Yellow, Red, and Orange

While at the cliff city of Jiorodu, the local monks told me of a Forest God, an immense talking tree thousands of years old who could see into the blackened depths of the future. It occurred to me that I would have questions for such a being. When I tired of balloon diving I climbed on my horse and set out into the lowlands, with a few couplets of an old song as my guide, to find it.

Fall had come, and it had been a hot and dry summer. The grass was yellowed, the creeks and streams mere trickles. Travel was hard, but I am well accustomed to hard travel. Even so, when I came to the forest, I rejoiced for the shade. The going was easier after that.

The forest path began to slope gently upward, and soon I came to a small village. I asked a small boy if he knew of a great and magical tree. He grinned, gap-toothed, turned, and pointed up.

Through the forest canopy I could just see a great mass rising above the village.

“Don’t forget to water him!” the boy advised, and then continued about his carefree business.

I followed the path through the little village and onward uphill, the incline growing steeper as I progressed. The mass of the tree loomed darkly above, never quite clearly visible. When the path became too steep for the horse, I tied him to a black poplar and continued on hand over foot until I came to the great tree itself.

The trunk was as big around as some inns I have frequented in my travels. When I looked up to try to see the top, I grew dizzy.

I remembered the boy’s caution, and watered the tree. As I refastened my belt, I heard a deep and booming voice from all around me say, “What is your question, traveler?”

“Great and noble Forest God, when and how will I die?”

There was no response for a time. The only sound was the faint rustle of the forest canopy around and below us. Eventually, the Tree pronounced, “I cannot see when you will die, but it will be in a fire.”

I felt a sudden wash of terror. A fire… “You don’t know when?”

“No. It may not yet be decided.”

“How can I avoid this death?”

“You cannot,” the Tree said, and then added conversationally, “I once told another man he would die in a fire. He found a powerful sorcerer who made him invulnerable to flame. When his house burned down around him, he stood inside and laughed, until the fire took all the air and he suffocated. Yet another man used the same spell, but was luckier for a time. Then he went to sea: his ship burned to the waterline and he drowned amongst the ship’s burning wreckage. You cannot escape your fate.”

“But if he drowned…”

“I told he would die in a fire, not that he would burn to death.”

The soft patter of raindrops had begun to fall. From far off, there was thunder. I said nothing, overcome by the knowledge of my doom.

The Forest God offered, “I sympathize. I too will die in a fire. But for me, it will be tonight.”

That snapped me alert. “Tonight? But why? How?”

“The rain will be sporadic and light, but lightning will strike my branches five times. This has happened before, of course, but it has been so dry… I will burn.” The Tree’s disembodied voice was full of resignation.

If the Forest God’s fate could be averted, then so might mine. “I will go to the village,” I said. “They will come with water to fight the fire…”

“Too many fires, too far up my branches, not enough water, not enough villagers… I will burn.”


“I will burn. The smoke and ash will blot out the sun. The villagers will cook with charcoal for generations. I cannot escape my fate any more than you, traveler.”

We can try!” I began climbing down.

Before I got very far, the Forest God called after me… “Traveler!”


“I can see the when, now. When you will die.”

I stopped in my tracks for a moment, that feeling of dread beginning to return. Did that mean I would die here, fighting this fire? Or did it mean that the decision to try somehow set in motion some other sequence of events that would result in my death, many years from now? The Forest God had the answer.

The Tree asked, “Do you wish to know?”

The climb down to my horse would take time, and organizing the villagers would take still more. I resumed my progress down the hill. “No.”

Zombie Drabble #58 “Sharp Edge”

I only had twenty bullets for the .32, and I went through those getting to the truck. The cordless nail gun lasted longer, but I wasted a lot of rounds… nails… before I got the hang of it. A few days and they were gone too.

The baseball bat didn’t work very well. Took too long. When it broke over that one zombie’s head, I was already at the construction site and picked up the shovel. Sharpened it up real good.

One good thrust takes the head off. Been doing it for weeks. My fucking arms are like tree trunks.

Fantasy Drabble #9 “Pygmalion”

The clay was hard to find. All the dirt around here is soil or sand, I couldn’t just dig for it. I had to mail order artist’s clay, but I guess that’s good: it’s high quality, takes a shape well. Two months to carve her. Just take away everything that doesn’t look like Jean, heh. Sorry, morbid sense of humor.

I’ve memorized the invocation. If I get it just right, clay becomes flesh…

It’ll cost me my eternal soul, but I’ll have Jean back. It wouldn’t be worth living without her. If only I could have found an anti-cancer spell…

SF Drabble #30 “Casting is Everything”

Did I ever introduce you to Skitchkitch? He played the monster in “From The Silent Depths 1.” Great guy. He’s from Gliese 581. Or 876… one of the Glieses. Scariest looking thing you ever saw, perfect for the part: all scales and claws and teeth. That attack scream he does in the movie? I know, horrifying, isn’t it? It’s their word for ‘six’. I kid you not.

We start filming the sequel as soon as he can get leave again. He’s computer tech for the Polixaci embassy on Mars.

My CGI costs are nothing, now that I can hire aliens…

Fantasy Drabble #8 “Environmental Protection”

At the river, I stopped to water the horse. She popped up while I was washing my face.


“…yes?” I answered, averting my eyes, holding still.

“The town upstream of here, it has a name?”

Since I didn’t know anyone who lived there, I answered. “Yes, miss. It’s called Roddy’s Town.”

“Roddy’s Town.”

“Yes, miss.”

“Thank you.” The water nymph disappeared into the current… became the current.

When I passed that way again some days later, I visited Roddy’s Town. I didn’t find a living soul. There was quite an impressive pile of waterlogged garbage on the docks, though.

SF Drabble #29 “Held For Questioning”

It was in my mind, crawling around in there, poking into dark corners. It dragged out my fears and shames and casually, brutally dissected them.

Before, I had been creeped out just by it touching me.

It picked it’s way through my mind towards a certain day, hour, minute. Once there its search became insistent and then finally frenzied.

The more frustrated the alien got, the more it hurt.

After a while it let go and I slumped in my chair. It chittered something at the human cop and then scuttled out.

The policeman said to me, “You can go.”

Fantasy Drabble #7 “Just Say No”

The Detective’s animated face tattoo drew stares. His badge drew nods of respect. They couldn’t see the floating orb he was following down the street.

“How much longer?” asked Officer Kloss, lagging behind.

The Detective shrugged.

Just then, the orb homed in on a young man standing on the corner. It sped up and struck the man between the shoulders. He began to glow brightly orange, especially in the left seat pocket area.

“Whoa,” said Kloss.

“Heroin, from the color. Don’t get stuck,” the Detective cautioned.

Kloss nodded, and laughed as he pulled out his handcuffs. “I love this spell.”

Fantasy Drabble #6 “Good Night, Moon”

An emissary was sent to the mountain, an old forest hag who knows the Wormtongue.

Our dragon, which she spoke to at length, is from the East. It doesn’t want to burn our crops, to eat our children, or to hoard our gold. It was very regretful about Lord Radken, and also the Prince and his men, but self-defense is every thinking being’s right.

Apparently all it really wants, in addition to the occasional livestock sacrifice, is for some of the prettier village girls to regularly come read to it. It has it’s own books, but they’re all so small

Zombie Drabble #57 “Garry’s Mod”

When Garry was bitten, we had seen it all too many times already to get upset. There wasn’t any pathetic pleading. He just shook each of our hands, hugged the women, picked up a lawn chair, and climbed down. He didn’t go very far: the tennis courts have a high fence, and a solid gate.

The dead gathered around the court, of course. After about eight hours they lost interest; that’s how we knew Garry had died. He’s still out there, sitting in the lawn chair, hunched over and moaning. None of us have the heart to go finish him.