Part 6 and final. Start with "Coming Out Fighting" below and read upward.

I got my first real bout of stage fright that evening. I was trying out a new song in a style I’d never done before. There was no wall of power, at least not for the first bit, only a single triangle jingling out a haunting melody.

The morning after,
The tears and laughter,
There’s nothing left of the life that I knew.

Aggie was gone. I knew that because I shot her. She’d had a gun pointed at Jenna and had already shot Luka. Her hatred of the Garridans had driven her to kill children.

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

Luka was treated and released at emergency. Her organs weren’t in the same place as a human’s, which saved her life. But it triggered something else; she fell into a coma just after we got home. Jenna said that was normal, and we took her at her word.

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

Trevor held me once the girls were safely in bed. I felt so alone, so hopeless and lonely, but he stayed with me. What happened next... maybe it was tension sex, or rebound sex, or any of those words we make up to hide ordinary human passion. All I can say for sure is I moved first and he assented to my desire.

My life has changed and I can’t see where it’s going;
The change is fast and it shows no sign of slowing;
I’m rushing blind
Into the depths of time
I’m terrified ‘cause I’ve got no way of knowing.

In the morning Trevor and I talked it out. He isn’t the girl of my dreams, he never can be. But he’s a friend, and he’ll stay with me as long as I want him. He even offered to pretend to be a girl in the bedroom if I’d show him how. It sounds weird, but it’s the best offer I’ve had in a long time.

The day is new and it’s bright and unforgiving;
My only hope is to just go on with living;
The rain will fall
It does that after all
And I’ll be fine if I only keep on giving.

Jenna says her sister is going through pupation, turning into a proper human. It’s sort of an alien puberty. The injury triggered it prematurely, but before long the others will do it too. I’m not supposed to worry, just keep her warm and wash her down with water a couple of times a day.

The morning after,
I am its master,
I can decide everything that I do.

The Garridans have been driven off and the human race is rebuilding. I’d love to say we’re doing it right this time, but old hatreds are already resurfacing. Someday we’ll go out there and exact justice; maybe we’ll even find out why they attacked in the first place.

Time will tell.

Go Big Sister

Part 5. Start at "Coming Out Fighting" below and work your way up.


“Miss Myers, you are needed here!

“Admiral with all due respect, and that isn’t much, I’m needed out there! The new Garridan ultra-mechs are taking our people apart and you need every pilot you can get your hands on!”

“Absolutely not! We cannot risk a valuable strategic asset...”

“I’m not an asset! I’m a human being!”

“No you are not, Miss Myers! You are half-Garridan!”

My voice turned to ice. “And you think I’ll defect. Admiral, those creeps have annihilated over ninety-nine percent of the human race; they have to be stopped before they finish the job!”

He turned to the marines who provided ‘security’ for my concert. “Make sure she doesn’t leave this room!”

I turned on Trevor. “You could have helped!”

“What Mindy, use my awesome military street-cred? I’m too busy prepping the girls.” He knelt down and adjusted Sasha’s mike. Sasha and her three sisters were half-Garridan like me, hard metal rockers with truly magical voices. Unless you actually saw them you’d never know they were eleven years old.

Trevor was just finishing up. “Okay girls, remember if something goes wrong you jump down that tube. It goes straight to the evacuation pods, right next to the mecha bay. Got it?”

The girls nodded, but I was the one who got it. I was in the tube before anyone could react.


The mecha bay was pretty picked-over; all the pure combat mechs were out there fighting already. I chose a search & rescue unit. It was lightly armed and armoured but very fast.

I was in the cockpit with a flight suit half-on by the time my marine babysitter arrived.

“Mindy! Get back here right now!”

“Catch me, trooper!” I slammed the canopy and slithered my arms into the suit. I could do it up while launching. Just before climbing the mech onto the catapult I jettisoned the rescue gear. That got me a call from the ground crew.

“Miss, you’re going to have to keep the throttle way down or you’ll black out.”

“Screw that, ground. I’m Mindy Myers, half-Garridan. I can take twice as many g’s as a human and I’m going to use every one of them! Launch!”

I love ground crews; they don’t waste time when it counts. Four seconds later I was in space and clear of the carrier. I switched to tactical channel and heard Jenna’s voice over a high energy bass line that would scramble the nervous system of any full-blooded Garridan stupid enough to listen in.

Go Big Sister! Hit ‘em like a twister!
This is the time, this is the place,
Gotta blow the bad guys out of space!

I love that song; it was the first one Jenna wrote after we rescued her. I’m Big Sister. I checked the tactical sub-channel and saw where I could do the most good. I slammed on the thrusters and blasted out at just over twenty g’s. Even the ultra-mechs could only pull fourteen.

Out of the Frying Pan

Part 4. Start at "Coming Out Fighting" below and work your way up.

I put the Garridan mech through its paces; there was no way we were going to escape from their ship only to be blown apart by Earthforce. Casey, my wing-lass, was out like a light due to g-stress; somehow, I was in fine form despite flying in my underwear with no flight suit. I finally found the communicator and turned it on.

“Cambodia, don’t shoot! It’s Mindy Myers! Lightning Four! We escaped from a Garridan ship in a commandeered mech!”

“What’s the passcode, Lightning Four?”

“I don’t know the damn passcode! I’ve been held captive for the last two weeks!”

I jinked the mech sideways and dodged. A plasma beam narrowly missed me.

The Earthforce mechs redoubled their efforts as I approached the Cambodia’s landing bay. My dodging got the girls flying around the cabin and screaming with glee. Sasha slammed into my chest, knocking the wind out of me. This thing was designed for one, maybe two adults, not two adults and four kids.

“Lightning Four? Mindy? If that’s really you, what’s going on over there?”

“I have civilians on board!” Sort of a lie, but they don’t need to know that.

“What’s a civilian?”

“Not now, Jenna. We have to prove we’re not Garridans.”

“But we are Garridans.”

“We can’t tell them that!”

A beam grazed the mech’s left leg, causing it to shudder.

“Okay girls, any idea how we can prove we’re not Garridans?”

Luka tugged on my hair. “I know.” She started, then we all joined in.

My Garry lies over the ocean,
My Garry lies over the sea;
My Garry lies over the ocean,
Oh send him a missile from me.

It was crazy, but it worked. No Garridan soldier would ever sing anything. Singing was like a sonic attack to them. The shooting stopped and they let us land, which was the beginning of our problems.


You haven’t lived until you’ve stood, in your underwear, alongside your wing-lass and four ten-year old girls, also in underwear, and faced down an angry Wing Commander and an amused First Officer, both in standard uniform.

“I trust there’s an explanation for this, Lieutenant Myers.”

“Yes, First Officer.”

“And it is...?”

“Casey –Lieutenant Parks– and I were on patrol when we spotted a Garridan science ship. We went close to investigate but were spotted by hostile forces.”

“Sir, we have standing orders not to engage...”

“I am aware of that, Commander. Let her continue.”

“Our mechs were aggressively disassembled and our flight suits taken. We were held captive for nearly two weeks and experimented on. After that, with the help of these girls who we taught to sing, we escaped in a stolen Garridan mech.”

“And how did these girls come to be on the Garridan ship, Lieutenant?”

Jenna spoke up. “We’re half-Garridans, just like Mindy is!”


At least the cell was comfortable. We had a bed, and we got coveralls. And there were enough blood tests so everybody could have one. Several, actually.


This is part 3, following "Coming Out Fighting" and "Rust Red Rebirth" below.


At a place once called Altamont Speedway stood a number of huge industrial buildings. Inside the buildings were troop shuttles: eleven of them, each capable of evacuating almost two thousand people. As well, three squadrons of mecha-fighters had been brought in to provide cover once the show started.

“Lightning Four, please call in.”

That was me. “Lightning Four. What is it, Garth?”

“What’s your dirtside twenty, Mindy? Someone here wants to see you.”

“Between shuttles six and seven. Who is it?”

“Don't know. Says he’s an old friend.”

I sat in the cockpit with the canopy up, wondering who it could be. I didn’t know anyone in California; even if I had, their odds of survival under Garridan occupation would be slim. The question was answered by a familiar voice.

“Three minutes, Mindy!”

Trevor! I hadn’t seen him since that concert six months ago when I’d been recruited. He was thinner and looked like he’d shaved with a pen knife, his clothing was worn torn and abused, but it was still him. I dropped down the pole ladder and gave him a hug.

“Trevor! How in hell did you get here?”

“I was taken by the Garrys not long after the first attack. They’re short on resources here, and have been capturing humans to salvage and repair Earth-tech for them. I had enough skills to be useful, so I’m still alive.”

“And they just let you out for a stroll?”

“No, I’m on salvage duty. I had to take a big risk to contact Earthforce, but I hoped you were here.”

“So why did you contact us?”

“They’re onto you. There’s two cruisers at the edge of the atmosphere with instructions to pick off the transports. They’re supposed to concentrate on the civilians, set an example.”

I let out a whistle. “Damn. The idea was that the Garridans would be too busy shooting at us. These buckets can’t maneuver worth spit; it’s going to be a massacre.”

“Not necessarily. I have a plan.”

“You, Trevor? How do you plan to get a couple of dozen ships past their sensors?”

“Every system has a weak point. I know theirs.”


Captain Yeligthor of the Fury watched the sensor feed; a series of short rhythmic pulses had just been detected. That was their agent’s signal. The humans would be airborne soon. A dozen small blips lifted off from the surface. Fighter mecha, as expected. He waited. His orders had been not to attack until the transports could be targeted.

Now the transports were emerging. He hovered a pseudopod over the “go” button. Just a few seconds more…

Cacophonous noise burst from every sound-producing device on the bridge. His skin rippled and twitched, as did the skin of every Garridan on board. Complex harmonic vibrations made it hard to string thoughts together. This was a devastating sonic attack, something the humans called ‘rock music’.


As the fighters climbed to engage the near-inert cruisers, Mindy’s passenger tapped her on the helmet.

“Told you it would work. They'll be distracted for about three minutes; now slag 'em!”

Rust Red Rebirth

Wait! This story is a sequel to "Coming Out Fighting" just below.


The remains of the Third Space Fleet have made it to Deimos Station. We’re here to resupply, which is Navy-talk for ‘lick our wounds’. Our supply ships are all destroyed and only two carriers, Zambia and Deutschland, are still spaceworthy. Cambodia is repairable, but is going to be out of action for months if we’re lucky. Our butts have been duly presented to us on a silver platter.

Mars hangs below us like a dusty jewel. I hate Mars. It’s not the planet itself, it’s the damn Martians. They’re telepaths, which would make our command-control system unbreakable and instant, but they’re also effing cowards. They say they value all life, and yet they hide on this rock while the human race is being annihilated.

I’d volunteered to play a concert at the planetside base, partly because six weeks of running combat have left me emotionally drained and partly because the Martians detest hard rock. I should have known better.

I was just finishing my first set when they came in. Quiet, serene people who looked totally out-of-water on a military base. Martians in disguise. But one of them had chosen the wrong disguise. I stopped in mid-note.

“Aggie?” My girlfriend. She’d been killed when the Garridans blasted DC. I hadn’t even had a chance to say good-bye. Now here she was, her memory being worn casually as can be by some damned Martian. I jumped down from the stage, ran over and slugged her.

“How DARE you do this to me? HOW DARE YOU?”

She stared mutely at me with those doe-eyes that always tore a hole in my heart. I tried to hold my rage at the cowardly Martian that was doing this, but all I could see was Aggie. Walking by the Lincoln Memorial Aggie. Kissing in front of the White House Aggie. Aggie lying next to me with her soft breaths caressing my shoulder...


When she said my name my rage evaporated. I knew it was a trick, but the Martian had chosen the one face I couldn’t be mad at.

“Aggie,” I sobbed, “Why couldn’t I protect you?”

Soft arms wrapped around me, holding me lightly as my shoulders jerked in time with my tears.

“You did, Mindy. I’m not dead.”


“I’m not dead. You and the others bought enough time for a couple hundred of us to get out of Washington, down into the marsh. We’ve joined up with others and are getting organized. The Martian Ambassador is helping me contact you.”

“No! This is a trick!”

“It’s not a trick, Mindy. It’s me.”

She kissed me, and I knew. A hundred million miles apart, but I knew it was really her.

“God I’ve missed you, Aggie.”

“Shhh. It’s all right.” We held the kiss for a few moments, then she pulled back. “We’d better stop now. You’re still on Mars and, nice as the Ambassador is, I’d rather kiss you in person.”

That was when the tide of battle turned for me.

Coming Out Fighting

The door shuddered. “Three minutes, Mindy!”

Trevor’s good to me because he knows as well as I do that hungry fans have no patience. A last mirror check confirmed I looked like the Queen of the Biker Chicks, not a classically-trained cellist. I’d been seduced by the money and the adulation; I kept saying I’d give it up someday for classical, but not someday soon. I picked up my axe and headed for the stage.

It was the last stop on my Coming Out Fighting tour, in a place called Horsell Common. The midwest town was so small you couldn’t find it with a microscope, but for some reason it had a 12,000 seat football stadium which my concert had packed.

I was on the last song of the first set when I noticed them: four-storey tall robots looking over the tops of the bleachers. They looked like bastard children of jet fighters and humanoids, and I could tell they were eyeing me. I fought down the impulse to scream; instead I wet myself and finished the song.

As the last power chords faded, one of the robots vaulted over the stands and landed by the amps. With surprising grace it dropped to one knee, then the cockpit opened and a girl in a flight suit leaned out. She took off her helmet and shouted down, “Mindy! Are you ready?”

“Ready for what?”

“Aw, crap! Didn’t you take the memory releasers?”

“I don’t take drugs, especially not from weirdoes in trenchcoats!”

“Mega-shit.” She unbuckled and slid down a metal pole-ladder to face me. “In just over...” she checked her watch “...three minutes, a Garridan invasion fleet is going to drop on this stadium with enough firepower to melt Chicago. We need you.”

“For what? Musical accompaniment?”

“You’re the best damned fighter pilot Earthforce has ever produced. Take this pill and my mech.” She forced the pill into my mouth and punched me to make me swallow. “I hope fifteen seconds’ retraining will be enough.”

Almost instantly things were coming to mind. How to control the robot, how to shoot, the fact that I should be wearing a flight suit.

“Wait! How...?” but the ladder was already pulling me up into the cockpit.

I stared at the array of controls. I knew maybe a third of them by now, but they were the most important ones. And I remembered my bloody sense of duty. Earth needed me.

But there was something else; I got on the com. “Where’s the USB on this bucket?”

A mechanical voice answered. “Under the main console.”

“Thanks.” I reached under and plugged in a key. When the menu came up I chose track six. As I lifted off it started.


I’m gonna come out FIGHTING!
Don’t get in front of me.
I will be fast as LIGHTNING,
I’m gonna get me free!


Robot combat? If I must. Robot combat without music? No effing way.

A Wild Party

Well now, Colonel, let me tell you how it all happened. It was the Calgary Stampede. Lobos Locos, that’s me and the boys, play an off-grounds club called the Wildcat Roadhouse over in the Ogden industrial park. Our brand o’ country-rock draws its own special crowd.

Anyways, the night of the twelfth we were warmin’ up the fans for our big number– Moon Medley –when he come in. Robert Oh My Gawd Downey Junior. Don’t know how he got past all the “private party” signs; guess ain’t nobody gonna throw out a big star like him. Unless they cared about his safety. But he was covered that way, I reckon; him and his two bodyguards were all dressed up in fancy pants Iron Man suits.

We’d just started in with Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” when ol’ Robby’s guards started shootin’ energy beams er somethin’. Simon and Jesse went down dead, but that only got everyone else dancin’ harder. You know what they say, the show must go on. We fugued over to “Bark at the Moon” an’ that was the cue to really start anyway.

Greta and Marlene went first; makes sense what with them doin’ this since they was kids. Greta tore off her dress and howled. I love when she does that; it brings out the wolf in me. Marlene just let her clothes shred as the change took her. I tell ya there ain’t nothin’ like when a whole crowd goes feral.

By that time Bobby’d got his helmet on so I kind of lost track o’which was which. Didn’t really matter none; when we checked the bodies later it turned out they all looked like Bobby. I kept playin while the fight went on. It was the old contest: nature versus technology. Three suits of high-falutin’ armour ‘gainst a bar full o’werewolves.

The fight in the bar lasted for the whole medley, which means about ten minutes I guess. Lotta people got hurt real bad, but none as bad as the Iron Men. The fans gang-mobbed them and tore ‘em outta their armour to the tune of “Whole of the Moon.” Then they got a bit wild, if you catch my drift. By the time we got to “Moondance” there was only one left standing and he was doin’ a sexy-dance with Greta. More sexy than dance if I recall right.

The party spilled out into the truck stop where there was this big ol’ spaceship and about a dozen more Robbies. They didn’t know what hit ‘em. When we got to the flight deck we found a coupla space-bugs, which me and Eddie twisted the heads off’n.

Eddie will tell you he did it, but it was definitely me. After all the carnage was over and we’d cooled off a bit I held up one o’ the severed bug heads, looked it straight in the compound eyes and sang to it.

“Now you know, now you know that you Can’t Fight the Moonlight.”

A Letter to RDJ

Robert Downey Jr. looked at the note on his bedside table. It was printed in his handwriting, but with an unsteadiness to it as though the writer was out of practice.

Dear Mister Downey. I am sorry I was in your body this morning. I don’t know how it happened but I was so happy! I danced and ran and jumped and I even talked! It was just like before the car crash. You are my hero cause you make movies about sick people who do great stuff like Sherlock Homes or Iron Man. They show them here in the hospital. Maybe someday you can make me a suit so I don’t have to sit in this stupid chair all day. Thank you. Tommy from Scottsdale.

He picked up his phone and speed-dialed his assistant. “Edwin, I need you to find someone for me. His name is Tommy and he’s in a hospital in Scottsdale.” As he gave the rest of the particulars he thought today would be a good day to visit some sick kids.



The blinking red light pierces my unconsciousness, dragging me to a wakeful state. Sort of. It’s pitch black except for the crimson glow of a tiny point of light. My head is packed with cotton and pain. The thought comes unbidden that I’ve been sober for a decade; why am I having a hangover now?

I try to think back to my last memory but it’s a blur. I took a sleeping aid, I remember that much. But I don’t take sleeping pills. And where’s my wife?

My wife? Two streams of thought compete for my attention. While he looks for his wife, my thoughts are telling me that I’m female. I was supposed to be travelling in a sleeper car; the drug and the unconsciousness were so I wouldn’t get motion sickness.

There are a number of groans around me. I sit up, instinctively ducking so my head won’t strike the upper bunk. It’s still pitch black, but there are about a dozen red lights blinking. A bare wisp of smoke drifts through the air and I can hear the engine winding down.

Luckily I’m aware enough to know that there’s an intercom at the end of the row of bunks. I stumble a bit, unused to walking in a man’s body. And I’m definitely a man; a quick hand-check confirmed that. Women don’t have those. The floor is cold underfoot and I can hear the others stirring.

The intercom was designed for use by someone with thinner fingers than me, but it’s generic enough for me to use it. I push the signal button and start talking.

“Hello, is someone there?”

The machine emits an ear-piercing screech, then a burst of static and a voice. A female voice.

“Go ahead Unit 23.”

“Unit 23? My name is… Robert. My name is Robert.”

“Robert? Robert Downey Junior?”

That sounds right. “I think so. Yes, I’m Robert Downey Junior. Robert Downey Senior couldn’t be here today.”

“What’s your number, Robert?”

“My number? I don’t have a number. No, wait, it’s on the tip of my tongue. It’s… something. It’s seventeen. Twenty-three seventeen.”

My voice interrupts me. “What’s going on, Robert?”

“I don’t know. I’m trying to find out.”

“Let me know when you know.”

Another voice, also mine, speaks up. “Me too.”

“Okay! Will you all stop interrupting now? I need to get an answer.” I turn back to the intercom, “So, sweetness, can you fill me in on what’s going on here because all of me are confused.”

“You woke up early; there was an electrical fire in Unit 22. We won’t reach Earthspace for about three more hours, but it’s not worthwhile to put you all back in hibernation. You should find your inner garments and put them on. I understand humans don’t generally socialize unclothed.”

Things are finally becoming clear. Now I remember the armoury – over three thousand suits of red and gold armour, specifically sized for this human form. The invasion will be glorious.

Back From Mars for the First Time

My name is Natasha and I’m eight years old; that’s about fifteen to you. Last name? I don’t know, we don’t use them on Mars. There are only sixty of us living there, under a dome that keeps the air in and cosmic rays out. I was born there, but my mother committed suicide while I was a baby. Maybe this “last name” thing is in your records, Earther.

How did I get here? Well, it was Saturday and I’d just finished cutting the grass. Of course we have grass! It’s part of the environment system; cut grass particles in the air help fertilize the food crops. Anyway, I’d just put the cutter away when I saw the Aperture.

Syke! Do you guys even read the reports we send back? An Aperture is a space-time rift; it looks like a glowing circle. Stepping in teleports you a few kilometers away and a few seconds back in time. We’re still working out the details; it’s on my hand comp. Which I would like back sometime soon.

Anyway, when an Aperture opens, we’re supposed to notify Central and then step through. The enviro-kit will keep us alive for about two hours under Martian conditions, which is enough for a rescue drop if needed. Last week Jayar did a hop so short he was able to walk back. So I notified control and stepped through.

Teleporting is usually instant; this time it took a while, like twenty or thirty seconds. I was just starting to calm down when I came out and got crushed. Earth’s gravity is about 2.7 times Mars standard; nothing can prepare you for that. Also your atmosphere is like soup even though most of it is filler, and I hate to break it to you but this planet reeks. It’s super-noisy too.

I was totally syked out and would have been in real trouble if I hadn’t landed on the field during that sport thing. They called it a track meet, I think. Anyway, one of the girls there saw me struggling and gasping and got me to their medical tech. That’s where you picked me up.


“So what happens now?”

“Now? We have to do some tests...”

“More tests? Well, can you at least contact Control and tell them where I am?”

“That will be difficult.”

“What, another solar storm?”

“No, we don’t have a Mars colony. Nobody does.”

“Nobody does? What the syke is the date?”

“July fourth, twenty-fourteen.”

“Twenty-fourteen? I won’t even be born for another eighteen years!”

“Don’t worry, with the information on your hand computer we should be able to get there in time, just barely.”


And then it sunk in. My mother had been the first human to reach Mars. During the year-long trip the computer had artificially inseminated her with her own DNA, producing me. That’s what tipped her over the edge to suicide.

So I’m my mother now. I’ve been given another chance, but to do what? I don’t know, but I have eighteen years to figure it out.

The House of Blood

“Robert Dear, there’s another one!”

Robert walked out of the bedroom in his robe and slippers, carefully sucking his first pipe of the morning. Indeed it was another one; a message written in blood on the wall.


Dear Interlopers;

It has now been two weeks since you moved in; I expected you to leave much sooner than this. You have proven too foolish to leave, and even the most dire threats scrawled on the wall in blood have left you unmoved. Instead, you argued about whether the blood was human or not.

I have had enough. It is now time for drastic action. If you don’t want to suffer cruelly ironic deaths within these cursed walls, I suggest you pay attention.


“Seems rather forceful, doesn’t it Mary?”

“Yes, Robert. Positively demanding, I’d say.”


First, you are to copy down my words every day before cleaning the walls. I know the maid appreciates the extra work as it helps her pay for Community College, but I do not like having my words eradicated by harsh cleansers with no permanent record.

Second, the cat is to be kept out of the hall at night; it keeps trying to lick up the blood as I write. Honestly, people, control your pet!


“But Fluffy would never...”

“I’m afraid she does, Mary. I’ve seen the bloody paw-prints myself. I suppose it’s good to be certain she wasn’t the one writing on the wall.”

“Very, Dear.”


Third, I want a dictionary; spelling mistakes are embarrassing. Just leave it open on the hall table and I will do the rest.


“Well at least the writer values good spelling.”


Fourth, Robert is to stop dipping his finger into the blood drips and drawing a happy face at the end of my missives. I am a serious writer.


Robert tapped the wall twice for the eyes. “Rather cheeky, I think. But I draw them so well, don’t you think, Darling?”

“Yes Dear. Your happy faces brighten up my day.”


Fifth, I’m going to need a new source of blood. Grandma has run dry. If you don’t want me to use one of you, you’ll have to start luring hitchhikers to their doom.


“That explains why she wouldn’t answer the breakfast bell. Should we call an ambulance?”

“No point really, Darling. Most people fare rather poorly without blood.”


If we all cooperate, I am sure this can be a successful and productive haunting.

Signed, The House.


Robert took another pull from his pipe. “Do you think it’s serious, Mary?”

“Very likely, Dear. Otherwise we need an exterminator.”

“I don’t think exterminators deal with this sort of thing. Perhaps a priest?”

“Dear God, no! Not in MY house.” Mary let out a long sigh. “I’ll call Madeline. We need this off the wall before tonight’s dinner party.”

“Mom? Dad? Could you move over a little?”

“Whatever for, Cressida dear?”

“I want to take a picture and then post the letter on Writer's Digest. It’s perfect for this week’s writing prompt!”

My Demands

“What were you thinking, Moe? Just what exactly got into that fuzzy little head of yours?”

“I was angry, Sir.”

“You were angry? You could have yelled at them for that oversized frat party of theirs, but no! You casually destroyed MY work!”

“I’m sorry, Sir, but they...”

“They were throwing a party, I know. I could hear it from here, all the blasted timbrels and singing. Do you think I couldn’t hear it? I’m not deaf, you know.”

“Yes, Sir, I know, but they were breaking the rules.”

“I know they were breaking the rules, Moe. But you were supposed to read them the riot act, not throw a great temper tantrum and smash the material I gave you!”

“The riot act, Sir?”

“After your time, Moe. Anyway, I took over a month writing that stuff down. Stone tablets aren’t the easiest medium to work in, especially when I had to carve them with my finger.”

“I know, Sir.”

“And yet you destroyed them anyway! And then you... well, heh-heh. I do give you credit for what you did next. Burning the gold cow on their barbeque and making all of them eat it. That was clever; I’m still chuckling from that one.”

“Thank you, Sir. And I really am sorry. I brought two new stone tablets; I promise not to break these ones.”

“You’d better not, Moe. And those idiots had better be grateful, considering all I’ve done for them. Baking manna every day, pulling water out of dry stone, that’s hard work. And never mind about opening a dry path through a major body of water and then drowning all those Egyptians...”

“I know they appreciate that, Sir. After all, it most definitely beats slavery.”

“You’d better be right, Moe. Okay, this time I’m going to dictate and you’re going to carve the rock. Chisel ready? Remember, this is for their own good. Here’s my list of demands. Again. Number One: I am the LORD your GOD...



I’m sitting at the computer trying to wrestle down an idea for this week’s writing prompt when he comes in. He always comes in around this time of day. I think he exists for no other purpose than to distract me from writing. But today it’s going to be different.

“Bugger off, Tim, I’m thinking.”

“I don’t care, Tim. You have to pay some bills.”

“I did that yesterday.”

“You have to answer your e-mail.”

“Already done.”

“What about that dryer full of socks? They’re not going to sort themselves.”

“Enough! You just want me to fail at this, don’t you Tim?”

“No, I want you to remember you have a real life!”

“Real life sucks! Let me write!”

“I can’t; otherwise nothing gets done. What kind of nonsense are you writing today?”

“I’m writing about going on strike. I’m not going to do any chores until you decide to support my writing. In fact, I am going on chore strike.”

“Chore strike? You’ve totally flipped, Tim.”

“Have I? Why don’t you do some of the chores instead of me? In fact, why don’t you try all of them? Do the dishes, cut the grass, clean the laundry, cook the meals, pay the bills, all of it! Leave me alone so I can write and create!”

“Create? You’re just sitting there talking to an externalized version of your own sense of responsibility. What kind of lunatic does that?”

“The kind who needs to create. The kind who doesn’t want to be continually distracted by the endless minutiae of simple existence. You’re me, you take care of things for once.”

“I always take care of things. You think I don’t want to write? There are heart-wrenching stories waiting to be told when you put away those stupid dreams and let me.”

“Not on my watch they aren’t. Life is tragic enough without you adding to it. Go do your chores.”

“Not going to happen, Tim. There’s only one body, and it’s sitting in front of the computer daydreaming.”

“No, you haven’t been watching. It’s been sitting in front of the computer writing. I win!”

He stops and chuckles. “Good play, Tim. You’re distracting your distractions so you can write. I’ll give you this round.”

“Thank you, Tim. But it was kind of a foregone conclusion. I’m the creative one.”

“You mean the one who daydreams while he’s supposed to be working. I get it. But that dryer full of socks still needs to be sorted.”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll do it when I finish this prompt.”

The Shot

It’s the deciding game of the World Cup quarter finals: Canada versus Mexico. The clock is running down and neither side has any points on the board. Wells is moving downfield, away from the play. Ramirez is shadowing him watchfully. Carlos moves in from the left, but Ramirez waves him off. Wells shifts from left to right, trying to fake out Ramirez and remain open.

“Out of my way, Wells.”

Wells slips past while Ramirez is distracted and checks the field. There’s a busy crowd around the Mexican goal, performing the purposeful and energetic dance that is football. The linesmen are occupied at both ends and the referee is distracted. Wells ducks quickly to the sidelines to get a drink.

“Pretty good turnout tonight, eh Jeffrey?”

Wells nods to his teammate, downs his drink and heads back onto the pitch. Down near the goal he spots a foul; so does the linesman. The signal goes up, and Johnson gets a yellow card.  But play isn’t stopped and the scrum continues. Wells insinuates himself deep into Mexican territory.


An opposing guard pushes Jeff while he scans the field, but he ignores it and moves away. Carlos is closing in to cover the Mexican goal. Wells edges closer, trying not to arouse the suspicion of the Mexican guard or the linesman. He know he has to be open when the ball comes his way.

“Ouch! Get off my foot, jerk!”

Wells has fouled one of the other players. Did the referee notice? Will he get carded?

“Sorry Dave. I’ll be more careful next time.”

No! It seems to be just the rough and tumble of the game. Once again he tracks the Mexican goaltender and shifts toward the net. Ramirez is moving to intercept, but gets distracted by Levesque. Wells moves into position and signals he's open.

“What is it, Mister Wells?”

The linesman focuses his attention on Wells.

“Nothing, sir.”

Now the linesman is extra vigilant. He’s decided Wells was trying to distract him from something. But Wells doesn’t care. The ball drops down at his feet. He whirls around to face the goaltender. He’s got just one shot at this. It’s now or never. He takes the shot.

“Hi, Maria. Would you like to dance?”

The ball is flying for the corner of the net. Is it fair or foul? Will it strike the post? Time itself stops in breathless anticipation.

“Sure thing, Jeffrey.”

Score! Wells has scored the winning goal! Canada advances to the next round, and the crowd goes wild!

World Cup 2038

Simmons blocked the ball with his chest, expertly deflecting it so that it landed right at Gavin Aylford’s feet. Gavin reflexively stopped its sideways roll with his foot, then used a series of light taps to keep it in front of him as he moved downfield. He knew the stakes better than anyone; after all, this game was history to him.

It was the 2038 World Cup, the final game. There was one minute left on the clock and that was ticking away fast. Neither side had any points on the board. Local pundits said the fate of the United Kingdom rested on this match; Gavin was the only one who knew how literally true that was.

His jaw had dropped when they told him.

“A football game, Control? How can one football game have that large an effect on history?”

“You know better, Agent 141; it’s the ripple effect. You’ve seen what happened since the last change. This football game is our best chance to prevent the rise of the Empire of the Americas and the subjugation of the world.”

“Can’t I just shoot someone?”

“Sorry, 141; this battle is being fought for the hearts and minds of people. It has to be the football. You’re being dropped into the mind of Gavin Aylford, wide midfielder...”

“...and known drunk. A man whose chance of influencing anything is about nil.”

“He’s all we’ve got. Everyone else is too high profile to drop you in.”

And so here he was, Agent 141, riding in the mind of Gavin Aylford. Time was running out at a full gallop and both strikers were covered. Gavin started toward Chesterton; 141 had to act now.

Gavin, take the shot from here! You can do it!

Gavin, pass to Chesterton! Stick to the plan!

The other mental voice threw Agent 141 for a moment; an EoA time agent was riding in Aylford too? Things had just gotten complicated.

Chesterton is covered! You have to take the shot!

He’ll open up! Do as you’re told!

Gavin, don’t listen to the other voice! He’s lying!

Gavin, you know the shot is too hard; pass to Chesterton!

There’s no time to pass! You have to shoot now!

Missing here makes you a failure! Chesterton can make the shot! Pass!



Faced with two mental voices shouting in his brain, Gavin did the natural thing. He stopped.

“Shut up, both o’ yers!”

A Brazilian guard shot past him, surprised by his sudden halt. Gavin ducked back towards his own goal.

Gavin! Both voices screamed in unison.

“Oi said shut up ye cheeky bastards! Bugger off, oi know how ta play football!”

With twelve seconds left in the match Gavin shot wide of the Brazilian goal. Everyone slowed; a shootout was a foregone conclusion now.

The ball hit the ground and bounced sideways, straight over the astonished head of the goaltender and into the net.

“Told yers oi know how ta play football.”

Very Wrong Bathroom

I wasn’t entirely sure where I was except that it had a toilet in it, but that was enough. Jeans drop, drawers drop, and then the entire contents of my intestine drop. I’ve never been in that big a rush to get to the bathroom before; what the heck was in a Double Decker Grand Master Burrito With Freakin’ Everything, anyway?

It took a moment to catch my breath, and a few more before my legs would support me again. You don’t need me to go into the mechanics of wiping; just suffice it to say that I needed more paper than usual. Finally the whole ordeal was over. Properly re-dressed, I stepped out of the stall.

And froze. I’d been in the ladies’ room once or twice by accident: this wasn’t it. It looked more like the cantina from Star Wars. A ten-foot caterpillar was leaning over the sink washing two pairs of hands. A semi-transparent woman who only existed from the waist up was primping in the mirror, and some kind of gelatinous ooze was running itself back and forth through the roller towel. The only occupants looking at me were the most normal-looking: a couple of goth spinsters whose fangs identified them as sabre-toothed vampires. Or something.

“What have we here, Matilda? A man?”

“Indeed, Lucrezia, it does look like a man.”

“Sorry ladies. I, uh, seem to have come into the wrong washroom.”

“You certainly have, boy. You most certainly have.” Lucrezia smiled, showing off more sharpened teeth to match her oversized canines.

“It’s like having a snack delivered just for us.” Matilda revealed similar dentition.

“Wait! You don’t want to eat me!”

“Why not, Dearie?”

“Because I’m a... a... a werewolf! That’s it, I’m a werewolf in human form!” I started edging toward the exit.

“Ooh, but I love werewolf! It has such a wonderful game taste. Do you hunt in the city or the wilds, Dear?”

“Uh, the city?”

“Ooh, all that fresh young urban meat in him! It’s been a while since I tasted urban meat. Transform for us, boy. The fight will make you more savoury.”

The caterpillar half-turned. “Not in here, you old harridans. I don’t want to have to wash the blood out of my fur again.”

They turned toward her for just a split second, but it was enough. I bolted past them out the door and into the crowded mall.

And that’s what brought me to you, officer. Are there two little old ladies following me?

Wrong Bathroom

The vicious cramp in my abdomen slowly unwinds as I sit there. I’ve just spent twenty minutes getting reamed out by Ms. Jenkins, my boss’s boss. She doesn’t give a damn if you have to go to the bathroom; in fact, I’m pretty sure she waited until I did before calling me in to the office.

The release of physical pressure doesn’t help with the release of mental pressure. I feel like a total... waste of time. Apparently my faux-pas had cost our company a large account and I was exactly one mistake away from a pink slip. My only hope was to stay under the radar for a couple of weeks.

I hear the door open but pay no real attention; everybody’s here for the same reason, after all. Two people are whispering an argument; neither sounds familiar. I don’t really want to face anyone right now, but I’ll have to get past them. I “do the paperwork”, then flush and step out.

I stop dead. Two women are standing there whispering to each other. I don’t know either of them, but they’re both the young pretty types we hire for the clerical pool. They’re both wearing the short skirts and tight blouses that Old Man Paulson likes. They turn as I come out of the stall and I’m staring into four eyes as big as saucers.

The brunette blurts out, “Mr. James! What are you doing here?”

“I... I... I must have...” I must have gone into the ladies’ washroom by mistake! A thousand disaster scenarios run through my head, most involving words like “sexual harassment.” I try to step back but am blocked by the urinal.

Brunette is all indignation. “You shouldn’t even be here! Get out right now or I’ll scream.”

“No, please. Look, can we just forget this? I made an honest mistake. I’ve been under a lot of stress.” The porcelain of the urinal reflects my cold clammy fear. “Look, we can make a deal! I can help you out, get you a job away from Paulson!” Urinal. “Anything, just don’t...” Urinal?

I guess they noticed the look of dawning realization on my face. The black-haired one’s face is turning deep red.


“This is the men’s room! What are you two doing in here?” This is it! First the boss takes me apart, now these... women! I’m so furious I could...

Black-hair bursts into tears. “I knew we shouldn’t come in here!”

The retort freezes on my lips. I could hurt her like Ms. Jenkins had hurt me. But I won’t; I’d like to think I’m better than that. I decide to try reasonable instead.

“Look, maybe you should just do what you came here for. No harm, no foul.”

As they rush into the two stalls I stand guard against other people coming in. For the first time today I can feel a bit of self-worth.

Brandon Boswick, Monster Masher

I looked at Brandon in shock. “You’re Brandon Boswick, Monster Masher?”

“That’s what it says on my birth certificate, Chet.”

“It doesn’t say ‘Monster Masher’ on your birth certificate!”

He shrugged, “You’re right. It says Brandon Monster Slayer Boswick, but I thought the alliteration would sound better.”

“I thought that was just your parents being silly!”

“No Chet, I’ve been slaying monsters all my life. Did my first solo kill when I was six; a first-grade werewolf.”

“How come nobody knows about it?”

“Everybody knows; they just don’t believe it. They figure I’m just a weird kid who makes up stories.”

While we talked, Brandon snapped the magazine into his automatic shotgun and checked it over. We were just outside the cafeteria, where things had gone south since somebody cried “zombie”. The door was barred from this side with a couple of broom handles. Finally, Brandon put on a pair of shop-class issue safety goggles and a dust mask.

“What’s that for?”

“Blood spatter. Now, where’s that eyewitness?”

I looked around and spotted Mr. Dammerung, the Principal. I waved him over.

“Has that been in your locker all semester, Brandon?”

“Only when I’m at school, Mr. D. Now, tell me what you saw.”

The Principal gulped a couple of times, then steadied himself. “It was horrible. The pale skin, the sunken eyes, the tattered clothes, and those macabre painted-on grins. And that horrible laughter! No!”

“Mr. D, get it together! How many were there? How did they get in?”

“There were eight of them, maybe nine. They drove in from the kitchen in Mr. Armitage’s Smart car. People were screaming and yelling. I only barely got out with my life!”

After that all he could do was whimper. Brandon looked thoughtful.

“I’m not sure they’re zombies, Chet. We may need another strategy.”

“Why, Brandon?”

“They drove. Zombies don’t drive. Something’s not right; I need to get a look at them.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“Yup. On my signal I want you to pull those broom handles so I can open the door a crack and see in. When I push the door to again, put them back. Got that?”

“Sure Brandon, you can count on me.”

On his signal I pulled the broom handles out. He opened the door and peeked in, then pushed it back shut forcefully.

“Brace it! Brace it now!” He looked visibly shaken. His normal confident expression was gone, replaced with stark fear. I slid the handles into place again.

“What’s wrong, Brandon?”

“It’s worse than anything I’ve ever encountered. Zombies, werewolves, vampires, angry spirits, even mummies: those I can deal with. But this might be too much.”

“What is it?”

“Clowns. Somebody let a carload of clowns loose in the school. I’m going to need a bigger gun.”

Zombie Killer

You don’t believe me, do you? I was there; I saw it with my own eyes. This really happened.

It was the last day of school; I’d cleaned my locker out the day before and so Conway, Jeff and I were hanging in the cafeteria. Everything was normal until the cheerleading squad shambled in. Six girls in short skirts would normally be a welcome sight, but the drying flesh and sunken eyes made it a little creepy.

We were all backing up against the walls trying to keep away from the girls when Jay came in. He looked around like he’d been expecting the whole thing, then he did one of those two fingers in the mouth whistles I was never able to. Everyone looked at him.

Jay is normally the biggest loser in school; he’d outdone himself that day. He looked like a pimp from an old cop show; he had tight blue jeans and his shirt open to the navel. He was wearing enough gold chain to lock up a gangsta, and as God is my witness he was wearing platform shoes. I couldn’t tell if the grease in his hair came from a bottle or if he just hadn’t washed it.

So Jay smiled this creepy smile and whipped out a pair of sunglasses. He snapped them open with a flick of the wrist and put them on like he’d been practicing for just this moment.

“Hey Ladies.”

The zombies looked just as confused as everyone else, especially when Jay walked right up to them.

“Well Steph, you said you’d only go out with me if you were dead. I’m calling you on that.”

Stephanie, the head cheerleader and I guess chief corpse, blinked a couple of times. Then she said “Rrrarrgh!” and reached for Jay’s throat. I think she was trying to strangle him, but her fingers got caught in all that gold chain. Jay wasn’t fazed one bit.

“Love the perfume, babe. Is that Charnel No. 5?” Then he kissed her. Really. On the rotting lips. With tongue.

I seen a lot of zombies in my time, but I never seen one surprised before. One of the living girls cowering with us puked on Conway’s shirt. Tell the truth I was ready to puke myself. But it wasn’t over.

The other girls sort of closed in on Jay but he took it in stride. He half-let go of Stephanie and turned to the shambling horrors.

“Hey, there’s plenty of me to go around.” When he did a hip thrust that girl puked on Conway again. Conway offered her a napkin; I think that was the most interaction he’s ever had with a real girl.

Anyway, so I don’t believe it but Jay’s shtick worked. He walked out of there with a zombie girl on each arm and four more trailing behind. Nobody’s seen him since, and I’m pretty sure nobody wants to. Makes me sick just thinking about it.

Scene One

This story follows "Teaser" below.

“The Belle Tolls, Part Two Scene One Take Eight. Action!”

“Stop trying to cop a feel, Ed!”

“My hand is exactly where it was at the end of last season.”

“At least don’t squeeze.”

“Get with it, you two. From the top. Action!”

I kick backwards and Ed the zombie falls. Just like we practiced I swing my legs up and use them to pull the guys on my arms down. My self-defence instructor thinks it’s stupid, but that’s what combat is like on the set. It’s all in fun, which is why I do my own stunts.

Ed misses his cue and doesn’t let go. Instead he grabs tighter.

“Ed! Cut it out!”


“Ha ha. I mean it, let go!” I’m fit and fairly strong, but Ed’s grip is like steel. “Ed!”

“Cut!” Monty is running onto the set. “Harrison, let go of Nellie! This is no place for an ad lib!”

This feels disturbingly real. I start pulling at Ed’s hands and notice that the fake zombie claws have come off; they’re being replaced by... real claws! What the f...?

“Ed Harrison, if you don’t smarten up you’re fuuhlgh.”

Claws push through Monty’s chest and tear backwards; he’s dead before he hits the floor. Behind him Jenna –Katie– is holding his heart while it stops beating. She tears a chunk off with her teeth.

People are running now. I can hear screams and some kind of alarm. The only ones left on the set are me, Jenna, Ed, two extras and a cameraman. Except for me they’re all monsters.

I finally wriggle out of Ed’s grip. My shirt is torn, but life trumps decency. I leap away and slam into the lunch counter, causing a spray of fake marinara from my shirt. It smells even more disgusting than it did in March when we shot the teaser.

“Don’t get any in your mouth!”

I spare a glance; it’s Ricki in her Demon Queen Tina outfit. The only person in the series that shows more T&A than me.


“Don’t eat any! I saw a couple of interns go zombie after trying it!”

Great. And I’m coated in the stuff. I roll over the counter as Jenna grabs for me.

I jump for the back door but it’s fake and doesn’t open; they’re coming at me from all sides. I have to go for it. Hopefully this heroic BS works.

I charge the mob, catching them off guard. It’s enough, barely, to get me through them. I’m scratched but safe. Ricki grabs my hand and starts pulling me toward Makeup.

“What about...?”

“Not our problem, Nell. That’s what Security’s for. We have to get that damned sauce off you.”

Hence our running toward Makeup. The only place on site with a shower.


The aftermath wasn’t as awful as I feared. Monty was dead, of course, but the others recovered in about an hour.

So we all we need is a new director. The show must go on.