Normally, I wouldn’t ever have the courage to approach him, much less to speak with him. He was an A-lister, after all, and I barely managed to hold onto my own meager C-list position. I was a rookie, dwarfed by his all-star shadow.
Still, it was a Friday night, and I already had a couple beers pooling in my stomach and lightening my thoughts. What was the worst that could happen? And he always seemed friendly enough, if a bit distant. I gathered my half-finished beer, summoned up my courage, and approached him.
He turned at his name, looking over at me. His frown smoothed out, replaced after a second by a smile. “Firebolt, right?” he replied, pointing a finger at me. Continue reading
Sometimes, at the heart of night while the rest of the world slumbered, Ada stepped out of her house to listen to the emptiness.
The adults thought that she didn’t notice, didn’t pay attention to their hushed talk when they met for coffee or wine. She’d play in the living room as they gathered around the kitchen table, using foreboding tones to make predictions about how the world would look if the exodus continued, whether they were making the right choice for raising their kid. And indeed, most of the time, Ada kept her eyes on her dolls, not looking up or paying much attention.
But children are sponges, and Ada absorbed, if not the exact words spoken by her parents and the other adults of the neighborhood, their general gist. She felt that vague sense of foreboding, settling in at the back of her mind and making itself at home.
And it was that sense of foreboding that drove her, some nights, to step out of the house and climb to the top of the hill in the middle of their street, up to stand in the center of the road and gaze out at the world beyond their neighborhood. Continue reading
If there was one thing that aliens could never figure out about humans, it was probably the continued existence of dogs.
Sure, they argued in their off-world universities, their great bastions of learning and knowledge. Long ago, when our ape ancestors were barely able to wrap their fat fingers around tools, it made sense to keep dogs around. They barked to alert their nearly deaf masters of danger, helped fight back against those predators that sought to rip apart these useless apes. Dogs served a purpose.
Even as humans mastered the art of hammering a peg into a hole, built primitive weapons and warred back and forth for control of tiny little chunks of their homeworld, dogs continued to serve a purpose, at least for a while longer. Some continued filling the role of defense, while others hunted pests, turned spits to roast meat, even helped rescue some of the stranded humans when they got lost (usually from their own stupidity). Dogs still made sense. Continue reading
When I saw the house, on its own little island at the end of a long jetty that led out into the lake, I had to stop for a minute. I set my bags down, taking a deep breath.
“Well, it’s secluded,” I said out loud, although there wasn’t anyone around to hear me.
After all, I admitted to myself as I once again hoisted the heavy, stuffed duffel bag onto my shoulders, that had been my request. I’d told my agent that I needed someplace totally out of the way, where I wouldn’t be interrupted. Out there, I told him over the phone, there wouldn’t be any distractions to keep me from finally finishing a manuscript.
Had he sounded doubtful as he agreed to search for such a place for me? Or had that just been in my imagination, my inner critic taking a dig at my fragile self-esteem? Continue reading
The rogue appeared back in camp suddenly, barely making a single whisper to announce his presence. “They’re getting closer,” he announced.
Sitting on top of a log, the warrior nearly dropped his polishing stone in surprise. “Dammit, man, what have we told you about making some sort of noise when you show up?” he growled, his deep baritone making his plates of armor vibrate. “Scared the dickens out of me!”
“Maybe if you pried some of the waxy armor polish out of your ears, you might manage to hear me,” the rogue retorted, and the two glared daggers at each other for a moment. Continue reading
“Just another minute, so that I can rig the generator!” I shouted over my shoulder at my pale-faced assistant, Dave. “We can take out the zombies and bring down the source of the brain wave generator, all at the same time!”
Dave stared back at me, struggling to hold the lab’s door shut against the groaning, mindless bodies throwing themselves at it from the other side. “Jerry!” he yelled.
“What?” Connect the wires, being careful to avoid the live ones. It’s like Operation, but lethal…
“Do you honestly think that this will work?” Continue reading
Unfortunately, I felt the pull of the summons take hold just as I reached for the pot of coffee.
“Damn, no, just give me a couple of minutes!” I snarled, my lips pulling back around my fangs. “I haven’t even had the first cup yet-”
But there was no denying the strength of those words. A fishhook rose up in my gut, setting itself among my intestines, and then *yanked,* dragging me… well, not back, exactly, but in a direction that didn’t really seem to exist. Imagine if you were a two-dimensional being, wandering around happily in your flat little world, and then someone tried to pick you up, off the page.
It’s a hell of a disorienting feeling, especially when you haven’t even had a single gulp of coffee. Continue reading
I picked up the cheap-looking pair of glasses from the bar’s countertop, turning them over in my hands. “And what are they, again?” I asked.
“Beer goggles!” replied Dave, standing behind the bar and beaming back at me. “Great idea, see? And they’ve got the bar name on the side, so we can hand them out as a promotion!”
“Well, they do have the name, I guess,” I admitted, trying not to hurt the guy’s feelings. “But they also don’t say ‘beer goggles’ on them, Dave.”
“Yeah, they do! I got it printed on the other side. One side says ‘Dave’s bar’, and the other one says ‘genuine beer goggles’! Isn’t it clever?”
I turned the pair of glasses around, holding them out to him. “Bear goggles, Dave.” Continue reading
“To this day, there’s still arguments about how they chose their landing site. I mean, clearly, we can throw out the whole mumbo-jumbo schtick about the aliens listening in on our television broadcasts. If they’d been listening, they would’ve just come crashing down in the middle of Times Square.”
“Hell, if they did that, it’d probably take hours before anyone even noticed them. Someone would toss spare change at their spaceship. Now that would be a hell of a welcome to Earth.”
“Whole thing’s immaterial, now. They chose where they did, and now we all have to deal with the consequences.” Continue reading
I remember this feeling from the very first time that I got onto a rollercoaster. The train slowly made its way up the first, biggest hill, and I felt my stomach being left further and further behind. With each foot that we ratcheted along, I knew with more and more certainty that I’d made a massive mistake. I could see the drop-off, the disaster, growing closer-
-and I couldn’t do a thing about it.
Now, sitting in my bed and staring at my phone’s glowing screen in the darkness, I felt that same pit opening up in my stomach, that same sense of disaster.
“Oh, shit,” I murmured to myself. Then again, louder: “Shit! Shit!” Continue reading