funeral!”

“Funeral? Am I missing something? Is this some kind of wake?”

“No, silly! Wait, aren’t you from the ward?”


“The Palliative Ward. Me and some friends organized this party as a last big blast before… you know. What brought you here?”

“I’m in town to pick up…” I realize it’s a bit silly being nervous about it, “…a body.”

She giggles a moment, then shouts to the room, “Hey! Anybody call for a hearse?”

Lots of no’s and general laughter.

A slower song starts and she pulls in close. “I bet you think we’re weird.”

I consider it. What would I be like if I knew I was going to die? Probably not this. Even so…

“No, you’re not weird.”

She flashes me a thousand-watt smile and we dance some more; about halfway through the song she motions for us to sit down. “Metastatic cancer. My lungs aren’t what they used to be.”

Once we sit she pulls her chair up close and leans on me. “So what’s your name, Mister Driver?”

“Don. You?”

“Kelly. You can kiss me if you want; act now before it’s too late.”

I take her up on it. All I can think of is how fantastically full of life she is, especially considering.

Three weeks later I get to drive her to Dayton.

Christmas Gift

** This one's a bit late, but that's life. **

The box is maroon; I LOVE maroon! And this velvet gift wrap is so expensive looking! And the tag on it says “Especially for you, Melanie.” I have no idea who it’s from but I can’t wait to open it!

But I have to. Christmas isn’t for over a week. You’re only supposed to open Christmas gifts on Christmas, right? Well, maybe Christmas Eve. I’ll open this one Christmas Eve.

I hold it up to my ear and jostle it. I’m not really shaking it, just, you know, if something inside is loose it might shuffle around a bit. Or if it’s gold and crystal with dangly bits it might tinkle a little. You never know.

It scritched! There’s something alive inside this box! It’s too small for a cat but maybe a kitten or a puppy, or a ferret! I heard ferrets make great pets. But that settles it. I can’t let whatever little critter is inside starve for a week. And the nasty person that gave it to me didn’t even poke any air holes! Unless… they want me to open it!

I carefully open the package, taking care not to damage the silvery ribbon or the velvet paper.

Inside is an ornate box, like a jewel box with little inlaid geometric designs on it. The inlaid gems are gorgeous; this thing must be worth a fortune! I’m really starting to warm up to whoever gave me this!

But the scritching is coming from inside the jewel box. Whatever’s inside really wants out badly. I take the little gold key on the long silver chain and put it into the lock. I hope it’s a ferret, that would be fun to have.

It IS a ferret! I look into its cute little ferret eyes. They’re staring back at me and I feel a little dizzy.


I look in the mirror and do a double-take. Melanie? Melanie Armitage? The most beautiful and stuck-up girl in school? How on earth did I end up in her body? The last thing I remember was opening that strange present that somebody left under the tree…


“…no tribble at all.”

As the closing credits start I look up at the clock. Where is he? A girl needs a big hot Hawaiian on a Saturday night; if he doesn’t deliver in two more minutes it’s free. I take a swig from the can on the coffee table.

Wait, didn’t I order some sodas with the pizza because I’m all out? Where did this can come from? And what the heck is Redworld Cola?

Lightning fills the apartment like a giant flashbulb and the whole place shakes. When I can see again the lights are out. Great. Hopefully I can still get Netflix on my laptop.

There’s a knock on the door. It’s probably a neighbour; no way the pizza guy could climb to the fourteenth floor in the dark that quickly. I shout an acknowledgement.


Something’s stuck in my throat! My panic is heightened by the sound of a fierce wind. Is it getting colder? My balcony door shatters outward off its hinges. It’s bloody freezing!

The hallway door bursts open and a man in a TV-style space suit rushes in. I don’t care where the costume party is; I gesture toward my throat and gasp. He’s rushing toward me as I black out.

I wake up on a cot in some kind of storage room. The space suit man is fussing over me; his helmet and gloves are off and his fingers are pressing lightly against my neck.

“Eighty-five. Oh, she’s awake.”

“Thank God.” A dark-skinned woman, also in a space suit with no helmet, is coming over. “Are you all right, Miss?”

“I think so. What happened? Where am I?”

“You’re in a storage locker.” She points at the man. “He’s Peter, I’m Sela. You’re going to be all right; we just have to find you a suit.”

“A suit? I have a couple in my closet…”

The man raises an eyebrow. “An environment suit?”

“Ix-nay, Peter…”

“Don’t bother, Sela, she’ll find out soon enough.”

I look between them. “Find out what? Did terrorists attack?” That would explain a lot.

“No, dear. You’re on Mars.”

“Mars? Yeah, right; what’s really happening?”

The woman looks at me seriously. “What’s your name, Miss?”

“Tabitha Smith; my friends call me Tab.”

“Stand up, Tab.”

I do. My balance is way off and it feels like I weigh practically nothing. I stumble and start falling very slowly until Peter catches me.

He smiles paternally. “One-third gravity.”

“How did I get here?”

“We don’t know. There seems to be some kind of space-time anomaly generator that draws things here. We’ve found a sailing ship, several aircraft, and even a dead mammoth. Your apartment appeared while we were exploring the place; lucky for you it did.”


“Because the Martian atmosphere is only one percent of Earth’s, and that little bit’s almost all carbon dioxide. On top of that the temperature’s around minus ninety.”

I take that in. The whole situation is too weird to even freak out over.

“Okay, how do I get home?”

“Unless this thing is somehow two-way, you wait for the next supply ship, which will be in four months.”

“Just a second. How did you two get to Mars?”

“We’re part of the colony mission.”

“Colony mission? But nobody’s been to Mars yet!”

“We got here nine years ago. What year is it, Miss Smith?”


He gulps. “Then you’ve been transported in time as well. We’re over a hundred years into your future.”

Okay, now it’s too much. I start giggling. “Do you think they kept my pizza warm?”


In the Sand

I spot Dr. Peter Kensington as soon as I crest the final ridge. He’s standing beside his rover, coated in the reddish dust that gets into everything. As I park my rover I call him on the comm.

“Okay, Peter, what’s so important?”

“Not on the general comm, Sela. Switch to channel fourteen.”

Channel fourteen has a range of about a hundred meters, nowhere near long enough to make it back to the dome. It’s only used when too much chatter would cause distraction – or when something has to be kept secret. I switch over.

“Okay, Peter, why the cloak-and-dagger?”

“You wouldn’t believe me, not without the evidence. Come on.”

He leads me into a cleft in the rock with a pronounced downslope. After a couple of turns it opens into an underground chamber where he has a pair of tables set up. One of the tables is his writing desk, but the other one grabs my attention.

There are items on it that have absolutely no right to be here, two hundred million kilometers from home. I see a cracked bottle, a steel-and-glass lantern, a desiccated cloth bag, …and a book.

“What the fuck, Peter?”

“I got an anomalous reading from the scanner and stopped to check it out. I brought these up from the first chamber.”

“Does the book give any evidence of why this stuff is here?”

“We’ll have to get it back to the dome so I can do some radiocarbon…”

“Did you try reading it, Peter?”

“Reading? Why would I…” A look of dawning comprehension crosses his face. Man, scientists can be really dumb sometimes.

I open the cover of the book; the paper looks pretty fragile, but still flexes somewhat. It’s cumbersome trying to turn the pages with my gloves, but there’s no way I’m exposing my hands to the frigid near-vacuum that passes for an atmosphere here.

“It seems to be a journal. What language is this, Sela?”

“Middle English. And the date puts it in 1491. I can’t really read it, but I’ll try to get the sense of the text. We can have it properly translated later.”

“What does it say?”

“The writer is worried, something about the men being upset. They don’t think a westward passage to China exists and are frustrated after a month becalmed in the sea of weeds.”

“Sea of weeds?”

“The Sargasso, I’d guess. That would put them in the western Atlantic. They’d just got out and saw signs of a major storm blowing in. And that’s the last entry. So once again, Peter, what the fuck?”

“Maybe you’d better come see the rest.”

“The rest?”

He silently leads me down another passage; it’s steep, but the rough floor forms a natural staircase. We finally emerge into a dark space.

We both shine our torches ahead; the light isn’t very good, but the shape before us is obvious. It’s an old wooden sailing ship, half-buried in sand and naturally mummified in the frigid Martian air.

Bermuda, Parts I and II

This story was originally published in two parts; they both are here.

Part I

Looming black clouds blanketed the sky from horizon to horizon, illuminated only by occasional flashes and streaks of lightning. The man lashed to the wheel held on for dear life as the Bloody Shrike rocked and jolted in the winds.

The Cap’n staggered up, steadying himself by digging chunks out of the wooden railing with the sharp hook that took the place of his left hand. He leaned to the helmsman and shouted.

“It looks like we’ll be having a bit o’ rough seas, Mister Gavin! Steady as she goes!”

“Aye Cap’n!”

The wheel spun and flung Gutbuster Gavin to the deck; by the time he’d regained his footing the Cap’n had gone back below.


The men were gathered below decks in the galley, passing around a few bottles of rum and clinging to the tables for dear life. Mad Steven was dancing a jig to Drummerboy Dan’s concertina, pausing occasionally to fall face first to the deck, while Tortuga Zeke watched Busty Bob’s chest heave with the swell and wished for softer days in port.

Cap’n Jack Bastord watched his crew with pride, his hook jammed into the ironworks of a candle sconce. They were good lads, scoundrels and blackguards to a man. But pride would have to wait; he had to know more about the Treasure of Bermuda.

“Mister Anachronism!”

A young man in fancy collar and tights –what sort of man wears tights?– looked up from his book.

“Aye, Cap’n?”

“What did ye call this again?”

“It’s the Bermuda…”

“Aye, that be it! One at the top, two at the bottom! These Bermuda Shorts o’ yours have some choppy waters, boy!”

“Uh, Triangle Sir. The seas here are incredibly dangerous; I told you we should sail around.”

“An’ doin’ what I’s told is what kept me from bein’ Cap’n until ol’ Greenbeard fell off the ship them five times! How long does this bit o’ chop last?”

“All the way through I’m afraid, Sir.”

“An’ that’s why you ain’t Cap’n! Yer afraid. Mister Prancer, what do we say about bein’ afraid?”

The reindeer looked up from her bale of rum-soaked hay. “We says a thankee to ol’ Santa and damn the waves to hell, Cap’n!”

“Just so. Now, Knackers, tell me more about this treasure. I can’t wait to feel that gold betwixt me fingers.”

“That’s Anachronism, Cap’n. And the treasure isn’t so much physical as metaphorical. Due to a calendar misprint, we’re now in the year 1491. Since Juan Bermudez hasn’t found it yet, you can set up your own colony and claim all the land in Bermuda for yourself.”

“Mister Knackers, land exists for the sole purpose of buryin’ treasure in! How much treasure are we going to find there?”

“None, Cap’n. We’ll have to earn it and bury it ourselves.”

“Earn it? EARN IT!? That’s not how we do things here! Grab him, boys. This lubber’s goin’ overboard and we’re goin’ ta turn the Shrike around and find some real plunder!”

Part II


Jack Bastord grumbled to himself, “There’d bloody well better be. Worthless scupper expecting us to work!”

When he arrived on deck Mister Anachronism was still aboard. The ship heaved to and fro but everyone seemed to be accounted for. Given the Cap'n's foul mood at being challenged, this was a very bad time for Mister Anachronism.

“What in blazes are ye on about, and why is he still on board?”

Tortuga Zeke gave the Cap’n a stricken look, then turned his gaze upward to the crow’s nest.

Realization sunk in. “Smilin’ Pete!”

“I just been up there, Cap’n.” Zeke’s voice was a mere bellow, barely audible above the storm. “He’s gone.”

“NO! Smilin’ Pete’s easily worth any five of you lot! We’ve nothing for it but to heave the ship about an’ look for ‘im.”

“But Cap’n,” shouted Gutbuster Gavin as he picked one of his teeth out of the deck, “I got no idea where we was or which way we was goin’!”

A rogue wave heaved the ship upwards, flinging the crew into the air. Six and a half pairs of boots landed back on the deck with a thump.

Busty Bob’s half-shrieked contralto rose above the storm; “Cap’n! What’s that?”

Jack looked at the tip of the lad’s finger, then realized he was pointing out to sea. On the surface of the water was a bluish-white glow like St. Elmo’s Fire; it approached the ship at a slow measured pace.

“It’s a ghost of the sea!”

Bill Hook grabbed a repelling pole and brandished it as the glow neared, knees knocking as the light climbed up to the gunwales.

It was a woman, glowing blue and clad in a flowing gown that revealed as much as it concealed her figure. In her hand was a gleaming skull.

“Smilin’ Pete!” The Cap’n raised his eyes to the woman’s face, “Thank you Milady, for the return of my First Mate.”

She looked at him sternly, holding out the skull. “Jack Bastord, I would be thankful if you’d not let this one fall overboard again. His cavorting with the mermaids was severely disrupting my kingdom, and several hearts have been broken by his charm. It will take weeks to restore order.”

After placing the polished skull securely in Jack’s hand she turned and walked away, leaving glowing footprints on the waves as she strode into the storm.

Pete just smiled.


The last time we saw these characters, Miss Tyree had kidnapped the superheroine Wallflower for her own purposes; Wallflower's partner Vixen is coming to rescue her despite all common sense saying she shouldn't.


The Last Loose End drives that ridiculous car of hers into the parking lot. It took her long enough to find the place; so much for Vixen the Great Detective.

She sprints across the lot and leaps, landing atop the admission booth. She takes a quick look around and then shouts, “An amusement park? Real original, Tyree! What’s next, four kids and a Great Dane? You know, this would have been a lot scarier at night!”

I grant her wish. My prepared incantation banishes the sunlight for a mile around; the second part activates the lights and music and starts up the rides. I send a projection of my old voice.

“Is that better, child?”

She shouts to the sky. “Hand over Wallflower now Tyree, and you won’t get hurt! Much!”

“Find her yourself! Isn’t that what heroic little foxes do?” Just for fun I project her partner’s voice, “Save me, Vixen! I don’t know how long I can resist!”

She bounces off the roller coaster and lands atop one of the ferris wheel cars, which carries her upward. She’s using the altitude to survey the park. Maybe she’s not as stupid as I thought. On the way down she leaps across the midway to the Slip’n Spin and from there ricochets onto the merry-go-round. She’s covering territory fast; time for phase two.

The patrons rise out of the ground. Hundreds of shadows fill the park; to get this many I had to forego legs but having mist for a lower body doesn’t slow them down.

She leaps down and starts kicking at them. Somehow her blows are connecting and shadows are flying around like ninepins.

“Go Vixen!”

I glower at the girl tied to the knife-throwing wheel and then return to my crystal. Vixen is moving through the crowd, beating the shadows easily, and making her way toward my lair. Does she know? When she opens the maintenance door to the Tunnel of Love I’m certain. She knows exactly where I am. Four seconds later she steps into the circus display area.

“It’s over, Tyree. Let Wallflower go.”

I gesture and the ropes release; my prisoner falls to her knees.

“I said, let Wallflower go. This is your last chance.”

“What are you talking about, child? There she is.”

“That’s not her. Now let my friend go!”

“How did you know?”

“The same way I know that you’re weak right now. You’re probably using most of your magic just to hold the illusion of your old form, aren’t you?”

She strides towards me. I back away; she’s right, curse it all to Hades. Possessing a new body is difficult and Wallflower’s mind is still resisting. I can’t use her powers or mine yet! But I do have something else: minions.

“Get her!”

A squad of daemons leap out at her as she jumps at me. But her reflexes are faster; her hands close around my throat…


…and she vanishes.

I scream my annoyance, “What kind of trickery is this?”

My own voice speaks back, “It’s getting a little crowded in here.”

That little bitch! Somehow she’s possessing this body too! That’s not possible; only two people ever knew how to cast this spell, and the other one is dead! Or so he would have me think.

“Doctor Arcanum, what are you doing here?”

“He isn’t, Tyree. It’s only Vixen; Doc Arcanum just gave me the magic charm.”

“Then this will be easy; I’ll crush both of you beneath my will.”

“I don’t know, Wallflower and I are pretty remarkable when we work together. I may only be a B-list hero, but she’s on your level.”

“If she’s on my level, why isn’t she resisting me?”

*I was waiting for the right moment.*

I explode; the force throws my daemons against the walls where they splash into ectoplasm. Everything dissolves in a cataclysm of light and darkness.


A moment later I come to my senses. I’m lying on the floor in my previous body, the one I took from Enchantress before these two were born. Vixen is standing there, as is Wallflower. In my current weakened state I can’t take both of them. But I can ruin their lives.

I say three words in my native Atlantean; they comprise a spell that will take away Vixen’s fox powers forever.

Vixen looks at me. “That tickles.”

“You’re supposed to feel crippling weakness. I took away your fox powers!”

“I guess so. And while you were doing that, Wallflower was mucking with your brain so you won’t even remember who she is.”

“What are you talking about? There are only two of us here.”

“You’re right, I guess. I’ll just be going now.”

She holds out her arm as if someone else is going to take it, then casually walks out the door. A moment later she leans back in with a smirk.

“And by the way, you got the wrong animal. I never did have fox powers; I just dress like one.”

World of Cows

Three steaks: sixty-five dollars.
Extreme barbecue sauce: eight dollars.
Jug of milk in case sauce is too extreme: three dollars.
Barbecue on the balcony tonight with Gina and Sandy: priceless.

My two-girl date night anticipation fantasy is interrupted when I walk out of the grocery store. Something’s wrong. Instead of a congested street filled with cars there are bicycles everywhere. And all the people have been replaced with cows. What the…?

“Hey Putz! You gonna stand there all day? Mooove it!”

The lady… uh, cow… pushes me out of the way from behind and walks past indignantly. This is just too weird. It’s got to be a dream or something. Good thing I’m still normal. Or am I?

I look down and that’s when I realize I’m a cow, too. I’m an upright walking cow, just like everyone else. This is too freaky!

Wait a minute! Aren’t all cows girls? I look down; I have udders. But aren’t udders really…? I reach down and give a squeeze. I’ve got tits! So much for my chances of getting laid tonight!

There’s a sound from my grocery bag. I look in and my steaks are crying. And each has a tag with somebody’s face on it. A cow’s face. My God, I’m the freakin’ Hannibal Lecter of cows! NOOO!

This has to be a dream! I have to wake up! Wake up, wake up, wake up, …

Another voice joins mine, “Wake up! Wake up, Rex!”


The world does some kind of freaky fade and dissolve around me. Sandy is jostling my shoulder and I’m lying on the couch. My head feels like a football at the end of the second quarter.

“Wake up, Rex. I think you were having a bad dream.”

“Oh yeah, the worst. I dreamed everybody was a cow and I was carrying steaks.”

“You’re weird Rex. Speaking of steaks, did you pick them up?”

“Yeah, they’re in the fridge marinating. When’s Gina get here?”

“About an hour.”

“You wanna…?”

“After dinner, Rex. You know nothing turns me on like a big juicy slice of meat.” Her tongue comes out and caresses the tip of her nose.

“You are one sexy bitch, Sandy.”

“And don’t you forget it. Now you better start getting cleaned up soon, but I need to use the hydrant first.”

She sashays to the bathroom, her tail twitching seductively behind her. It makes my tail wag just watching; she’s the hottest Dalmatian in the city, and not just because she’ll run with a Husky guy like me.


A Window on History

Four takes on history as seen through a window. I'll give you the year.


I can’t understand why a firm located eighty storeys up on one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in New York doesn’t have better coffee. It’s the twenty-first freakin’ century! I won’t say I’m enjoying the coffee because it’s awful, but I am enjoying the view. North up Manhattan the sky is clear and blue, not a cloud in sight.

Something catches my attention. There’s a plane coming in over the city, which is odd in itself. I flip open my phone to call home and notice the time – 8:46 a.m. That’s when I notice the plane isn’t climbing and isn’t turning. I have about ten seconds before it hits us.

“You’ve reached Tom and Laura; leave a message.” [beeeep]

“Laura, I love–


It has been a long and exhausting trip, but it is nearly over. We’ve been held up most of the day by bad weather over the landing site, though Captain Pruss did treat us to a lovely view in an off-schedule flight over Manhattan, then a scenic overview of the New Jersey shore. Now, in the early evening, we approach the airfield.

The waiter brings me another cup of coffee, but warns that we will be landing soon. I enjoy the acidic heat of the black beverage with everyone else in the lounge.

Out the window it is still raining, water dripping randomly from the overhead gas envelope. By craning my neck slightly I can see the mooring tower in one direction, and in the other a large building with the words “Welcome to Lakehurst” painted on the roof.

Down below the Americans are starting the process of securing the mooring lines when I hear it; a muffled explosion from somewhere above. The floor tilts toward the stern and the smell of smoke fills the air; the hydrogen has caught fire!


“Well officer, it happened while I was getting a second cup of joe this morning. A gal gets tired cleaning all them dishes. Anyway, I had a good view across North Clark there at the garage.

“As I was drinking down, a big Caddy pulled up in front of the garage and two coppers– er, police officers, got out along with two other guys. The two regular guys went in the front and the two policemen went round the back.

“A couple of minutes later there was some gunfire. A lotta gunfire. Tommy guns, I think. After that there was a coupla shotgun blasts. Then the policemen came out with the two regular guys at gunpoint.

“Their faces? No, I didn’t see no faces. Clear vision ain’t exactly good for your health in this neighbourhood, if you know what I mean. Cheez, what a way to spend Valentine’s Day.”


I sip my coffee and enjoy the spectacle out in Bedford Basin. Normally it’s pretty quiet, but this morning two ships have struck each other. The Norwegian one is slowly backing off, but the French ship has caught fire.

I hope the lads are all right, though it does mean the Kaiser’s Christmas present will be delayed. They don’t tell us what’s on board because of the Great War; loose lips and all that. It should all be over soon anyway, what with Wilson bringing the Yanks on side.

Down by the docks the sailors from old Frenchie have reached shore. Whatever they’re saying has got the bystanders agitated and they’re running. I lean out the window and shout to a young man sprinting up the hill.

 “What news, lad?”

 “She’s carrying munitions! Run!”

Munitions? I look up as the ship silently blows itself to nothing before my eyes, a wave of devastation flowing outward. Like thunder after lightning, the sound will be here in a moment.

 “Sweet Mother of–


What a day! I’ve been slaving over a hot photocopier all morning, interrupted only by the endless drip-drip of people who need “just one copy.” Thank God it’s only two weeks before I blow this joint and head back to school. Endure, Alison, endure.

In the break room the smell of coffee and fresh muffins cheer me up, as does the morning sun streaming through the window and the low rumble of thunder. As I pull out a coffee cup my brain registers something amiss.

I look out the window –rain and sunshine?– and stop. There’s a spherical hole outlined by sparks as raindrops fizzle against it. Inside the anti-sphere is a woman with her arms and legs splayed to the sides and her hair flowing in an inaudible gale. The glow from her body is the source of the “sunlight”. She’s looking in the window and right into my eyes.

I stare transfixed as she drifts toward the window, towards me. Her body touches the window and moves through it as though it isn’t there. She’s still staring into my eyes but now I can recognize her; she’s me!

Panic clutches my heart; I don’t know why but I have to get away from her. This has to be a dream. I’ve got to wake up. No, I have to run.

I’m out of the break room before my dropped cup hits the floor. I can feel the steady thump-thump of my shoes on the carpet keeping pace with my pounding heart.

I run through the cubicle farm, randomly turning left and right at each intersection. I glance back and see her head moving along about three cube-lengths behind me. She’s not running but somehow she’s still keeping up.

I reach the straightway of the main aisle and sprint up it, dodging other people who slowly start clearing a path. Freddie the mailboy is facing the other way and I knock him as I brush past.

“Hey, what’s with the… Holy Anime Batman!”

At the end of the main I try to turn but I’m running too fast. I slam into the photocopier hard enough to shift it. The wind is knocked out of me as I fold at the waist and slam my face onto the document feeder.

I lever myself up and turn. She’s right in front of me. I try to scream but it comes out a whimper. She reaches a hand out for me.

A lifetime of memories wash my mind like a tidal wave: college, doctorate, research, growing old, regrets, loneliness, the machine, hope, fear, anticipation, explosion, chasing… boom!

She’s gone. I lean on the copier, my breath in ragged gasps.

“Are you okay, Ali-cat?” Freddie is staring into my eyes. “What happened to glowing you?”

I shake my head and blink a couple of times. “I think my future just caught up with me. But this time I’m not going it alone.”

I kiss him.


The Apartment of my Dreams

It’s good to be home after that day of work. I’ve decided to forgo unpacking for one night. It’s going to be just me, an Inside Out DVD, and a bowl of Cap’n Crunch taking a break in the apartment of my dreams. What more can a girl ask for?

When I open the door my jaw drops; there are no boxes in sight, but no furniture either. The walls are stone and the flickering torchlight reflects off the horns of a dozen minotaurs. Their chant of “Ka-ren! Ka-ren!” stops and the nearest one looks over at me. His head lowers and he starts to charge.

The apartment door could never stop a linebacker with a cow’s head but there’s no thud, no crash, and no trampled and gored me. I’ve got to be hallucinating. I open the door a crack and peek in a second time.

Icy thin sunlight stings my eyes and sucks my breath away and I get pushed partway inside by the wind through the doorway. Or am I pushed outside? A group of parka-clad strangers is hiking toward me up the rocky snow-covered path, their faces obscured by goggles and oxygen masks. Behind them the ground slopes away to an emerald vista dotted with cotton-candy clouds. The lead figure gives me a thumbs-up as I pull the door shut again.

Third time lucky? I open the door and my apartment is there like I left it this morning. I quickly step in switch the light on, creating a pool of gold that punctuates the shadowy field of boxes.

As I walk toward the kitchenette to get a bowl my phone rings; Selima starts talking as soon as I pick up.

“Hey Karen, how goes? Liking the new home?”

“Yeah, your realtor is an ace; it’s a great location and the apartment is everything I dreamed of! I think I’m a little overtired, though; I had this weird hallucination when I came in.”

“Weird? How so?”

“You’ll think I’m crazy, but I thought I saw minotaurs.”

“Minotaurs? Like guys with bull heads?”

“Yeah. But I closed the door and got my bearings and they were gone. Like I said, overtired.”

“And you’re in the hall now?”

“No, I’m in the kitchen.”

“Karen, get out of there.”

“What? Why would I do that?”

“Because that’s not your apartment.”

“Of course it is; it’s the apartment of my dreams, just like the realtor said.”

“That’s right; the apartment doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to your dreams. Get out while you can.”

“You realize how stupid that–“

A barely-visible hand reaches out of the shadows and flips off the light. Selima’s voice sounds in my ear.

“Karen! Run!”

The phone signal drops out, cutting off my last bit of illumination. In the darkened room I can sense movement. I’ve had this dream before; running won’t help.