The Ones With No Symbols

Pool party. I’m an idiot, right? For someone like me, wouldn’t a big body of water by the prime place to avoid?

Most of the time, my brain’s thinking clearly, and I would have declined the invitation. Hell, I’ve gotten really good at thinking about all the twists and turns of any sort of social interaction – will there be booze, and I might lose control? Will people be getting wet? Is there rubbing alcohol around? Will my secret remain safe?

But when Kara looked at me, those big eyes of hers glimmering in the flickering light of our college graduation bonfire, my brain turned off. She grinned as she informed the rest of us that her parents had a pool in their backyard, that she was “watching their house” and could “totally get us in.” She leapt up to her feet, body parts jiggling in delightful ways that made my hindbrain applaud, and waved at us to follow her. Continue reading

A Part of the Morning Routine

“Hey, Teddy,” I called to the bearded man sitting outside my morning Starbucks stop, his battered piece of cardboard clutched in grubby hands. “How’s the morning?”

He looked up at me, his eyebrows drawing together with distrust – but then smoothing out as he recognized me. “Fancy Dave!” he answered, pulling back his lips to show me a grin mostly bereft of teeth. “And how is selling the world today, eh?”

“Oh, usual. Same as always.” I reached into my pocket, feeling around for a dollar, maybe a few quarters, whatever I had for loose change. It was mostly automatic by this point, a ritual that had become ingrained in my morning routine, as unthinking as pulling on socks before shoes. Continue reading

A Hellish (lack of) Imagination…

The corner of the office was on fire.

I blinked, turning to look at the flames as they climbed up over the vaguely orange-pink wallpaper, twisting and letting out little screams as they singed the leaves of the fake potted plant that failed to cover up the water stains behind it. I considered looking around for a fire extinguisher, but I just knew that it would be way expired, and wouldn’t make this situation any better. Might as well just let the fire burn itself out.

It did, a few seconds later – but as it retreated, it left a hulking, red-skinned form standing in the corner, horns scraping against the ceiling and glinting yellow eyes leering down at me. The humanoid figure stepped forward, its hooves leaving smoking, burned impressions in the dirty carpet.

“Peter Welch,” the figure snarled, lifting one hand to reach out towards me – but then paused, shifting its glare from me over to its own arm. “Hold on, what is this?” Continue reading

Behind the Scenes at IKEA…

“I’m sorry,” I said, for what had to be the tenth time since the interview started. “What am I here to do, again? Exactly?”

The manager of the IKEA, a pugnacious and pot-bellied little man settling unpleasantly into middle age, turned his head to glare back at me. “Get rid of the pests!” he repeated, clarifying absolutely nothing. The fluorescent lights glinted off his bald egg of a head, piercing through the meager hairs that attempted to cover the expanse of sweaty scalp. “You have pest experience, yes?” Continue reading

“Extra, Extra! Darville’s Murder Trial! Read All ‘Bout It!”

“Oof!” I didn’t hesitate to swing back with an elbow as another reporter attempted to jostle into my space. Did he think that, because I was a woman, and barely over a hundred and ten pounds when soaking wet, that I wouldn’t use every inch of my five feet to keep my spot?

My elbow landed into a gut made soft by too many meals of fast food eaten in a car while on a stakeout or chasing a story, and the man staggered back. He lowered his camera just long enough to shoot me a dirty look before turning his attention back forward. His camera flashed, threatening to blind me if I let my eyes stray sideways.

I turned my attention back forward. Thanks to a combination of showing up early, knowing how to palm a twenty, and managing to catch the eye of Henry, the bailiff, I’d managed to land a prime spot near the front row of the court room’s observation bench. If I didn’t screw up, this might pay off – big time. Continue reading

A Deal with the Devil – No Takebacks!

I groaned at the man standing on my doorstep. “Come on, it’s not even eight in the morning,” I sighed, reaching up to rub at my sleep-addled eyes. “Can’t you give me a couple hours to drink my coffee, at least?”

He, of course, didn’t bother with any small talk. I guess the niceties fade after a few eons in Hell. How long is an eon, anyway? “You need to take it back. The deal is off.”

Instead of answering, I brushed past him, heading to my beat-up little car, parked down at the far end of the lot. I vaguely considered aiming a half-hearted kick at the Hummer parked crooked across two spots, but decided against it. The thumping echoing through the thin walls of my apartment last night told me that Kelsey, downstairs, had found a new boyfriend. His choice of vehicle told me that this one wasn’t likely to be any more permanent than the others that cycled through. Continue reading

“Take the office job. Nothing exciting there.”

With my attention focused on the main screens, my eyes glued to the free plasma levels, I barely heard the door to the command deck slide open. Indeed, I might not have heard it, even if I hadn’t been distracted. Chief Engineer Hansen had just been through last week with a can of atomized graphite, complaining about “the infernal squeaking every time it opens.”

Instead, I kept every bit of attention focused on the screens, watching the readouts. All I had to do was make sure I didn’t miss seeing- Continue reading

The Kiddie Pool

Standing there, the too-tight floaties nearly cutting off circulation around my upper arms, I had only one thought running through my head.

Parenthood makes you do crazy, ridiculous things.

I glanced back over my shoulder, turning to look at Brandon. The flippers on my feet meant that I had to do a stupid, ridiculous little penguin-shuffle to rotate, and I knew that, if any of my office buddies could see me right now, they’d be laughing their asses off. I’d be the butt of all the water cooler jokes for weeks.

“Now, you’re still convinced that the pool’s too deep and scary,” I said again to Brandon, hoping that maybe the six-year-old’s mercurial mind had changed since the last time I asked him, five minutes earlier. Continue reading

A Moment’s Glance…

Vivienne

And of course the rain hadn’t let up, Vivi groaned as she peeked out through the window of the taxi. If anything, it had become heavier, sheets of water dropping out of the sky. The whole world looked cloaked in blue, dripping like a whirling dervish got loose in a paint factory.

The taxi driver, perhaps sensing his client’s hesitance, turned to drape one hand back over the passenger seat. He frowned at her over his shoulder, his bushy black mustache twitching irritably on his face.

“Is the Metro Bank, yes?” he huffed. “Problem?” Continue reading

Regulate

Author’s note: Dark America will return with the next update! ┬áThis is a brief one-shot inspired by a late-night idea.

Walking past the tavern, I caught sight of a familiar shape inside. Frowning, I pushed open the door, blinking as I tried to adjust to the interior’s dimness.

“Wrynn?” I asked, moving over towards the grizzled man sitting heavily at the bar, scarred knuckles wrapped around his flagon. “What are you doing in here?”

He turned a single eye to fix me, and I felt my spine snap towards attention without any conscious input. Wrynn was the oldest man in the village, and the oldest Gifted that I’d ever met. Others were older, of course – ones like Glass Alice had their own legends built up – but Wrynn was the oldest that I’d actually met.

“What d’you think I’m doing in here?” the old man grunted at me, tightening his shoulders slightly. “Drinking. Trying to get some damn peace and quiet.” Continue reading