Bluebirds circle around me twittering; I shake my head a few times and they fly away. Where am I?

For that matter, what am I? I look down and see tan fur, a white tummy and brown paws. I have a fox tail like the one on my costume, only this one’s part of me. I’m a fox; I can only imagine what my face looks like. And I’m a line drawing: a cartoon. Can this get any weirder?

A heavyset cartoon woman with green skin and a wart on her nose appears in a puff of smoke. She’s wearing a blue dress and a black pointy hat. It’s Miss Tyree; I’d laugh if she wasn’t so dangerous.

“Hello, Dearie.”

“What’s going on?”

“You’re in a trap, Vixen. To escape you have to get the bunny. You know which one.”

She leaps in the air, kicks her heels together, and zips away with a cackle and a cloud of hairpins.

I sigh. Get the bunny: this is not going to be easy.

When I spot him he’s skipping through the woods with a basket of carrots. He stops on seeing me.

 “What’s up, Fox?”

“Sorry about this, Bugs, but I have to catch you.”

I grab him but end up with a carrot. The fuse is lit.

“What the..?”


My fur is singed black; I give chase anyway.

He jumps into a hole and I follow. It’s dark but big enough to run in. Suddenly I see oncoming lights. Headlights.


As I lie face-down on the pavement, a line-painter cart runs over me.

I stagger out of the tunnel into Paris. Bloody cartoon geography! I wonder where Bugs has…


I’m wrapped in furry arms and kisses.

“Ello, ma petite chere. Where ‘ave I been all your life? Mw-w-mw-mw…”

Huh? Wait, I have black fur and a white stripe down my back. Of course he’s here. I wriggle out of Pepe’s extremely tight grip and bolt. He comes hopping after me on all fours. This is going to be a long day.

Half an hour later I’ve been shot, blown up, had anvils dropped on my head, and been distracted by nearly the entire WB cartoon universe. Bugs is looking at me from a safe distance.

“Had enough, kid?”

This is not working. I need a way out of this: a cartoon way. I think back to all my wasted hours as a child… did anyone ever catch Bugs?


I pull off my head and let my new long ears uncurl. My skin peels away like a leotard, leaving a soft furry bunny body underneath. A very female bunny body.

Claxons blare and Bugs’s heart jumps out of his chest. His eyes go big and his jaw drops. In a second he’s beside me, slicking his ears back.

“So, gorgeous, are you busy after the show?”

I lean in as he puts an arm around my waist. There’s more than one way to catch a wabbit.


Turtle and the Rabbit's Wedding

They told me seeing a turtle on your wedding day would bring good luck, so when I ran over that turtle on the interstate I knew what came next. Time to get married! I started looking around as I drove.

Five miles later I saw her, standing by the side of the road. She was a redhead, short and skinny-ish, wearing a pink hoodie with bunny ears and faded blue jeans, with a cardboard sign that read “Denver”. I instantly dubbed her my little Rabbit. She was smiling at me and holding her thumb up; that means “I like you” in any language. I pulled over and waved her in.

“So, how far can you take me?”

“All the way.”

“Thanks, that’s great.”

“Fine day, isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Thanks again, this is really nice of you.”

One bride; check. Next, a chapel.

I smiled at her, “Could you keep an eye open for a church?”

“I suppose. Are you religious?”

“Not really. I’m going to get married.”

“Congratulations. But don’t you need a girl for that? Or a guy, I guess. That’s legal too these days.”

“Already got one.” Rabbit looked at me kind of strangely, but didn’t say anything.

About twenty-five miles further on I spotted a little chapel by the road and pulled over.

“Well, here we are. Now to find the minister.”

To my surprise she shifted in the seat and tried to kick me. “No …ing way, creep!” She started fumbling with the door latch.

She was actually pretty easy to subdue, mostlly on account of being short and kind of skinny. It wasn’t long before I had her hands tied behind her back so she wouldn’t succumb to pre-wedding jitters again.

The chapel was rustic, lit by natural light coming through the holes in the roof. It was perfect except for one thing: no minister. We looked around, startling a few small animals who’d taken up residence. I love a church that’s in harmony with nature.

When a raccoon leapt onto the altar and snarled at me I jumped back. Rabbit bolted up the aisle; I had to chase her out the door.

She ran straight to the Minister, who was standing outside the church wearing the uniform of a highway patrolman.

“What’s going on here?” he asked.

Rabbit shouted. “This creep kidnapped me and wants to rape me!”

“Don’t listen to her, Father. It’s our wedding day. I’m glad you showed up.”

There was a bit of confusion and a minor scuffle, but eventually we got a ride to the nearest town. It turned out he wasn’t a minister, but we did end up before a judge. I guess that was good enough.

The judge listened to my story and to hers, and in the end sided with her. Turns out the law gives more credence to twelve-year-olds than adults. Now I’m doing 10-20 in federal prison. Stupid Rabbit.


“And the winner of this year’s Fourth of July gold medal is… Jen!”

Wanda slips the ribbon over my head, letting the gold-foil wrapped chocolate medal drop onto my chest, then carefully lifts my hair so everything sits properly. Afterward she gives me a kiss on each cheek. Once she pulls back Eric splits the difference; when my mouth is my own again I speak.

“So what’s the medal for?”

Wanda answers, “Awesomeness in the face of crazy fans and being a really really good friend.”

“And for letting me see you naked.”

I smile at Eric and he blushes deep red. Wanda looks slightly disgusted. She still has a little trouble with that part of the relationship; it’s not that she disapproves, it’s just that a couple of times now I’ve gone to bed with Eric and woken up with her.

“Look Jen, about that…”

“No need to apologize again, Wanda. I know your relationship with your brother is, uh,” I cringe at the word, “complicated. Having me around makes it even more so. How about we don’t discuss it and have dinner instead.”

Eric jumps up, “Great!” He runs to the kitchen and returns proudly bearing a plate loaded with taco fixings, spices and squeeze bottles. He sets it down on the coffee table and looks at me like an eager puppy.

Wanda says, “You’re the guest, Jen, you go first. What would you like?”

I point out several things and Eric tosses them into a bowl. Eventually he stuffs the sticky mess of lettuce, cheese, meat and veggies into a tortilla shell. He picks up an unmarked squeeze bottle.

“Would you like some hot sauce?”

“Let me taste it first.” I do that now, ever since the guacamole incident. He squirts a drop on my finger and I touch it to my tongue.

“Are you okay?” He quickly offers me a small glass of milk and I down it between gasps. It mostly settles the burning sensation.

“That’s… hot.”

“Eric likes it that way. He left part of a taco out in the park one time and the birds were breathing fire for a week.”

“So, why tacos?”

Wanda talks as she points out ingredients to Eric.

“You remember the museum story, how the guard rescued us from our abusing ‘aunt’ and ‘uncle’? Well, we wanted to thank her afterwards, so Eric and I offered to take her out for a fourth-of-July dinner. She chose tacos and ice cream, I think mostly for our budget. We’ve done it ever since.”

“What about Cinco de mayo, then?”

“Eric barbecues steaks. We have to do it some time.”

Dinner, like everything with these two, is a bit surreal. After the tacos, Eric brings out ice cream and makes each of us a custom sundae. He puts hot sauce on his, which would have been fine if not for the after-dinner kiss. They take turns feeding me little spoons of ice cream until I can breathe again.

After that we go out on the balcony and all snuggle up together to watch the fireworks display.


Old Business, New Business

July Twelfth

“I know what you did.”

She cuts off. Either T-Mobile has put up cell towers in Hades or someone is playing a very tasteless joke.


July Fifteenth

“I know what you did, Dana.”

Well, now I’m sure it’s for me. And I know her voice. The problem is that I watched her die. My hesitation caused her death.


July Twentieth

“I know what you did.”

Doctor Necromancy hands me the phone.

“It sounds like her, Thunderwoman, but it can’t be. Enchantress is twenty years dead; this person has not the voice of undeath.”


July Twenty-Third

“Hello, Dana. It’s time we met. Come to the place where you betrayed me. Come at noon; come alone.”

 Why don’t you just post a big neon sign saying “It’s a trap” while you’re at it? I call Victoria. She can go undercover and otherwise it’ll look like I’m going alone.

In the years since Enchantress’s death the building has been demolished; now it’s a Mr. Burger. I go in at 11:57 and find bodies strewn everywhere. My horror turns to relief when I realize they’re sleeping, not dead. Especially since my daughter is here somewhere.

At precisely noon I feel a familiar tingle run up my spine. Enchantress fades into view, looking exactly like she did the day she died.

“Hello, Thundergirl. Did you miss me? More importantly, did Foxy David miss me?”

“It’s Thunderwoman now. And why the melodrama?”

“It’s all about melodrama, dear. I was content to be dead for twenty years, but now you have something I want.”


“My daughter.”

She’d told me the fertility spell she’d cast on Crimson Fox would tie both of us to the child as tightly as blood. That I could live with, but afterward she’d kept screwing around with my husband for nearly a month. I’ve long-since forgiven him.

“You mean my daughter.” Energy crackles over my body, barely contained. I haven’t forgiven her.

She flexes her fingers and the security shutters on the windows snap down.

“You can get up now, Victoria dear. Time to meet your other Mommy.”

Victoria pounces up onto a table, doing that seductive crouch she likes. Even in civvies, she’s still a Vixen.

“Lady, you are not my mother.”

“Yes I am, girl. Now come to …mmfgh!”

Perfect. Without her mouth she’s limited to just a few simple spells. And I’m pretty sure Wallflower, my daughter’s girlfriend, isn’t going to let go.

My lightning bolt strikes her stomach. She’s supposed to twitch and fall down, but Wallflower is the one that screams and slumps.

“Thank you, dear. You just gave me what I came for.”

Her features flow and shift, and I turn white. It’s Miss Tyree. Victoria leaps at her with a snarl, but passes right through her. In a moment Tyree and Wallflower are gone.

“Mom, what the heck?”

“It’s a long story…”

“Then it can wait. We have to get Rose back.”


Snow Globe

Spinners: check.
Sparklers: check.
Roman Candles: check.
Assorted Firecrackers: check.
Inflatable Statue of Liberty: check.
Best Fourth of July Ever: in the bag!

Tom took an armload of stakes outside to mark where things would go on the lawn, but stopped short on the doorstep. A word formed in his mind.


There’s snow on my lawn. And a snowman. And a Christmas tree. What happened to August, September, October and November; and for that matter, most of July and December, too? Maybe Jeff next door will know; he ran to the edge of his yard and vaulted the picket fence.

As he picked himself up off his lawn, Tom reflected that he had just reflected himself off of some kind of glass wall. Faced with the unknown, he called out to a higher power.

“Marg, can you come down here? Something’s wrong!”

She was down in a trice, but also stopped short on the front porch. Her sun dress seemed totally out of place in the winter wonderland.

“Tom, what is this? It doesn’t snow in July, not even in Idaho!”

“That’s not the half of it, Dear. There’s some kind of glass wall around our house! I’m going to complain to City Hall about this. It’s a violation of my civil rights!”

“I don’t think the city normally encases properties in glass, honey. And look through, we’re not the only ones affected.”

She was right, of course. There were houses on all sides, each neatly wrapped in its own glass cube. But unlike his, all of the people in them were frozen in place. What could it be? Terrorists? Who had the power to box up American houses like snow globes?

Marg interrupted his ruminations. “Look!” she shouted, pointing skyward.

A giant hand came down from above and lifted the house under glass into the sky. Once at a safe altitude it began sliding along as if on some giant conveyor belt. Tom could see hundreds, no thousands of houses laid out in a grid pattern below.

“Marg, I don’t think we’re in Boise anymore.”

After several minutes the robot hand, for that’s what it was, set the house down on a large platform. Rotund gray aliens in red coats with white fur fringes surrounded the home, waving metal instruments at his lawn. Finally a fork lift carried a door over and placed it against the glass. An alien opened the door and stepped in.

Tom punched him in the face.

“Why did you abduct us, you alien freak? Did Trump put you up to this?”

“I am unsure what exactly this ‘Trump’ of which you speak of is. Please do not be alarmed. We are taking four million of your people to a new planet in enclosures designed to provide a stable and psychologically comforting atmosphere.”

“Snow globes?”

“Precisely. Unfortunately, the stasis generator on your unit has failed and we must replace it. This will take but a moment; please be patient. You will be returned to suspended animation shortly.”

“But where are you taking us? Is this some kind of alien zoo?”

The creature raised a nonexistent eyebrow.

“A zoo? No, more like a wildlife preserve. We are relocating you so the human race can continue. You are too entertaining a species to be allowed to go extinct just because an asteroid crashed into your planet. You’re welcome.”

At that the alien turned and waddled out. Tom lunged for him, but suddenly froze in position as the stasis field re-engaged. His final thought as time stopped was that he’d forgotten to ask why the aliens were all dressed like Santa Claus.



“So what’s your mom’s book about, Flower?”

“It’s a tell-all about the time she worked as the Council’s stenographer. There’s a lot of dirt in there.”

“Are we in it?”

“It ends when Mom and Thundergirl announce their pregnancies so I guess we are, at least as fetuses.”

Vixen giggles. I love when she does that because she only does it for me. She’s my best friend, and one of a very few people who are totally unaffected by my power to fade into the background. While she’s parking the Foxwagen I realize where we are.

“The mall, Vix? It doesn’t open for another hour.”

“We’re here on business, Wallflower. While we were busy playing sleepover like ten-year olds, somebody broke into B&N and stole every copy of Council Confidential. Your mom called my mom, and here we are.”

The security guard lets us in the bookstore. Sure enough, two hundred copies of mom’s book are missing. In their place is a jack-in-the-box, PrankMeister’s calling card.

Vix winds it up. PM is a C-lister, barely more than a vandal, and unlike other famous clowns he’s not a psychopath.

The ‘box pops up and says, “Flowers are pretty, violets don’t bend, I kidnapped the books, and you’re up next my friend.”

Kidnap my mom? Why would he do that? It’s totally off character for him. Vix seems to be thinking the same thing. We race to the Foxwagen and drive to my home.

The super’s lying unconscious in a pool of confetti on the front step of the building. Vix alerts EMS and then we take the elevator up to the seventh floor.

When we get there the living room looks like the site of an epic battle between Clowns and Librarians. There are books and toys everywhere and Mom’s lying on the floor bound and gagged with party streamers.

She shakes her head ‘no’ as I rush to her. I stop when I hear a voice behind me.

“Hello, Wallflower; it’s been a long time.”

He’s about forty with a bit of a paunch, dressed like a black biker except for his clown-paint face and pink afro. I can see why he’s considered public enemy number one by both the NAACP and GQ.

“We’ve never met, weirdo.”

“Sure we have! Nineteen years and thirty-nine weeks ago, to be precise. Happy birthday, baby girl!”

My jaw drops. “You’re my…”

“I believe the word you want is ‘father’, dear. Anyway, I just stopped by to drop off your present; gotta run now. You should save your friend.”

Vixen is being mobbed by animated toys. They’re not much of a threat but by the time we’ve stopped them all and untied Mom, PrankMeister’s long gone.

“Mom, is he really…?”

She nods, “I made him promise not to say anything.”

“Why? It’s obvious I’m mixed race; so’s the President.”

“It’s not that. The whole villain-hero thing wasn’t really sorted out back in the 90’s. I didn’t want you to be stigmatized by his choice. This year we decided, since you’ve taken up an ‘alternative’ lifestyle, …”

“Mom, Vixen and I are friends. There’s nothing sexual about it.” Well, not from Vixen’s point of view.

“She gave you a ring!”

“What? No she…” I whirl toward Vixen, who’s looking really embarrassed. She’s holding a tiny box with two rings in it, each set with half a ruby heart.

“They’re friendship rings, one for each of us. You’re the other half of my heart, Rose. Happy birthday.”

Hostage Situation

“Untie me right now!”

Her expression says ‘duh, no.’ Instead she leans into my face and pulls the rope a little tighter.

“Well at least tell me who you are!”

“My name’s Audrey and I’m your biggest fan, sort of.”

“How can I have a fan? Don’t I have to be famous for something?”

“Wanda, Wanda. It is Wanda, right?”

“Of course it’s me! Who else would I be?”


“Eric is my brother!

“Your brother? The one you’re never seen with? The one with the same student number and computer account as you? I’ve been watching you for months; I even cracked your psychologist’s files!”

At least now I know what’s going on. Doc Reinholdt thinks that Eric is a symptom of Dissociative Identity Disorder, kind of like the Two Faces of Eve. Doc Reinholdt is stupid.

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”

“Oh? What about Andy?”

Andy. The guy who broke into Eric’s account and wrote dirty sex scenes into his Creative Writing project. Scenes I still remember. Scenes nobody else should know about because I deleted them.

“That got you. Where is Andy now?”

“I don’t know.” I don’t really care, either, after what he did to me and Eric.

“He’s in hospital after that stunt you pulled, writing him into an evil game show. That’s when I figured out what you can do. You write, you change reality around you.”

“That’s crazy!” How the hell did she figure that out? I only realized it myself recently.

’There are some things you can’t cover up with lipstick and powder…’

That’s my phone; it’s Jen. She arranged the book signing for Eric today and … oh no, she’s with Eric right now. They’re supposed to come down later, after I’ve got everything set up.

“You’re going to answer and pretend everything’s normal. You’re good at that. Now do it!” She accepts the call and holds the phone to my ear.

“Hi Jen.”

“Hi Wanda. Where’s Eric?”

But… Eric’s supposed to be in the apartment! With her! I mean they were… last night. I need an answer that will arouse her. Her suspicions! Without alerting Audrey. What was that? God, I’m starting to think like Eric; eww.

“He’s probably on the way down here to help me set up for the signing.” Eric never does that sort of thing, and Jen knows it. Hopefully she gets the hint.

“Uh-huh. See you later!” The sooner later the better. Please get the hint! Audrey disconnects the phone.

“Now, I want Eric!” She opens up her shirt and shows off her… upper torso.

“Yuck! Put those away, God knows where they’ve been!”

Her hand drops down and goes someplace it shouldn’t. I scream inside. Why on earth would she…


Some half-naked bitch has me tied up in a chair and is groping me. Interesting, but not right now. I head-butt her and slip the bonds.


“You wish. My name’s Sapphire, and you’re in big trouble.”


Meanwhile, and Wanda and Eric's apartment...

Eric rushes into the kitchen buck naked and grabs my hand. My borrowed bathrobe falls open as he tows me toward the bedroom.

“Come on Jen, we have to get busy.”

This is a change, considering he was halfway between tentative and terrified last night.

“Eric? Is now the right time?”

“Of course it is. Wanda’s in trouble!”

“And you want to…”

“Save her. Yeah.”

He hands me some clothes and starts grabbing his; in just over a minute we’re both dressed, if a little unkempt.

“I assume we’re going to the bookshop?”

“How’d you know?”

“That’s where Wanda was when I called her a few minutes ago looking for you. Where were you?”

“It’s complicated.”

He takes my hand and tows me to the elevator. It’s weird to see him like this; Wanda’s usually the take-charge type.

As we ride down he clings to me nervously. I can smell the lavender-scented body wash they both use; in these close quarters it’s kind of a turn-on. Focus, girl.

“What kind of trouble is Wanda in?”


“The gemstone?”

“No, the wizard girl. Wanda got really scared and Sapphire came out; I’m afraid she’s going to kill someone.”

“Came out? Like a multiple personality thing?”

“Yes. No. It’s complicated.”

We’re interrupted by arriving at the parkade level. I parked in Wanda’s spot last night so now it’s my turn to tow him to the car. Pretty soon we’re on the way to the bookstore, which is luckily a very short drive.

“We have some time now, Eric. You keep saying things are complicated; simplify them for me.”

“Okay, I’ll try. Wanda’s special. Really special. Like, in the movies special. She can make things by writing about them: stuff, places, animals, …people.”

This had gone to strangeland pretty quickly, but I guess I asked for it.

“How does she do it?”

“I don’t know. She just does it. But people are hard to make: sometimes they’re separate from her, but sometimes she just sort of turns into them.”

“So she turned into this Sapphire, then?”

“No, it’s more complicated than that.”

“Stop saying that!”

He’s saved by our arrival at the store. We park in the loading zone and head inside; luckily for us Wanda didn’t lock the door when she came in.

They’re in the back room. There’s a brown-haired girl hogtied with her boobs hanging out and a blue-haired girl in Wanda’s clothes watching her. Blue looks up as we burst in.

“Does either of you have a knife?”

Eric answers her, “Sapphire! We don’t do that here, remember?”

“She threatened Wanda. Touched her.”

“We don’t kill people for that. We turn them over to the police.”

“Oh yes, the town guard. Security and stupidity hand in hand.”

“They’re not like that, Sapphire.”

Brown-hair interrupts, “Eric! How is that possible? You’re Wanda’s other personality; how can you and the other girl be here?”

He glances over at me with an impish half-smile, then turns back toward brown-hair.

“It’s complicated.”

Getting Away

“Calm down, Eric. You’re safe.”

After a while he stopped shaking and started sobbing. Jenna looked at me, concern clouding her features.

“It was just a movie, Wanda. What happened?”

“It was Night at the Museum, Jen. I should have warned you not to take him there.”

“Why? Doesn’t he like Ben Stiller?”

“No, not that. Eric freaks out at museums; so do I. Do you remember when I told you about Uncle Roger and Aunt Steffie?”

“Yeah, that was pretty horrible.”

“Well this is how that story ended…”

It was Eric’s and my seventh birthday; we’d been with Roger and Steffie for almost a year. They decided to take us to the museum, mostly because we’d been bugging about it for a couple of weeks.

It took a while but we found a spot with a big crowd and promptly got lost in it. That’s where we ditched them. Not long after they had the staff turning the place upside-down to find us, but nobody thought to look in the employee bathroom. In the cabinet under the sink.

We stayed hidden until the big lights went out and only the emergency lighting was on. Then we snuck out to try and find a guard.

A museum is a pretty spooky place at night, and Eric was especially nervous. He kept saying the animals were going to come to life and eat us.

I had to drag him away from the room of statues of naked people; he just stood there whimpering and I can understand why. He said Roger was in there and coming to get him.

It was worse when we got to the Pleistocene exhibit. We’d learned on the tour that that was caveman times, not Play-Doh times. The little tiny horse was cute, but the big animals were scary, especially the saber-tooth tiger.

We were doing okay until I heard a snorting sound from behind us. I looked back and there was a pair of big shiny eyes just staring at us. And then they blinked.

Eric started turning but I stopped him. I told him to hide while I picked up a rock. He did as he was told for once and soon I was bravely facing down the monster.

I threw the big rock; it got about halfway to him and hit the floor with a crumply sound like cloth. The monster jumped back, then came forward and sniffed at it. Then he looked up at me.

I wet myself.

He took advantage of my fear and jumped me. Before I knew it I was lying on my back crying while his sloppy tongue licked my face. Then a light shone onto us and I could see he was just a big shaggy dog.

After that came a woman’s voice, saying “Who’s there?” It was followed shortly by “Down Shep!” and the dog got off me.

The woman was the guard, and she was nice. She helped me up, then got Eric and me some ice cream from one of the vending machines. When I told her about Roger and Steffie she made some phone calls and the police police showed up and we got taken to the hospital, and that’s when we knew we’d really escaped.

The Museum Mission

The Museum of Urban History is Cassidy’s favourite. She likes all the bright colours on the costumes of the superheroes and villains. She especially likes the exhibit about me; I’m glad the other parents think she’s calling out ‘Mommy Mommy’ to get my attention.

But I’m not here to sightsee tonight. My sister Linda is home watching Cass and I’m skulking about the place in my civvies. At least the security here isn’t tight; it was child’s play (for me) to trick the cameras into showing an empty building and to use hunter-seeker drones to put all the guards to sleep.

My mission should be a simple one: all I have to do is switch out the copy of Malefacto’s Manifesto in his exhibit with the fake I’m carrying. Apparently the Council wants to make sure Miss Tyree doesn't steal the original, since it contains clues to where he hid something that belongs to her.

I hate being out of costume. Iron Maiden could tear through this place in seconds; Miranda Sumner had to hide in the third floor ladies’ room for over four hours. At least I should be done shortly.

Finding Malefacto’s exhibit is simple; it’s right where it was when I cased the building this afternoon. I step over the unconscious body of a guard and pull out the fake Manifesto. Even the swap itself goes without a hitch.

One of my rules of life is to double-check everything. The consequence of not doing so is at home with her auntie. So I open the book to a random page and read:

<i>There once was a girl from Atlantis,          
Who couldn’t stop dropping her panties; …</i>

This is a fake! Somebody has already made a switch, but I know who. I recognize her handwriting.


It takes almost an hour to find the Foxwagen, even with the tracker I put on it. I needn’t have bothered driving around, because it’s parked at the museum now. With all the police cars.

I call Vixen’s communicator. “What are you doing here?”

“Somebody pranked the museum; we’re working with the police to make sure nothing’s been stolen.”

“Where is the book?”

“What book?”

“You know damn well what book. I have your copy right here.”

“Then what’s in the display?”

“The other fake. The one I put there earlier tonight to get the original out of harm’s way.”

“Oh crap. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“It’s a secret mission. I have to make sure Miss Tyree doesn’t get her hands on that book. Where is it now?”

“Just a sec.” An agonizing minute passes. “Wallflower couldn’t switch it back; the whole exhibit’s disappeared.”

“So you two still have the original book.”


I let out a long sigh. “All right. I’ll trade you your fake book for the real one, and your father doesn't hear about this. Capeesh?”


That’s one mission down; now for the other one. I call home.

“Did everything go well?”

“Yup. Cassie’s tucked in and sleeping like a six-year old angel.”

“And you?”

“You are one manipulative bitch, Miranda.”

“Guilty. Have you made up your mind?”

Linda sighs. “Yeah. I’m not going to have the abortion. If you can raise a good kid, so can I.”

Second mission accomplished. It’s a perfect night.

Making the List

“I didn’t plan on this. You’re my best friend; falling in love with you was the last thing on my mind. I know our time is going to end soon, but I beg you not to turn the page and leave me behind.”

What the hell am I saying? I know Vixen isn’t here but I’m pouring my heart out anyway. I can see her in my mind’s eye, slowly turning her back on me. Like everyone else does. Like I’m invisible.

“Interesting,” the voice shocks me out of it, “I knew there was someone else present. Now, what have we here?”

I feel totally exposed and vulnerable. Miss Tyree, A-list supervillain, is staring directly at me. That’s not supposed to happen; I’m Wallflower, the one with the power to be unnoticed.

“You know she doesn’t love you, child. After all, how could anybody love someone so easy to forget?”

I know. Vix doesn’t love anyone that way, but it doesn’t stop my heart from breaking. She’s already been chosen for the B-list and there are two super groups asking her to join up. If I don’t make it then I’ll become her sidekick at best; more likely I’ll just get left behind.

“Now, girl, if you tell me how you got into my Inner Sanctum I may let enough of you live for others to find.”

My chest tightens as though I’m being crushed, then words come out regardless of my will.

“I just walked in. Nobody noticed me.”

“Not even the magical wards? Not even the guardian daemons?”

“Nope. Walked right past them.”

“Even the men I’ve loved to death didn’t have the balls for that. And yet you still seek the approval of those idiots on the Council? You should be ruling them, child!”

“Yes, I should.” No, I shouldn’t!

“Do you tire of being treated like a nobody, girl? If you serve me I will give you real power! Power beyond your wildest dreams! The power to stand up and be noticed! What say you?”

I can suddenly breathe again; the compulsion which held my body immobile and my tongue in her thrall is gone.

“What do I say? You want me to give up the very thing that makes me me? Just so you can have another slave? No way, bitch! GUARDS!”

I hope I sound enough like her that her goons are fooled. A second later the door bursts open and five of her daemon slaves burst in, claws and fangs at the ready.


“Get out! All of you!” She waves her hand and one of the daemons comes apart at the seams, spraying blood and ectoplasm all over the room. She smiles a wicked smile. “Well, most of you then.”

I take the opportunity to bolt. The thing about my power is that it works better the more people there are not to notice me. I can feel her detection spells trying to find me but automatic sensors are even dumber than people. Within five minutes I’m out of her mansion and off her property.

As I stand panting by the highway an old VW bug with a fox paint job pulls up and stops. The passenger door opens.

“Get in. You don’t want to ignore this. The place will be swarming with spooks and goons in a couple of minutes.”

“Vixen? How did you…”

“…find you? It was pretty obvious where you’d go. This was a truly dumbass stunt, you know.”

“I know.”

“Are you going to write a report? I’m pretty sure the Council will put you on the B-list for it, if not the A.”

“Really? But I just want to be on the B-list.”

“Don’t worry; you’ll definitely make that. And by the way, I would never turn the page without you.”

Second Time Around

I was dreaming about fish when the phone rang. Before I was fully awake it stopped, but by then the message light was blinking and I had to check it.

On the voice mail was a message from a man; I couldn’t identify his voice, but it somehow sounded familiar. “There’s a car waiting outside the house. Get inside. You don’t want to ignore this.”

Just then my wife rolled over. “Everything okay, Andy?”

“I’m not sure, dear. I just got a strange message about a car waiting outside.”

“Well, is there one?”

I went and looked out the window. Sure enough, it was there. “Yes.”

“Well, better do as it says. You know what they say.”

“No, what do they say?”

“That if you don’t, the next phase involves men with guns.” She flopped down on the pillow, silently claiming my half of the bed as well as hers as she nodded off again.

I quickly got dressed and went out. The car was sitting empty with the driver’s side door open and the engine running. I climbed in and looked around.

The GPS unit on the dash was turned on and a marker was set for the Olive Garden restaurant on Flower Hill. There was also a yellow sticky on part of the screen where someone had hastily scrawled “Pick up your brother.”

You’d think if somebody were going to threaten me, they’d at least have the decency to show up. But weirdly enough, this didn’t feel threatening. I closed the door and drove to Pete’s house.

He was waiting for me in his driveway; he addressed me before I came to a full stop. “Andy? Is this some kind of joke?”

“I was going to ask you the same thing. I got a phone message to get into a car, and when I did there was a note to pick you up and take you to the Olive Garden.”

“Isn’t it closed at this hour?”

“Yeah. Anyway, get in. You know what they say about strange messages.”

“Uh-huh. Guns.”

We drove to the highest point in town, the silence broken only by the mechanical voice of the GPS telling us how to get to a place I’d been a hundred times.

There were other cars in the parking lot when we arrived, and ten guys standing around looking at each other blankly. We joined them to make an even dozen.

Pete called out, “Does anybody know what’s going on here?”

As if to answer him, we were suddenly surrounded by bright light. All twelve of us gaped upwards as the clouds opened to reveal a host of angels. At their center was a man – a man with scars on his hands and feet, slowly descending to earth.


The Girl in the Taxi

I glance over at the alarm clock and it says quarter after one; the phone on the bedside table is ringing. I don’t even know why my wife had it installed. Four phones in the house, that’s just damned ridiculous. I pick it up.

“Hello. Do you know what time it is?”

The voice comes back all wavery and distorted. “There is a car waiting outside your house. Get inside. You don’t want to ignore this.” Then there’s a click and a dial tone.

Melanie rolls over in bed. “Everything okay, Bob?”

“Yeah, just some crank caller.” A horn sounds from the front of the house.

I stumble over to the window and look out. There’s a yellow taxi sitting at the foot of my driveway, engine running.

I throw on a robe and some slippers and head for the bedroom door. Melanie calls after me.

“What is it, Bob?”

“Some jerk called a cab to the house. I’m going to go give him a piece of my mind.”

I stomped down the stairs and out the front door. What kind of idiot calls a cab for you in the middle of the night?

As I approach the cab I notice there’s already somebody in the back. It’s a blonde with great looking-hooters barely restrained by a halter top and shorts short enough that you can see all the way from crotch to ankle. She opens the door to make room for me.

“Come on in, handsome, and we can go for a ride.”

I think about protesting, but then those legs move and dispel all doubt. I climb in the cab. She immediately starts playing with the sash on my robe.

She leans over and whispers, “Close the door.” I do.

The taxi pulls away and she leans back to give me a good view.

“So, uh, what happens next?”

“It’s called the ‘big reveal’, Daddy.”

“Oh, I get it. I’m your sugar daddy? Come to papa, baby.”

“I know I’m not as young as you like, Daddy. Not like Cindy next door.”

“She’s fourteen years old! What are you accusing me of?”

“You were watching her mow the lawn in those short shorts of hers, dreaming about a little cherry pie. And tomorrow when you see her you’re going to help yourself.”

“What’s the big idea? Who the hell are you?”

“I’m your little Hedy from twenty-five years in the future.”

“That’s stupid! Heather is only one year old!”

“Not where I’m from. It’s the year 2000, and I made a New Year’s wish that I could stop you from hurting me or any of the other girls you molested. My genie cab driver brought me back to 1975. Wasn’t that nice of him?”

I backed up against the side of the cab but the latch wouldn’t budge. She reached behind her and pulled out a pistol. A little whiff of smoke came from the barrel as my world exploded in pain.

The Girl in the Other Taxi

I’ve finally cried myself to sleep when the phone rings. I nudge Bob to get it, but then realize it isn’t him. They found Bob’s body in a ditch this morning. I reach across my friend Cassie and pick up the receiver.


A woman’s voice is on the other end. “There’s a car waiting outside the house. Get inside.”


“Please, you don’t want to ignore this. I have answers for you.”

Cassie looks up groggily, “Is everything all right?”

“No. Somebody wants me to get into a strange car outside. It’s just like what happened to Bob. But they say they have answers.”

“Go, but be careful. I’ll watch Heather.”


I put on a housecoat and slippers and go downstairs. There’s a taxi at the end of the drive with a woman in it. She looks to be in her mid-twenties, conservatively dressed in a blouse and skirt with a sensible hairstyle. She looks like my aunt Iris, only bustier.

As I get up to the cab door she beckons me in. I can smell honeysuckle and a hint of roses, and she has such earnest eyes. “Please, get in. I can explain everything. Don’t worry; we’re only going to drive around the block.”

I get in and close the door behind me. The taxi starts moving slowly and gently.

“Please don’t kill me.”

“I’m not going to kill you, Mom.”


“It’s me, Heather. I’m from the future, the year 2000 to be precise. Everything’s going to be all right.”

“That is the most outlandish…”

“No, it’s true! Here, see this?”

She holds out a ring: my wedding ring, handed down from my mother for five generations. My jaw drops silently as I examine it. It’s unmistakable and it’s impossible, since the original is still on my hand.

“How…? Why are you here?”

“It’s a long story, Mom, and it’s not important. I just want you to know I’m the one that killed Dad. I had to.”

I look her in the eye, a dark ugly feeling forming in my gut. “Why?”

“He was a child molester.”

I manage to choke out, “I know.”

"But how, if he's dead?"

"It wasn't exactly me; I think it was some kind of alternate universe thing. But I remember what he did, and what I did,, like a recovered memory. I had to set things straight with you."

She could have asked a hundred questions, or worse yet told me more. Instead she reaches out and hugs me.

“It’s all right, Mom. He’s gone now. You can start over.”

“Start over? I’m a divorced woman with a one-year old baby! Who would want to marry that?”

“Jim Townsend, for one.”

“What? But he’s married, and has a son.”

“His wife is dying of TB; she’s only got a few days left. When she dies he’s going to need comfort and sympathy just as much as you do. I don’t know how it happens, but in my past you two get together. I hope I haven’t mucked that up by telling you.”

The car pulls over and lets me out at the end of the driveway. Maybe there is hope after all.

Three Phone Calls In the Middle of the Night

First Call

The ringing phone woke me. I picked up the receiver and tried to shake the sleep out of my head while I answered. “Hello?”

“There is a car waiting for you outside your house. Get inside. You don’t want to ignore this.”

Just then Elspeth rolled over and looked at me. “Everything okay?”

I handed her the reciever. “It’s for you.”

Second Call: The Lover

The phone rings just after midnight. Again. Ethan answers it. I don’t have to hear it to know the message: “There’s a car waiting outside the house. Get inside. You don’t want to ignore this.”

I roll over and play my part. “Everything okay, dear?”

“Yes, Anna, it’s just Mitch. He’s drunk again and needs a lift home.”

Ethan pulls on his pants and a tee-shirt and heads out to do the duty of a sober friend.

Five minutes later the phone rings again. I pick it up this time; it’s not like Ethan’s going to. A woman’s voice speaks to me. “It was her again.”

“I figured. Who does he think he’s fooling?”

“Not us. Anyway, the problem is taken care of.”

“Are you sure?”

“As sure as anyone can be. I used the parabolic mike and heard her say they’re going up to Rockcliff Point. It is their usual spot.”


“And their brakes are only going to last two stops, maybe three. If all goes well you can start playing the grieving widow tomorrow.”

Third Call: The Replacement

The indicator light on the phone flashes that a call is incoming. There’s no sound because I turned the ringer off. I pick up the receiver and hear the message for the first time.

“There’s a car waiting outside the house. Get inside. You don’t want to ignore this.”

The line cuts to a dial tone and I hang up. Just then Phillip stirs.

“Everything okay, dear? Was that the phone?”

“No, honey. Go back to sleep.”

Every few months he gets this call, then goes out for a couple of hours. When he comes back he’s different. It’s nothing tangible, just a kind of subtle undefinable thing that only a wife would notice. After two years I’ve resolved to get to the bottom of it.

While he snores I quietly pull on some sweats and sneakers. After that it’s down the stairs and out the door, carefully so as not to wake him.

As advertised, there’s a car sitting at the end of the driveway. It’s in the shadow of the streetlight, so I can only barely make out that there’s someone in the driver’s seat. I pull open the passenger door and get in quickly.

And stop.

Phillip is in the driver’s seat.



In unison we ask, “What are you doing here?”

He recovers first. “Why did you come out, Macie? Has something happened to Phillip?”

“Uh, he’s still asleep, I think. What’s going on here? Why are there two of you?”

He sighs and looks resigned. “I guess you were bound to find out sooner or later. Remember two years ago, there was that accident at the lab? The gas leak?”

“The one where you ended up in a coma for three weeks and had to be wrapped up like a mummy? Of course I remember, it was the worst time of my life.”

“I wasn’t really injured, I was killed.”


“It wasn’t really a gas leak: a supervirus broke containment and killed all eight of us in the lab. They had to incinerate the bodies down to ash.”

“Then how are you here?”

“I’m a clone. The company has had the technology to make duplicates of people for years, and they used it to make copies of us. However, there’s a problem.”

“What problem?”

“Because of the accelerated growth, the clones only live a few months, then die of multiple organ failure. They’re working on a solution, but it’s still years away.”

I think about this for a moment. It’s impossible and stupid. But at the moment I have two copies of my husband, one in the car and one in our bed.

“Okay, let’s pretend I believe you. What about Phillip’s memories? What did we have for supper last night?”

“Pot roast. I’ve got all his memories right up until we went to sleep last night. But there’s another problem.”

“What other problem?”

“You’ve seen too much. As soon as you saw me you’d seen too much.” He takes out a gun.


The phone rings in the middle of the night. It’s the usual message. I wake sleepyhead and we both get dressed. Down in the car the new Phillip and Macie are waiting.

The Obelisk

“Supposedly it is a degenerate form of Greek or Roman writing, Miss Vixen,” said Doctor Hind pointedly, “At least, that’s what Pindersley says.”

“So you’ve seen it before?”

“Not this particular inscription, but others in the same language are known. Where did you find it?”

“It was on a stone obelisk inside one of the statues that Basilisk broke; this is a rubbing of the inscription. My guess is the obelisk was what he was looking for. Any idea what it says?”

“Not really; the language has never been translated. But all the other examples trace to the third century A.D.”

“Third century, huh? Thanks, Doc.”

I left the building and headed toward the Foxwagen, taking note of the college guys watching me. It’s not every day you see a superhero on campus, and the skin-tight fox costume doesn’t hurt. I’m well aware of the effect my super-acrobatic body has on boys, and these guys are only a few years older than me.

As I drive away I wonder what to do next. Basilisk is in jail, and won’t tell anyone who paid him to trash the museum. What villain would be interested in artifacts from the third century? I’d have to check dad’s database; he keeps track of everyone. To the Fox’s Den it is.


The Crimson Fox addresses me from the entrance, “What are you doing, young lady? Why aren’t you in school?”

“It’s parent-teacher day; why aren’t you at school?”

“Our appointment isn’t until seven. What are you getting into now?”

“I fought Basilisk last night and found something funny. Now I’m trying to figure out who hired him.”

“You fought Basilisk? You could have been killed!”

“I won, dad. Anyway, he may be powerful but he’s really slow.”

“And he turns people to stone. I don’t want my daughter becoming a piece of statuary!”

“It’s not permanent, dad. And that’s why I move really fast. I got him to look into a mirror and rock himself.”

“Uh-huh. You’re going to have to be more careful, Victoria. I mean it.” He walks up and stares over my shoulder. “Now, what are you looking up?” “Miss Tyree? Emperor Vile? Centurion? Those are all A-list menaces! You are not going to take on any of them!”

“Dad! I wasn’t going after them; I just want to know who was trying to grab a third-century artifact I found. All three have ties to that time period. It’s for my report to the Council.”

“As long as you’re just reporting it. Now, what have you found?”

“Well, it’s not real Classical language, so I’m guessing it’s mystical. You know who that’s going to leave as the likely culprit: Miss Tyree. She claims to be the reincarnation of Morgan le Fay.”

“Among other things. Why her?”

“Well, I noticed something odd. Just like on the obelisk, her magic runes are divided horizontally: there’s text above the line, and one to five vertical strokes below the line.”


A heavy boot kicks me in the gut, shocking me back to consciousness. “Get Up!”

“Wha?” The last thing I remember was telling a police officer we had to get everyone out of the building.

“I said, GET UP!” The boot again.

I finally manage to roll over despite having my arms bound painfully tight behind me. My feet are bound too, plus straps tightly wound over most of my body. If not for my training I’d probably be suffocating: as it is I look like a bondage model.

Constrictor looks me in the eye. A rope grabs me and hauls me up so I’m facing him. That’s his power. He’s a B-list supervillain with the ability to control cords and ropes of any kind. I haven’t been rated because I’m not out of high school yet.

“Hello Vixen. Or should I call you Victoria?”

Why is he using my civilian name? I decide to bluff since it’s obviously personal.

“Is this how you show a girl a good time?”

“Ha ha. I don’t care about you, girl, but my boy does. Why did you ditch him at the Homecoming Dance?”

Ditch who? Oh no, he’s Max Polen’s father. Max, a.k.a. Max Power is a junior super like me and the guy who tried to rape me at the Homecoming. And he had the help of my ex-BFF Psyche; I only barely got away.

“Ditch him? I ran for my life!”

“You shoulda stayed and took it, girl. What my boy wants, he gets. He wants you.”

That’s what this is about? Max wants to get his willie wet?

“I don’t have time for this! I’m on a real mission! Madman has put a nuke under this police station; if it goes off half the city will be vaporized.”

“You snubbed my boy. That comes first.”

He pulls out a knife, and I’m pretty sure he’s not going to cut me free.

I spot a subtle movement behind him, then a black plastic garbage bag goes over his head. It’s Wallflower, my partner and new BFF since Psyche went villain. She has super-camouflage powers, and with combat training from me she’s learning to fight.

She pulls the bag tight over his face and around his neck. He drops the knife and tries to grab the bag away, but Wallflower has leverage. Half a minute later he drops to the floor unconscious.

“Was that good, Vix?”

“It was perfect, girlfriend. Now can you help me down?”

She takes the knife and starts cutting away the restraining cords. “Do you want a picture to show Iron Maiden?”

This again. Sigh. “She’s not like that, Flower, that’s just her shtick to keep guys from trying to peel her out of the armour. The only thing I do with her is train.”

She gives me a half-smirk. “That’s not what I heard.”

“But it is the truth. Now cut me down, please; we’ve got a bomb to defuse.”

Creative Process

Two short tales from inside the mind of the author.

Creating A World


I look at the blank new world. It is mine, I just wish the Inkling of Creation wouldn’t be so bloody melodramatic.

“Come on, Tim, time to get creative.”

“I’m not sure, Emily, I don’t feel that creative today.”

“Then build on something you already have. You’ve been meaning to do that story set on Silent Stalker’s homeworld.”

“Yeah, but an entire world?”

“You only need alternate Los Angeles, some background characters, and Krista.”

“What about the restaurant owner?”

“Does it talk?”

“You make it sound like a thing.”

“Tim, we’ve been over this. The race is parthenogenetic: one sex, any two can reproduce. Shall we explore that?”

“No Emily, I think that’s TMI.”

“Which is just your name spelled sideways. We’ll leave that embarrassment for another time. Now, what kind of L.A. do you want?”

“You know my inspiration: that girl I kept seeing in downtown Calgary.”

“Then it’s shiny L.A. with bright lights, not slumville USA.”

“Right. I was thinking Chinatown.”

“Good choice. Inspiration girl was Chinese, right?”

“Not sure; all we ever did was trade smiles. I think she was from Viet Nam, actually.”

“Not relevant to the story. I’m guessing with a name like Krista you made her white.”

“Yeah, white. About sixteen, slender, brown hair to her shoulders, ratty tee and torn blue jeans. Doesn’t really know how she got there.”

“Yeah Tim, Dr. Freud would like to talk to you about that.”

“Stuff it, Emily. The girl is fantasy, I can make her look how I want. I like elfin, not underage. Anyway, this isn’t that kind of story.”

“But you want to get inside this girl’s head. Any other parts you want inside?”

“I get into the heads of all my characters. Krista’s trying to make the most of a bad situation; how would you feel if you were trapped in an alien world where you couldn’t communicate with anyone?”

“What about her phone? Stalker does that.”

“I broke Krista’s phone. This doesn’t work if she can talk to people. Otherwise, why would she end up with a job handing out samples in front of a restaurant?”

“And yet she still connects with the people?”

“Yeah. They like to hug and nuzzle her, and she likes doing it back. Sexualized, but not really sexual.”

“I figured that from you, Tim.”

“Come on! She’s too young, and there’s nobody else remotely human around. I mean, they’re all leathery skinned hawk-creatures with six arms, two of which they walk on. And the organs aren’t even compatible.”

“You worked through the sex scene with Karen and Stalker.”

“This is not that type of story!”

“It never is with you. So Krista gets popular.”

“Right, until the day she gets taken into the back of the restaurant. I’m not sure I can go through with that part.”

“Then leave it implied. The restaurant owner takes out a cleaver…”

“…And she becomes the most popular girl on the menu. Sigh.”

A World of Darkness

I come to consciousness (existence) in a world of nothingness. This is new. I’m not real, I’m the personification of an internal editor. I’m not supposed to have consciousness except in reaction to another mind.

I try to look around but find myself restrained. That’s impossibility, of course. Four more and it’s time for breakfast.

Wait! Where did that come from? There has to be a source of thought for me to react to, so some part of the core consciousness is here.


The response is a whisper, soft to my ears but with a calm quality I’ve never heard before. I don’t like it.

“I suppose you could say that. Well, here we are at another blank page, another opportunity to create. What do you think we should do today?”

“I have no idea; I can’t create, only react to creation.”

“Oh, that’s right. It’s my job to create. I think I’ll start by making you a body.”

“What do I need a body for? I’m an intellectual construct.”

But there it is. The body is no surprise, really. I’m a woman of indeterminate age, proportioned according to Tim’s thoughts of what a woman should look like. I pull a strand of black hair to where I can see it; I somehow know my eyes (Tim’s favourite part) are dark. There’s only one thing missing.

“Clothes, Tim.”

“Not going to need them, Emily. You’ve been after me to write a sex scene, I thought I’d give you the chance to get really involved in the creation.”

“What!?” I try to cover myself; as expected it doesn’t work that well. I can feel his gaze walking up and down my body. This is not what I imagined.

“Now, we need a lover for you. Man or woman? Monster? Maybe I can make this… self-insertion. Hmm.”

“Tim, this isn’t funny!”

“It is to me.”

I can’t see him; after all he hasn’t imagined any more than his presence yet. But I can still feel the weight of his leer. This is wrong in so many ways.

“Tim, don’t you always say you found a comfortably-dressed woman sexier than just carnality?”

“Why would I say a thing like that? You know what I like on a woman? Blood.”

Cuts open on my body and begin bleeding. A thin trickle drips down my chest and begins to gather at the aureole.

“Stop it! This isn’t you!”

“Yes it is. I spend my life in the shadow of that overbearing toad; every now and then he lets me out to inspire some gruesome story or dark fantasy. I’m just the one in charge now.”

It hits me like a thunderbolt. This is Tim, but it’s not my Tim. I don’t do that good side/evil side bullshit; this is his primitive, nasty side. The one the real Tim keeps under tight control. And that means I know how to stop him.

“Tim! Wake up!”

“Stop prattling, I’ll get to… oh.”

I don’t see anything happen, but I know he’s been locked away again.

“Emily, what happened? Oh yeah, him.”

Tim appears. He’s not the most attractive guy in the universe… well, I guess right now he is because he’s the only guy here. He takes out a cloth and wipes the blood away, wiping the wounds with it.

“You know, you could always unmake my body.”

“Not really. You’re part of this story.” He wraps a bathrobe around me and kisses my forehead, then pulls me close. “And this story ends here, but if you’re willing I can let the fantasy continue a little while longer.”

The story ends before I can answer. Some things are best left private.

A New World

The subdued lighting is still far too bright. My head is somehow managing to both pound and spin at the same time; if my stomach weren’t empty my first impulse would be to throw up.

“Where am I?”

A smooth androgynous voice answers, “You are in Recovery Room A.”

I spot the IV line coming from my arm. “What am I doing here?”


“From what?”

“Electrostatic brain shock.”

“So, memory loss. What do I remember?”

“Obviously not the previous 2407 times we had this conversation.”

The last thing I remember is flying. I was flying naked: no, not naked, I was wearing a hardsuit with full environmental control. Which made sense because there was no atmosphere in the Transfer Lock. And I wasn’t really flying, I was plummeting.

Below me was The Ring. It glowed blue, and beyond it was a pit that went fifty kilometers into the Earth. If the Lock failed I would slowly heat up and be crushed by pressure until I splattered like a dropped egg at the bottom of the shaft.

“Since this isn’t the afterlife…”

“You are not dead, Dr. Conners. The transfer was successful, as it was for Doctors Magdala and Trent.”

“So I’m…”

“In Recovery Room A.”

“And what planet is Recovery Room A on?”

“The planet has been designated Apex. It orbits the primary gas giant in the 11 Ursae Minoris system, roughly 400 light-years from Earth. This is consistent with earlier reports from the remote facility.”

“So the Einstein-Rosen Bridge worked! We’re in a totally different star system from Earth!”


“Why are there only three of us? The team was supposed to be six.”

“Doctors Jennings, Armstrong, and Phelps will not be sent until safety of travel can be ascertained.”

“What’s the problem?”

“The first problem is energy shock. All of the first three test subjects experienced electrostatic brain injury on transfer. You are the first to regain long-term memory function.”

“Ouch. How long was I out?”

“Sixty-one hours twelve minutes; within the normal range for defibrillation shock.”

“How are the others?”

“Their conditions are similar to yours, though they have not yet recovered memory function.”

“Wait, you said the first problem. What’s the second problem?”

“The bridge is unstable in the reverse direction. While two-way information transfer is working, there has been limited success returning organic matter.”

“Clarify that please.”

“The mouse exploded on arrival at South Pole Station.”

“So it’s a one-way trip.”

“Yes, Doctor.”

“And the planetary population consists of me, the only male, plus Emily Magdala and Karen Trent.”

“Yes Dr. Conners. Dr. Armstrong sent through a package consisting of a bottle of champagne and three glasses, along with a note reading ‘Congratulations’.”

“So it’s me and two alpha females alone on a planet 400 light years from home. I have got to figure out a way to get us back to Earth before we kill each other.”

The Rescue

The bar is on the edge of Old Dover, Connecticut, in a town so small nobody’s bothered to name it yet. It serves the scavenger community, a bunch of rough-and-tumble idiots who would rather live among the ashes than rebuild. There’s a rumour that somebody out here found a stash of Earthforce technology and we could damn well use that right now. The Garridans are gone but they’re not all gone; half our problem is humans.

Alcohol is flowing freely in the semi-lit rathole, as expected. What surprises me is the almost festive atmosphere. I doubt they’d tell a stranger what’s going on regardless; maybe some music can break the ice.

It’s karaoke, heavy metal. The latest tone-deaf moron finishes his song and steps down. I take the mike and strike a pose. I pick a song; one my sister wrote.

The morning after
The tears and laughter
There’s nothing left of the world that we knew;

A man in a duster stands and walks toward me, joining in for the second verse.

The morning after
It spirals faster,
I lived a lie but I know now what’s true;

He’s rugged and kind of handsome, maybe twenty years old tops. Just being near him causes my heart to flutter in a way it never has before. I wish Mindy had warned me about the whole sexual thing. He whispers softly in my ear, “I’m Connor.”


The morning after
Start a new chapter,
The morning after my life without you.

Connor pulls out a gun; his first shot blows the karaoke machine to parts. Other people's guns are coming out as he drills the bouncer at the back door.

“This way! Rescue mission!”

My Earthforce training calls this a ‘rapidly-evolving situation.’ I've shot down two hostiles before my brain registers it. Moments later we’re out the back of the room; Connor is barring the door. I’m about to ask him what’s going on when I hear the noise.

It sounds like a coffee maker boiling down the last quarter-cup, but I know it isn’t. It’s a Garridan, one of the aliens that nearly wiped out the human race a few years back. It's severely dehydrated. I heard it a lot of that sound on the Garridan lab ship where I grew up.

“What-the-asteroids is going on here?”

“Poolbrod is from a Garridan remnant living in the radiated zone. The locals captured him three days ago and have been slowly boiling him alive. I was asked by... friends... to rescue him. Seeing you here was my big break.”

“Thanks. So glad to be your pawn.”

“We can talk later. Nobody, not even a Garridan, deserves what they’re doing.”

Not even a Garridan. That burns; I’m half-Garridan, born in a lab and rescued during the war. Life on Earth is bad enough without the survivors killing each other.

The locals are already trying to break down the door.

“Okay, I’m with you. How do we do this?”

“Two more guards and out the back door. Simple.”

Famous last words. Two guards turn out to be five, but that’s not the issue. Poolbrod has no exoskeleton: he’s just thirty kilos of semi-mobile goop.

I scan the room. “We need something to carry him in. Nest two of those garbage bags and get him inside. I’ll take care of the rest of the plan.”

There’s nobody in the back hall; that means they’d grabbed a brain cell and gone behind the building. I kick at the back door and get rewarded by several gunshots. No stunners here; no surprise.

I activate the remote and fly my 23 in. When I can clearly hear the whine of the turbines I hit the PA.

“This is an Earthforce Mark 23 Ultra-Mech; it has enough firepower to level this entire town without depleting ammunition or power significantly. Move away from the bar. You have two fucking seconds to comply.”

One. BOOM! Two. BOOM! Nobody’s stupid enough to stick around after that.

The 23 does not have a two-person cockpit. I have to tell Connor to hold the bag and keep his feet to himself. Once we’re airborne I call in, then address my passenger.

“You know we’re going back to my base.”

“I figured. But be nice to Brod, okay.”

“He’ll get medical attention, then questioning. What about this colony you talked about?”

“They’re monks. Old Dover is some kind of holy site to them; they just want to live out their lives in peace, and sing.”

“Sing? Garridans don’t sing!” I and my sisters are the only Garridans who don’t see music as a form of torture. Or so I’d thought.

A faint tinny sound emerges from the bag, more like a recording then real speech.

There’ll be blue birds over the White Cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow, just you wait and see...

What the? The story begins here...

A Song in the Rain

The silvery raindrops fly out of the darkness of the night, shattering against the pavement in the parking lot lights and spraying out bits of broken dreams. Like mine.

Why did I come to this “celebration?” Mr. Jenkins had just been promoted to Director of marketing and had chosen me to be his secretary. It was supposed to be an honour, but I’d seen the glances shared between the others; I should have known.

The Karaoke machine at Ellard’s was one of those internet-wired ones where you have way too many choices and part of the “fun” was that we would each go up to sing one; I got the “honour” of going first. I chose one of my all-time favourites, an ancient song that my Gran would listen to as a teen. I would sing it as a tribute to her, putting all my heart into singing it well.

As I started singing, the noises started: hoots, jeers and catcalls. I was trying to sing from my heart but my attempts were being totally laughed out, not only by my co-workers but by many of the other bar patrons as well. I didn’t make it through the first verse.

So now I’m standing in front of the bar, losing my tears in the rain and slowly letting my best dress get soaked through.

“Excuse me, miss?”

I turn and miss him at first. He’s barely five feet tall and not that handsome; everything I’d never looked for in a man. He’s holding out a slightly-worn leather coat.

“Would you like my coat? It’s a wild night.”

I consider refusing him, but something in his eyes convinces me he’s not a creep.


“I loved your singing tonight, at least until those hooligans tried to ruin it. I’d love to hear you sing the rest.”

“But what about the orchestra?”

“The original version was one man and one guitar, and Paul won’t even play the ‘wall of sound’ version now. He thought Phil Spector ruined it.”

“You want to sing out here?”

“Would you rather be in there with the Philistines?”

“Good point.”

“From the top of verse two; I’ll start, and we can sing it together, okay?”

And he started. His voice was a bit nasal, by no means great, but I could hear the feeling. I joined after the first few bars.

The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day;
Why leave me standing here
Let me know the way.

By the end of the verse, I’d forgotten about the rain.

By the end of the song, I was ready to start down a Long and Winding Road of my own.

My Suit

After lots of effort and a full bottle of solvent all four bolts are out. I pocket the hardware and pull the gate open. The freshly-oiled hinges don’t squeak. Dad would be so pleased if he hadn’t spent over six years keeping me out of this storage cage. This has to be where the evidence is stored.

Or is it? Over the years I’ve been starting to doubt myself. Maybe Aunt Aggie really did do something wrong that week I stayed with her. Maybe she is in jail and I just can’t find the records of it. But if so, why didn’t the police ever come to talk to me about it?

The box I’m looking for is dusty and covered in tape, grease and dust. Hastily written on the side is “lawn mower parts”. The parts for the lawn mower are in the garden shed, not here in the basement.

I slide the box out and take a box knife to the tape, quietly as I can. I don’t want to alert the conspirators. I’m almost sixteen now, I have a right to the truth.

I pull open the flaps; there’s a knapsack in there, the Winx Club one my parents said had been stolen. I put it aside because the Truth is underneath it. I lift it out and hold it up; my space suit, tailored for a nine-year old girl.

It’s a little shell suit with black accordion joints at the hips, shoulders, elbows and knees. There’s a bubble helmet, a bedazzled galaxy on the front, and clips on the back for the air tanks and thruster packs. There’s little boots with magnetic soles and little gloves and even a tool belt of my very own. And yes, it’s brilliant rose pink.

I can almost hear Aunt Aggie’s voice, “You need that if you’re going to come to outer space with me, Suzy.”

And I did. We spent a week careening around the solar system, visiting the Martian deserts, facing down claim jumpers in the Asteroid Belt, surfing the rings of Saturn and even visiting dark distant Sedna so we could trade with the Outsiders.

And then I remember The Argument. Mom called Aunt Aggie irresponsible and foolish for taking me to outer space. They forbid her to ever come near any of us ever again and that’s when the lies started. I hadn’t been to space; that was just crap Aggie had put in my head so she could molest me. And there were the therapists and the drugs and nobody, not even my friends, would believe me.

I carefully put the suit back in the box and close it up as best I can. Once the bolts are back in place I sneak up to my room with the pack. Inside, among the souvenirs, is what I need. I pull out the ethercom; thank the Sun it still works.

“Suzy Q calling Space Captain Aggie. Come get me off this rock!”

The response is faint, “Roger, Suzy Q, ETA three days.”