The escaping isn't the difficult part: it's the staying escaped.

Digging up through the soil, pushing through the damp, cool sod, clambering up into the night. Every year, year after year, decade upon decade. The next guy over — Samuel R. Haines, Beloved Husband And Father — he's been doing it since 1879. For me it's only been… what, twenty-eight? Twenty-nine years? But it's always the same: a few hours of freedom and then the inevitable, irresistible pull back into the waiting ground.

Last year I made it out past the edge of town, rattling from shadow to shadow, before being dragged back. One year I chained myself to a wrought-iron fence; I was reminded that bones break. Wherever I go I am discovered, grabbed by some spectral hand.

I'll figure it out.

Sam Haines is up and over the wall to the West, always to the West. I don't know where he's trying to go, I've never asked. We've never spoken. I'm not really sure how that would work, anyway, without tongues and lips and lungs. He drops down out of sight on the other side. I'm watching the sidewalk, the street. I know I can't make it anywhere on foot.

Blondie lives in the neighborhood. She's a whore; I don't know her name. She's walking down the sidewalk, half in the bag, maybe even on dope. A lot of them are, you know. She gives me an idea.

She faints when she sees me. Skeleton runs at you like some Harryhausen movie, you faint too: don't judge her. Anyway, she's easier to strangle since she's unconscious.

There's a knife in her purse, for protection against Johns or her pimp or whoever. That makes the next bit somewhat easier.

An hour later I'm wearing her like a coat. She's just draped on, hanging on, for now. If it works I'll find a needle and thread and join her flesh back together with seams. Her bones, her blood-greased bones, are lying in the grass, detached and disordered and strangely still. There's no one there; it makes it easier, somehow, like she wasn't real in the first place.

I make for the edge of town again, this time heading West. I stay to the shadows, I duck around corners, I crouch behind cars. I'll never fool a living person with this disguise, not from closer than a block away.

I'm on a residential street, a street of big old houses with wrap-around porches, when I see Sam Haines, Beloved Husband And Father, clattering his knuckles against the front door of a darkened house. No one answers, but he doesn't stop. It's as if he can't help himself.

But then he stops, because it's time, and he's being dragged away from the door, away from the house. Back towards the cemetery and his appointed gravestone. Only, I'm not.

I stand in the street watching him stumble and roll and slide Eastward. He doesn't cry out; I say nothing.

Blondie and I resume walking West.


The dragon Midz-Aset crept to the mouth of the cave, high up on the mountainside between the treeline and the year-round frost line, and looked out over the valley. It was different, as it is always different: one town grown, another shrunk, a new road cut through the trees here, an old one fallen into disuse and reclaimed by forest there.

The castle, the castle of the valley Kings, of Roldgang and Walford, of Haff and Isenette, was crumbled and abandoned; he could see no other within the valley. But there was life, here, there, at the crossroads and by the waters. He climbed out into the weak winter sunlight and took wing.

He soared over both villages before moving on to circle high over the port town — now virtually a city — lingering in plain sight, watching as people spilled into the streets with heads upturned or fled hurriedly for cover. More the former than the latter: almost as if they were surprised, as if he were unexpected, unknown.

Enough sightseeing: he was hungry.

Even the Abbey was not unchanged: a new roof, an extension. He circled it twice, gliding on outstretched wings before settling to earth just outside the wall. "Abbot!"

There was commotion within the walls, but no immediate reply. Being well-rested, the dragon was patient. Eventually the doors opened and a short, balding man stepped cautiously into the open. "My Lord."

"How long have I slept?"

"My Lord, I… I know not. I was told — forgive me, My Lord — I was told that you were just a story, the dragon in the mountain, that you weren't real." The man was terrified, trembling, dappled with sweat.

It had happened before. "The Abbot when last I took my tribute was called Merrett, I think. He raised tulips in the yard."

"The tulips have spread throughout the grounds, My Lord; we pick them for our tables when they are in bloom. But Brother Merrett has been dead these eighty-six years."

"A shame. He always saved the pick of the herd for me. And the castle?"

"My Lord, Isenette's daughter the Crown Princess was married to Raiegan heir, now good old King Yash… the valley is ruled from Castle Burdl, to the North."

"I know it."

The Abbot swallowed, averted his eyes, worked himself up to speaking his admission: "My Lord, we have no cattle… the Abbey has not raised them for some years. I can send a brother to buy some, from the village—"

"No, never mind. I'll find something else." He lowered his head to man-height and stepped close to the trembling monk. "But see that the Abbey resumes honoring its obligations. Or next time, I will simply eat the brothers."

"Y— yes, My Lord."

Midz-Aset leapt for the sky, beating his wings, sending the Abbot tumbling from the sheer force of the moving air. Perhaps he would find a farmhouse or cottage to plunder, a family to devour. Remind them I'm real, so they don't forget so easily.

Fantasy Drabble #330 "Introduction To Conjuration"

"A knife."

The teacher nodded. "Good. Make certain the edge is sharp. Next?"

"A candle." There was snickering in the back of the classroom. "A lit candle."

"Very good. Next?"

"A… a glass of water."

"Good. The shape of the glass, the transparency. The boundary between glass and water. Take care. And you, Penelope?"

The little girl's eyes turned back from the window. "A butterfly."

One of the others objected, "You can't do a butterfly, that's too hard."

Penelope snapped petulantly, "I can so!"


The teacher raised her hand, and there was quiet. "Go ahead, Penelope. A living butterfly."


The Speaker drank whatever the hell was in the beaker, threw back his head and laughed. I'd been too late to stop him. "Don't do this, Raymond."

"It's already done. I can feel it working already." It was true: his skin had taken on an unusual color, and appeared to be hardening. "Soon you won't be able to hurt me. No more mutant advantage, Fleet."

The civilians had scattered. The Speaker's never really targeted innocents, so I hadn't been worried, but what now? "Let's talk about this."

His eyes glowed with chemical fury. "Enough talk."

I needed backup. Where's Rapture?