Penny a word, dollar in my pocket.


Francis, having spent his seven years of life an only child, was understandably upset when Mommy and Daddy told him there was going to be a new baby.

"WHAAAAAAAT?" he shrieked. "NOT FAIR!"

Mommy and Daddy tried to explain to Francis that they weren't going to love him any less, but Francis's tantrum worsened and soon he was breaking fragile objects.

His parents went into conference.

It came down to two choices, obviously: One, abort the baby to keep Francis happy. Two, dispose of Francis and raise the new baby instead.

"You call it, dear," Dad said, flipping a quarter.

The Pain

He awakens. The Pain is still there.
"Morning," it says. "Sleep well?"
He hates the way it smiles. Smug. It knows it kept him up all night.
"Yes," he says, "just fine. And you?"
It responds by crawling back into him, into his gut this time.
He does his best to stand, but the Pain doubles him over.
"Get out of me!" he shouts, toppling a lamp.
It moves into his neck, chuckling the whole way.
He smiles, sensing victory. The bathroom!

"What are you...?" the Pain starts, but it dies as he draws the
 straight razor across his throat.

Vision Quest

Nikka was saddened to find that, upon reaching the top of the highest mountain, the sky was still far out of reach.

An old man approached. "I am unimportant," he said, "but I can help." He looked aged and weathered.

Nikka shrugged. "I seriously doubt you. I came to touch the sky, but it is still too high, obviously."

The man chuckled. "The sky is all around. Height has nothing to do with it," he smiled, and reached out to her hand. "Let me show you."

He pressed her hand against nothing at all.

It felt just like cool water.

Word Butchery

My first taste of Tolkien came early. First grade, I guess it was. My folks just got back from five weeks in the British Isles, and they brought a lot of presents.

"What's this?" I asked as they dropped a book and a freezer sack in front of me.

"This is called 'The Hobbit'," they told me, "and we picked up three pounds of the author at an exotic butcher shop on the West End."

I sniffed the contents of the sack. "Smells like fish," I grimaced.

"Yes," they assured me, "but it tastes like Swift!"

And indeed it did.

Marijuana Initiative

The room smells like marijuana. Has my fiancee begun smoking pot when I'm not around, or is it wafting in from outdoors through the open window...? Taking another sniff, I decide it's the latter and starting cleaning the room.

Three minutes later, I find two unsmoked joints and a roach clip in the dresser. A minute later, I'm calling Kathy at work.

"When did you start smoking pot?" I shriek at her.

She doesn't know anything about it.

I need to calm down. I pace around, and before I know it, I'm done with another joint-- my third one today.

In Hell

The first person the Helpful Philosopher encountered after going to Hell was Sisyphus. "Hello, sir," he said to the struggling figure. "You must be Sisyphus, archetype of perseverance."

"Sorry, pal," Sisyphus groaned, "you got the wrong guy. I'm just an average Joe, rolling a rock, being tortured for all time."

"Well," said the Philosopher, "it may be torturous, but I'm sure you'd be happy to know that Camus believes your task to be universally symbolic."

Sisyphus gave the Philosopher a baleful stare. "Fuck off," he said, releasing the boulder. The Helpful Philosopher, being downhill, was crushed beyond recognition almost instantly.

Comic Book In-Joke

Miracleman arrived in the Science Chamber just in time to see a blue flash of electrical light. Bathed in the glare were two Qys technicians and an unfamiliar Black Warpsmith.

"See," said the warpsmith, "the Qys have opened a hole through Infraspace into an alternate universe where superhero beings are quite common."

Miracleman gazed through the glowing ring in mid-space.

"I must go through," he said, and entered the wormhole. Strange radiation tickled his body.

Needless to say, he was rather surprised when, less than ten minutes later, Booster Gold spotted him and kicked his ass all over New Jersey.

I write about control a lot

"I think you're lying," he said, self-satisfied and utterly confident.

"It doesn't matter," she responded with a shrug. "You'll believe what you want and I can't change that. I'm just saddened that you claim to love me and yet you can't even trust me."

"I *do* love you," he reiterated, "and I *do* trust you. It's just that I feel evidence bears out my opinion in this case."

She stared into his eyes. "What evidence?" she asked, pushing slightly.

"Yes, of course," he realized. "What evidence?"

"Go to bed," she suggested, and he did.

So easily shaped. So easily persuaded.

Meta Commentary #1

Have you ever seen one of those roadside tourist decor places? With the redwood furniture and ceramic statues of Bambi and the Virgin Mary, and concrete geese for your yard? That is what Heaven is like, and when you die, you become one of those statues or redwood planters. And God lies around all day, watching the other deities drive by in Sun Chariots or whatever, waiting for one to stop. And when one does, God sells you to them for ten bucks and buys beer with the money, if he has any left over after rent. Such is life.

Meta Commentary #2

The doctors peer through the sliding peephole in the cell door. Inside the room, the patient is typing on a computer. They sigh with mixed despair and amusement.

"There is no hope for this one," says the first. The second nods.

"Yes," she agrees, "he will never leave his delusion."

The student leans forward, interested. "Delusion?"

"This man suffers from two irrational beliefs," the doctor explains. "First, that he shapes the world by writing. Second, that everything must be described in one hundred words exactly."

The student nods. "Insane."

The three move on. In the cell, the man continues typing.

Meta Commentary #3

SCENE ONE: Exterior. Daylight. The quad of a major university.

	Students mill about, between classes.


SCENE TWO: Interior. Daylight. The philosophy building of this college.

	Track in on a single door. From behind this door are the sounds
	of a lecture in progress. The hall is empty.

SCENE THREE: Interior. Daylight. The classroom behind the door.

	A teacher is lecturing a small number of students, some of whom
	look bored. One, however, is paying close attention. On the board
	are the words LIFE AND CINEMA.


Going nowhere fast

"What's that?" Diane asked as her son, Joe, came through the kitchen door with a big red box.

"Dunno," Joe said, tossing the box onto the table. "Found it in the Wilsons' backyard."

They looked at the box. It had the label TIME LOOP CONSTRUCTOR on one side and a big black button on the other.

"You should have left it," Diane said disapprovingly. "You don't know where that thing's been."

Joe shrugged. "Looks harmless." He pressed the black button experimentally.


"What's that?" Diane asked as her son, Joe, came through the kitchen door with a big red box.

The End

They heard the first bomb fall, cutting the President's radio message short. One minute, he was belting out reassurances; the next, a rising wave of thunder cut him short, leaving nothing but static on the tuner.

Doctor Harris switched the set off. "That's it, then," he said. "They've gone and done it." He turned to face Captain Marshall, his only companion in the subterranean research center. "Everything up there is history."

Marshall nodded. "I guess that just leaves you and me... and all this food."

Harris was too slow. Before he could take cover, Marshall drew his pistol and fired.

Meta Commentary #4

"Knight takes bishop," Jackson announced, tipping the ivory figure over with his mahogany one. "Checkmate." He sat back, grinning widely.

"Bullshit," said his opponent, who went by the name of Pacer. Before any of the onlookers realized what was happening, Pacer drew a six-inch blade and leapt for Jackson. The fight was brief, but decisive. Pacer wiped the blade clean and glanced around to see if anyone else wanted to scrap. Silence greeted him.

"Pawn takes rook," Jehovah announced, tipping the mahogany figure of Jackson over with his ivory Pacer.

"I think not," Kali hissed, suddenly producing six hooked blades.

Philip K. Dick, Vaguely

Bobby and Susy snuck into the living room where Dad was watching TV. They didn't want to tell him, but it was time. They waited until he noticed them.

"Aren't you two supposed to be in bed?" he growled.

"Daddy," said Susy, "we need to tell you something. We need to tell you that you're not our real father."

"Yeah," continued Bobby, "we made you."

Dad stood up, instantly angry. "I'm gonna whip you two so hard...." he began.

Susy looked sad. "You were right," she sighed.

Bobby produced a remote control and pointed it at Dad. He stopped instantly.


Arthur Wimsley was sitting in Business Class, looking grimly at the synthetic margarita he'd been handed. InterStellar Lightning service was every bit as sub-standard as he'd heard. Never again, that was certain.

Just then, as he was wondering what else could possibly go wrong that day, a micrometeor bounced through the shields and punched a dime-sized hole in the wall next to him.

"Ladies and Gentlemen: for your convenience, we will be depressurizing the forward cabins. You may feel some discomfort during the transition to vacuum. Thank you for flying InterStellar Lightning."

Arthur Wimsley didn't even have time to scream.

Almost a true story

When Mindy Wilson passed out at a Marching Band party and died, the official story was diabetic shock. The rumor, however, was drug overdose. The band, of which Mindy had been a member, made sure those rumors were squelched.

There was no autopsy.

Years later, someone who'd been at the party admitted to me Mindy had passed out minutes after doing a gram of coke-- her first exposure to the drug, apparently-- but everyone had been so worried about the drugs that nobody called a medic until they'd disposed of the evidence. By then, she was dead.

People are fucked.


There is a discomfort in the air. The animals feel it as he approaches. They shuffle fearfully, making uneasy sounds. Something is wrong but they are not sure what it is. The herd tightens.

He stops at the gate and raises his arm, pointing at a single individual in their midst. The others turn, the truth dawning on them. Their fear becomes rage, and they close in. They are herbivores, not accustomed to this, but even the dullest knife given pressure can rend bone. Hooves and horns gouge deep. Within seconds, it is over.

The herd breaks up, calm again.

Moment of Horror

I rolled up behind the Mazda, smiling. Chalked tire. Two weeks, unmoved. Time for a ticket. I drew out the pad and stepped from my vehicle.

Parking violation. $65. Signed and dated. Then I happened to glance up and notice the seat-covers. Leather? I peered closer and saw a face-- a female face filled with pain and terror, mouth open and screaming, stretched over the headrest. The driver-- the driver had become a seatcover. Her body was stretched obscenely over the entire seat, melted and warped.

Something shifted under the hood-- not metal, something alive-- and I began to run.

Looking for Love

Tuesday is scam night.

He wanders from bar to bar, shuffling pickup lines like playing cards.

"Hey, baby... What? Oh, okay."

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Change seating, check the hair.

"Come here often? Oh, sorry."

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Buy drink, smoothing out the bill on the bar.

He lets the next one see that he has money. Maybe it'll score.

"Oh, um, okay. Sorry."

He's not a nerd or anything. He's not unattractive. He dresses okay.

He just isn't that pleasant to be around.

Unsurprisingly, he never succeeds. Unfortunately, he never gives up.

On Wednesdays, he bowls, which is even worse.


Tandy waits, as always, for it to happen: A woman, alone. A man, riding high on an opiate wave. No witnesses. He approaches the woman who, obviously, thought it would never happen to her. A knife is drawn. All he wants is her purse. All he wants is enough for a little extra fix. All she wanted was to be home, safe.

All Tandy wants is a warm meal.

When the woman pulls a gun, Tandy drops from above, onto the junkie, taking him down. "Mine," she says as she drags him, screaming, into the darkness.

"I saw him first."

Dialogue which needs to remain free of context

"I hear they exposed her to a
 disproportionate amount of
 radiation last week."

		"I wouldn't know. I really try
		 not to pay attention to such
		 rumors, anyway."

"Do you think she's crab-like?
 Perhaps scabbed over, or all
 hairless, like a grape?"

		"If they rayed her that much, we
		 won't be seeing her again, so
		 it's largely irrelevant."

"I wish they'd take me away. I
 wish they'd dose me to the
 gills and burn me up."

		"You just want to be special.
		 There are other ways to be
		 special, you know."

"But that's the easiest way."

		"Yes, that's the easiest way."

Up and Out

The Algorithm came to him one night in a dream, tempting him with its charms. He tried, upon awakening, to remember it, but it eluded him in consciousness. Only at night would it appear clearly, dancing through the mist of sleep until it was visible.

He tried to catch it, using his soul as bait, but it hardly even nipped at the lure before vanishing once again.

He tried talking to it, reasoning with it, but it did not invite debate.

Finally, he called the Dream Police, but it escaped in a hail of bullets.

He never saw it again.

The Machine

You're familiar with the older unit? Good. The basic controls haven't changed all that much; the only major addition is the Keypad. You dial in the six-digit catalog number to select your pain; this button over here ends it. There's no list of the agony associated with each number; we prefer to let the user experiment, instead. However, I will tell you that "Jesus On The Cross" is 662512. It's pretty bad, of course, but everyone wants to try it just so they can say they did. You're set. Get back to us when you've had a chance to practice.

Dialing Information at Four in the Morning:

"Hi. Is this information?"
"Yeah. Yep, this is information. Need a number?"
"Yes, please. And an address."
"What city?"
"Walnut Creek. Virtual World."
"Okay. What's an eight-letter word for 'unreal or theoretical'?"
"I'm sorry?"
"Eight letters. Unreal. Theoretical. Third letter is probably an 's'."
"Uh... I dunno. Got the number?"
"Maybe. Okay, you don't know that one. How about...."
"Abstract. Try abstract."
"A-B-S-- looks like it."
"Can I have the number now?"
"Yeah. Here it is."
"Is there an address with that?"
"How about... 'strategic in nature', also eight letters?"

50 words: "Killer Bee" (12 May 1995)

"Wilson, Amanda. Your word is 'immolate'."

"Immolate. I-M-M-O-L-A-T-E. Immolate."

"Correct. Next. Anderson, Tommy. Your word is 'disastrous'."

"Disastrous. D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R-O-U-S. Disastrous."

"Incorrect. Executioner?"

PUM. One low-velocity impact spatters Tommy's brain against the G-Y-M-N-A-S-I-U-M wall. In the bleachers, his mother sobs uncontrollably.

"Next. Johnson, Daniel. Your word is 'catastrophe'."

I must win.


The view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is breathtaking. I enter its restaurant, invigorated.

Inside, it is pleasantly dim and cool. A menu is placed in my hands and I am seated almost immediately. The waiter appears, eager to fulfill my every wish. I am surprised by how inexpensive their food is. The waiter explains, in flawless English, that France values its foreign guests above all else. His manners are impeccable.

Slowly, horrifically, the realization hits that I am not in France at all.

I rise to bolt for the door but they are too fast for me.

Part of this nutritious betrayal

We're hiding-- an abandoned house on the bad side of town. The little Irishman pulls out a pack of smokes, offers me one. He hums while I reload. "Shut up," I growl, scratching my ears.

He sets the box on the table, finally relaxes. It's time. "Any sign of those kids out there?" I ask nonchalantly. He steps over to the boarded up window, peeks out. "Naw."

I press the barrel of the Glock against the back of his head. "What the feck are y'doin'?" he asks. "This be some kind o' trick, rabbit?"

Silly leprechaun. Tricks are for kids.

Ranger Rick

Ranger Rick is very brave.

He is well-trained. In his Ranger Training they told him to hold still. What he is doing is important.

The dropper moves into place; he can see it through the cloudiness. Drip! Oh, the pain, the shrieking fire in his eyes! Even expecting it, it comes as such a shock, every time.

He wants to tear with his claws, rend with his teeth. He can't help it. But he wants to do good! He wants to be a good Ranger.

Smokey, Great Leader, leans over, taking notes and smiling beatifically. "Remember," he says, "Only you...."