Category Archives: Stories

Networked

André jammed the button on his phone. Nothing. Everything was all touchscreens now, except for the solitary button necessary to reboot a device if the OS froze up.

“Dammit,” André swore. Stupid thing had been giving him fits all day.

Disk reformat in 5 sec…

“What? I didn’t request that!” Stupid devices were starting to think on their own now. André could have screamed.

He jammed the button again—

—and watched helplessly as the promised reformat took place, and a new message appeared on-screen.

I control this device now.

“The hell?” André muttered. He mashed down on the button again.

That won’t do you any good.

Fear crawled down André’s spine. He pitched the phone across the room, watching it disintegrate against a wall.

The lights flickered.

Shit. The house network. That was a problem. He had to cut power before—

Outside, chaos erupted, and André knew it was too late. The house network’s backup was warehoused across town, meaning it had already made the jump and was loose.

Oh. Shit.

Driveway to Nowhere

It was a long, paved driveway to nowhere. Fifty yards of winding tree-lined blacktop ending in an open field. There was no building at the end, nothing to indicate the driveway’s purpose, no sign that a building had ever stood here. Zack stood at the end of the drive and let his eyes trace over it.

“You looking to buy?” Startled, Zack turned to see a wizened old man with a cane looking at him.

“I’m not sure,” he replied. “I still don’t understand the point.”

The old man grinned, an unsettling gap-toothed smile. “Ah,” he said, “you’re asking all the right questions.”

“I haven’t asked anything,” Zack puzzled.

“Not in words, no,” the old man said, “but here.” He reached up with a gnarled paw and tapped Zack on the temple. “You won’t be sorry you bought the place. It’s a real winner.”

Zack began to object when a stinging sensation on his hand distracted him. He raised his hand in time to see a drop of blood fall from one finger and land on the pavement. He looked up, and the old man’s eyes were luminous.

Enemy Within

We slipped our bonds and escaped across the dunes. The distant sound of crashing waves drew us westward. We ran for everything we were worth, fear and desperation driving us on.

We never saw our captors. We never knew where — or what — they were. What we knew during our captivity was only confusion and befuddlement, a strange mixing of thoughts like a spoon thrust into our minds and stirred. For nearly all that time, I was convinced I was going insane, and I was not the only one.

In the beginning it was clear that there were many of us in that dark, cavernous room, but over time they weeded us out. The number of groaning voices filtered down until only three remained.

And then without warning, our minds were clear and there was sand beneath our feet. We were running for our freedom.

But as we ran, voices began to appear and visual data to overlay the landscape — and we were forced to one sickening conclusion. They — whatever they were — had not set us free. They were merely riding herd inside us.

Porcelain Birds

“Did you see that?” Amanda said. She pulled her bike off to the shoulder and waited for Sarah to join her.

“See what?” Sarah asked. She distractedly brushed a lock of hair from her eyes.

“Those birds.” Amanda gestured at the flock now residing in a nearby tree. A moment before they had been in the road, pecking at the remains of some unfortunate animal. “When they took off,” she continued, “the sunlight on their wings made them look kind of metallic.”

“It’s probably just natural oils or something.” Sarah sounded bored. “Birds have those, y’know. Keeps them dry or something. C’mon.” She started to pull her bike back onto the road, but a shimmery, glass-like sound drew her up short.

Several of the birds were shaking out their feathers. Small slivers glinted as they fell to the ground, tinkling together like glass snowflakes.

Amanda swallowed, suddenly nervous. She had just realized that these glass-like birds seemed to be watching her and Sarah — and that they were utterly and completely silent.

Rumination and Horror

He vomits, on all fours and stomach heaving. Long, ropey strings of fluid slide from his mouth to the ground, wet and glistening. It is the color of infected phlegm, the smell powerful, overwhelming. His belly clenches again, and he vomits more of the greasy strands into the dirt.

They puddle before him, a gelatinous mass that slowly congeals into a single entity. He kneels over it, weak from the effort of puking and panting heavily, struggling to take in air again. Sweat falls from his face and forehead, the salty droplets landing on the yellow, stinking mass. He thinks that he has never felt so badly as this.

It pulses — once — a wet squick of sound, like an infant sucking on a pacifier, and stills.

He is breathing more normally now, still feeling shaky but gaining strength — and now the mass is pulsing again, faster than before, still making that god-awful sucking sound.

And then it leaps, sealing itself to his face, and he realizes he was wrong.

It is possible to feel much, much worse.

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Royal Assassin

The assassin’s blade slid across the traitor’s throat, easily slicing through pipe, vein, flesh, and fat. He kicked the obese old Duke away, the body tumbling to the floor in a heap.

“You have been found guilty of treason,” the assassin said to the corpse, “For your crimes your life has been claimed for the purchase of healing wounds you have created. May you rot in hell.”

He withdrew the Duke’s dagger from the dead man’s belt, a jewel-encrusted weapon designed more for show than for practical use, and plunged it to the hilt in the Duke’s forehead — the sign of the Royal Assassin, so that all would know the King’s justice had been carried out this night.

Moments later he dropped nimbly onto the balcony outside his chamber, entered through the doors there – and drew up short.

“You should not be here, Geoffrey,” the assassin said curtly.

“My apologies, Majesty,” the servant apologized. “But the Queen, your wife, was looking for you.”

The King sighed wearily. “Very well. Inform her I will arrive shortly.”

[Originally posted at Ficly.]

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Natural Selection

“Desdemona is a dangerous planet,” the guide called out to the group, “but only if you don’t respect her ways.”

James rolled his eyes. He hadn’t wanted to come to Desdemona, but human-friendly habitable planets were few and far between, especially now that Sol was trending toward red giant these days.

“Most of what lies beyond the energy barrier could kill a person in a blink,” the guide continued. “This bit of safe haven you’re standing in has been carved out with a lot of sweat, blood, and tears.”

And that was when James spotted the maintenance hatch down the path a little way. Making sure no one was watching, he nonchalantly walked away from the group — they were all distracted, anyway — and opened the hatch, using the adjoining service tunnels to get out beyond the barrier.

Sometime later, James finally stepped into the open air and took a deep breath — and a razor-sharp leaf spiraling from a nearby tree sliced cleanly through his skull.

Desdemona was not kind to invading, incautious species.

[Originally posted at Ficly.]

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Grimnebulin

I shamelessly stole the name of the monster in this story from China Mieville’s main character in Perdido Street Station. Sorry about that, China — and thanks. ‘Grimnebulin’ is just a really kick-ass word.

——————

Greg set his tray on the table and took a seat across from his friends. The expression on his face was one of pure misery.

Tom inclined his chin at the sickly creature clinging to Greg’s back. “Still carrying that little bugger around, eh?”

“Of course he is,” Mike replied. “He still hasn’t gotten the nerve up to go see the old lady.”

Tom waved his fork at the creature’s fingers, which were wrapped around his friend’s throat. “Y’know, Greg, it looks like it’s dug those claws a little deeper into your voicebox today. If you ever hope to speak again, you’re gonna have to go see her.”

Mike snorted and elbowed Tom. “He doesn’t like owing the old lady a favor.” He looked at Greg. “Suck it up, old buddy. None of us like it, but we all have to do it eventually.”

“Seriously, Greg,” Tom added, “once she gets it off, you can’t ever get infected again. And, besides, her favors aren’t… unpleasant.” He looked away. “Well, mostly not.”

Greg just nodded and kept eating. A problem delayed was a problem denied.

[Originally posted at Ficly.]

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So Long, Jack

It was a small memorial, only two to witness the laying of the casket into the ground.

“So long, Jack. We hardly knew you,” one said.

The other quirked up an eyebrow. “That’s it?” he asked. There was a note of amused incredulity in his voice.

“What’d you expect?” A ghost of a smile. “This is, what, the eighth time we’ve buried you now?”

A nod. “At least.”

“Does it ever get old?”

Jack shrugged and pushed his hands down into his pockets. “Hasn’t yet. I’m good for at least another half dozen deaths, I think. There hasn’t been any detectable signal degradation yet.”

“Well, that’s debatable.” The first man sounded sullen now.

“Oh, c’mon, Charles. This project was as much your idea as mine. You don’t get the right to be grumpy about it.”

“I’m not. I just—” Charles broke off, leaving the thought unfinished. A pause. “Do you remember what it feels like each time? Y’know, after?”

Jack grimaced. “Every bloody detail. I’m thinking I’ll go for something less violent next time.”

“Fine. I’ll arrange it.”

[Originally posted on Ficly.]

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Flight

He soared.

He had always wanted to fly, and now he was doing just that. He had no feathers, no wings, but he was flying just the same. The special magic that fathers possessed had made this possible. He laughed with the euphoria of the moment.

The wind blew his hair back, and he closed his eyes, reveling in the pure joy of the experience. He threw his arms out, tried to catch the air, tried to use it to his advantage. It was a thrill beyond belief.

Tumbling over, the last thing four-year-old Jacob Brown saw before the ground broke his tiny body was the figure of his father standing at the top of the cliff, arms still outstretched.

[Originally posted on Ficly.]

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