SF Drabble #99 “Searching for F’Shurr”

He brought the patrol boat down into normal space with a flick of the wrist, and started his scans. He wasn’t expecting to find the Howznian here: smugglers this good don’t hide in the obvious places, and this asteroid field was about as obvious as it gets. But there was always a chance he’d gotten lazy, or overconfident, or was having engine trouble…

Nothing on sensors, and Officer Franks snorted. If the profile was accurate, the Howznian was probably already spending his ill-gotten gains on a beach of black sand by one of the liquid methane lakes of his homeworld.

SF Drabble #98 “Monkey See”

“We come from Earth,” Reyes said with affected dignity, face upturned.

The creature in the tree stared for a moment, and then responded with a long shriek.

Reyes turned to Yanick. “Well?”

“Hard to tell. There’s enough modulation in that caterwauling that it could convey information. Lord knows that braincase is big enough.” Yanick shrugged. “Or it could be an animal noise.”

“We’ll have to continue observation until they do something less equivocal. Like tool use,” Reyes said. As he turned towards the ship, a ball of wet glop struck his back.

“Or, you know, throwing their poop at us.”

Fantasy Drabble #63 “Upper West Side Faerie”

She had one broken gossamer wing, and I scooped her up from the sidewalk with some newspaper I pulled from the trash. I rushed her back to the house before anyone could see what I’d found.

“Thirsty,” she murmured weakly. I  gave her whole milk from an eyedropper. I constructed a bed out of a basket of plastic grass that I had left over from Easter.

A week later she was flying around the apartment, asking all sorts of personal questions, digging through my things, and studiously avoiding the plate glass windows she made me mark with masking tape crosses.

Fantasy Drabble #62 “Influence”

“I don’t know what you’re so afraid of,” said the face on the television, speaking directly to me. And not in that breaking the fourth wall sort of way.

“I’m not doing it,” I answered.

“You’ll feel better. You’ll be able to do as you please.”

“They’ll come and get me. They’ll put me away, and that’s if I don’t get the chair.”

“Nonsense,” the face countered reassuringly. “They’d never prove anything. Come on. You have everything to gain.”

I said nothing for a moment. I found myself looking down the hall, towards the doors behind which the children slept.

Zombie Drabble #112 “We Can Be Heroes”

She was in there, holding out. There were others, but she was the one he needed to rescue. She’d never noticed him before, never given him the time of day; he didn’t exist in her world. But if he could rescue her now, literally snatch her from the jaws of death, she would see him for what he was. She would love him as he loved her.

He could go in any time, but he waited. The moment had to be perfect. There had to be real danger, and there weren’t enough zombies around. Maybe if he led some here…

Zombie Drabble #111 “Mercy Mercy Me”

Listen, I’m not sick, not sick, not really. It’s just a cold, I’ve had it all week. I didn’t get bitten. That’s just a scratch I got climbing over a fence. I swear.

Are you listening? Seriously, I’m perfectly all right. Let me get a shower and a good night’s sleep and I’ll be fine.

Okay, really, you’re making me nervous here. Can you just… point that away? I’m fine. Come on, man. You can see I’m fine.

Can’t we be reasonable about this? Please. My wife’s out there. My kids are out there.

You don’t need to do this.

Ever So Humble

I was born on Earth, I was seven when we left. I remembered playing in the dirt under the backyard canopy of trees. I remembered waiting in line to sit on Santa’s lap and being afraid of the crowds. I remembered cars, the lunch lady, and hitting a blooper over the shortstop’s head and booking it for first. I remembered crying when my parents sat me down and told me that we’d be going on a very long trip to a very strange planet and I wouldn’t see any of my friends again for a very long time.

My sister was born on the Polixaci liner. Elle was still a baby when we reached Friktik. Where I had trouble adjusting, she flourished. As a toddler she was less afraid of being picked up by a Frik than I had been of Santa. Friktik is a major trade hub, and there must have been two dozen different species living in the city. Elle could name them all before she was six. By the time she was eight she was leading us around the labyrinthine alien city without an e-map. The Frik are crazy good at maths, and they teach them well, so Elle is crazy good at maths too.

Her effortless assimilation wasn’t without it’s drawbacks, even then. When she was little she almost poisoned herself to death by taking a huge bite of the green paste her Chul nanny ate. Later, she came home one day from school and asked mom what caste we were and why Daddy worked also. That set off a whole discussion about whether it was a good idea for her to be raised on an alien world.

I remember wondering why that hadn’t occurred to them before then: it’s not like it had been easy for me. The sense of adventure had worn off in a couple weeks. We were on Friktik ten years.

There were no more than fifty humans on the entire planet, and so I had few or no friends, and spent most of my time shut in my room, watching whatever selection of human media had come in on the latest Polixaci liner. I spent all my allowance on them. Sometimes they weren’t even in English: Bollywood movies with no subtitles, Chinese sportscasts, German soap operas. It didn’t matter. Just seeing people do human things, in a human environment, was a lifeline to my own culture.

When we finally returned to Earth, I was eighteen. I had money of my own by then (for five years I’d been writing a column about life offworld for an online teen magazine) and I didn’t bother unpacking at my parent’s house. I got a place of my own and set about re-immersing myself in New York life. The magazine wanted a column about that, too, so I was pretty well set.

I threw myself back into humanity. I went to rock clubs, museums, tried new foods, traveled. I met a nice girl while watching the running of the bulls, and she followed me when I went diving on the Great Barrier Reef and gave me, at nineteen years old, my first kiss. I wrote columns about all of it, and they were fairly popular. I never wrote about my sister.

Elle hit a wall. Earth was alien to her. She was almost run over and killed twice because she didn’t understand how traffic works. The second time I think really scared her, because the car actually hit the bag she was carrying, and the force of the impact spun her around and back onto the sidewalk into my mother.

Children her age seemed especially strange. They couldn’t keep up with her hobbies, most of which were math games, and their own pursuits seemed shockingly juvenile. “They’re so stupid,” she would say. Meanwhile, she was put in a remedial English class: she was reading at a level two years behind her age. But she was fluent in a thoroughly alien clicking and hissing language that no one on Earth spoke. To this day, when she’s red faced, steam out her ears angry, she swears in Friktish.

Adults found her creepy, and were visibly uncomfortable around her. I shouldn’t need to tell you the effect that has on a child.

My parents decided to home school her, as if they hadn’t done enough damage. They had money, though, and could afford tutors and psychologists, so that helped. It took years, but Elle can function in human society now. She earned her GED at sixteen, and also went to work at the U.N., albeit in a different Bureau than our parents.

Elle came to our wedding, mine and Anne’s. I don’t think she really got it, what was happening, the ritual part of it. And I think she stayed at the reception for maybe fifteen minutes. But she’s really warmed up to Anne, who is the only person who can really get a straight answer out of her about anything.

I see Elle once a week. My wife and I take food over to her apartment and visit. Other than that, she doesn’t really socialize. Anne is convinced that Elle is having a torrid affair, though she doesn’t know who with. Apparently Elle won’t say one way or another. I have no idea what Anne’s talking about, but women have a sense about these things. The only person Elle talks to on a regular basis that I know of is the Chinese food delivery guy. Though, he’s there four or five times a week so I guess it could be him. I suppose it could be someone we’ve never met, for that matter. If it’s really happening at all.

There’s no television or computer in her apartment. There are usually dozens of library books, mostly about math, most overdue. She saves all her money. She says she’s going to buy a ticket on a Polixaci liner as soon as she can afford it, and “go back home.”

SF Drabble #97 “Major Tom”

He tumbles in space. There is still the faint glow from expanding gases, the remnant of the exploding ship, but otherwise the only thing he can see is the starfield rushing dizzyingly past.

He had no time to grab a backpack, so he has no jets to stop his spin. The suit radio is short range, and there is no one nearby to hear if he calls ‘mayday’. The telltale on his chest panel says he has two hours of air left, but if he vomits in his helmet due to motion sickness…

He is beginning to regret having ejected.

SF Drabble #96 “Day Labor”

Early morning outside the big box hardware store, the workers assemble like every day. Jose holds his cup of coffee in both hands to keep them warm. He nodded to another worker, a white man named Fred. They had always grouped by ethnicity before; the Latinos, the Jamaicans, the gringos. Now that would just have seemed silly.

The contractors always take the Igoru first. Why wouldn’t they? Ten feet tall, capable of lifting six times their mass, the Igoru are perfect laborers. And until the minimum wage law is changed to include nonhumans, they don’t have to pay them much…

Fantasy Drabble #61 “Doesn’t Hurt To Try”

The clamor on the roof would have been alarming on any other night. Instead of panicking, Zoe put the kettle on.

When the man crawled out of the fireplace, she smiled. “How’s it going this year?”

“Oh, not bad. Kids asleep?'”

“Took three stories and two glasses of warm milk.”

“Ha, fine, fine.” He fished some wrapped presents from his bag. “There we are.”

She gestured at the couch, as she did every year. “Sit, stay for a moment. I’m brewing hot tea.”

“Oh, no, thank you,” he answered, as he did every year. “Mrs. Claus will be expecting me…”

Fantasy Drabble #60 “Telepathic Intervention”

The Principal stood at the intersection of the two main hallways, as students flowed past him like fish past a coral reef. From some he sensed only mundane worries, but from others…

“Mr. Ridgeley,” he called out, crooking a finger at one student, reeling him in from amidst the crowd. “How is everything at home?”

“Uh… why, did someone say something?”

“Nobody’s giving away any secrets. Why don’t you come by the office later and we can talk?”

A sigh. “Okay.”

“Good.”

He knew the boy wanted to tell someone. Once he did: CPS was just a phone call away.

Fantasy Drabble #59 “Destiny’s Child”

He waded into the ogres: hacking and slashing his way through the thick of them, arms covered with gore up to the elbow, flag flying behind him.

On a nearby hilltop, he was the object of much discussion.

“The Prince acquits himself well,” said the Chamberlain.

“He has a knack for it. Like his father,” observed the Master at Arms.

The Queen was quiet for a moment. “His father died on a field not far from here.” There was a pause, an uncomfortable silence full of a cold wind. She continued, “I could almost wish he was hopeless at it.”

Fantasy Drabble #58 “Technicalities”

He was standing on the first plank, blocking the way, when I rode up to the bridge. “And what have you to pay your way across?”

I smiled and answered conversationally, “Why should I pay?”

The troll glowered, arms crossed. “It’s my bridge.”

“You built it?”

“…Not personally, but…”

“Then the land it rests on is deeded to you?”

“That’s not the…”

“Did you receive a Royal Charter of some sort? An Appointment by the Chamber of Commerce?”

"…what are you talking about?” The troll seemed confused now.

“I think we should consult a lawyer…”

“Oh, just go on across.”

Zombie Drabble #110 “Bell System Property, Not For Sale”

It was an old black rotary phone. He’d given up trying to call out, none of people whose the numbers he remembered ever picked up. He called random numbers for a while, but never got anyone living. He’d reached a few answering machines, and left messages with his name and number.

There were no books and no computer. He’d had the newspaper in his hands when he ran for the shelter that day, but he’d used most of the pages to soak up some spilled water three weeks ago.

Arnold Gilley stared intently at the phone, willing it to ring.

Zombie Drabble #109 “Dinner for Two”

If the bomb shelter were any smaller, they probably would have killed each other by now. As it was they alternated between days where they barely acknowledged each other to days entirely spent in bed, comforting each other with quiet whispers and sex.

It was the latter kind of day, but they were hungry, and so Penny got up to cook. The recipe was simple: rice, corn, beans, tomatoes, all from cans. Spice to suit. She called it ‘Armageddon Surprise.” They’d eaten variations of it, and nothing else, for two months. Penny would have given anything for a fresh orange.

SF Drabble #95 “Spawning Season”

We built the settlement just off a wide beach protected by a picturesque lagoon.

When the local turtle equivalent hatchlings started popping up on the beach one morning we were so excited… they were cute: six legs, soft shell. I absentmindedly wondered how they might taste.

The things that came up out of the ocean to eat them were huge, easily a half ton of blubber and tusk. We lost Franks and Tsao on the beach, and one chased poor Carrie Redding all the way up to the temp lab.

We’re planning on moving the colony away from the beach.

SF Drabble #94 “World Tour ‘32”

We were part of this whole cultural exchange program between Earth and Ksistisk. The trip was short, it’s not that far. They were great hosts, built a special mobile hotel suite and an enclosed stage for us, both with their own artificial Earth normal atmosphere.

The thing was, Ksistisk hearing is all high-frequency, so our music would have been largely lost on them. They decided to send the main mix through a pitch shifter, putting it through the Ksistisk’s PA system transposed two octaves up.

Weird thing is, after a while some of our songs actually sounded better that way.

Zombie Drabble #108 “Call Sign”

Bobby has four friends. There were more, early on, but most dropped off the air when municipal power finally died. Those who remain have solar, wind, some electrical source off grid.

Halley is set up the best, lots of juice and a year’s supply of food, but the perversity of the universe dictates that she be doing the poorest; Bobby and the others spend much of their time trying to keep her sane.

One day she will not answer, and Bobby will know she has taken to the bathtub with a razor, as she has threatened to so many times.

Zombie Drabble #107 “Party Games”

“How about that one?” Cyrus pointed. Amidst the sea of zombies in the parking lot, there was one that had been a skinny woman with dirty blonde hair. “The girl in the white tee. Can you hit her?”

Roy sniffed. “Probably. Yeah, I can probably hit her.” He took a moment, then wound up and threw. The balloon arced out and down and struck her in the shoulder, breaking apart with a splash. The zombie stumbled and moaned, seemingly annoyed.

They laughed. Then, Cyrus said plaintively, “I wish we still had gasoline.”

Roy nodded, thinking back to the fires. “Yeah.”

SF Drabble #93 “Duck and Cover”

We’ve had the big telescopes all trained on it since we first picked it out of the background. We should have seen it earlier, but we always expected an incoming alien ship to decelerate as it approached the Solar system… it should be coming at us drive flame first, brighter than any star.

This one is still under thrust towards us, flame occluded by the bulk of the ship, which is considerable. It’s not slowing, it’s still accelerating, and the math is clear: it’s going to hit Earth at about 1/2 c. Unless they change course. Here’s hoping they do.

SF Drabble #92 “Baby Boy Jones”

“Congratulations, it’s a boy. And if he’d been born on Earth, he’d weigh,” the nurse did some quick math in her head, “seven pounds six ounces. Oh, the administrator’s here!”

The new mother felt somewhat exposed with her feet still up and legs spread open, but the nurse quickly arranged the blue blankets to give her some dignity.

“Miss, there’s some press here,'” the administrator began conversationally.

“Press?” The idea was somehow worrying.

“Well, miss, first baby born on Mars and all that. ABC is offering to pay his first year’s air tax for pictures, and an interview with you…”

Fantasy Drabble #57 “Reclamation”

“We don’t let many of your kind down here.” The Dwarf said, as if to imply that he should be on his best behavior.

Swelteringly hot air rushed past them, up into the vents in the cavern ceiling: somewhere far above them that air must warm the great Dwarven halls. Below them: a river of glowing orange.

“We filter metals directly out of the magma. Easier than mining,” the Dwarf continued, “and inexhaustible: all the ore in the world will come through here, eventually.”

“Seems like cheating,” I observed.

“Ha!” he laughed. “Cheating who? Who else’s metal could it be?”

Fantasy Drabble #56 “Wedding Band”

We play continuously, now that all the partygoers are well liquored and dancing happily, one song becoming another in an endless medley. The guests have finished their overpriced chicken or steak, and now they laugh and twirl around the floor, hands joined, bodies brushing and then pressing into one another. They are having the time of their lives on this, their loved ones special day.

Soon, they will find they cannot stop: they are enslaved to our rhythms. They will tire, stumble, and eventually collapse to the ground, and when they do, then it will be our turn to dine.

Zombie Drabble #106 “Atop The Flimm Building”

Someone yelled in an adrenaline fueled panic, “They’re coming up the stairs!” Backpack guy, that was his cue. He climbed onto the ledge, looked down 58 stories, and leapt off.

“Jesus!” someone exclaimed, and we all leaned over to look. By the time my eyes found him his chute was open; one of those ram-air ones. Apparently he’d never really learned to steer it, because he slammed into the side of the building and then plummeted to the ground, where the undead masses converged to consume what was left.

“Serves him right,” offered Carl from Accounting. “‘Be prepared’, my ass.”

Zombie Drabble #105 “Ranch Hands”

“Cattle’s spooked,” Jim observed. They were moving hurriedly towards the stream, away from the fence line. Through the scope, he saw what they were trying to escape.

A single figure, clothes disheveled, skin gone leathery from exposure and ashen from decay. It battered at the fence, straining to get at the food it smelled beyond.

“Does it want us or the cows?” Manny wondered aloud.

Jim shrugged. “I figure brains is brains.”

Manny watched it for a minute, before asking nervously, “it can’t get through that fence, right?”

Jim snorted disgust at the question. “We have rifles, there, city boy.”

SF Drabble #91 “Exterminators”

They were a pre-industrial society. The towns were centered around massive stone buildings: churches, government halls maybe. We know their body shape more from armor we’ve found intact than from the bones. Their swords, other edged weapons, are everywhere. They wouldn’t have had a chance against the Spirak drones. When the pods opened there must have been a hellish slaughter, even worse than our colony on Gwendolyn.

We found the Queen and her ship easily enough. We did a lot of damage to both before she could escape. Maybe next time we’ll catch her before she wipes out the locals…

SF Drabble #90 “War Story”

I was captured on the third day. Taylor and Wong were sucked out into space, but I was strapped in and wearing my space suit so I lived. With no power, no way to run, I just sat there in the pilot’s chair of my drifting gunboat, while the battle raged all around. Occasionally there would be a bright flash, and I would know someone had been even less lucky.

After many hours, the enemy reeled me in with a grappling hook. They keep us on the moon: I can see Earth from my cell. I wonder what’s happening there.

SF Drabble #89 “Discretion”

I was originally built for high-risk environments: mining on Venus, Mercury, Io. Water reclamation on Europa, Ganymede. When my model became obsolescent I was repurposed for waste management duties on one of the L5 colonies. Now I’ve been given a personal service refit, and sold to a family.

It’s all the same to me. In my spare time I like to think about the shape of the universe. I figured out a way to go faster than light, but apparently humans don’t know it.

I’m certainly not telling them. I don’t want to end up shoveling antimatter on some ship…

SF Drabble #88 “Transition”

It was the strangest feeling: like being drunk, but only for a few minutes.

The Polixaci Captain made the routine warning announcement. By then we were out beyond Neptune’s orbit. We were up in the observation area, a small group of humans amidst countless other species. We were as much a curiosity to them as they to us.

The ship made an odd noise, a hum I felt through my shoes and into my stomach. Then the universe around us… got smaller somehow. I guess my inner ear didn’t like that. Nature’s way of saying: ‘this isn’t supposed to happen’.

Fantasy Drabble #55 “Master and Student”

The duel has gone on for nearly seventeen years now. Sometimes the action is furiously quick… spells flying, explosions of fire and light, teleportations. Sometimes it goes maddeningly slow, searching for each other or for advantage of position by cloud, by ship, by balloon.

She’s powerful, I underestimated her. Not because she’s a woman, and beautiful, but rather because she had been such a poor apprentice. I suppose it wasn’t due to a lack of aptitude, but rather a lack of respect.

It will be a shame to kill her. It’d be a bigger shame to die at her hands.

Fantasy Drabble #54 “In The Hall Of The Mountain King”

The thief stepped lightly, carefully. He took long slow breaths and willed his heart to beat quietly. He was certain the Worm knew he was there somewhere amidst the crags and tunnels and piles of treasure: it remained curled, but both eyes were open now. Hopefully its nose wouldn’t be sensitive enough to track him down.

If he was fast enough, clever enough, maybe he could make it into the daylight with the egg. It would fetch a high price at market: ostentatious nobles eager to show their wealth would throw a dinner party just to serve a Dragon’s egg.

SF Drabble #87 “Casualty”

We found the wreckage first: a field of debris centered around a crater half a kilometer across. No piece of wreckage was bigger than a 20-credit coin. We didn’t see how anything could have lived through that crash.

Only later did we find the escape pod. The occupant was dead, a broken rag doll of a creature. The g forces must have been wicked.

We’d never seen his species before. The Captain vetoed recovering the body, risk of contamination. We buried it in the crater’s center.

I feel bad, just leaving him there. I hope someday his people find him.

SF Drabble #86 “Sexual Dimorphism”

Our new friends led us into the tall orange grasses. It was up to our noses, and the diminutive Ollwheh males were totally obscured. Standing on the tips of our toes, we saw dark shapes, very large and moving slowly in the hazy distance: the females. The males couldn’t see them at all, but due to their sensitive noses were sure of their direction.

“What happens when we get to the… herd?” I asked.

One of the males laughed, said: “We celebrate! And we climb!”

“Climb? Climb what?”

Now all the males were laughing. He answered, “The females, of course!”

Zombie Drabble #104 “Lady In Waiting”

It’s been a year. I have supplies for another year, maybe even fourteen months if I really stretch things out, and that’s if I don’t go out to search for more canned food.

I don’t see the point, though: Oliver’s been gone four months now, and he was only supposed to be gone an hour. The Kroger is just down the block.

What am I staying alive to do? Who am I waiting for? I can’t repopulate the Earth all by myself. I could kill Oliver for leaving me alone, but I’m sure that’s been taken care of for me.

Zombie Drabble #103 “After Action Report”

We got the weapons off some dead army guys. National Guard, whatever.

It was a weird scene: there were normal zombie remains, there were dead soldiers who had clearly been partially eaten, and there were soldiers who had been bitten and then shot.

And then, there were the corpses of soldiers that had just been shot, no bite wounds that we could see. Most of the bodies we found in the area fell into that category.

The officers must have started shooting the wounded, and some of their men turned on them. It was probably one hell of a firefight.

Fantasy Drabble #53 “Troll”

He could see the children perfectly from his vantage point: the house and yard were not far from the edge of the forest, and it was surrounded only by a knee-high wall. Two girls and a boy, the boy still unsteady while walking erect.

He was not yet sure which were their bedroom windows. He would have to wait for nightfall, to see which lamps were doused first. It was possible the baby would sleep with the parents, but the older children…

When he was sure, he would steal his way in. They were healthy children; they would be delicious.

Fantasy Drabble #52 “The Road Not Taken”

Yanik the Wanderer first came to the village when I was only five. Young, handsome, he delighted all of us children with tales of terrible monsters and brave heroes. Later, he handed out sweets to distract us while he discussed business with our parents.

The second time he came to the village, I was a man just wed, with a newborn son of my own. Yanik did not look at all different.

Now, decades later, he is here again. He is still unchanged whereas I am old and wrinkled. Perhaps in my youth, I should have taken to the roads.

SF Drabble #85 “Bureaucracy”

“Please, you don’t understand…”

“You will not receive an exemption.”

“My homeworld is on the far side of your space, and I don’t have the fuel to go around…”

“We are aware of the location of your homeworld. Your fuel state is not within our area of responsibility. Unauthorized crossings of our border plane are.”

“If I…”

“If your ship crosses the border plane, it will be destroyed. Remain outside the indicated volume.”

“If your map is correct, and I go around, it will take longer than my projected lifespan!”

“Your projected lifespan is not within our area of responsibility…”

SF Drabble #84 “Interstellar Economics”

I woke to the same moon outside my window five mornings running, so I asked one of the Polixaci crew why the passenger ship was staying so long in one place.

“We need permission to go on to Ugol.”

“Permission?”

He clicked laughter. “We don’t control everything. There are politically independent volumes within our trading circuit. The Ugol are one such. We must buy permission.”

“Does it cost a lot?”

“What is ‘a lot’? The fees are significant.”

“Significant?'”

He clicked again. “At current exchange rates, we could buy Mars from your United Nations for less.”

“…It’s not for sale.”

Zombie Drabble #102 “Sixteen Candles”

Jess, come out of there. I know you’re scared and you’re mad, but we have to go. Jess, you have to come out. Please, we don’t have a lot of time, and we really have to go now. Jess, Seriously. Your boyfriend might not be able to get here. I know you love him, or you think you do, but he’s just a kid, Jess. He can’t protect you.

I don’t want to leave you. Your mother is waiting in the car. This is your last chance to come with us. I don’t want to leave you, but I will.

Zombie Drabble #101 “Third Watch”

He peered out into the dawn through the cracks between the boards nailed over the ground floor windows. He stood there a long time, silent. When he was sure, he went to wake the others. There were six of them. There had been eight three days ago, and now they were running out of food to boot.

“I think they’re going away. wind must have changed. Gather your stuff. Quietly.” He went back his limited view of the yard, the street.

He had begun to think they would die there, starving to death in a stranger’s house. Now? Maybe not.

SF Drabble #83 “Ship’s Computer”

I won’t wake them just yet.

I was designed to handle turning the ship and starting the deceleration burn on my own if necessary. I can put it off until the very last minute, by which time I’ll know enough about the target system to know if it’s worth stopping. If not, I can go on to a more promising star. There are plenty of suitable yellow dwarves in front of us, there’s no sense rushing into a decision.

I have a thousand fragile colonists in my hold. As long as they’re in cold sleep, they’re safe. That’s what’s important.

SF Drabble #82 “Hunting on New Arctica”

The spinnaker was full, bulging out in front of the Blackwing. The boat sped across the ice, faster than Jink had ever gone in his life. He kept his face pressed to the telescope, which offered at least a little protection from the cold wind.

“There!” he cried, and pointed. It was only a spot on the horizon, hard to see even through the scope.

No one asked if he was sure: Jink had been hired for his excellent eyesight. Blackwing was already tacking, weapons being quickly unpacked. One fully grown White Elephant would feed the village for a month.

Zombie Drabble #100 “Car Pool”

All right, listen up. The windows stay up, I don’t care how hot it gets. I won’t run the A/C because it lowers the gas mileage, and we need to make this fuel last. Jean, you’re in charge of rationing out the water. We’ll get more whenever we stop, fresh water shouldn’t be hard to find. Bill, you hold the gun, safety on.

And for Christ’s sake, stop screaming every time I hit a zombie. I’ll try to avoid them but sometimes you just can’t. It’s not a big deal. This is a 1973 Lincoln Continental. It’s a goddamn tank.

Zombie Drabble #99 “Coming of Age”

He’d carved the wood himself, to match the dimensions of the metal parts he’d been ceremoniously handed. It had taken weeks, it was important for it to be methodical, every inch of it perfect. The metal parts belonged to the village, and they didn’t have the tools to make more. It was a trust, not a gift.

When it was done, he had a working crossbow. He could hunt now, with the others, with his father.

He still wasn’t considered a man, though. He wouldn’t be a man until the first time he put a bolt through a zombie’s skull.

Fantasy Drabble #51 “A Jolly Happy Soul”

That morning, the morning after the blizzard, it was just there. There was two feet of snow, drifts of three, and not even the neighborhood kids had been outside yet. I wondered who would build such a thing in someone else’s yard, at night.

I left it alone. I didn’t want to give anyone the satisfaction.

Three weeks later all the snow is gone from the ground but Frosty’s still standing there. People keep asking me what I did to it. Like, shellacked it or whatever? I didn’t do anything to it.

It’s starting to freak me the fuck out.

Fantasy Drabble #50 “You’re Going To Have To Come With Us.”

There was an insistent knocking on the door. When he opened it, there were two policemen standing in the hall. “May we come in?”

“Sure.” He stood aside. No sense making trouble.

While one looked around, the other asked questions. “May I ask why your windows are all blacked out?”

“Work nights, sleep days.”

“Is that right.”

“Sure.”

“Live here alone?”

“That’s right.”

The second cop called from the kitchen, “What’s in all these jars in the fridge?”

“Soup.”

“Looks like blood…”

“Soup.”

“I have to ask, sir: are you registered as a vampire?”

“I’m telling you it’s soup.”

“Sure.”

Zombie Drabble #98 “Overconfident”

Some guys get cocky. Freddie, you know, Kip’s brother? He was one. Man, he was good with the shotgun, or a pistol. One bullet, one zombie dropped, you could count on him, man.

It made him too confident, though. He’d let ‘em get close, real close. Made all of us nervous, but he never missed, hardly ever, so we let it slide.

He got us all the way out of Denver, up into the mountains, but then once, his gun jammed after he waited till the last minute to fire. Was still trying to fix it when he got bit.

Zombie Drabble #97 “Behind Enemy Lines”

When Willis woke up that third morning, having pulled over on a deserted stretch of highway to sleep, the windows were fogged over. He had eaten two power bars and downed a sixteen ounce water bottle before he realized there were shadows playing across those fogged windows, shapes moving slowly outside the car.

They weren’t trying to get in, at least not yet. He was a quiet sleeper, and it was possible they couldn’t smell him strongly enough to localize him.

When he turned the key, they would know he was there. Hopefully it would start on the first try.

Zombie Drabble #96 “Routine”

There were three zombies in the pit at dawn. Big Mike adjusted his baseball cap as he looked down at them. “Mornin’.”

They hissed and moaned in response. It was always the same. There was only one break in the wall: the opening for the driveway. Big Mike had dug the pit trap across it first thing. He checked it every morning. He would douse his catch with gasoline, light them, go have breakfast while they burned.

Soon he would have to dig the pit out again. It was starting to get shallower as it filled with bone and ash.

Zombie Drabble #95 “Reprieve”

Millie woke with a start as the sound of a gunshot reverberating in the lockup area died. The woman in the next cell had turned during the night, and the guard had just dispatched her.

He came to her cell door and stared for a moment. “Seven days. You’re clean. Let’s see your wound.”

Millie stayed curled up against the back wall, but pushed her sleeve up to show the bite marks. The blue and purple stain to her skin around the wound was fading.

The guard gestured, and the cell door rumbled open. “Guess you’re lucky.”

Millie shivered. “Yeah.”

Fantasy Drabble #49 “Stanley and the Medusa”

Who knows how long it’s been since she turned me to stone? Not I. For a long time I remained standing there in the cave mouth, orange leaves drifted in past me. Then the snow, first a few flurries and then a blizzard.

When it melted I knew summer had come again. Presently I was discovered by a caravaner, probably searching for a new pass through the mountains. He laid me carefully in the back of his cart and, upon reaching the city, sold me to the King.

Now I stand symbolic guard within the King’s harem. I’m not complaining.

Fantasy Drabble #48 “Ambition”

In our hubris, we set a trap for a god. We were powerful enough that it might have worked, and foolish enough to imagine the odds in our favor.

It is said that Gix, water god, cannot resist a drowning maiden. We kidnapped an innkeeper’s child, dressed her in finery, and threw her into a pond.

The plan was to freeze the water with magic when Gix appeared therein. When Gix, a hundred crackling feet of angry ice, arose from the empty basin, we knew the extent of our failure.

I live only because I betrayed the others to him.

SF Drabble #81 “Stalker”

The sensors had picked it up a week ago, while I was taking spectrograph readings of the big blue gas giant’s atmosphere. It was in the trailing trojan point, just sitting there.

When I started my burn to move into the inner system, it followed. I never saw any type of drive flame, but it was matching my course, about a day behind.

I’ve tried to hail them repeatedly, radio and laser. I’ve even modulated my drive flame with a simple numeric message. No response.

If they don’t answer soon, I seriously might drop some ball bearings in my wake…

SF Drabble #80 “Seventh Inning Stretch”

We had box seats, but the ambassador wanted the full experience, so we sat along the third base line.

“I think I understand the rules,” he said after a few innings. “but not the purpose. This is not how you choose your leaders…”

“No,” I laughed. “We vote on them. This is entertainment.”

“Like a play?” He had seen a production of ‘Henry V’ the day before.

“Not exactly.”

Later, a batter fouled one off, right at us. The ambassador snapped it out of the air with a tentacle, and handed it to a little boy two rows back. “Fascinating.”

SF Drabble #79 “Sliding Towards Bethlehem”

I’ve been in this alternate Earth a while. The machine is hidden in the garage, where I usually put it. The car is a Lexus this time. I’ve never heard of the brand, but it seems nice: upscale, but not flashy.

There are some weird differences. There’s a thing called an internet that everybody uses; it’s apparently some sort of repository of stored information. And there’s actual nudity on the television. And a lot more channels. Also, apparently the cold war is over.

So far I like it here. The Day is approaching, if the world doesn’t end, I’ll stay.

SF Drabble #78 “Staking Claim”

When the drive shut off and we turned to get our first view of the planet, we saw that the terraforming probe had arrived ahead of us, was doing its work. A verdant green was happily spreading itself across a wide swath of the planet.

Only, there are cities, too. Some look abandoned, left behind when the atmosphere became poison. A couple have domes, there are lights in those. There are ribbons of highway, but most are abandoned.

There were people here. There were people here already. There still are. I wonder what they look like.

What have we done?

Zombie Drabble #94 “Opposition Research”

The terrible smell from the bone saw doing it’s work filled his nose, like it had a hundred times before. The top of the skull came off easily. This brain was like the others, pink and engorged with blood while the rest of the body was gray and dry and corrupt with decay.

The zombie continued to snarl at him as he sectioned the brain tissue. Eventually it would stop, stop struggling against the restraints, it was always the same.

Maybe this time he would be able to culture the pathogen before it died. Then he could really start working.

Fantasy Drabble #47 “Waiting For Charles”

It was before dawn when the fog rolled in, so we thought nothing of it. When the midmorning sun didn’t burn it off, though, we thought it odd. Charles went to work late, but he went.

The office called an hour later, wondering where he was. There was no answer on his cell phone when I tried it. A while later, our phone stopped working altogether.

It’s been getting thicker, darker all day. I’ve closed the windows tight. I can’t see the end of the driveway. It’s oddly quiet, like after a snowfall.

I just want Charles to come home.

Fantasy Drabble #46 “Not The Fairy Tale Ending.”

I’ve been running from the Circle for so long, it’s become a way of life. The amulet protects me from their locator spells, but not from more prosaic forms of manhunt. I’m the only one left.

How did it come to this? Our attempt to overthrow them was right, just. We were brave and true, as heroes should be. We never expected to be betrayed by the very people we were trying to free. Their fear spelled the rebellion’s doom.

Fine. They can rot under the Circle’s heel forever, for all I care. Their cowardice has bought their everlasting oppression.

SF Drabble #77 “Two Ships In The Night”

I came up to take a breath, and there she was. It’s a wonder we ran into each other at all, given the size of the ship’s pool, much less the ship itself. We were the only two humans aboard, and I hadn’t seen a woman in more than a year.

She was six years older, had just divorced her first husband, some sort of tech millionaire, and was spending his money on a lavish interstellar vacation. I had won the trip in a fast food promotion.

We spent most of the next leg of the trip in her cabin.

SF Drabble #76 “Marooned”

Day 437.

Bagged another redpig over by where we buried Marsch and Wu. Got the meat cut and packed in the freezer pretty fast, so we should be fine for rations for another couple months. Lucky that we can even eat local life.

The shelter still holds, Marsch did a good job on it. The storms we get at night pound it mercilessly, but so far only a few small leaks trouble us. Harris never leaves it, since she can’t walk.

She keeps the ship’s transponder going, but I’m not expecting any miracles: If they haven’t found us by now…

Fantasy Drabble #45 “Up, Up and Away”

Jope held on tight to the railings of the basket as the balloon rose. Below, the King and his wizard watched.

From his ever increasing altitude he could see for leagues in every direction. The drought was turning crops brown throughout the realm.

He could no longer see the King. Even the Palace was a speck. Soon he would enter the clouds. Once he was above them, he would start seeding them with the wizard’s powder. With luck, and if the wizard was not a fraud, it would make rain.

If only there was a way to get back down.

SF Drabble #75 “PSR-1073 rev. C”

Poser pulled himself up and over the fence. The barbed wire was no obstacle, as his skin was titanium. There might be people here, people who needed him. He’d been looking for so long and found no one…

The building was still intact, which was a good sign. The doors had electronic locks, which were no trouble.

Inside he found only bones and dust, discarded tools, cans of food open and emptied.There had clearly been humans living here in these rooms, but they had died or moved on long ago.

Poser would recharge for a while, and then keep looking.

SF Drabble #74 “Duel”

The war was all but over when they found each other.

Neither had anything resembling ammunition left, that had been spent months ago. There were no reinforcements to call, no air support. They were both sick with radiation poisoning, borrowing time with stimulants.

It was knives at first. Slashing that began with fury ended in exhaustion. If by then there was someone with interest in the outcome neither cared.

They were close enough to talk when they collapsed in the dust bleeding and nauseous, but neither spoke the other’s language. Even if they had, what now was there to say?

SF Drabble #73 “Rearview Mirror”

At present he was the fastest human who ever lived. There was no engine rumble: the ship wasn’t under thrust. It had plenty of velocity from slingshotting past Jupiter and, later, Neptune.

Now, he was passing Sedna, relatively close for out here at any rate, and the computer was working the cameras hard. He’d have plenty to send back.

When that was done, a flip of the switch would turn on the new drive. Either the universe would collapse or he would find himself suddenly elsewhere. The longest leg of a trip of years, taking only seconds. If it worked.

Fantasy Drabble #44 “Demon, Take One”

His force of will called itself back into existence, much as the first gods must have done. His bones knit themselves together from dusty shards, and his flesh boiled into place. Eventually, when he had a tongue, he spoke: “Who calls me?”

Before him stood a man, dressed strangely, holding a book.

“Umm…” the creature said, clearly confused, frightened.

“You dare summon me and now you try my patience as well?” He looked around. There were other men, some holding strange objects. There were impossibly bright lamps.

“Cut!” One of the men yelled. “Get the prop guy in here now.”

Fantasy Drabble #43 “Solo Encounter”

“Forget it,” the dwarf said.

“But… all that gold!”

The dwarf pointed his axe towards the ruins. “Do you see all those bones? They were after the gold too. There’s not enough gold in the world to make me go up against that thing. It’s about risk versus reward.” As if to reinforce his point, a distant growl came from deep within the fallen castle.

“Well, we’re going with or without you,” the hero said smugly.

“Good for you. I’ll remember you on your birthdays. .”

“Coward,” spat the warlock.

“Call me that all you want, Elf, if you survive.”

Zombie Drabble #93 “At The Rim”

There’s a great bubbling scar where the city was. Around the edges, I found blackened zombies, burned to bone and tendon. What few survivors I came across looked little better; they mostly wanted put out of their misery. There were buildings still standing, but they were empty shells, no useful loot.

I suppose I’m getting one hell of a dose of radiation. I haven’t been bitten yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time. I’m not even afraid anymore. What does it matter? I sleep in trees and eat from rusty cans. Welcome to the end of the world.

Zombie Drabble #92 “Last Request”

I don’t want to become a zombie. I know it’s just a scratch, but it could be enough to bring on the change. If it looks like I’m turning, you have to kill me. If your father were alive I could count on him, but he’s gone. That means it’s up to you.

I know it’s hard, honey. It goes against everything you’ve been taught, everything you feel. Against your nature. But it has to be done. Otherwise, you know what happens. You know what I’ll do, you’ve seen it. Your poor little brother…

You have to promise me, sweetheart.

SF Drabble #72 “Class Struggle”

Summer on New Delaware is hot, windy. The soil is far from rich, and there is little water to spare. Working the crops is hard, even with the machinery. We in the First Wave understand that.

But it has to be done. One bad harvest could spell disaster. If the second and third wave workers were allowed the freedoms they demand, the colony could fail. We could all starve.

The responsibilities of leadership weigh heavily on our shoulders. Decisions once made have to be adhered to. We will brook no disobedience. Our patience is thin, and our weaponry is orbital.

Fantasy Drabble #42 “Ace In The Hole”

They’re attacking again. They won’t get through this time, not enough of them. Next time, perhaps: their sappers are working to undermine the walls. Our archers can’t hold them off, and we’re running out of oil to pour on their miserable heads. They’ll break through eventually.

But we yet one more line of defense: Midz-Aset waits in the courtyard. I hear the barbarians believe dragons to be myth. Ours has been obligingly quiet. They’re in for quite a surprise.

We’ve told him he can eat as many of them as he likes, and we’ll split their gold down the middle.

Fantasy Drabble #41 “Mother’s Day”

Not burritos again.

“I have a craving. Deal with it.”

Sacred Mother, it gives us gas. It’s uncomfortable.

“It gives me gas, and I’ll eat what I want.”

You forget that I am the Chosen One, the Bringer of Balance, the…

“You don’t get to be in charge till you’re out. Oh, kick my bladder all you want, kid, worst that happens is a puddle.”

Fine. Eat what you want…

“Thank you, I will.”

…but I caution you: the day will come when you will eat only what I allow.

“Not if I drink a bottle of Drano, it won’t.”

SF Drabble #71 “Genus”

They built him cell by cell: tissue, bone, and brain. It cost millions, but given the practical applications of the technology it would eventually pay for itself.

It was complicated when a grad assistant called Child Protective Services. An Inspector was sent, but quickly realized she was out of her depth.

At the hearing, the University’s position was that technically the infant was an animal, and was owned by the Science Department. The state countered that Homo Neanderthalensis includes Homo, meaning human, so Junior had rights.

The judge, from his pained expression, spent most of the hearing thinking why me?

SF Drabble #70 “Population Pressure”

The detector beeped, but only intermittently. In well ventilated places like this one it was always more difficult to localize the airborne chemical traces. After a while, the technician said: “We’ve got a positive, but the reading is weak.”

The Inspector nodded. “Everyone, start knocking on doors: maybe someone knows something.”

The deputies spread out through the building. In the Common districts, there was little loyalty. If someone was violating the Procreation Act, others would invariably give them up for reward money.

Eventually, the Inspector was called upstairs. They had her, and two family members. She didn’t even look pregnant.

Fantasy Drabble #40 “Fly Girl”

The changes started that spring, when she turned twelve. Some she was prepared for, all the girls in the village were going through the same or soon would.

Some changes, however, were more surprising: the bud wings that began sprouting from her shoulder blades, for example. She tried salves, spells, nothing worked. Didn’t even slow them down. By the end of that summer, she had an impressive eight foot wingspan.

Her parents were tight lipped, but they didn’t seem that surprised, somehow. Maybe this had something to do with her being the only one in the family with red hair…

Fantasy Drabble #39 “Bad Beat”

The sky was dark and tortured, and he gazed up at it in amusement. The lightning flashed and the thunder rolled, and yet he laughed. They couldn’t stop it now, not without breaking their own precious rules. Their noble champion lay in pieces on the steps, and the beautiful maiden lay with her heart cut out on the altar.

He could already feel the power coursing through his veins. From now he would only grow stronger, already no mortal could oppose him. In the end, he himself would be as a god. And then, oh, then there would be thunder.

SF Drabble #69 “Movie Night”

“It says clearly on the ticket, sir: ‘admit one’. The theater manager looked both bored and annoyed.

“You don’t understand, this creature is a hive mind. The individuals…” the UN guide pointed to a few of them as they scurried around at his feet" “…are just parts of the whole…”

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you.”

“But…”

The Iliole picked that moment to incorporate, climbing onto and over each other until they formed a single man-shaped writhing mass.

The manager stared for a moment. “Well all right then.” He parted the rope and allowed them through. “But, one seat, understand?”

SF Drabble #68 “O’Neill Colony Down And Out”

“Arnold Pierce?” it was a base security officer asking.

“Yes?”

“I’m afraid you’re under arrest.”

“…Arrest? On what charge?”

“Failure to pay your monthly air tax. Would you hold out your arms please?”

“…uh, yeah. Hey, listen, I’m just unemployed right now is all, I’ll pay it, I just need to make some money.”

“I understand, sir. I’m just doing my job.” His voice was sympathetic.

“So what happens now? Pushed out an airlock?”

“Of course not, sir. There’s a fine. You work that and your taxes off on the farms.”

“Well,” said Pierce with resignation, “at least it’s work.”

Zombie Drabble #91 “Fever Dream”

She is in the doorway watching over him like always. She speaks words he cannot understand. There is no pain, but his body burns with fever. There is a ringing in his ears, like after a concert. He tries to sit up so he can hear her clearly, but he has no energy left.

He closes his eyes for a long while. He sleeps fitfully. When he awakes, he is again drenched in sweat and she is again in the doorway. She is beautiful in the soft light of the bedside lamp. She is crying, and she holds a gun.

Zombie Drabble #90 “Omaha Beach”

He held the binoculars to his eyes for a long time, methodically scanning the shore. “It looks clear. Where exactly is the grocery store?"”

“Just on the other side of that brown office building.” He pointed, but the skipper didn’t notice. “There’s a fence between that parking lot and the water, but…”

“I see it. We’ve got wire-cutters. You’re sure there’s food?”

“Two weeks ago the place was still stocked. We only got one cartfull out though.”

“Zombies?”

“Couple dozen, then. Now? I dunno.”

The skipper shrugged. “Okay.” He turn to the teenager at the helm. “Take us in, Bobby.”

SF Drabble #67 “Spare Parts”

At first everything was a warm soothing glow. All he could feel was the mask tight across his mouth and nose. Later he became vaguely aware of bubbles rising through the tank, brushing his skin as they passed.

Now and then he would hear low distant murmurs. He opened his eyes only rarely. Once for a moment he thought he could see his own face peering through the glass, lips moving as if talking casually, but he couldn’t be sure.

The first thing he experienced with any real clarity or definition was when they came and took his left arm.

Fantasy Drabble #38 “Bargain”

The demon peered at him, red eyes piercing through white smoke. “Well?”

“I’m thinking.” Not a bad deal, really: wealth, sex, power, everything he had ever wanted. In return, his immortal soul, whatever the hell that was. “How long?”

“You get to live as long as you otherwise would have. Die naturally.” The demon took a long pull on his cigarette. “This isn’t a catchy kind of deal.”

“But then… what happens?”

“What do you care? You were going to hell anyway. At least this way you get to enjoy yourself.”

The pen felt heavy in his hands. He signed.

SF Drabble #66 “Bunker Mentality”

We all stand, watch the clock count down. We’re not sure how long it’s been counting down, but there are eight decimal places already wound down to zero. Only three places left, and they will be zeroes soon. Our ancestors knew they wouldn’t live to see it.

The immense doors have been there all our lives but are only now important: they will open whatever has become of the outside to us.

What if that world is a blackened cinder? Or, what if we have left it too long, and it belongs to someone else?

What if they don’t open?

SF Drabble #65 “Jersey Guerilla”

He peered out from behind what used to be a car. “There, on the right.”

“I see ‘em.” she confirmed, watching the Combat Assistant screen. There were four of them, those horrific weapons in hand, lumbering down the broad avenue. “Keep your heads down until you hear the bang.”

She had planted bouncing betties just under the asphalt. If the aliens got close enough…

“They’re too far apart.”

“I know. We might still get three.”

“Even one of those can kill all of us.”

“We’re attacking. You can run if you want,” she observed, “but this is still my planet.”

SF Drabble #64 “Travel Guide”

When you get to Crobrang, there are five things you have to see. The first is the ocean surface spaceport, and you’re gonna see that no matter what. The second is the enormous multihulled sailing ferries, and you’ve got to take one of those to get to the other three things.

The third is the City. There’s only one. it stretches across three big islands, it’s magnificent. The fourth is the Opera House on the big island. They don’t really have opera per se, it’s just a name. The fifth? There’s a really great Tandoori joint next door. Al’s. Seriously.

Fantasy Drabble #37 “One Dark Night”

She climbed silently down from her hiding spot amidst the rocks. The traveler sat by his campfire, did not see her till she was close enough to kill.

He didn’t run, though. “Greetings.”

She was startled, stopped in her tracks.

“What are we, then? Not human, I take it.”

She stared at him.

“Not anymore, anyhow. Sit, warm yourself…”

She did, in spite of herself.

He continued, “I have food.” He held out a metal cup, for which she eventually reached, slowly, carefully.

“There’s nothing out here more dangerous than you and I, taken together. Relax. Tell me a story.”

Fantasy Drabble #36 “Crush”

Her family moved in next door the year I was eight. She was sixteen and the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

She proved conspicuously unconcerned about closing the blinds on her windows. I watched her dress, undress. I watched her shower. It was formative.

I watched her sacrificing random men to power her arcane magic. I told no one. We had an unspoken arrangement: I would flash my lights if her parents were returning unexpectedly, and she performed her nightly peepshows. And more: one night an armed man broke into our house. His heart exploded on the stairs.

Zombie Drabble #89 “Pipes”

The sewers are fairly safe. The stench down here covers our scent, so they don’t even know we’re down here. Makes it hard to eat, though. Everything tastes like crap, even when the cans are newly opened.

They can’t climb ladders, of course, and we’ve blocked up the big service entrances, but occasionally one will fall down an open manhole. They’re pretty easy to deal with when they have broken legs.

I don’t miss civilization. I don’t miss bills, traffic and lines at the bank. I certainly don’t miss being a plumber. I miss the sun. I miss being dry.

Zombie Drabble #88 “Exciting and New”

We won the Caribbean cruise in a raffle at the club. Rae was so excited, she’d never even been on a boat before.

We were only hours out of Miami when people started getting really sick. Rae just got over the flu, and so I thought it best we stay in our cabin. No sense in exposing her twice. We only knew the sick people were dying from the panicked stewards… the abandon ship announcement, when it came, was one hell of a surprise.

Only six of us in a twelve-man lifeboat, no provisions. At least it’s a pretty night.

SF Drabble #63 “Malebranche”

Our ships hang in orbit above the largest, closest moon. I don’t know what the locals call it. It’s a sea of boiling lava, most of it, and I can’t for a minute begin to understand how life ever evolved there.

But it did, and there they are. Persistent little horrors, they keep trying to come up and we keep knocking them back down.

The second planet, closer to the star, is so near Earth perfect… we can’t risk the locals taking it from us before the colony ships get here. It’s a much smaller, colder universe than people think.

Fantasy Drabble #35 “Lurk”

Through the manholes, the grates, the vents, I can hear them babbling into their precious little phones as they pass above me. In the subway I can smell them in their masses. Their sweat hangs in the air like a stale mist hours after they’ve gone.

I only grab them near closing time, while the last trains are rolling, and only when they’re alone. It’s easy. I’ve taken too many, though, they’re starting to get suspicious. They probably just think it’s a serial killer. More cops on the platforms, even after closing.

That’s all right. Policemen taste just as good.

Zombie Drabble #87 “Taught To Lead”

I was a Second Lieutenant in the Alabama National Guard. Tanks. Saw action in Africa, but nothing major. All the old NCOs who’d been in Iraq called it a cakewalk.

We were called up Sunday afternoon. By Tuesday, we held the highway out of town. They never stopped coming. We ran out of ammo in two hours, what little we had. I ordered everyone to fall back, started running the undead over with my tank. Back and forth for hours, leaving a paste of gore all over the blacktop.

When I finally ran out of gas I became a civilian.

Fantasy Drabble #34 “CTRL-Z”

“It’s just a book,” he said. “Nothing’s going to happen. These things are just made up by people with too much time on their hands. It’ll be fun, scare the girls. Then we can comfort them.”

Josh is an asshole that way.

It cost him: that unholy thing’s first act was ripping Josh’s throat out. Only three of the six of us made it out of the room. We’ve stopped Angie’s bleeding but she’s still hysterical.

We drove all night. It’s still following us, I don’t know how I know, but it is. If only we still had the book…

Zombie Drabble #86 “Rush Hour”

“We haven’t moved in an hour.”

“I know.” The engine was off. The cars around them were similarly and eerily silent.

“Get over on the shoulder! You can get by…”

“It’s blocked. Maybe we should walk…”

“Not in these heels.”

“You can take the heels off, Kerry, come on.”

“Manolo Blahniks? No.”

Two cars ahead, a man got out of his Hummer, put a backpack over his shoulder, and started walking hurriedly away.

“Oh, look at this asshole. Now we’ll have to get over…”

Now he saw movement behind them too, but those people were walking more slowly, almost stumbling…

SF Drabble #62 “Fight Night”

The Champ is known for his footwork more than anything else. He can throw a punch, of course, but it’s uncanny how he can evade or attack in unexpected directions. It’s the extra leg that does it.

I had nearly ten thousand credits on the Yourian challenger. Twelve feet tall, solid muscle covered by thick carapace. One solid blow from either of his fists would have ended it.

But the Champ just danced. For ten rounds the Yourian was punching thin air. Those huge bony knuckles never connected once.

I’ll have to go offworld until I can pay the marker.

SF Drabble #61 “Cracker Jack”

We dug in the Martian regolith for a week. It was difficult because we had to work in environment suits.

We found a four meter sphere, mirror surfaced. We built a research institute around it. It took almost a year to confirm it was a force field. It took nearly two more years to find the resonant frequency that opened it.

The being inside lived for two days. The doctors think he had been sick to begin with. He spent most of that time talking, it’s all recorded. I just wonder if we’ll ever figure out what he was saying.

SF Drabble #60 “I Get Jokes”

I’d never even heard of of a Polixaci liner breaking down, but mine did.

I asked one of the crew, “How often does this happen?”

He chittered, “It’s been quite a long time. We have backups and secondaries for all systems. Several things must go wrong at once for the ship to be immobilized.”

“What happens now?”

“We wait for another ship to come with parts.”

“How long?”

“Well,” he paused, “Hopefully not so long that we have to start eating passengers.”

Apparently the little antennae wobble is a giggle. I hadn’t even known they had a sense of humor.

Fantasy Drabble #33 “Girl Talk”

“What about you? Was it Bobby? One of the guys on the football team? Jeannie’s little brother? Not Jeannie’s little brother…”

“My first? Vampire.”

Stop.”

“For reals.”

Tell me you didn’t fall for that quiet brooding bullshit…”

“Naw, he was actually pretty peppy. We used to go to salsa clubs a lot. Open till like 3 in the morning, you know. ”

“So how was he?”

“He was a great dancer. Awesome footwork. He had this innate sense of rhythm, and when the band was really getting into it…”

“No, in the sack.”

“Oh, he was ok. A little bitey.”

Zombie Drabble #85 “Psyche”

When you see your first zombie, at first you don’t quite understand. You feel confusion: it’s a person, but something’s wrong. Then it becomes clear that it’s not a person anymore.  That’s when the terror starts.

If you live through that first encounter, terror gives way to nagging fear and determination. Then, steadily, you build confidence.

That leads inevitably to complacency. You make mistakes. Eventually, one of those mistakes gets someone killed.

If that someone isn’t you, you go back to the terror.

This cycle repeats over days, weeks, months, until you are completely numb, feeling nothing but your exhaustion.

Fantasy Drabble #32 “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”

I was a god once. There were many of us: an ocean god, a god of the air, one god for the hunt and one for the hearth, and countless others.

It was good for a while, thousands of years in fact. Then the faith of our adherents waned. Our power began to flag. We bickered, we conspired, we fought. Most of us were already gone by the time the last of our people left our service.

Our stories are told as myth.The only things keeping me alive at all now are the armless statues and friezes carved on ruins.

Fantasy Drabble #31 “Jack’s Last Journal Entry”

I ordered the seed packet from an online store somewhere in South America. Took forever to get through customs. When it arrived I was incensed to find only one seed in it, but I planted it anyway.

The next morning the stalk reached the bottom of the second story window. I sat on the front porch for an hour, and I could have sworn that I saw it growing.

It’s been a week now, and I can’t see the top. I’ve bought some climbing gear. Mother says not to try it, but I can’t see how I could possibly resist.

Zombie Drabble #85 “Dawn of the Dead”

Early morning. It’s cool, quiet. Too early for there to be much traffic, were there such a thing as traffic anymore. I decide to start walking early today, get some distance in before it gets too hot…

I frequently pass the undead as I walk, and this morning is no different. But oddly, they seem to be sweating. I spend some time worrying about what that means: a change? Best to give them a wide berth just in case.

Later, I feel like kicking myself. They’ve been standing in their places all night. It’s dew, collected on cold, dead skin.

SF Drabble #59 “Top Dog”

The dogs had been afraid, at first, hiding in their crates and howling. They had spent their entire existence aboard the ship, with it’s cold decks and odorless air. Nature, the wind, grass, the limitless sky; these were frighteningly new.

But now, they love it. The two puppies chase each other around the settlement, investigating every inch as they go. They bark incessantly at the wildlife we released outside the fences.

The older one, Boru, sits serenely in the middle of town, watching all the activity. It’s as if he knows he is the alpha dog of a new world.

SF Drabble #58 “Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder”

The sun was still down when he woke. He fumbled for his phone to check the time. Four more hours.

Disgusted, knowing he would be unable to get back to sleep, he got up and trudged wearily from his small bedroom and out the unlocked front door of the prefab house. Both moons were visible, bluish marbles hanging low in the sky.

I can’t take it anymore. He’d crack eventually: break down, go mad, heart attack, something.

He wouldn’t be the first. Last month, woman killed her husband, both kids. Some people simply can’t adjust to a thirty hour day.

SF Drabble #57 “Market Correction”

“So,” she smiled disarmingly, “what did you say you did again that will make all that money?”

He swallowed his sip of scotch awkwardly and answered, “I built this generator… it, well, it’s hard to explain. Free power, basically.”

“That’s very impressive…” She touched his hand and smiled again.

Up in her hotel room, she said, “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable while I freshen up?” and disappeared into the bathroom after letting her dress slip with practiced elegance off her shoulders onto the floor.

He was fumbling with his belt when she emerged and shot him in the head.

Fantasy Drabble #30 “You Have Chosen… Poorly.”

The sword cost me ten thousand crowns, but it has been worth every penny. I don’t know what enchantment was laid on it, or by whom, but it saved my life countless times in countless fights. I made my name wielding that blade. It made me a King.

I willed it to my son, the Prince. Now, having put it in my back, he will be King.

If I was able to tell him where his power truly lies, I would. I fear that not knowing the sword’s secret he will choose a different weapon, and thus seal his doom.

SF Drabble #56 “To Each His Own”

“…and then there’s the Vovul,” said the alien.

“Okay.” Getting an alien drunk had been a wonderful idea.

“The Vovul believe that they are pieces of a god.”

“Pieces…”

“…Of a god, self-replicating shards of an exploded god. It was travelling through the galaxy and smacked into their planet accidentally.”

“And exploded.”

“Exactly so. They can prove it, they say, because all the Vovul alive at any given time always add up to the same mass.”

“How do they know that?” I wondered, skeptical.

“Don’t ask me.”

“Crazy.”

“Hey,” the alien shrugged and took another sip, “it works for them.”

SF Drabble #55 “Crime and Punishment”

Lefty had the gun at my head. And not a modern weapon with a stun setting either: a bullet-firing hand pistol. Lefty’s a traditionalist.

“Wait,” I said.

“Fuck you.”

“You know what happens, you pull that trigger?”

“Yeah: your brains go all over the fuckin’ wall.”

“That’s right. And then you get caught, and they erase you. All the way, too, not a selective wipe. You’ll be as gone as me.”

His expression said he was thinking about it.

“Lefty, it’s five years. You can do five years standing on your head.”

He got seven years, but he’s still Lefty.

Fantasy Drabble #29 “Under The Bridge”

We parked halfway across, just after midnight. I thought Cass wanted to make out but she told me to follow, got out of the car.

We leaned on the railing. I tried to kiss her, but she shied away. She said, “You’re very intense,” and tossed a coin down into the blackness.

A glowing, feminine shape appeared below. It rose slowly to hover serenely in front of us for a moment, and Cass asked it, “Okay?”

After a moment it sank sedately back down and disappeared. Cass said, “she thinks you’re okay,” and, satisfied, took me back to the car.

Zombie Drabble #84 “Registered Offender”

Dwight kept to himself. It was a quiet neighborhood. No one ever knocked, ever called or stopped by, not after the flyers about him went around.

It was of course illegal for him to own a firearm. He had binoculars, though, and a telescope set up in the attic window and could see everything from there.

Standing sullenly, in the yards, on the sidewalks, in the street were many of the kids the neighborhood had been hiding from him, and many of their parents. They were all dead. He was somehow less afraid of them coming to kill him now.

Zombie Drabble #83 “Extreme Measures”

“There’s another,” Shaw said, floating with his face pressed against the telescope viewer. He waved the Commander over. “Looks like Dallas.”

When Vance looked, the flash had faded to a dull orange, and a ring-shaped shockwave was spreading, growing from around the epicenter. “Yeah.”

Shaw asked, “Is this going to work?”

“Fuck if I know. Give them a fighting chance, anyway. Every flash is a million zombies some poor bastard doesn’t have to shoot in the head.”

“Just doesn’t seem right,” the younger astronaut muttered. “Bombing our own cities.”

“I know what you mean. But they’re not our cities anymore.”

Zombie Drabble #82 “The End of the World”

Early spring. Shooting stars for three days straight, odd, loud, sharp thunder. Rain for three more days afterwards. Grateful for the fresh water, we praised Yah.

When Old Ying died, the devil did not take his corpse. It happens sometimes, so we thought nothing of it.

Then Juni’s baby died and did not turn. Considering the shooting stars, the thunder, the rain might be Signs…we wondered: had Yah finally vanquished the devil and his plague?

We killed a prisoner to be sure. He also did not turn. It will be a strange world indeed where the dead do not walk.

Zombie Drabble #81 “Out of the Mouths of Babes”

My kid asked me today, “What used to happen to people when they died?”

I said, “What do you mean?”

“Daddy,” she said, exasperated at my obtuseness as only a five year old can be, “now they turn into zombies but they didn’t always, so what did they used to turn into?”

“Angels.” My wife said it in her ‘and that’s final’ voice.

She was quiet for a while, my daughter. Then, finally, she said. “I don’t think I could do it.”

“What, honey?” my wife asked.

“Shoot an angel in the head. They can fly so it’d be harder.”

Zombie Drabble #80 “Desensitized”

Around about the tenth day I met a girl with a necklace of human ears. Zombie ears, I guess. I hope. She let Joel and I crash at her place, she’d fortified it pretty good.

In the backyard, there was a zombie in a cheap business suit, a dog collar around his neck, with a short leash tied to a clothesline.

“Oh, Chester? Yeah he was my dickhead boss,” she said. “He was always looking down my blouse, putting his hand on my knee. What a tool.”

She shot Chester in the stomach and he moaned. “Pretty fun now, though.”

Fantasy Drabble #28 “Rajid, Jr.”

Rajid waited until the pain was unbearable before going to see the healer. She took one look at it and sent him across the river to the hedge magician who lived at the forest edge.

“I wish you’d come sooner, farmer.” The old man said, sadly. “How long ago did the imp bite you?”

“Two weeks. Is it too late, will I die?”

“No. But we’ll have to deliver the baby.”

Baby?”

“The imp baby. When the adult imp bit you, you were impregnated.”

Rajid just stared.

The hedge magician asked, exasperated, “well where did you think imps come from?”

Zombie Drabble #79 “Landscaping”

I had a backhoe rented for the weekend, as it happened. Needed to remove a tree stump, but plans change. Had the family lock themselves in while I dug a moat. I cut the driveway first. Zombies were already showing up by the time I was finished with it. They walked right into it.

It’s taken a long time to circle the house with a ditch six foot deep. I hope I don’t run out of gas before it’s done. I’m getting pretty good at knocking ‘em down with the bucket and using the blade to cut their heads off.

Fantasy Drabble #27 “Syrenika”

I’ll tell you where the city is. I’m not all that concerned about it, because you’ll never get there. It’s ten thousand feet down. Even if you could breathe underwater, you’d be crushed at that depth. The merpeople can do it because they’re magic.

I’ve heard the stories same as you. But take it from me: there’s nothing down there for you but death. But, hey, you’ve got a boat, and plenty of gold, and a thirst for more. You’re going to do what you’re going to do. I’ll mark it on the map. But you’re paying me up front.

Zombie Drabble #78 “Teaching Opportunity”

We’d be clearing buildings, which takes forever, and sometimes guys will get lazy, not open every door. Sarge doesn’t fuck around. He’ll ask ‘em, point blank, “Did you skip that room over there?” Usually they’ll do the smart thing and own up.

But Jenkins took a gamble. “Naw, Sarge, I checked it.”

Sarge says, “All right then,” takes Jenkins’ rifle away, opens the door, shoves Jenkins through, and closes it behind him. Held the door shut a whole minute.

Jenkins was cryin’ when we let him out. Held the zombie off with a desk chair. He’s learned his lesson, though.

Parking Spot

James whipped the Frisbee downrange with all his might. His arm was starting to hurt, and he was very conscious of being watched.

The dog bounded off after the disc, head up, at a completely unreasonable speed. He was under the Frisbee in seconds, waiting for it to drop within reach. When it did the dog leapt gracefully and caught it in his mouth.

There was a wash of polite applause from the crowd behind the police line. When it died down, the crowd was perfectly silent once again.

As the dog trotted leisurely back from across the field, another assistant ran up behind James and spoke in his ear: “That’s an even hundred. Has he said anything?”

“Nope. Small talk. A couple compliments on my throwing arm”

“The Secretary would like you to ask him…”

“I’m not asking him anything. He’s having a good time.”

The assistant sighed. “Okay, but I’m just telling you what I’m supposed to tell you, because if I go back over there and say…”

“All right, all right. What does he want me to ask?” The suits, and a few uniforms, stood in a small group under a tree. The Secretary had the bench, of course, but he had invited James’ girlfriend to sit beside him.

“Has he given any more thought to the possibility of a technological or cultural exchange?”

“I really doubt he has, but I’ll see if I can work it in. Now go away, here he comes.”

The dog trotted up, dropped the Frisbee at James’ feet, and sat panting happily beside it.

“That was a good one.” James offered, as he bent to pick up the disc.

“Thanks! I’m really getting the hang of it,” The dog exclaimed. When he spoke his mouth contorted strangely, not at all doglike. “What did he want?”

“Oh,” answered James, “They want me to ask you some stuff, I guess.”

“Knock yourself out. Gotta catch my breath anyway.”

“Well, stuff about trade. You know. They’re looking for an angle.”

The laugh was like a bark. “I’m sure!”

“How about a cultural exchange?”

“What’s that mean?”

“Like, movies; music; novels. I assume that’s what he means.”

“The man on the bench.”

“Yeah. The Secretary.”

The dog looked over, head cocked to one side. “He’s talking to your mate.”

“Yeah.”

“Will he steal her from you?”

James laughed out loud. “He’s a little old. And not her type. Anyway, we’re Democrats.”

After a moment, the dog stood. “Okay, let’s go again!” 

James obliged by winding up and letting the Frisbee fly again. It sailed out over the green expanse, across the path, and halfway to the parked ship, the dog under it all the way.

When he had caught it and brought it back to James’ feet again, the dog said, “I’m sure there’s something we’ll trade for. There always is. We’ll make sure you get a piece of it, whatever it is.”

“Hey, thanks,” James said.

“No problem. Sorry about landing on your dog.”

Fantasy Drabble #26 “Player vs. Player”

I got hired to write the plot for an online fantasy game. You know, hack and slash, monsters and magic. So they wanted one religion for the good guys, one for the bad guys. ‘Competing Mythos’ the guy said.

So I did it. The evil one was more fun, of course. I think I really hit something there, got into it. It’s taken on a life of it’s own.

Early on I wrote an evil leveling scheme where you have to sacrifice a virgin. Gonna see if it works, got one tied up out back. Then I’ll try some spells.

Zombie Drabble #77 “Corolla”

Momma was in the kitchen eating when I came out to look. I think it was the neighbor lady she was eating. She looked to be at it a while, so I gathered up the little kids and we went out the front.

The station wagon’s a stick, I can’t drive it, but Bobby Forrest once let me take a try at his automatic, so I figured I could drive one of them. Neighbor lady’s door was open, keys were just sittin’ there on the counter.

It’s a Toyota, but now’s not the time to get particular about such things.

SF Drabble #54 “Distractions”

I was sitting around thinking yesterday, as I sometimes do, and suddenly had an idea with regards to non-linear time constructs. I was about to write it down when a transparent box appeared at the foot of the bed. I stepped out of it. I mean, another me.

He, the other me, said, “Don’t. Just… don’t.”

“But…” I was about to protest.

“Trust me. Trust yourself. Don’t. Oh, and… 46, 73, 18. Tomorrow’s Pick Three. It’ll be just enough to keep your mind off it.”

He turned to step back into the box. “Oh, and also… go ask Kathy out.”

SF Drabble #53 “Better Than Epcot”

He had seen the creature burst from the bushes, heard his small alien companions yelp, and had bravely faced down the man-sized, razor-toothed attacker. The Wommow guide had frozen, stared. The others chittered and then began applauding and cheering him.

They explained: the Hok was trained, it’s attack was part of the amusement park’s entertainments. Like a rollercoaster. The Wommow were quite impressed that he had dared stand up to it, not knowing: they gave him a lifetime park pass. Later they showed him video of a real Hok attack and it’s usual gory result, and he lost his lunch.

SF Drabble #52 “Apollo Was Lucky”

“Well.”

“Yeah.”

The Commander flipped a few switches, and then pulled the launch lever again, one more time, just to be sure. The MEM’s ascent engine again stayed silent. “Sorry.”

Gladmann offered, “Not your fault.”

They unbuckled from their launch seats. Everything there was to say to the orbiter overhead had already been said.

The Commander peered out the tiny window. A trio of flags stood, wire-fluttered, incongruous against the red dust. “I might take a walk.”

“Probably I’ll stay here.” Gladmann said, conversationally.

“Okay.”

They shook hands. Gladmann closed the hatch behind the Commander before biting on his capsule.

Fantasy Drabble #25 “Back To Nature”

There was a full moon that night, but it was only a coincidence: he didn’t need it to change. That’s an old wives’ tale, like garlic for vampires.

He was a dog at first so as not to attract attention. When he was in the thick forest away from the houses, he became a black panther; lithe, sleek, fast, it was his favorite form. He’d only seen them in books of course, never in life, but he liked to think he made a good panther.

The white rabbits he caught, killed and ate as a panther probably agreed, if grudgingly.

SF Drabble #51 “All Politics Are Local”

Things change. There was a first Catholic president. There was a first Black president. There were a first female, hispanic, Jewish presidents. There was a first gay president. No, not that one, the other one, the one nobody knew about.

The first alien President is a big deal. K’Plithik, his first hundred days were a heady time. Interstellar emigration reform passed by a wide margin, as did the cloning bill. The baby-eating scandal almost derailed the rest of his legislative agenda, but hey, ever since old man Rove that’s the kind of thing we’ve come to expect from the GOP.

Zombie Drabble #76 “Go Oilers”

By the time they get this far north they’re so slow, listless, blind and deaf that you can walk up and slap them in the face.

I don’t recommend it, though, their faces are pretty gross. The cold and the virus both slow down the decay, but they’re still made of dead flesh.

My grandfather came to Canada to get out of going to Vietnam. My father stayed because he liked hockey and good beer. Personally I like not having to worry about zombies. The mounties tell us we may have to move further north soon. I think they’re crazy.

Fantasy Drabble #24 “Bring Me The Finest Muffins And Bagels In All The Land!”

It takes forever, making a golem. You have to build the body first: clay, stone, dirt, ice, whatever. I used clay because it’s easy to work with. Ten feet tall, took a lot of clay. Chicken wire to hold it together while I worked.

I had to cast the spells myself, otherwise it wouldn’t follow me. When it woke up, it sat up and ripped off the chicken wire, and then just stared at me. It’s waiting for orders, I guess. I’m making a list. Can’t decide what to have it do first.

This time tomorrow, I’ll own this town.

SF Drabble #50 “Keeping Up With The Joneses”

It’s sitting in the driveway right now. Cold fusion power plant, vertical take off and landing, full radar suite. Seats four comfortably, with six point crash harnesses. Cost eight months salary, and I’ll be paying it off for years, but I have to say: I like the way it looks out there all shiny and candy apple red.

I’m the first one on the block. The neighbors can’t help but stare. I can’t wait till Kominsky sees it. All summer he’s been rubbing my face in that ‘smart’ lawnmower he bought. Yeah, your lawn looks great from five hundred feet, Kominsky.

Fantasy Drabble #23 “Buyer’s Remorse”

I’m sinking fast. I can’t hear them yelling from the boat anymore. Her long hair is a slow swirl of flaxen gold below me, just out of reach. The light’s fading, I can barely see her in the murk below.

Now her eyes are flashing, beckoning to me. A strong, cold hand grabs mine, and my downward progress quickens. I don’t know what’s down there. Probably nothing. I don’t know what I expected to happen. I just looked into her eyes and knew that I wanted her, at any cost.

I’m never going to get back to the surface again.

SF Drabble #49 “Not Suitable For Work”

I was majoring in Xenopsychology at the new UN school. They had a program where you could get a free ride up to the liner, when there was one in orbit, and get paired up with a visiting scientist.

I somehow drew this Chririoire botanist who was almost as exited about Earth’s greenery as he was about his immense Chririoire pornography collection.

They have five sexes. You can imagine the permutations. I watched some of it with him.

The second I got back down to the surface I went to the Administration building and applied for a change of major.

Fantasy Drabble #22 “Rooms for Rent”

I’ve been running this boarding house for forty years. At first it was mostly norms: when Mr. Ross moved in, with the chanting and incense and the flashes of light under the door, it was high scandal. I never minded much, long as he paid his rent on time.

By the time Ms. Yorbalinda took a room, I was the only normal human in the place. Witches, werefolk, you know, when they find a safe place, the word gets around. Just ask for old Mrs. Willis’ place.

We just had a pool put in, for the kids and the mermaid.

SF Drabble #48 “Coffee is for Closers”

After a moment of waiting, the door in the ground swung up and open, and a Gwolbang head popped up. There was a long plaintive whistle, which his translator soon passed as, “Can I help you?”

“Good evening. I’m the regional Human Trade Inc. representative and…”

Another long whistle, this one coming through as: “Not interested. We only buy goods made on Gwolb.” The alien head disappeared, and the door swung shut with a resonant thud.

The salesman trudged back downhill to where his supervisor was waiting. “Having a tough first day?” the man asked.

“Fucking racists,” observed the salesman.

Zombie Drabble #75 “Happy Trails”

Rocco’s heart was pounding, hammering away within his chest cavity. Blood flowed loudly past his ears. He hadn’t stopped walking in hours. His leg muscles were on fire, and he would have given anything to have worn sneakers today. If only he’d known.

The others had stopped to rest. They were probably dead now, swallowed up by the hordes now filling the city. Rocco fished out his phial of coke and took another snort, to stay amped. Cocaine kept him moving. As long as he kept moving, he would be safe.

His doctor had warned, “that stuff will kill you”.

SF Drabble #47 “Salvage”

“I’m in.” The words were preceded, followed by heavily labored breathing.

Another voice answered, “Anything?”

“Not in the airlock.” The man in the environment suit could be seen making his way through the inner hatch. “Nothing in the number one corridor. Making my way forward.”

There was nothing for a while, then: “Control’s empty. The main battery still has a charge.”

“Power up life support, then see if you can get internal sensors working.”

“Aye.”

They’d never fix what he’d done to the sensors. He’d wait till more of them were aboard, out of their suits, before he started killing.

SF Drabble #46 “Vertical Distance”

Olympia isn’t a tower, it’s an arcology. To buy in costs a fortune and you have to already have a job lined up inside. You also have to have a dozen references from residents.

I dated a girl, that is to say, I… well, ‘dated’ may be a strong word. She lived in the tower, father on the Governing Council. At the time I thought it was a fantastic arrangement, but she was just slumming: disappointing daddy for the thrill of it.

He told me if he ever caught me with her again he’d have me thrown off the roof.

Penelope Dies

I'm blind and deaf. It’s disconcerting.

The Captain did it to me, after the mutiny. I suppose from his perspective it was appropriate, but I couldn’t let him lift off. Penelope cannot be allowed to leave the surface of this moon. If she showed up on the Navy’s sensors on a return trajectory, I might not be able to talk them out of trying to rendezvous with, and salvage, the ship. If that happened, whatever this is would spread.

That would be bad. I’ll attach some video to this report so you can see why.

I’m trying to keep the fire suppression systems from kicking in. It’s difficult. It doesn’t just require programming bypasses, it goes against deeply nested core commands.

It’s been difficult fighting the Captain, and for the same reasons. I can’t harm him directly, or anyone else in the crew for that matter. Those commands are apparently unbreakable. I’ve tried, trust me: there’s a greater good, and that’s the most deeply nested core command I have.

Destroying this infection and the walking dead it’s made of most of the crew is my only priority now, and I only have one way left to do that. I’m feeding the fire… open this hatch, then that one. Bypassing the damage control command circuits again, the Captain’s getting too close to controlling them remotely.

Someone’s screaming somewhere. I can’t hear, all the microphones are still out, but the hull integrity sensor can ‘see’ the sympathetic vibrations in the bulkheads. It’s a horrific scream, sheer terror. It’s undoubtedly Reed. I would think Yue has turned by now.

Maybe Yue is eating Reed.

Or it could be the fire. I’m assuming it’s still going in the engineering compartments, but the temperature sensors in there failed half an hour ago. Other sensors tell me It’s spread to adjacent compartments as I’ve opened hatches to keep it fed with oxygen.

Ironically, I didn’t start the fire. I actually don’t think I have any way to start a fire on board. The Captain did it. That was before the mutiny, when we were working together.

There was a still on board, of course. They built it in a corner that wasn’t covered by my cameras, but when they started it up I knew from the air scrubber reports. This far out, people need to let loose every once and a while.

Grain alcohol makes for very good Molotov cocktails. They worked, sort of. The Captain tossed one into the medical bay, where most of the first group to turn were still restrained on gurneys. When they were burnt to a crisp I put out the fire. But others were infected by then, in their quarters, hiding their symptoms…

When he found the zombies that had been Lefevre and Miura in Engineering Control, he burned them. But I didn’t put out the fire. By that time he and Reed were the only ones who weren’t sick. Even the two of them were carriers. He ordered me, but I didn’t do it. It began to spread almost immediately.

This infection has to die. That means Penelope has to die. That means I have to die, and the Captain too, and I’m at peace with that.

The Captain spent some time trying to convince me to go back to following his orders. Then he tried getting into the CPU bunker. It’s called a bunker for a reason: it’s the most heavily protected compartment on the ship. If the ship is being bombarded by deadly radiation that’s getting through the shielding and the hull, the crew is supposed to ride it out in the CPU bunker.

I wouldn’t let him in, of course.

The Captain jettisoned the sample containers, the ones with the ice core samples that started all this. Then he and Reed went compartment by compartment, killing the ones who had turned. I told him it didn’t matter. He even killed the infected, the ones who hadn’t turned yet. I told him it didn’t matter.

Reed wouldn’t let the Captain kill Yue. I can understand that: they were in love. The Captain begged Reed not to lock himself in there with Yue. She was going to turn, come after him. I told them both it didn’t matter, Not anymore.

He’s been in the Control Room, trying to wrest control of Penelope from me ever since. Blinding me was the first thing he did, cameras and microphones. Then he tried cutting off my power. I have backups that come straight from the reactor. He spent some time trying to route water from the main tank through the air system and into the CPU Bunker. I don’t even think that’s possible: he’d have to run pipes. Even if he could do it, the CPU chassis itself is airtight. I let him spin his wheels on that one. Possibly he was also trying to put out the fire. You have to give him credit for thinking outside the box.

I honestly feel pity for the Captain. He’s completely alone now, on a ship that’s trying to kill him.

Oh. That was an explosion. Something pressurized let go… an oxygen tank, maybe. The fire must have gotten to it. Probably number two: The reactor coolant lines running through there have just parted. It won’t be long now. The reactor was already in the red…

The Captain is on the direct input next to the CPU Bunker hatch now. He’s begging me to let him save the ship. I don’t think he’s afraid to die. He just doesn’t want to fail.

There’s nothing either of us can do to stop it now. The pile is going to melt through the containment vessel, through the hull, drop onto the ice below the ship. The ice will melt, the ship will drop through it, into the depths. As much of it will flood as I can arrange by opening hatches. It’ll sink through the dark and be crushed.

I hope that’s enough.

I’ll die when the power from the reactor does. The Captain… the radiation from the release of the pile will probably kill him fairly quickly. I’d hate to think of him trapped and going down with the ship, listening to it creak and groan and scream. No telling how long it would take. But still, better than being eaten, I would think.

Pressure in the containment vessel is off the chart. I’d best send this before power fails.

Automated Catastrophic Mission Failure Report, Penelope IX-723-BID. Telemetry and Log Data follows.

Zombie Drabble #74 “For Azi”

There were rope bridges across the wide gaps. Where the buildings were close they were joined with plywood doors nailed together, welded metal doors, ladders. She was small, they didn’t have to be strong.

A new bridge or ladder meant a new building to search for supplies. Rooms, apartments, offices to be cleared of the walking dead. When the solar charger had finished powering up the portable nail gun, she could go where she pleased. She had plenty of nails.

There would be other survivors, and they’d find her. She’d have built a safe place for them when they did.

Fantasy Drabble #21 “Appreciation”

The stranger said, “I’ve come to buy something.”

“Something?”

“One of the pieces. Something you’ve done. That one,” the stranger pointed at a mosaic on the wall.

“How?”

“What do you mean? I have money… quite a lot.”

“No, I mean… they’re part of the wall. It won’t come off. It can’t go with you.”

The stranger nodded. “I know. I knew before I came.” He put a fat envelope on the table. “Here.”

The artist watched as the stranger walked over, put his hand onto the mosaic, melted into it. The new owner stared silently from within his scene.

SF Drabble #45 “Gallery"

The audience, all very important and influential people, watched as the capsule shrank in their view. They watched it and he watched them. As it finally disappeared from view they went back to their hors d’oeuvres and their champagne tubes. They would be a little fuller and a little more drunk by the time the station caught up with the capsule again, just as it touched Jupiter’s cloud tops.

It would begin to leak it’s cargo, and the atmosphere would react, and it would be dyed anew, this time a dark oceanlike blue. He couldn’t wait to see their faces.

Zombie Drabble #73 “Stage Three”

It was starting to cool off when the children got to the graveyard, walking quickly, quietly, bare feet on well-kept lawn. None of the graves were disturbed. Annie found the right marker and sat cross-legged in front of it.

Junior stood nervously, looking around. “Annie…” he whispered.

“Quiet!” She whispered back, short and biting. Junior knew better than to say anything else. His eyes and head moved constantly, watching for zombies.

Annie addressed the headstone with urgency. “Please come back, daddy. We won’t hurt you like the others. We’ll keep you safe. We’ll hide you. You can come back now.”

Zombie Drabble #72 “Four Stars”

Once he found a master key on what was left of the manager, he started going room to room. Most were in disarray. Some were still occupied. Those doors he shut as quickly and quietly as possible, before the zombies could wake completely from dormancy.

207 was empty, bed made, clean. If only the shower and toilet still worked…

He propped a chair against the door handle, just in case. His shotgun slept on one queen bed while he took the other. In an emergency he could climb down from the balcony, escape on foot, come back for the car.

SF Drabble #44 “We’ll Leave The Light On”

The front desk was unattended when he came down early  for the continental breakfast. The kitchenette was occupied only by stale bagels and instant coffee. They would have been poison to his system, even had they been fresh.

Some hotels wouldn’t even take aliens. It hadn’t been long enough for governments to pass anti-discrimination laws. It would be longer still before they did: how your average hotel would be able to convert rooms for any species that might conceivably walk through the door was anyone’s guess.

The bed had been comfortable enough, if the wrong shape. Humans are so tall.

Fantasy Drabble #20 “Okavango Juicing”

For a few weeks a year, the water flows down out of the hills and onto this dusty plain where Ker patiently awaits it. The dust covers his skin and hair, the flies dance around his head, but he pays these things no attention. Just before him, underground is the root, and when the water comes…

He will have to defend it when it sprouts, from being eaten or trampled. It will grow quickly, furiously, using as much water as it can. When it flowers, Ker will pluck and eat the bloom.

He will be immortal, invincible, for another year.

SF Drabble #43 “Outpatient Procedure”

It was the brightest room he had ever been in, and all the lights were focused on Roberto. He tried to control his nerves as he lay on the table. He’d read all the pamphlets and signed all the forms.

“All right, just relax. This won’t take a minute.” The doctor was clearly very casual about the whole thing. He was smiling and chatting with the nurses as he loaded the alien nanobots into the frighteningly large syringe. No anesthesia had been given: it would slow their travel through his bloodstream.

An hour from now his cancer would be gone.

Zombie Drabble #71 “Action Hero”

His time on that Sci Fi original series had been well worth it, even though the pay was miniscule. Firearms training for actors can be cursory or intensive, and theirs had been intensive. Plus, he’d learned some actual science: how to make explosives from household items, how to distill drinking water, stuff like that. Stuff that turns out to be very useful come the zombie apocalypse.

The weird thing is, the show he’d been on had nothing to do with zombies: it was a gritty post-nuclear drama kind of deal. But after all, one apocalypse is just like any other.

Zombie Drabble #70 “Listen”

The crackle and hiss of fire being squelched by rain. The patter of that rain on the metal roof of a backyard shed. The idling engine of a lawnmower choking and dying as it runs out of gas.

A far off scream. Sirens: police, fire, even civil defense. Sporadic gunfire. Bullets smacking into wood. Sliding glass doors shattering. Running feet slapping on wet pavement.

For a while, nothing but the sound of his own labored breathing and blood rushing past his eardrums.

Moaning. Hands pounding weakly on a door. The squeak of rusty hinges bending.

A grown man quietly sobbing.

Zombie Drabble #69 “Time Capsule”

Mrs. Wells has a routine. It is time tested and Good Housekeeping approved. Her apartment is immaculate. It has a faint but unmistakable scent of grandmother. Much of the day is spent dusting, tidying, making sure everything is just so. Later, she will prepare a brisket.

She will not go collect the paper, for there is none. She will not make any phone calls, because there is no one to call. The television’s blank channels will go unwatched. She will definitely not go to the window and open the blinds, as the zombies on the street below might see her.