Until this very moment he hadn't been sure he wasn't still on Crescent. Now, smelling the air, feeling the gravity change as he stepped out into the open, he knew. The atmosphere was dry, almost uncomfortably so, and it was bright enough out that he was having trouble keeping his eyes open.

He stood still, letting the hot air blow over him, waiting for his eyes to adjust. Usually when you go Inside for less than three to five, they don't bother shipping you off-planet; cheaper to keep you local. Overcrowding in the City Jail must be worse than they admit.

Behind him a low rumble of a voice said, "Problem, 21753?"

"No, sir. Just a little bright. Waiting 'til I can see. Don't want to run into anything trying to walk with my eyes closed. What planet is this?"

"You're on Grung. Step to your left, you're blocking the path."

He sidestepped. "My apologies." He could feel a massive form lumbering slowly past: one of the Oblogo guards. Grung... he was nearly fifty light-years from Crescent, almost seventy from Earth. There wouldn't be any point in asking the guard why they'd brought him so far: the Oblogo aren't very high on the socio-political pecking order, and the Association doesn't go out of its way to explain itself to underlings.

He had some money. He had to get to town to claim it. Not enough to get to Crescent, much less to Earth, but enough that he didn't have to worry about where he would sleep tonight or from where his next three meals would come.

There was a road, poured stone, and as soon as he had eyes he began walking it. Twice or three times a crawler passed without slowing. By the time he reached town he was lightheaded.

Inside the bank, he stood silently until the human woman at the counter happened to look up. She was momentarily startled, but collected herself to suspiciously ask, "Did you want something?"

He walked up and handed her a slip of paper.

She read it, comprehended its meaning, and then laughed at herself. "For a minute there I thought you were robbing the place. You just got out?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Did you walk from the jail to here?"

"Yes, ma'am. How did you know?"

"You're covered in dust. And you look about to fall over. Wait here. No, better yet: go over to that bench and sit. I'll be right back." She disappeared into a back room, emerging after a moment with a plastic bottle of water. "Drink this while I run off your card. Won't take a minute."

"Thank you."

"It's just water. You probably didn't even realize how dehydrated you'd gotten. If this were any other planet you'd be drenched in sweat from that walk, but the air just sucks the moisture off you before you even know it's there. The first settlers died of dehydration all the time." Back behind the counter, she slide a brand-new ident card out of its protective sleeve and inserted it into a slot on her computer.

"And now?"

"Water mines: deep wells, with pumps we bought from the Fouwhi. If you know anything about machinery, that's where you want to go to look for work first: it pays better than anything else." She typed a few words into the computer and, after a moment, the now-active card slid back out of the reader.

"And if they're not hiring?"

She shrugged. "Don't lose this." She came out from behind the counter and handed him the Ident card. "You only get one for free."

"I won't. Where do I go now?"

She laughed. "How should I know? They always ask me. You're outside now, parolee. You can go wherever you want."

He didn't say anything. He stared at the Ident card, at his name in the Latin alphabet and in Grodon script, his I.D. number, the symbol for his species, the code for his planet of origin.

"Sorry. I don't mean to be rude."

"Don't worry about it." He headed for the door.

"What were you in for?" She asked. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."


"Parolees always say 'sympathy'. At least when a human asks."

"Why is that?"

"They think humans will automatically be... sympathetic. Because it's a crime they assume we're all guilty of. Mind you, when a Rep asks them, or when they're looking for employment, they'll tell the truth. Which I suggest you do. They have a tough enough time bringing themselves to hire humans, much less ones who've gone Inside, and even less for ones who they know were sympathetic to the Rebels."

He shrugged. "It's the truth."

She stared at him for a moment, then asked, "Really?"


"...But you didn't fight, did you?"

"I was arrested for 'sympathy'. It's all they could make." He started towards the door again, but he felt her hand close around his arm.

"Listen. I can talk to Mr. Forrest. He's the bank manager. I can't promise he'll hire you, but there are a couple properties we own that need caretakers. Fix things up, keep an eye on them until we sell them on. Which won't be soon, in this economy. Interested?"

He didn't have to think about it. "Sure."

"He'll be back in an hour or so, he's off having 'lunch'." She made a drinking motion with her other hand, and smiled. "Go get something to eat. Cora's is four buildings South. Along the road. Tell her Addie sent you. Actually, never mind, I'll call her. Go on now."

"I appreciate it."

"It's nothing. It's really nothing. Do you have any skills? Anything you're good at? So I can tell him. It might help."

Bomb-making. "Nothing really comes to mind. I'm good with my hands, anyway."

"I'll tell him. Go on now: Cora's, four buildings to the South. Be back in two hours."

"Thanks." He opened the door and stepped out into the dust.

Zombie Drabble #345 “No One Home”

BEEP. John? Are you there? Pick up the phone if you can hear me. We’re on our way there from Fran’s place. We have the van… John I’ve gotta call you back.

BEEP. John, it’s Emily again. Ricky, Fran, the kids, we’re coming now. Pack up what you can. We’ll be there in ten minutes. And see if you can remember where we put dad’s rifle.

BEEP. John? John? Please pick up. We can’t turn down the street, there’s burning cars and a lot of zombies. Can you get to us? We’re down at the corner by the bus stop.

Zombie Drabble #344 “Expertise”

A voice called out, “That’s far enough.”

He was mentally kicking himself for not noticing the ladders and planks linking the roofs of the buildings on this street, but he calmly looked up without raising his shotgun. “I’m looking for shelter.”

“Unless you’ve got a magic bag full of food, there’s no shelter to be found around here.”

“I know how to make bullets.”

“What’s that, now? Say that again?”

“How low are you? I can make you more. I know where to find the ingredients. Guaranteed to fire.”

“If you can prove all that, you’ve got yourself a bed.”

SF Drabble #338 “Restaurant Row”

They were surrounded by a jumble of colors, scents, and noise; hundreds of shops and stalls competing for the attention of their senses.

“Where should we eat?”

“I don’t… oh, wait, I remember.” She reached into her purse and pulled out the Polixaci Ident disc they’d been given at boarding. As soon as it was in her hands a visual overlay appeared showing her which shops were pre-approved for humans. “The lenses.”

He fished his own disc out of his pocket, and whistled appreciatively. “How about the Triket’th place?”

“Looks too much like squirrel.”

“What, the food or the Triket’th?”

Fantasy Drabble #269 “Zookt the Father”

The Immortal Zookt, being versatile, took the form of King Chrojo and seduced the lovely Queen Midria. The Queen bore a son of this union, the half-Immortal Midrok. Eventually the King discovered Midroc was not his son, and led his Guard into the countryside in an attempt to kill the fleeing boy.

Zookt offered herself to the King in exchange for his laying down arms and returning to his castle. When the King reached his bed-chamber, he found Zookt waiting. Alas, the exertion was too much for him and he died mid-coitus, leaving his son Midroc to take the throne.

Fantasy Drabble #268 “Rekkit and the Merchant”

Rekkit, taking the form of an elderly beggar, made his way into a sweets shop and asked the proprietor for a single piece of candy. However, the shopkeeper was selfish and refused, sending him back out into the street. Rekkit returned the next day, and asked again, but again he was refused. He returned every day for six more days only to be refused.

On the ninth day, and every day thereafter, all the customers who entered the shop felt sickness of the stomach and lost their appetite for sweets. The shop closed and the proprietor became a beggar himself.

Fantasy Drabble #267 “The Edda of the Underworld”

The underworld is ruled by Bol, King of Death, and Jyl, Queen of Murder. Their children, the Beyelu, are the Princes of the Underworld, Awelon being the ‘Crown Prince’.

The Underworld consists of an inverted rocky plain, from which hangs mountains, and below which is the Void. The mountains are riddled with tunnels and chambers containing the dead.

The children of Awelon and Hookt, the Ahkt, administrate the Underworld, sheperding the favored dead to their eternal reward. The children of Ziklon and Yikt, however, are terrible demons which punish any dead who have offended the Immortals. They are called Zikt.

Fantasy Drabble #266 “The Edda of the Beyelu”

The children of Bol and Jyl, rulers of the Underworld, are called the Beyelu. They reside in the underworld and only occasionally emerge into the mortal world.

Ziklon, usually depicted as a huge muscular male completely encased in armor, is the patron of War. Hookt, shown as a hunched, withered old woman, rules over doubt, suspicion, and betrayal. Yikt is a younger female, and inspires jealousy. Mowolon, driven mad by the Xil, rules insanity, while Awelon is the patron of anger and depression.

The trimale (infertile, neither male nor female) Chorolem and Sokolem rule anger and depression, and disease, respectively.

Fantasy Drabble #265 “The Edda of the Meyelu, Part III”

The Meyelu have responsibility for various aspects of the mortal world (the universe outside the underworld.)

Chikt, for example, carries the Suns across the heavens in her hands, while Vikril places the stars in the night sky. Jikt rules over the wilderness, husbanding the wild animals and plants of the forests, and Akril is the patron of farming. Bitril rules the waters of the rivers and oceans, as well as rain. Bookt watches over home and family, and Otkit is the patron of labor. Eekt, the joker, is the patron of laughter. Zookt is the patron and symbol of sex.

Fantasy Drabble #264 “The Edda of the Xil”

The Xil, like the Suul, were created in the first moments of the universe, but they consist of Ye (magic) only. They are usually associated with random chance and mischief.

Once the Suul began to have offspring (the Meyelu and Beyelu) the Xil, who cannot reproduce, were terrified that they would be overwhelmed by the Immortals. In an effort to discover their opposition’s weakness, they kidnapped Mowolon and inadvertently drove him mad.

Bol punished the Xil by forcing them to collect the souls of the newly dead and deliver them to the underworld; this remains their responsibility to this day.

Fantasy Drabble #263 “The Edda of the Meyelu, Part II”

The Meyelu are the Immortals most known to intervene in the daily lives and great events of the Folk. They have been known to take Folk for lovers and even (temporarily) spouses.

Rekkit, youngest of the Meyelu, is said to walk amongst the Folk, spending little time with his Immortal family. He changes gender and appearance at will, often testing the generosity and politeness of the Folk, rewarding the kind and punishing the selfish or impatient. Giving alms to the poor is called “Feeding Rekkit”, and the words for “stranger” in five of eight Folk tongues derive from his name.

Fantasy Drabble #262 “The Edda of The Meyelu, Part I”

Myn and Eyl have twelve children, called the Meyelu. Of these, all but one are immortal.

Their mortal daughter Simkit is born malformed, and the two parents dedicate themselves to her care while she lives (a long period by Folk standards, certainly, but Simkit does eventually die). Simkit is also known as “Eyd-Rill" (“Mother–of-Smiles") and “Ivmeyel” (“Beloved of Myn and Eyl.”) When Folk desire special favor from Myn and Eyl, they offer devotions in memory of Simkit.

Malformed or congenitally ill children born to the Folk are considered to be especially favored by Simkit, and therefore the other Immortals.