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.”


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